the chinese way

Image: Elyeser Szturm

By Wladimir Pomar*

“Market socialism” combines and confronts state ownership and private ownership, state guidance and market competition, wage labor and cooperative work.

China is increasingly becoming a world reference point, although its well-known positive points in the fight against Covid19 are often immediately contradicted by supposed negative aspects. Even intellectuals who call themselves “Marxists”, accuse it of being a closed society, under a dictatorship possessing a powerful state propaganda machine, providing incomplete or disguised information to the WHO, having caused the death of the ophthalmologist from Wuhan who warned of the existence of a new viral problem…, and so on.

In reality, China has been one of the most efficient nations to face and quell the epidemic outbreak. Its mortality rate is very low (2 per 1 million). And it is the nation that is most rapidly getting its economy back up and running, including the production of essential instruments for the United States and several other countries in Europe and the rest of the world to counteract the pandemic.

All this, if it increases the attacks on it, also raises the interest in its history, especially in its modern history. Even because there are not few people who ignore the fact that China has carried out, in the last 40 years, an industrial, technical and scientific development that Great Britain and the United States took about 200 years to complete. Or that China, in the feudal past, with the commercial activity of its ancient Silk Road and its fourteenth-century maritime fleet, was one of the empires that contributed, whether to the expansion of ocean navigation, with the invention of the compass, the rudder, and the triangular sail (which allowed sailing against the wind), or for the primitive accumulation of capital in Europe itself.

It is true that this Chinese route of international trade foundered, when its fleet was set on fire, a few centuries later, by imposition of feudal warlords, manchus e hans, bothered by the emergence of a bourgeois commercial class and also by the wars of dominion imposed on China by the emerging colonial capitalist nations. These subordinated it, preventing it from joining capitalist development as an independent nation.

Only in 1949, with the victory of the democratic and popular revolution, led by the CP, did China get rid of imperialist domination, carry out agrarian reform, and try to enter industrial development through an alliance of workers, peasants and intellectuals with the bourgeoisie. national. This new path, however, foundered due to the speculative actions of the Chinese bourgeoisie itself, leading the country to embark on a path of nationalization and planning identical to that of the socialism of the Soviet Union.

Such a path, however, had the defect of paying little attention to the production of current consumer goods and of not encouraging competition between state-owned companies in order to avoid bureaucratization, raise productivity, expand production and reduce prices. If they were already serious in the Soviet Union, such defects became even more complex when confronted with the size of the Chinese population. That is, insufficient production of everyday consumer goods tended to intensify internal contradictions in China much more quickly than in the Soviet Union.

On the other hand, on the assumption that such a problem could be resolved through ideological struggle, the CCP even made an extra effort to resolve it through the Great Cultural Revolution. But he failed, and he was forced to go back and discover that Marx had a point in saying that transitional socialism from capitalist society to communist society would only be possible when capitalism itself had exhausted its historical possibilities.

That is, it had centralized capitalist property in such a way and raised its productivity to such an extent that it would no longer need many salaried workers for the production process. This would create an unsustainable and humanitarian contradiction between the enormous productive capacity of capitalism and the presence of an immense mass of workers without a job and incapable of consuming the production of those who did not allow them work or wages.

The CCP, then under the direction of Deng Xiaoping, realized this contradiction. And, also, from the historical fact that many human societies had faced, in their transition to a society of a higher type, an intermediate process in which the characteristics of the new and the old society coexisted, in cooperation and in conflict, until the new type of society to impose itself through the development of its basic characteristics.

The histories of the transition from slavery to feudalism, in the decaying Roman Empire, as well as from feudal society in England, France and other countries, to capitalist society, are full of examples of the complex coexistence of different productive forces and different relations of production. transition from one type of society to another.

It can be said that it was an identical historical phenomenon that made China, from the end of the 1970s, be led to enter the so-called “market socialism”, combining and confronting state ownership and private property, state orientation and market dispute, salaried work and cooperative work. To facilitate and, also, to complicate, this occurred in parallel with the structural reforms in developed capitalism, characterized in large measure by foreign investments in countries with cheaper labor forces, investments that included the transfer of industrial plants, whole or segmented, to such countries. countries. This process gave rise to what was called capitalist “globalization”.

To take advantage of this restructuring of developed capitalism and intensify the reception of this type of foreign investment, after carrying out an agricultural reform that favored peasant family units, China created numerous Special Economic Zones, where foreign investors could invest, as long as they associated with to Chinese companies, including state-owned ones, and transfer new or high technologies to them.

Anyway, at that time and also now, these measures led and continue to lead many people to believe that China was privatizing everything and returning to capitalism, subordinated to capitalist imperialism even more. They did not even realize, however, that China not only maintained its state-owned companies, while avoiding its sectoral monopoly, but also encouraged them to compete with each other and with private companies, in order to increase their technological capacity to compete for the market and not become bureaucratized.

At the same time, China modified its old 3 for 1 work system (three workers per job, as a way to reduce unemployment, but low productivity), and encouraged and financed workers willing to design and carry out projects private industrial companies, financed by state banks. With that, he reconstituted the national bourgeoisie to intensify the dispute in the market with foreign and state companies.

That is, in the same way that the transition from the Roman Empire to feudalism included the coexistence, for a certain historical time, of slave and feudal production relations, whether in cooperation or in conflict, Chinese market socialism (as well as the Vietnamese ) tends to be one of the solutions to the problem of the transition of economically backward countries and peoples that advanced, before their capitalism had fully developed, in the transition to a more advanced and egalitarian society.

The results of market socialism, from its inception in 1978 until today, have resulted in the transformation of rural and agricultural China into a predominantly urban and industrial China. China's 31 provinces rank among the world's 32 fastest growing economies. The two largest Chinese banks, both state-owned, are among the top 10 in the world. Among the 500 largest global companies, 61 are Chinese. China also has 6 of the 10 largest ports in the world, and the second largest rail network in the world.

From the social point of view, it is recognized that China lifted more than 800 million of its inhabitants out of poverty (almost 4 Brazils), its poverty rate falling from 65% to 10%. Their unemployment insurance and their minimum income, which associate payment with the obligation to enroll in technical courses or carry out community work, point to concrete ways of overcoming poverty and ignorance. Therefore, while transforming itself into a highly industrialized country, China is also on the way to creating the conditions that will also make it a country that is socially free from poverty and increasingly egalitarian.

Compared with the more developed capitalist countries, China is only behind, in strictly productive terms, the United States, and should surpass it, even in this regard, in the coming years, at least if the current trends of low growth and high unemployment in the United States are maintained. US power and positive Chinese growth, although well below the 10% that it maintained for several years.

But it is also important to realize that there is a basic difference between the two countries. It resides in the fact that the North American industrial power has already reached the degree of industrial productivity that allows it to replace, on a large scale and in an increasing way, living work by dead work. Or, to put it another way, replacing human labor power by the labor power of machines and devices. This, on the one hand, increased productivity and production capacity. But, keeping the capitalist relations of production, the replacement of living labor by machines prevents a growing number of owners of the commodity labor force from selling their only source of survival, thus reducing their ability to survive.

At the same time, the replacement of live labor force by dead force also has a negative impact on the average rate of profit of capital, pushing its owners to appeal to the speculative financial market. And the international capitalist experience, at least since 1857, has been that this money market, centralizing more money, is a generator of increasingly destructive crises.

At present, having as their main source the financial system of the greatest capitalist power, these crises tend more and more, as pointed out by the critique of political economy at the end of the 19th century, towards the fact that the capitalism of the American power is approaching a limit situation. Either it will be faced with the need to replace its economic and social structure of private property with some kind of socialism, or it will be pushed into a process of brutal destruction of already accumulated productive forces, like a large-scale war.

China, on the other hand, has been growing for 40 years straight, but it has not yet reached the stage where the market can be replaced by the collective management of things. The Chinese themselves are making scientific and technological plans to approach, much more favorably than the United States, by 2050, the objective conditions that can provide the possibilities to free them from the market.

In other words, what happens in China and also in Vietnam has little to do with supposed types of Asian societies, prior to capitalism, erroneously called “Asian modes of production”. Slavery and feudal societies with strong statist and mercantile components occurred both in Asia and in Europe (the Roman Empire, for example, was the creator of the first known historical proletarians, but it did not generate any Asian or capitalist mode of production). In China, on the other hand, on several occasions, feudal lords imposed strong restrictions on their activities on merchants, as they did with the fleet of Zheng He, in the XNUMXth century, completely burned down and sealing the end of maritime trade in China. with East Africa and Arabia.

On the other hand, what was most likely not anticipated by the main critics of capitalism, such as Marx and Engels, is that backward societies from the capitalist point of view would become the first stages of attempts to overcome capitalism in practice. Some of them generated completely statist experiences, which failed, while the experiences of market socialism, until now in the process of development, still do not have a clear perspective of how the overcoming of the market and the proprietary bourgeoisie will occur.

In any case, competition and contradictions between state property and private property are part of the everyday experiences and contradictions that permeate market socialism. Private owners, in general, consider state ownership to be bureaucratic and a hindrance to the full development of the economy and society. Based on this assumption, they use mechanisms such as corruption to demoralize the state system and pave the way for the market to free itself from state guidance and become the sole guiding agent of Chinese society. In this still relatively muted class struggle, it is no coincidence that the Chinese consider corruption to be the main strategic danger of market socialism, needing to be fought hard.

On the other hand, it is difficult to say whether market socialism will be the transitional economic and social formation of all underdeveloped capitalist countries, to achieve economic, technical and scientific growth, with industry as the main instrument, which will lead them to a society superior to capitalism. Despite this, the experience, so far successful in China and Vietnam, demonstrates that market socialism is a powerful vector of economic and social growth, whose paradigms can be used by any country for its development. It is worth studying them.

*Wladimir Pomar, political activist and writer, is the author, among other books, of China-Breaking Myths (Publisher).

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