A Draft statement for discussion by the Communist Workers' Group of Aotearoa/New Zealand, 25.1.2012
The Wukan rebellion has focused world attention on the role of the Chinese workers and farmers. In reality it is one fight among many over land that happens to have come to international media attention. It has to be seen in the light also of the many labour disputes that have broken out in recent years especially since 2008 when China recovered from the slowdown of the global recession with a massive injection of state investment in infrastructure. We will not document these struggles other than to point out that they are proof of the growing strength and militancy of workers and farmers facing the extreme pressure to increase productivity to maintain profits as the emerging imperialist Chinese economy competes with other imperialist rivals to make its workers and farmers pay for the global crisis.
The left is in disarray over China. Many think this wave of peasant and worker militancy is a pro-democracy movement against the ‘communist dictatorship’ inspired by the Jasmine Revolution. Others say labour disputes are the working class playing its role in bringing workers democracy and social equality which is lacking in China’s market socialism. Yet others recognise that China has restored capitalism and a new capitalist class is super-exploiting its workers and peasants, and then there are those like ourselves who say that China’s restored capitalism has developed into an emerging imperialism which has clear consequences for the class struggle.
We propose to critique the various positions (we could call them ‘post-Marxist’ since they abandon the ‘law of value’) to arrive at the truth about China today. The key to understanding China’s recent history is to discover how it combines pre-capitalist, capitalist and post-capitalist modes of production into a new capitalist imperialism. We need to develop a Marxist critique of this uneven and combined development which can explain how China’s transition from degenerate workers state back to capitalist state has been able to assert its economic independence to escape the trap of imperialist domination as an emerging imperialist power. Without such an analysis we cannot fully explain the historic leading role of the Chinese working class and peasantry in the current world situation.
The “most dangerous class”
Writing in the New left Review, Mike Davis says:
"Western post-Marxists—living in countries where the absolute or relative size of the manufacturing workforce has shrunk dramatically in the last generation—lazily ruminate on whether or not ‘proletarian agency’ is now obsolete, obliging us to think in terms of ‘multitudes’, horizontal spontaneities, whatever. But this is not a debate in the great industrializing society that Das Kapital describes even more accurately than Victorian Britain or New Deal America...Two hundred million Chinese factory workers, miners and construction labourers are the most dangerous class on the planet. (Just ask the State Council in Beijing.) Their full awakening from the bubble may yet determine whether or not a socialist Earth is still possible”.
China is today the “great industrialising” successor to Victorian Britain and New Deal America, where Western ‘post-Marxists’ are ‘awakening’ to the class struggle. However, China has long been recognised as being more advanced than the ‘West’. To see precisely why the Chinese working class is the ‘most dangerous’ class for capitalism today we need to rewind and replay the historic scenario of its history as a revolutionary class. The Chinese working class played an important role in three revolutions, the bourgeois revolution of 1911, the workers revolution of 1925-1927, the Stalinist/Maoist revolution of 1949, and today after the restoration of capitalism it is once again centre-stage in the coming socialist revolution.
Karl Marx was the first to understand that not all nations had to repeat the development of capitalism in Europe and coming late to capitalism already a global system, ‘backward’ nations could rapidly make the transition from capitalism to socialism ahead of the European states in what he called ‘permanent revolution’.
Marx fully expected that China would rapidly catch up and surpass Europe in its bourgeois revolution. As in all ‘backward’ countries colonised by European capitalist powers, Marx expected that the national bourgeoisies would become weak and reactionary allies of imperialism and lack the capacity or class interest to unify the nation and win independence from imperialism, making it necessary for the revolutionary working class to take the leadership of the bourgeois revolution and complete it as the socialist revolution.
Writing in 1850, Marx says:
“Chinese Socialism bears much the same relation to European Socialism as Chinese philosophy does to Hegelian philosophy. It is, in any case, an intriguing fact that the oldest and the most unshakable empire in the world has in eight years by the cannon-balls of the English bourgeoisie been brought to the eve of a social revolution which will certainly have the most important results for civilisation. When our European reactionaries in their immediately coming flight across Asia finally come up against the Great Wall of China, who knows whether they will not find on the gates which lead to the home of ancient reaction and ancient conservatism the inscription, ‘Chinese Republic – liberty, equality, fraternity’.”
What Marx was foreseeing was that once its reactionary ‘Asiatic’ mode of production was opened to the modernising force of capitalism China had the potential to break free of European domination and make its bourgeois revolution without having to repeat European history. Not only was Marx correct in this prediction, he anticipated that in China the bourgeois revolution would be completed under the leadership of the working class as the socialist revolution. Marx was here making the point later taken up by Lenin, that the bourgeois revolutionary tasks were better expressed as the ‘national revolution’ since they would be carried out by the proletariat not by the national bourgeoisie.
Marx was also anticipating Trotsky who from 1906 understood that the logic of this process in the epoch of imperialism would require a ‘permanent revolution’ in which the national and democratic tasks would be completed as part of an international socialist revolution. The Bolshevik Revolution put this theory to the test and proved that the national proletariat could begin to complete the national-democratic tasks, but that the permanent revolution would only be completed by the international socialist revolution. With the failure of the German Revolution in 1923, the Chinese Revolution became the next best hope for extending the Russian Revolution to the world.
Lenin lived to see the First Chinese national revolution of 1911. Trotsky survived long enough to see this revolution prove the universality of the theory of permanent revolution as the working class rapidly took the leadership of the revolution and made the Second Chinese Revolution as a workers revolution between 1925 and 1927. Trotsky, by then in opposition, fought against the Stalinist policy that betrayed the Shanghai workers revolution to the popular front with the Kuomintang.
Permanent Revolution Betrayed
Here was the tragedy of the Bolshevik program of permanent revolution betrayed by the Stalinists popular front. So weak was the Chinese bourgeoisie that it had to seek the authority of the Communist International and the Russian Revolution to force the Chinese Communists into a deadly political alliance with the Kuomintang which then sent its army against the revolution. Against this murderous popular front the Left Opposition program or Trotsky was for a Communist Party independent of the bourgeoisie to lead the armed struggle for the national revolution i.e. the program of permanent revolution.
After the defeat of the workers revolution in 1927 the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) retreated to the countryside, fought a long civil war, and ultimately led a largely peasant revolution in 1949 that defeated imperialism, expelled the national bourgeoisie, and created a Degenerate Workers State based on socialised, or workers, property. It was ‘Degenerate’ because it reproduced the Degenerated Workers State in the USSR. The CCP was led by Chinese Stalinists who held that the national revolution could be won by a ‘bloc of four classes’ (peasantry, workers, petty bourgeoisie and liberal or patriotic bourgeoisie). This Stalinist/Menshevik program was based on the theory of ‘socialism in one country’ first promoted by Stalin in 1925 to defend ‘socialism’ in the Soviet Union by making alliances with ‘democratic imperialist’ states. In exchange for their support Stalin committed the Communist Parties in these countries to form parliamentary blocs with the national bourgeoisie and renounce international revolution.
Thus the Third Chinese Revolution in 1949 was one in which the Stalinist/Maoist CCP proposed to defeat imperialist occupation but remain a bourgeois republic with the cooperation of the ‘progressive bourgeoisie’. The Stalinist/Maoist leadership proposed to collaborate with the Chinese bourgeoisie but become the ruling fraction of the national bourgeoisie. However, as in Eastern Europe, the Stalinist/Maoist plan failed because the weak national bourgeoisie was much more interested in preserving its ties to imperialism than in being subordinated to a planned economy. So they declined the invitation and the Stalinist/Maoists had no choice but to expropriate the bourgeoisie. Thus the seizure of power in 1949 led to the expropriation of the bourgeoisie by 1953 and the formation of a Degenerate Workers State (DWS) committed to defending workers property.
Nevertheless, Marx, Lenin and Trotsky knew that once the bourgeois revolution had begun in China the proletariat was the only class capable of completing that revolution as the socialist revolution. The advances and retreats of this ‘dangerous class’ could not be understood on the national terrain but as part of the international class struggle. Though the 1949 revolution was won on the national terrain by a peasant army under a Stalinist/Maoist leadership, it was the threat of the Chinese working class as part of the international proletariat that made the national bourgeoisie flee China forcing the Stalinist/Maoists to go further than they wanted, and to expropriate the bourgeoisie. Just as the Stalinists were obliged to defend workers property relations in the Soviet Union as the basis of their caste privileges, in China the Maoists were forced to create workers property relations to develop the forces of production where the bourgeoisie had failed.
While the working class was denied a democratic role in the CCP and the state, its potential was as the only historic class that had the social power to produce material wealth. The proletariat is the only ‘universal’ class that can replace the weak and declining bourgeoisie and lead an international socialist revolution against the decaying capitalist imperialist system. So while workers’ power was usurped by the Stalinist/Maoist bureaucracy in China, all that was required was a political revolution, in which the workers and peasants would smash the state machine, overthrow the parasitic bureaucratic caste and implement a genuine workers democracy and socialist plan. Failing that, the stagnation and decline of the DWS would lead inevitably to the restoration of capitalism and subordination of China once more to the existing capitalist imperialist powers.
Restoration re-opens road to Revolution
The question remains however, does the restoration of capitalism in a former DWS lead inevitably to submission to imperialism as a new semi-colony. Perhaps, the unique historical combination and development of a succession of modes of production would allow the former workers state to combine the law of value (or the ‘market’) with centralised state planning capable of developing the forces of production and accumulating sufficient capital to escape semi-colonial subordination and emerge as a new imperialist power. There is nothing in Marx, Lenin and Trotsky’s understanding of the uneven and combined development of capitalism to exclude such an historic outcome in China. In fact there is much in the Marxist tradition to point to the importance of a centralist state machine inherited from previous modes of production being ‘carried over’ to facilitate the birth of a new mode of production.
While most of this commentary is about the state forms that the bourgeoisie inherited from the feudal state, there is every reason to believe that the DWSs revived bourgeois-bureaucratic state institutions. In Russia one of the criticisms of the Bolsheviks by the anarchists and left communists, was that the Bolsheviks did not smash the state machine and retained some of the Tsarist state forms. Not true! Marx wrote after the experience of the Paris Commune in 1871 that the proletarian revolution must ‘smash’ the bourgeois state to build a workers state. In 1917 the Bolsheviks smashed the Tsarist/bourgeois state machine but had no compunction in forming a centralised workers’ state machine to impose the proletarian ‘dictatorship’ of the revolutionary soviets.
However when the soviets were usurped by the bureaucracy the degeneration of the workers state was facilitated by the same centralised state machine. The political revolution would therefore have to smash this bureaucratised state machine as the power base of the Stalinist/Maoist caste in order to open the road to socialism. However, with the failure of the political revolution smashed by the bureaucratic dictatorship this same state machine with its historic centralised institutions would become an important instrument the Stalinist/Maoist bureaucracy could use to transform itself into a new bourgeoisie and restore capitalism in a centralised and planned way.
We argue that this historic outcome is the reality today. Against those who say China never had a socialist revolution; or that the CCP has ‘reformed’ socialism by using the market to stimulate growth in a New Economic Policy; or those who claim that the former workers state is now no more than a semi-colony of the imperialist powers; we argue that China has fulfilled all the expectations that Marx and the Bolsheviks had of the revolutionary role of the ‘most dangerous’ class; in revolution after revolution, combining modes of production to allow the economic independence of the degenerated workers state and the bureaucratised apparatus of the former workers state, to restore the law of value and make the transition to a new imperialist power. While the restoration of capitalism is a counter-revolution in the permanent revolution, Marx’s dialectical method reveals that a restored capitalist China today sharpens and condenses the contradictions of imperialism creating the objective conditions for the ‘dangerous class’ of hundreds of millions of workers to once again fight for the 'democratic' rights of ‘liberty, equality, fraternity’ by taking the road to world socialist revolution!
Marx would disown the ‘post-Marxists’
The self-proclaimed Marxists are in disarray on China. They have the advantage of outliving Marx for a century-and-a-half but the disadvantage of failing to understand Marx for the same length of time. They suffer from their own particular brand of uneven and combined development where the articulation of historically backward ideas is subordinated to bourgeois ideology. Marx raged against the bourgeois empiricism of surface appearances that separates culture and politics from the mode of production; that takes market relations for social relations; that fails to concretise the truth in any historical situation or draw historical laws of motion to explain events. In the Critique of the Gotha Program Marx already confronted the backsliding of his contemporaries towards the vulgar economics of the market and its ruling ideas. In the twentieth century the capitulation of the Second and Third Internationals to imperialism left Trotskyism as the only current that continued the revolutionary Marxism of the Bolsheviks. By the onset of the Second World War Trotsky argued that Marxism faced a crisis, and that the survival of capitalism after the War would be a major challenge to Marxism. Unfortunately the post-war Fourth International did not rise to that challenge. Not surprisingly, a more than half a century later, the extreme bankruptcy of capitalism in the epoch of imperialism beset by structural crisis today is matched by the extreme bankruptcy of ‘post-Marxist’ theories of capitalism dominated by the ideas of the ruling class.
(1) STATE CAPITALISTS
State capitalists argue that the Soviet Union restored capitalism in 1929 (some say 1939) when the Stalinist bureaucracy transformed itself into a capitalist class. This ignores the key concept in Capital, the law of value, whereby the value of commodities equals the 'socially necessary labour time' (SNLT) to produce them, as capitals compete to reduce the price of production. The LOV is the dynamic law that underlies all the laws of motion of capitalism. Even in the imperialist epoch when Lenin argued that the tendency of monopoly capital was to suppress the law of value, it could not be totally suppressed and reappeared at the level of inter-imperialist economic rivalry and wars. Yet in the Soviet Union prices were set by the bureaucratic plan and not by the law of value with some minor exceptions. The result was the failure to reduce labour time, increasing inefficiencies, waste, and ultimately the stagnation of the whole economy. The law of value did not reappear in the Soviet Union until Yeltsin abolished the plan and allowed the LOV to restructure Soviet industry according to global SNLT after 1992.
In the case of China the state capitalists say that in 1949 the revolution in China did not create a workers state because the working class did not make the revolution. Therefore, China was state capitalist at birth. Trotsky already answered the state capitalists in the 1930s in In Defence of Marxism.
First, at the level of method, Trotsky critiques the state capitalists’ rejection of the dialectical method that treats reality as a unity of opposites. The state capitalists used bourgeois formal logic and split their analysis of the state superstructure from the economic base. They argued that the Stalinist bureaucracy became a new capitalist ruling class, and invented a new theory of state capitalism to justify the failure to defend the workers property and fight for a political revolution to remove the Stalinists. State capitalists cannot show that the LOV operated in the Soviet Union. Commodities were not produced for exchange so there could be no accumulation of capital, business cycles or crises of overproduction. Instead, prices are set by the plan and production extracts a surplus that fails to meet the needs of the workers or meet the plan and so increasingly the bureaucracy cannot maintain its privileges. Attempts by state capitalists, such as Neil Davidson, to make use of Trotsky’s concept of the law of uneven and combined development to explain the specifics of capitalist development, is rendered absurd when the key element, the LOV itself, is not understood.
Second, theoretically and programmatically, Trotsky argued that when the Red Army invaded Poland in 1939 and nationalised bourgeois property this represented an extension of workers property in the Soviet Union and created a new degenerated workers state. As in the Soviet Union, such extensions of workers property by means of Red Army occupations, such as in post-war Eastern Europe, must therefore be unconditionally defended as if it were part of the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, such Stalinist occupations are at the expense of workers revolution internationally, and so to open the road to socialism the degenerated bureaucratic caste that rules in place of the workers has to be overthrown by a workers political revolution.
On the basis of this dialectical method, Trotskyists argue that in the case of the Chinese revolution in 1949, the CCP modelled on the Soviet bureaucracy, nationalised bourgeois property, defeated the imperialists and created a new workers state albeit degenerated at birth. The state capitalists cannot explain why in China the ‘state capitalists’ have renounced its isolation from the market to join the WTO and allow imperialist penetration, and still accumulate vast amounts of capital which it is now exporting in competition with its long standing imperialist rivals in the re-partition of the world. Hence the abandonment of dialectics and the LOV leads directly to post-Marxist bankruptcy!
(2) MAOIST MARKET SOCIALISTS
In China today, Maoists argue that the CCP still controls the ‘communist’ state and is developing ‘market socialism’. It approves of the Keynesian policies that boost workers wages, but not the market ‘reforms’ that transfer wealth from poor to the elite. The solution to this problem is for the working class to counter these market reforms winning regulations that redistribute the social wealth to the working masses. Independent unions are a means of mobilising workers democratically to push for socialist reforms. For example this is the strategy promoted in the China Labour Bulletin which attempts to show how the ‘communist’ state responds to workers defence of their property, rights, living standards etc., by means of reforms.
For the market socialists, the upsurge of worker and farmer protests is an expression of socialist democracy. Despite the incursions of capitalism, the state remains in control. This position is very popular in the Bolivarian states in Latin America, where the ‘Chinese road to socialism’ is presented as the working class alternative to being exploited by the existing hated 'Yankee' imperialists. Cuba has recently turned also in the direction of China to mask its own restoration of capitalism behind the veil of the Chinese Road.
Market socialists are essentially Mensheviks who understand capitalism in terms of exchange theory where income shares can be determined by state policies. Socialism requires the state to regulate and control the market. They are the same ‘Marxists’ that Marx himself castigated in The Gotha Program for abandoning his method in capital and backsliding to a fetishised exchange view of the capitalist market. Like all Mensheviks, the socialist revolution has to evolve in stages as the working class has the capacity to bring about the necessary changes to regulate the market when the conditions are ripe. The China Left Review presents this position clearly. Chinese workers are defending the rights one under ‘socialism’ in their fight against the inroads of the market. In that sense this is the prevailing Menshevik view of the proletariat as the ‘dangerous class’ forcing the market to adapt to ‘Chinese characteristics’.
In China the market-socialists play the same role as social democracy in the imperialist powers. They represent the labour aristocracy and bureaucracy that collaborate with the Chinese ruling class and defend its imperialist foreign policy as ‘social imperialism’ in the name ‘state socialism’ in return for sharing the plunder of China’s foreign imperialist super-profits. As we argue below however, the contradictions are so heightened in China today that the labour aristocracy will be squeezed between the new imperialist class and the most ‘dangerous class’ as it sharpens its weapons of class struggle.
(3) A DEGENERATE WORKERS STATE
The Degenerate Workers State arose out of the 1949 revolution with the expropriation of the bourgeoisie in 1953. A number of Trotskyist currents such as the Spartacists, International Bolshevik Tendency, claim that the DWS remains intact today as the influence of the market has not yet led to a transformation in the class character of the state. The argument goes like this. The revolution dispensed with the bourgeoisie and created a degenerated (those in the Spartacist tradition use "deformed") workers state. The degeneration meant that the revolution was incomplete as the bureaucracy had state power over workers property. The plan was imposed from the top down which meant that the economy stagnated. The bureaucracy therefore responded with NEP type reforms to introduce capitalism to stimulate the stagnating plan. The Chinese economy is still heavily dominated by SOEs, and state subsidies, so that the law of value does not yet determine the social relations. Moreover the impact of the global recession from 2008 has reversed the thrust away from capitalism back to the state owned economy.
The main argument however, is the same as that of the Maoist market socialists, that the CCP is still in power, it has not been overthrown by imperialism or Chinese capitalists and that the state owned sector (and therefore the plan) dominates the economy. The workers, even if represented by a bureaucratic caste, or plagued by corruption, are still the ruling class in a hybridised or bureaucratised form of workers’ state because workers property is dominant. China has not yet had the counter-revolution. For that to happen the capitalist class has to kick out the communists and take direct control of the state so that it can free the market to operate without state regulation.
This position breaks from Marx, Lenin and Trotsky’s definition of the class character of the state as defined by the property relations it defends and reproduces. It calls for political revolution and unconditional defence of the Degenerated Workers State when that state has already undergone a counter-revolutionary transformation into a capitalist state. However, as we argue below, the state is not defined by the extend of 'privatisation' but by the social relations it defends. The Chinese bureaucracy has committed itself to capitalist restoration by defending the operation of the LOV in all sectors of the economy under the name of 'market socialism' and defeated workers resistance to restoration. The road to power for workers is the socialist, not the political, revolution.
(4) CHINA: CAPITALIST SEMI-COLONY
Capitalism has been restored in China, and the bureaucrats have used the state to turn themselves into capitalists. But China remains a semi-colony exploited and oppressed by imperialist powers such as US, Germany, Japan, etc. rather than an emerging imperialist power. This leads to the position of defending China in wars with imperialist powers not only in the Pacific where the US is re-asserting its hegemony, and in every continent in the world where China is competing with US and EU powers for access to scarce resources.
This position is another instance of ‘post-Marxism’ which holds that a former workers state that restores capitalism must therefore remain a semi-colony while at the same time it is to be found in virtually every country in the world investing in scarce resources and extracting profits that match that of any imperialist power. As we argue in the document that we wrote challenging this dogmatic position in the FLTI, it is not credible that China acts as an imperialist in the Leninist/Trotskyist sense yet remains a semi-colonial proxy for the established imperialist powers. At the very least this would mean that China would not be accumulating capital in its own state banks and multinational corporations, but would pass this capital on as cheap inputs to its imperialist rivals.
The International Marxist Tendency (IMT) thinks that China is a semi-colony of imperialism too, but makes the very important point that China accumulates surplus capital invested in property speculation and hence explains the pressure to privatise collective property. Yet it is a feature of an imperialist country, not a semi-colony, to accumulate a surplus of national capital so it seems that the IMT cannot explain the existence of surplus capital and the property boom and still hold that China is a semi-colony.
All these impressionistic theories fail to trace their origins to the material reality of China today as a unique combination of historically overlapping modes of production dominated by the capitalist mode of production and the law of value. They fail to show how uneven and combined development produced in China had a national bourgeois revolution that went further and faster than most other semi-colonies, but that the bourgeois-democratic revolution could only be completed by overthrowing bourgeois property relations and creating workers property relations that in the unique conditions took the form of a ‘degenerate’ workers state where workers power was usurped by a Maoist bureaucracy whose dictatorship caused the stagnation of the economy. This forced the bureaucracy to reintroduce capitalism under the banner of ‘market socialism’ which inevitably restored capitalist social relations in the whole economy but under conditions which allowed China to escape semi-colonial servitude and emerge as a new imperialist power. Only on the basis of this understanding is it possible to explain the dynamics of class struggle in China today as the basis for a revolutionary program to guide the masses to socialist revolution.
Chinese Imperialism and “the most dangerous class”
China today is an imperialist nation that has a unique historical development. Marx, writing in 1850 after the 1848 revolutions failed in Europe, foresaw that China’s bourgeois revolution would be a socialist one. It was prevented from victory by the degeneration of the Soviet Union under the Stalinist bureaucracy. When the bourgeois revolution was completed it was by a Stalinist revolution from above that went further than it wanted to expropriate the national bourgeoisie and create workers property. But the working class never controlled planned production and the economy stagnated. With the collapse of the DWS in the 1980s and 1990s capitalism was restored. What no one foresaw however was that China’s national independence allowed it to restore capitalism without being subjected to imperialist oppression. Today it is emerging as the new global imperialist power competing with its rivals to repartition the world. It’s drive to expand super-exploits the semi-colonies on every continent and its own massive working class and poor farmers. These are the conditions under which workers and small farmers are fighting back today and to win they need a program that reflects and acts on that reality and transform it in a socialist revolution.
[a] SOCIAL RELATIONS ON THE LAND
Pre-capitalist China dominated by a ‘semi-feudal’, ‘Asiatic mode’ or ‘Tributary mode’ was overturned in 1911. But the bourgeois revolution was incomplete since China was dominated by warlords and imperialist partition. The Chinese bourgeoisie was weak and divided it had to join the Comintern and use the authority of the Bolshevik Revolution to drag the workers into a popular front trap. So as the working class took the lead in the national revolution it was exposed and betrayed by the Stalinist CCP leadership and defeated by the bourgeois Kuomintang army. Relations on the land remained dominated by semi-feudal and bourgeois relations. It took the peasant revolution of 1949 to finally complete the national revolution by overthrowing the bourgeoisie, unifying the country, defeating the imperialists, and liberating the peasantry from serfdom and wage slavery. So the farmers today are not the same as the pre-capitalist or capitalist peasantry who worked as serfs or agricultural labourers.
The 1949 revolution converted the peasants into collective farmers. The restoration of capitalist agriculture after 1978 reversed collectivisation causing a new class differentiation of the peasantry. While land was still collectively owned, land use was privatised, mainly to family farmers. Increasingly collective land was usurped by capitalist interests and family farmers dispossessed. But this process is far from complete. Poor peasants fought to retain their collective ownership and their family plots to augment meagre wages. So what constitutes the ‘peasantry’ today is an articulation of remnants of petty bourgeois, bourgeois and workers social relations, but now subordinated to restored capitalist social relations on the land, under the conditions of emerging Chinese imperialism caught in a global crisis of overproduction. Thus family farming is petty bourgeois production for subsistence and any excess is sold on the market. But land use under the pressure of emerging imperialism is privatising land on the basis of the law of capital accumulation.
Hence corruption and local crony capitalism are not the defining features of excessive market influences within ‘market socialism’, but defining features of capitalist appropriation where state power and monopoly capital employs crude methods of privatising land and labour. The process of separating farming families from their means of subsistence is not to serve the greed of Hong Kong land developers and local gangster capitalists but is necessary to create a ‘free labour force’ whose labor power is then subject to the law of value in the labor market. This has been going on since 1978 with the introduction of the market into agriculture. The peasants are dispossessed as land is aggregated and land use commercialised. Those cast off their land have become a reserve army labour of 10s of millions of migrant workers for China’s massive manufacturing and service industries.
What the Wukan rebellion shows is that since 2001 (when Wukan farmers first started resisting land privatisation), the countryside has been exposed to the demands of China’s transition to imperialism. Small farmers are the victims of the major restructuring of social relations in a capitalist imperialist economy facing a global crisis. So as well as the basic law of dispossessing workers of their means of subsistence, imperialism creates surplus capital which in China is redirected into capital exports but also speculation in land and property which leads to further dispossession. The the land rights and basic needs of the landless farmers and migrant workers cannot be realised by appeals to the CCP dictatorship but must be based on self-organisation, strikes, and occupation of the land and means of subsistence, combined with occupations and the socialisation of industry under workers control.
[b] LABOUR RELATIONS
The bankrupt Marxism of state capitalism cannot explain the causes of the labour struggles other than general abstractions and empirical impressions [note and cite]. The Market Socialists are proud of China’s rising living standards even if they are critical of the authoritarian state. Yet the so-called anti-crisis Keynesian policies to boost the economy in the world crisis are only possible given surplus capital. Such capital is not merely generated by banks and state policy, but by big balance of payments surpluses. Therefore accumulation of surplus capital is a feature not of market socialism or semi-colonial capitalism, both of which are usually bankrupt, but of imperialism. We can see then that it is not sufficient to explain labour ‘unrest’ in terms of market socialism, DWS, or semi-colonial conditions. The most dangerous class in China today is the result of the emerging imperialist class structure. The conditions prevailing in China today demonstrate clearly that China has become a new imperialist power competing against other imperialist powers in a global crisis of overproduction. The differentiation of the peasantry and the proletariat as well as a growing bourgeoisie all testify to this.
We will summarise the China Labour Bulletin report on the working class in China as proof of this point. The new generation of youthful migrant workers no longer see themselves as peasants. In other words they are now wage workers not dependent on subsistence on family or collective farming. As land is privatised migrant workers are forced to live entirely off their wage which means that they have no choice but to engage in labour struggles. They comprise 2/3rds of migrant workers and are the workers most involved in the waves of labour struggles in both foreign and Chinese owned manufacturing. The demands are mainly over wages which began from a very low point but have risen as China has rapidly invested in new technology to increase labour productivity. What this means is that while wages can rise and with it real living standards, the rate of exploitation is increasing and the share of new value produced is going mainly to capital as super profits. The upsurge in the period since 2008 is particularly significant. It represents the development of independent labour protests outside the official unions or party structures i.e. wildcats. The CCP has tried to revive the official union and impose state run collective contracts, but the wildcats continue. Increasing state expenditure on ‘social stability’ is unable to contain these wildcat struggles.
What this means is that in China today the extreme contradiction between labour and capital is materialising in the militant class struggle of the ‘dangerous class’ the proletariat. This is not the same as the Jasmine Revolution in semi-colonial North Africa. Nor the occupations of the indignados in the declining small imperialisms of Southern Europe. China’s class struggle reflects a rapid development of the forces of production by an emerging imperialist power which can only fully emerge as other imperialists decline. Not all the aspects of imperialist class structures are present. The SOE workers like state workers everywhere have lost many jobs. There is no time for the formation of a classic labour aristocracy tied to statised unions or the CCP. The labour/capital contradiction is so exacerbated in China that as the skilled workers emerge to challenge for a share in China’s super-profits they are at the same time being squeezed between the new layers of militant migrant workers and the imperialist ruling class.
The most skilled and productive workers are the new educated migrant youth and that fact gives the Chinese working class more independence from the state and the employers than the older imperialist powers. These new layers of militant workers will not have the luxury of being bought off by colonial super-profits and will necessarily take up again the historic role of the militant vanguard of the ‘most dangerous class’. China as an emerging imperialist power competing with its established imperialist rivals has the advantage of a massive pool of labour. But as that labour force upskills the organic composition of capital grows and so does the downward pressure on profits. The revolutionary combativity of the dangerous class that came onto the stage of history at the turn of the 20th century is a century later now approaching its appointed time and task – world socialist revolution. The objective conditions are such that with a revolutionary leadership that incorporates the program of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky, the Chinese proletariat can lead the world working class on the road to revolution.
Program for the Socialist Revolution!
* Jobs for all. Sliding scale of wages and hours! A living wage for all!
* For democratic, fighting unions, independent of boss and state!
* For self-organisation of rural village, city and workplace soviets, coordinated into regional and national soviets!
* For local workers and poor farmers militias, coordinated into regional and national militias!
* For the right to self determination of all national minorities such as the Tibetans, Uyghurs and Mongols.
* No trust in the CCP to deal with corruption! Corruption is endemic to imperialist capitalism it cannot be reformed. We are for the workers and poor farmers in China to make a social revolution against the Maoist dictatorship! For Permanent Revolution!
* For all strikes and occupations to be generalised into an indefinite general strike to take state power and replace the new imperialist bourgeoisie with a Workers and Peasants Government to implement a revolutionary socialist plan.
* For the socialisation of land and its distribution to the users, the expropriation of the banks under the control of peasant representatives to finance production on the land.
* For the socialisation of industry and its subordination to a socialist plan can meet the needs of workers.
* China is capitalist and imperialist. We do not defend it in a war with the US, Japan or other imperialist powers. We call on the working class and poor peasants to refuse to be missile fodder in an inter-imperialist war. Form workers militia, split the standing army and turn your guns on your own ruling class!
* Revolutionary workers, build a new revolutionary workers party in the tradition of the Bolsheviks, the Left Opposition, and a new World Party of Socialism based on the Transitional Program of the Fourth International!
* For a Socialist Republic of China as part of a Socialist Federation of Asia and the Pacific!
Note by the Editorial Board: The RCIT is in a discussion process with the CWG with the view to overcome programmatic differences