[Marxism] Jim Craven on socialism in China

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Aug 22 18:14:10 MDT 2005

(I am forwarding this to the 3 lists that Jim posts to, but the response is 
to feedback he got on PEN-L that you can read at: 

Dear Friends,

I appreciated the responses from Marty, Michael P and Michael L.

I start with the premise that socialism is a long protracted and very 
non-linear process of building, consolidating and protecting the 
dictatorship of the proletariat and creating the material conditions for 
the progressive elimination of non-socialist institutions, categories of 
conceptualization, practices, values, paradigms, forms of consciousness and 
relations. I also start with the premise that capitalist relations, 
categories, values, institutions and practices will survive for extended 
periods under socialism as history, and present-day conditions, threats, 
constraints, imperatives, unsatisfied needs of the masses, contradictions 
and uneven levels of development cannot be simply assumed away or 
eliminated with the snap of a finger. I also start with the premise that 
socialism, unlike previous modes of production that exist and interact 
within pre-socialist social formations (as remnants of older dying modes of 
production and/or as embryo forms of emerging modes of production within 
each social formation characterized on the basis of which is the dominant 
mode of production within that overall social formation) do not gradually 
emerge within the womb of the old order (as slavery emerged within the womb 
of primitive communalism or as feudalism emerged within the womb of slavery 
or as capitalism emerged within the womb of feudalism) but rather as a 
result of a dramatic juncture and transformation of the class nature of the 
state. In short, it is not the extent of planning versus market-based 
institutions, or the extent of state involvement in the economy (also 
possible and even extensive under some regimes of fascism and welfare-state 
capitalism) that fundamentally delineates capitalism from socialism, but 
rather, it is the class nature of the state and guiding Party of the state 
that is decisive.

In the cases of both China and Cuba, even as the respective states have 
allowed widening and deepening capitalist relations and institutions under 
various banners or rationales--tactical compromise to the the imperatives 
of increasing integration and trade within a global economy dominated by 
and run on the basis of capitalist institutions, relations and categories; 
the imperatives to rapidly develop productive forces and address myriad and 
immediate material and survival needs of the masses whose survival and 
participation are necessary for building socialism and who may be turned 
into reactionary elements if their basic needs are not met by 
socialism--even in tactical compromise with capitalism; depriving 
imperialist powers of some of their usual rationales for ongoing 
imperialist encirclement, threats of nuclear annihilation, embargos 
etc--the same rationales employed by Lenin to justify the NEP which he 
honestly characterized as a "tactical retreat"--even as all of this is 
going on, the respective states of Cuba and China have not only reiterated 
openly that Marxism-Leninism is the guiding system of praxis-theory of the 
State and CP, they have also undertaken increasing dissemination of 
Marxist-Leninist classics and overall ideological education; question: why 
would essentially "capitalist roaders", intent on the "full restoration" of 
capitalism, undertake to promote literature and education in the 
Marxist-Leninist classics that would ultimately expose "their true 
capitalist natures, 'treachery' and ultimate intents"? Are they just plain 
stupid, daring (in their camouflage) or irrational?

Secondly, in the case of both Cuba and China, in their respective CPs, not 
only is anti-capitalist ideological education being widened and deepened 
within the respective CPs, and not only are CP memberships and members 
being scrutinized for real as opposed to nominal "Redness", and not only is 
training in basic Marxism-Leninism being expanded within various levels of 
educational curricula, but on the international front, both Cuba and China 
have been increasingly active in exposing and attacking various forms 
of  intrigue and global warfare by U.S. imperialism that not only seeks to 
export more capital and capitalism to China, but also maintains embargos 
against China and Cuba--although against Cuba to a greater extent. Why is 
it that in the case of China, as well as Cuba, the U.S. imperialists are 
clearly not buying it that the Chinese and Cuban governments and CPs 
intend, as some have alleged, to restore and are restoring full-blown 
capitalism? Why do the internal documents of U.S. imperialism speak of the 
"Chinese road to socialism" as a future and long-term strategic threat?

I try to imagine what positions I would take if I were a member of the 
Communist Party or Government of China given the history, legacies, 
present-day conditions, miserable conditions of many sections of the 
masses, low levels of development of some productive forces, population 
size relative to resource base, imperialist encirclements and threats of 
nuclear annihilation--along with numerous examples like Iraq of how 
reckless a sociopath-led imperialist state is prepared to be and how far 
that state is prepared to go in imperialist adventurism and in seeking 
unipolar global hegemony. The tactical and strategic balancing acts 
required defy the most sophisticated "operations theory", computers and 
computer programming. I know from our own examples, a very tiny nation on 
the verge of total extinction as a nation--the Blackfoot Nation--that when 
we get ideologically purer-than-pure and act openly purer-than-pure, 
without regard to the concrete conditions, constraints, balances of power 
and capabilities of the enemy, without regard to the often necessary 
imperative for tactical compromise--and even outright retreat 
sometimes--for the purposes of hopefully strategic advance, that it is the 
poorest of the poor, on the verge of extinction, that pay the highest price 
for our theoretical or practical purity. True enough, sometimes what looks 
like one step backward for the purposes of two steps forward winds up as 
two steps backward for each one step forward--the world and information 
about it are more often than not very imperfect and not all are what they 
claim to be or not all is what it seems to be.

Yes, when I was in China, I saw imported and emerging capitalist 
institutions, practices, values and relations--both imported and 
domestic--that turned my stomach. I was particularly incensed to see a 
bunch of fucking Mormons from BYU doing an exchange. My paper, "Socialist 
Revolutionary Consciousness as a Material Force" and "On the Social Capital 
of Capitalism and/versus Socialist Construction" that I gave openly at 
Tsinghua University, was an open attack on neo-liberalism as nothing but 
neo-imperialism as well as against the particular "Deng Xiao Ping de hei 
mao bai mao bi yu" (Black Cat/White Cat Metaphor of Deng Xiao Ping) and 
that talk was not only not censored in any way but was openly embraced 
including by Party members. The small gang of neo-liberals at Tsinghua and 
at Beijing University would not come out to debate and it turns out that 
they are not as strong or numerous as some think. I openly advanced the 
position that capitalism and socialism are not simply two cats (or systems) 
of a different color, each of which has advantages and disadvantages 
relative to particular needs to be met, but, rather, are fundamentally 
contradictory, antagonistic and mortal enemies as each of which can only 
survive on the basis of the progressive demise and general refutation of 
the other.

But to say that China--or Cuba--are restoring or have restored full-blown 
capitalism is to say that the respective Communist Parties of China and 
Cuba are not real Communist Parties, are not led by real Communists and or 
are led by seriously uniformed and incorrect Communists, and are merely 
employing ersatz socialism to build capitalism rather than necessary forms 
of and retreats to--and in some cases not necessary and even mistaken forms 
of--capitalism in order to strategically build socialism under unique 
conditions and in the face of unique and very fatal domestic and global 
threats to the survival of the whole nation. From my discussions in China 
(and I was armed with all sorts of literature such as Charles Bettleheim's 
two volumes of Class Struggles in the USSR, Chussodovsky's book on the 
alleged restoration of capitalism in China, Monthly Review articles from 
the early 1970s on on the question of restoration of capitalism in China 
etc) which they made copies of and we discussed in detail, I am not yet 
convinced that what we are seeing--and what the CP and government of China 
or Cuba--intend, is anything like the restoration of capitalism, the 
extinction of the Communist Party or the transformation of the State from 
dictatorship of the proletariat to the dictatorship of monopoly capital.

That is my view at present and of course, as always, my mind is wide open 
to evidence and this is something I give a great deal of thought to as I 
fear continuously if I am wrong and who or what I might be objectively 
supporting if I am wrong. My last lecture at Tsinghua, entitled Capitalism 
versus Socialism: Which will Win?" I noted that if capitalism does not 
destroy the whole earth, a very distinct possibility if not probability, 
only Socialism must win as only socialism can address and protect the 
fundamental interests and needs of the broad masses against the tyrannical 
few--as opposed to capitalism which is about protecting the fundamental 
interests and needs of the tyrannical few against those of the  broad 
masses. One of the students asked me if socialism was "heaven" and I noted 
no, and it can be like hell in the sense that the dying classes of the old 
order will fight with everything they have to prevent losses of power and 
wealth and leaving the stage of history plus, under socialism, we need not 
only fight against forces of reaction outside of ourselves, we need to 
fight against those forces inside of ourselves as well; this can be a form 
of hell for some.

My best to all of you.


James M. Craven
Blackfoot Name: Omahkohkiaayo-i'poyi
Professor/Consultant,Economics;Business Division Chair
Clark College, 1800 E. McLoughlin Blvd.
Vancouver, WA. USA 98663
Tel: (360) 992-2283; Fax: (360) 992-2863
"The people who cast the votes decide nothing.
The people who count the votes decide everything."
Josef Stalin

Employer has no association with private/protected opinion

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