Greetings from a Brazilian to the 72nd anniversary of the new China | By Luan Medeiros, for Voz Operária andAgência Brasil China
I remember when I started to learn about the world beyond history and geography classes in high school. At the time, through the influence of a friend, I approached the youth PCBrasileiro, and there I had my first contacts with the history of the international communist movement. Although I was not formally part of the party, I was invited to a congress and had access to the party’s theses and resolutions.
Much was said about the history of the Russian revolution, the glories and the defeat of the Soviet bloc. I thought, “Is that it? Did it all end in 1991?” And my superiors explained to me that no, in fact the Soviet defeat would have been a betrayal. To prove this thesis, they mentioned the plebiscites presented to the Soviet peoples that rejected an eventual dissolution, with numbers ranging from 70% to 90%.
“But what about today?”, I asked. “Would there still be any experiments in socialism that would still be in force?” And the answer was, “Yes, we have Cuba!” After some reading, I came to the other experiments that would not have met the same fate as the Soviet bloc. Then again I asked, “What about beyond Cuba, like Korea, Vietnam, and China?” They would explain to me that Korea would be a “monarchy of Stalinist aesthetics”, while Vietnam and China would have “restored capitalism”, and that the Communist Parties would have, again, “betrayed the Revolution” and used a “red veneer” to “deceive the people”, or something to that effect.
That kind of narrative has never convinced me. I had the impression that it was not only that electoral propaganda – with the party flag waving in a low-quality chroma-key, while the then General Secretary denounced the evils of capitalism with The International playing in the background – that made me perceive the Brazilian PCB as a backward, plastered and nostalgic institution.
In this nostalgia of a base composed mostly of civil servants, something came in handy: I had my first contact with the production of the Italian historian and philosopher, Domenico Losurdo. To try to combat the evils of US propaganda in the youth of the party, I was recommended to read “Stalin: Critical History of a Black Legend” and “Escape from History?” However, a warning was given to me about the second book: only the first part would be worthwhile, since in the second half there is a “reverie” by the author about the character of the “capitalist restoration” of the People’s Republic of China.
Moving forward in time and leaving for another moment the reasons for my break with the field of “socialist strategy,” let’s come to the present day.
China back to socialism?
Much has been said about the collapse of the giant Evergrande, and how this would affect the entire world economy. All sorts of ecstatic Western liberals, fantasizing about the collapse of the Beijing regime: now go! They suggested some identity between the Chinese real estate market crisis with that perceived in 2008 by the bankruptcy of the Lehman Brothers investment bank. However, the Chinese newspapers’ lack of echo with all this frenzy made some of those ecstatic people come to their senses. What would the Chinese have done not to despair at the possibility, announced by the West, of a very serious economic crisis?
In a meeting on Evergrande last Monday, Luiz Eduardo Vidal of the law firm DeHeng mentioned a series of “fine adjustments” that Chinese regulators have been applying to the real estate market. Charles Tang, president of the CCIBC, explains that the old model – whereby Chinese companies leveraged themselves from massive public credits, no longer carries the same weight as it once did. On that same occasion, Kincaid’s Camila Vianna mentioned that since 2017 the government has been claiming the social function of housing, and that it should not serve speculation.
All indications, and what seems to be becoming a consensus, is that the Evergrande crisis was premeditated by the Chinese. Bruno Guimaraes, Shumian’s editor, goes further: this transition in the development model that we see taking effect in China today has been on the agenda for at least 10 years, during the transition from Hu Jintao to Xi Jinping.
This new phase of China’s regulations in different spheres is also being noticed by Western journalists. In an article by Stephen McDonell for the BBC, entitled “Why China seems to be on the road back to socialism,” the correspondent raises a series of alleged events in President Xi’s personal life. For him, after the government “put its faith” in an economy that allowed “a few people to become extremely wealthy,” the change in direction perceived today by Mr. Rousseff is a change of direction. McDonell, who “started to put communism back into the Communist Party,” is the work of one man and his personal dramas.
The most interesting thing about this reading is not the fact that a man – whose father was allegedly “persecuted” by “Communist Party fanatics” – with a unique ability to turn a supposed “philosophical maneuver” (referring to the slogan “socialism with Chinese characteristics”) in the opposite direction, or the unique ability of a single man to put 1.tion of a supposed “philosophical maneuver” (referring to the slogan “socialism with Chinese characteristics”), or in the unique ability of a single man to put 1.4 billion people on the march for their personal dramas. What is really curious is the belief that the Chinese have undergone a capitalist restoration. Perhaps the BBC correspondent prays the same script as our leftist friends mentioned above.
Since these days the Western press has cast doubt on that consensus about capitalist restoration in China, perhaps it is time to read that second part of “Escape from History?” that the veterans of the PCBrasileiro told us to leave aside.
Losurdo and the Chinese Revolution
In a world hostile to the Revolution, Lenin proposed NEP in order to economically restructure a devastated country, allowing backward sectors of society to resume their economic activities, without, however, returning political control. How many times have we not seen the Western press, and our leftist friends, refer to China by two criteria: the “political dictatorship”, with “economic freedom”?
To President Deng Xiaoping, the Western detractors of the new China have a divergent but complementary opinion. Liberals consider him an opportunist, while leftists accuse him of treason, just as Lenin did in the NEP period, calling the policy the “New Extortion of the Proletariat” (LOSURDO, Domenico.Escape from History? The Russian Revolution and the Chinese Revolution seen from today- Rio de Janeiro: Revan, 2004, p. 156).
For Deng Xiaoping, Losurdo recalls, “yesterday, as today, the CCP developed a single front policy, pointing to socialism and the role of the communist leaders as the master life that leads to the salvation and rebirth of the Chinese nation as a whole: ‘Turn it away from socialism and China will inevitably regress to semi-feudalism and semi-colonialism.” (p. 155)
Perhaps as a result of the philo-European academic mentality, Brazilian leftists have endorsed a messianic devir to socialism and have come closer to the “Christians of the Gospel of Saint Mark,” who “reject, indignantly, the suspicion of any link with the history of ‘real socialism’ (?) in order to regain credibility, this time in the eyes of the liberal bourgeoisie itself” (p. 19). Leftists prize “martyrdom, not political thought and action, which hark back to a history stubbornly ignored” (p. 21)
For these revolutionaries – who do not even have the experience of running a city council office, let alone running a revolution – there is an identity between the Revolution and Redemption. Therefore, revolution is the path of martyrdom, of heroic penury, in defense of a greater cause that will save everyone. When you manage the real, the revolutionary ceases to be a hero and becomes a politician. For Deng Xiaoping, to speak of “poor communism” is a contradiction in terms:
“One can thus understand the polemic developed by Deng Xiaoping against the Cultural Revolution, accused not only of an inability to develop the productive forces, but also of a populist drift that led to the pursuit of the ideal of ‘a universal asceticism and a crude egalitarianism’, harshly criticized by the Communist Party Manifesto. On the contrary, according to Deng, “there can be no communism with pauperism or socialism with pauperism”; to speak of “poor communism” is a contradiction in terms. Communism and socialism have nothing to do with the equal distribution of penury and misery: in the first place ‘socialism means the elimination of misery’ and the development of the productive forces.”(p. 155)
As Professor Elias Jabbour often reminds us, concepts are historically determined. It is absurd to take socialism for a checklist of mere characteristics, which must be fulfilled so that only then can the Western scholar, in all his prepotency, approve this or that experience as socialist. Socialism is yesterday, and today, the most advanced in human matters.
In Losurdo’s words, Deng Xiaoping continues to draw inspiration from Mao Zedong’s vision, in which there is unity between internationalism and patriotism: “it is by developing the productive forces and social wealth that China can provide ‘a real contribution to humanity’; not only does it free a quarter or a fifth of the world’s population from starvation, but it also stimulates the rest of the Third World to shake off the burden of misery and underdevelopment.” (p. 157)
With these lines, given that today, October 1, 2021, marks the 72nd anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, I say that China is not “back to socialism.” What we see is a new redefinition of socialism, towards something even more advanced than any other social formation ever seen, a path along which the new China has been treading without interruption.