The Maopai (Maoist sectarians)

Agence France Presse asked me recently about at item making the rounds in some quarters. It concerns a small group of Maoist sectarians who had travelled south to take part in some worker protests. Coming from a few universities in Beijing, some were put under house arrest upon return. I am told that Cornell University in the United States terminated a cooperative program with Renmin University of China over the issue.

Of course, all of this gains its inevitable spin and the full context is lost. The question is asked: why would a Marxist government seek to restrain a Marxist movement? Here is my response to AFP, although I am not sure they will do it justice:

These types of groups have been in existence for quite some time. One could, for example, outline earlier forms such as the ‘Utopia’ movement of more than a decade ago, which championed the corrupt mayor of Chongqing, Bo Xilai. There are also loose connections with what has been called China’s ‘New Left’, although the latter keep clear of these groups. Today one could perhaps say they are within the broad spectrum of Marxism in China, but they are really quite minor and on the fringe in relation to the vast reality of Chinese Marxism.

A brief outline of their main positions may be useful. Rather than simply calling them ‘Marxists’, they should really be seen as Maopai, Maoist sectarians. The phenomemon is in fact common in the history of Marxism and communist movements. A sectarian group typically assumes it is the bearer of truth, while other groups are heretics or betrayers.

The Maoist sectarians are no different. They believe that they witness to the truth of the last real expression of communism in China with Mao Zedong, especially during the Cultural Revolution. As any careful study of Mao’s extensive writings and acts indicates, their reading is quite selective, suiting their own agenda. For example, they stress a ‘break’ between Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, suggesting that the latter ‘betrayed’ Mao and took China on the road to capitalism. However, if one studies Deng Xiaoping, it soon becomes clear that the continuities are equally strong, if not stronger. Further, their perception of the Cultural Revolution is rather idealistic and starry-eyed, instead of seeing it as the complex and traumatic reality that it was: a trauma that still runs deep in Chinese society.

Their focus on some workers also indicates a difficulty in dealing with Mao’s emphasis on peasants as the core of the communist movement at the time. Here they disagree among themselves: some recognize the importance of peasants/farmers, while others dismiss them and assert that ‘true’ communism focuses on workers. It is also worth noting on this matter that when workers do strike in China (as happened more in the past but less so today), it is normally in relation to bosses breaking the law. Workers typically invoke communist slogans in their protests, which is a point where the Maoist sectarians can make a connection.

More significantly, their approach runs into severe problems when examined further. They hold to a rather stunning conspiracy theory, which has been running for the 40 years of the reform and opening up. Thus, they see the CPC now as ‘fake’, as using deceptive speech when stressing Marxism, and so on. They also dismiss 40 years of very sophisticated Marxist developments.

They are also rather astute in feeding into a particular form of Western European Marxism, which has – especially after 1989 – felt that no authentic form of socialism could develop elsewhere in the world, especially in China. Thus, they position themselves as the ‘authentic’ voice of Marxism in China. For example, the French Marxist philosopher, Alain Badiou, has been promoting this perspective and is used by some of these Maoist sectarians in their work in China. The problem with Badiou is that he seriously misunderstands Marxism in China today. He has to my knowledge never been in China where he would see a strong communist party, with Marxism promoted everywhere, even to the point where it is becoming part of Chinese culture.

Why have such groups stepped up their activities of late, becoming more open? Xi Jinping is the key here. Everyone in China has known for quite some time that Xi Jinping is very serious about Marxism, directing the development of China’s economy, reforming the communist party (it was in relatively bad shape some years ago), shaping academic developments, art and literature, and so on. Only this year – since the CPC’s 19th congress in late 2017 and Xi Jinping’s major speech in May 2018 commemorating 200 years since Marx’s birth – has the rest of the world begun to notice. These events are beginning to lead to significant reassessment in other parts of the world. In the process, Xi Jinping has successfully claimed Mao’s mantle – as the majority of common people (laobaixing) clearly sense. But this development is quite disconcerting for the Maoist sectarians, for it seriously risks undermining their approach and indeed their conspiracy theory.

A specific event can also be connected to this activity. On 29 October, 2018, Xi Jinping gave a major speech to new trade union leaders on the relationship between workers, trade unions and the communist party. Again, this was a very Marxist speech with a clear articulation of how workers and unions function in building a new China under socialism in power. The challenge to the Maoist narrative should be obvious.

Lenin would have called them ‘left-wing communism, an infantile disorder’. However, one usually grows up and gains some wisdom. I have witnessed a number of people do precisely that: entertain a sectarian perspective for a while but then realise there is a greater and richer Marxist reality reality with which to engage constructively.

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Xi Jinping’s important speech on trade unions and workers

It is at times difficult to keep up with these position papers by Xi Jinping. A couple of weeks ago he directly addressed workers at a meeting (29 October 2018) of new trade union leaders. I have yet to find an English translation, since not all are translated immediately, so here is a summary from the State Council website that was widely circulated in Chinese news services. Obviously, with socialism in power, the relationship between the communist party, trade unions and workers moves in new directions.

BEIJING — Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, called for mobilizing the country’s hundreds of millions of workers to make accomplishments in the new era and break new ground in the cause of the workers’ movement and trade unions’ work.

Xi, also president and chairman of the Central Military Commission, made the remarks during a talk with the new leadership of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) on Oct 29.

The Workers’ movement is an important part of the cause of the Party, while trade unions’ work is a regular and fundamental job for the Party’s governance, Xi said.

He urged upholding Party leadership over trade unions’ work, mobilizing hundreds of millions of workers to make accomplishments in the new era, strengthening ideological and political guidance for employees, and advancing reforms and innovations in trade unions’ work.

He told the ACFTU leadership to be brave to shoulder responsibilities, be enterprising and active, and make solid efforts to break new ground in the cause of workers’ movement and trade unions’ work in the new era.

Wang Huning, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and a member of the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee, joined the talk.

Xi, on behalf of the CPC Central Committee, congratulated the new leadership on the success of the 17th National Congress of the ACFTU and greeted workers, model workers and trade union workers of all ethnic groups.

Commenting on the work of the ACFTU and trade unions at all levels in the past five years, Xi said they made a lot of productive efforts in strengthening political guidance for workers, organizing employees’ work, protecting workers’ rights and interests, keeping the team of employees stable, deepening trade union reforms and innovations, and advancing Party building in the trade union system.

Trade unions should be loyal to the Party’s cause and put the principle of upholding Party leadership and the Chinese socialist system into the practice of workers, Xi said.

He stressed upholding the authority and centralized, unified leadership of the CPC Central Committee, and closely following political stance, direction, principle and path of the committee.

Trade unions should improve their ability to apply the Marxist stance, viewpoint and method to analyze and solve problems, he said.

They should align the firm implementation of the Party’s will with effective efforts to serve the workers, he said.

Xi said the working class should be fully utilized as the main force to accomplish the targets proposed at the 19th CPC National Congress.

He encouraged the country’s workers to devote themselves to their jobs, strive for excellence, and make unremitting efforts to create a happy life and a bright future.

Various competitions should be held with the theme of fostering new development philosophy, promoting high-quality development and building a modernized economy, he said. Faster work should be done to build a team of knowledgeable, skillful and innovative industrial workers, he said.

He also demanded efforts to cultivate more model and highly-skilled workers.

It is the political responsibility of trade unions to guide employees and the people in following the Party, and consolidate the class foundation and public support for the Party’s governance, Xi said. Although the times have changed, the work method of coming from the people and going to the people should not be changed, he said.

Trade unions should adapt to new situations and new tasks, he said. They should improve and strengthen ideological and political work for workers, and make more efforts to inspire the country’s workers to embrace shared ideals, convictions, values and moral standards, Xi said.

Rural workers should be included in trade unions to the largest extent to make them a new staunch and reliable force behind the working class, he said.

Online work should be taken as an important platform for trade unions to link and serve the workers and to raise their penetration, guidance and influence, he said.

Trade unions should adhere to the employee-centered working approach; focus on the most pressing, most immediate issues that concern the employees the most; and fulfill the obligation of safeguarding workers’ rights and interests and sincerely serving workers and the people, Xi said.

Work should also be done to help urban employees in difficulties out of trouble and offer timely assistance to employees who returned to poverty for different reasons, he said.

As the reform of trade unions is an important component of deepening overall reform, trade unions should meet the new requirements on reforming people’s organizations and create a working system of extensive connection to serve the workers, Xi said.

More strength and resources should be put into the community level to unite all workers around the Party, he said.

Meanwhile, the country will reinforce the education, management and supervision of trade union cadres, and improve the mechanism of linking the Party with workers and the people, he said.

Party committees and governments at all levels must implement the Party’s principle of wholeheartedly relying on the working class, and ensure the status of the working class as the master, Xi said.

The country should also improve and strengthen the Party’s leadership on the work of trade unions, move to resolve major problems in the work of those unions, build a quality and professional team of trade union cadres, and support the creative work of trade unions in accordance with laws and regulations, he added.

Fidel Castro: ‘Xi Jinping is one of the strongest and most capable revolutionary leaders I have met in my life’

Yes, Fidel Castro said this in 2014: ‘Xi Jinping is one of the strongest and most capable revolutionary leaders I have met in my life’.

This is noted in an article by Ajit Singh called ‘China: A Revolutionary Present’ (well worth a read).

A couple of decades earlier, Fidel also observed:

I think China is a socialist country, and Vietnam is a socialist nation as well. And they insist that they have introduced all the necessary reforms in order to motivate national development and to continue seeking the objectives of socialism. There are no fully pure regimes or systems. In Cuba, for instance, we have many forms of private property. We have hundreds of thousands of farm owners … Practically all Cubans own their own home and, what is more, we welcome foreign investment. But that does not mean that Cuba has stopped being socialist.

An African perspective on FOCAC (Forum on China-Africa Cooperation)

You can read plenty of material on the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Chinese newspapers, including Xi Jinping’s important speech outlining 8 initiatives and 5 ‘nos’:

We follow a “five-no” approach in our relations with Africa: no interference in African countries’ pursuit of development paths that fit their national conditions; no interference in African countries’ internal affairs; no imposition of our will on African countries; no attachment of political strings to assistance to Africa; and no seeking of selfish political gains in investment and financing cooperation with Africa.

However, it is worth considering African perspectives on the cooperation. One examples appears in the Nigerian news outlet, Vanguard News, entitled ‘The African Road to China‘. After retelling the story of half a century of cooperation, it observes:

African leaders also need to learn from the Chinese elite who are focused, programmatic, result-oriented, patriotic, people-centred and for whom generally, the law is no respecter of status, beliefs or origins. Also, we need to learn from China which concentrates on programmes and projects that benefit the most people such that it lifted 700 million Chinese out of poverty within a short period making it the world’s model. Also, unlike the West, China is not domineering and overbearing; it does not decree that its enemies must be our enemies; it does not ask its allies to join its turf battles.
In contrast, when the Americans are fighting other countries such as its on-going dispute with Turkey and Iran, it insist that other countries join its economic sanctions, or be punished. China also teaches Africa that human circumstances and the world order can be changed not by threats, but in practice; its fundamental role in building the BRICS and its Silk and Road coalition are in practice, laying for a New Economic World Order. Unlike our colonial and neo-colonial experience, the Chinese have taught us that a candle does not lose its brightness by lighting other candles, rather, it makes the world brighter.

Third meeting between Kim Jong Un and Xi Jinping

Chinese papers have already reported on Kim Jong Un’s third visit to China and to meet with Xi Jinping over the last couple of days, but I have been waiting for KCNA to report, especially since they always have the best pictures.

A selection from the lengthy report at KCNA:

At the talks the result of the historic DPRK-U.S. summit, which was successfully held amidst the unusual interest and expectation of the international community, and appreciation, views and stand on it were informed each other. And beneficial views on a series of issues of mutual concern including the prospect for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula were exchanged and a shared understanding on the discussed issues achieved.

The respected Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un expressed thanks to the Chinese party and government for positive and sincere support and good help for the successful DPRK-U.S. summit meeting and talks.

Saying that he is much pleased with and values the recently strengthened strategic cooperation between the two parties and the mutual confidence getting further deepened, he expressed the determination and will to further develop the closer relations of friendship, unity and cooperation between the two parties and the two peoples of the DPRK and China.

Xi Jinping gave high appreciation and extended heartfelt congratulations to Chairman Kim Jong Un for having steered the DPRK-U.S. summit meeting and talks successfully and put the situation of the Korean Peninsula on the track of dialogue, negotiation, peace and stability.

Voicing full support for the stand and determination of the DPRK side for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, he said that China will continue to play its constructive role in the future, too.

The talks proceeded in a comradely, candid and friendly atmosphere.

Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and president of the People’s Republic of China, hosted a grand banquet in welcome of the China visit by Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea and chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, at the Great Hall of the People on Tuesday evening.

At the banquet Xi Jinping made a congratulatory speech and Kim Jong Un made a reply speech.

Xi Jinping warmly welcomed Kim Jong Un‘s China visit, saying that this fully showed his fixed will to attach great importance to the strengthened strategic communication between the two parties of China and the DPRK and develop the traditional friendship of the two countries and demonstrated to the whole world the invincibility of the relations between the two parties and two countries.

After Chairman Kim Jong Un‘s China visit in March, the China-DPRK relations have entered a new phase of development and the important joint agreements of both sides are being implemented one by one and the China-DPRK relations of friendship and cooperation are in new vigor, Xi Jinping stated.

Noting that Kim Jong Un has made great efforts to protect peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula by leading the Korean people and further consolidated the trend of dialogue and détente on the peninsula, Xi Jinping said he is pleased to see it and highly appreciates it.

He affirmed that China and the DPRK would learn, consult, unite and cooperate with each other as close friends and comrades to jointly open up rosier and beautiful future of the socialist cause in the two countries.

Kim Jong Un said he is very glad to meet again Xi Jinping and other close Chinese comrades at the time when a new historic current is being created in the Korean Peninsula and the region with the successful DPRK-U.S. summit. He expressed heartfelt thanks to Xi Jinping for his cordial hospitality despite the pressure of work.

Saying the picture of the DPRK and China sharing joy and sorrow and sincerely helping and cooperating with each other like family members clearly demonstrates at home and abroad that the relations between the two parties and two countries are developing into the unprecedentedly special relationship beyond the traditional ties, Kim Jong Un stated that he would make every possible effort to steadily develop the DPRK-China friendly relations onto a new high level, valuing affinity and affection forged with Xi Jinping.

He said that he would closely cooperate with the Chinese comrades at the same staff in the historic journey of defending socialism and opening up a new future of the Korean Peninsula and the region, and fully discharge his responsibility and role to protect genuine peace.

He expressed the belief and expectation that the Chinese people would surely realize the dream of China called the great prosperity of China in the near future under the leadership of Xi Jinping and the Communist Party of China.

To add another perspective, as Chinese analysis indicates, Kim Jong Un is relying on China to make sure the USA keeps its security promises. Or to put it more directly, the clear message is: don’t mess with the DPRK, since it has China’s backing.

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Second meeting between Xi Jinping and Kim Jong Un

In case the rest of the world missed the message of the first meeting between Xi Jinping and Kim Jong Un, they have just had a second at the beautiful port city of Dalian.

X&K 01

X&K 02

Addressing each other as comrades, they affirmed the four principles of close ties between China and the DPRK:

Xi stressed that he and Kim held their historic first meeting in Beijing in March this year, during which they had a long and in-depth communication, and reached principled consensus in four aspects on developing China-DPRK relations in the new era.

Firstly, the China-DPRK traditional friendship has been a treasure of both countries. It is an unswerving principle and the only correct choice for both countries to develop the friendly and cooperative China-DPRK relations.

Secondly, both China and the DPRK are socialist countries, and their bilateral relations are of major strategic significance. Both sides need to enhance unity, cooperation, exchanges and mutual learning.

Thirdly, high-level exchanges between the two parties play an irreplaceably significant role in guiding bilateral relations, Xi said. The two sides should maintain frequent exchanges, strengthen strategic communication, deepen understanding and mutual trust, and safeguard common interests.

Fourthly, cementing the people-to-people friendship foundation is an important channel to advance the development of China-DPRK relations, Xi said. The two sides should, by multiple means, enhance people-to-people communication and exchanges to create a sound foundation of popular will for the advancement of China-DPRK relations.

The full story is at Xinhua News.

Xi Jinping is serious about Marx: Speech celebrating the 200th anniversary

Finally, it seems as though commentators in other parts of the world are noticing that Xi Jinping is serious indeed aboout Marx. He gave a major speech on Marx, celebrating the 200th anniversary of his birth and 170 years since the publication of the Communist Manifesto. While the translation of the speech is not yet available, you can find the Chinese version here at the CPC website. Newspaper reports can also be found, such as the one here and here.

And there is a video summary here: