[Marxism] Re: Is the struggle to unify China an expression of "Great Han chauvinism" today?

michael karadjis mkaradjis at hn.vnn.vn
Mon Mar 7 11:08:12 MST 2005


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Fred Feldman" <ffeldman at bellatlantic.net>
To: <marxism at lists.econ.utah.edu>
Sent: Monday, March 07, 2005 1:00 PM
Subject: [Marxism] Re: Is the struggle to unify China an expression of
"Great Han chauvinism" today?


> I made
> several mistakes.  I misidentified the quote from Michael as from
> Richard, as I thought Michael was quoting Richard.  And I actually
> thought the discussion was occurring on this list, too.

and I used a word sloppily, which gave you the wrong impression. and you
managed to think I really meant what I said in the sloppy sentence despite
what I said in the very next sentence. yeh, we all mistakes, let's move on.

 > But in the Soviet Union, the whole process is characterized by decay,
> breakdown, plunder, decline of the productive forces, and devastating
> losses of life and well-being across very broad stretches of society.
>
> In China the emergence of capitalism (if that is what we are seeing, and
> I don't rule it out) takes placee as an almost organic process arising
> out of achievements of the Chinese revolution (relative national unity,
> etc.) It is characterized by an enormous increase in productivity and
> the productive forces. There has been a great expansion in the size and
> potential power of the working class.

Yes the apparent enormous dynamism of capitalism in China, and to an extent
in Vietnam, does not only stand in contrast to the collapse into the utterly
regressive capitalism in the former soviet bloc, but also in contrast to the
record of capitalism in most of the underdeveloped world. I think Fred makes
a good point that this success has a lot ot do with the achievements of the
socialist revolutions in these countries, even if capitalism is now
supplanting the old system (far more so in China)

> Another factor must be kept in mind.  The working class and peasantry of
> China are not well-organized, but they are not broken. They are showing
> some capacity to fight for their own interests in the process, which
> shows signs of leading toward a class confrontation. This is also a
> difference with the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe thus far.

Again I completely agree, in fact the ongoing upsurge of workers, peasants
and the poor in a great range of struggles is probably the most enormous
class struggle going on in the world. It stands in marked contrast to the
former soviet bloc.

But is this the difference between whether China is still a workers state or
a capitalist state? If Fred thinks the difference is that in China the
working masses are far from being crushed or totally demoralised, then I
agree that China is still a workers state. But in all these confrontations,
the position of the Chinese state apparatus has seemed clear enough,
standing against the masses, right through to military repression against
strikers and even framing workers leaders with 'subversion' etc. Even the
piece Fred sent a while back about a riot in a Chinese town, which Fred said
showed rumours of the death of the Chinese workers state were premature, it
was clear where the state bodies stood in relation to this revolt by the
poor. So it is not so much a difference as a question of definition.
>
> So I am going to take my dear old time on China.  And I doubt piling up
> statistices on "privatization" will be enough to  convince me.

That's good, I completely agree, even if it is my statistics you're
referring to. I was simply outlining how much further the privatisation
drive had gone since the figures quoted by Richard for 1999 alleged 40
percent of Chinese GDP to still be "public". It seems these days more like
20-25 percent, and "public" seems to be a word covering firms where shares
are "publicly" traded.

But that doesn't necessarily mean that when the state still had a 40 percent
share (the current Vietnamese level) it was still a workers state, or that
now the share has dropped much lower it is necessarily a capitalist state.
On that I completely agree. If  we were going to define 'workers' state' on
the basis of various percentages of alleged state or "public" ownership,
then a lot of past and some present capitalist states in the third world
would have to be given prior consideration for listing in the 'workers
state' category ahead of both China and Vietnam. Actually, I still strongly
agree with the position adopted in 1979 by both our then SWPs that Pol Pot's
Cambodia was not in any sense a 'workers state', even though it had
"nationalsied" everyhting down to the shovel - when the first act of a
peasant army is to physically disperse whatever exists of an urban working
class to rural areas in the four corners of the country, the term 'workers
state' reaches absurdity.

However, the level of privatisation would seem to me to be *one factor*
amongst a host of others, and in particular things like how fast
privatisation is proceeding, what happens to the workers in the process,
other issues related to the social impact, what size and kind of enterprises
are being privatised etc etc would seem to have *some* relevance, wouldn't
you think Fred?

And below a certain level, even the the level itself must eventually become
a pretty solid factor, I'd think. I mean, yes, a country might have a
'state' sector of 70 percent of GDP and not be a workers state (eg Iran, to
name one of a number). But at the other end, once you get really low - under
20 percent?? - surely it becomes difficult for the society to really be able
to exercise any control over the rest, and surely at a certain point it gets
overwhelmed by the private capitalist forces dominating the economy.
Regarding the speed, until the 1990s, China in fact carried out very little
privatisation, in the first decade and a half of economic reform, during
which the great majority of the 400 million lifted out of poverty in the
last 20 years were lifted out. Yet since 1997, privatisation suddenly became
massive and began hitting highly strategic key sectors. It seems to me this
has to be taken into account. Regarding what happens to the workers, the fac
t that some 40 million or more workers have been laid off since that time,
precisely while the Chinese economy has been booming like crazy, would also
seem to me a factor.

Also, this big increase in privatisation since 1997, due to CCP policy,
coincides with Hong Kong returning to China. Unlike Taiwan, I agree that the
return of Hong Kong and Macao from colonial rule was progressive. Yet what
it also meant was that what were previously the largest 'foreign' investors
in China became a major part of the domestic Chinese capitalist class, and
the HK bourgeoisie is mega. IMO, this adds a dimension to the question of
'what is China?' that you and others are overlooking. This HK bourgeoisie
(and BTW, a hell of a lot of Taiwan capitalists as well) has fused with the
incipient mainalnd Chinese bourgesoise, particualrly the large part coming
out of the former bureaucracy.

Other factors include things like the fact that China and Vietnam are still
ruled by the parties that led socialist revolutions, and this is certainly
more important than the total proportion of state and private assets,
especially when comparing to some bourgeois nationalist state that
'nationalises' a bunch of inefficient industries from above.

But at what point do we assess that the party itself has changed
fundamentally? Since Jiang Zemin invited capitalists into the ruling party,
among those who have joined and have high state positions (eg running towns
and municipalities) are various billionaires who are CEOs of multinational
companies. Does their presence affect how we see the party, and therefore
the state that the party runs?

What about the relationship of the state and party to the workers? I made
some points on this above. If you look at any of the Asia labour websites,
you'll see countless examples of police action against workers. You never
see it in Vietnam. That might sound too absolute, but even the US Commerce
dept, in its report on Vietnam as a non-market economy recently, made the
point that there have been no known cases of punishment of strikers, and
that the judiciary is sympathetic to labour demands.

That doesn't in itself mean China is a capitalist state and VN a workers
state, but it  is certain that on all points, China is well in advance of VN
along the path nof capitalist restoration, wherever we decide to draw the
line.
>
>  I
> have no ambition to be the first kid on my block to give up on the
> Chinese revolution, even though I know I waited a bit too long on the
> Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
>
And I have no ambition of being the first kid on the block to give up on the
Vietnamese revolution, especially after they shed half a century of blood to
make their revolution. Nevertheless, while I certainly think it would be
very premature to make such an assessment about VN, I can assure you that
there is a lot to worry about, a real lot. And since China is so much
further along the path, I find it difficult to be very hopeful over there. I
hope you're right and I'm wrong. But the fact is, you are far from the
'first kid on the block', actually I think you are in the rapidly declining
group. Leftists have been pronouncing the Chinese revolution dead for a long
time now, and many have also made that conclusion about Vietnam.

So in the end, it doesn't matter so much if some of us are characterising
China differently, as long as we understand the process of capitalist
restoration is well advanced, but on the other hand the masses are still
full of fight, and we are probably just drawing the line at different
points.

Anyway, my original point was about the poisonous "advice" the Chinese
leaders were giving to Cuba, and I stand by my characterisation of it as
"sinsiter". This is the advice they are giving to the Vietnamese, and it
plays no small role in galvanising the most neo-liberal elements. I'm
surprised Fred doesn't see this, I'm sure he was calling the policy of the
Chinese bureaucracy "counterrevolutionary" 25 years ago when it invaded
Vietnam at Washington's behest (not to mention welcoming Pinochet and all
the other crimes). Why they would be less so after a couple of decades of
capitalist development is beyond me.

Since Fred keeps bringing up the issue of "imperialism", I'll just state
again that I don't think China is remotely imperialist, and I don't know
where Fred got the idea from. It has nothing to do one way or another with
the question of Taiwan. I probably shouldn't say too much about Taiwan,
since a certain list member is threatening dissent with bullets (though i'm
oceans way).

So I'll just make two quick points: firstly, I agree completely with the
article I sent to the list by Eva Cheng (and since Carlos' bullet was for
'imperialist country socialists' who don't agree with him, is his sks also
aimed at Chinese comrades?); secondly, in every respect, Iraq had a far
better claim to Kuwait than China has to Taiwan, and look at where Saddam's
particular method of 'reunifying the Arab nation' left the region.

Michael Karadjis






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