[Marxism] Moderator's note/China

Charles Brown cbrown at michiganlegal.org
Mon Nov 20 13:31:01 MST 2006

Louis Pro 

 For example, she recently took the side of 
the Chinese government against insurgent peasants 
and workers since their demands were 
"economistic", whatever the hell that means.

CB: Probably in this context it means not adequately taking into account
world politics, especially the role of U.S. imperialism in it, and the
impact of those on China.

Then quoting John Gulick:

1) Many protestors in the PRC - especially idled 
SOE workers in their 40's and 50's, but also some 
unofficial peasant associations - explicitly 
frame their grievances in terms of the 
disappearance of socialist entitlements and the 
loss of an egalitarian ethos.  

CB: Construing Yoshie's meaning of "economistic" , "socialist entitlements"
are economic entitlements. Without lacking regret that these workers suffer
economic and social loss under the current strategy of the Chinese
government, it is conceivable that the Chinese government has estimated that
only with the sacrifice of these socialist entitlements already gained can
China develop its production on a par with present day capitalism; that only
with such development can China protect itself militarily from imperialist
aggression; and that only with such development can China produce future
socialist entitlements that rival present day capitalist use-value


There is thus an 
implicit demand among an unmeasured segment of 
ordinary people for some combination of a "return 
to (a) state socialist past... or progress to a 
new democratic socialist future." Scholars 
ranging from Elizabeth Perry (fairly mainstream 
academic Sinologist) to Robert Weil 
(reconstructed Maoist) have documented this. This 
sentiment may not be universal, coherent, or in 
possession of an independent organizational 
vehicle, but it is unmistakably there.

2) Suppose your assertion that protestor demands 
are principally "economistic" is correct. So 
what? Cannot economistic complaints be radical 
criticisms if a regime cannot adequately deal 
with them? 
CB: Again guessing at Yoshie's use of "economistic", the basic analogy from
Lenin's _What is to be done ?_ is that workers' taking up wider political as
well as more narrow "shopfloor" questions. So, Yoshie seems to be saying
that these demands do not sufficiently taking into account the political
_whole_ of the world and China in it today. Of course, John, Lou and others
strongly disagree with this, but it is not a frivolous or argument.

Again, this is in the larger historical context that China is famous for
having genuinely and forthrightly taken up the "road to socialism bypassing
capitalism in the past." They have the concrete experience with trying to
compete with capitalism with socialist relations of production; and
concretely with "today's" Chinese social "material", what actually exists
socially and consciously in China's population,the very one that everybody
"overhere" is expressing such strong opinions regarding.

(I suppose you acknowledge this when 
you write about the possible consequences of a 
downturn in growth). What is your criterion for 
determining whether or not a significantly large 
number of people desire structural change? Most 
of them have to have in their minds a refined 
revolutionary critique? Name one historical 
situation, even under the most dire of circumstances, in which
this was actually true.

CB: Name one situation, in China or elsewhere, where a "backward" country,
with very little to almost no capitalist relations of production
successfully outcompeted capitalism.  Even the Soviet Union, which most
agree was less "backward" than China at the relevant times, has retreated to
less socialist relations of production.


 Did the rural populace in 
the 1940's flock to the leadership of the Red 
Army because they believed in the principles of 
Maoism, or because in the liberated zones they 
sought effective refuge from usury, rack-rent, 
crooked administration, collaboration with the Japanese
killing machine, and so on?

3) Some of the demands which you yourself 
classify as "economistic" are anything but: 
"social rights"? "less corruption"? 
CB: In the way Yoshie seems to be using the analogy to Lenin's usage of
economistic, "social rights" or corruption might be closer to the
"shopfloor" and "trade unionism pure and simple" than to the larger and
determining political questions.


peasant challenges to massive land confiscation 
is "economistic"?

CB; What was the property form of the land ownership before confiscation ?

 Violent rural resistance to 
illegal toxic pollution is "economistic"? I 
suppose that any struggle that does not directly 
oppose the purported policy orientation of 
Beijing - "harmonious society," "sustainable 
development," etc. - qualifies in your book as 

CB; Economistic is in contrast to political.


But at the end of the day, do you 
think protestors will be quelled by reassurances 
from the central government that it supports a 
"harmonious society" and "sustainable 
development," as long as the local face of the
party-state is irredeemably roguish and venal?

CB: The issue is that after 80 years of experience in a number of countries,
imperialism has been shown itself irredeemably roguish and utterly unwilling
to allow peaceful coexistence and competition between countries with
different social systems. I imagine Lenin had an idea that that was a long
shot when he formulated it, but now it has proven untenable.  Perhaps the
Chinese are just undogmatic enough to go at socialism a different way when
the way they tried at first was not making it, even though it offends our
communist ideals and "morals".

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