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China & Market Socialism: A Question of State & Revolution

Deng Xiaoping: A People's Hero

After the fall of the Soviet Union, most of the socialist countries tragically fell to the onslaught of Western imperialism. Among the horrific blows dealt to the international communist movement, five socialist states resisted the tide of counterrevolution and, against all odds, maintain actually existing socialism in the 21st century.

Though each face very specific obstacles in building socialism, these five countries–the Republic of Cuba, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and the People’s Republic of China–stand as a challenge to the goliath of Western imperialist hegemony. Among them, however, China stands unique as a socialist country whose economic growth continues to supersede even the most powerful imperialist countries.

Though an embarrassing number of Western “left” groups challenge the designation of any of these five countries as socialist, no country raises greater opposition than China. Many Western “left” groups claim that modern China is a full-fledged capitalist country. Owing their ideological heritage to bogus theoreticians like Leon Trotsky, Tony Cliffe, and Hal Draper, some groups argue that China was never a socialist country, claiming instead that the Chinese state is and has been state capitalist.

I counter their outrageous reactionary assertions with six theses:

First, Chinese market socialism is a method of resolving the primary contradiction facing socialist construction in China: backwards productive forces.

Second, market socialism in China is a Marxist-Leninist tool that is important to socialist construction.

Third, the Chinese Communist Party’s continued leadership and control of China’s market economy is central to Chinese socialism.

Fourth, Chinese socialism has catapulted a workers state to previously unknown economic heights.

Fifth, the successful elevation of China as a modern industrial economy has laid the basis for ‘higher’ forms of socialist economic organization.

And sixth, China applies market socialism to its relations with the Third World and plays a major role in the fight against imperialism.

From these six theses, I draw the conclusion that Marxist-Leninists in the 21st century should rigorously study the successes of Chinese socialism. After all, if China is a socialist country, its ascension as the premiere world economic power demands the attention of every serious revolutionary, especially insofar as the daunting task of socialist construction in the Third World is concerned.

Market socialism is a method of resolving the primary contradiction facing socialist construction in China: backwards productive forces.

Comrade Deng Xiaoping

The Chinese revolution in 1949 was a tremendous achievement for the international communist movement. Led by Mao Zedong, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) immediately charted a course of socialist reconstruction in an economy ravaged by centuries of dynastic feudalism and imperial subjugation from both Europe and Japan. The CCP launched incredible campaigns designed at engaging the masses in constructing socialism and building an economy that could meet the needs of China’s giant population. One can never overstate the incredible achievements of the Chinese masses during this period, in which the average life expectancy in China rose from 35 years in 1949 to 63 years by Mao’s death in 1976. (1)

Despite the vast social benefits brought about by the revolution, China’s productive forces remained grossly underdeveloped and left the country vulnerable to famines and other natural disasters. Uneven development persisted between the countryside and the cities, and the Sino-Soviet split cut China off from the rest of the socialist bloc. These serious obstacles led the CCP, with Deng Xiaoping at the helm, to identify China’s underdeveloped productive forces as the primary contradiction facing socialist construction. In a March 1979 speech at a CCP forum entitled “Uphold the Four Cardinal Principles,” Deng outlines the two features of this contradiction:

First, we are starting from a weak base. The damage inflicted over a long period by the forces of imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat-capitalism reduced China to a state of poverty and backwardness. (2)

While he grants that “since the founding of the People’s Republic we have achieved signal successes in economic construction, established a fairly comprehensive industrial system,” Deng reiterates that China is nevertheless “one of the world’s poor countries.” (2)

The second feature of this contradiction is that China has “a large population but not enough arable land.” Deng explains the severity of this contradiction:

When production is insufficiently developed, it poses serious problems with regard to food, education and employment. We must greatly increase our efforts in family planning; but even if the population does not grow for a number of years, we will still have a population problem for a certain period. Our vast territory and rich natural resources are big assets. But many of these resources have not yet been surveyed and exploited, so they do not constitute actual means of production. Despite China’s vast territory, the amount of arable land is limited, and neither this fact nor the fact that we have a large, mostly peasant population can be easily changed. (2)

Unlike industrialized Western countries, the primary contradiction facing China was not between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie–the proletariat and its party had already overthrown the bourgeoisie in the 1949 revolution–but rather between China’s enormous population and its underdeveloped productive forces. While well-intended and ambitious, campaigns like the Great Leap Forward would continue to fall short of raising the Chinese masses out of poverty without revolutionizing the country’s productive forces.

From this contradiction, Deng proposed a policy of “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” or market socialism.

After Mao’s death in 1976 and the end of the Cultural Revolution a year later, the CCP ,under the leadership of Chairman Deng Xiaoping, launched an aggressive campaign of modernizing the underdeveloped productive forces in China. Known as the four modernizations–economic, agricultural, scientific & technological, and defensive–the CCP began experimenting with models for achieving these revolutionary changes.

Modernization wasn’t something extraneous to socialist construction in China. In the wake of the Great Leap Forward and the turbulent unrest of the Cultural Revolution, the CCP understood that building lasting socialism required a modernized industrial base. Without such a base, the Chinese masses would continue to live at the mercy of natural disasters and imperialist manipulation. Deng outlined this goal in an October 1978 speech before the Ninth National Congress of Chinese Trade Unions:

The Central Committee points out that this is a great revolution in which China’s economic and technological backwardness will be overcome and the dictatorship of the proletariat further consolidated. (3)

Deng continues by describing the necessity of re-examining China’s method of economic organization:

Since its goal is to transform the present backward state of our productive forces, it inevitably entails many changes in the relations of production, the superstructure and the forms of management in industrial and agricultural enterprises, as well as changes in the state administration over these enterprises so as to meet the needs of modern large-scale production. To accelerate economic growth it is essential to increase the degree of specialization of enterprises, to raise the technical level of all personnel significantly and train and evaluate them carefully, to greatly improve economic accounting in the enterprises, and to raise labour productivity and rates of profit to much higher levels.

Therefore, it is essential to carry out major reforms in the various branches of the economy with respect to their structure and organization as well as to their technology. The long-term interests of the whole nation hinge on these reforms, without which we cannot overcome the present backwardness of our production technology and management. (3)

These proposed reforms launched market socialism in China. Beginning with the division of the Great Leap Forward-era People’s Communes into smaller private plots of land, market socialism was first applied to China’s agricultural sector to boost food production. From the 1980s to around 1992, the Chinese state delegated greater authority to local governments and converted some small and medium sized industries into businesses, who were subject to regulations and direction from the CCP.

Since the implementation of market socialism, China has experienced unprecedented economic expansion, growing faster than every other economy in the world. Deng’s market socialism decisively lifted the Chinese masses out of systemic poverty and established the country as an economic giant whose power arguably exceeds the largest imperialist economies of the West.

Market socialism in China is a Marxist-Leninist tool that is important to socialist construction.

Lenin's New Economic Policy has a lot in common with Deng's market socialism

While Deng’s concept and implementation of market socialism is a significant contribution to Marxism-Leninism, it’s not without precedent. Proletarian revolution has historically broken out in the countries where the chains of imperialism are the weakest. One of the uniting characteristics of these countries is backwards productive forces; underdeveloped because of decades of colonial and imperial subjugation. Far from the first instance of communists using markets to lay an industrial foundation for socialism, China’s market socialism has its roots in the New Economic Policy (NEP) of the Bolsheviks.

Facing similar levels of underdevelopment and social unrest, the Bolsheviks implemented the NEP, which allowed small business owners and peasants to sell commodities on a limited market. Designed and implemented by Lenin in 1921, the NEP was the successor to Trotsky’s policy of war communism, which prioritized militarizing agricultural and industrial production to combat the reactionary White forces. Because of their economically backward material conditions, peasants overwhelmingly resisted war communism, which resulted in food shortages for the Red Army. Correctly perceiving the importance of forging a strong alliance between the peasantry and the urban working class, Lenin crafted the NEP as a means of modernizing Russia’s rural countryside through market mechanisms.

In a piece explaining the role of trade unions in the NEP, Lenin succinctly describes the essence of the concept that Deng would later call ‘market socialism’:

The New Economic Policy introduces a number of important changes in the position of the proletariat and, consequently, in that of the trade unions. The great bulk of the means of production in industry and the transport system remains in the hands of the proletarian state. This, together with the nationalisation of the land, shows that the New Economic Policy does not change the nature of the workers’ state, although it does substantially alter the methods and forms of socialist development for it permits of economic rivalry between socialism, which is now being built, and capitalism, which is trying to revive by supplying the needs of the vast masses of the peasantry through the medium of the market. (4)

Do not neglect the gravity of Lenin’s words in this passage. He acknowledges that the introduction of markets into the Soviet economy does nothing to fundamentally alter the proletarian character of the state. More provocatively, however, is his characterization of the Soviet economy as an “economic rivalry between socialism, which is now being built, and capitalism.” (4) According to Lenin, capitalist relations of production can exist within and compete with socialism without changing the class orientation of a proletarian state.

Recall that Deng argued that market socialism was essential to modernizing China’s productive forces and consolidating the dictatorship of the proletariat. Lenin would have agreed wholeheartedly with Deng’s assessment, as articulated in an April 1921 article entitled “The Tax in Kind.” Lenin writes:

Socialism is inconceivable without large-scale capitalist engineering based on the latest discoveries of modern science. It is inconceivable without planned state organisation which keeps tens of millions of people to the strictest observance of a unified standard in production and distribution. We Marxists have always spoken of this, and it is not worth while wasting two seconds talking to people who do not understand even this (anarchists and a good half of the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries). (5)

The ideological roots of Deng’s market socialism go back farther than Lenin, however. In an August 1980 interview with Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci, she asks Deng if market reforms in rural areas “put in discussion communism itself?” Deng responds:

According to Marx, socialism is the first stage of communism and it covers a very long historical period in which we must practise the principle “to each according to his work” and combine the interests of the state, the collective and the individual, for only thus can we arouse people’s enthusiasm for labour and develop socialist production. At the higher stage of communism, when the productive forces will be greatly developed and the principle “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” will be practised, personal interests will be acknowledged still more and more personal needs will be satisfied. (6)

Deng’s answer is a reference to Marx’s 1875 Critique of the Gotha Program. Marx describes the process of socialist construction in terms of ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ stages:

What we have to deal with here is a communist society, not as it has developed on its own foundations, but, on the contrary, just as it emerges from capitalist society; which is thus in every respect, economically, morally, and intellectually, still stamped with the birthmarks of the old society from whose womb it emerges. Accordingly, the individual producer receives back from society — after the deductions have been made — exactly what he gives to it.

But these defects are inevitable in the first phase of communist society as it is when it has just emerged after prolonged birth pangs from capitalist society. Right can never be higher than the economic structure of society and its cultural development conditioned thereby. (7)

Agree with market socialism or don’t, but the facts are in:

Fact: Market socialism is in accordance with Marxism-Leninism.

Fact: Lenin’s view is that markets and some capitalist relations of production do not fundamentally alter the proletarian class character of a socialist state.

Fact: Lenin believed that countries could build socialism through the use of markets.

Fact: The principle that informs Deng’s market socialism–“to each according to his work”–comes directly from Marx.

The Chinese Communist Party’s continued leadership and control of China’s market economy is central to Chinese socialism.

The 17th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party

Western commentators have predicted that China’s market reforms would lead to the downfall of the CCP since Deng announced market socialism in the late 1970s. These same commentators have repeated this claim for the last 30 years and are constantly proven wrong as China lifts itself out of poverty with the CCP at the helm. Market reforms have not altered the fundamental socialist underpinnings of Chinese society because the masses and their party continue to rule China.

The so-called ‘privatization’ of small and medium-sized state industries in the mid-1990s and early 2000’s provoked an outcry from Western ‘leftists’, claiming that this represented the final victory of capitalism in China. But since ‘left’ groups are so often subject to bickering over obscure definitions and irrelevant (but no less verbose!) debates about distant historical questions, let’s see what the capitalists themselves have to say about ‘privatization’ in China. In a May 2009, Derrick Scissors of the Heritage Foundation lays the issue to rest in an article called “Liberalization in Reverse.” He writes:

Examining what companies are truly private is important because privatization is often confused with the spreading out of shareholding and the sale of minority stakes. In China, 100 percent state ownership is often diluted by the division of ownership into shares, some of which are made available to nonstate actors, such as foreign companies or other private investors. Nearly two-thirds of the state-owned enterprises and subsidiaries in China have undertaken such changes, leading some foreign observers to relabel these firms as “nonstate” or even “private.” But this reclassification is incorrect. The sale of stock does nothing by itself to alter state control: dozens of enterprises are no less state controlled simply because they are listed on foreign stock exchanges. As a practical matter, three-quarters of the roughly 1,500 companies listed as domestic stocks are still state owned. (8)

While the so-called ‘privatization’ process of allows some private ownership, whether domestic or foreign, Scissors makes clear that this is a far cry from real privatization, as occurs in the United States and other capitalist countries. The state, headed by the CCP, retains a majority stake in the company and guides the company’s path.

More striking are the industries that remain firmly under state control, which are those industries most essential to the welfare of the Chinese masses. Scissors continues:

No matter their shareholding structure, all national corporations in the sectors that make up the core of the Chinese economy are required by law to be owned or controlled by the state. These sectors include power generation and distribution; oil, coal, petrochemicals, and natural gas; telecommunications; armaments; Aviation and shipping; machinery and automobile production; information technologies; construction; and the production of iron, steel, and nonferrous metals. The railroads, grain distribution, and insurance are also dominated by the state, even if no official edict says so. (8)

No capitalist country in the history of the world has ever had state control over all of these industries. In countries like the United States or France, certain industries like railroads and health insurance may have state ownership, but it falls drastically short of dominating the industry. The importance of this widespread state ownership is that the essential aspects of the Chinese economy are run by the state headed by a party whose orientation is towards the working class and peasantry.

Particularly damaging to the China-as-state-capitalist argument is the status of banks and the Chinese financial system. Scissors elaborates:

the state exercises control over most of the rest of the economy through the financial system, especially the banks. By the end of 2008, outstanding loans amounted to almost $5 trillion, and annual loan growth was almost 19 percent and accelerating; lending, in other words, is probably China’s principal economic force. The Chinese state owns all the large financial institutions, the People’s Bank of China assigns them loan quotas every year, and lending is directed according to the state’s priorities. (8)

The People’s Bank of China (PBC) highlights one of the most important ways in which the CCP uses the market system to control private capital and subordinate it to socialism. Far from functioning as a capitalist national bank, which prioritizes facilitating the accumulation of capital by the bourgeoisie, “this system frustrates private borrowers.” (8) The CCP floods the market with public bonds, which has a crowding-out effect on private corporate bonds that firms use to raise independent capital. By harnessing supply and demand in the bond market, the PBC prevents private firms, domestic or foreign, from accumulating capital independently of socialist management.

Although modern China has an expansive market system, the CCP uses the market to both secure and advance socialism. Rather than privatizing major industries, as is often alleged by detractors, the state maintains a vibrant system of socialist public ownership that prevents the rise of an independent bourgeoisie. Deng talked specifically about this very deliberate system in the same interview with Fallaci:

No matter to what degree we open up to the outside world and admit foreign capital, its relative magnitude will be small and it can’t affect our system of socialist public ownership of the means of production. Absorbing foreign capital and technology and even allowing foreigners to construct plants in China can only play a complementary role to our effort to develop the productive forces in a socialist society. (6)

Western analysts seem to believe that the CCP has accomplished this goal. The capitalist Australia-based Center for Independent Studies (CIS) published a July 2008 article that says that those who think that China is becoming a capitalist country “misunderstand the structure of the Chinese economy, which largely remains a state-dominated system rather than a free-market one.” (9) The article elaborates:

By strategically controlling economic resources and remaining the primary dispenser of economic opportunity and success in Chinese society, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is building institutions and supporters that seem to be entrenching the Party’s monopoly on power. Indeed, in many ways, reforms and the country’s economic growth have actually enhanced the CCP’s ability to remain in power. Rather than being swept away by change, the CCP is in many ways its agent and beneficiary. (9)

While the CIS goes on to cry crocodile tears about the lack of economic and political freedoms in China, Marxist-Leninists read between the lines and know the truth: China isn’t capitalist, the CCP isn’t pursuing capitalist development, and market socialism has succeeded in laying the material foundation for ‘higher socialism’.

Chinese socialism has catapulted a workers state to previously unknown economic heights.

While the Great Leap Forward was an ambitious attempt at laying the industrial foundation necessary to build socialism, the facts are in: China’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 1960, after the GLF, was $68.371 billion. (10) In 2009, China’s GDP sits just under $5 trillion, making it the second largest economy in the world. (11) In other words, the modern Chinese economy is about 73 times the size of its economy following the Great Leap Forward, which was previously the largest socialist economic overhaul in Chinese history.

The cruel irony of Chinese socialism is that the bulk of its international admirers are not ‘leftists’, but rather capitalists. Far from approving of socialism, these capitalists are in awe of China’s manipulation of markets to build a thriving modern society without resorting to free markets. They hate China’s accomplishments and its socialist path, but they cannot deny its thriving success. Even Scissors acknowledges in the same Heritage Foundation article that, “between June 2002 and June 2008, China’s GDP more than tripled and its exports more than quadrupled.” (8)

China’s incredible GDP growth is of vital importance to socialism. Scissors continues:

This rapid GDP growth has created jobs: by the end of June 2008, the unemployment rate among registered urban voters was a mere four percent — even lower than the government’s ambitious target of 4.5 percent. That figure may understate true joblessness by ignoring rural and unregistered urban employment, but it accurately reflects trends in the broader job situation. So many migrant workers from rural areas were absorbed into the urban labor force that the 20 million such workers reported to have lost their jobs in late 2008 still left well over 100 million rural migrants with jobs in cities. (8)

That China can essentially guarantee full employment for workers highlights another way in which the CCP uses markets to advance socialism. In addition to achieving de facto full employment, “Urban wages have climbed significantly, by 18 percent between 2007 and 2008,” representing serious material gains for the Chinese working class. (8)

Unlike the dispossessed masses of capitalist countries, the Chinese masses are consistently more satisfied with and favorable to their own nation’s economy. A July 2008 study conducted by the Pew Global Attitudes Project polled a diverse cross section of people in 24 developed countries, including China prior to the Beijing Olympics. Pew’s findings confirm the popularity of market socialism among the Chinese masses:

“As they eagerly await the Beijing Olympics, the Chinese people express extraordinary levels of satisfaction with the way things are going in their country and with their nation’s economy. With more than eight-in-ten having a positive view of both, China ranks number one among 24 countries on both measures in the 2008 survey by the Pew Research Center’s Pew Global Attitudes Project.” (12)

Incidentally, Pew finds that “Chinese satisfaction with these aspects of life has improved only modestly over the past six years, despite the dramatic increase in positive ratings of national conditions and the economy.” (12) While the Chinese masses celebrate the recent dramatic increase in the nation’s standard of living, the longevity of their satisfaction reflects a deeper relationship with the state.

Among Pew’s most interesting findings was the level of people in China concerned with growing income inequality. While inequality is a chief concern for the dispossessed masses in capitalist countries, the wealthy are not concerned with income inequality at all, as it constitutes the cornerstone of their class. The Chinese masses, however, respond to this critical concern very differently. Pew finds:

“About nine-in-ten (89%) identify the gap between rich and poor as a major problem and 41% cite it as a very big problem. Worries about inequality are common among rich and poor, old and young, and men and women, as well as the college-educated and those with less education. In that regard, despite economic growth, concerns about unemployment and conditions for workers are extensive, with 68% and 56% reporting these as big problems, respectively.” (12)

The universality of concerns about income inequality, concerning even wealthier citizens, demonstrates the continued supremacy of socialist values in China. Cultural norms and values arise from the material conditions and relations of production. If China was a capitalist country, the widespread prevalence of socialist values–cutting across income levels–would not exist. To contend otherwise is to abandon a materialist analysis of culture.

The successful elevation of China as a modern industrial economy has laid the basis for ‘higher’ forms of socialist economic organization.

Chinese workers standing up for socialism and striking at a Toyota factory

The market is not a mode of production; rather, the market is a form of economic organization. Deng explains this distinction well in a lecture series he gave in 1992. He states:

The proportion of planning to market forces is not the essential difference between socialism and capitalism. A planned economy is not equivalent to socialism, because there is planning under capitalism too; a market economy is not capitalism, because there are markets under socialism too. Planning and market forces are both means of controlling economic activity. (13)

Markets are neither capitalist nor socialist, just as economic planning is neither capitalist nor socialist. Both of these forms of economic organization are just tools in the toolbox, and in some situations, markets are a useful tool for socialist construction.

For 30 years, the CCP has successfully used markets as a tool for revolutionizing the country’s productive forces. Precisely because of this success, the state is rapidly moving towards more advanced forms of socialist industrial organization to replace the market mechanism.

Market socialism was first implemented in the agricultural industry with the same aim as Lenin’s NEP: to aggressively expand and modernize food production. However, the CCP introduced markets as a tool to build socialism, rather than as a permanent functioning mode of economic organization. This is a very important distinction because it means that Deng and the CCP viewed market reforms as a transient form of ‘lower socialism’, to borrow a term from Marx, that they would replace with collectivized agriculture after the material conditions changed. Deng explains this in a talk delivered to the Central Committee in May 1980. Entitled “On Questions of Rural Policy,” Deng addresses concerns about contemporary market reforms to the agricultural sector:

It is certain that as long as production expands, division of labour increases and the commodity economy develops, lower forms of collectivization in the countryside will develop into higher forms and the collective economy will acquire a firmer basis. The key task is to expand the productive forces and thereby create conditions for the further development of collectivization. (14)

Deng understood that building a socialist agricultural economy capable of meeting the needs of China’s enormous population required developing the productive forces in the countryside, which markets could accomplish. Only after revolutionizing the productive forces of the entire country could the material basis for a full-scale collective economy–‘higher socialism’–exist.

Mao said that “Practice is the criterion of truth,” and after 30 years of practice, Deng’s statements have come true. In 2006, the CCP announced a revolutionary overhaul of the Chinese countryside and pledged to use China’s newly acquired wealth to transform rural areas into what President Hu Jintao calls a “new socialist countryside.” (15) Even today, most of China’s population remains in rural sections of the country, but the application of modern farming techniques and mechanized agricultural practices have generated a net surplus of grain production in China. Among this new policy’s many provisions, China’s new rural policy promises “sustained increases in farmers’ incomes, more industrial support for agriculture and faster development of public services.” (15) Additional provisions allow peasant students to “receive free textbooks and boarding subsidies,” and the state will “increase subsidies for rural health cooperatives.” (15)

Massive state investment in agricultural infrastructure is “a significant shift away from the previous focus on economic development.” (15) Because of the success of modernization, “greater weight will be given to the redistribution of resources and a rebalancing of income.” (15) Instead of viewing market socialism as an end in itself, the CCP has harnessed the market as a means to generating an industrial base sufficient to build ‘higher socialism’. China’s extraordinary GDP growth and technological development via market socialism makes it possible to implement these sweeping revolutionary changes.

On health care, Austin Ramzy of TIME Magazine reported in April 2009 that “China is laying out plans to dramatically reform its health care system by expanding coverage for hundreds of millions of farmers, migrant workers and city residents.” (16) These plans consist of spending “$125 billion over the next three years building thousands of clinics and hospitals and expanding basic health care coverage to 90% of the population.” (16) Rather than a reversal of the Deng-era reforms, China’s move back towards public health care is the logical progression of the more modernized and expansive health care system achieved through 30 years of market socialism.

As foreign capital entered China, the corporations of imperialist countries–attracted by China’s vast labor pool–exploited some Chinese workers through capitalist relations of production. The exploitative behavior of foreign corporations constitutes a major contradiction in the Chinese economy that the CCP has taken concerted steps towards resolving. While all people in China retain access to essential goods and services like food and health care, the CCP places restrictions on foreign corporations’ ability to operate in China that severely curtail their politico-economic power in China.

Far from abandoning Chinese workers in the pursuit of modernization, the CCP announced the Draft Labor Contract Law in 2006 to protect the rights of workers employed by foreign corporations by ensuring severance pay and outlawing the non-contract labor that makes sweatshops possible. Viciously opposed by Wal-Mart and other Western companies, “foreign corporations are attacking the legislation not because it provides workers too little protection but because it provides them too much.” (17) Nevertheless, the Draft Labor Contract Law, which “required employers to contribute to their employees’ social security accounts and set wage standards for workers on probation and overtime,” was enacted in January 2008. (18)

The recent series of labor disputes between Chinese workers and foreign corporations testify to the working class orientation of the Chinese state. In response to widespread strikes at Western factories and manufacturing plants, the CCP undertook an aggressive policy of empowering Chinese workers and backing their demands for higher wages. Beijing’s regional government raised the minimum wage twice in six months, including a 21% increase in late 2010. (19) In April of this year, the CCP announced annualized 15% wage increases with “promises to double workers’ wages during the 12th five-year plan that lasts from 2011 to 2015.” (20)

Dramatic increases in wages and benefits for Chinese workers, particularly migrant workers, is a serious blow to foreign corporations and makes China a decisively less attractive hub of cheap labor for foreign investors. (21) Contrary to the actions of a capitalist state in the face of labor unrest, which generally consists of petty reforms or brutal repression, China’s response is to launch an offensive against the hoarding of wealth by foreign corporations by forcing them to pay substantially higher wages.

The state is an instrument of class oppression. Bourgeois states reluctantly give the working class reforms, like minimum wage, when no other course of action is possible. Their orientation is towards improving conditions for the bourgeoisie and subordinating labor to capital. Proletarian states boldly support and immediately respond to the collective demands of the workers because they constitute the ruling class in the society. Greater willingness by the CCP to confront and attack foreign capital in the interests of the working class is the deliberate product of market socialism’s success in developing China’s productive forces. Having resolved the primary contradiction–backwards productive forces–the CCP is breaking ground on the contradiction between foreign capital and labor.

Turning to the macroeconomic situation, China’s application of market socialism has led to serious disparities in income. While undoubtedly a defect of ‘lower socialism’, the Chinese state takes this contradiction very seriously and announced an unprecedented government spending campaign in March 2011 aimed at closing the income gap. (22) By increasing public spending by 12.5% in the next year, the CCP will allocate enormous government resources “for education, job creation, low-income housing, health care, and pensions and other social insurance.” (22) Far from a move designed to placate any social unrest, this monumental boost in social spending demonstrates the Chinese state’s continued proletarian and peasant class orientation.

A correct position on China requires above all else a holistic examination of the country’s economy placed within the context of the CCP’s path towards modernization. Focusing too narrowly on China’s market economy and its defects clouds the most important facts, which is that the working class and peasantry still rule China through the CCP and the success of modernization via the market economy has paved the way for ‘higher socialism’.

China applies market socialism to its relations with the Third World and plays a major role in the fight against imperialism.

Hu Jintao, the General Secretary of the CCP, meets with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez

Understanding that markets are a neutral tool–non-intrinsic to capitalism and usable by both capitalist and socialist states–is paramount to correctly analyzing China’s international position. Unlike the features of imperialism–colonialism, neocolonialism, superexploitation, nurturing dependency–China’s market socialism fosters cooperation, collective advancement, independence, and social development. (23)

Though bourgeois news sources decry China’s economic relationship with Africa as ‘imperialist’, this is a reflection of the Western trade mentality that cannot understand any economic relations in terms other than ruthless exploitation. Premier Wen Jiabao said at a 2006 summit in Cairo that Chinese-African trade relations are designed to “help African countries develop by themselves and offer training for African professionals.” (24) The focus of the summit, according to Wen, is “reducing and remitting debts, economic assistance, personnel training and investment by enterprises.” (24) Wen continues:

“On the political front, China will not interfere in internal affairs of African countries. We believe that African countries have the right and capability to solve their own problems.” (24)

This is not the attitude of imperialism. Wen’s declaration here doesn’t even reflect the rhetoric of imperialism. The US and its allies in Europe constantly uphold their right to pursue their own interests in other nations, specifically those nations that have received substantial Western capital. China’s approach is markedly different, as it uses trade as a means of developing African social infrastructure–underdeveloped because of centuries of Western colonial oppression–and functions chiefly on a policy of non-intervention. This reflects the CCP’s commitment to the Marxist-Leninist understanding of national self-determination.

China’s relationship with Africa reflects these principles in practice. In November 2009, China pledged $10 billion in “preferential loans directed towards infrastructure and social programmes” to the entire African continent. (25) In addition to providing the resources for infrastructural development, “the financing would go to cancelling debts” and “helping states cope with climate change.” (25) These new loans represent a 79% increase in Chinese direct investment, which has mostly come in the form of “Chinese companies building roads, ports, railways, housing and oil pipelines.” (25)

Geopolitically, China offers an entirely separate international camp for nations at odds with US imperialism. As the US ratchets up tensions with Pakistan and continues to violate its national sovereignty in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s assassination, China announced on May 19, 2011 that it would remain an “all-weather partner” for Pakistan. (26) Premier Wen added, “Pakistan’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity must be respected.” (26) Coupled with an editorial published the same day in China Daily, the official state newspaper of China, entitled “US actions violate international law,” one can easily see the mammoth discrepancies between the imperialist camp and China. (27) These positions are virtually identical to the minority of left academics in the US, like Noam Chomsky, and contrast sharply with any mainstream account of US military involvement in Pakistan.

China has continually acted as a bulwark against US aggression towards other socialist countries, like the DPRK and Cuba. (28) (29) In neighboring Nepal and India, China has provided geopolitical support for the two communist insurgencies during their respective periods of people’s war. (30) (31) After the Nepalese Maoists overwhelmingly won the country’s parliamentary elections, Chairman Prachanda visited China immediately after he was sworn in as Prime Minister. (32) Even in Latin America, China forged deep economic and military ties with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, as the country continues to move forward in resisting US imperialism and advancing towards socialism. (33)

While China has its shortcomings in terms of foreign relations, particularly its refusal to veto the UN Security Council resolution against Libya, it pursues a qualitatively different foreign policy from any capitalist countries. In terms of trade, China promotes independence and self-determination, where the West promotes dependence, exploitation, and subjugation. Geopolitically, it supports genuine people’s movements against imperialism and provides support to the other existing socialist countries. This is a foreign policy of cooperation deeply influenced by Marxism-Leninism.

Marxist-Leninists in the 21st century should rigorously study the successes of Chinese socialism.

Chinese workers striking outside of a Panasonic factory

Those countries that resisted the onslaught of counterrevolution after the fall of the Soviet Union demand rigorous study by Marxist-Leninists in the 21st century. Each of the five socialist countries pursued different paths of survival that offer lessons, but China has indisputably enjoyed the greatest success.

Rather than echoing the counterrevolutionary lies of Trotskyite and left-communist groups about China’s lack of commitment to their abstract and utopian definitions of ‘socialism’, Marxist-Leninists should embrace China as a model of successful socialism whose economic power outstrips that of the greatest imperialist countries. At the core of these Trotskyite/left-communist falsehoods is a chronic pessimism about socialism that reflects the capitalistic cynicism towards proletarian revolution. China’s socialist economy is thriving and more than 1/5 of the worlds population were lifted out of poverty, and their silly irrelevant faction isn’t in power yet! According to them, China must be doing something wrong!

Of course, Marxist-Leninists know otherwise. China is a socialist country and is arguably the most economically successful in history. That realization carries tremendous magnitude and should push Marxist-Leninists to seriously study the model and the works of Deng Xiaoping. Even today, other socialist countries are experimenting with variations of China’s model and see similar successes. If Deng’s concept of market socialism is a correct policy for proletarian states facing severely underdeveloped productive forces, then revolutionaries must recognize him as a significant contributor to Marxism-Leninism.

As China ascends into building ‘higher socialism’, revolutionaries across the world should look East for inspiration as they struggle to throw off the chains of imperialism and actualize people’s democracy.

Long live the universal contributions of Deng Xiaoping to Marxism-Leninism!

Stand with the Chinese masses, and their party, in the exciting process of socialist construction!

Swift victory to the international proletarian revolution!

——-

Endnotes

(1) Mobo Gao, The Battle for China’s Past: Mao & The Cultural Revolution, Pluto Press, 2008, pg. 10

(2) Deng Xiaoping, “Uphold the Four Cardinal Principles”, March 30, 1979, http://bit.ly/iwhKsE

(3) Deng Xiaoping, “The Working Class Should Make Outstanding Contributions to the Four Modernizations,” October 11, 1978, http://bit.ly/ijepY4

(4) V.I. Lenin, “Role and Function of Trade Unions Under the New Economic Policy,” December 30, 1921 – January 4, 1922, http://bit.ly/mu8hhg

(5) V.I. Lenin, “The Tax in Kind,” April 21, 1921, http://bit.ly/frx9dW

(6) Deng Xiaoping, “Answers to the Italian Journalist Orianna Fallaci,” August 21 and 23, 1980, http://bit.ly/mtccjD

(7) Karl Marx, “Critique of the Gotha Programme,” Part I, May 1875, http://bit.ly/m4HR2o

(8) Derek Scissors, Ph.D. “Liberalization in Reverse,” May 4, 2009, Published by The Heritage Foundation, http://bit.ly/jkSBcR

(9) John Lee, “Putting Democracy in China on Hold,” May 28, 2008, Published by The Center for Independent Studies, http://bit.ly/mLqeM1

(10) World Bank, World Development Indicators, Gross Domestic Product, Accessed through Google, http://bit.ly/g6QkN0

(11) Justin McCurry, Julia Kollewe, “China overtakes Japan as world’s second largest economy,” February 14, 2011, Published in The Guardian, http://bit.ly/eySIQ4

(12) Pew Global Attitudes Project, “The Chinese Celebrate Their Roaring Economy as They Struggle with its Costs,” July 22, 2008, Published by The Pew Research Center, http://bit.ly/9nNJC9

(13) Deng Xiaoping, “Excerpts from Talks Given in Wuchang, Shenzhen, Zhuhai and Shanghai,” January 18 – February 21, 1992, http://bit.ly/lTgK64

(14) Deng Xiaoping, “On Questions of Rural Policy,” May 31, 1980, http://bit.ly/kSLYnM

(15) Jonathan Watts, “China vows to create a ‘new socialist countryside’ for millions of farmers,” February 22, 2006, Published in The Guardian, http://bit.ly/mjO6Ki

(16) Austin Ramzy, “China’s New Healthcare Could Cover Millions More,” April 9, 2009, Published in TIME Magazine, http://ti.me/2xdi0

(17) Jeremy Brecher, Tim Costello, Brendan Smith, “Labor Rights in China,” December 19, 2006, Published by Foreign Policy in Focus, http://bit.ly/ck9lVy

(18) Xinhua, “New labor contract law changes employment landscape,” January 2, 2008, Published in People’s Daily Online, http://bit.ly/mA7wJm

(19) Jamil Anderlini, Rahul Jacob, “Beijing city to raise minimum wage 21%,” December 28, 2010, Published by Financial Times, http://on.ft.com/l0uPu3

(20) Caijing, “China Targets at Annualized Wage Rise of 15Pct,” April 19, 2011, http://bit.ly/ery12l

(21) Zheng Caixiong, “Wage hike to benefit migrant laborers,” March 3, 2011, Published on China Daily, http://bit.ly/dYsLls

(22) Charles Hutzler, “China will boost spending, try to close income gap,” March 6, 2011, Associated Press, Published on boston.com, http://bit.ly/kTH80G

(23) Dr. Armen Baghdoyan, “Part 1: The Relevance of Marx’s Das Kapital To the Contemporary Chinese Market Economy,” April 26, 2011, Published on Nor Khosq, http://bit.ly/leZKrX

(24) Xinhua, “Chinese premier hails Sino-African ties of cooperation,” June 18, 2006, Published on China View, http://bit.ly/mL3RVo

(25) Mike Pflanz, “China’s $10 billion loan for African development ‘motivated by business not aid’,” November 8, 2009, Published by The Telegraph, http://bit.ly/3KjLPr

(26) Li Xiaokun, Li Lianxiag, “Pakistan assured of firm support,” May 19, 2011, Published by China Daily, http://bit.ly/izgWyQ

(27) Pan Guoping, “US action violates international law,” May 19, 2011, Published by China Daily, http://bit.ly/m68qwV

(28) Andrew Salmon, “China’s support for North Korea grounded in centuries of conflict,” November 26, 2010, Published by CNN, http://bit.ly/dYbxHm

(29) Reuters, “China restructures Cuban debt, backs reform,” December 23, 2010, http://reut.rs/jwO09l

(30) M.D. Nalapat, “China support spurs power grab by Maoists,” May 4, 2009, Published by United Press International, http://bit.ly/l2HALo

(31) RSN Singh, “Maoists: China’s Proxy Soldiers,” July – September 2010, Published in the Indian Defence Review, Vol. 25, Issue 3, http://bit.ly/cXIgOv

(32) The Times of India, “After Maoists, China woos Nepal’s communists,” April 16, 2009, http://bit.ly/iXvo1Q

(33) Simon Romero, “Chávez Says China to Lend Venezuela $20 Billion,” April 18, 2010, Published in The New York Times, http://nyti.ms/bfg1gg

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New Democracy & ZANU-PF: Zimbabwe’s Revolutionary Path

Africa is once again in the crosshairs of imperialism. After two successful national liberation struggles in Tunisia and Egypt, the US and NATO launched a war of aggression against Muammar Qaddafi the Libyan people. France recently conducted a ruthless bombing campaign in Ivory Coast to oust the nationalist President Laurent Gbagbo. As the 2011 Zimbabwean elections approach, the threat of imperialist intervention in Southern Africa looms dangerously.

Marxist-Leninists uphold President Robert Mugabe and the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) as a legitimate anti-imperialist government. However, a closer analysis of present-day Zimbabwe reveals more than a country engaged in a vicious struggle against neo-colonialism; it reveals a revolutionary struggle to construct New Democracy.

New Democracy is a bridge to socialism for the third world.

Mao Zedong-Thought and the People's Liberation Army

Among Mao Zedong’s many contributions to Marxism-Leninism was his prescription for building socialism in post-colonial countries. After winning their independence from Japan, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) sought to build socialism from the ashes of Japan’s colonial system of oppression. However, centuries of severe economic underdevelopment left China somewhere between the backwards Confucian feudalism of the past and the liberal-democratic capitalism of the West and its satellites.

Just as Marx recognized the historical importance and progressive role of capitalism in revolutionizing the relations of production, Mao wrote that “In the course of its history the Chinese revolution must go through two stages, first, the democratic revolution, and second, the socialist revolution, and by their very nature they are two different revolutionary processes.” (1) The liberal-democratic revolutions that brought the bourgeoisie to power centralized industrial production in cities, revolutionized technology through efficiency, and instituted major political reforms, including elections and universal suffrage. However, these progressive changes were accompanied by exploitative wage labor, the creation of a class of property-less workers, the rise of imperialism, and countless other forms of oppression; in a word, capitalism.

The first task facing the Communist Party–the primary contradiction facing the Chinese people–was to destroy “the old colonial, semi-colonial and semi-feudal politics and economy and the old culture in their service,” traditionally the task of the bourgeoisie in building capitalism (1) However, with the Communist Party in control of the state and the relative weakness of the Chinese bourgeoisie, Mao argued that China didn’t have to and shouldn’t create a capitalist economy. The people could achieve all of the progressive democratic and economic changes necessary to lay the material foundation for socialism without enduring the brutal oppression brought on by capitalism. Mao writes that “it is not the old democracy, but belongs to the new category – it is New Democracy.” (1)

Unlike the industrial capitalist economies of the West, China’s class composition was primarily peasant-based, with a strong proletarian presence and some petty-bourgeois shopkeepers in cities. Additionally, colonialism divided the fledgling Chinese bourgeoisie into two camps: those who profited from colonial occupation, and those who strongly preferred national independence. Though the working class must lead the socialist revolution, Mao observed that post-colonial countries without a strong proletariat could undergo a New Democratic revolution. Since the task of the New Democratic revolution, under the leadership of the Communist Party, was to drive out the remaining elements of feudalism, the Party could unite many classes whose positions vis-a-vis colonialism and imperialism were revolutionary. Mao concludes, “Therefore, the proletariat, the peasantry, the intelligentsia and other sections of the petty-bourgeoisie undoubtedly constitute the basic forces determining China’s fate.”

To sum up Mao, New Democracy is “a democratic republic under the joint dictatorship of all anti-imperialist and anti-feudal people led by the proletariat.” It’s a transitional society designed to lay the material foundation for socialist construction.

Zimbabwe’s National Liberation Struggle

Robert Mugabe of ZANU (left) and Joseph Nkomo of ZAPU (right)

Subject to nearly 80 years of brutal colonial subjugation, Zimbabwe–originally called Rhodesia–functioned as Britain’s primary mining and farming colony in Africa. The racist colonial government of Ian Smith and the Rhodesian Front presided over a rigidly stratified system of apartheid to force indigenous Black Zimbabweans off of their farmland and facilitate British accumulation of the country’s agricultural and mineral wealth. Inequality in Smith’s Rhodesia was so severe that by 1965, White farmers owned 88.5 acres of land for every 1 acre of land owned by a Black farmer, despite White farmers constituting less than 3% of the population. (2)

The dispossessed Zimbabwean masses were ready for revolution, and two parties formed in the early 1960s to lead that struggle against colonialism. Joseph Nkomo, a trade unionist in Bulawayo, formed the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) in 1962 to participate in the general elections that year. After Smith’s racist state banned ZAPU shortly before the elections, several party leaders challenged Nkomo for his willingness to cooperate with the Whites, among them current-President Robert Mugabe. Mugabe and others were expelled from ZAPU and formed the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) in 1963.

While ZAPU had a strong presence in the Zimbabwean trade unions and received support from the Soviet Union, they were never a Marxist-Leninist party. On the other hand, internal party debates in the 1970s led ZANU to officially adopt Marxism-Leninism as their party ideology. ZANU drew substantially from the experiences of the Chinese Communist Party because of the importance they placed on the revolutionary potential of the peasantry.

During the course of the war for liberation–called the Second Chimurenga–ZANU set up an expansive network of people’s councils that gave the Zimbabwean masses the democratic political control they were denied under colonialism. These people’s councils established local clinics, provided health care education, and offered other social services denied to indigenous people by the colonial regime. (3)

Both ZANU and ZAPU extensively practiced the mass line in their organizing, agreeing that successful revolutionaries had to learn from and teach the people by living among them. Their common military orientation towards people’s war led ZANU and ZAPU to form an alliance in the early 1970s. Known as the Patriotic Front, the two parties combined their efforts and repelled the British counter-insurgency, forcing Smith’s government to surrender in 1978.

Zimbabwe’s Unfinished Chimurenga

President Mugabe leading a ZANU-PF rally in the Masvingo province

The Second Chimurenga lasted from its outbreak in 1964 to the Lancaster House Agreement of 1979, in which Britain negotiated the terms for indigenous rule on behalf of the Smith government. Although the Patriotic Front was successful in defeating the Rhodesian Front–who received tremendous financial and military backing from Britain, South Africa, and the United States–nearly 15 years of civil war devastated their ranks and motivated a quick resolution to the conflict.

The Lancaster House Agreement offered a gradual process of restoring indigenous Zimbabweans as the political rulers of their country. This “agreement” was written by the British imperialists to perpetuate their exploitation of Zimbabwe via neo-colonialism. Mahmood Mamdani of the London Review of Books explains the conditions of the Lancaster Agreement:

“Two of its provisions, one economic and the other political, reflected this short-termism: one called for land transfers on a ‘willing buyer, willing seller’ basis, with the British funding the scheme; the other reserved 20 per cent of seats in the House of Assembly for whites – 3 per cent of the population – giving the settler community an effective veto over any amendment to the Lancaster House terms.” (4)

Following the Second Chimurenga, the ZANU-led government nationalized many of the country’s industries, including mining. The Lancaster Agreement was crafted by Western imperialists to prevent massive land reform akin to neighboring Mozambique. Both Britain and the United States pledged to heavily contribute finances for buying back farm land from White settlers in exchange for the Zimbabwean government’s agreement to not expropriate the land.

The Lancaster Agreement was exposed as the imperialist tool it was when Prime Minister Mugabe moved to acquire White farmland for redistribution in the 1980s. White farmers sold back poor-quality land at a value they were allowed to determine through Lancaster’s policy of self-appraisal. By the end of the 1980s, land transfers had declined sharply, and less than “19 per cent of the land acquired between 1980 and 1992 was of prime agricultural value.” (4)

Both Britain and the US reneged on their agreements to contribute financially during land reform, which forced the Zimbabwean government to take substantial loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The IMF provided predatory loans to Zimbabwe on the condition that it privatize many of the essential industries that the masses gained control of during the Second Chimurenga as a part of a Structural Adjustment Plan (SAP).

The SAP launched Zimbabwe into a downward spiral and intensified the social contradictions left unresolved by the Lancaster Agreement. The Zimbabweans who heroically fought for liberation during the Second Chimurenga were justifiably outraged at the continued injustice and began organizing their communities to forcibly take over White farms.

In response to the West’s open rejection of financial assistance for the gradual land reform program of Lancaster,  Mugabe and ZANU-PF–a coalition part of ZANU and ZAPU formed in 1989–sanctioned the land seizures and provided state support to expropriation efforts by the Zimbabwean people. These land occupations–called the Fast-Track Land Reform Program (FTLRP)–lasted until 2003 and represented the first major transfer of land from White settlers to indigenous Zimbabweans in the country’s history.

New Democracy & the Fast-Track Land Reform Program

From 2000 - 2003, millions of indigenous Zimbabweans took their land back from White settlers

Zimbabwe became a pariah state in the West for breaking with international capital, and imperialism sought to crush the New Democratic revolution taking place in Southern Africa. Crippling sanctions imposed by the West, along with political unrest fostered by the CIA/MI6-backed Movement for a Democratic Change (MDC), plunged Zimbabwe into turmoil in the latter half of the 2000s. Shamefully but predictably, Western “leftist” groups–themselves almost exclusively white and petty-bourgeois in background–marched in-step to the imperialist war-drum and called for the overthrow of Mugabe and ZANU-PF. Despite this array of enemies, the resilient and tenacious people of Zimbabwe have stood resolute in their revolutionary achievements.

Mugabe has repeatedly said that the Zimbabwean people are engaged in a “Third Chimurenga” aimed at destroying the remnants of colonialism. British colonial rule denied the people of Zimbabwe access to their own economy, leaving the indigenous population impoverished and the means of production underdeveloped. However, Zimbabwe’s open rebellion against imperialism, beginning in 2000 with the FTLRP, has paved the way for the world’s only New Democracy.

In late 2010, Ian Scoones of University of Sussex released the first major academic study of the effects of the FTLRP entitled Zimbabwe’s Land Reform: Myths and Realities. Although the Western media spent ten years denouncing the FTLRP as a failed policy and perpetuating racist myths about Black land ownership, Scoones finds that this revolutionary policy was in no way a failure.

According to Scoones, around 7 million hectacres were taken over and redistributed since 2000. He writes that “Through a combination of agricultural production and off-farm activities, there is a strong dynamic of ‘accumulation from below.’ A new agrarian structure is fast emerging, and centre-stage is an important ‘middle farmer’ group.” (5)

A quick look at the class composition of the beneficiaries of the FTLRP demonstrates its revolutionary character. Scoones’ study finds that 49.9% of those who received land were ordinary Zimbabweans from rural areas; in other words, peasants. 18.3% of land recipients were “unemployed or in low-paid jobs in regional towns, growth points and mines,” and 6.7% were former farm workers; the Zimbabwean proletariat. Civil servants, who largely make up the Zimbabwean petty-bourgeoisie, were 16.5% of the land recipients. The two categories comprising the lowest percentage of land recipients were business persons, at a paltry 4.8%, and security service personnel, at a mere 3.7%. (5)

If ZANU-PF was a bourgeois party, would it have sanctioned and supported a radically egalitarian land reform program like this?

At the same time, the FTLRP stops short of collectivizing agriculture and organizing it along socialist lines. Since the FTLRP is neither capitalist nor socialist, what is it? Let’s look again to Mao for the answer:

“The [New Democratic] republic will take certain necessary steps to confiscate the land of the landlords and distribute it to those peasants having little or no land, carry out Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s slogan of ‘land to the tiller,’ abolish feudal relations in the rural areas, and turn the land over to the private ownership of the peasants. A rich peasant economy will be allowed in the rural areas. Such is the policy of ‘equalization of land-ownership.” (1)

Land was the burning question for Zimbabwe peasants, who were excluded from Zimbabwe’s rich agricultural economy by colonialism. The FTLRP accomplishes the first task of New Democracy, which is “to change the colonial, semi-colonial and semi-feudal form of society into an independent, democratic society.” (1)

Western “leftists” denounce Mugabe and ZANU-PF as a capitalist leader and party, respectively. For ten years, they denounced the FTLRP as a state-sanctioned “Enclosure Act” for the Zimbabwean Black bourgeoisie to acquire land. Ten years later, the facts are in, and these Western “leftists” pay the price for not committing themselves to the people’s struggle. Scoones acknowledges the FTLRP’s revolutionary orientation, writing that “Benefiting from patronage relations and ‘accumulation from above,’ such people are a stark contrast to the majority who are relatively poor people in need of land and keen finally to gain the fruits of independence.” (5)

One of the Western media’s great lies–often repeated by “leftists” today–is that Mugabe sought to bribe war veterans with land in exchange for political support. This falsehood is both offensive and inaccurate. On one hand, the veterans of the Second Chimurenga who sacrificed their lives for Zimbabwe’s liberation should absolutely enjoy the fruits of independence, especially after nearly 20 years of continued exploitation by the imperialist-backed White settlers. However, Scoones’ study found that war veterans “account for only 8.8% of the total.” He notes that most war veterans were peasant and proletarian in class background, writing that “most were, prior to land invasions, farming in the communal areas, a few were living in town…while some were civil servants (often from local government offices).” (5)

In post-colonial countries suffering from underdevelopment, New Democracy lays the material foundation upon which the masses will build socialism. Accordingly in Zimbabwe, the new Black farm owners have invested heavily in the improvement of their land and the development of advanced agricultural techniques. Scoones again finds that “new settlers have cleared land, built homes, purchased farm equipment and invested in livestock. We estimated that on average across sites over US$2,000 had been invested per household in a range of assets and improvements.” (5) ZANU-PF encouraged indigenous investment in the newly acquired land by legally enshrining the FTLRP as irreversible.

Mugabe’s FTLRP has revolutionized the relations of production in rural Zimbabwe by radically democratizing the economy. Scoones explains this transformation particularly well, writing that “Unlike the old dualisms of the past, where large numbers of people were excluded from active participation in the agricultural economy, the processes of accumulation from below mean that new players are involved, benefits are being more widely distributed and economic linkages are more embedded in the local economy.” (5) The land reform provided numerous remarkable opportunities for the people of Zimbabwe to directly participate in this new agrarian economy, signifying the development of actual economic democracy.

The FTLRP succeeded in establishing New Democracy in Zimbabwe, and this exciting development creates the conditions for further revolutionary advances towards socialism. Scoones alludes to this, writing”Land reform has unleashed a process of radical agrarian change. This was not just a modest process of transfer to black beneficiaries as in past attempts at resettlement, and has been the case in other land reform efforts elsewhere in the region. Because of its scale, it fundamentally changed agrarian structure, livelihoods and the rural economy. There are now new people on the land, engaged in new forms of economic activity, connected to new markets and carving out a variety of livelihoods.” (5)

The Third Chimurenga Deals a Blow to Imperialism

(left to right): Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe; Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus; Hugo Chavez, Venezuela

With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the extension of imperialist hegemony across the globe, any revolutionary people’s movement deals a blow against this system of oppression. Zimbabwe achieved titular independence in 1979, but it continued to remain firmly under the economic control of the imperialists until the FTLRP in 2000.

The Third Chimurenga was an actual revolution that fundamentally changed the relations of production and put the oppressed classes into power. Just as many ‘democratic’ revolutions of the past occurred in two parts–in America, the revolution of 1776 and the civil war in 1860–Zimbabwe’s New Democratic revolution began with the Second Chimurenga (1964 – 1978) and continued with the Third Chimurenga (2000 – present).

Western imperialism is a wicked leviathan, but it isn’t omnipresent. The Middle East, Central Asia, and Northern Africa have attracted the bulk of its recent attention. However, the remaining socialist countries continue to attract the ire of the United States, evidenced by the war-mongering in the Korean peninsula and the continued trade embargo on Cuba. In all of this, the extreme hostility of Western imperialism towards Zimbabwe, ZANU-PF, and Mugabe seems out of place, especially given the country’s unimpressive fossil fuel deposits.

To fully grasp the threat that revolutionary Zimbabwe poses to imperialism, let’s look to Mao again:

“In this era, any revolution in a colony or semi-colony that is directed against imperialism, i.e., against the international bourgeoisie or international capitalism, no longer comes within the old category of the bourgeois-democratic world revolution, but within the new category. It is no longer part of the old bourgeois, or capitalist, world revolution, but is part of the new world revolution, the proletarian-socialist world revolution. Such revolutionary colonies and semi-colonies can no longer be regarded as allies of the counter-revolutionary front of world capitalism; they have become allies of the revolutionary front of world socialism.” (1)

Zimbabwe isn’t just an anti-imperialist state. It strikes at the heart of imperialism, but its historical role is much more important. The Third Chimurenga places Zimbabwe firmly in the camp of the existing socialist nations, including both the surviving Marxist-Leninist states and the countries experiencing socialist construction in Latin America. Zimbabwe isn’t a socialist country, but as the world’s only New Democracy, it functions as the greatest ally “of the revolutionary front of world socialism.”

Though still engaged in a bitter struggle against Western imperialism and neo-colonialism, the Zimbabwean people–led by Robert Mugabe and ZANU-PF–have boldly taken their destiny into their own hands and embarked down an exciting revolutionary path that ends in socialism.

Is ZANU-PF a revolutionary socialist party?

ZANU-PF's Party Flag

ZANU’s commitment to Marxism-Leninism during the Second Chimurenga is unquestionable, evidenced both in their party documents and actions. In 1989, when ZANU and ZAPU officially merged to form ZANU-PF, the new party’s first constitution established six “Aims and Objects” in Article 2. Prominent among them were these two:

  • “To establish and sustain a socialist society guided by Marxist-Leninist principles but firmly based on our historical, cultural and social experience and to create conditions for economic independence, increased productivity and equitable distribution of the wealth of the nation;
  • To continue to participate in the worldwide struggle for the complete eradication of imperialism, colonialism and all forms of racism. Accordingly, the party shall support liberation movements in their just struggle for self-determination and social justice.” (6)

However, ZANU-PF is a mass party, and not a vanguard party as Lenin outlined in What Is To Be Done? Membership is open to any Zimbabwean citizen regardless of ideological commitment and class background. This reflects the material political reality of Zimbabwe left by the Lancaster Agreement, rather than some ideological departure from Lenin. Britain demanded a multi-party parliamentary system to protect its economic interests from the revolutionary ambitions of a one-party Marxist-Leninist state.

Although White settlers are no longer guaranteed 10% of the Parliament, ZANU-PF has not consolidated the Zimbabwean democratic system into a one-party New Democracy and must thus compete against other parties during periodic elections. Incidentally, ZANU-PF and its predecessor, ZANU, has won every election since independence.

Nevertheless, ZANU-PF maintains the internal structures of a Marxist-Leninist vanguard party. The People’s Congress–comprised of representatives from ZANU-PF mass organizations, like the National Council of the Women’s League–elects the 160 members of the Central Committee. Eighteen representatives from standing mass organizations and four elected at-large members comprise the Politburo, which is the party’s highest authority. (6)

Leading up to the 2005 parliamentary elections, ZANU-PF published the “ZANU-PF Election Manifesto,” which describes the party as “a vanguard Party of Principles, always leading in mobilizing the broad masses towards the resolution of the National Question,” in this case referring to Zimbabwe’s ongoing struggle for national liberation. (7) The mode of continuing their national liberation struggle, according to the manifesto, is through reinforcing and expanding the FTLRP.

The manifesto extensively dissects ZANU-PF’s resistance to neo-colonialism and imperialism. One passage in particular reads, “Under ZANU-PF, Zimbabwe continues to pursue a robust and independent foreign policy, which embodies the aspirations of the developing world. The policy eschews imperialism or any other form of domination of one people by another.” (7) Later in the document, the party explicitly denounces the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and expresses solidarity with oppressed nations in the Middle East, reflecting ZANU-PF’s internationalist orientation.

Consistent with their ideological roots in Mao Zedong-thought, ZANU-PF maintains close economic and political relations with China. In late December 2010, Mugabe announced that ZANU-PF was establishing ideological schools for party youths to learn about Zimbabwe’s war for liberation and the role of the party in Zimbabwean society. The Central Committee report detailing these cadre schools stated that they would use the Chinese Communist Party’s schools as a model. (8)

The most salient criteria in evaluating the revolutionary credentials of ZANU-PF are its internal class composition and the class interest it represents. The party’s mass base is an amalgamation of peasants, farmers, security personnel, and war veterans, the latter of whom cut across class lines.

The hostile economic conditions created by Western imperialism via sanctions have at times turned people against governments that represent their class interests. For instance, although the MDC attracted greater support from urban trade unions in the 2008 elections than ZANU-PF did, this stemmed from the high inflation, which itself was brought on by the IMF’s restriction of credit to Zimbabwe.

When confronted with a crippling civil service worker strike in February 2010, the coalition government agreed that the demanded 300% wage increases were unrealistic given the state of the economy. The MDC blamed ZANU-PF for Zimbabawe’s poor economic conditions because of the latter’s refusal to capitulate to the US and Britain’s demands for political reforms. However, Wikileaks released a damning cable from the US embassy in Harare in December 2009, which shows that MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai urged the US and Britain to continue their devastating economic sanctions. (9) By standing resolutely against the West’s sanctions, which harm the wages of civil service workers through economic deterioration and reduced revenues, ZANU-PF represents the interests of the Zimbabwean proletariat whether they support the party in elections or not.

While certainly not a Marxist-Leninist vanguard party, ZANU-PF remains the leading force in Zimbabwe’s New Democratic revolution. The party maintains an official line condemning Western imperialism, specifically mentioning Iraq, and continues to promote New Democracy through the FTLRP. Its class orientation still predominantly peasant, although all of the anti-imperialist anti-colonial classes are represented.

The Zimbabwean masses are anxious for socialism. With ZANU-PF leading the nation’s New Democratic revolution, Zimbabwe will continue its striking blows against imperialism for the liberation of oppressed people everywhere.

Long Live Independent Zimbabawe!

Onward, ZANU-PF!

Victory to the Third Chimurenga!

(1) Mao Zedong, On New Democracy, 1940, Published 1967 by Foreign Languages Press, Peking

(2) D.G. Clark, “Land Inequality and Income Distribution in Rhodesia”, African Studies Review, Vol. 18, No. 1, April 1975, pg. 4

(3) Colin Stoneman; Lionel Cliffe, Zimbabwe: Politics, Economics and Society, Pinter Publishers, 1989, pg. 25 – 28

(4) Mahmood Mamdani, “Lessons of Zimbabwe”, London Review of Books, Vol. 30, No. 23, December 4, 2008, pg. 17 – 21,  http://www.lrb.co.uk/v30/n23/mahmood-mamdani/lessons-of-zimbabwe

(5) Ian Scoones, Nelson Marongwe, Blasio Mavedzenge, Jacob Mahenehene, Felix Murimbarimba, and Chrispen Sukume. Zimbabwe’s Land Reform: Myths & Realities. Harare: Weaver, 2010. Print.

(6) Party Constitution. Harare: Zimbabwe African National Union (Patriotic Front), 1989. Print.

(7) “ZANU-PF Election Manifesto – March 2005”, http://www.kubatana.net/docs/polpar/zanupf_parl_manifesto_2005.pdf

(8) Zimbabwe News Online, “Zanu (PF) to Set up party doctrine schools,” December 23, 2010, http://zimbabwenewsonline.com/politics/1942.html

(9) David Smith, The Guardian, December 27, 2010, “Morgan Tsvangirai faces possible Zimbabwe treason charge,” http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/27/wikileaks-morgan-tsvangirai-zimbabwe-sanctions

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