THE BOURGEOISIE AND THE «SOCIAL» PEACE: EAST AND WEST
If linked: [French] [German] [Italian] [Spanish]
The bourgeoisie and the «social» peace: East and West
[top] [content] [next]
Of late a carefully contrived picture of peace breaking out, of weapons being discarded, of SS20 missiles being converted into ploughshares, has been built up as the bosses of East and West have shaken hands and promised undying friendship,... and of course trade. In the last two months (June and July) parts of the Iron Curtain have been dismantled - it was only ever a barrier to refugees and dissidents, but never to trade. Even the recalcitrant South African government has had to cede Namibia to the prospect of black majority rule, while cease-fires are being arranged in Angola and maybe even Mozambique. [People doubting us on this point should be reminded that the South African company De Beers have come to agreement with the Angolan Government for the exploitation of diamonds in one of the Angolan provinces. Everywhere deals are being done, leaders are patting each other on the back and celebrating another year of survival without the whole world system crashing around their ears. Everybody amongst the leaders of «civilized» countries are condemning the events in China as an aberration, as the actions of old men clinging to power. A disgusting regime, to be sure, but the slaughter in Tiananmen Square was not an aberration as far as capitalism is concerned; it is usually the norm. It is how the bourgeoisie maintains and defends the «social peace» the world over. If today they are not busily fighting external enemies, they from time to time wage war on the internal one, with a special hatred and fear of the working class.
The hunt is on by the Chinese state and secret police for malcontents and «trouble-makers» who were supposed to be responsible for stirring up the students and fomenting disorders in Beijing, Shanghai and other cities. But it wasn't a few student activists who caused these agitations, but rather the penetration of the world crisis deeper and deeper into the Chinese economy. It was the leadership of the Communist Party of China which wanted to make China a leading industrial country and major power by the end of the century. They wanted to develop the capitalist economy in China, to have more advanced and technological industries, but you can't have it without crises. And crises are the sources of social disorder and disaffection. You pays your money and takes your chances.
We take up the issue of the slaughter in China for two reasons; firstly, for the defence of proletarians who will be killed, gaoled and/or victimised as a consequence of the recent agitations and demonstrations; secondly, because of the false claims of Maoism that a people's nationalism could satisfy the needs and aspirations of all classes in society. The defence of fellow proletarians throughout the world is so fundamental that we feel that it is not necessary to elaborate it here. It is rather the action of the People's Liberation Army in slaughtering hundreds of people in Beijing which shows that it is not the Army of «the People» but the army of Capital. The infamous bloc of Four Classes, as advocated by Mao, has been shown not to be a bloc of four classes but rather an alliance of exploiting classes resting on and oppressing the proletariat.
After the split between China and Russia in the early sixties we took issue with the new critiques of Moscow revisionism. Rather than a defence by Mao of revolutionary positions, it was merely the repeat of some rather sad and old refrains. In our «Theses on the Chinese question» at the time, we stated:
«In China, as well as in other backward countries in Africa and Asia, the two world wars have sharpened the contradiction between the development of the productive forces and the old relations of production, which had been passed on from the patriarchal regime. For a long time national revolts and agrarian rebellions have succeeded each other, confirming the predictions made by Marxism since the beginning of the century. Thus despite the repeated defeats of the proletariat in the European industrial centers, the upsurge of the national movements in the East have shown the revolutionary force in the antagonisms accummulated by the capitalist system. But, as it has been proved today by the increasing retardation of the backward countries in relation to the economic development of their old industrialised centers, these contradictions could not be solved within a national framework or in the form of bourgeois «progress». They are the product of world capitalism, its uneven development, of the accumulation of all the riches by a handful of superindustrialised states...»
And further on we pointed out that the Indian delegate Roy had dedicated the theses of the Second Congress of the Communist International especially to China and India, with the aim of detaching the proletariat and the poorest peasants from the «national» bourgeoisie:
«In the oppressed countries there exist two movements, that separate from each other more and more every day: the first one is the bourgeois, national democratic movement, whose programme is political independence and bourgeois order; the other one is the movement of the poor and ignorant peasants as well as the workers, who fight for their own liberation from any kind of exploitation.
The first movement attempts frequently with success to control the other. But the Communist International and its adherent parties must fight this attempt and try to develop independent class consciousness among the working masses in the colonies.»
This was the original position of the Comintern with regards to the poor labouring masses in the colonies and oppressed nations, and in due course it became ours. The movement for national independence and liberation has largely been completed: the proletarian revolution still waits to be accomplished.
At the same Congress Roy presented his «Additional Theses» on the colonial question by pointing out:
«Foreign domination prevents the free development of economic forces. Therefore its destruction must be the first step of the revolution in the colonies and therefore the aid to the destruction of the foreign domination in the colonies is not, in fact, an aid to the nationalist movement of the local bourgeoisie, but a preparation of the way for the liberation of the proletariat in the colonies [...] In its first phase the revolution in the colonies can not be a communist revolution, but if a communist vanguard takes the lead from the beginning, the revolutionary masses will not be led astray and their revolutionary experience will continuously grow during the different phases of the movement.»
The present events in China merely restates that without proletarian revolution, with the advancement towards communism, society must continue to go through all the barbarities that capitalism had in store for it. Today we are continuing to pay a heavy price for the failure of the revolutionary wave of 1917-23, the gradual abandonment of revolutionary positions by the Comintern and the final involution of the revolution in Russia. All this left the proletariat at the mercy of the bourgeoisie and its damned wars, crises and slumps. with revolutionary positions being defended by the small minority which constituted the Communist Left. We have continued to defend the proletarian perspective against all corners in the ensuing decades, against all the falsifiers and advocates of «alternative» and «new» roads.
«Irredentism» on the march
[prev.] [content] [next]
The Chinese Communist Party, having abandoned and rejected completely all aspects of marxism by adopting the historical perspective of the peasant, the bloc of four classes and national salvation, took up the programme of Sun Yat-sen for the modernisation of China. The alliance with the Kuomintang during and after the slaughters of 1924-1927 was a commitment to this path and not some «brilliant» tactic to win influence over the masses. Is there any other road to National Salvation which is not covered with blood-stains? Are today's heirs of Mao much different than the old Kuomintang? They are merely another faction of the Chinese ruling class.
What is this famous anti-imperialism that the Chinese Communist Party made its own. In reality it wasn't for the destruction of imperialism but to stop the West interfering in Chinese affairs. For a country which had entered this century as everybody's colony, such a strategy was only to be expected from a section of the Chinese bourgeoisie. If the Comprador section of the bourgeoisie is tied to foreign Imperialism, then it is to be fought and defeated. This is the only way for China to be re-united and «modernised». The Chinese Communist Party has therefore adopted the irredentist strategy [national redemption, referred originally to Italy, but since expanded to cover all such claims] of national unification and regional, if not super-, power status. For all its claims of anti-imperialism, it wants to play the imperialist in its own part of Asia.
In becoming at first a regional power (with the eventual hope of becoming a super-power in its own right) meant coming into conflict first with Russia, hence the split in the early 1960s, and later with other countries such as India and Vietnam. But what has this to do with socialism; nothing at all. The conflict with Russia was fuelled by territorial disputes and later on by its own form of trade wars spear-headed by little red books. And no doubt the Chinese C.P. had not forgotten the «liberation» of Manchuria by Russia in 1945, when in a last minute invasion against the crumbling Japanese Armies, Russian Armies invaded that province and «liberated» all the assets, shipping anything movable back to Russia to pay for its expenses, and then handing the territory over to Chiang Kai-Shek, not to the Chinese Communist Party. A strange form of «socialism» this.
The advent of the Chinese Communist Party to power in 1949 brought about two distinct results; agrarian reform (confiscation of the property of the old landlords and its division amongst the peasantry) in a thoroughly bourgeois way; and the invasion and conquest of Tibet. Tibet was claimed as Chinese territory as it had at sometime in the past be held by Chinese Emporers and so was considered part of the Chinese Empire. It was retaken as part of the National Irredentism and the Tibetan population treated as a subject people. After forty years of oppression they are still treated as second class citizens, while large numbers of Chinese citizens are brought in to occupy vast areas of the country. The Tibetans live in the most appalling «third-world» conditions, with poverty, poor health and occupy shanty towns, while the Chinese live in a subsidised «modernised» capitalist environment. Vast areas of forests has been cut down and shipped to China leaving an ecological disaster area. In reality there is an economic apartheid functioning in Tibet. What is so different from the actions of British and American imperialism? The declaration of martial, law in Tibet in March, with the unleashing of state terror on the population, proved to be good training for the later assualt on Beijing three months later. For all the protests for democracy by the students, there was as far as we know no calls for the withdrawal from Tibet and the ending of the occupation of that country. By not confronting that issue, the demonstrators in Beijing shared a similar fate.
One important point that has come out of these events is the final and definitive shattering of the Maoist myth of national conciliation, and the exploding of the belief of the Chinese People's Liberation Army as the People's Army. There is no going back on this. There were still such illusions in the early days of the demonstrations, with a marked reluctance of young conscripts to fight it out with the Beijing population. This doesn't say anything special about the PLA but speaks volumes about the possibility of revolutionary defeatism in the Chinese armed forces. The initial desertions, handing over of weapons and respect for the to the local population was very similar to the early days of the Hungarian revolt of 1956, in which we greeted then the possibility of similar revolutionary defeatism in the Russian Army. (No doubt this will still scandalise some Trotskyists).
Hypocritical howls of horror
[prev.] [content] [end]
Bourgeois leaders of various countries have rushed to denounce the actions of the Chinese leaders in slaughtering large numbers of people in Beijing and other cities. Vs consider these denouncements as hypocritical precisely because all these same leaders would have committed similar acts if they had ended up in a similar situations. It is with that in mind that we shall make a swift review of the actions of some of these countries.
The British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, was quick in denouncing the Chinese leaders. But this denouncement is a bit rich coming from England, a country which has either conquered or fought wars with more than half the world. Its actions in slaughtering unarmed populations in various parts of its former Empire has been far worse than anything the present Chinese leaders had done so far. Its actions in Ireland over the centuries has been particularly vicious, and what it would do to the British population should it ever get out of hand would made the Beijing events seem like small potatoes.
But what of events in Hong Kong? The same Government of Thatcher which attacks the Chinese leaders is treating the Vietnamese Boat People in a most despicable fashion. Squalid living conditions, concentration camps, forced deportation back to Vietnam makes the Chinese Government seem almost humanitarian in comparison. The British Government. to justify its actions, denies they are refugees and instead invents a new category, «economic migrants».. Either way they have been fleeing terrible conditions and oppression. Vietnam, yesterday's darling of the leftists, has been quite happy to take back their surplus population, which they hadn't been too unhappy to lose in the first place, providing that their «expenses» would be defrayed. You can almost hear the cash tills ringing in the background.
Vietnam, yesterday's champion against imperialism, has been playing the little imperialist to its neighbours. Laos has long functioned as a satellite of Vietnam, while Cambodia had been physically invaded and apparently conquered. With resistance from guerrilla groups, including those of the despotic Pol Pot. Vietnam has been tasting some of their own medicine. Plans for withdrawal are almost completed, but Vietnam still wants a submissive Government Is this just an exercise in good neighbourly behaviour? Not at all! Vietnam has moved many settlers in from Vietnam (which looks like an attempt at colonisation), with also the prospects of oil fields and other valuable natural resources still to be exploited means they still want a controlling influence in that country. is this not an excercise in imperialism?
As we begin to move around the globe we come to India. After a momentous struggle for independence, it was able to free itself from Britain. But is it really «independent»? It seems to vacillate at times between the American and Russian camps as far as international line-ups are concerned. But independence has not given it control of its economy (no country under capitalism has any such control); the Bhopal events, when the American chemical plant exploded, caused far more deaths and injuries than British rifles at Amritsar ever did! What price independence. But India, after Congress leaders who were originally pacifists, is now a war-like country determined to play the policeman in its own corner of Asia. Its «peace-keeping» force in Ceylon has not brought peace, instead a rather crude semblance of law and order, to that unhappy island.
Russia had been basking in the sunshine of Glasnost with that rather nice chappie Mr. Gorbachev showing himself as friendly statesman par excellence. it had thrown its hand in after eight years of attempts to pacify Afghanistan. A timely retreat it should be said because Russian troops are now needed at home, patrolling the cities and towns of the Southern provinces of the U.S.S.R.. The economic crisis, and massive debts, are now hitting these provinces the hardest. Poverty, food shortages, inadequate housing, and absolutely no prospects are causing riots and inter-communal fighting. It would be wrong to see this just as «ethnic» disorders, but as explosions In Russia's Empire which are identical with problems that Britain and America have faced in their own times. Savage exploitation, single crop economies, the best jobs go to Russians or local bureaucrats, while the local population can go to hell. In some of these Southern provinces the unemployment rate is staggering (anybody remember those old stalinist eulogies that there was no unemployment in Russia, that everybody had a good well subsidised house, etc.) A Russian literary journal, «Novy Mir», writing about the problems of the Southern provinces stated that Infant mortality was 10%, and «deformed babies have begun to be born». It goes on to say that «the population in the Aral area live on the lower reaches of great rivers and are forced to drink water that has absorbed pesticides, herbicides and other abominable things. These are no longer rivers, these are the dumps of central Asia.» And what is so different about the problems in the rest of the World? The cause lays in production for its own sake (whether for state or private profit) rather than to meet human needs. The problems lie not In faulty planning, or the incompetence of bureaucrats, but in the crazy, anarchic economy which is there to satisfy a return on capital and in maintaining, if possible, an acceptable balance sheet.
But these problems are not confined to the Southern provinces, or the Baltic states, alone. The whole of the Russian economy is wracked by crisis and debt. «Pravda» admits that at least 15 million people (including pensioners) live on or below the bread-line. The extent of the Russian national debt, revealed by the Russian Prime Minister, is now a crippling $51 billion dollars and the cost of servicing it this year alone will be $18 billion; The balance of trade (in roubles) this year is expected to be; for exports 16 billion; for imports 13.6 billion (including 5 billion for grain purchases); the balance of 2.4 billion leaves almost 10 billion roubles short of its debt servicing costs. The debts have been increasing sharply since 1975, and look as if they will continue for some time to come. Now Gorbachev has promised that 10 billion roubles would be found to pay for the import of consumer goods. Maybe they will break into the Russian gold reserves that were so jealously built up under Stalin.
Resentment and opposition has been below the surface for many years, breaking out into sporadic riots and demonstrations, usually confined to localised incidents. The inability of the Government to crack down on the «ethnic unrest» has been an indication to the proletarians in Russia that the State is not quite as sure of itself as in the past. It may just be a situation when workers could strike and protest without KGB and 'special' troops gunning them down in the streets. The old dictum about dangerous situations which an authoritarian regime starts to bring in reforms is being illustrated by the present events in Russia. Now the dissatisfaction has spread to the working class in Russia with the miners showing the way. We wait with impatience for the Russian workers once more to play a leading role in the class struggle.
Interesting events are unfolding in Eastern Europe with Poland as the clearest example. Various Western Governments have offered to defer debt payments. promised to feed Poland (while their at it why don't they feed Africa as well) and help with the process of reforms. Russia seems to agree to this process going on, and even prepared to recognise a Solidarity Government. Actually a Solidarity Government would be the most effective instrument for the injection of Western capital, naturally causing a breach between the workers and Solidarity itself. But we would neither welcome or condemn such a development - in the long-run it will not make much difference as the same role will still be played by the present Polish Government and its Generals. It is under the present Polish Government that the shipyards are being sold off to Western companies. The «Lenin» shipyards in Gdansk are now effectively controlled by American interests and a new name for it will be forthcoming. The Gydania shipyards could soon pass into Norwegian control. Will the Trotskyists still be calling for the defence of these so-called degenerated «workers» states with the allegedly state contol of the economy?
Poland is the largest debtor in the Eastern bloc. Others have been steadily mounting their debts to the West in the last decade. The exceptions are East Germany (through its extensive trading and credit relations with the West German economy) and Romania. Romania has finally succeeded in paying off all its debts, mainly as a result of devestating the countryside and promoting a fierce oppression of minorities, such as those of Hungarian descent. This racist approach has not be confined to Romania - Bulgaria has resorted to ejecting its «surplus population» by the forced deportation of those of Turkish origin who refuse to be Bulgarianised. Recently thousands have been arriving every day in Turkey complaining of such treatment. The Turkish Government has been complaining about such events, but naturally keeps quiet about the way it treats its own «surplus population», that is those who don't fit in to the Nation, the Kurds.
We could go on country by country to show that the events in China have been no different to what has been taking place elsewhere, but feel that we have covered the ground sufficiently to demonstrated the point. Economic crises are the source of disorder and class struggle, from the origins of capitalism to its ultimate disappearance. Capitalism will always find ways of oppressing and killing to defend its damned economy and financial interests. The only way to end these events is to abolish the world economy. The way forward for that lays with the proletarian revolution.
Source: «Communist Left», No. 1, July - December, 1989
About the romanisation of chinese names etc. consult our page «A Non-Exhaustive Euro-Hannic Transcription Engine»
[top] [content] [last] [home] [mail] [search] [webmaster]