The Cuban Communist Party and the Chinese Communist Party.
It should come as no surprise that the Xinhua news agency Spanish section reported on Alan Wood's meeting in Havana. The Central Party School of the Communist Party Central Committee, the Latin American Section of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), the Marxism Study institute at CASS, and numerous other Socialism and Political Studies Institutes in China have links to Marxist.com. They have kept these links on their web sites even though the Internet Censors in China have blocked access to Marxist.com for two years now. This indicates that there is a layer of academics and young people around the official research institutes of the Communist Party who are interested in Marxism. How could there not be? Marxism after all remains the official ideology of the Chinese Communist Party and with an organization of 73 million party members: a larger combined total than all the Communist Parties in all the former ‘Communist states’ at their height, and all members of the Social Democratic and Labour Parties in the capitalist world, and their height, put together!
Furthermore the Chinese Communist Party is seen by the masses in China as an organisation that came to power through a revolutionary guerrilla and mass peasant army. In Cuba, Fidel and Che earned justified respect as revolutionary heroes for leading small band of idealistic revolutionary democrats to Liberate Cuba. Mao’s revolutionary war to liberate a quarter of humanity from Imperialism is justifiably seen by the Chinese masses to this day as the greatest event in Chinese history. The day the nation stood up! This mass revolutionary war smashed imperialism, landlordism and capitalism in China, and acted as a model for the Cuban revolution ten years later. To be sure Mao, like Fidel, initially had a revolutionary democratic agenda, but the weakness of capitalist forces compelled the revolution forwards -beyond bourgeois democratic limits- to begin the socialist tasks of the revolution, nationalization of the means of production and banking, laying the foundations of a planned economy.
Even though publicly Mao was an ally of Stalin, Stalin never forgave Mao for ousting his representatives in the army and party in the 1930s. Mao drove Stalin's man in China, Wang Ming, out of power in the leadership in 1938, a move Stalin fiercely resented.
Stalinism in Marxist terminology is of course not a voluntary phenomenon. The backwardness of China inevitably led bureaucratic tendencies, inherent within the Peoples’ Liberation Army command structure, to be reinforced by the need to develop China from a society of grinding backwardness in technique, science, means of production and culture. Stalinism emerges not from the will but from these objective social conditions. No matter how many times the leadership, or others, with all the best intentions and strongest will to fight ‘bureaucracy’, declare themselves anti-Stalinist, and against corrupt tendencies; material pressures inevitably consume the administration of society and come to dominate it, in conditions of shortage. Only the conscious control by the masses in countries with the most advanced means of production, technical and scientific skills, and highest cultural level in an urban revolutionary society can begin the genuinely socialist phase of human history. This is why the programme of Marxism advocates that national revolutions must become world revolutions. Otherwise if they survive, they inevitably become bureaucratised workers’ states of one form or another.
In 1956 Khrushchev denounced of Stalin. Mao opposed Khrushchev for two main reasons, firstly because Mao like Che, believed in the inevitability of violent conflict with Imperialism and not in ‘Peaceful Coexistence’, and Mao like Che, also opposed the tendency towards using incentives and markets to develop the economy. Both these revolutionary leaders had utopian non-Marxist views, that moral incentives should replace material incentives to spur development at extraordinary rates. Genuine Marxists always opposed the crazy policies of Mao and Che in seeking immediate industrialization.
In China, Zhou Enlai, whose past close connection with the urban revolutionary tradition made him more hostile to bureaucratic tendencies, launched a campaign to promote anti bureaucratic criticism. Mao made a series of important speeches in 1956 and 1957 calling for unlimited criticism of the bureaucratic tendencies in the state and society, free speech and criticism were encouraged. However the criticisms voiced in this ‘hundred flowers movement’ became too shrill and all pervasive for Mao and the leading layers of the bureaucracy to tolerate, consequently Mao took repressive police measures against many of the critics that he previously encouraged.
The ‘anti-rightist’ campaigns in 1958 and 1959 were launched and led to the repression of opponents, many of whom, including the remnants of Chinese Trotskyism, were rounded up and arrested. This was the backdrop to utopian visions of economic development known as the Great Leap Forward. This move on a smaller scale was later to be emulated by Che in Cuba. Mao sought immediate industrialization and this led to massive famine as the technical means for the Great Leap Forward were totally absent, just as when Che launched "Accelerated Industrialization" there was even less possibility of success.
“Thus, in 1961, Guevara predicted that Cuba would be an industrialised country within 12 months! Given the weaknesses of the Cuban economy such a perspective was utterly utopian”
(Cuba: analysis of the revolution Militant 1978)
Luckily for Cuba the programme was quite rapidly abandoned and was unable to inflict the scale of damage that Mao's original plan did. However, one must recognise that for millions of peasants and workers the collectivism of the early years of the revolution was enthusiastically adopted, in spite of the inevitable negative outcome of such an arbitrarily constructed and bureaucratically planned collectivism.
In recent years, in China, just as in Cuba, various factors have led to a far greater openness for discussion; within the Communist Parties, their academic institutions and the press. The Cuban Communist Party has extensively borrowed and emulated parts of China's model, but with important differences that are inevitable given the vastly superior economic foundation in China, vis-à-vis the meagre national resources of Cuba. Most worrying perhaps, is the fact that Cuba's army emulated China's army’s, business activities. This led to heavy involvement in the economy.
In 1998 the Chinese Communist Party leadership demanded immediate divestment of the PLA from business, the then General Secretary Jiang Zemin, commanded that "the military cannot run business any more or the tool of the proletarian dictatorship would be lost and the red colour of the socialist land would change." (Mulvenon Soldiers of Fortune the rise and fall of the Chinese Military Business Complex 2001 p180) Obviously the continued military business empire dominating Cuba's economy presents an extreme danger to the fate of the Cuban Revolution. This is particularly true in foreign exchange related business, they pose an even more acute threat to the rule of the Party in Cuba, than PLA businesses used to in China.
If the Chinese Communist Party paid sufficient attention to defending the Cuban revolution, rather than simply making economic deals and talking about solidarity, they should offer concrete advice about how to extricate the Cuban army from its pervasive business operations. There is a real danger that a capitalist counter-revolution in Cuba will find the foundation of its forces in the spread of corrupt commercial and criminal interests within the Cuban military. In theory, this could be carried out by means of a relatively 'cold stroke' as it appears that sections of the officer caste within the ‘armed bodies of men’ have acquired a material interest in the new property relations that have been established.
In China there is a popular text message circulated by millions last year:
1949 China overthrows Capitalism
1979 Capitalism saves China
1989 China saves Communism
2009 China saves Capitalism
When the East European Communist Parties faced collapse 20 years ago the Chinese Communist Party leadership were initially stunned. They blamed western plots, behind "peaceful evolution". By 1990 they changed their position to a more complex mixture of reasons. CASS, the Central Party School and the Marxism and Socialism Institutes began a research and analysis process that took until 2004. They studied the fate of all the countries of Eastern Europe the USSR and Cuba. The following pattern of approach and analysis to the Soviet Reforms was seen- 1986-7 Skepticism; 1987-9 Support; 1989-91 Suspicion; 1991-2 Shock; 1993-2004 Systemic Study; 2004-5 Conclusion (Chinese Communist Party Aprophy and Adaption 2008 Shambaugh p55)
The conclusions drawn by the researchers were now complex, but they consistently focused on keys issues which it was felt, unless learnt from, would lead to similar events in China and the loss of power by the Chinese Communist Party.
They blamed the loss of power of the Soviet Communist Party on:
1.The economic deterioration, 2. The great distance between the ruling parties and the masses and a lack of local party building, 3. The unions not acting as a bridge between the working class and the party 4. Peaceful evolution efforts by the west.
The analysts of the Party and CASS blamed the "bastardisation of Leninism" by Stalin and dictatorial power and totalitarian and dogmatic systems of power. (ibid p.66-7)
A comprehensive study by Zhao Yao at the Central Party School in 2003, blamed Gorbachev for; too rapid economic reforms; blindly copying western political models; degrading the party and allowing a new class to form within it; losing his belief in communism; lacking party discipline; allowing external subversion; failing in ensuring the rule of law; and allowing ethnic conflicts to escalate. (ibid p.70)
The Chinese analysis of Cuba has been extensive and positive in relation to ‘Cuban Communism’. Key researchers at the Party International Department and CASS point to Cuba's promotion of young officials and cadres, the downsizing of bureaucratic agencies to increase efficiency, frequent inspection trips by leaders, strong anti corruption measures, and inner-party democracy and the promotion of ‘party and government dialogue with different sectors of society, control over the military and security services.’ (ibid p.89)
Exchanges between the Cuban Communist Party and the Chinese Communist Party have been extensive and regular. Hu Jintao is said to have heaped praise on the Cuban Communist Party at the Forth Plenum of the sixteenth party congress in 2004, which discussed the lessons of other ruling parties for the CCP.
Following this period of studying what happened to the USSR and Eastern Europe and Cuba, and drawing lessons from this study, the Chinese Communist Party undertook a full scale "rectification campaign" in the name of the "Decision on the Enhancement of the Party's Governing Capacity" adopted in 2004.
For a period of 18 months all 73 million members of the Chinese Communist Party had to:
1. Undertake three months of study of classical Marxist texts, some of Mao’s writings and some speeches by present day leaders (during this period no party members were allowed to leave China.)
2. Spend three months writing self-criticism and three months circulating this to colleagues.
3. Then spend three months being criticised by colleagues and then rewrite their self-criticism.
The intensity of the campaign had not been seen since Mao's time and was aimed at strengthening the party in the face of the main potential dangers to its rule. On the one side, social unrest, to which party members are supposed to respond by reducing conflict, identifying causes, finding solutions and thus pacifying discontent. On the other side, the corruption endemic at the top layers of the commercial state sectors and in governmental administration is supposed to be nipped in the bud and limited by consolidating the control over party members.
Senior figures at state owned enterprises who only a few years ago were milking the opportunities provided by their tenure with impunity, now live in mortal fear of succumbing to the temptations of office. They fear they will find themselves in the same boat as so many high officials recently, in gaol or facing execution.
H Khoo 19th Feb 2009