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«Proletarian dictatorship» and «socialist society» in the new Chinese constitution

«Proletarian dictatorship» and «socialist society» in the new Chinese constitution
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It was Stalin's sad privilege to proclaim in 1926 that socialism was being constructed in Russia - that is to say in one single country. He thus launched the astounding doctrine according to which socialist society can be born simply as a result of a legal proclamation. In a last desperate attempt to defend Marxism the Opposition recalled in vain that no one in the Bolshevik Party had up to that time dared to deny that «the term Soviet Socialist Republic», which expressed the indisputable political fact of the violent conquest of power by the working class and its dictatorial exercise by the Communist Party
«[does not imply]
that the existing economic system is recognised as a socialist order» (1).
While holding power, the Bolshevik dictatorship laid down the basis of socialism but did not construct it and could not construct it since it explicitly set for itself the more modest task of bringing an economy which was in the most part pre-capitalist under its dictatorial control and directing it in the way towards state capitalism - all the while waiting for the proletarian revolution to occur in at least some advanced capitalist countries. Especially in a backwards country - but also in the hypothesis of one advanced capitalist country - to speak of socialism in a single, isolated state outside of the international proletarian revolution is monstrous, and for the proletarians whose historical interests are incarnated in the party it is a cynical fraud.

But any opposition was in vain: seated at his table, «the Father of the Peoples», the «Himalaya of Thought», the «Kindly Interpreter of Marxism-Leninism», the future executioner of the old Bolshevik guard and of Red October, secretary General Joseph Stalin put his signature and his seal of notary among notaries on the «new economic order» and thus it became «socialist» by an act of the Holy Ghost with the bursting applause of an abject crowd of boot lickers. Nearly thirty years later, with «socialism» now constructed, the same logic claims that by a decree of Stalin in his «Economic Problems of Socialism» the law of value continues to reign in the fully «socialist» economy!

To Mao Tse-tung was to come a still more shameful privilege; this is not by chance since in the ascending scale of the «thoughts» his is notoriously situated at the summit. When Engels was asked what the dictatorship of the proletariat was he cited the Paris Commune: but this had been established and defended by means of an armed struggle, of a physical confrontation between classes on the open scene of the streets and boulevards of Paris. When the same question was posed to us in the first post-war period we pointed to the still besieged fortress of the Soviets: but this was brought about by the proletarian insurrections of Petrograd and Moscow, by the violent explosion of social antagonisms accumulated in the heart of the old society in Russia and in the world, and by the liquidation of all the internal adversaries, even if they were of «workers» origin, in the fiery trial of the civil war. The Soviet Republic held out in an heroic effort to surmount the contradictions inherent in the reality of a predominantly peasant country, trusting the resolution of these contradictions to a higher body - in fact to two, but two inseparable bodies:
the Communist Party and the international federation of the Communist Parties of all countries - the Communist International» (2)
which were the organs and instruments of a class war extended to the entire planet. The survival of the Soviets first, then the «passage to socialism», depended upon the fate of that war. It will be necessary to wait for the fateful year 1975 and his Majesty President Mao in order to have the right to a spectacle of a
peoples' democratic state led by the working class and based on the alliance of the workers and peasants»
which transforms itself out of itself - like a new Minerva emerging with all its attributes from the head of a new Jupiter - into a
socialist state of the dictatorship of the proletariat led by the working class and based on the alliance of the workers and peasants» (article 1 of the new Chinese constitution) (3);
and all this by decree of an assembly of 2,864 delegates meeting behind closed doors in the secrecy of the National People's Congress, these eight days of bloodless debate being followed by an announcement to the «people» hastened, dumbfoundedly, in order to hear the Word behind cordons of police. The assembly of notaries affixed their signature and their seal and there we have it - the dictatorship of the proletariat! Oh miracles of «Mao Tse-tung Thought»!

But the giddy profoundness of this «thought» cannot stop at this point. For Marxism
Between capitalist and communist society lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat» (Marx, «Critique of the Gotha Program»).
The kindly «innovator» Mao identifies the proletarian dictatorship with the lower stage of communist society, socialism: the assembly of notaries affixed their signature and their seal and there we have a state of the dictatorship of the proletariat which is, furthermore, socialism! For those who still hold to the ABC of Marxism, the lower stage of communism, socialism, begins when there no longer are classes and when there no longer is a political state and therefore when the dictatorship of the proletariat no longer exists
(4). The kindly «innovator» Mao presents us with a «socialism» which, identifying itself with the dictatorship of the proletariat, «covers a considerable long historical period. Throughout this historical period there are classes, class contradictions and class struggle, there is struggle between the socialist road and the capitalist road, there is the danger of capitalist restoration and there is the threat of subversion and aggression by imperialism» (Preamble to the new Chinese constitution). Signed and sealed by an assembly of notaries and there we have Marxism upside down!

For true Marxists, for those who adhere to Marxism without revising, falsifying or enriching it, the lower stage of communism, socialism, is lower precisely because it is a society
which is thus in every respect, economically, morally and intellectually, still stamped with the birth marks of the old society from whose womb it emerges»; therefore «the individual producer receives back from society - after the deductions have been made - exactly what he gives to it»
and as that which he has given qualitatively varies from one individual to another and as the needs of individuals vary, the method of distribution of the social product sanctions an inequality which is not on the basis «of class» but of «capacities» and therefore of individual «privileges». This inequality, based on the application of the same unit of measure for all the various types of work, is well expressed by the formula
from each according to his abilities, to each according to his work»,
which is still far from the fully communist formula
from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs».
But these «birthmarks» of the old society which still appear in the new are distinguished from the ignoble reality of capitalist society by one small detail: the individual producer
receives a certificate from society that he has furnished such and such an amount of labour (after deducting his labour for the common funds), and with this certificate he draws from the social stock of means of consumption as much as costs the same amount of labour. The same amount of labour which he has given to society in one form he receives back in another» («Critique of the Gotha Program»).
But this certificate cannot be saved, accumulated or exchanged as a monetary equivalent against other commodities: in other words, it is not a wage, it is not that which the bourgeois economists, and Mao along with them, call «income from work». If it was a wage the society would be capitalist since the relationship of wage labour suffices to define capitalism. Article 9 of the Chinese constitution adopted in 1975 has the impudence to state that
the State applies the socialist principle»:
He who does not work, neither shall he eat» and «from each according to his ability, to each according to his work».
Therefore on one hand it pretends once again that socialism has been actually realised, and on the other hand it immediately adds that
the state protects the citizens' right of ownership to their income from work, their savings, their houses [!], and other means of livelihood».
It confirms therefore that in actuality Chinese society has not gone beyond capitalism. Moreover, what Chinese worker would claim that he received a certificate with which he could draw from the social funds that which he needed in order to live, instead of securing these things by means of exchange on the market? Who would pretend to be inclined to save certificates when saving them would not yield anything? Or who would claim that they lived in a house which was at their disposal but not their property?

For true Marxists, social ownership of the means of production is certainly the presupposition of a socialist economy but it does not yet signify a socialist economy: if commodities are produced with these means of production which are not owned individually, if the producers of these commodities are paid in wages, the «ownership of the means of production» can well be «social» but nevertheless it remains capitalism. For true Marxists there are not «two forms» of social ownership (in admitting that the word «ownership» maintains a meaning under socialism) as the new Chinese constitution claims in its obscure designation of
socialist ownership by the whole people»
and of the equally obscure
socialist collective ownership by the working people» (article 5):
socialism knows only social ownership and disposal of the means of production, that is all
(5). In reality Mao only takes up again in a different form the Stalinist distinction between state ownership of industry (which in itself does not yet signify socialism) and co-operative ownership in the kolkhoses. The latter constitutes in reality the formal acknowledgement of the antisocialist principle of a possession and management which is not social but local and co-operative. It is a kind of «group economy» made up of autonomous, but not self-sufficient, productive units (and therefore linked together with each other as well as with the sector of «social ownership» by relations of exchange). This acknowledgement is given further evidence by the right, which is just as Stalinist, of the members of the commune (the Chinese kolkhos) to
farm small plots for their personal needs [and to] engage in limited household side-line production»
(but what means of production are utilised if not their own?).

This is again a negation of the existence of socialism in China, since, if Marxism has any meaning, in socialist society every member of the Society works for the common social fund and draws out of it all which he needs; he does not work half for the collective and half for himself; we certainly cannot see why in the world anyone would devote himself to «side-line production» - if not in order to sell the excess of his products on the free market, be it legal or «black», thus denying ipso facto the existence of socialism! (6).

And finally for true Marxists socialism still contains, on the moral and spiritual level, some «birthmarks» of the old society. But this will never signify that under socialism «the superstructure corresponds to the economic structure and is at the same time in contradiction to it» as the kindly «Mao Tse-tung Thought» would wish. Such an antinomy could appertain to the last stages of the dictatorship of the proletariat, but the dictatorship would never be «neutral» in regards to it. For example it would never sanction the cherished principle of Mao according to which the citizens equally have the «freedom to believe in religion and freedom not to believe in religion and to propagate atheism» (article 28): the dictatorship combats the first and takes the initiative itself to propagate the second.

From whatever direction one approaches it (and here we have dealt with only a few points) the constitution which has just emerged from the prolific heart of «Mao Tse-tung Thought», and the reality which it reflects, does not contain even a morsel of actually existing socialism or an atom of assimilated and defended Marxism.

• • •

Could there be at least a remote kernel of the «proletarian dictatorship» in China? But the dictatorship of the proletariat cannot be defined on the basis of its economic realisations: to only see the latter, it is even possible as in the case of the NEP in Russia, that its appearance cannot be distinguished from the substance of bourgeois domination. It defines itself on the basis of the orientation of its political action in the interior of the countries in which it has burst forth and above all on the world scale, by its consciousness of being the advanced citadel of the international proletarian revolution, by its firm decision to declare war in all countries against the class domination of its enemy, by its inflexible determination to subordinate, not in words but in deeds, the particular Russian, Chinese, English, American or whatever interests and objectives to the general interests and objectives of this cyclopean war.

Where would one find even the least indication of these cardinal orientations in the new Chinese constitution? It did not launch any challenge to world capitalism but on the contrary offered the supreme blessing of «peaceful coexistence» and of «equality and mutual benefit» (Preamble). The Chinese State does not think of proclaiming like Lenin: «After expropriating the capitalists andorganising their own socialist production, the victorious proletariat of that country will arise against the rest of the world - the capitalist world - attracting to its cause the oppressed classes of all countries, stirring uprisings in those countries against the capitalists, and in case of need using even armed force against the exploiting classes and their states» (7). On the contrary as its primary objective it pursued the construction (whether it is accomplished «before 1980» or later is of little importance) of an «independent and relatively comprehensive» economic system, in short an isolated and self-sufficient system as Stalin dreamed of (as the Preamble stated, «we should build socialism independently and with the initiative in our own hands, etc...»!). China's world adversary, if there is one, is not capitalism: instead it is the two «superpowers». Against the «threats and bullying» of these, the so-called Chinese «proletarian dictatorship» is ready, as Chou En-lai said in his speech and as was recently repeated to that blackguard Strauss in Peking, to «support the efforts of West European countries» (which until proven to the contrary are capitalist and imperialist and as such exploit the «Third World» so much courted by Peking) as well as to advise Japan, i.e. the most powerful and most expansive capitalist country in Asia, to keep good neighbourly relations with the United States. The Chinese State, in short, is not the instrument of world subversion but a pillar of the status-quo:
a dictatorship, this we concede, but a bourgeois dictatorship.

That Mao has played a progressive role in history by leading the capitalist revolution in China to its completion; that, by doing this, he has prepared the future grave-diggers of that society for which he is the spokesman; that against his will he works to create the conditions for the proletarian dictatorship to come and for socialism which will be its ultimate product - all this we do not deny. But as respectable as the bourgeois revolutionaries of modern China may be, it was long ago that we saw in them our class enemies, precisely inasmuch as they are the artisans of capitalism. They are enemies all the more so (even if they are less powerful and oppressive than a number of their colleagues on the five continents) when they cynically give themselves the mask of «brothers».

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  1. Lenin, «The Tax in Kind» (April 1921), «Works», vol. 32, p. 330. Lenin quotes a passage from his 1918 pamphlet, «The Chief Task of Our Day». «'Left-Wing' Childishness and the Petty-Bourgeois Mentality». [back]
  2. Lenin, «The Role and Functions of the Trade Unions under the New Economic Policy» (1922) «Works», vol. 33, p. 193. [back]
  3. The citations from the new Chinese constitution are quoted from «Peking Review», January 24, 1975. [back]
  4. In «State and Revolution», Lenin writes:
    «[In the first phase of communist society, i.e. socialism]
    there is no other standard than that of «bourgeois right». To this extent, therefore, there still remains the need for a state, which, while safeguarding the common ownership of the means of production, would safeguard equality in labour and in the distribution of products. The state withers away insofar as there are no longer any capitalists, any classes, and, consequently, no class can be suppressed. But the state has not yet completely withered away, since there still remains the safeguarding of «bourgeois right», which sanctifies actual inequality [...] Accounting and control - that is mainly what is needed for the «smooth working», for the proper functioning, of the first phase of communist society [...] All citizens become employees and workers of a single country-wide state «syndicate». All that is required is that they should work equally, do their proper share of work, and get equal pay [...] When the more important functions of the state are reduced to such accounting and control by the workers themselves, it will cease to be a «political state» and «public functions will lose their political character and become mere administrative functions». (Lenin, «State and Revolution», chapter 5, paragraphs 3 and 4, «Works», vol. 25, pp. 467-473). [back]
  5. The art of fooling their fellow-man has been transmitted from Stalinism to Maoism. On one hand it is stated that «socialist transformation of the ownership of the means of production [...] has in the main been completed» (point 4 of the «Report on the Revision of the Constitution»); on the other hand it was confirmed that «in some enterprises, the form is that of socialist ownership, but the reality is that their leadership is not in the hands of Marxists and the masses of the workers». Or in other words, we are in a period of socialism but it is a socialism in name only, where a bourgeoisie still exists and where there is a danger that this bourgeoisie «will seize hold of many fronts» if we do not keep our eyes open. It is true, as was stated in article 14, that «the state deprives the landlords, rich peasants, reactionary capitalists [the «non-reactionary» ones being exempt!] and other bad elements of political rights for specified periods of time». It is also true, as in article 12, that «the proletariat must exercise all-round dictatorship over the bourgeois in the superstructure». But evidently, after this «specific period of time» and outside of this domain of the «superstructure» the enemy can always raise his head, so much so that the «exercise of the dictatorship» seems to be less of a reality than a proposed «duty», which is quite a different thing! And one so-called vanguard of pseudo-Marxists goes into ecstasies over the «difference» and the «progress» which has been realised in comparison with Stalin. The only difference resides in the fact that for Stalin socialism was already in existence and for Mao socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat exist side by side - but for one as well as for the other, Marxism has been thrown in the dust-bin. [back]
  6. According to article 7 of chapter I of the Chinese constitution, the famous
    socialist collective ownership by the working people»
    is in turn divided into three levels in the rural people's communes:
    ownership by the commune, the production brigade and the production team».
    The «
    absolute predominance of the collective economy of the people's commune»
    not only does not prevent the members of the commune from cultivating small plots for their private use, etc., but
    in pastoral areas [they can] keep a small number of livestock for their personal needs». [back]
  7. Lenin, «On the Slogan for the United States of Europe» (1915), «Works», vol. 21, p. 342. We know that the Stalinists believe that they can find the justification for «socialism in one country» in the first part of this polemical quotation (while maintaining silence in regards to the second which inflicts a formidable slap in the face to all theories of «peaceful co-existence» and «non-interference in internal affairs»). In reality, as Lenin knew better than anybody else and as Trotsky, Zinoviev and Kamenev showed in 1926, even if the socialist transformation of the economy of an advanced country is possible in theory, civil war and international war would burst before it could be completed. [back]

Source: «Programme Communiste», no.66, April 1975

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