Jim Blaut on Lenin and the National Question

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at SPAMosu.edu
Tue Nov 21 20:17:43 MST 2000

Hi Mac:

>  > Of course, the gradual nature of transformation makes
>>  the Chinese transition _much superior_ to Perestroika, but,
>  > nonetheless, the direction seems to me to be the same.
>This acually makes me think about an issue of anti-Imperialism in
>the broadest sense,
>and how it helps in the struggle for socialism whether on purpose or
>not.Looking at
>China today, we should not worry about labelling her this or that.
>In common with I
>believe the bulk of the list members, I wish that she still had the
>kind of planning
>that Mao and Zhou led, but that isn't the case. What is the case is
>the worlds largest
>third world country is entirely in her own command at this
>historical juncture. No one
>is telling China what to do.

Market reforms (breaking the iron rice bowl; withdrawal of state
firms from many industries; etc.) & economic liberalizations
(slashing tariffs, duties, etc.) -- especially with China's entry to
the World Trade Organization -- fundamentally mean that China is not
& will not be "entirely in her own command."  It has become & will be
further _subject to the world market & neoliberal political
hegemony_.  "According to a recent analysis by the U.S. Department of
Agriculture, China's entry into the WTO will cause the production of
rice, cotton, wool, and edible oils to shrink between 1.4% and 37%.
About 13.2 million jobs will be lost" (at

The following article illustrates the meaning of subjection to the
market in terms of the health of the populace:

*****   Date: Tue, 21 Nov 2000 17:46:51 -0800
From: Peter Dorman <dormanp at evergreen.edu>
To: pen-l at galaxy.csuchico.edu
Subject: [PEN-L:4733] Blinded by Poverty

As someone with a great interest in occ. safety and health issues, I
note the passing reference to the mutilated father.  The social cost
(in addition to the devastating personal cost) of such injuries is
very high in poor countries, although they are hidden due to the lack
of official data.  Here we have a kid whose education was cut off
along with his father's arms.  Nevertheless we have apologists who
tell us that countries like China can't "afford" decent working


Blinded by Poverty: The Dark Side of Economic Reform
The New York Times, November 21, 2000
By Elisabeth Rosenthal

Shunyi, China -- In 15 minutes, Dr. Jiang Lijuan broke up the dense
cataract that had long covered Liang Xingwang's eye, removed the
debris and slipped a new tiny plastic lens under his cornea.  She
squirted in a few drops of antibiotic and prepared a heavy gauze

Before the gauze was applied, Mr. Liang caught a fleeting glimpse of
the operating room light, his first glimpse of anything from his
right eye in years.  "I think I could see things!" Mr. Liang, 17,
said with wonderment as he moved to a bed in an adjoining room.

But there is both a happy and a sad story behind the recent surgery
in a small operating room at a community hospital here near Beijing.

Mr. Liang is one of 1.1 million poor Chinese who have had their sight
restored through free cataract surgery in the last four years under
the Sight First project, sponsored jointly by Lions Clubs
International and the China Disabled Persons Federation.

As China has opened its economy and developed its own
philanthropically minded middle class, such charity projects are
increasingly common.  That's the happy part.

The sad part is that Mr. Liang, who suffers from an inherited
condition that can be remedied by simple outpatient surgery, spent so
much of his childhood nearly blind, even though the technology to
cure him was widely available in China.

In Beijing's clinics, 40 miles from Mr. Liang's home, people with
enough cash can get top-flight laser vision correction surgery for
about $500 an eye.  But those clinics might as well be on Mars for
people like Mr. Liang.  Today, medical care in China is almost
entirely a matter of cash from individual patients, and there is no
public health insurance for the poor.

Twenty years ago, China boasted the broadest public health system in
the world, offering free (if basic) health care to all.  But the
country's shift to a market economy has upended that balance,
allowing entry of more advanced medical techniques but also making
even simple procedures widely unaffordable.

The World Health Organization now rates China last among developing
countries in terms of equal access to medical care.  (The United
States is last among developed countries.)

Yang Liqun, a government researcher who has studied social services
on the outskirts of Beijing, found that only 9.9 percent of people in
Shunyi County had any kind of medical coverage.  "During the process
of reform, the old system of cooperative medical care has suffered
devastating damage," he wrote in the journal Beijing Social Sciences.

And so, when Mr. Liang's vision began clouding over eight years ago,
he did what rural Chinese often do when they fall ill: he endured.
As cataracts from a congenital condition marched over first his left
eye, then his right, he tried his best to help out in the family
fields and was determined to keep going to school.

Last year, while in the ninth grade, he dropped out of school because
he could no longer see his books.  But treatment was not an option.

"I never visited a doctor for this until Oct. 1 this year," he said
from his bed in the recovery room, referring to the day health
workers came to his village looking for patients who might benefit
from the Sight First project.  "I knew it could be corrected, but we
had no money to see a doctor, much less have surgery.  So what was
the point?"

It is a jarring admission in a country once so committed to
egalitarian health care.  But during the last decade, as central
government financing for hospitals has plummeted, free medical care
has given way to hefty patient charges for doctors' visits, surgery
and tests.

In China today, treatment is often an economic rather than a medical
decision.  And charitable donations, often organized by the state,
are unable to cover the huge tab that the government has dropped.
Cataract surgery, done on an outpatient basis, costs about $50 at the
township hospital in Shunyi, about half as much as in hospitals in

That is still two to three months' earnings for poor families, money
that is in any case consumed by day-to-day subsistence.  Mr. Liang's
mother also suffers from cataracts and his father lost his arms in an
industrial accident.  So he lives with his grandfather, who has taken
care of him as he has become progressively disabled.

The Lions Clubs program has helped reduce the cost and improve the
quality of cataract surgery in China.  The group has trained 4,000
doctors in surgical techniques, many in outlying areas, and it has
donated some of the latest equipment to diagnose and treat eye

The project helped a factory in Suzhou to gear up to make the little
plastic lenses that are the key to the operation's success.  Before
late 1998, when the plant started production, Chinese-made lenses
were of very low quality and imported ones were prohibitively

But the main contribution at this hospital is, plain and simple,
financial.  The program pays for the surgery for patients who cannot
afford it, and covers the costs of hospitals that say they cannot
afford to treat patients free.

"Even though the technology exists here, these people just don't have
the money," Dr. Jiang said.

Zhang Bofang, a farmer from nearby Huairou who also had surgery in
Shunyi recently, said his vision started "clouding over" in 1997.
For the last year he has been unable to tend his field or even walk
down the street alone.

With his children grown and gone, his wife tended the family's wheat,
peanut and corn fields alone.  "It has really been a struggle," said
Mr. Zhang, wrapped in the tattered brown sweater he wore for his
surgery.  "I went to the hospital in Huairou to try to get treatment
a few times, but I didn't have the money, so I just had to go home.

"This time it was free. Now I can start working again."   *****

Is it not tragic that the poor Chinese now depend on philanthropy?

>I fear this isn't quite clear, so I shall try to say it thusly:
>China and the USSR have
>perhaps both said good-bye to socialist modes of production. The fSU
>however has become
>part of the global Imperialist system, since the state in the fSU is
>now just a mediator
>between foreign capital and the local people and resources. In
>China, when that is the
>case, it is *by choice*, and is not a permanent reality. China is
>still there looking to
>the future as a stronger state, a non-possession as an entity.
>If countries such as India and Brazil were to struggle (in perhaps
>the Chavez fashion)
>to gain economic *long term* sovereignty, will this not help promote
>the implosion of
>the Imperialist system? Is this not the main reason we see
>Imperialists so frightened
>by the peripheral countries who "get out of line"? In other words,
>is it not long term
>rather than short term effects that are the bigger danger for the
>world system here? (A
>case in point: very little in the way of short term profit loss will
>be accrued by
>Chavez' policies thus far, but in the Oil arena a kind of
>sovereignty assertion is a
>true danger should the disease spread).

What you say is a possible outcome, but it is far from clear that it
is a likely one, since I don't believe in "the worse, the better."
It seems to me that China's sovereignty is menaced from multiple
directions: the Chinese Communist Party's commitment to market
reforms, economic liberalization (with regard to trade & investment),
entry to the WTO; interpenetration of the People's Republic of China
and "Overseas Chinese capitalist diaspora"; increasing unemployment &
economic polarization, which will make the populace turn away from
the party; restive minority ethnic & national populations;
ideological lure of consumerism, which depoloticizes the masses; etc.

In other words, opening China to the market, the CCP may have
committed itself to its own slow but eventual self-destruction, for
the market dissolves the material reality of the nation (= material
well-being of the populace, which creates the bonds between leaders &
masses, & vice versa), which cannot by held together by ideology
alone.  The party can't defend the idea of the nation at the expense
of the masses.  The idea of the nation holds _only as long as there
exists social relations that hold it together_.


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