communism


The new politburo of the most powerful communist party in human history recently restated the oath of admission to the CPC. This was at the site of the first meeting of the CPC back in 1921.

The English version of the oath:

It is my will to join the Communist Party of China, uphold the Party’s program, observe the provisions of the Party Constitution, fulfill a Party member’s duties, carry out the Party’s decisions, strictly observe Party discipline, guard Party secrets, be loyal to the Party, work hard, fight for communism throughout my life, be ready at all times to sacrifice my all for the Party and the people, and never betray the Party.

Stirring stuff.

A video of the event can be found here.

Advertisements

In the aftermath of workshop on the ‘Socialist State’, I have been thinking about the category of enmeshment in order to understand Chinese socialism. It came up at various points in the workshop.

For example, in a discussion over the issue of public and private ‘ownership’ in economic matters, one of the Chinese participants pointed out that the opposition does not make sense in a Chinese context. Instead, the reality of a ‘socialist market economy’ is one way to think about the situation differently.

What does this mean? To begin with, it indicates that ‘market economy’ does not necessarily mean ‘capitalism’ or indeed a ‘capitalist market economy’. As I have pointed out earlier, most market economies throughout history have not been capitalist. So the possibility arises that a socialist market economy is different from a capitalist market economy – even in the context of a global dominance of a capitalist market economy.

One might point to the fact that most of the franchises for KFC in China are government owned. Or to the fact that many of the leaders of ‘private’ companies are members of the CPC. Or that the fostering of ‘start-ups’ have government backing. Or that the development of the internet in China is inescapably tied to governmental involvement. Or to Deng Xiaoping’s statement that there is no necessary contradiction between socialism and capitalism. Or indeed Mao’s quotation of an old Chinese proverb: ‘Things that oppose each other also complement one another’. The list goes on.

But this is only a beginning. Enmeshment has many other levels, well beyond economic matters. A key feature on a political level is the enmeshment between state and civil society. The problem here is that this is a rather perverse and very European way of putting it. Why? In a European – or, rather, North Atlantic – mode of understanding, the state is alienated from civil society, something ‘out there’ that imposes its will from time to time, intervening in society and the economy. On this understanding, civil society becomes the focus of new ideas and possible opposition to the state.

But what if you have a very different situation in which these features are enmeshed with one another in all manner of complex ways? This means that the very idea of ‘civil society’ is a very bourgeois invention. Indeed, the original German is ‘bourgeois society’ and not ‘civil society’. This would mean that civil society in this sense does not exist in China, which is a good thing.

A further feature of enmeshment is what is called non-antagonistic contradictions. The term originally arose in the Soviet Union, especially in the 1930s with the achievement of socialism, albeit in ways that were not expected. Mao for one found the idea extremely useful in the context of socialism in power (as we see in his crucial essay, ‘On Contradiction’). For example, classes will continue to exist under socialism, but now in a non-antagonistic fashion. In the Soviet Union, this meant workers, farmers and intellectuals. In China, this means workers, farmers and a ‘middle class’, although we need a new term here. Why? These are the vast number of people that have benefitted from the 40-year anti-poverty campaign. Their lives have become secure (anquan) in a way not imagined before. But they realise very well that their situation is due to the long project of the CPC.

The upshot: Deng Xiaoping’s category of the ‘people’s democratic dictatorship’ (one of his four Cardinal Principles) includes this new class. A very new interpretation of the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat and peasants’ that includes everyone in what can only be called socialist democracy. Jiang Zemin’s ‘Three Represents’ (2002) is the clarification of this position.

My thoughts are only at their early stage of thinking about enmeshment, but let me add one more point. The appropriation of the idea of ‘the common’ in China now takes a distinct turn. In a North Atlantic situation, ‘the common’ is an effort to rethink communism, even though it comes from a very theological idea in which the world was created by God, with everything in common. In a Chinese situation, the common includes the crucial role of governance. The government is involved in and directs the common, not in the sense of censorship but in the sense that any function of the common is enmeshed with governance.

My perception is that all of this makes sense of the old Confucian category of datong, the Great Peace or Great Harmony, which has been reinterpreted in terms of communism. Datong is not an overcoming of contradictions but rather a form of existence in which contradictions function in a non-antagonistic fashion. Of course, a datong society lies in the distant future, perhaps 500 or 1000 years away. Meanwhile, the aim for 2021 is for a xiaokang shehui, a moderately prosperous, peaceful and secure society.

Since the DPRK (North Korea) is in the corporate news, and full of the usual misrepresentation, I thought I would reprise a section of an article I wrote a couple of years ago on Korean reunification – from the perspective of the north.

Reunification been a consistent policy of the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea since its earliest days. But on what terms? A northern takeover of the south? Not at all. The policy is that reunification would be undertaken without outside interference, peacefully and in terms of a federal system, socialist in the north and capitalist in the south. This position was made explicit in the Communiqué of 1972, after the leaders of both countries had secretly met. In 1973 and again in 1980, Kim Il-sung reiterated this position, proposing a Democratic Confederal Republic of Koryo.

However, the most significant movement happened after the June 15th North–South Joint Declaration of 2000, between Kim Jong-il of the north and Kim Dae-jung of the south. Given that reunification has been a core northern policy, the change was obviously in the south. Here more progressive governments became open to the idea and agreed to the declaration. The change began with Kim Dae-jung’s ‘Sunshine’ policy of 1998. The result was the opening of borders, family reunions, a series of meetings between leaders of north and south, sports, cultural and economic exchange, and even the two Olympic teams marching together at the opening ceremonies in 2000, 2004 and 2006.

But as is the way with the vagaries and uncertainties of bourgeois democracies, the south changed its tune in 2008 with the new president, Lee Myung-bak. His right-wing policies led to a hard-line approach more in tune with United States foreign policy. Cooperation ended and tensions once again escalated – the situation in which we find ourselves now. Perhaps an opening up from the south may be possible once again if Moon Jae-in wins the elections this year. Who knows.

But the north Koreans I have met continue to hope ardently for an eventual reunification along federated lines.

As my research has moved into the complexities of socialism in power, first in the Soviet Union and now in China, I have been struck by what might be called structural anti-communism in many Russian/Slavic Studies and China Studies programs. This is not a comment on individuals who often do excellent work, but on the structural formations of such places. My thoughts on this were initially triggered by Immanuel Wallsterstein’s observation that the disciplines of anthropology and ‘Orientalism’ arose as a way for Atlantic centres of power to understand and control large parts of the world over which they felt the entitlement to domination. However, after the Russian and Chinese revolutions, along with the huge anti-colonial movement supported (ideologically and materially) by socialist states, the game changed somewhat. Now government resources were channelled into Russian and Chinese studies. The reason was the need to understand the new ‘enemies’ who dared to challenge to world order. With this background, such programs and centres usually became structurally anti-communist, if not anti-Russian and anti-Chinese. Of course, it helped that fugitives from the Russian and Chinese revolutions (in the latter case from Hong Kong and Taiwan) often gained positions in such centres. But the key is in the structures of such places. Today we once again find that such centres have a new lease of life. Putin has become the number one enemy of the ‘West’ (often likened to Stalin, although Putin is anything but a communist). And China’s inexorable rise in economic and political power – led by the Communist Party – has led to a new batch of studies focusing on ‘authoritarianism’, ‘freedom of the press’, and the clampdown on ‘dissent’.

A belated farewell from a place that has really become my second home. We paid our respects to Chairman Mao (me for the second time) and had a bon voyage party. But I will be back in September, with a fancy title (distinguished research professor) and a new project with some of China’s leading Marxist scholars on socialism in power.

This is a photograph of Mao at al, acquired after visiting the mausoleum in the centre of Chinese communist power in Tiananmen Square:

IMG_20160610_092505 (2) (640x440)

And these are some of the students at the bon voyage party:

IMG_20160613_234251 (640x480)

Many of them will become the leaders of China in the future.

The book is now out of print, which is a shame, but Another Vietnam is a stunning collection of photographs from Vietcong photographers of their side of a long, long war they won. It makes you wonder what the situation would be like if the DPRK had won their revolutionary war against the USA. The images may be found here, along with descriptions (ht: cp).

 

NGS3475 161A

 

NGS3475 67A

 

NGS3475 57A

 

NGS3475 115A

 

NGS3475 163A

 

NGS3475 87A

 

NGS3475 84A

 

NGS3475 120A

 

NGS3475 177A

 

NGS3475 236A

Next Page »