Workers Vanguard No. 869
28 April 2006
Defend Chinese Deformed Workers State! For Workers Political Revolution!
"Left Forum" Debate on "Market Socialism"
In the recent period, differences within the Chinese state bureaucracy over the direction of economic policy have become highly visible. A number of Stalinist bureaucrats and ideologues worry that the layoffs and other dislocations produced by Beijings market reforms, which opened the door to investment by Western and Japanese imperialists and the overseas Chinese bourgeoisie, are laying the basis for an uncontrollable social explosion.
According to Chinese government statistics, there were 87,000 mass incidents of unrest last year—an average of some 240 per day—against corruption, social inequality, loss of benefits, seizure of peasants land by officials without equitable compensation. The privatization of many state-owned factories has resulted in millions being laid off. The unrest has led to debate at a number of meetings and forums sponsored by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) between leading elements of the bureaucracy who want the economic opening up to continue unabated, self-styled neo-Marxists who want more state intervention to check the ravages of market reforms, and Maoist conservatives who seek a return to a bureaucratically planned economy. A dispute over proposed legislation to protect private property rights at last months meeting of the legislative body, the National Peoples Congress, resulted in the shelving of the draft law.
The situation in China highlights the Trotskyist understanding of that country as a deformed workers state, in which a privileged, parasitic bureaucracy sits atop the collectivized property forms created by the 1949 Revolution. Guided by a desire to protect its privileges, the bureaucracy defends state property only to the extent that it fears the proletariat. As Marxists, we see a collectivized economy with centralized economic planning based on workers democracy as essential for the development of the productive forces. Marxists seek to liberate the creative powers of humanity, which have been shackled by the capitalist system and earlier forms of class-divided society. This conception of a communist future presupposes a global economic order based on the appropriation of the productive resources of the advanced capitalist countries through international proletarian revolution.
As our 1988 pamphlet Market Socialism in Eastern Europe explains:
There is an inherent tendency for Stalinist regimes to abandon central planning in favor of an economic setup with the following major elements: output and prices determined through atomized competition between enterprises; investment, managerial salaries and workers wages geared to enterprise profitability; unprofitable enterprises are shut down, resulting in unemployment; price subsidies are eliminated, resulting in a higher rate of inflation; the role of petty capitalist entrepreneurs is expanded, especially in the service sector; increased commercial and financial ties to Western and Japanese capitalism, including joint ventures, are encouraged. These measures do not amount to creeping capitalism, as many Western bourgeois commentators and not a few confused leftists contend. But they do strengthen the internal forces for capitalist counterrevolution.
The basic weakness of central planning in China, as under Mao Zedong, was that it was based on bureaucratic commands and arbitrariness, rather than soviet democracy (workers councils). The result, as Leon Trotsky wrote in The Revolution Betrayed (1937) concerning the Soviet Union under Stalin, is that Soviet products are as though branded with the gray label of indifference. Under a nationalized economy, quality demands a democracy of producers and consumers, freedom of criticism and initiative—conditions incompatible with a totalitarian regime of fear, lies and flattery.
Many of the dissident bureaucrats and intellectuals—at least those now being granted a public hearing by the CCP regime—have a modest reform program whose ultimate aim is to preserve the rule of the Stalinist bureaucracy. They call simply for increased government regulation and intervention—not even necessarily a return to state planning. Representative of this trend is Cheng Enfu, executive director of the Institute of Marxism at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, who declared: If you accept Marxist economic ideas, you will agree that the government should have some control over the market economy (Knight Ridder, 22 February).
Cheng was a featured speaker at a session of the Left Forum in New York City on March 12 titled Marxist Views of Chinas Contemporary Development. Identifying himself as a neo-Marxist, Cheng declared that in China the proportion of private ownership is too high and that it is impossible to realize harmony in a privatized capitalist society. At the same time, he defended Beijings policy of opening up—that is, to capitalist/ imperialist penetration—as very correct.
A Spartacist speaker from the floor first took aim at those forum participants who argued that capitalism has been restored in China. For the social democrats and others behind the Left Forum, the idea that China is capitalist is a convenient justification for refusing to defend it against the imperialists. Our comrade pointed out: China is not capitalist. At the core of the economy is collectivized property
. We stand for unconditional military defense against imperialist attack and counterrevolution of the Chinese deformed workers state. He continued by expressing our opposition to Stalinist misrule, stating:
What is necessary is a political revolution to establish workers democracy and, in so doing, strengthen the workers state. Also, another key problem of the economy is that it is built on the anti-Marxist dogma of socialism in one country. The problem of scarcity in China—for that matter, in the entire world—can only be resolved through international socialist revolution.
A regime of workers and peasants councils would re-establish a centrally planned economy and with it a state monopoly of foreign trade. At the same time, it would seek to take advantage of the international division of labor by promoting a high level of exports and imports and would renegotiate economic agreements with U.S. and other capitalists in the workers favor.
A corollary of socialism in one country is the bureaucracys vain quest for peaceful coexistence with imperialism, a policy that has undermined the defense of the workers states, not least through the betrayal of proletarian revolutions internationally. Chinese president Hu Jintaos glad-handing last week in Washington with George W. Bush served as a reminder of Beijings embrace of the war on terror, which is directed against workers, the oppressed and anyone perceived by the U.S. imperialists to stand in their way. Washington has a two-pronged strategy for preparing capitalist counterrevolution in China, combining economic penetration with military pressure. The U.S. and Japan have strengthened their military agreements, including one to defend Taiwan and counter the Chinese military threat. Bushs encouragement to Indias nuclear program aims to further tighten the military noose around China.
It is the historical role of the Chinese working class to build a Leninist-Trotskyist party to lead the struggle for proletarian political revolution. As our comrades of the Spartacist Group of Japan wrote in Why China Is not Capitalist—Defend, Extend the Gains of the 1949 Revolution! (WV No. 850, 10 June 2005):
The Chinese workers and peasants have waged many struggles in the past ten years, but they are atomized and without a leadership whose perspective is to overthrow the political rule of the bureaucrats and place power in the hands of the workers, soldiers and peasants soviets. In addition to coordinating and leading the spontaneous and localized workers struggles, an international Trotskyist party would link the fight against the corrupt bureaucracy in China with that of the North Korean and Vietnamese workers against their Stalinist rulers. Such a party would work in concert with their comrades in Japan fighting for a workers revolution, and together with the class struggles of the militant Philippine and South Korean workers against their capitalist rulers.
The fate of the Chinese proletariat—and the fate of working people and the oppressed throughout the world—will be decided in the struggle for international socialist revolution, not least in the belly of the U.S. imperialist beast.