[Marxism] Class nature of Chinese state, and class nature

Marvin Gandall marvgandall at videotron.ca
Sat Oct 27 08:46:04 MDT 2007

Anthony Boynton writes:

> Hi everybody: The conversation about China is interesting, but it raises
> some questions that I have been thinking about  for a long time, and have
> not brought up on this list.
> The category "workers state" which is often used on this list, and which
> descends from Trotsky's writings, and which was used in discussion in the
> Third International...does not seem to describe anything that ever was
> very real, or at least not ever very precisely defined. Plus it excludes
> some other interesting phenomena.

> I think we might want to start talking about "revolutionary states",
> rather than workers' states.

> The Soviet Union was, and China, Viet Nam, Cuba, Korea, and Venezuela, ARE
> revolutionary states. So was Mexico after 1910. So was France until the
> defeat of Napolean.
I would not call China today either a workers state or a revolutionary one.

For a long time now, I've preferred to distinguish between capitalist and
anticapitalist states -  between those with a dominant bourgeoisie where
state policy is directed towards strengthening the private sector, and those
where the bourgeoisie has disappeared as a social class and the commitment
is to public ownership.

By these criteria, China was once an anticapitalist state, but is no longer.
The Chinese Communist Party began experimenting with capitalist forms under
Deng; has promoted an "entrepreneurial" culture, dismantled large parts of
the socialized economy, and raised up a new bourgeoisie since; and
effectively committed itself to the full restoration of capitalism over a 15
year transition period as the price of admission to the WTO in 2001. The
highlights of that China-WTO agreement which spell this out are at:


Of course, there is still a large state-owned sector in China and the
process is not yet complete. But this no more makes China a "revolutionary"
state, as you contend, or a "workers state", as Walter and Fred have
suggested, than that Venezuela today remains committed to capitalism because
the bourgeoisie and private property in that country are still intact.

Where the issue is not resolved by force of arms, these developments take
some time to play out and the outcome is more uncertain. But the direction
can still be discerned in each case by the economic and political measures
being taken to subvert the old society, and by the values - capitalist or
anticapitalist - circulating within the leadership and the masses. Given
that the global economy is now exclusively structured on capitalist lines
since the fall of the USSR, the odds on China completing its capitalist
transformation are better than those of anticapitalist Venezuela which is
having to swim upstream in the opposite direction.

As to whether the various anticapitalist countries were (or, in Cuba's case,
are) "socialist", "bureaucratic collectivist", "state capitalist", healthy
or deformed or degenerated "workers states", or just plain "workers and
farmers governments", such discussions can be interesting in that they
contribute to a deeper understanding of the kinds of social relations which
exist or ought to exist in these societies. But on a practical level, they
mostly led, IMO, to a lot of unnecessary squabbling and division and the
inability to work together on the left by people who for the most part were
otherwise strongly united in defence of them.

There's no disputing that the precise characterization of an anticapitalist
regime is an important matter for those who live under one because it
determines whether and in which way they will support or oppose it. But, for
people like myself on the outside who mostly derived our views based on what
left-wing political groups we happened to meet and attach ourselves to as
young activists in the various movements, these questions were shaped more
by faith than by experience, by texts circulated within the conflicting
sects by keaders in whom the members had confidence. Today especially, with
the "socialist third" having disappeared, these faith-based debates, like
the Stalin-Trotsky dispute from which they derive, have an even more
abstract, as well as stale, quality about them.

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