[Marxism] The class nature of the Chinese state

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Oct 17 17:30:10 MDT 2007

Walter Lippmann wrote:
> That being said, unlike the views which are popular in some sections
> of the political left, from the pages of Monthly Review, to those of
> the Australian Democratic Socialist Perspective and others, I do NOT
> agree that capitalism has been restored in China. It's obvious that
> the Chinese leadership has opened the country to a massive amount of
> privatization, and private foreign investment. The result is a mix of
> extremely rapid economic growth as well as sharp differentiation in
> the social sphere as well as lots of ecological damage.

The Chinese economy operates on the basis of profit. For those who want 
to understand how Marx approached this type of social system, I 
recommend Volume One of Capital.

> The Chinese Communist Party remains a party founded on a belief in
> Marxism and socialism. The armed power of the state remains in the
> hands of the PCC and under its leadership. The banks and the rest of
> the commanding heights of the economy remain in state hands as well.

The state sector cannot really be distinguished from the private sector. 
They are involved with capital accumulation pure and simple.

> Insofar as I think of these matters in theoretical terms - which is
> NOT something I spend much time on, I continue to believe what I
> believed when I was in the U.S. Socialist Workers Party, that China
> is a bureaucratically-deformed workers state. Capitalism, as far as 
> I can see, hasn't been restored there yet, as it has been in Russia,
> Eastern Europe and such places.

Don't you understand that when Marxists characterize a state as 
capitalist or non-capitalist, they must by necessity look at 
economics--which very often involves quantitative analysis. Here, let me 
give you an example:

While gestures toward self-management of firms and farms were made, the 
"socialist" government of Algeria appeared more interested in the 
quantity of growth rather than its quality. In this respect, it shared 
many of the characteristics of less progressive states in the region 
that were following a "modernizing" agenda, such as Iran and Iraq. 
Simultaneous with the technocratic approach to economic development that 
was taking shape in huge oil and chemical state-owned enterprises, 
Algeria began to witness the emergence of a private sector. The state 
sector actually began to fuel the growth of the private sector. 
Capitalism had never been abolished in Algeria, as it was in Cuba, so 
there ample opportunities for it to grow in the booming energy-based 
economy. An Algerian radical newspaper commented in 1983 that "Not only 
old agrarian and commercial capitalists have invested, but also party 
cadres, veterans of the liberation war, and even public sector cadres."

Colonel Boumedienne hailed this process. "National capital must play its 
role and accomplish its duty to the nation, the state is disposed, on 
its part, to supply it with all guarantees in a defined framework. It is 
not in the interest of the country that (private) capital remain 
unproductive." The private sector has grown steadily in Algeria. Charts 
available in Rachid Tlemcani's book "State and Revolution in Algeria", 
the source of the information in this post, end prior to 1986, the 
publication year. The trend is obvious, however. In 1982, private 
industry accounted for 40% of all jobs in transportation, 70% in 
agriculture and 75% in commerce.

The US embassy in Algiers published a report the same year that pointed 
to the existence of 315,000 capitalist firms. There are class loyalties 
between the bourgeoisie who run these firms and the petty-bourgeois 
bureaucrats who run state industry. Both tend to view labor as "inputs" 
to an economy that will produce growth for the nation rather than as an 
end in itself. Not only does the state sector have a compromised 
relationship to the domestic private sector, it is linked to 
international capital in a way totally unlike state firms have been in 
Cuba up until recently. The state firms in Algeria owe their existence 
to loans advanced by imperialist banks. The class relationship that 
underlies this debt is entirely different from those that Cuba owed to 
the former Soviet Union.

Imperialism uses these debts as leverage to accelerate the 
bourgeoisification of Algerian society while a similar process never 
took place in Cuba. In 1975, foreign debt amounted to $504 per Algerian 
citizen. This amounted to approximately half the per capita income of 
the urban population and the equivalent of the peasantry's. The World 
Bank has fostered a typical dependent relationship to Algeria. At the 
end of 1982, it agreed to fund eleven big development projects, as well 
as provide nearly a billion dollars for various social projects in 
Algeria. Private banks have also taken advantage of investment 
opportunities in Algeria. In 1979, Sonatrach, a big state enterprise, 
borrowed one-half billion dollars from a consortium that included Chase, 
Citicorp and United California Bank. Algeria's dependency on the United 
States has not only been tied to financing of major state projects. It 
has also been reflected in foreign trade.

full: http://www.columbia.edu/~lnp3/mydocs/state_and_revolution/algeria.htm

> The "debate" which some engage in over whether China is "socialist"
> or a "workers state" isn't very meaningful as there is NOTHING which
> any of us who aren't in China can do about it. The more important
> question is what POLITICAL TASKS, flow from such a designation.

Actually, this list is far better suited to discussing theoretical 
questions rather than tasks. Trying to understand whether China is 
capitalist or not is a challenge that Marxists must not shirk from.

> China-bashing is popular as some in the west are now engaged in and
> it echoes the China-bashing of some sectors of the capitalist media
> who are in competition with Chinese industries economically.

Yes, Walter. We are "bashing" China. How very adroit of you to introduce 
such laser-sharp class distinctions. I am reminded of how Todd Gitlin 
berates the left for "anti-Americanism". You are his crypto-Stalinist 
funhouse mirror.

> Since I am not a member of any left-wing or self-designated Marxist
> or Communist organization or party, I do not feel obliged to have 
> an answer to every political question under the sun. That's what
> we used to feel compelled to do when I was in the Trotskyist
> movement.

This is a joke, right? You proselytize this list like a subway preacher. 
Sometimes I feel like telling one of those characters to fuck Jesus if 
he loves him so much.

> China has very close, amicable, supportive and mutually productive
> relations with Cuba, the country whose politics I follow with the
> greatest care. This is good. Most of you who oppose China ignore
> this aspect of Chinese policy. Cuba can't and I cannot, either.

What a startling revelation. I never would have guessed.

> We cannot make the world be as we wish it were. We have to live
> and work in the actual world as it really is. My friends in the
> Spartacist League characterize me as ame that I'm a "worshiper 
> of the accomplished fact."

You need new friends.

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