The Relevance of the Western Left

S Chatterjee schatterjee2001 at
Wed Feb 14 10:57:12 MST 2001

--- Xxxx Xxxxxx wrote:
> Sid, I think you are a little bit off the mark here.
> What is your evidence of radical *discontinuity*
>with socialism in China besides the party
> declarations of Deng?

The detailed empirical evidence that the current
rulers of China (i.e., the top party leadership) are
capitalist restorationists and not socialists by any
stretch of the imagination (although they utter
socialist slogans, as evident in the Renmin Ribao
article) is available in the following two books:

1) "The Great Reversal" by William Hinton, MR Press.
Hinton, whose background is in agriculture, has spent
decades in China from the time of Mao onwards and
knows his subject. He may have initially supported
Deng's reforms but quickly realised what they really
were after seeing their drastic effects. Hinton is the
author of the famous "Fanshen" and also of "Shenfan".

2)"Red Cat, White Cat : China and the Contradictions
of 'Market Socialism'" by Robert Weil, MR Press.

Before you read Hinton and Weil who are comprehensive,
you may wish to read the essay titled "Rethinking
Socialism: What Is Socialist Transition?" by Deng-Yuan
Hsu and Pao-Yu Ching of the ChingKang Mountain
Institute, China. This interesting article, probably
written in 1996-97, gives a brief overview of the
period since 1949, and is available online at:

If we claim to seek the objective truth as far as
possible by us subjective human beings, i.e., claim to
uphold the spirit of science, then our task will be to
examine and see through all kinds of obfuscations,
claims, wishful thinking, propaganda, no matter who
says them. That is, not to be deceived or confused by
'socialist' slogans but to look at the concrete
actions of those who are uttering such slogans. And if
you examine the actions and the facts on the ground,
then the absurdity of statements like "at this moment
in history, China is the banner holder of
institutional Leftism" will become clear.

>You need to look at the class structure of China.
>Full capitalism has not taken place there. Is there a
> market system with a capitalist  property ownership?
>Is there a capitalist class fully in control of the
>economic process? Not yet.

"full capitalism"  does not exist anywhere. You have
to look at the dominant aspect of a thing or a
process. Third world capitalism is distorted
capitalism, it is not developed western type
capitalism. What is the nature of the current Chinese
state? What class forces are in power? It is not a
capitalist state in the western sense but it is a
transitional state headed by capitalist reformers,
i.e., the transition is towards capitalism, not
towards socialism. It is headed by those who were
labelled as "capitalist roaders" during the GPCR
(e.g., Liu Shaochi, Deng). The direction of the
Chinese transitional state was reversed and changed
after Mao's death.

You will see some curious and revealing items in the
article by Renmin Ribao which Henry posted. They abhor
the GPCR. Why? Because, the GPCR, led by Mao, was
mainly directed against Deng, Liu and their followers.
You will also see no mention or discussion of the
class struggles today in China. Why? Because, they
abhor such struggles, it is an impediment to their
rule. Instead they make statements like: "Under the
guidance of the great banner of Mao Zedong Thought and
Deng Xiaoping Theory, socialism has ultimately gained
a huge victory in China." This is false since DXT has
nothing in common with Mao Zedong Thought but is in
opposition to such thought. Deng himself stated "To
get rich is glorious". His children have become
millionaires. In contrast, Mao's son was killed in
Korea and he lost several members of his family in the
Chinese revolution (e.g., his first wife was executed
by Chiang Kai Shek's Kuomintang).

To decide whether a state is socialist, capitalist,
etc. one has to look at the prevailing relations of
production (ROP). The ROP under capitalism serve the
private capital accumulation process by extracting
surplus value from the workers who produce commodities
for exchange. But under socialism, the ROP serves to
produce use values (non commodities) to satisfy the
needs of the people. So socialism is a completely new

There are capitalist elements and projects in the
economy of a new 'socialist' country which exist side
by side with socialist projects. But as time passes,
the socialist projects become more and more dominant
if the onward transtion towards socialism is to
continue. For example in China after 1949, in
agriculture, the progression was: land reform, mutual
aid teams, cooperatives, peoples communes, state
collectivization. But from 1978, Deng reversed this
process in agriculture - he broke up the communes and
started the indivdual family contract system (see
Hinton for details). Of course, one has to also to
look at trends in industry, cultural, political, and
social life of the country and then arrive at an
integrated judgment as to the direction of the
transition. And in China's case, it is increasingly
becoming clear what the direction of the transition is
towards. (By the way, this was long ago forseen by
Mao.) State ownership of the means of production and
state participation in planning does not imply a
socialist economy.

Finally, here is a brief extract from the essay by
Deng-Yuan Hsu and Pao-Yu Ching:

"From the analysis above, we can see that certain
class forces gained and other class forces lost during
the process of collectivization. The class forces
which lost their interest were not ready to quietly
surrender. They had to seek their own representatives
and spokespersons either from within or from without
the power base. On the issue of collectivization,
Mao's opponents in the Communist Party reflected these
class forces and they continued to push forward their
capitalist projects even after the establishment of
the commune.

    The "Three Freedoms and One Contract" scheme was
one example of the capitalist projects in the
collective sector. Liu and Deng strongly supported
this capitalist project from the beginning of the
advanced co-ops and continued to push this project
after the formation of the communes. The three
freedoms were the freedom: 1) to enlarge private lots,
2) to promote free markets, and 3) for each individual
household to be responsible for its own profit or
loss. The one contract was for each individual
household to sign a contract with the state for the
production of a pre-set amount of crop. After the
pre-set amount was met, the peasants would be free to
sell everything in the free market. As early as 1956,
Liu and his supporters strongly advocated the "three
freedoms and one contract" and, at times, forcefully
put it into practice. Enlarging private lots
encouraged peasants to put more labor and effort into
their own land. The promotion of free markets
facilitated the sale of products from the peasants'
private lots. If individual households were held
responsible for its own profit or loss, the accounting
unit would be changed from the team to the individual
household. This material incentive, according to the
promoter of the "three freedoms and one contract"
would encourage peasants to produce more.

    Under the commune system, as we showed earlier,
private savings could not turn into capital. The
accumulation of capital was done collectively, not
privately. The accumulation fund belonged to the team
for the purchase of new productive instruments that
benefited all members of the team. If a capitalist
project like the "three freedoms and one contract" had
been allowed to be implemented and to expand, then,
instead of the team, each private household would have
become the new accounting unit. If the household had
been able to earn profits from selling their products
in the free market, they could have invested it in new
productive tools with which they could have earned
more profits. The "three freedoms and one contract"
project promotes the accumulation of private capital
which participates in the distribution of product. At
the same time, under this project, households with a
loss would face the danger of losing everything
altogether. As far as the promoters of this project
were concerned, this would be a good way to get rid of
those who could not produce efficiently. The
distribution under the "three freedoms and one
contract" returned to the stage of elementary co-ops,
where owners of capital received larger and larger
shares of the products. When Liu and Deng pushed to
implement the "three freedoms and one contract," they
presented the project as if it was only to promote
production by providing material incentives to
individual peasant households. The hidden agenda of
this capitalist project was to reverse the direction
of the transition from communism to capitalism.


What Liu was not able to do earlier, Deng did by his
reform in the countryside two decades later and he
went far beyond the original project. Between 1979 and
1984, Deng took several steps to redistribute land to
individual peasant households. Like the 1949-52 land
reform, Deng's land redistribution was a capitalist
project. The argument Deng and his supporters gave for
dismantling the communes was "eating from a big pot
breeds laziness." While this might have been true in a
small number of cases, Deng dismantled all communes in
one sweep, despite the fact that the majority of
communes were doing well. The de-collectivization in
the countryside broke up the worker-peasant alliance
which was the most important strategy during the
socialist transition. Deng's land redistribution
carried out with other capitalist projects he and his
supporters instituted, such as the phasing out the
unified purchase system, the privatization of rural
industry, the reduction of state support for the
production of agricultural machinery and other
agricultural inputs, and eventually the privatization
of state enterprises and the replacement of permanent
state workers with contract workers, are all
capitalist projects in an overall capitalist strategy.
These capitalist projects have made it unequivocally
clear in which direction the reform is headed. Deng's
capitalist strategy reveals the class line of his
reform. His reform deliberately broke up the
worker-peasant alliance, and it strengthened the
alliance between the bureaucratic capitalists and the
new "entrepreneurs" who are either party officials
themselves or have close connection with the party
officials in high places."

(From "Rethinking Socialism: What Is Socialist
Transition?" by Deng-Yuan Hsu and Pao-Yu Ching of the
ChingKang Mountain Institute, China)


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