“Socialism with Chinese Characteristics”

Tienanmen Square: Chinese Counter-Revolution Crushed

In the August/September 1989 issue of Lalkar we wrote an article entitled ‘Chinese Counter-Revolution Crushed’. In this article, we exposed the lies of the imperialist media, and its flunkeys in the working-class movement – the Trotskyites, Revisionists and Social-Democrats – concerning the alleged “massacre” and “bloodbath” in Tienanmen Square, Beijing, on June 3-4 of 1989, by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of the allegedly innocent students demanding no more than “democracy” and an end to corruption.

We proved, by reference to unimpeachably solid imperialist sources, which cannot be suspected of entertaining any but the most hostile views towards socialism, that the Tienanmen Square incidents were nothing short of an attempted counter-revolution aimed at overthrowing the socialist system in China and replacing it with a capitalist system and a capitalist regime. We proved too, again by reference to the most impeccable ‘imperialist’ sources, that this attempt at counter- revolution was well-planned and meticulously coordinated between the local Chinese counter-revolutionaries and their imperialist masters, with the latter rendering every technical, financial, political and ideological help to the former and facilitating a minute-by-minute transmission of every word every message, every communiqué, emanating from this counter-revolutionary rabble.

In concluding that article we asked the question: “How could this counter-revolutionary rebellion have arisen in the first place?” And to this question, we provided the following answer:

“In their effort to modernise China, the Chinese leadership has been trying for nearly a decade to break into the monopoly over technology held by Western and Japanese imperialism, by offering them special economic zones and joint ventures. This, accompanied by the loosening of the centralised economic planning, the dissolution of the communes, wider pay differentials between the masses and managers and intellectuals, have disrupted the socialist economy and led to inflation, unemployment and dislocation of vast numbers of workers and peasants. These economic factors have been accompanied by an ideological relaxation and a lessening of emphasis on the teachings of Marxism-Leninism at a time when an increasing number of Chinese students studying in America and other Western countries were not simply acquiring technical and scientific expertise, but also having their heads stuffed with bourgeois ideology (at present there are 73,000 Chinese students in America and another 250,000 visitors)”.

To this we added the plea: “The Communist Party of China (CPC) must take a hard look at these economic and ideological factors, which together contributed much to produce the counter-revolutionary rebellion. It must learn the necessary lessons and put an end to those practices – economic and ideological – which led to the present crisis. We wish the Chinese working class every success in tackling these problems”.

Cde Jiang Zemin’s speech in June 1992

Exactly three years after the suppression of the Tienanmen counter-revolutionary rebellion, Comrade Jiang Zemin, General Secretary of the CPC, made a very important speech, which reveals clearly, if disturbingly, that the leadership of the CPC, far from learning correct lessons from the Tienanmen incidents, is, on the contrary, pressing full-steam ahead with the implementation of the very policies which led directly to the counter-revolutionary rebellion of June 1989 by the loosening of centralised planning and the unleashing of economic forces which lead in the direction of capitalism.

Speaking at the Central Party School, on June 9th this year, to a gathering of provincial and ministerial level cadres, who were attending a class for advanced studies, Jiang stressed that a major task for the Party committees, at both central and local levels, was “to grasp and implement in an all round way the essence of the important remarks by Deng Xiaoping and bring the enthusiasm, initiative and creativeness of all the cadres and people into full play so that they will become a great motivating force for the acceleration of the pace of reform and opening of economic development”.

The meeting, at which Jiang spoke, was presided over by Quiao Shi, who is a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC, as well as the President of the Party School, all of which adds to the importance, as well as the seriousness of Jiang’s remarks, some of which we reproduce here below.

Jiang stressed that the central idea running through Deng’s remarks is to unswervingly carry out the Party’s basic line of “making economic construction the central task and adhering to the four cardinal principles and to the reform and opening to the outside world”, in a comprehensive way, emancipate the mind, seek truth from facts, have a free hand and make bold experiments, remove various obstacles, seize the good opportunity to accelerate the pace of reform and opening, and concentrate on the promotion of economic construction. He continued that by so doing, the country will continuously and comprehensively push forward the cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics, adding that this has been Deng Xiaoping’s consistent idea since the Third Plenary session of the 11th Central Committee of the Party in 1978.

This line of Deng, this “building of socialism with Chinese characteristics”, claimed Jiang, has guided China’s modernisation cause to advance along the right course of development and to achieve successes which have attracted worldwide attention. “This represents”, said Jiang “new historic contributions Deng has made to the Party, the country, the nation and the people. This is also the most important reason why China’s socialist cause can stand severe tests under the changing international situation and remain invincible. The creation of the road of building socialism with Chinese characteristics and the formation of its theory, line and policies indicate that China’s socialist cause has entered a new stage of development and that the Party has taken an unprecedented new leap in the process of cognition of the science of socialism”.

‘Socialism with Chinese Characteristics’

But, what is this “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics”, what is the theory underpinning it, with the help of which the CPC has “taken an unprecedented new leap in the process of cognition of the science of socialism”? Jiang explains that the essence of this theory of building socialism lies in:

(a) Opening the Chinese economy to foreign capital and building a “foreign oriented economy, furthering active and effective use of foreign funds”;

(b) Reforming the economy by a further loosening of central economic planning – the very basis of socialist construction – on the plea “that reform is also a revolution and a liberalisation of the productive forces, … that for a long period in the past China implemented a system of over-centralised planned economy, which once played an important role”;

(c) Expanding commodity production and enhancing the role of the market, for, according to him a centrally planned economy “due to its defects of over-centralisation of powers and of ignoring and even rejecting of commodity economy and the role of market regulation, has become more and more unsuitable to the demands of the development of modern production. It has hampered the development of productive forces, and even rigidified the whole economy”.

Equating modernisation with the expansion of the market, Jiang goes on to say that “it is imperative to make a fundamental reform in this over-centralised planned economic system. Otherwise it will be impossible to realise the modernisation of the country”. Equating central economic planning with an obstacle to the development of productive forces, he calls for the liberation of the latter by removing the former.

In this regard, Jiang stressed the need to learn from, and follow, the experience of imperialist countries (“developed capitalist countries”) if you please, for to “accelerate the pace of reform and opening should include boldly drawing on all the achievement of the civilisation of mankind and advanced management methods of all countries including the developed capitalist countries” as if to say that the highest development of commodity products, i.e. capitalism, is also the highest achievement of “the civilisation of mankind”.

‘Attach More Importance to the Role of the Market’

Christening these reforms as the establishment of “a new socialist economic system”, and so as to not leave anyone in doubt, Jiang reveals the essence of this “socialism” in the following candid terms:

“…it is the basic task of speeding up the reform to establish a new socialist economic system as quickly as possible. The key task for establishing a new economic system is to correctly understand the question of planning and markets and the relations between them. This means attaching more importance to the role of the market in the development of resources and bringing it into fuller play under the state macro economic control”.

Referring, in language most oblique, to the fact that disputes within the CPC on the wisdom of following the bourgeois reformist path, advocated by Deng Xiaoping since the late 70s, have now been resolved in favour of Deng’s group, Jiang goes on to call for the speedy implementation of this “new socialist economic system”.

Says he: “… through more than a decade of grouping and summarising domestic and foreign experience our understanding of the establishment of a new socialist economic system has become comparatively ripe both in theory and practice, and a common understanding has further been reached inside the Chinese Communist Party. So, it is time to carry it out at fast speed”.

How is this new “socialism” to be implemented? In the following way:

(a) By separating “the functions of government from those of enterprises”;

(b) By granting “more decision-making power to enterprises”, i.e. independent of state planning bodies;

(c) By reforming “the concept of planning and transform[ing] the functions and modes of planning management” – an obscure way of calling for dismantling central economic planning (“liberating the productive forces” from “over- centralisation” if it pleases anyone); and

(d) By paying attention “to market construction and setting up a unified and complete socialist market”.

We have shown elsewhere, in our analysis of the collapse of revisionism in the former Soviet Union and in eastern Europe, that there is no such thing as socialist commodity production or a socialist market; that commodity production and communism are incompatible; that it is the historical aim and task of communism to eliminate commodity production, and hence the market; that the continued existence of commodity production in the countries which have hitherto experienced socialism had to be explained by the backwardness of the economies inherited by the revolution – in particular the existence, side by side with state property, of collective property in the form of collective farms, whereby the produce, although not the means of production, belong to the collective peasantry, and the unwillingness, at least for the time-being, of the latter to recognise any other relation with the town except the commodity relation. Only the revisionist political and economic theoreticians – the Khrushchevs, Libermans and Siks maintained otherwise. To them, only under the higher phase of communism could the market achieve its real flowering and commodity production expand to unprecedented proportions. Well, we know where that has led the once glorious USSR, namely, to the liquidation of socialism and the USSR alike.

But, Jiang assures us that “the reform in China is socialist reform and it means a revolution to the original political system which bears some shortcomings. It aims at improving and revitalising China’s socialist system. The political reform in China is not to take the road of the kind of democratic politics in western countries. Its orientation and aim are to build a kind of socialist democratic politics with Chinese characteristics, to improve the socialist legal system and to effectively guarantee the rights of the masses of people as masters of the country”.

Well, did we not get similar assurances, in language even more clear, from Mikhail Gorbachev, who wanted to “renew socialism” by “returning to Lenin, by expanding commodity production and establishing a “socialist market economy” as the only means of “liberating” the productive forces from the clutches of the “administrative command economy” instituted during the time of “Stalin’s personality cult”? And before that, did we not get coaxed by similar assurances from Nikita Khrushchev and his successors and the economic theoreticians of revisionism – Messrs Libermans, Gatovskys, Siks, et al?

Jiang urged leading cadres at all levels “to promote reform and opening to the outside world and, at the same time, crack down on criminal activity of all kinds”, forgetting that it is precisely the kind of reforms pursued by the CPC – reforms which seek to construct the market by dismantling central economic planning, reforms which unleash the forces of the capitalist market – which give rise to bourgeois corruption and criminal activity of all kinds.

It is clear, however, from Jiang’s concluding remarks, that there is opposition within the CPC to the implementation of these bourgeois reforms, this “new socialist economic system”, this “socialism with Chinese characteristics”, which is what causes him to say that “people must be on the alert for right tendencies, but mainly must guard against ‘left’ tendencies”.

He adds: “The reality of life shows that the ‘Left’ tendencies are manifested mainly by the fact that people still stick to their previous dogmatical understanding of certain Marxist principles and books, or to some unscientific and even totally distorted understanding of socialism, or to the wrong ideas and policies which overstep the primary stage of socialism and were prevailing prior to the period of reform and opening to the outside world. … Thus, they do not easily accept the correct policies of reform and opening … and they even doubt and negate reform and opening to the outside world. They hold the view that to carry out reform and opening to the outside world will lead to the capitalist road and they still use the concept of ‘taking class struggle as the key link’ to interfere with and even impair the central task of economic development”.

It is not a question of one’s wishes and good intentions. What one must do is to look at the policy of the CPC in the economic sphere, its trend and direction, its logic and the destination at which it must arrive. An honest Marxist analysis of the CPC’s economic reforms compels one to admit that, unless reversed, the implementation of this policy is bound to lead to the same kind of collapse as has already taken place in the former Soviet Union as a result of three-and-a-half decades of the pursuit of revisionist economic policy. While pursuing these policies in the economic sphere, which inexorably lead to bourgeois liberalisation and turmoil, it is pointless for Comrade Jiang to warn against right tendencies which, he quite correctly says, “are engaged in bourgeois liberalisation and even try to create political turmoil, attempting to change the socialist system and the correct orientation of reform and opening to the outside world”.

The economic reforms that the CPC has been putting into effect, at varying tempo, since the late 70s have been creating at an ever accelerated pace the economic basis for the emergence of bourgeois and petty-bourgeois elements. And when this is combined with tirades against “left” tendencies “taking class struggle as the key link”, this cannot but become a potent weapon in the hands of the emerging bourgeois elements who want to lull the vigilance of the Chinese proletariat to the danger of capitalist restoration.

Yes, socialism must prove its superiority, not only in the political, but also in the economic field. Yes, the backward China of 1949 must be transformed into a modern and model industrial state, equipped with the most up-to-date technique and a skilled and cultured people. No one in their sane mind would denounce the CPC leadership for wanting to modernise China’s economy. However, this modernisation can be either along bourgeois or proletarian lines. And, to the Chinese working class and the vast masses of China, it is vital that it be along proletarian lines, for if it is not its consequences for the 1,200 million Chinese people would be too horrendous and horrible to contemplate. One has only to look at the plight of the working class of the former USSR and of the east European countries to realise that. These are the terms in which Cde Jiang himself described the consequences for China of departing from the socialist path:

“If China does not persist in socialism in the years to come but instead chooses, as some people advocate, to return to the capitalist road – and thus once more give rise to a capitalist class by fattening it with the sweat and toil of her labouring people – then with so huge a population, so low a level of productive forces, the majority of the people can only be reduced once more to an extremely impoverished status.

“This kind of capitalism can only be primitive capitalism of the comprador type [compradors were Chinese merchant intermediaries of Western interest from the end of the 19th century]. It can only reduce the Chinese people of all nationalities once more to dual enslavement by the foreign capitalists and China’s own exploiting classes”. (Speech on the 40th Anniversary of the founding of the Peoples’ Republic of China).

We have made the above critical observation, not out of malice or hostility, or even an urge to criticise. We have done this guided by a spirit of proletarian internationalism and out of concern for the interests of the Chinese people. We end this article by yet again expressing the hope that the CPC will feel willing and able to put an end to its present economic reforms which go under the name of building socialism with Chinese characteristics, for denuded of its camouflage and verbiage it turns out to be another name for building a capitalist market economy, and calling it a “socialist market economy” does not change matters one whit. Once again we wish the Chinese working class every success in tackling these problems.

[To be continued]

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