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Workers Hammer No. 202

Spring 2008

For unconditional military defence of the Chinese deformed workers state!

China is not capitalist

For proletarian political revolution!

In the run-up to the Beijing Olympics in August there is a growing crescendo of imperialist anti-Communism against the Chinese deformed workers state, promoted by the Labour government and echoed by the reformist left. There has been a military build-up against China by US and Japanese imperialism and a barrage of China-bashing that ranges from crocodile tears over the “oppression of Tibet” and “human rights” to claims that China is responsible for the horrific violence in Sudan’s Darfur region.

Prime minister Gordon Brown’s announcement that he will meet the Dalai Lama in London in May is the latest in this ongoing anti-Communist offensive by the bourgeoisie and its ideologues against China. Not coincidentally, the Dalai Lama has recently been met by German chancellor Angela Merkel and US president Bush. These meetings prefigured the monk-led riots in Tibet in mid-March which were a counterrevolutionary provocation against the Chinese deformed workers state. “An orgy of anti-Chinese rioting convulsed the Tibetan capital, Lhasa” is how it was described by a correspondent for the Economist (14 March) who reported that Tibetans were shouting slogans like “long live Tibet” and “long live the Dalai Lama”.

Gordon Brown used his high-profile visit to Beijing in January to try to persuade the Chinese regime to invest its $200 billion wealth fund in London. Fearful of incurring a diplomatic rift with Beijing, Brown refuses to boycott the Beijing Olympics and was initially hesitant to grant the Dalai Lama a meeting in London. Brown agreed to a meeting after he came under fire from the Tories and from none other than heir to the British throne, Prince Charles, who happens to be a long-time friend of the counterrevolutionary Tibetan “God King”.

Despite their differences, the aim of all the imperialist powers towards the People’s Republic of China is to destroy the workers state by counterrevolution. On the one hand they use China’s “market reforms” to pursue intensified economic penetration, thus British capitalism is a prime investor in China and a competitor for Chinese overseas investment. On the other hand the imperialists are ratcheting up the military pressure on China. British foreign secretary David Miliband leaves no doubt about British imperialism’s support for this military build-up. In a February statement he cited “the moral imperative to intervene — sometimes militarily — to help spread democracy throughout the world”, adding that: “After the end of the cold war it was tempting to believe in the ‘end of history’ — the inevitable process of liberal democracy and capitalist economics. Now with the economic success of China, we can no longer take the forward march of democracy for granted” (Guardian, 12 February).

In the name of “democracy”, British imperialism is currently heavily involved in the brutal occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan which have resulted in the slaughter of countless thousands of people. Historically, the kind of “democracy” and “human rights” the British Empire visited upon China is exemplified by the opium wars and by the Empire lording it over Hong Kong as racist and repressive overseers, holding the island as a protectorate until it was rightfully returned to the People’s Republic of China in 1997. As in the Cold War against the Soviet Union, what the imperialists understand by “human rights” above all is one thing: the right of the bourgeoisie to unlimited exploitation and enslavement of the working masses. And this “right” was “violated” in China by the 1949 Revolution, which drove the bourgeoisie off the Chinese mainland.

The reformist left agrees with bourgeois public opinion that with the market reforms capitalism has been restored in China, or is irreversibly being restored. On the contrary, China today remains what it has been since 1949: a bureaucratically deformed workers state. While the rule of the capitalists has been overthrown, laying the basis for tremendous economic and social development, China is ruled by a nationalist, Stalinist bureaucratic caste that is hostile to workers democracy and revolutionary internationalism.

As the strongest of the remaining deformed workers states, China has been drawn ever more into the cross-hairs of the imperialists since the counterrevolutionary destruction of the deformed workers states of Eastern Europe and, in particular, the destruction of the Soviet degenerated workers state in 1991-92. As a result of the treacherous Stalinist policy of “socialism in one country” and its associated illusions in “peaceful coexistence” between the Chinese workers state and imperialism, the Chinese bureaucracy has continued its policy of concessions to the imperialists. Thus, it supports the “war on terror”, the sanctions against Iran and the campaign for the nuclear disarmament of North Korea. Nonetheless, China is surrounded today by a whole system of US military bases. Along with North Korea, it is on the Pentagon’s list as a potential target of a nuclear first strike by the US, while the US programme of National Missile Defense has the strategic goal of neutralising China’s modest nuclear capacities. Japan and the US are cooperating militarily, subordinating their rivalry to their common hostility to the workers states in Asia. We are in favour of China and North Korea developing, testing and producing nuclear weapons to defend themselves against British, US and Japanese imperialism.

As in the former Soviet Union, capitalist counterrevolution in China would have to triumph in the political arena, in the conquest of state power; it cannot take place simply through a quantitative extension of the private sector, whether domestic or foreign. Moreover, the large and growing private sector created by the market reforms, including foreign companies, is predominantly light industry. Meanwhile core elements of the economy such as heavy industry — steel, non-ferrous metals, heavy machinery production, telecommunications, energy, petrochemicals — remain concentrated in state-owned companies, which are strategic. State ownership of land has prevented the development of a layer of rich large landowners dominating the rural areas. State control over the financial system has so far been able to protect the People’s Republic of China from the manoeuvres of speculative capital, which have ruined the economy in so many capitalist neocolonies.

The fate of China, the most populous country on earth, where the bourgeoisie was expropriated by the 1949 Revolution, is of strategic importance to all the workers of the world, who must be won to the understanding that it must defend China against imperialism and internal counterrevolution. In Britain, the central obstacle to this revolutionary consciousness is the Labourite programme of class collaboration with the “democratic” bourgeoisie at home while promoting counterrevolution in the remaining workers states under cover of “human rights” and “democracy”.

In opposition to this, we uphold the Trotskyist programme for the unconditional military defence of China and the other deformed workers states of North Korea, Cuba and Vietnam against imperialism and internal counterrevolution. We also fight for proletarian political revolution to oust the parasitic bureaucracy. Ultimately, only a political revolution in China can lead to the rule of workers and peasants soviets, and only the extension of the Chinese Revolution internationally can ensure the defence and development of its gains. Our defence of the deformed workers states is integral to our programme for proletarian socialist revolution against the capitalist ruling classes internationally. The International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist) is dedicated to building a revolutionary internationalist workers party. As a section of the ICL, the Spartacist League/Britain is fighting to build a party committed to the revolutionary overthrow of British imperialism and establishing a federation of workers republics in the British Isles.

Taaffeites: handmaidens of counterrevolution

The imperialist campaign for “democratic” counterrevolution in China is echoed by the majority of the Labourite left, as can be seen in their support for the “Free Tibet” cause, which originated with the machinations of the American CIA and other imperialist forces intent on fomenting capitalist counterrevolution in China. A case in point is Peter Taaffe’s Committee for a Workers International (CWI), known in Britain as the Socialist Party, which supports the recent anti-Communist riots in Tibet. Calling for Tibet’s “right to independence”, the CWI solidarises with the supposed “radical layers” among Tibetan youth as against the “conciliatory approach” of the Dalai Lama, while admitting that “national independence on a capitalist basis can in no way solve the problems of the impoverished masses” (China Worker online, 18 March). As we note in our article (see page 5) the Taaffeites are enemies of the Chinese deformed workers state who are willing to consign the Tibetan masses to the return of the Lamaocracy.

The CWI is currently conducting a debate about the class nature of China in which all the participants agree that, with the market reforms, the bureaucracy has restored capitalism in China. They merely disagree over whether it is “fully” capitalist yet. One contribution posted on the CWI’s Chinese-English website says:

“Capitalism in China has been recreated under the tutelage of the Stalinist ruling party, in close interaction with overseas capitalism through the process of globalisation. The Chinese capitalist class is extremely dependent on this state, primarily to protect it from the working class, and for this reason its democratic ambitions — and desire for regime change — are almost non-existent.”

—“China at the Crossroads”, China Worker online, 24 May 2007

CWI leader Peter Taaffe says China “has been engaged in an almost 30-year long process of restoring capitalism” but although it is travelling “in the direction of a full capitalist economy”, China “has not arrived at this situation yet” (“Has capitalism been fully restored?”, 22 March 2007). Another contribution titled “China’s capitalist counterrevolution” by Vincent Kolo in Socialism Today (December 2007-January 2008) says: “Which is the ruling economic class in China today? With the destruction of the planned economy it is no longer the working class. A section of the former Maoist bureaucracy has converted itself through the ‘reform process’ into a property owning class.”

The CWI’s attempt to portray China as capitalist is but a “theoretical” rationale for a long-standing policy of supporting the forces of “bourgeois-democratic” counterrevolution in the degenerated and deformed workers states. In the name of “democracy” the Taaffe organisation supported imperialist-backed, anti-Communist forces such as Polish Solidarność in the 1980s. In 1991 in Moscow they stood on the barricades with Boris Yeltsin’s forces of counterrevolution. It didn’t matter that the Taaffeites formally held that these countries were workers states governed by Stalinist regimes. The bottom line is that this social-democratic organisation’s programme is counterposed to defence of the workers states.

Taaffe asserts that the Chinese regime has been “at pains to avoid the ‘big bang’ return to capitalism witnessed in Russia in the early 1990s”. This is a denial that capitalist counterrevolution would have to triumph at the political level and destroy the Chinese workers state. In fact, for capitalism to triumph and smash the workers states, first in Eastern Europe and then the Soviet Union between 1989 and 1992, the Stalinist governments had to be replaced with imperialist-backed, anti-Communist regimes. In every case, the militaries were reconstituted, their officer corps purged of pro-socialist individuals; Boris Yeltsin banned the Communist Party and anti-Communist witch hunts raged through those societies (and still do).

We of the ICL fought tooth and nail against the forces of counterrevolution in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. When a proletarian political revolution began to develop in the DDR in 1989, we mobilised all the forces of our international organisation to intervene there. We fought against capitalist counterrevolution, and for the revolutionary reunification of Germany, ie for proletarian political revolution to oust the Stalinist bureaucracy in the DDR and for social revolution in West Germany to overthrow the rule of the bourgeoisie, for a red Germany of workers councils. We called for the formation of workers and soldiers councils, in order to organise the working class as a class for itself, as a contender for political rule. Against illusions that the ruling Stalinist SED-PDS could be reformed, we fought to build a new egalitarian Leninist party.

The potential for a proletarian political revolution in the DDR was expressed on 3 January 1990 in the pro-socialist, united-front rally against the fascist desecration of the Soviet war memorial at Berlin-Treptow and in defence of the workers states in the DDR and the Soviet Union, which we initiated and which was taken up by the SED-PDS. In front of more than 250,000 demonstrators, we Trotskyists called for political revolution and warned against the social-democratic SPD as the Trojan horse for counterrevolution. The Taaffeites at that time were both organisationally and politically part of the SPD.

In Moscow in 1991 when Boris Yeltsin seized power in a countercoup, our comrades mass distributed a leaflet titled: “Soviet Workers: Defeat Yeltsin-Bush Counterrevolution!” We fought for unconditional military defence of the Soviet Union and the Eastern European deformed workers states against imperialist attack and counterrevolution from within, while fighting for proletarian political revolution to oust the parasitic Stalinist bureaucracies and replace them with regimes based on workers democracy and revolutionary internationalism.

Triumph of the Chinese Revolution

With the Chinese Revolution of 1949, capitalist rule was smashed and Chinese society fundamentally transformed. This victory was won by Mao Zedong’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), which was based on the peasantry. The capitalists and large landowners fled to Taiwan, where they were protected by US imperialism. Mainland China, which had been divided and plundered by the imperialists, was unified. Under the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) China was reconstructed as a workers state with a centrally planned economy which was a huge social leap forward. Over the next few years, land was distributed to the peasants, the key industries were expropriated and a significant component of state-owned industry was built up. The liberating effect of the Revolution is evident in the status of Chinese women, whose previous miserable existence was symbolised by the barbaric practice of footbinding. By 1949, significant inroads had already been made into footbinding’s permanent eradication and the revolution enabled women to make enormous progress.

After the defeat of the Chinese Revolution of 1925-27, when the bourgeois nationalist Guomindang massacred the insurrectionary workers in Shanghai in 1927, the CCP eventually abandoned the working class. By the time of the 1949 Revolution the CCP rested on the peasantry. Only due to an exceptional historical situation was it able to smash capitalism. The working class had been atomised by the horrific oppression under both the Guomindang and the Japanese imperialists. After the defeat of Japan in the Second World War, bourgeois rule was unstable, and the Guomindang regime was decaying from within. An additional factor was the existence of the Soviet workers state, which was able to offer economic and military assistance to the PLA during the Chinese civil war and then to the new People’s Republic.

The CCP regime suppressed independent action by the working class, while falsely claiming to be building “socialism in one country”. This stood in sharp contradiction to the beginnings of the Soviet Union in the October Revolution of 1917, a proletarian revolution led by Lenin and Trotsky’s Bolshevik party that translated Marxism into deeds. The October Revolution showed that the working class can take power and wield it through democratically elected workers, peasants and soldiers soviets. The internationalist early Soviet Union became a beacon to the working class and oppressed worldwide.

To the Bolshevik leadership, it was clear that workers revolutions in more advanced countries were necessary to establish an international planned economy and produce the social growth rates and abundance which are the necessary foundation for socialism — a society based on equality and without material want. But the revolutionary uprisings after World War I, in particular in Germany, were crushed through the betrayal of the pro-capitalist social democrats and because of the weakness of the fledgling Communist Parties outside of the Soviet Union. In the wake of these defeats, especially that of the German Revolution in 1923, a conservative nationalist bureaucracy took political power in the Soviet Union in late 1923-early 1924. In the course of the degeneration of the workers state, Stalin and his clique turned away from proletarian internationalism and invented the anti-Marxist dogma of “building socialism in one country” and “peaceful coexistence” with imperialism. The Stalinists sabotaged revolutionary possibilities abroad, not least the Chinese Revolution of 1925-27, which they betrayed by subordinating the young CCP to the bourgeois Guomindang.

Historically, the anti-revolutionary character of the Chinese bureaucracy can be seen in its alliance with US imperialism against the Soviet Union, a logical consequence of the search for “peaceful coexistence” with the capitalist rulers internationally. In 1972, as bombs were raining down on Vietnam, Mao Zedong hosted US president Nixon in Beijing. These politics were continued by Mao’s successor, Deng Xiaoping. In 1979, four years after the heroic Vietnamese had defeated the US, Chinese troops criminally invaded Vietnam. Shortly thereafter, China supported the murderous Islamic mujahedin in Afghanistan, who were fighting against the Soviet Red Army. In many respects both the Mao and Deng wings of the bureaucracy helped imperialism destroy the Soviet Union. And, not least, it was Mao’s alliance with US imperialism that prepared the way for Deng to open the door to imperialism’s economic penetration of China.

Both under Mao and under Deng and his successors, including the current leadership, the CCP bureaucracy has adhered to the Stalinist policy of “socialism in one country” and “peaceful coexistence” with imperialism. This can be seen in the Beijing bureaucracy’s preservation of Hong Kong as a capitalist enclave within the People’s Republic following its rightful return to China in 1997. As against what the bureaucracy refers to as “one country, two systems” we wrote at the time:

“Trotskyists can only cheer as the rotted British Empire loses its last major colonial holding with the lowering of the bloody Union Jack and the raising of the five-starred red flag of the People’s Republic on July 1. But as the Spartacist League/ Britain wrote in ‘Britain Out of Hong Hong!’ (Workers Hammer No. 109, September 1989), we are for ‘One country, one system — under workers rule!’ ”

Workers Hammer no 157, July/August 1997

Related to the pipedream of “socialism in one country”, the present CCP leaders believe that they can modernise China, transforming it into the world’s next superpower, through ever greater integration into the world capitalist economy. This ignores the economic vulnerabilities of China in its relations with the world capitalist market, the implacable hostility of the imperialist bourgeoisies to the Chinese workers state, and the internal instability of Chinese society due to growing social unrest.

While the market-oriented reforms initiated by Deng in 1978 were made possible by the previous successes of the planned economy under Mao, they were an attempt to tackle the incompetence of the bureaucratic command economy within the framework of Stalinist bonapartism. As we wrote in the 1980s:

“Within the framework of Stalinism, there is thus an inherent tendency to replace centralized planning and management with market mechanisms. Since managers and workers cannot be subject to the discipline of soviet democracy (workers councils), increasingly the bureaucracy sees subjecting the economic actors to the discipline of market competition as the only answer to economic inefficiency.”

—“For Central Planning Through Soviet Democracy”, printed in Spartacist pamphlet, “Market Socialism” in Eastern Europe, July 1988

The Stalinist bureaucracy opened the country to imperialist investment, privatised strategically unimportant companies and ultimately abandoned the state monopoly of foreign trade. The planned economy was replaced by market mechanisms and agriculture was decollectivised, so that peasant families could get their own little piece of land on a long-term lease. Over time, the regime abolished the “iron rice bowl”, which was based on guaranteeing workers a job for life and was rightly seen by urban workers as an important gain of the 1949 Revolution. But a country as poor and backward as China could obviously not offer hundreds of millions of peasants a job in state industry, guaranteed for life and at a significantly higher wage rate than the income of members of a rural commune.

When Mao died in 1976, China had constructed a substantial heavy industrial sector, but it remained an overwhelmingly (80 per cent) rural society. Agricultural production remained technologically backward and a large fraction of the peasantry lived in abject poverty. For the past two decades, China has experienced an economic growth rate of close to ten per cent. More than 40 per cent of the population is now urbanised. Chinese industry has grown enormously and over half the working population is now employed in manufacturing, transport, construction and the public service sector. Up to 150 million peasants became proletarians since market reforms began. According to Monthly Labour Review (July 2005), there were twice as many industrial workers in China as in all the G-7 states together. The proletarianisation of the peasantry on such a scale is a progressive development of great historical significance.

Development in China puts the growth in capitalist neocolonies in the shade, whether it be “tiger economies” like Indonesia and South Korea, or India, which won its independence around the same time as China but remained capitalist. India’s per capita gross national product is only half that of China, while the poverty rate of China is only half that of India. Child malnutrition is 75 per cent lower in China than in India. In China, almost 90 per cent of women are literate, almost twice as high as in India.

At the same time, the “reform” era has also seen a widening of inequalities, both within the cities and between urban and rural areas and therefore China today is seething with discontent. Economic penetration by the imperialists has enormously strengthened the forces for internal counterrevolution. A class of capitalist entrepreneurs has developed with family and financial connections both to the CCP bureaucracy and to the Chinese capitalists in Taiwan and Hong Kong. A layer of well-to-do managers, professionals and technocrats has been created that enjoys a lifestyle like that in the West.

The policies carried out by the Beijing Stalinists have driven a significant component of the working class and rural toilers into poverty. Important social gains such as healthcare have been eroded, millions of unemployed are looking for new jobs, and if they find work at all, they are employed in the private sector under much worse conditions, without the social benefits of the state sector. Some 150 million migrant workers have moved from the countryside into the cities, where they toil under wretched conditions with few rights and are often scorned by urban workers.

These inequalities have resulted in massive struggles, which we support: workers protesting against non-payment of wages, lay-offs or poor working conditions; peasants protesting against corruption and illegal theft of their land by party bureaucrats or against environmental pollution. The ruling bureaucracy is clearly split between elements who want to pursue the economic “reforms” unabated, those who want more state intervention and others who want to return to a bureaucratically planned economy.

According to the bureaucrats’ official statistics, there were 87,000 protests in 2005 alone. But militancy at the economic level is not enough. The working class must take up the struggle at the political level. What’s needed is a revolutionary vanguard party in China to fight for a proletarian political revolution based on unconditional military defence of the deformed workers state. Such a party would fight to unite all sectors of the working class in an alliance with the rural workers and the urban poor. Migrant workers must receive all the rights of legal residents — including access to healthcare, housing and public education — and equal pay for equal work.

As we explain in our article “China’s ‘Market Reforms’ — A Trotskyist Analysis” (Workers Vanguard nos 874 and 875, 4 August and 1 September 2006), a real reduction in the gap between the city and the countryside requires a massive redistribution and reallocation of economic resources. The introduction of modern technology in the countryside demands a qualitatively higher industrial base than that which exists today. Correspondingly, a growth in agricultural productivity would necessitate an enormous extension of industrial jobs in the urban areas in order to absorb the huge workforce which would no longer be required in the countryside. This would no doubt be a lengthy process, especially given the still limited size and relatively low productivity of China’s industrial base.

All this shows the strategic necessity of extending the Chinese Revolution to advanced capitalist countries like Japan and of establishing an international planned economy. This will determine both the tempo and ultimately the viability of this perspective. A red China of workers and peasants councils would be a beacon for the oppressed working masses of Asia and the entire world. A victorious proletarian political revolution would deal a deathblow to the bourgeoisie’s “death of communism” propaganda, and it would lift up the downtrodden masses of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and inspire the workers of Western Europe.

Social democracy abhors Bolshevik Revolution

Ever since the October Revolution of 1917, social democracy has condemned the workers states in the name of “democracy”, as a declaration of support to its own bourgeoisie. In Germany in 1918-19, the social democracy drowned the revolution in the blood of thousands upon thousands of workers and had revolutionary leaders Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg murdered. “Left” social democrat Karl Kautsky ranted against the dictatorship of the proletariat in Russia and propagated the illusion of “pure democracy”. In 1918, in The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky, Lenin replied that “democracy” is a type of state. And the state — at its core the police, army and courts — is not neutral. So the question always posed for Marxists is: democracy for which class? Marx drew the decisive lesson from the Paris Commune of 1871 that the proletariat cannot simply take over the bourgeois state machinery, but must shatter it and replace it with its own state: the dictatorship of the proletariat. And that is exactly what the social democrats abhor about what Lenin and Trotsky’s Bolsheviks did in the October Revolution of 1917.

As Marx and Lenin explained, every state is an instrument of class rule, including the modern bourgeois republic, where the democratic forms of government conceal the rule of the bourgeoisie particularly effectively. Lenin’s question to Kautsky applies just as much to the CWI today: “Can it be that the learned Kautsky has never heard that the more highly democracy is developed, the more the bourgeois parliaments are subjected by the stock exchange and the bankers?” (The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky [1918]). What is necessary is a socialist revolution that smashes the bourgeois state machinery and replaces it by the dictatorship of the proletariat. This is what the CWI, like Kautsky, is opposed to.

Because it stands firmly in the traditions of social democracy, Taaffe’s CWI regurgitates the bourgeoisie’s “human rights” campaigns against the workers states, as a cover for supporting counterrevolutionary pro-imperialist forces. The CWI upholds the programmatic core of the old Labour Party which saved capitalist rule in Britain during the revolutionary wave that shook the capitalist world at the end of World War I. When the Bolsheviks led the October 1917 Revolution to victory, the Labour Party leadership was hostile to the Revolution and took it upon itself to act as a bulwark against the spread of Bolshevism, including by derailing the mass revolutionary mobilisations that swept Britain, particularly in 1920.

As an antidote to Bolshevism, the Labour Party in 1918 adopted “Clause IV”, a nominal commitment to “common ownership of the means of production”. This was a cynical ploy to dupe the working class into believing that “socialism” could be achieved “democratically”, through parliament, without smashing the capitalist state and without establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat. Labour’s pretence to “socialism” rested upon a nominal commitment to nationalising industry through legislation in parliament.

Clause IV was abolished from the Labour Party’s constitution by Tony Blair in 1994 but it remains the cornerstone of the programme of Peter Taaffe’s Socialist Party. Marking the 90th anniversary of Clause IV’s adoption, the Taaffeites noted that since the “socialist” Clause IV was adopted, it “has been denounced by ultra-lefts as being a fig-leaf disguising the capitalist character of the Labour Party”, and that “it is the job of the Socialist Party and the Campaign for a New Workers’ Party that it has initiated, to help mobilise the level of support that the celebrated Clause attracted in 1918” (“1918: 2008, Clause IV and nine decades of workers struggles”, Socialist Party website, 20 February).

Taaffe revises Marxism on the state

Peter Taaffe’s ludicrous assertion that the “Chinese state itself is of a ‘mixed character’ ”, which occupies a “halfway house position” (“Has capitalism been fully restored?”, 22 March 2007), is a flagrant denial of the Marxist understanding that the state is an instrument for the suppression of one class by another. Taaffe claims that the state in China “can, under certain conditions — for instance, where there is a class deadlock — play a relatively ‘independent’ role”. This utterly social-democratic view of the state in China as a neutral force is very much in keeping with the CWI’s programme for Britain and other capitalist countries, which is based on peddling illusions that “socialism” can be achieved through legislation in parliament, ie without smashing the bourgeois state. As the Socialist Party’s election manifesto for 2007 put it: “Take into public ownership the top 150 companies, banks and building societies that dominate the economy, under democratic working-class control and management.”

While denying the need for the capitalist state to be smashed in Britain, his home terrain, Taaffe insists the Chinese state must be dismantled, saying: “The present ‘halfway house’ state combines some of the worst features of Stalinism and capitalism. It must be completely dismantled; it is incapable of ‘reform’ ”. This call to smash the Chinese state is a declaration that, when the fate of China as a workers state is decisively posed, the CWI will be on the side of forces for “democratic” counterrevolution. For Marxists it is axiomatic that the working class must establish its own state power in the course of a revolution to defend itself and its organs of power against the blood-soaked capitalist state.

Contrary to Taaffe, the Stalinist bureaucracy is not capable of bringing about a cold, step-by-step restoration of capitalism from above. The ruling Stalinist bureaucracy is a brittle, contradictory caste, not a class based on private ownership of the means of production. In 1936, in The Revolution Betrayed, Trotsky explained in regard to the Soviet degenerated workers state that “a further development of the accumulating contradictions can as well lead to socialism as back to capitalism; h) on the road to capitalism the counterrevolution would have to break the resistance of the workers; i) on the road to socialism the workers would have to overthrow the bureaucracy”.

The idea that a workers state can gradually evolve towards capitalism was refuted at the theoretical level by Trotsky as far back as 1933, when he condemned such notions of a gradual, imperceptible, bourgeois counterrevolution in the Soviet Union. In “The Class Nature of the Soviet State” he wrote: “The dictatorship of the proletariat was established by means of a political overturn and a civil war of three years. The class theory of society and historical experience equally testify to the impossibility of the victory of the proletariat through peaceful methods, that is, without grandiose class battles, weapons in hand. How, in that case, is the imperceptible, ‘gradual,’ bourgeois counterrevolution conceivable?” Trotsky’s conclusion certainly applies to the CWI’s approach to China today: “He who asserts that the Soviet government has been gradually changed from proletarian to bourgeois is only, so to speak, running backwards the film of reformism.”

The accumulating contradictions in China will lead sooner or later to the collapse of Stalinist bonapartism and the political shattering of the ruling Communist Party. But whether this is followed by a capitalist counterrevolution that breaks the resistance of the Chinese working class and destroys the workers state, or by a proletarian political revolution that overthrows the rule of the Stalinist bureaucracy, establishing the political rule of workers and peasants soviets in China and fighting to extend the Chinese Revolution internationally, will be decided in struggle.

Taaffeites equate market reforms with capitalist counterrevolution

As revolutionary Marxists, we do not oppose as such China’s extensive economic relations with the capitalist world. A revolutionary workers state would seek to trade with capitalist countries, as the early Soviet state did under the revolutionary leadership of Lenin and Trotsky’s Bolshevik party. A China of workers and peasants councils based on workers democracy would re-establish a centrally planned economy and reinstate the state monopoly of foreign trade. It would expropriate the Chinese capitalist entrepreneurs and renegotiate the terms of foreign investment in the interests of Chinese workers — insisting for example on at least the same benefits and working conditions as in the state sector. It would encourage the voluntary collectivisation of agriculture on the basis of large-scale mechanised and scientific farming, while recognising that this requires substantial material aid from successful workers revolutions in more economically advanced countries. A revolutionary regime in China would actively promote revolutions internationally, understanding that genuine communism can only come via a globally integrated and planned socialist economy based on the most advanced industry and technology following proletarian revolution in the imperialist centres.

The market reforms have exacerbated the contradictions in China, on one hand feeding the growth of enormous forces for capitalist counterrevolution while at the same time giving rise to one of the most powerful industrial proletariats in the world. Coinciding with the period in which the CWI claims counterrevolution has been underway, China has experienced a prodigious expansion of industrial capacity with a corresponding increase in the social weight of the urban working class. China has also developed a large technical intelligentsia. Overall there has been a substantial improvement in living standards, including in the countryside, with much of the populace gaining access to modern industrial culture.

The significant development of China’s infrastructure in recent years has confounded bourgeois commentators. The Economist noted with envy that Beijing’s new airport terminal — the largest in the world — “was planned and built in four years by an army of 50,000 workers”, in contrast to Britain where, “it took as long to conduct a public inquiry into the proposed construction of Heathrow’s Terminal Five as it took to build Beijing’s new airport terminal from scratch”. In China, between 2001 and the end of 2005 “more was spent on roads, railways and other fixed assets than was spent in the previous 50 years” and “since the 1990s China has built an expressway network criss-crossing the country that is second only to America’s interstate highway system in length” (Economist, 14 February). At the same time, industrialisation has come at a huge cost: China is plagued by water shortages and environmental pollution. Acid rain reduces agricultural yields and two in three cities suffer from water shortages.

While the Chinese economy will not be immune from the economic downturn facing most of the capitalist world today, China will not be affected in the same way, because it is a workers state and the core of the economy is based on collectivised property. A prevalent myth is that the Chinese economy primarily produces cheap manufactured goods which are then exported. China is the world’s largest producer of steel (producing the world’s largest cranes) and of concrete, as well as the third largest car producer (behind the US and Japan) and second largest car market. Much of that steel and concrete are used for building Chinese infrastructure and the manufactured goods are increasingly for the home market. While the productivity of labour in China is increasing, it remains very low compared to that of the US, Germany and Japan. Increasing the productivity of labour requires advanced technology. Ultimately China’s vulnerability through international trade — compounded by the bureaucracy’s dismantling of the state monopoly of foreign trade — and its low productivity underscore the necessity of workers revolutions in the imperialist centres.

At a number of points the CWI’s Vincent Kolo (“China’s capitalist counterrevolution”, Socialism Today, December 2007-January 2008) compares China unfavourably to post-Soviet Russia (for example, in terms of the percentage of government revenue contributed by state-owned enterprises). But he ignores the most important and obvious difference between China and post-Soviet Russia. In the 1990s, Russia and also Ukraine, as a consequence of capitalist counterrevolution, experienced a catastrophic economic collapse unprecedented in the history of any advanced capitalist society except in wartime. The CWI bears its share of responsibility for this disaster, having supported counterrevolution. The windfall gain Russia has obtained in recent years from the price boom in oil and natural gas has done little to repair its tattered social fabric. A striking index is the sharp decline in life expectancy especially for men. Even though China’s per capita gross domestic product is only a third that of Russia, the life expectancy of Chinese men (70 years) is far longer than that of Russian men (59 years).

Kolo uses a plethora of statistics to deny that China has been able to make rapid economic progress precisely because it remains a workers state. The 150 large state-owned enterprises directly controlled by the central ministries in Beijing account for one-third of China’s total national output. And that third constitutes the strategic core of China’s industrial economy. Even Kolo acknowledges that the “Big Four” banks account for 71 per cent of all loans for investment purposes. Since the early 1980s the CCP regime has used the state-owned banks as its main institutional instrument in seeking to direct the economy. In the past few years the Beijing authorities have allowed limited foreign ownership of the banks without relinquishing effective managerial control. The mass of the economic surplus generated in mainland China (except by firms owned by foreign and off-shore Chinese capitalists) continues to be channelled into and out of a handful of state-owned banks.

For proletarian internationalism!

The CWI retails the protectionism of social-democratic trade union bureaucrats in imperialist countries who howl that China — and not the world capitalist economic system — is responsible for maintaining low wages in the poorest regions of the world. Kolo says that: “China today is synonymous with vast sweatshops” and that the “CCP regime today is instrumental in spreading neo-liberalism globally”, adding that “Chinese companies, many of which are state-owned, are hated across whole swathes of Africa due to their union-busting, corrupt, law-breaking and environmentally destructive practises.” This is identical to the anti-Communist complaint of the British Trades Union Congress (TUC) against China’s export of textiles, the impact of which they say “has been to create mass unemployment in countries like Lesotho, and drive wages to rock bottom prices in countries like Bangladesh. And all over the developing world, workers’ rights to organise have been under attack so that employers can freely exploit labour so that they can compete with the Chinese” (“China and manufacturing”, TUC statement, 10 December 2005).

Such anti-Communist China-bashing is also a cover for the social-democratic union bureaucrats’ treachery to the working class at home which is based on class collaboration rather than class struggle. This goes hand-in-hand with chauvinist protectionism, summed up in the call “British jobs for British workers” — a slogan long associated with the fascists and recently embraced by Gordon Brown. Pro-imperialist protectionism is poison for the working class, reinforcing national divisions and subordinating it to its own bourgeoisie. Against such chauvinism, we advance Karl Marx’s slogan: “Workers of the world unite!”

Pro-“democracy” movements for capitalist restoration

The CWI claims that Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution applies to China today, as it does to the neocolonial capitalist countries like India, while perverting Trotsky’s theory to justify supporting pro-imperialist counterrevolutionary forces. The CWI article “China at the Crossroads” says: “The tasks facing workers in China today are a confirmation in a new and original form of Trotsky’s theory of the permanent revolution”, adding that there is a need “to link the struggle for democratic rights with the struggle for socialism”.

Permanent revolution, a programme developed by Trotsky in 1905, was in essence the programme carried out by the Bolsheviks in the Russian Revolution. It is the only means of achieving the democratic tasks in countries of belated capitalist development, such as China prior to the 1949 Revolution. Permanent revolution holds that the proletariat must place itself at the head of the peasant masses in a struggle for socialist revolution, against the colonial powers and against the national bourgeoisie and landlords, as part of a programme for revolution internationally.

This is a far cry from the CWI’s programme which is to seek out antiCommunist political opposition forces in China, particularly those masquerading as workers organisations. A key player among such forces is Han Dongfang, founder of China Labour Bulletin, who has direct connections to the European and American imperialists. Han, who is also called the “Chinese Lech Walesa” after the leader of counterrevolutionary Solidarność in Poland, has for years been a regular spokesman for Washington’s Radio Free Asia, the radio station of the CIA, operating under the direction of, among others, Condoleezza Rice, who is on its board of directors. Han — the CIA’s favourite dissident — is reproached by the CWI for having illusions in the Stalinists, because he supposedly wants to win the official union federation “to a democratic, fighting standpoint”. This is “completely unrealistic”, says the CWI which stands for “independent” unions, just as it did when helping to build Solidarność in the 1980s. Contrary to the CWI, the fight for unions independent of the Stalinist bureaucracy in China must be based on unconditional military defence of the Chinese deformed workers state. Independent unions must stand in irreconcilable opposition to the imperialists and their ideological agencies, including the counterrevolutionary “non-governmental” organisations. Defence of workers’ rights presupposes above all the defence of the Chinese workers state and its collectivised economy.

Indeed, the CWI raises a thinly veiled call for the Chinese deformed workers state to legalise the utterly counterrevolutionary Guomindang, which was driven from the mainland by the 1949 Revolution: “Marxists support the right of all parties, except fascists (which use terror against the working class and all democratic rights), to organise independently of the state. This means we would not oppose the legalisation of the GMD, however much we oppose its anti-working class policies” (China Worker online, 24 May 2007). This stands completely in continuity with the CWI’s support for counterrevolution in the deformed workers states of Eastern Europe and in the degenerated workers state of the Soviet Union in the name of democracy.

The CWI actually defends “democratic” capitalist Taiwan against the Chinese deformed workers state. Upholding “independence” for Taiwan, Taaffe implies it is a distinct nation, saying: “There is now clearly a consciousness of a separate entity, Taiwan, and a broad ‘national consciousness’ amongst the majority of the population” (“Marxists, Taiwan and the National Question”,, 26 August 2005). Taiwan has been part of China for centuries. For the imperialists, above all Japan and the US, Taiwan is a dagger at the throat of the Chinese deformed workers state and a springboard for counterrevolution on the mainland, which is why they arm it to the teeth.

In a military conflict between China and Taiwan — which could certainly result in a counterrevolutionary imperialist attack on China — we naturally side with the deformed workers state, which we unconditionally militarily defend. In opposition to the Beijing bureaucracy’s policy of “one country, two systems”, which is intended by the bureaucracy as a pledge to preserve private property, we fight for the revolutionary reunification of China and Taiwan through proletarian political revolution against the bureaucracy on the mainland and social revolution to bring down the Chinese bourgeoisie in Taiwan. The CWI takes a side with the Taiwanese bourgeoisie and the imperialists in the name of “democracy”, saying: “Nevertheless, the Chinese regime is a dictatorship. Moreover, from the standpoint of the Taiwanese masses they would not wish to put themselves under its control, preferring the democratic rights, however limited, which they enjoy under a bourgeois-democratic regime, which is what Taiwan is” (, 26 August 2005).

In 1989-90 in Germany — which was until capitalist reunification one nation separated, like China today, by a class line — the CWI argued the reverse. At that time it trumpeted: “The SPD’s Germany Policy — An Offensive for Unity and Socialism Is Needed”, stating: “We support the unification of every nation — even the German one — as a historically progressive development and as a democratic right” (Voran supplement, 25 January 1990). In both cases one thing remains the same for the CWI: it is always on the side of counterrevolution, of “democratic” capitalism against “Stalinist dictatorship”, which in reality was a form of the dictatorship of the proletariat, albeit deformed.

The question of revolution and counterrevolution in China is a vital question for the working class of the whole world. We fight to build Trotskyist parties worldwide as part of a reforged Fourth International. The working class in Britain must be won to the understanding that it is necessary to defend China against the British bourgeoisie and its social-democratic agents. This constitutes a central component of breaking workers from their illusions in bourgeois democracy and ultimately mobilising them to overthrow British imperialism and to set up a federation of workers republics in the British Isles as part of a Socialist United States of Europe.


Workers Hammer No. 202

WH 202

Spring 2008


For unconditional military defence of the Chinese deformed workers state!

China is not capitalist

For proletarian political revolution!


Quote of the quarter

May 1968 in France


Remember Jean Charles de Menezes!

Craven reformists back cops


Defend Chinese deformed workers state!

Counterrevolutionary riots in Tibet


New York Holiday Appeal for class-war prisoners

Class-struggle defence and the fight to free Mumia Abu-Jamal


Elections for London mayor:

No choice for workers!

No vote to Livingstone, Respect or the Left List!