Ninety years of the Communist Party of China

On 1 July 2011, the Communist Party of China (CPC) celebrates the 90th anniversary of its foundation. This is a major occasion in international political life and especially for the international communist movement, as the CPC holds power in a country that is home to almost a quarter of humanity, which has become a major factor in world politics, and which recently became the world’s second largest economy, on course to overtake the United States of America.

In the build up to the anniversary, the CPC announced that its membership had now topped 80 million, reaching 80.269 million by the end of last year.

According to CPC official Wang Qinfeng, last year, 3.075 million people joined the CPC, the world’s largest political party, a net increase of 2.274 million taking into account members who died or left the party.

The two leading groups in new members were college students and people at the frontline of production or work, such as industrial workers, farmers, herders, and migrant workers, both accounting for more than 40 percent of the total new party members.

The CPC received 21.017 million membership applications last year, a year-on-year increase of 861,000. (‘China’s Communist Party members exceed 80 million’, Xinhua, 24 June 2011)

This is a very far cry from the early days of the CPC. The first congress, which founded the Party, was attended by just 12 delegates, who represented a little over 50 members. The congress met in conditions of strict secrecy and illegality. Indeed, the delegates only narrowly avoided arrest, and quite possibly death, leaving the school where the congress had originally been convened shortly before the police arrived and continuing on a river cruise boat.

There are people in the working class and progressive movements in Britain who assert that the ranks of the Marxist-Leninist party are too small and that the party will consequently never achieve anything and is therefore not worth joining. It is true, of course, that Britain’s communist party, the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) (CPGB-ML) is as yet too small, although those who use this as their excuse to remain aloof are, for their part at least, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. But, along with the history of the Bolshevik party, the CPC’s experience and history is the strongest possible refutation of the idea that a political party, guided by the revolutionary ideology of Marxism-Leninism, is destined to remain small. As Comrade Zhou Enlai put it in the political report to the 10th National Congress of the CPC in 1973:

Chairman Mao teaches us that ‘the correctness or incorrectness of the ideological and political line decides everything’…If one’s line is correct, even if one has not a single soldier at first, there will be soldiers, and even if there is no political power, political power will be gained.”

In a message sent to the leaders of the CPC, marking the 90th anniversary, the CPGB-ML wrote, in part:

The CPC could be founded thanks to the Great October Socialist Revolution in neighbouring Russia. As Comrade Mao Zedong so memorably put it, it was the salvoes of that great revolution that brought Marxism-Leninism to China.

The birth of the CPC meant that the working people and the Chinese nation could have a reliable vanguard so that they might at last find a correct road to liberate themselves and to build a new country, something that had eluded generations of patriots, who had bemoaned the ruination of the country and people at the hands of foreign, including British, imperialists, warlords, feudalists, and bureaucratic and comprador capitalists.

However, the road from the founding of the Party to the liberation of the country, with the founding of the People’s Republic, was long, difficult and bloody. It was one where, as Comrade Mao Zedong put it, countless numbers of revolutionary martyrs heroically laid down their lives for the people. We cherish their memory. Their sacrifice was not in vain. The People’s Republic of China is their lasting monument…

The CPC was able to lead the Chinese revolution by integrating the universal principles of Marxism-Leninism with the concrete realities of China. The road of the Chinese revolution is rich in revolutionary lessons, including the formation of a People’s Army, the building of revolutionary base areas, the waging of protracted people’s war, developing and consolidating a national united front, surrounding the cities from the countryside, and seizing nationwide political power by armed force.

These and other experiences and lessons of the Chinese revolution, summarised and embodied in Mao Zedong Thought, representing the collective wisdom of the first generation of China’s proletarian revolutionaries, with Comrade Mao Zedong as their most outstanding representative, constitute a major contribution to the science of revolution, whose validity has been proved not only in China but throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America.

“Following the establishment of the People’s Republic, in the face of manifold difficulties at home and abroad, the Party has led the Chinese people in successive waves of socialist revolution and socialist construction. As a result, the old and backward China, in which the masses of people led a miserable life, suffering from hunger, illiteracy, disease and lack of shelter, has been banished. Hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty and are living a happy life, with the beginnings of prosperity. China is advancing to the front ranks of the world, with a huge economy, powerful armed forces and advanced culture, such that no force on earth can ignore it. How correct Comrade Mao was when he declared:

“‘The Chinese people have stood up!’”

The long road that China has covered under the leadership of the Communist Party can also be seen in the way it has been able to respond to the current global financial crisis. Writing in the Financial Times on the eve of his recent visit to Britain, China’s premier Wen Jiabao explained:

A notable result of our response to the crisis is that China has maintained steady and fast growth. Between 2008 and 2010, China’s gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of 9.6, 9.2 and 10.3 per cent respectively…33.8m new urban jobs were created. China has maintained sound growth this year.

The thrust of China’s response to the crisis is to expand domestic demand and stimulate the real economy, strengthen the basis for long-term development and make growth domestically driven. We have implemented a two-year, Rmb4,000bn ($618bn) investment programme covering infrastructure development, economic structural adjustment, improving people’s well-being and protection of the environment. As a result, 10,800 km of railways and about 300,000 km of roads have been built and 210m kW of installed capacity for power generation have been added. We have boosted support for science and technology including by encouraging companies to carry out technological upgrading and innovation. More than Rmb1,000bn have been spent in

rebuilding after the Wenchuan earthquake. In the affected areas, quality infrastructure and public facilities were constructed, and 4.83m rural houses and 1.75m urban apartments were rebuilt or reinforced. The quake-hit areas have taken on a new look. We are working to improve the balance between domestic and external demand, with the share of trade surplus in GDP dropping from 7.5 per cent in 2007 to 3.1 in 2010…

“In fighting the crisis, China has made huge strides in developing social programmes… We have made breakthroughs in building a social security system covering urban and rural areas. We have introduced a rural old-age insurance scheme, which will cover 60 per cent of counties in China this year. The basic urban medical insurance scheme and rural co-operative medical care scheme now cover more than 90 per cent of the population. All Chinese now have access to free compulsory education.” (‘How China plans to reinforce the global recovery’, Wen Jiabao, 24 June 2011)

Of course, we cannot overlook the fact that in its policies of the last 30 years or so, the CPC has made extensive use of market forces. It is our firm view that the market and socialism are ultimately incompatible; it is the job of socialism to put an end to the market and commodity production, without which the transference to the higher stage of socialism, namely communism, is impossible.  However, we are not asserting that at no stage in the development of socialism has the market any place.  In the beginning, it is perfectly legitimate to use market mechanisms but, with the full and conscious realisation that these are only temporary measures, and not without their dangers and harmful consequences, and which therefore sooner or later have to be brought to an end.  A perfectly good example of that is the policy pursued by the young Soviet Republic during the period of the New Economic Policy, which helped in the rehabilitation of the Soviet economy.  Once it had done that, that policy was jettisoned by the CPSU, which recommenced the socialist offensive against all exploiters through the period of collectivisation and the initiation of the Five-year Plans.

In China too, the reforms implemented since 1979, have at some stage got to come to an end, failing which the capitalist forces that have been unleashed by these reforms would become too powerful and would overwhelm socialism in China.  If that were to happen, it would be a devastating misfortune for the Chinese people, and a devastating misfortune for progressive humanity at large.

China has made great progress since her liberation.  During the reform period of the last 30 years, China’s progress, resting on the achievements of the period prior to 1979, has been truly phenomenal.  We join the Chinese people in rejoicing and cherishing that progress.  But, in the ultimate analysis, the question is: progress for which class?  If all the material progress made by the Chinese people were to end up in the hands of a tiny minority of Chinese exploiters, the gains of the Chinese revolution would be lost. The capitalist forces unleashed during the reform period are strengthening bourgeois elements in Chinese society, with dozens of billionaires and hundreds of thousands of millionaires, side by side with the vast masses of the Chinese proletariat and peasantry.  For the moment, these bourgeois forces are not strong enough to challenge the authority and the leading role of the CPC.  But if allowed to develop unchecked, these forces, in alliance with imperialism, are bound to turn against the Chinese revolution and Chinese socialism.  The example of the erstwhile Soviet Union cannot but serve as a stark and blood-curdling reminder to all those who value the liberation of China and the cause of communism.

It is therefore our earnest hope that the CPC will be able to put an end to reliance on the market before it is too late, and in the meantime strengthen the dictatorship of the proletariat to keep tight control over hostile class elements.

It is obvious that the CPC, during its 90 years of existence, has made great strides and has enormous successes to its credit.  In fact, it would be no exaggeration to say that without the CPC and without socialism there would be no modern China.

On this auspicious occasion, we send our warmest fraternal wishes to our Chinese comrades and express our sincere hope that the building of socialism in China will go from strength to strength in the future.

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