COMMENT: China’s long march towards capitalism —Lal Khan - Sunday, January 02, 2011

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The turn toward capitalist restoration started in 1978 when the right wing of the Chinese Communist Party led by Deng Tsiao Ping was able to take charge after Mao’s death. With the opening up of China, the imperialist monopolies rushed in with massive investments. The totalitarian nature of the state was a bonus for these corporate vultures

The spectacular growth rates, massive commodity production, gigantic infrastructural projects and overtaking Japan as the world’s second largest economy has brought China to the world centre-stage. Yet all these enormous advances eclipse the intense social and political tensions that are rampant in this most populous country of the planet. The Chinese economy is surging ahead with a growth rate of around 10 percent, has a huge trade surplus, holds the highest forex reserves, technologically is catching up or even surpassing the west, and has built up a formidable military machine. It also has the largest gulf between the rich and the poor, stark regional disparities and excruciating working conditions of its toilers. The scourge of unemployment has reached a figure of 150 million. A large number of workers are caged in the factories. Privatisation of land has struck havoc for the rural population. Most of the ranting about China’s development obscures the real reason for this ‘miracle’ — the revolution of 1949.

China experienced three revolutions in the 20th century. The first was the bourgeois democratic revolution of 1910-11, which was led by Sun Yat-sen. This was defeated after the Wuchang uprising was crushed. In any case, the belated bourgeoisie was economically and politically incapable of carrying out the tasks posed by history. The second revolution was that of 1925-27, which was proletarian in its nature. It was led by Ch’en Tu-hsiu, the founder of the Communist Party of China (CCP) who remained its General Secretary till 1927. This revolution was drowned in blood by the nationalist forces of Chiang Kai-shek. It is an irony that under pressure from Moscow, the CCP was forced to merge with the Kuomintang led by Chiang as it was in a conflict with Japanese imperialism. Ch’en and other Chinese communists had opposed the fusion with the Kuomintang. As soon as the CCP entered the Kuomintang, Chiang abandoned the fight against the Japanese and crushed the CCP, killing thousands of its activists. The third Chinese revolution of 1949 was led by Mao Zedong. It was a peasant revolt led by the Red Army, which had been organised mainly in the countryside by Mao and Chou En-lai after they had fled the urban centres in the autumn of 1927. The expropriation of landed estates was being executed during the famous Long March. This gave a large social base to the Red Army amongst the peasantry. However, it was the industrial proletariat of Nanjing, Shanghai, Canton, Peking and other cities who occupied the factories and capitalism was overthrown. But the regime that emerged was not based on the model of the Moscow of 1917 but that of the 1940s. This was a bureaucratic caricature of a democratic socialist regime set up by the Bolsheviks after the October Revolution. Still the Chinese Revolution of 1949 was one of the greatest events of human history. Capitalism and landlordism were overthrown and the imperialist yoke was smashed. It was this planned economy that brought China out of the extreme backwardness imposed by its reactionary ruling classes and the imperialist repression and plunder. China had already achieved growth rates of 11-12 percent in the 1950s. Soaring growth in a planned economy, as opposed to the market economy, rapidly uplifts society. Although many mistakes and blunders were made, rapid development took place in the fields of health, education, technology, agriculture and industry. It was this social and physical infrastructural expansion, high level of skill and vocational training that has been the root cause of the present growth in China. However, a planned socialist economy needs workers’ democracy as a human body needs oxygen. Devoid of the methodology of Marxist internationalism, isolated in a nation state, the economy began to stagnate. Mao’s strategy of the ‘Great Leap’ and the ‘Cultural Revolution’ in the 1960s failed to impede the economic decline.

The turn toward capitalist restoration started in 1978 when the right wing of the CCP led by Deng Zhao Ping was able to take charge after Mao’s death. Initially they tried to follow the policy first put forward by Nikolai Bukharin during the debate on the New Economic Policy in the Bolshevik central committee around 1920. In Russia, the Bolsheviks had rejected this policy but Deng pursued this policy of opening up the planned economy to foreign capital vigorously. They called it ‘market socialism’, which was a contradictory term in itself. The 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising and massacre startled them. They also studied the collapse of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Berlin wall. Hence their approach became more gradual and they tried to maintain the state domination of the economy. But with the opening up of China, the imperialist monopolies rushed in with massive investments. The totalitarian nature of the state was a bonus for these corporate vultures. With workers under strict control, they had a better chance of extracting higher rates of profits. The gains of the revolution through obliteration of capitalism were now being used to prop up the system in deep crisis on a world scale. An hour’s wage of a Volkswagen worker in Stuttgart equalled a month’s salary of the worker of the same company in Shenzhen. However, wherever capitalism penetrates it brings along its vices of corruption, selfishness, prostitution, crime and exploitation. After the capitalist restoration has set in, China is in the throes of ruthless exploitation and social instability. Paradoxically, through this industrial expansion the Chinese working class has become the world’s largest proletarian bastion. The strikes and struggles of this young proletariat are on the rise. In 2010 there were threefold more strikes than in the previous year. Some achieved significant victories. There are mounting pressures on the CCP from below. The CCP is neither ‘communist’ nor a ‘party’. It is a bureaucratic elite where billionaires are leeching the system and awarding themselves a heredity status in private property and ownership. With massive export of capital, it assumes an imperialist character. This is a blatant desecration of communism. Splits in the ruling elite are sharpening. The process of capitalist restoration has been the cause of volatile contradictions in society. They will explode with volcanic eruptions. Once the mighty Chinese proletariat enters the arena of class struggle, a revolutionary socio-economic transformation will be inexorable. As Napoleon once said, “When China awakes, the whole world will tremble.”

The writer is the editor of Asian Marxist Review and International Secretary of Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign. He can be reached at

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