China and Marxism

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By ELIAS JABBOUR*

The majority of “Marxists”, when the subject is China, many times is nothing more than a form, trapped in the formal logic

The question I have been most confronted with since I first wrote or presented about China concerns its character, socialist or capitalist. After spending a long time with this question, something that doesn't make sense to me today, I ended up realizing that its background holds an immense false controversy. Controversies always make their victims. In the case in question, the victim is Marx himself, advocated by whom he sneaks in the denial of the real, not going beyond the antithesis and not reaching the practice of at least two founding laws of dialectics: the “unity of opposites” and the “denial of negation”. ”. Most “Marxists”, when it comes to China, are often just a form, trapped in formal logic. It does not go beyond the notion of separation into parts; pure abstraction without dialectical rationality and trapped in abstract representations.

It would be very strange to confront Marx himself with certain questions. We can redeem it in several ways. The first of them is directly related to the notion, taken from Hegel, of “Aufheben” which means “suppression”, something that in Marx – using and abusing the “negation of the negation” – can be read as an object only starting from the highest point of what he himself denies. But “Aufheben” also has three other meanings, which are widely usable for understanding Chinese dynamics: 1) lifting, sustaining and lifting; 2) annul, abolish, destroy, revoke, cancel, suspend and 3) conserve, save, preserve. This starting point alone would put all those who declare themselves “anti-capitalists” against the wall. For two reasons, the “anti” is a foreign entity to classical German philosophy. Deep down, the “anti” ends up – because it is only about antithesis and “negation” – in a mirror of what is denied. Under this starting point, “anti-capitalist” militants can be anything but Marxist.

I'm going to borrow Marx straight from the source. In the famous “Manuscripts” of 1844, he tells us the following: “A being that has no object outside itself is not an objective being. An entity that is not itself an object for a third party has no entity as its own. object, that is, it does not behave objectively, its being has nothing objective. A non-objective entity is a non-entity”. Without even going into the merits of the (false) question, it sounds strange not to attribute Promethean characters to the Chinese experience only by the social manifestations worthy of a capitalist society: extraction of surplus value; law of value; individualism; consumerism etc. The question arises about what the “object for a third party” would be when we deal with the dynamics involving different modes of production and socio-economic formations. Marx is repeatedly used not to distinguish between objects and their objective behavior – whose essences tend to emerge in historical border moments. Marx is used to make value judgments, targeting the ape without demonstrating the examination of human anatomy.

It is pedagogical for Marxists to work with totalizing notions. The reason for this is that the concept is something that manifests itself in the process of moving from the abstract to the concrete. Marx's passage is famous when he points to the concrete as a “synthesis of multiple determinations”. Something enough to “cancel” a reality by its appearance traits. It is notorious the difficulty of many Marxists in dealing with the big questions in the concrete, despite the fact that they constantly appeal to the “concrete”. This is the difficulty of the congenital problem of formation based on the “ought to be” that invades us from the church to the poor positivism that marks the formation in our schools. Dialectical thinking, the contradictory as an essence and the necessary demonstration “of what is above, illuminating what is below” is very little exercised. Socialism, in this case, never demonstrates itself as a “historical form”, but rather as a manifestation of “radical”, “anti-capitalist” desires and in a “pure” form. Now, what is “pure” is a “non-entity”, simply because it does not exist and makes itself exist through, and generating, contradictions.

What does China have to do with all this? The reason is simple: to our “radicals” China does not demonstrate its socialism in its “pure form”. Is China a civilizing alternative to neoliberalism and capitalism? The answer is always negative, without batting an eye. But if we live in a world where different economic and social formations coexist and fight each other, some more advanced others more backward; if the new is born in the middle of the old, where is this “new” that would be constituted (as opposed to the Chinese experience) in the middle of the “old”? The answer does not exist and when it does, it refers to the need to build a “utopia” by which all socialist militants should be guided in the direction of building “another possible world”. Nothing is further from Marxism.

Let us turn to Marx, now in his famous text of 1875 (“Critique of the Gotha Program”) where, addressing the militants of the German Social Democratic Party, he makes his due warnings about the order to be constituted on the day following the revolution: 1 ) “only in a higher phase of communist society can the narrow bourgeois horizon be fully overcome”; 2) “only in the first phase of communist society, as it emerges, after a long labor of giving birth to capitalist society, law can never go beyond the economic form”; 3) “thus, in the first phase, to each according to his work; in the superior phase, from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs”; 4) “this is also why a period of revolutionary transformation between capitalist and communist society must be considered”. Neither utopia nor a visceral “anti-capitalist” verbiage are present in Marx. On the contrary. A sophisticated notion of transition, historical process and combinations is evident there. The opposite of "should be". It was anchored in the history of the first failures of the capitalist experiments in Genoa and Venice, where a more powerful mode of production (feudalism) prevented its flourishing. Something very close to what happened to socialism in the XNUMXth century, by the way.

I could continue to read the third of the Marxian passages attesting to his vision of the historical process. Anyone who likes a lighter reading of Marx's own handwriting should visit his letters to his friends and collaborators. Starting with his reply to Vera Zasulich (1881) which in itself turns out to be an oxymoron to binary minds. The demonstration that the old Karl makes of the evolution of the world as a “set of different layers of different ages” would already be enough to argue that a country the size of China is a set of “non-coeval contemporaneities” and that, therefore, the old and the new are all the time in a unity of opposites. The late and the modern; socialism, capitalism and archaic forms of agricultural production develop into a complex whole. Outside this complex whole there is a world where capitalist relations of production and exchange are dominant in all institutions.

In this totality, where new and old institutions arise and reappear over time, the same germs of the old that defeated the experiences of Genoa and Venice are also manifested. But the germs of these Italian hinterlands would be victorious with the institutions created by Cromwell after his victorious revolution. In China, its institutions inherited from its historical mother, the Russian Revolution, are present and developing. Permanent contradictions and the pressures of a world hostile to the “new” that needs the “old” to overcome itself, are a rule. The opening to foreign capital, the generation of a domestic capitalist class and the ideological hegemony of imperialism in the world enter and take part in the complex whole. There is capitalism in China. And what's wrong with that, I ask? (To me, the object's past is carved into the object, it is intrinsic to it, it is, let's say, in its very essence, even if it is continuously, at each historical moment, overdetermined, denied, that is, resignified, "remade ”).

In the last 40 years, the system advocated by the country (socialism) was responsible for lifting 840 million people out of the poverty line. The country's per capita income has grown exponentially and today the country is applying to demonstrate that new production relations between rich and poor countries in the world are an objective need of the system, its essence of survival. This process of immense internal transformations, driven by an “adherence” to the globalization promoted by capitalism, did not occur without traumas, nor without deep pain. But the persistence in a strategy based on centenary goals enabled the country to build institutions and a productive and financial base to prove itself superior to the capitalist countries in simply all the great challenges imposed on the world since the first financial crises.

Apart from the country's success in facing the pandemic, it could not go unnoticed that while in the US posters that read, "social isolation equals communism", in China - where routinely social manifestations typical of capitalist countries are registered by "radicals" and " anti-capitalists” as demonstrations that disqualify the noun “socialism” from that reality – 480 militants of the Communist Party of China were the heroes who saved Wuhan by offering their own lives to sacrifice – a manifestation impossible to be perceived in capitalist countries unable to show their own people the virtues of what they stand for. In international relations, the Chinese “capitalists” and “oppressors” acted in broad harmony with the Cubans in a degree of coordination of international aid that no real capitalist country was able to cope with. Xi Jinping's promise to socialize with poor countries the vaccine to be discovered by the Chinese cannot be something less in a world where the real capitalists were willing to buy the exclusivity of the vaccine.

I return to Marx, without sodomizing him, to make an analysis of the present starting from real categories of analysis, something not foreign to his tradition. After all, it was the same that methodologically equipped us to face the present time, indicating the need to conceive the anatomy of the monkey starting from the human anatomy. China is indeed an alternative to the anatomy of the monkey (neoliberal and capitalist decadence). The unity of its society in the face of the threat of death and the challenges to imperialism condition it as the most advanced political and social entity of our present time. Its large companies and state-owned banks are the steel wall in the fight against Covid-19.

It was socialism that prevailed over the capitalism that still exists in China. Not an idealized, utopian socialism tied to the collective “imaginary” of middle-class radical militants. This is socialism as a historical form. Like something new arising under circumstances not chosen by anyone. Its historical form takes place as a New Design Economy, an entity constituted in the light of overcoming Keynesian uncertainty and the planning of Schumpeterian “creative destruction”. It is the superior element internal to the most advanced mode of production of that socio-economic formation.

An expression at a higher level of socialism where the restriction of the action of the law of value allows planning at higher levels and concentration on the construction of, simultaneously, large and thousands of public goods as a response to the immense social contradictions of that development process. The “project” is slowly replacing the market as the nucleus of society. Its social counterpart is a “tacit adhesion pact”. It is the belief in the State as its representative and in leaders attuned to the great national and popular needs that one observes how production relations adapt to the new productive forces that are crashing the world.

Starting from the “concrete”, affirming that China – based on “Marxist” criteria – does not meet all the “checks” that condition it as an example of an alternative is the same as not identifying the human anatomy capable of unveiling the anatomy of the monkey. In the end, it's a different way of reaching the same conclusions as Francis Fukuyama. China demonstrates that history is not over; it is still in its death throes.

*Elias Jabbour Professor of International Relations and Economics at the State University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ). Author, among other books, of China: socialism and development (Anita Garibaldi).

Originally published on GGN newspaper

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