Last night I had the opportunity to speak and engage in discussion at the International Bookshop (at Melbourne Trades Hall) on the subject of Chinese Marxism. I talked about contradiction (socialism and capitalism), socialist democracy, a Chinese Marxist approach to human rights, and the form of the state, but our discussion ranged over much else.

As expected, a few among the group took the well-known position that China is a Stalinist state, with the CPC hell-bent on lining their own pockets and the people repressed, sullen and resentful. My response was simply to lay out more facts and it became clear to most that this position is quite untenable. Apart from the tendency among some to dismiss any form of socialism in power, which is both convenient and reflects a perspective from ‘before October’, I was struck my the way it simply does not measure up to reality. If one summarily dismisses something like Chinese Marxism, then it is easy to avoid reality. But it is also a profound pity that some among the left block out almost a century of the rich experience of socialism in power, in terms of both its stunning achievements and notable failures. You can’t learn much if you don’t engage with it.