Why China will lead the world and why the West will become socialist

Konstantin Yuon

Konstantin Yuon, ‘A New Planet,’ 1921. Tempera on cardboard, The Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

The West:

‘…it is not difficult to see that ours is a birth-time and a period of transition to a new era. Spirit has broken with the world it has hitherto inhabited and imagined, and is of a mind to submerge it in the past, and in the labour of its own transformation. Spirit is indeed never at rest but always engaged in moving forward. But just as the first breath drawn by a child after its long, quiet nourishment breaks the gradualness of merely quantitative growth – there is a qualitative leap, and the child is born – so likewise the Spirit in its formation matures slowly and quietly into its new shape, dissolving bit by bit the structure of its previous world, whose tottering state is only hinted at by isolated symptoms. The frivolity and boredom which unsettle the established order, the vague foreboding of something unknown, these are the heralds of approaching change. The gradual crumbling that left unaltered the face of the whole is cut short by a sunburst which, in one flash, illuminates the features of the new world.’

G.W.F.Hegel, Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, Trans., A.V.Miller, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1977, 6-7

1280px-A_maglev_train_coming_out,_Pudong_International_Airport,_Shanghai

Shanghai maglev train

China:

‘What, particularly, makes old capitalism so far prevail over young socialism? It is not because of the riches it possesses, nor the gold it keeps in cellars, nor the volume of accumulated and stolen wealth. Past accumulations of wealth may have their importance, but they are not the determining factors. A living society cannot exist on old accumulations; it feeds on the products of living labour. Despite all her riches, ancient Rome could not withstand the onslaught of the ‘barbarians’, when they developed a higher productive capacity than that of her decaying regime of slavery. The bourgeois society of France, roused by the Great Revolution, simply looted the wealth accumulated from the Middle Ages by the aristocratic town communities of France. Were output in America to fall below the European standard, the nine milliards of gold kept in the cellars of her banks, would not help her. The economic superiority of bourgeois states lies in the fact that so far capitalism produces cheaper goods than socialism and of a better quality. In other words, the output, so far, is still much higher in countries living by the inertia of old capitalist civilisation than in a country which has only just begun to adopt socialist methods under inherited uncivilised conditions.

We know the fundamental law of history – in the end that regime will conquer which ensures human society a higher economic standard. …

A State which possesses nationalised industries, a monopoly of foreign trade, the monopoly of attracting foreign capital to one or other branch of its economy, has at its disposal a vast arsenal of resources by means of which it can speed up the rate of economic development.’

Leon Trotsky, Towards Socialism or Capitalism, 1925, New Park Publications, London, 1976, 29, 47

The result:

‘The war in China has given the death-blow to the old China. Isolation has become impossible; the introduction of railways, steam-engines, electricity, and modern large-scale industry has become a necessity, if only for reasons of military defence. But with it the old economic system of small peasant agriculture, where the family also made its industrial products itself, falls to pieces too, and with it the whole old social system which made relatively dense population possible. Millions will be turned out and forced to emigrate; and these millions will find their way even to Europe, and en masse. But as soon as Chinese competition sets in on a mass scale, it will rapidly bring things to a head in your country and over here, and thus the conquest of China by capitalism will at the same time furnish the impulse for the overthrow of capitalism in Europe and America…’

Engels to Friedrich Adolf Sorge in Hoboken; London, November 10, 1894, Marx Engels, Selected Correspondence, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1982, 450-451

Engels was wrong when he wrote that China would become capitalist, but he was correct in recognising that the more developed China became (particularly given Trotsky’s words above), the greater the pressure on the West in competing with it, such that the West would have to become socialist.

The Chinese have learnt from their own history and from the failures of the Soviet Union, particularly the importance of individual initiative and financial reward for that initiative in a developing economy. The result of the Chinese Communist Party’s employment of this lesson has enabled it to rapidly lift millions into that stratum of wealth being hollowed out in the West. These millions are consumers of an increasing range of goods of high quality being made in their own country. The Party has shown a willingness to take the reforms of Deng Xiaoping further. Their current crackdown on corruption is also very significant. The dynamic between Party and people will continue to evolve.

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Top image: Art of the October Revolution, Compiler, Mikhail Guerman, Trans., W.Freeman, D.Saunders, C.Binns, Aurora Art Publishers, Leningrad, 1986

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John Pilger’s film ‘The Coming War on China’

The_Coming_War_On_China

I highly recommend John Pilger’s film ‘The Coming War on China’. The experimentation by the US capitalist class on the Marshall Islanders, initiated by the former’s atomic tests between 1946 and 1958 on Bikini Atoll and the mockery, documented in the film, they made of the Islanders’ suffering, as with the same experimentation the US capitalist class made on the Japanese they bombed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, itself makes the greatest mockery of the unjustified posturing and war crime charges against Bashar al-Assad by their agents and other representatives of Western capital regarding the recent gassing in Syria.

A criticism of Pilger’s documentary: he fails to address (as pointed out by one of his interviewees) the incompatibility and contradiction between the economic and political structures of China and the capitalist West. In particular, the economic (and hence, political) developments within China (of necessity) are and will be the voice of the future while the economic and political structures of the capitalist West, in the violent process of capitalism’s passing, as did feudalism, of the past.

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Only socialism can defeat Trumpism

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Nicole Aschoff and Bhaskar Sunkara, ’Only socialism can defeat Trumpism’ The Nation, 07.11.16

…the past year has shown that millions of ordinary people are ready for an alternative, one pointed to by the success of Sanders and the Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn in Britain. These leaders have tried to articulate a humanist, social-democratic vision—a platform with concrete demands that, if met, would improve the lives of the poor, restore dignity and means to workers, and assure young people that their efforts are not in vain. This vision resonates with voters. This is the vision that must be built on—and expanded—by any party that wants to be relevant in these times.

Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party would do well to take the popular demand for an alternative seriously. Americans—especially young adults and minorities—don’t see Sanders as a dinosaur trading on nostalgia or harking back to an irredeemable past. Instead, they see capitalism as a key source of their troubles. A recent Harvard University poll of Americans between the age of 18 and 29 found that 51 percent did not support capitalism, compared to only 42 percent who said they did. This doesn’t mean a socialist majority is right around the corner—only 33 percent offered it up as an alternative—but the poll indicates a significant shift in attitudes from just a few years ago.

Results like these fit within a broader picture of discontent. A majority of young Americans, including college-educated millennials, saddled with debt and dealing with bad jobs or no jobs, identify as working class—60 percent, more than any other group of Americans, suggesting that a class-based politics is increasingly salient. Even before Sanders ran for president, 66 percent of Americans saw “very strong” or “strong” conflicts between rich and poor, and recent data show that the wealth gap between middle-class Americans and elites has reached a record high. The vast majority of Americans are unhappy with the status quo, and most are willing to pay higher taxes or tax the rich for programs to improve public education and fund Social Security and Medicare.

Most Democratic politicians appear unwilling to acknowledge the extent of these shifts. But in this post-2008 climate, replete with anger against the establishment, the Clintonist approach of winning over moderates and drawing in reluctant leftists presupposes the existence of an ideological center that increasingly cannot hold. It might not be apparent on the eve of their November 8 triumph, but it will soon be.

As with the collapsing social democrats in Europe, the Democratic Party’s best bet is to move left and embrace a platform that speaks to the real needs, fears, and aspirations of working people. This doesn’t mean looking back with rose-colored glasses on the New Deal; it means building a coalition of young people, working-class whites, and minority voters around a new politics.

Those of us to the left of Clinton and the Democrats don’t have all the answers. But we have a good idea of where to start.

First, call for single-payer healthcare and free, quality public education—including higher education—for people of all ages. Fight for robust maternal and paternal leave and universal pre-K to help young families. These policies, despite debates on how to pay for them, are easily grasped and popular. The widespread support for Bernie’s broadsides against the “millionaire and billionaire” class shows that Americans are tired of handouts to Wall Street and the elite, and are ready for a new, progressive tax scheme to foot the bill.

But gains like single-payer and free higher education wouldn’t just be about giving a handout to working people instead of the rich. They would be part of a social movement demanding a decent life for all Americans. This movement would have a broader vision, one that includes the demand for a national job guarantee. Giving everyone a decent job isn’t a pipe dream. It’s a logical way to address pressing social problems and it’s achievable, through a robust expansion of public employment with an eye toward addressing social needs like infrastructure, education, and scientific research and scholarship in the public interest.

Policies like these will not only help alleviate material suffering, they will eventually help unite a divided electorate. Programs that benefit all Americans will foster the sense of solidarity and political engagement necessary to building a lasting progressive coalition in this country.

The alternative is more anxiety and inequality, a further decline in the Democratic Party’s base, and the continued growth of a Trump-like far right that is actively positioning itself to pick up the pieces. For the Democrats, no less than their peers in Europe, where the neoliberalisation of social democracy has opened up space for a populist right, the choice on offer might well be either socialism or irrelevance.

My thought: Trotsky articulated ‘the choice on offer’ far more accurately – socialism or barbarism

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I recommend the following for your consideration. That the Chinese Communist Party has learnt the lesson of the necessity of financial reward for individual initiative and has so far managed that very well within a socialist framework at the same time as the global crisis of capitalism which is so clearly reflected in the current US Presidential election gives even greater emphasis to Engels’ words :

‘The war in China has given the death-blow to the old China. Isolation has become impossible; the introduction of railways, steam-engines, electricity, and modern large-scale industry has become a necessity, if only for reasons of military defence. But with it the old economic system of small peasant agriculture, where the family also made its industrial products itself, falls to pieces too, and with it the whole old social system which made relatively dense population possible. Millions will be turned out and forced to emigrate; and these millions will find their way even to Europe, and en masse. But as soon as Chinese competition sets in on a mass scale, it will rapidly bring things to a head in your country and over here, and thus the conquest of China by capitalism will at the same time furnish the impulse for the overthrow of capitalism in Europe and America…’

Engels to Friedrich Adolf Sorge in Hoboken; London, November 10, 1894, Marx Engels, Selected Correspondence, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1982, 450-451

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Further Comment on Shamseer Keloth’s ‘Facing the Dragon’

Top political advisory body to discuss reform: Yu Zhengsheng, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), delivers a report on the work of the CPPCC National Committee's Standing Committee at the third session of the 12th CPPCC National Committee at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, March 3, 2015.

Top political advisory body to discuss reform: Yu Zhengsheng, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), delivers a report on the work of the CPPCC National Committee’s Standing Committee at the third session of the 12th CPPCC National Committee at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, March 3, 2015.

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Hello Shamseer Keloth,

Of cognition Lenin wrote ‘From living perception to abstract thought, and from this to practice, – such is the dialectical path of the cognition of truth, of the cognition of objective reality.’ We start with the world> we theorise about it (we look for what we think are the best/most ethical theories and consider and develop on them where we think it is possible, in relation to the world)> we (continually) test our theorising in the world. Practice (not abstract theorising) is primary.

The Chinese, through their very long history, have come to understand and learnt to do this (it can be seen in the Party’s policy developments particularly since Deng Xiaoping). In addition, for the first time in world history, the Chinese have two key elements in a developing relationship – a one-party socialist state and a rapidly rising middle class.

From this relationship will come forms of organisation which will be models for the world – economic, political and social.

The challenge to the Party will be to continue to show not only the benefits but the necessity of a one-party state (social cohesion, rising wealth and cultural development on the basis of the Party’s capacity both for long-term planning and timely decision-making [compare with the West]). Sensitivity to region and locality is just as important – the Party knows that their recent ‘crack-down’ on corruption is essential in this regard.

My view is that the Chinese are bringing to bear on their lives and future not only socialist theory but many lessons they have learnt through their history and are now getting ‘right’ what the Soviet Union was not able to.

How they continue to test and develop socialist theory in a practice which is above the merely pragmatic is central to this.

Phil

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Reply to Shamseer Keloth’s ‘Facing the Dragon’

Liu Yang, China’s first female astronaut, waves during a departure ceremony at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre, 16.06.12

Liu Yang, China’s first female astronaut, waves during a departure ceremony at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre, 16.06.12

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Hello Shamseer Keloth,

Congratulations on your article,

China will rapidly come to have an impact on the world that no nation has had. Where the one-party state of the Soviet Union collapsed under the pressure of the arms-race with the US and its allies (‘the West’) there is no indication that this will happen with the Chinese Party and state.

In fact, the reforms instituted by Deng Xiaoping, continuing now, are evidence of the flexibility, adaptability and responsiveness of both to pressures and events within and outside China.

And that is both excellent and fascinating – the retention of the potential of a socialist one-party state (consider what is going on in outmoded Western-style capitalist democracies now, the global productive forces in play and their impact on the earth) at the same time, the rapid rise of many millions into the Chinese middle class (the middle class is historically associated with ‘democracy’).

I have no doubt that the tension between these two forces will result in forms of organisation (economic, political and social) either never before seen or, at least, never developed to their full potential.

They will be models for the world. Recent and ongoing events in Hong Kong are part of this process.

What is required are forms of socialism (forms which will inevitably reflect the national characteristics of the society from which they have arisen) in which individual initiative is also recognised, encouraged and rewarded.

The Chinese are succeeding on this crucial point where the Soviet Union failed. It is the way – ‘going forward’.

Phil Stanfield

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