Australasian Spartacist No. 198

Winter 2007


"Market Reforms" Sharpen Contradictions in China

Defend, Extend the Gains of the 1949 Chinese Revolution!

For Workers Political Revolution to Oust the Stalinist Bureaucracy!

The following article is based on presentations given at Spartacist forums in Sydney and Melbourne on 19 and 21 April respectively. The Melbourne forum drew individuals from the Trades Hall-based Australia Asia Worker Links, the Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group, the Communist Party of Australia and Democratic Socialist Perspective (DSP). The lively extended discussion that followed the presentation included political combat against DSP cadre Chris Slee, who argued that China today is capitalist. This social-democratic line was formally adopted by the DSP in 1999.

Slee asserted in the forum, “the extent to which the privatisation has gone on is such that you can’t really say that the Chinese state defends the collective ownership of the means of production any more and therefore, according to Trotsky’s criteria, you can’t really say that it’s a workers state.” Here he echoes arguments in his February letter to Workers Vanguard, the International Communist League’s (ICL) flagship newspaper published by the Spartacist League/U.S. (see page 7). Later Slee also pointed to “decisions of the Chinese bureaucracy to go on a policy of full-out capitalist restoration.”

While pontificating about putting “too much credence on the Stalinist bureaucracy,” Slee and the DSP in fact falsely invest the Chinese bureaucracy with the capacity to carry out a gradual cold restoration of capitalism from above and transform itself into a new possessing class. This anti-communist line is counterposed to the Trotskyist program of unconditional military defence of China and runs counter to Trotsky’s analysis of the Stalinist bureaucracy as a brittle, parasitic caste dependent for its existence on the proletarian property forms of the workers state, while acting as a transmission belt for the pressures of world imperialism in undermining the workers state.

As one comrade put it in the discussion, for the DSP, “what happens to China is not looked at...from the point of view of the international working class’ fight.” Slee and the DSP share the outlook of the nationalist, protectionist, pro-capitalist Laborite union misleaders they tail, who, in the service of their anti-communist China bashing, depict the powerful Chinese working class as hapless victims. The DSP (previously known as the Socialist Workers Party) have long been active agents for capitalist counterrevolution. In the 1980s and early 1990s, they lined up behind their “own” imperialists’ anti-Soviet war drive, championing the anti-Semitic, Catholic-reactionary Solidarność movement in Poland and cheering on Boris Yeltsin and capitalist counterrevolution in the Soviet Union in 1991-2. On China, they have sided with counterrevolutionary causes from “free Tibet” to “independence for Taiwan.”

Several comrades, including some who participated directly in the ICL’s fight against capitalist counterrevolutions in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, pointed to the disastrous consequences of these counterrevolutions, historic defeats for the world’s working class. In the former USSR, working people have been hit by all-sided devastation, including an enormous destruction of living standards, diminished life expectancy and social degradation. One SL supporter contrasted this devastation to the massive economic growth in China over decades to illustrate that China today is not capitalist. This is the only conclusion to draw, unless, as our supporter noted, “you want to believe that capitalist counterrevolution actually leads to economic growth and ‘democracy,’ which is of course the lie that is promoted by the imperialists.”

The DSP’s position on China today is a cover for capitulating to the Australian ruling class and its drive to smash this deformed workers state. The same supporter angrily put it to Slee: “Your party supported the Australian imperialist military takeover of East Timor. One can only assume [with] your argument that there’s nothing to defend in China, you’re preparing the ground for Australian imperialism to get their cut in China.”

The DSP is a “made-in-Australia” social-chauvinist formation lacking even the most rudimentary loyalty to the cause of the international working class. In late April, only months after the occupying Australian imperialist military murderously gunned down two men in an East Timorese refugee camp, the DSP National Committee passed a resolution reaffirming their tepid criticisms of the 2006 imperialist intervention and vowing “we will not be raising the ‘troops out’ demand at this stage”! Posted on the Green Left discussion site by DSP honcho Peter Boyle, the resolution enthusiastically upheld their treacherous 1999 campaign for Australian imperialist military to be sent to East Timor.

The DSP’s record contrasts sharply with the ICL’s proletarian internationalist fight to oppose the racist Australian rulers at home and defend the gains of the international working class. Standing on the ICL’s powerful interventions into the incipient workers political revolution in East Germany and against counterrevolution in the former Soviet Union, and in the tradition of Trotsky’s unswerving defence of the gains of the Russian October Revolution, today we fight for the military defence of the Chinese deformed workers state against imperialist attack and internal capitalist counterrevolution.

In 1933, warning of the “tragic possibility” of counterrevolution in the Soviet Union, Trotsky wrote:

“But in the event of this worst possible variant, a tremendous significance for the subsequent course of the revolutionary struggle will be borne by the question: where are those guilty for the catastrophe? Not the slightest taint of guilt must fall upon the revolutionary internationalists. In the hour of mortal danger, they must remain on the last barricade.”

—“The Class Nature of the Soviet State” (October 1933)

This is the Trotskyist banner that the ICL intervenes with and the DSP vehemently opposes.

The open and democratic debate over political differences at the Melbourne Spartacist forum stands in stark contrast to the DSP’s vicious thug attack against us last year. Then, the faction-riven DSP lashed out with violence and big lies against the SL in an attempt to censor our Marxist politics—in particular our ongoing exposure of the DSP’s social-chauvinism over the Australian imperialist military occupation of East Timor (see “We Will Not Be Silenced!” ASp No. 196, Spring 2006). We repeat now, what we said then: “we will continue to argue program and principle against pseudo-socialists like the DSP in order to openly and clearly expose and defeat their sellout politics.”

* * *

In 1949, China experienced a profound social revolution as the peasant-based People’s Liberation Army (PLA) led by Mao Zedong’s Communist Party (CCP) overthrew the imperialist-backed, bourgeois-nationalist regime of Chiang Kai-shek’s Guomindang. The victory of Mao’s PLA destroyed the Chinese capitalist state, smashing the rule of the Chinese bourgeoisie and landlords, and ripped the country out of the clutches of the imperialist powers. This world historic event encouraged anti-colonial and revolutionary ferment among the oppressed Asian masses from Vietnam to Malaya to Indonesia and the Philippines while provoking hysteria amongst the imperialist powers. For Australia’s bourgeoisie, anti-communism and anti-Asian racism fused in the spectre of revolutions throughout Asia. Today, the imperialists aim to return China to the untrammeled imperialist exploitation and misery that existed prior to 1949. We say: Defend, extend the gains of the 1949 Chinese Revolution!

Led by the butcher Chiang Kai-shek and the remnants of his nationalist army, most of the Chinese capitalist class fled to Taiwan, where the Guomindang established a brutal regime under the protection of American imperialism. Others fled to British-ruled Hong Kong. In China, the power of the warlords, landowners and bourgeoisie had finally been destroyed. And a nation that had for a century been ravaged and divided by the imperialist powers was unified and liberated from their yoke.

The creation of a centrally planned, collectivised economy laid the basis for tremendous social progress for the worker and peasant masses. The new state redistributed land to the peasants and began expropriating key industries as it developed the state-owned industrial sector, initially with aid from the Soviet Union. By the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, the great bulk of private industry in China was nationalised and a state monopoly of foreign trade was imposed. The impact of these changes can be seen most graphically by the social gains for women, who made enormous advances over their previous miserable status, historically symbolised by the barbaric practice of foot binding. Free universal education brought literacy to the younger generation of Chinese women, allowing for their integration into economic and social life, while a 1950 marriage law banned concubinage and arranged marriages.

However, unlike the 1917 Russian Revolution, which was made by a class-conscious proletariat guided by the internationalism of Lenin and Trotsky’s Bolshevik party, the 1949 Chinese Revolution was bureaucratically deformed from its inception. The CCP established a regime modeled on the Stalinist bureaucracy in the Soviet Union, which had usurped political power from the Soviet proletariat in a political counterrevolution beginning in 1923-24 under Joseph Stalin. Decisive in shaping this outcome was the absence of the Chinese proletariat struggling in its own right for power. Having suffered two decades of deadly repression, under both the Guomindang and the brutal Japanese occupation, the Chinese proletariat was politically atomised. Moreover, Stalinism had repeatedly betrayed this working class, most notably during the 1925-27 revolutionary upheaval when the leadership of the CCP was directed by Stalin and his henchmen to subordinate itself to the Guomindang.

This resulted in the second Chinese Revolution being drowned in blood as Chiang Kai-shek’s nationalist forces massacred the Communists with an estimated 25,000 CCP members killed in 1927 alone. This bloodbath was followed by a reign of counterrevolutionary terror. All working-class organisations were decapitated; those that survived were forced underground. Only the supporters of Leon Trotsky sought to maintain their roots among the urban working class after this catastrophic defeat. Abandoning the cities for the countryside, the Stalinists effectively transformed themselves into a peasant-based party (see “The Origins of Chinese Trotskyism” Spartacist No. 53, Summer 1997).

Like the Stalinist bureaucracy in the Soviet Union, the Maoist regime of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) preached the anti-Marxist idea that socialism—a classless, egalitarian society based on material abundance—could be built in a single, very backward country. In China, as in the Soviet Union of Stalin and his heirs, “socialism in one country” in practice means betraying the struggles of the international proletariat in the service of “peaceful co-existence” with imperialism.

Following the Sino-Soviet split beginning in the late 1950s, the Maoist bureaucracy developed a treacherous alliance with U.S. imperialism against the Soviet Union. This alliance was consummated in 1972 with the visit of U.S. president Nixon to China while imperialist bombs rained on Vietnam. Carried on by Mao’s successor, Deng Xiaoping, it contributed to the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union in 1991-92, an historic defeat for the world’s proletariat and oppressed. The post-Soviet period has resulted in increased economic, political and military pressure on China by the world’s imperialists as they push for capitalist counterrevolution. This can be seen by their relentless striving for China to revalue the yuan upwards and make it fully convertible, further “open up” banking, and privatise the core state-owned enterprises. It can also be seen in the concerted military pressures being exerted against China.

Down With Counterrevolutionary U.S./Australia Alliance!

Today U.S. imperialism, fully backed by Australia, is encircling China with military installations—from South Korea to Central Asia. In 2005, the U.S. concluded a treaty with Japan to prop up the brutal capitalist bastion of Taiwan. In protest against this anti-China provocation, our comrades in Japan and the U.S. produced a joint statement demanding, “Down With U.S./Japan Counterrevolutionary Alliance! Defend the Chinese and North Korean Deformed Workers States!” (Workers Vanguard, No. 844, 18 March 2005). This alliance has been bolstered by the recent “Japan-Australia Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation,” which also transparently targets the Chinese and North Korean deformed workers states. We say: Down with the counterrevolutionary Japan/Australia military pact!

Alongside unequivocal support for the bloody U.S.-led occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Australian imperialists have also stepped up their militarism closer to home, signing new military agreements with Indonesia and the Philippines while carrying out their own brutal colonial-style occupations in the Solomons and East Timor. Down with Australia’s regional military agreements! U.S./Australia get out of Iraq, Afghanistan and the Philippines! Australia get out of East Timor, the Solomons! Hands off the South Pacific!

The Australian military occupation of East Timor not only enforces imperialist plunder of lucrative oil and gas fields but, along with escalating imperialist militarism in the Pacific, is also designed to shore up U.S./Australian military control in the region. The so-called “arc of instability” stretching from Fiji through to Aceh has long been a region of great power rivalries and anti-communist machinations in which Australia has claimed a special “responsibility.” Enforcing neo-colonial domination, the Australian imperialists have historically pursued their own interests in the region while playing the role of loyal anti-communist deputy sheriff to the U.S.

In June this year, a massive U.S./Australia joint military exercise, Operation Talisman Saber 2007, mobilising tens of thousands of U.S. and Australian troops, is scheduled to take place off the coast of Queensland. There are new military training grounds being developed for use by the U.S. and other allied military at Bradshaw and Yampi Sound in northern Australia. A new U.S. satellite tracking device, complementing other U.S. spy bases such as Pine Gap, is being established at Geraldton in Australia’s north west. A recently developed Joint Combined Training Centre allows high-tech communications between Australian military facilities and the U.S. Pacific War Fighting Center in Hawaii, facilitating imperialist military machinations in East Asia and the Pacific such as the Pentagon’s plans to neutralise China’s small nuclear arsenal in the event of an American nuclear first strike.

The growing imperialist military encirclement of China highlights the reactionary U.S./Australia alliance which has historically been based on “yellow peril” racism and vicious anti-communism. Switching their dependence for protection—as a wealthy, Christian, white imperialist enclave in Asia—from Britain to the U.S. following WWII, the racist Australian capitalist rulers clamoured for an alliance with the U.S., mainly as a guarantee against Japanese rearmament. This culminated in the signing of the ANZUS agreement in 1951, just two years after the Chinese Revolution and in the midst of the Korean War. ANZUS immediately became a Cold War weapon, particularly targeting the Soviet Union and Vietnam. Today it is a dagger aimed at the Chinese, North Korean and Vietnamese deformed workers states. As part of our proletarian internationalist defence of these deformed workers states and opposition to jackal Australian imperialism we demand: U.S. bases out! Down with the counterrevolutionary U.S./Australia alliance!

We Trotskyists of the International Communist League stand for the unconditional military defence of China and the other bureaucratically deformed workers states—North Korea, Vietnam and Cuba—against imperialist attack and internal capitalist counterrevolution. This includes supporting China and North Korea’s testing and possession of nuclear arms as a necessary deterrent against imperialist nuclear blackmail. Central to defence of the deformed workers states is the struggle for socialist revolution in the imperialist centres and proletarian political revolution within the deformed workers states to oust the nationalist Stalinist misleaders, whose policies of “peaceful coexistence” with imperialism and “market reforms” pave the way for capitalist counterrevolutionary forces.

Explosion Brewing in China

It would be easy to view the “market reforms” that Deng Xiaoping initiated at the beginning of the 1980s either as a total betrayal of the PRC or as the reason for its current growth level. Both of these views would be false. The “market reforms” were initially an attempt to respond, within the framework of Stalinist bonapartism, to the economic inefficiencies engendered by bureaucratic “commandism” (poor productivity, mediocre quality, scarcity etc). 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,” Workers Vanguard No. 454, 3 June 1988; reprinted in “Market Socialism” in Eastern Europe (July 1988)

When Mao died in 1976, China was still a predominantly rural peasant country, albeit having constructed a substantial, relatively modern, heavy industrial sector. Over three-quarters of the labour force were engaged in farming and over 80 percent of the population lived in the countryside. Agricultural output had failed to keep pace with industrial growth and low agricultural productivity was a barrier to industrialisation. Foreign investment in China, particularly since Mao’s death, has allowed certain areas of rapid growth that would not otherwise have been possible in an isolated and largely undeveloped workers state.

Economic expansion has had the effect of proletarianising millions of former peasants. Today, over 50 percent of the labour force is employed in manufacturing, construction, transport and the service sector, while 40 percent of the population is urbanised. From a Marxist standpoint, this is a progressive development. So too is the expansion of China’s industrial capacity and the growth of the world’s largest proletarian concentration.

But “market reforms” have also massively widened the gap in living conditions and are creating a wealthy new class of capitalists who have links to the CCP officialdom as well as to offshore Chinese capitalists. One of the results of the “reforms” has been that tens of millions—disproportionately women—have lost their jobs from the state-owned sector. The “reform” era has also seen a widening of inequalities, both within the cities and between the urban and rural areas. While in important respects there has been a substantial improvement in the conditions of the poorest peasantry—for example, an almost eightfold increase in the consumption of electricity between 1978 and 1997—the rural communes of the Mao era, which provided rudimentary medical care, primary and secondary schooling, old-age pensions and other social programs, have been disbanded. Now peasant families have to pay for medical care and schooling for their children. As a consequence rural areas lag far behind the cities in literacy and health services provision.

With the break-up of the rural communes a significant fraction of China’s peasantry has been transformed into proletarians. There are now tens of millions of migrant workers, many of whom are women, concentrated in manufacturing, textiles and consumer electronics—areas in which China is now a world leader. These migrant workers, subject to the restrictions of the hukou, or household registration system, established by Mao in the 1950s, have at best only a temporary urban status and are treated as second-class citizens. Millions have no formal rights, no job security and little or nothing in the way of social benefits. The bureaucracy’s deepening free market measures breed ever-sharpening contradictions, setting the stage for a social explosion in China.

Confronting stark and increasing social inequalities, the enormous and powerful industrial proletariat, including migrant workers, have engaged in continuous and widespread protests. In 2004-2005 women migrant workers struck a major Japanese electronics firm, Uniden, which employed 12,000 workers in Shenzhen. Their basic demands were for higher wages, improved conditions and better benefits (e.g., one month maternity leave for women workers). One of their main demands was to form their own trade union. We recognise that the formation of unions independent of the CCP bureaucracy is an important aspect of the more fundamental struggle for a proletarian political revolution. Precisely for that reason, it is necessary to define the political program, as distinct from the immediate economic demands, of union-type organisations in China today.

The imperialists, aided by the pro-capitalist union bureaucrats in their own countries, want to channel the just struggles of workers in China for increased wages and benefits and better conditions in an anti-Communist political direction. This aim is clearly represented by the Hong Kong-based China Labour Bulletin, whose leading figure, Han Dong-fang, has his own program on the CIA-funded Radio Free Asia. Han and his supporters are lauded in the West as harbingers of a Chinese version of the 1980s counterrevolutionary clerical-nationalist movement, Polish Solidarność. This self-styled “free trade union,” supported by Washington, Canberra and the Vatican, spearheaded capitalist counterrevolution in the Soviet sphere. Han and his ilk, championed by the reformist left, from Socialist Alternative (SAlt) to the DSP, are in reality enemies of the Chinese proletariat, serving the interests of the imperialists’ drive for capitalist counterrevolution. We stand for the formation of trade unions independent of the CCP bureaucracy and programmatically based on defence of the Chinese workers state against capitalist counterrevolution.

For Workers Political Revolution!

The Stalinist bureaucracy, which has ruled the PRC since its inception, is not a possessing class but a parasitic, brittle and contradictory caste. It rests atop the collectivised proletarian property forms, from which it derives its privileges, while acting as a transmission belt for the pressures of imperialism on the Chinese deformed workers state. The bureaucracy is forced to defend the gains embodied in the Chinese deformed workers state to the extent it fears the proletariat. Earlier this year, the rubber-stamp National People’s Congress formally enacted a law protecting private property that is set to take effect in October. At the same time, faced with seething anger at the base of society, the CCP regime has imprisoned some officials for corruption and is delaying some of the regime’s “free market” measures in the name of building a “harmonious society.”

The policies of the Chinese Stalinist bureaucracy, which are paving the way for capitalist counterrevolution, are simultaneously preparing the ground for a new revolutionary proletarian explosion—not a social revolution which would overturn the economic foundations of society as in the 1949 Chinese Revolution but a proletarian political revolution to oust the parasitic ruling oligarchy and place political power in the hands of the workers, soldiers and peasants councils (soviets). The tens of thousands of actions by workers and peasants every year for more than a decade indicate the raw material for proletarian political revolution in China. Indeed, the Chinese proletariat has already shown its potential to win over entire sections of the army of the deformed workers state in struggle against the Stalinist regime.

When working people entered into the student demonstrations centred on Tiananmen Square in May-June 1989, marking an incipient proletarian political revolution, both officers and ranks of numerous People’s Liberation Army (PLA) regiments refused orders to suppress the protests, forcing the regime to bring in other units to crush the workers uprising. None of the social contradictions that caused this implosion have gone away, nor has the class nature of the Chinese state changed to become capitalist. The huge and powerful Chinese proletariat standing at the head of the peasants and urban poor needs a Leninist-Trotskyist party to direct the spontaneous and localised workers’ struggles toward the seizure of political power.

A workers political revolution in China, establishing a government based on workers and peasants councils—premised on the defence of the collectivised property, which is the social foundation of the workers state—would struggle to unify all sectors of the working class in alliance with the rural toilers and the poor. Such a government would take up the fight against Han chauvinist discrimination against China’s minority peoples and fight to ensure migrant workers all the rights of legal urban residents, including access to employment in state-owned enterprises, healthcare, housing and public education and equal pay for equal work.

A proletarian political revolution would implement a centrally planned and managed economy to eliminate unemployment and provide basic economic security for all workers. But even the most farsighted revolutionary-internationalist leadership would not be able to overcome the severe limits facing China in a world dominated by more powerful capitalist-imperialist states. Key to the future of the Chinese workers state would be the extension of revolution to the imperialist centres.

Raising the banner of proletarian internationalism, a revolutionary government in China would truly shake the world. It would spark a fight for the revolutionary reunification of Korea—through proletarian political revolution in the beleaguered North and socialist revolution in the capitalist South. It would shatter the “death of communism” ideological climate pushed by the imperialist rulers and reverberate among the workers and oppressed of Asia from South Korea to Japan—the industrial powerhouse of Asia—to the Indian subcontinent, the Philippines, Indonesia and Australia.

China is Not Capitalist

Across the political spectrum today groups and academics maintain that during the quarter century of the post-Mao “reform” era, capitalism has been restored or is being irreversibly restored in China. Those pushing this view include fake-socialist groups in Australia, such as the DSP and the Socialist Party (SP). However the reality of the present day Chinese economy is both different, and far more complex.

Promoting the nationalist Stalinist dogma of “socialism in one country” and its corollary “peaceful coexistence,” the CCP regime from Mao through to the present day has conciliated imperialism, not least through selling out revolutions in other countries. It has also set the stage for imperialist exploitation within China. From the early 1980s Mao’s successors have opened China to, and subsequently attracted, an enormous volume of direct capital investment from Western and Japanese corporations and the offshore Chinese bourgeoisie in Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong, concentrated in manufacturing. Conditions in these “Special Economic Zones” and elsewhere are brutal. However this does not constitute the rule of capital.

State-owned enterprises remain dominant in the strategic industrial sectors such as steel, non-ferrous metals, heavy machinery, telecommunications, electric power and oil extraction and refining. The nationalisation of land has prevented the emergence of a class of large-scale agrarian capitalists socially dominating the countryside. The mass of economic surplus generated outside the foreign-owned sector is channeled into state-owned banks as well as the government treasury. Effective control over the financial system has to date enabled the Beijing regime to insulate China from speculative money-capital that periodically wreaks havoc with neocolonial capitalist countries from East Asia to Latin America.

For decades, China’s economy has been growing at a rate unmatched by the imperialist powers—despite Stalinist economic mismanagement. This is not just in private enterprise. Between 1998-2001 government spending in China increased to between 12 and 20 percent of gross domestic product. Today, in arguing that China is capitalist, reformist groups such as the DSP counterpose themselves to the fundamental Marxist understanding that capitalism arrests the development of the productive forces and therefore must be superseded by an internationally planned, collectivised economic system, which will lay the basis for eradicating the want and misery inherent in capitalist society. If China were capitalist, as the DSP contends, and its economy has been growing without the cyclical contractions inherent to capitalism, then this would negate the fundamental Leninist understanding that we are living in the epoch of capitalist decay and call into question the necessity and progressive character of proletarian revolution in capitalist countries.

In fact the argument pushed by the DSP, that China gradually became capitalist as a result of the level of privatisations that have taken place, is based on a fundamental revision of the Marxist view of the state. The proposition that China has become capitalist through incremental privatisations and juridical measures by the bureaucracy neatly complements the reformist myth that the capitalist state, such as exists in Australia, could transform itself into a workers state by gradual nationalisations and parliamentary acts. Such “analysis” not only vitiates the necessity for a workers revolution to smash the capitalist state apparatus but also the need for a Leninist-Trotskyist vanguard party to lead that struggle.

A clear indication of the gains possible under a collectivised economy can be seen by comparing the Chinese deformed workers state with capitalist India, which before 1949 was on a par with China both economically and in terms of human misery. By the last years of the Mao era in the early 1970s, China had already surpassed India in all major indices of social-economic progress (per capita output, poverty ratios, infant mortality, life expectancy, literacy). And that gap has continued to widen during the subsequent decades.

It would however be wrong to assume that China will continue to experience double-digit economic growth under a stable CCP regime for the next several decades. China’s increasing integration into the world market makes it subject to the fundamental contradictions and instabilities of the global capitalist system. Furthermore such an outlook ignores the internal instability of Chinese society wracked by social protest against the consequences of the CCP’s bureaucratic misrule and the intransigent hostility of the imperialist bourgeoisies to the People’s Republic of China.

The Beijing bureaucracy has abandoned the strict state monopoly of foreign trade and also begun to open its banks to partial foreign ownership. These moves serve to facilitate imperialist plans for capitalist restoration. If the bankers of Wall Street, Frankfurt and Tokyo acquire a substantial degree of control over China’s financial sector, the economic effects are likely to be dire, creating the real danger of a sudden, massive outflow of money-capital, such as triggered the East Asian financial/economic crisis of 1997 which devastated whole countries such as Indonesia and Thailand.

However, the future of the PRC will not be decisively determined by quantitative shifts in its economic relations with world commodity and financial markets. As was the case in the former Soviet Union, the decisive arena in which a capitalist counterrevolution would have to triumph is at the political level, in the conquest of state power, not simply through a quantitative extension of the private sector, whether domestic or foreign. This in particular explains the U.S. and Australian rulers’ endless harping on the need for “political liberalisation” in China. The imperialists’ aim is to promote an anti-Communist political opposition primarily based on the new class of capitalist entrepreneurs and those elements of the CCP officialdom and the managerial/professional/technocratic stratum closely tied to domestic and foreign capital.

Marxists do not oppose China’s trade with the capitalist world or its joint ventures with Western and Japanese corporations. A government based on workers and peasants councils would seek to utilise the world market to maximise economic development. But it would also reestablish a state monopoly of foreign trade. More fundamentally a revolutionary government in China would actively promote international proletarian revolution.

The real crime of the Chinese bureaucracy is that it has helped to perpetuate and strengthen the capitalist and imperialist system on a global scale. Following counterrevolution in the Soviet Union the CCP regime has continued to accommodate U.S. imperialism. The government of Hu Jintao endorsed Bush’s global “war on terror,” the political rationale for the bloody invasion and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and the current military threats against Iran. Beijing has collaborated with Washington, Tokyo and Canberra in brokering negotiations aimed at stopping nuclear weapons development by North Korea. But any weakening of the North Korean deformed workers state against imperialist militarism will quickly redound on China.

Laborite Frontmen for Australian Imperialism

Unlike fake-socialist traitors, our aim is to forge revolutionary workers parties internationally to lead the proletariat to power. In this country such a party will be built in political struggle against the Australian Labor Party (ALP) and Laborite trade-union misleaders of the working class. The post-World War II Chifley Labor government sent troops to smash the powerful 1949 coalminers strike and in the same year despatched warships to take supplies up the Yangtze River to aid the butcher Chiang Kai-shek’s Guomindang then stationed in Nanjing. One of the ALP’s greatest crimes was that, with Hawke as PM, it fervently ran Australia’s participation in the imperialists’ drive to restore capitalism in the Soviet Union. Today its leadership is equally committed to the restoration of capitalism in China.

When ALP leader, Kevin Rudd, recently opposed a formal military treaty between Australia and Japan, he was reflecting the interests of a section of the Australian capitalist rulers concerned not to jeopardise their booming trade with China. It in no way signaled the ALP was backing away from support to the imperialists’ strategic targeting of the Chinese deformed workers state. Thus he gave a nod of support to the recent anti-China joint declaration between Japan and Australia, while at the same time dipping his hat to deep-seated anti-Japanese racism. He commented, “Australians will never forget the war with Japan but the time has come to formalise how we can work with Japan into the future to build the peace” (, 15 March). What the ALP mean by “building the peace” is the enforcement of Australian imperialist exploitation and plunder in the region. Labor has historically been the party of racism, depression and war. It was the ALP which the capitalist rulers entrusted to run the country during World War I and World War II, which they did on particularly vicious union-busting, racist lines.

Just as Rudd railed against North Korea’s successful nuclear weapons test last October, in January he joined foreign affairs minister Downer in berating China for “destabilising” the “strategic order” following China’s successful ballistic missile strike on one of their own satellites. We Trotskyists welcomed this action, just as we did China’s reported development of a new multi-role jet fighter, the Jian-10.

While the ALP is busy reassuring the imperialists, the Laborite union misleaders continue to push their years-long campaign of anti-China protectionism. None better exemplifies anti-Communist China bashing than manufacturing union National Secretary, and aspiring Labor MP, Doug Cameron. Denouncing a proposed free trade agreement between Australia and China, Cameron railed that China has “no human rights” and “represents a threat to living standards and jobs security around the world” (Workers Online, 22 April 2005).

We communists oppose the protectionism of imperialist countries like Australia. But neither are we partisans of “free trade,” under the banner of which companies from the imperialist countries demand free access to foreign markets in order to maximise profits. The superexploitation of cheap, largely unorganised labour abroad and the search for access to increased markets for goods is intrinsic to capitalism. Promoting nationalist protectionism, the trade-union misleaders line workers up behind their bosses while poisoning the possibility for international working-class solidarity. We stand on the important, but all too rare, examples of internationalist solidarity by the organised labour movement, such as Waterside Workers Federation bans in the 1960s on loading Australian war materiel bound for the imperialist war against the revolutionary struggle of the Vietnamese workers and peasants. Just as workers must defend their unions at home, we say it is the duty of the international working class to defend China against imperialism and internal capitalist counterrevolution.

Serving to scapegoat foreign workers, protectionism also directly fuels the capitalist rulers’ racist war on immigrants and refugees at home. We fight for full citizenship rights for all! While pro-capitalist union misleaders like Cameron rail against China over “human rights,” they do next to nothing to mobilise their multiracial worker base in industrial action against the government’s vicious “Work Choices” anti-union attacks and against the racist terror perpetrated by the Australian capitalist rulers against Aborigines, Muslims and refugees at home. Rather Cameron and his fellow “labour lieutenants of capital” chain the working class to their exploiters, lining them up behind the capitalist rulers’ counterrevolutionary anti-China crusade. In contrast to the treacherous trap of “defending Australian jobs” against foreign competition, our watchwords are those which Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels famously inscribed on their banner 150 years ago: “Workers of the world unite!” We stand for international class-struggle solidarity including in the fight to defend jobs: Down with anti-China protectionist poison! Break with Laborism—we need an internationalist revolutionary workers party!

ISO, SAlt: Anti-Communists to the Core

Two groups in Australia who don’t claim capitalism has recently been restored in China are the International Socialists (ISO) and Socialist Alternative. These Laborite reformists consider the 1949 Chinese Revolution merely a step sideways to “state capitalism,” with the Chinese bureaucracy a new ruling class. This anti-Marxist “state capitalist” “theory” serves as a justification for their abiding hostility to the workers states and siding with “democratic” capitalism. Here they stand in the traditions of their British parent group, the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) of the late Tony Cliff.

In 1948, bowing to the pressures of the Cold War, Tony Cliff latched onto the “theory” of “state capitalism” promoted by earlier social democrats. Two years later he acted on the real purpose of this bogus theory by refusing to defend the Soviet Union, China and North Korea against imperialism during the Korean War. This was a cowardly capitulation to the British bourgeoisie and its social-democratic lackeys, the British Labour Party government. Cliff and his followers were correctly expelled from the Trotskyist Fourth International for this treachery.

From Afghanistan and Poland to East Germany and the Soviet Union, tailing the anti-Soviet union-busting Hawke/Keating Labor governments, the Cliffites in Australia have embraced every imperialist-backed counterrevolutionary force. To this day they uphold the reactionary Solidarność movement of the 1980s. They swooned over the 1991 ascendancy of the imperialist-backed Yeltsin in the Soviet Union, vilely declaring: “‘Communism is dead’ …. It’s a fact that should have every socialist rejoicing” (Socialist, September 1991).

In contrast to these renegades, we of the ICL fought against capitalist counterrevolution. When the anti-Semitic, woman-hating Solidarność made its bid for power in Poland in 1981, we forthrightly said: “Stop Solidarność Counterrevolution!” In late 1989, the ICL intervened into the incipient workers political revolution in the former East German (DDR) deformed workers state fighting for the revolutionary reunification of Germany and against the capitalist anschluss that eventually swallowed up the DDR. In Moscow in 1991-92, we fought to mobilise worker opposition to the impending catastrophe of capitalist counterrevolution, distributing over 100,000 Russian-language leaflets calling for “Soviet Workers! Defeat Yeltsin-Bush Counterrevolution!”

In early April of this year, the Refugee Action Coalition, led by Ian Rintoul, a long-time Laborite state-capitalist and leader of yet another Cliffite fragment called Solidarity, organised what essentially became an anti-China protest in Sydney. Calling a demonstration ostensibly to defend refugees, Rintoul & Co. provided a platform for the bourgeois Greens and the counterrevolutionary Falun Gong and “Free China” crowd to vituperate against China. Demanding “Howard it’s time to go” the demonstration provided a glorification of White Australia capitalist “democracy” and was a thinly veiled call to elect a federal ALP government. This Laborite anti-communism can only undermine the interests of refugees currently interned in the concentration camps that were “upgraded” by the very same ALP that the likes of Rintoul doubtless want to see restored to the federal government benches.

As for the ISO, in 1996 when the U.S. Democratic Party Clinton administration sent a carrier battle group to waters around Taiwan, their British parent group, the SWP, stated: “We would oppose any Chinese invasion of Taiwan as an act of imperialist aggression (Socialist Review, April 1996). Also embracing this counterrevolutionary cause were the reformist DSP who declared “the Taiwanese people are a distinct nationality,” supporting “The struggle for national self-determination in Taiwan” (Green Left Weekly, 5 June 1996).

Ever since the counterrevolutionary Nationalist army and the Chinese bourgeoisie fled to Taiwan after the revolution, Taiwan has been an outpost for imperialisms’ counterrevolutionary schemes, military threats and interference in Chinese internal affairs. Taiwan has since ancient times been a part of China—it is ethnically, linguistically and historically Chinese. We Trotskyists have stood and will continue to stand with China in the event of any military conflict with imperialism over Taiwan. We are also opposed to the Chinese Stalinists’ proposals for reunification embodied in the slogan of “one country, two systems.” We call for the revolutionary reunification of China: that means a workers socialist revolution in Taiwan to overthrow and expropriate the bourgeoisie and a proletarian political revolution on the mainland, as well as the expropriation of the Hong Kong capitalists.

For Proletarian Internationalism

A revolutionary China of workers and peasants councils, issuing out of a proletarian political revolution, would face virulent imperialist reaction. It would have to undertake necessary economic and military measures to defend itself while doing everything it could to aid the fight for socialist revolution internationally.

Based on the widest possible Soviet democracy, a proletarian, internationalist leadership would re-establish a centrally planned and managed economy, expropriating the newly fledged class of Chinese capitalist entrepreneurs. It would renegotiate the terms of foreign investment in the interests of Chinese working people, insisting, for example, that wages, benefits and working conditions are at least at the same level as in the state sector. Such a government would promote the voluntary collectivisation of agriculture on the basis of large-scale mechanised and scientific farming, recognising that this requires substantial material aid from successful workers revolutions in the more economically advanced capitalist countries.

Karl Marx wrote that with scarcity “want is generalised and with want the struggle for necessities begins again, and that means all the old crap must revive.” The material basis for bureaucratism is scarcity—the bureaucracy acts as the arbiter of how scarce resources are used and distributed. Without a socialist America, Japan, Australia and Europe the working people of China will not be able to eliminate scarcity and want. Ultimately international proletarian revolution is the only path to the social and economic modernisation of China and the impoverished semicolonial capitalist countries.

To defend and extend the gains of social revolutions in China, North Korea, Vietnam and Cuba requires fighting for socialist revolution in the imperialist centres. The fight to defend the deformed workers states against imperialist attack and internal capitalist counterrevolution is crucial to bringing to the proletariat in Australia, as well as in the U.S., Europe and Japan the consciousness necessary to overthrow their own exploiters. Only when workers revolutions put the industrial capacity and technologies of the developed countries to use in an international planned economy under workers rule will the basis be laid for a socialist society of material abundance. To this end, the ICL struggles to build revolutionary Trotskyist parties as part of a reforged Fourth International.