[Marxism] Discussing China

Suresh borhyaenid at yahoo.com
Sat Jun 19 15:21:05 MDT 2004

Whether the reigning bureaucracy in China can
gradually be co-opted into an "executive committee" of
the bourgeoisie is an open question. Can a
counter-revolution from socialism of a sort to
capitalism be effected so subtly, as an affair of
inter-party politics? Were the capitalist roaders
really representing a capitalist class even before it
had reemerged into existence? 

Mr. Proyect made an interesting comment when he stated
that, "Just as French and British landed gentry were
primary actors in the early stage of their national
capitalisms, so is the CP officialdom today. The CP
officialdom is supervising and profiting from the
primitive accumulation of capital." Although I do not
consider the CCP to be a ruling class per se, it does
seem appropriate to draw parallels with the role of
the landed classes of the period of transition between
feudalism and capitalism. Moreover, there might be an
analogy to be made between the mercantilism practiced
during that twilight epoch and the dirigist economics
followed by the Chinese ruling elite to such great

And just as, at various points in history, such as in
19th century Prussia or in late czarist Russia, the
aristocratic elements were able to maintain their grip
on the growing bourgeoisie due to their common
interests in repressing the workers and peasants, so
it may be that that the dominance of the CP in
contemporary China is seen as the least unacceptable
form of political set-up to the foreign investors and
native capitalist elements. After all, would a liberal
bourgeois regime enforce labor discipline any better
than the government already in power? But does this
situation entail, at some point, the state being no
longer in any real sense a creature of a
self-interested and aspiring bureaucracy with
historical ties to socialist property relations, but
becoming in fact the representative of the factory
owners and speculators? Or is a complete break
necessary, with the remaining edifice of the workers
state being defaced, the type of development
envisioned across the liberal-conservative spectrum in
the United States when politicians insist upon the
inevitability of democratization in China?

Frankly, from sifting through the business press for
articles addressing concerns over the overheating of
the Chinese economy, over the devaluation of their
currency, or over the state of the real estate sector
in  Guangdong province, what strikes me is how little
is said about the need for “regime change” in China,
in order to remove an obstacle to economic growth.
Again, in the publications of the right-wing
think-tanks, like the Heritage Foundation or the
American Enterprise Institute, there are remarkably
few complaints about remnants of communism persisting
in China. If anything, what outrage expressed is over
Taiwan, and over a possible great power rivalry down
the road. Thus, if current Bush administration policy,
the tone of the mass media on the subject, and the
output of the conservative intelligentsia is any
indication, socialism is well and truly dead in China,
whether we speak in political or economic terms.

Still, to shed further light on this question, I'd
point to what Marx in 1874 wrote in "On Social
Relations in Russia", in which he argued against the
characterization of the "oriental despotism" dominant
in  Russia as a form of government floating in the
air, detached from the present mode of production, and
expressed that it in fact defended the land and
interests of the nobility to the detriment of the
peasantry. Twenty years later, in comments upon this
piece, Engels made the case that the Russian state
bureaucracy and czar had by now become literally
beholden to the bourgeoisie:  

"Tsardom needed money. Not merely for the luxury of
its court, its bureaucracy, above all for its army and
its foreign policy based on bribery, but notably also
for its miserable finance system and the idiotic
railway policy that went hand in hand with it. Foreign
countries would not and could not any longer find the
money for all the Tsar’s deficits; help had to come
from home. A proportion of the railways shares had to
be disposed of at home, as had a proportion of the
loans. The Russian bourgeoisie’s first victory lay in
the railway concessions, which guaranteed the
share-holders all future profits while loading all
future losses on the state. Then came the subsidies
and premiums for industrial enterprises, and the
protective tariffs favouring domestic industry which
eventually made it virtually impossible to import many
articles. With its colossal indebtedness and its
credit in almost total ruins abroad, the Russian state
has a direct fiscal interest in forcing the
development of domestic industry. It constantly needs
gold to pay off the interest on its foreign debts. But
there is no gold in Russia; all that circulates there
is paper. Part of it is provided by the prescribed
payment of tariffs in gold, which also incidentally
raises these tariffs by fifty per cent. But the
greater part of it is supposed to come from the
surplus in the export of Russian raw materials over
the import of foreign industrial products; the bills
of exchange drawn on foreign banks for this surplus
are bought by the government at home for paper money
and in return it receives gold. So if the government
wishes to meet the payment of interest to foreign
countries by some other method than new foreign loans,
it must ensure that Russian industry rapidly expands
to the point where it is able to meet domestic demand
in full. Hence the requirement that Russia must become
an industrial nation that is self-sufficient and
independent of other countries; hence the frantic
efforts of the government to bring the capitalist
development of Russia to a peak in the space of a few
years. For if this does not take place, there will be
no options but to draw on the metallic war funds
accumulated in the State Bank and the State Exchequer,
or else state bankruptcy. In either case Russian
foreign policy would be finished.

One thing is clear: in these circumstances the
fledgling Russian bourgeoisie has the state completely
in its power. In all economic matters of importance
the state must do its bidding. If for the time being
the bourgeoisie continues to put up with the despotic
autocracy of the Tsar and his officials, it is only
because this autocracy, mitigated as it is by the
venality of the bureaucracy offers it more guarantees
than would changes even of a bourgeois-liberal nature,
whose consequences no one could foresee, given the
present internal situation in Russia. And so the
transformation of the country into a capitalist
industrial nation, the proletarianisation of a large
proportion of the peasantry and the decay of the old
communistic commune proceeds at an ever quickening



To put a positive spin on the issue, it may be that
the present incarnation of the PRC occupies the same
historical role as the absolutist monarchies which
prefigured capitalism's rise in the West, of
establishing the modern nation state and of fostering
the fires of trade and manufactures. I'm afraid I'm
too attached to quaint notions of Permanent Revolution
to be comforted by thoughts such as those, however.

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