China and the purity fetish of Western Marxism

In this essay, extracted from the book The Purity Fetish and the Crisis of Western Marxism, Carlos Garrido takes a detailed look at China’s socialist market economy and seeks to understand why so much of the Western left insistently misunderstands it.

Carlos discusses the assorted tropes about China’s ‘authoritarianism’ and ‘totalitarianism’, as well as the obscene slanders that are thrown at it in relation to human rights in Xinjiang. However, the central focus of this essay is the Reform and Opening Up process introduced from the late 1970s, specifically addressing the claims that the existence of markets and private capital in China make it a capitalist country.

The author explains that markets have existed in human society for long before the advent of capitalism (citing Marx that “market economies have existed throughout human history and constitute one of the significant creations by human societies”) and that the character of any given market is determined by its overall socioeconomic context. Deng Xiaoping made this point with particular clarity: “We cannot say that market economy exists only under capitalism. Market economy was in its embryonic stages as early as feudalist society. We can surely develop it under socialism… As long as learning from capitalism is regarded as no more than a means to an end, it will not change the structure of socialism or bring China back to capitalism.”

Carlos writes that the reform strategy responded to a specific set of circumstances and needs, “wherein an overly centralized economy, combined with imperialist-forced isolation from the world, stifled development and necessitated reforms which would allow China to develop its productive forces, absorb the developments taking place in science and technology from the West, and ultimately, protect its revolution.” Given that China has emerged as a science and technology powerhouse; given the extraordinary increase in living standards; and given the continued legitimacy and popularity of the CPC-led government, it seems uncontroversial to say that the strategy has been highly successful.

In the context of an escalating New Cold War against China, “all progressive forces in the West should unite against the US and NATO’s anti-China rhetoric and actions.” China “stands as the main global force countering US/NATO led imperialism. Its rise signifies much more than the end of US unipolarity – it marks the end of the Columbian era of European global dominance that began in 1492.” As such it is imperative that the Western left develop its understanding of Chinese socialism and build solidarity with People’s China, rather than “parroting state-department narratives on China with radical-sounding language.”

One debateable assertion the essay makes is in regard to Hua Guofeng, who served as top leader of the CPC for two years following Mao’s death in 1976. Carlos writes that “Hua Guofeng’s two whatevers (‘We will resolutely uphold whatever policy decisions Chairman Mao made, and unswervingly follow whatever instructions Chairman Mao gave’) perpetuated the sort of book worshiping which not only sucked the living spirit out of Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought, but proved futile in dealing with the problems China faced.”

This is at odds with recent research presented by Isabella Weber in her book How China Escaped Shock Therapy: The Market Reform Debate. Weber writes that the two whatevers slogan was essentially a means of emphasising loyalty to the Chinese Revolution and socialist construction, and that “paying tribute to Mao in the year after his passing was not unique to Hua.” Meanwhile, “Hua redefined revolution itself as ‘liberation of productive forces’ and elevated national economic development to the highest priority” and in so doing “paved the way for the Deng-era reforms.” It was under Hua that major efforts were first made to attract foreign investment. Weber considers it “remarkable that such drastic changes occurred under a leader who has frequently been described as a relatively unremarkable Mao loyalist.”

This article first appeared on Midwestern Marx.

The stakes of the imperialist West’s New Cold War against China are as great as they can get. This means that the Western left’s role as controlled counter-hegemony and left-wing delegitimizers of socialist states – a role ideologically grounded in their purity fetish outlook – is as dangerous as it can get. In our current geopolitical climate, all progressive forces in the West should unite against the US and NATO’s anti-China rhetoric and actions. Unfortunately, what we find from large portions of this Western left is parroting of state-department narratives on China with radical-sounding language. Leading ‘socialist’ outlets in the US often echo baseless ruling class propaganda such as the ‘Uyghur genocide,’ Zero Covid authoritarianism, Belt and Road imperialism, debt trapping, and other similar fabrications.[1] Far from a concrete-dialectical study of China, in many of these spaces the claims of the ruling class are just assumed to be true, and anyone who dares to question them – and henceforth, bring the real truth to light – is labeled a puppet of Xi Jinping and the ‘CCP’ (which, like the Western bourgeoisie, is continuously labeled by these ‘socialists’ as CCP and not CPC in order to play on CCCP fears from the last cold war).[2]

Most of these tactics center on age-old claims of communist ‘authoritarianism,’ ‘totalitarianism,’ and all other such words used to equate fascism with communism and judge ‘democracy’ according to Western liberal-bourgeois standards. These assumptions and purity fetish engagements with Chinese socialist governance blind the Western Marxist from seeing China’s de facto geopolitical role as a beacon in the anti-imperialist struggle, in the Covid struggle, in the struggle for environmental sustainability, and in the struggle to develop with the darker nations which have been kept poor by centuries of colonialist and imperialist looting, debt traps, and superexploitation.[3]

The unquestioned, purity fetish grounded, and Sinophobic assumption of Chinese ‘authoritarianism’ and ‘lack of democracy’ also prevents the Western Marxist from learning how the Chinese socialist civilization has been able to creatively embed its socialist democracy in “seven integrated structures or institutional forms (体制tizhi): electoral democracy; consultative democracy; grassroots democracy; minority nationalities policy; rule of law; human rights; and leadership of the Communist Party.”[4] It has withheld them from seeing how a comprehensive study of this whole-process people’s democracy would lead any unbiased researcher to the conclusion Roland Boer has arrived at: namely, that “China’s socialist democratic system is already quite mature and superior to any other democratic system.” This is a position echoed by John Ross (and many other scholars of China), who argues that the “real situation shows that China’s framework and delivery on human rights and democracy is far superior to the West’s.”[5]

​The purity fetish Marxists of the West love to think about democracy in the abstract, and hold up as the pure ideal a notion of democracy which is only quantitatively different from the bourgeois notion. Then, this ideal notion of bourgeois democracy is measured up against the atrocity propaganda riddled caricature of socialist states which their ruling classes paint – and they unquestioningly accept. When the caricature of reality fails to measure up to the ideal, reality – which they have yet to engage with – is condemned. What the Western Marxist forgets – thanks to the purity fetish and their social chauvinism – is that in societies divided by class antagonisms we can never talk about ‘pure democracy,’ or abstract democracy in general; we must always ask – as Lenin did – “democracy for which class?”[6] The ‘democracy’ and ‘democratic freedoms’ of capitalist to exploit and oppress will always be detrimental to working and oppressed peoples. Only an all-people’s democracy (a working and popular classes’ democratic-dictatorship) can be genuinely democratic, for it is the only time ‘power’ (kratos) is actually in the hands of ‘common people’ (dēmos).

To claim – as American capitalists, their puppet politicians and lapdog media, and their controlled counter-hegemonic ‘socialists’ do – that the US is a ‘beacon of democracy,’ and China an ‘authoritarian one-party system,’ is to hold on to a delusional topsy turvy view of reality.[7] If democracy is considered from the standpoint of the capitalist’s ability to arbitrarily exert their will on society at the expense of working people and the planet, then, of course, the US is a beacon of this form of so-called ‘democracy,’ and China an ‘authoritarian’ regime that stands in the way of this ‘freedom.’ If instead, democracy is considered from the standpoint of common people’s ability to exert their power successfully over everyday affairs – that is, if democracy is understood in the people-centered form it etymologically stands for – then it would be indisputable that China is far more democratic than the US (and any other liberal-bourgeois ‘democracy’).

However, the object of this text is not to address and ‘debunk’ all the assertions made about China (or any other socialist country) from the Western left – specifically the Trotskyites and the Democratic Socialists. That would, for one, require a much more expansive project, and two, is a task that has already been done many times before. Projects like Friends of Socialist China and Qiao Collective consistently engage in the practice of debunking the propaganda on China proliferated by the Western ruling class and the ‘left.’ The objective of this text is different; it seeks not only to point out falsities in the Western left’s positions, but to understand the worldview which consistently reproduces these. I have called this worldview the purity fetish. In it we can find the ideological roots for the Western Marxist positions on China.

In the Western Marxist’s purity fetish assessment of China, it is held that because China doesn’t measure up to the pure socialist Ideal in their heads, because China does not have, as Samir Amin notes, “the communism of the twenty-third century,” – it is not actually socialism.[8] The question of democracy and authoritarianism has already been assessed in previous chapters – it is a classic of the Western Marxist condemnation toolbox. My focus in this chapter will be on those who claim China is ‘capitalist’ because it developed private ownership and markets with the period of Reform and Opening Up in 1978. This form of the purity fetish centers on their inability to understand, in a dialectical manner, how markets and private property function within China’s socialism. China, according to these Western Marxists, took the ‘capitalist road’ in 1978. As Roland Boer has shown in his article “Not Some Other -ism”—On Some Western Marxist Misrepresentations of Chinese Socialism,” there are four major ‘sub-forms’ through which this first form of condemnation occurs: 1) capitalist socialism; 2) neoliberalism with Chinese characteristics; 3) bureaucratic capitalism; and 4) state capitalism. Often, variations of these can be found within the same critic, as none are the result of a rigorous, principled analysis.

As US and Western imperialist powers ramp up the New Cold War against China, Western Marxism’s erroneous purity fetish view of Chinese socialism requires closer examination.

The Purity Fetish and The Capitalist Road Thesis

From the moment that the Communist Party of China, spearheaded by Deng Xiaoping, embarked on the process of Reform and Opening Up in 1978, the Western world – both the hegemonic forces and the ‘socialist’ critics – held that China had taken the ‘capitalist road’ and betrayed the revolution. Opening up to foreign capital to develop the productive forces and modernize was considered a betrayal of socialism and the cause of the working class and peasantry. While it is understandable how, from the perspective of an outsider, this might have seemed to be the case, this judgment  nonetheless reflects a deep ignorance of the debates shaping Reform and Opening Up, of the role that lessons from past socialist experiments played in crafting it (e.g., Lenin’s New Economic Policy, Chinese New Democracy, and Yugoslavian Socialist Market economics), and of the poverty of dialectical thinking present in their purity fetish outlook. 

Reform and Opening Up did not come out of a void; Deng did not just wake up one day and voluntaristicly say, “let’s do this!” Instead, there were objective forces which made Reform and Opening Up the most viable route for the Chinese revolution to embark on. “Thirty-five years ago,” as Yi Wen writes, “China’s per capita income was only one-third of that of sub-Saharan Africa.”[9] Justin Yifu Lin, former chief economist and senior vice president of the World Bank, writes that “an estimated 30 percent of rural residents, about 250 million [people], lived below the poverty line, relying on small loans for production and state grants for food.”[10] In a 1979 speech Deng notes that

China is still one of the world’s poor countries. Our scientific and technological forces are far from adequate. Generally speaking, we are 20 to 30 years behind the advanced countries in the development of science and technology.[11]

China was, in short, still a very poor country, and one excluded from the developments of the rest of the world by the forces of imperialism. As Carlos Martinez notes, “China in 1978 remained backwards in many ways … the bulk of the population lived in a very precarious existence, many without access to modern energy and safe water … China’s per capita income was $210, [and] food production, and consequently average food consumption, was insufficient.”[12]

The Importance Marxism Lays on the Development of the Productive Forces

These conditions made the construction of socialism increasingly difficult, and, if allowed to continue, could have created fertile ground for national discontent in the revolutionary process. If the people’s living standards continued to drag in comparison to the rest of the world, the Chinese – as many Russians did in the late 1980s and early 1990s – could lose trust in their party and in socialist construction. It was clear that a change was needed to remove the fetters preventing the development of the forces of production. The Marxist tradition has always understood that only in the development of the forces of production can socialism flourish. In Capital Vol. I, for instance, Marx writes that:

The development of society’s productive forces… [create the]… material conditions of production which alone can form the real basis of a higher form of society, a society in which the full and free development of every individual forms the ruling principle.[13]

It is the development of “the material conditions and the social combination of the process of production” which “ripens,” in the capitalist mode of life, “both the elements for forming a new society and the forces tending towards the overthrow of the old one.”[14] As with other modes of life, Marxist have long understood that capitalist relations of production, while at one point being “forms of development [for] the productive forces,” have in time “turn[ed] into their fetters.”[15] Socialist relations of production have always been understood to have the capacity of breaking through these fetters and helping unleash the forces of production. As Marx famously writes in Capital Vol. I.,

The monopoly of capital becomes a fetter upon the mode of production, which has sprung up and flourished along with, and under it. Centralization of the means of production and socialization of labour at last reach a point where they become incompatible with their capitalist integument. Thus integument is burst asunder. The knell of capitalist private property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated.[16]

A similar argument is made by Engels in his celebrated Socialism: Utopian and Scientific:

The expansive force of the means of production bursts asunder the bonds imposed upon them by the capitalist mode of production. Their release from these bonds is the sole prerequisite for an unbroken, ever more rapidly advancing development of the productive forces, and thus of a practically unlimited growth of production itself.[17]

In his “Critique of the Gotha Program,” while elaborating on some general characteristics and preconditions for the highest phase of communist society, Marx would say that,

In the highest phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labour, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labour, has vanished; after labour has become not only a means of life but life’s prime want; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-round development of the individual, and all the springs of cooperative wealth flow more abundantly – only then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banner: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs![18]

Capitalist relations of production in time become a barrier for human progress – both in the forces of production, i.e., the economic base of society, but also in culture, politics, arts, philosophy i.e., the superstructure of society. While more progressive than the feudal orders which preceded it in Europe, capitalism produces an enormous waste. It wastes labor, human potential, nature, and everything in between. As British socialist William Morris eloquently stated, “The truth is that our system of Society is essentially a system of waste.[19] Not only would socialist relations of production remove the artificial fetters created by a society wherein production is aimed at profit, but also the extreme wastefulness in labor, life, and things created by such anarchic production for-profit. As Engels argues,

The social appropriation of the means of production puts an end not only to the current artificial restrictions on production [i.e., capitalist fetters], but also to the positive waste and devastation of productive forces and products… It sets free for the community at large a mass of means of production and products by putting an end to the senseless luxury and extravagance of the present ruling classes and their political representatives. [This affords] the possibility of securing for every member of society, through social production, an existence which is not only perfectly adequate materially and which becomes daily richer, but also guarantees him the completely free development and exercise of his physical and mental faculties.[20]

The emphasis on the development of the forces of production has led critics of Marxism to argue that socialism would reproduce the same ‘productivism’ as capitalist society. This depicts a fundamental poverty of dialectical thinking. Yes, socialism seeks to unleash the productive forces and create the sort of abundance wherein the human community can “leap from the kingdom of necessity into the kingdom of freedom.”[21] However, this growth is people-centered, not capital-centered. The aim of the development of the forces of production is not the accumulation of endless profit in a small group of hands. Far from this capitalist telos, which grows without regard for nature and human life, socialist growth is centered on creating conditions for the greatest amount of human flourishing – something which necessarily implies de-alienating humans from nature and overcoming the metabolic rifts capitalist production unquestionably creates.[22]

Instead of carrying out production in environmentally unsustainable ways – as capitalism does – socialist production allows for both developments in the productive forces and – because of its efficiency and momentum towards the elimination of superfluous waste – for this development to be carried out in a metabolic harmony with nature. As Marx argues in Capital Vol. III., communist production would

Govern the human metabolism with nature in a rational way, bringing it under collective control instead of being dominated by it as a blind power; accomplishing it with the least expenditure of energy and in conditions most worthy and appropriate for their human nature.[23]

This harmonious metabolism, or balance, can be seen most clearly in China’s efforts to build a socialist ecological civilization – a task it embarked on at the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 2007. As it reads in the latest update to the CPC’s constitution, following the 20th National Congress of the CPC in 2022, the Party must “work to balance … relations between humankind and nature.”[24] “Harmony between humankind and nature,” as the constitution argues, is a fundamental component “in building a socialist ecological civilization” capable of creating “a positive path to development that ensures increased production, higher living standards, and healthy ecosystems.”[25] This dialectic of sustainable development, central to Marx and Engels’s understanding of socialism, finds its highest concrete form to date in China’s efforts to construct a socialist ecological civilization. As John Bellamy Foster, who has spearheaded the movement towards emphasizing the ecological dimensions of Marx and Engels’s thought, has argued: China’s “developments reflect the recognition of a dialectic in this area that has long been part of Marxist theory.”[26] In so doing, Foster argues, “China’s role in promoting ecological civilization as a stage in the development of socialism can be seen as its greatest gift to the world at present in terms of environmental governance.”[27]

Deng and Reform and Opening Up

Although the cultural revolution had come to halt in 1976, similar forms of dogmatism and book worshiping remained for some time. Hua Guofeng’s two whatevers (“We will resolutely uphold whatever policy decisions Chairman Mao made, and unswervingly follow whatever instructions Chairman Mao gave”), for instance, perpetuated the sort of book worshiping which not only sucked the living spirit out of Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought, but proved futile in dealing with the problems China faced.[28]

“The emancipation of minds,” as Deng eloquently noted, was indispensable; historical conditions had developed such that many cadres, especially many leading cadres, remained fettered by rigid thinking and book worshiping.[29] Under the justification of following Mao, they would participate in the same form of book worshiping Mao urged to overcome.[30] The needs of the time, therefore, were elaborated by Deng in the following manner:

Only if we emancipate our minds, seek truth from facts, proceed from reality in everything and integrate theory with practice, can we carry out our socialist modernization programme smoothly, and only then can our Party further develop Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought.[31]

The process of Reform and Opening Up required the liberation of thought from the dogmatism that wanted to perpetuate more of the same. To achieve the four modernizations Zhou Enlai enumerated (initially theorized as the second stage of the third five-year plan), namely, “the comprehensive modernization of agriculture, industry, national defense and science and technology before the end of the century, so that our national economy will be advancing in the front ranks of the world,” the emancipation of the mind from book worshiping and dogmatism was necessary.[32] To be able to understand the world dialectically, to seek truth from facts, the Chinese needed to emancipate the mind. With the mind emancipated, the inflexible rigidity which rejected Reform and Opening Up could be destroyed, and a new phase of development in the Chinese revolution emerge.

It must be noted that, regardless of the pre-’78 flaws Reform and Opening Up sought to overcome, it marked a new phase in the development of the Chinese revolution, not a ‘break’ with the pre-’78 era. There are, as Carlos Martinez notes, ‘no great walls,’

In each stage of its existence, the CPC has sought to creatively apply and develop Marxism according to the prevailing concrete circumstances; always seeking to safeguard China’s sovereignty, maintain peace, and build prosperity for the masses of the people. Through many twists and turns, this has been a constant of a hundred years of Chinese Revolution.[33]

Regardless of certain failures and excesses of the pre-’78 era (most notably found in the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution), it was successful in many areas, and without both its successes and failures, Reform and Opening Up could not have occurred. As Cheng Enfu has argued, “the historical period after reform and opening-up cannot be used to negate the historical period before reform and opening-up, and vice versa.”[34] The successes of Reform and Opening Up, as Samir Amin notes, “would not have been possible without the economic, political, and social foundations that had been built up in the preceding period.”[35] Hu Angang writes that “China succeeded in feeding one-fifth of the world’s population with only 7 percent of the world’s arable land and 6.5 percent of its water … China’s pre-1978 social and economic development cannot be underestimated.”[36] “In 1949,” for instance, “the country’s population was 80 percent illiterate,” by 1978, this was “reduced to 16.4 percent in urban areas and 34.7 percent in rural areas.”[37] In the first three decades of the People’s Republic of China, “the enrolment of school-age children increased from 20 to 90 percent; and the number of hospitals tripled.”[38]

The successes of the pre-1978 era can be lucidly seen when compared to India. As Carlos Martinez notes, “following independence from the British Empire in 1947, [India] was in a similarly parlous state, with a life expectancy of 32 … At the end of the pre-reform period in China, i.e., 1978, India’s life expectancy had increased to 55, while China’s had increased to 67.”[39] John Ross observes that “this sharply growing difference was not because India had a bad record – as an increase of 22 years in life expectancy over a 31-year period graphically shows … it is simply that China’s performance was sensational – life expectancy increased by 32 years in a 29-year chronological period – an annual average increase of 2.3%.”[40] This was a world-historical success, as Ross writes, “China’s rate of increase of life expectancy in the three decades after 1949 was the fastest ever recorded in a major country in human history.”[41] Therefore, the post-1978 successes cannot be isolated from the role the pre-1978 successes played in laying the ground for the following phase of the revolution. “The early decades of socialist construction,” as the Tricontinental Institute’s report on China’s poverty alleviation shows, “laid the foundation that was deepened during the reform and opening-up period.”[42]

For all its successes, 1978 China was still very poor and well-behind the Western powers. It was clearly observable by the late ‘70s “that China’s economy required an infusion of technology and capital, and that it needed to break its isolation from the world market.”[43] China was beginning to suffer in ways similar to the Soviet Union in its last years. As Domenico Losurdo notes,

the China that arose from the Cultural Revolution resembled the Soviet Union to an extraordinary degree in its last years of existence: the socialist principle of compensation based on the amount and quality of work delivered was substantially liquidated, and disaffection, disengagement, absenteeism and anarchy reigned in the workplace.[44]

The overreliance on “voluntarism and ‘moral incentives’ to raise production” began to “suffer from diminishing returns.”[45] Like in the USSR, reforms became necessary to not lose the people.

While there are some superficial similarities between Perestroika and Reform and Opening Up, there are fundamental differences upon which the difference of outcomes is grounded. As Carlos Martinez has written, the reforms in the USSR were top-down, rushed, delegitimizing for the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the socialist experiment’s history (i.e., embedded in denigrating the party and its history – the latter of which the Chinese have labeled ‘historical nihilism’); economically, privatization and marketization were carried out recklessly; key industries the state should have sustained under its control were privatized, and the state grew less capable of commanding the economy towards the pathways which would develop, and not enervate, the revolution.[46] As Martinez notes, “given that the project was presented as a form of ‘democratization,’ it’s ironic that it was carried out in a profoundly undemocratic manner… the leadership didn’t mobilize the existing, proven structures of society (the soviets and the Communist Party) but sought to bypass and weaken them.”[47]

On the other hand, the Chinese reforms were carried out in a pragmatic, grassroots, and incremental fashion – the party was never denigrated, historical nihilism was combated, key industries remained under the control of the CPC and the market activity which developed was commanded by the party to serve the ends of socialism. “Practice,” as Deng said, was “the sole criterion for testing truth.”[48] What succeeded in advancing the cause of socialism at the time was sustained, and what failed was abandoned. “The whole process” of Reform and Opening Up “was carried out under the tight control of the government and took place within the context of a planned economy.”[49]

As Arthur Kroeber has noted, “the government will pursue reforms that increase the role of the market in setting prices, but will avoid reforms that permit the market to transfer control of assets from the state to the private sector.”[50] To use a metaphor often brought up by Xi Jinping, the development of the invisible hand (the market) was not to the detriment of, but to the enhancement of, the visible hand (the state).[51] A similar phenomenon is observable with public and private ownership. As Cheng Enfu argues in China’s Economic Dialectic, “in order to improve the ownership structure of the whole society in which public ownership is dominant and private ownership is auxiliary, it is essential to enhance the symbiosis and complementarity of the two ownerships under market competition and state orientation.”[52] “The result was,” as Martinez writes, “a far more effective programme of economic reform than that which took place in the Soviet Union from 1985-1991 or in post-Soviet Russia from 1991 onwards.”[53]

The importance of not allowing economic liberalization in China to turn into political liberalization cannot be emphasized enough. In the USSR, as Cheng Enfu and Liu Zixu argue, there were three distinct categories of cause behind the fall of Soviet socialism: ideological, organizational, and political.

Ideological Causes: “Amid the rigid theorizing inside and outside of the CPSU, and given the lack of democratic and effective education and ideological work, Khrushchev’s denunciation of Stalin and the strategy of peaceful evolution followed by the West created long-term ideological chaos, which constituted the theoretical foundation and ideational precursor.”

Organizational Causes: “The large number of non-Marxist cadres that the CPSU promoted and placed in important positions led to a serious malfunctioning of systems and mechanisms that could not be put right in an effective and timely manner. The unfair and undemocratic procedures used to select members of the CPSU’s leading group gradually allowed non-Marxist cadres to take over leading positions within the CPSU… Over a few years, in the name of promoting young cadres and of reform, [they] replaced large number of party, political and military leaders with anti-CPSU and anti-socialist cadres or cadres with ambivalent positions. This practice laid the foundations, in organizational and cadre selection terms, for the political ‘shift of direction.’”

Political Causes: “The CPSU leadership betrayed Marxism and socialism, a betrayal that could not be overcome using the traditional political system and its corresponding mechanisms, which were highly centralized and imposed no restrictions… In short, the group headed by Gorbachev and Yeltsin exploited the highly centralized and insufficiently regulated political system and its mechanisms in order to betray Marxism, socialism and the fundamental interests of the vast majority of the people. Here are to be found the political roots and direct cause of the dramatic changes in the Soviet Union and the countries of Eastern Europe.”

At the core of the differences in reforms between China and the USSR, and of the Soviet degeneration going back to Khrushchev, is the lack of awareness of the fundamental distinction between economic and political capital drawn out by Mao. In his 1957 speech given to the Conference of Secretaries of Provincial, Municipal and Autonomous Regions Party Committee, Mao would say that by having bought over the capitalist, the revolution has “deprived them of their political capital.”[55] Here is a very important distinction between political and economic capital. Mao would say that “we must deprive them of every bit of their political capital and continue to do so until not one jot is left to them.”[56] The development of capital, controlled under the people’s democratic dictatorship, “serves the purpose” of developing the productive forces and “of clearing a still wider path for the development of socialism.”[57] As Domenico Losurdo has eloquently noted,

It is, therefore, a matter of distinguishing between the economic expropriation and the political expropriation of the bourgeoisie. Only the latter should be carried out to the end, while the former, if not contained within clear limits, risks undermining the development of the productive forces. Unlike ‘political capital,’ the bourgeoisie’s economic capital should not be subject to total expropriation, at least as long as it serves the development of the national economy and thus, indirectly, the cause of socialism.[58]

Whereas the leadership of the CPSU betrayed “socialism, the party and the people” and put capital in the driver’s seat, the CPC used (and uses) capital to enhance and develop socialism, the party, and the people.[59] Reform and Opening Up has not undone the expropriation of political capital from the capitalists. Regardless of how developed capital has become in China, it has been restricted from political capital. In China, political capital is monopolized in the hands of the Party and the people. It is a people’s democratic dictatorship which uses capital to serve its needs, not the other way around. By sustaining the dictatorship of the proletariat (people’s democratic dictatorship), China has not only secured itself from the crumbling fate of the USSR, but has been able to develop into the global beacon of socialism leading the modern world against US/NATO unipolar hegemony.

This distinction was well understood by Deng, who argued that “if China allowed bourgeois liberalization, there would inevitably be turmoil … we would accomplish nothing, and our principles, policies, line and three-stage development strategy would all be doomed to failure.”[60] All throughout Reform and Opening Up, even in the most difficult of times (e.g., the ‘Wild 90s’) the four cardinal principles have been upheld:  1) We must keep to the socialist road; 2) We must uphold the dictatorship of the proletariat; 3) We must uphold the leadership of the Communist Party; 4) We must uphold Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought.[61]

Reform and Opening Up developed as a necessary phase in the Chinese revolutionary process, wherein an overly centralized economy, combined with imperialist-forced isolation from the world, stifled development and necessitated reforms which would allow China to develop its productive forces, absorb the developments taking place in science and technology from the West, and ultimately, protect its revolution. Far from being a ‘betrayal of socialism,’ as the Western Marxist holds, Reform and Opening Up saved socialism. Not just in China, but – as China’s current geopolitical role makes clear – in the world.

What Western Marxists Fail to Understand Thanks to the Purity Fetish

At the height of the carnage of the first imperialist World War, Karl Kautsky, the representative of social democracy and the Second International, would sophistically blabber about how the present war was not “purely imperialist” because, in part, it contained “national” aspirations from the working masses, especially those in Serbia. By emphasizing the lack of a “pure imperialism,” and by seeing the Serbian national bourgeois struggle in a reified manner, isolated from the context of the imperialist war, Kautsky was setting the grounds for his social chauvinist and right opportunist support for the war. Lenin would magnificently reply to this by saying that,

In the present war the national element is represented only by Serbia’s war against Austria. It is only in Serbia and among the Serbs that we can find a national-liberation movement of long standing, embracing millions, ‘the masses of the people,’ a movement of which the present war of Serbia against Austria is a ‘continuation.’ If this war were an isolated one, i.e., if it were not connected with the general European war, with the selfish and predatory aims of Britain, Russia, etc., it would have been the duty of all socialists to desire the success of the Serbian bourgeoisie as this is the only correct and absolutely inevitable conclusion to be drawn from the national element in the present war.

However, Marxist dialectics, as the last word in the scientific-evolutionary method,
excludes any isolated examination of an object, i.e., one that is one-sided and monstrously distorted.[62]

The absence of dialectical thinking in Kautsky is apparent in his reified assessment of the Serbian national struggle. Because this national struggle, in his eyes, desecrates the purity of the imperialist war, the ground is set for supporting imperialism under the guise of supporting national liberation. The reality, of course, is that the first imperialist war was a conflict between the great imperialist powers for the division of the world. Far from being a national liberation war, it was a war amongst empires fighting to colonize greater and greater parts of the world. The absence of dialectical thought in Kautsky, embedded within his social chauvinism and right opportunism, leads him to support the imperialist war for reasons completely contrary to what the war actually represented. Enslavement is dressed up by Kautsky’s sophistry in the garbs of emancipation.

By expecting a ‘pure’ imperialism, the ‘impurity’ Kautsky observes opens the door for supporting imperialism. But for a dialectician, to expect purity out of any phenomenon in life is to resign oneself to falsity, to misunderstanding the world. As Lenin would eloquently respond,

There are no ‘pure’ phenomena, nor can there be, either in Nature or in society—that is what Marxist dialectics teaches us, for dialectics shows that the very concept of purity indicates a certain narrowness, a one-sidedness of human cognition, which cannot embrace an object in all its totality and complexity. There is no ‘pure’ capitalism in the world, nor can there be; what we always find is admixtures either of feudalism, philistinism, or of something else.[63]

Like all phenomena in nature and human thought, every historically constituted mode of production is heterogeneous, that is, it is never purely one – the dominant – mode of production, but always contains auxiliary forms of production inherited from the past and transformed in light of the new conditions. This is a position very clear in Marx’s writings, which holds not only true for the mode of production (i.e., the economic base), but also for the juridical, philosophical, and political superstructures. As Marx writes in the Grundrisse, “in all forms of society there is one specific kind of production which predominates over the rest, whose relations thus assign rank and influence to the others.”[64] Marx also observes this at play in the difference interest bearing capital in capitalism has with usurer’s capital in pre-capitalist production:

What distinguishes interest-bearing capital – in so far as it is an essential element of the capitalist mode of production – from usurer’s capital is by no means the nature or character of this capital itself. It is merely the altered conditions under which it operates, and consequently also the totally transformed character of the borrower who confronts the money-lender.[65]

A similar activity, once it is embedded in a different, more developed social totality, functions in accordance with the new totality of social relations it is in. This is nothing new, it is simply a law of dialectics, and hence, of the movement and interconnection of all things. This law is called the negation of the negation (or sublation, and in German, aufhebung), and it describes the processes wherein the old is simultaneously canceled and preserved while being elevated into something new. Usurer’s capital, for instance, is the universal which is reconcretized in a sublated form as interest bearing capital in the particular, i.e., in the capitalist mode of production. Without a proper understanding of dialectics, in other words, without a concrete understanding of the world, the important differences created by a change in context is obscured and treated one-sidedly.

Whereas Kautsky would use the ‘impurity’ of imperialism to support it, today’s Western Marxists use the ‘impurity’ of socialism in China to condemn it. China’s economy is not purely dominated by public ownership and distribution is not purely controlled by state central planning; private ownership plays an auxiliary role and state central planning is dialectically enmeshed with the socialist market economy. These ‘impurities’ are used by the Western Marxist to condemn China for not being actually socialist, i.e., not living up to their purity fetish mediated idea of what socialism entails. In both cases, the expectation of purity is fundamental for positions which ultimately side with imperialism. In other words, in both cases the purity fetish is a fundamental ideological component for ‘Marxists’ turning their backs on emancipatory movements in the global south and siding with the imperialist core.

Holding purity as the standard in judgment, as we learn from Lenin and Marx, is fundamentally mistaken – it divorces one from truth and often, thanks to a one-sided and topsy-turvy interpretation of world affairs, leads one to side with the exploiters against the exploited. The Western Marxists, genealogically rooted in the eclecticism, right opportunism, and purity fetish thought of the Second International, make the same (and worse) mistakes in their assessments of China today. In prominent thinkers such as Slavoj Žižek, David Harvey, Maurice Meisner and many others, post-’78 China is described through a dualist paradigm which reduces its economy to being ‘capitalist’ (because of the auxiliary role of private ownership and the market) and its state to being ‘authoritarian’ (because of the failure to live up to the standard of ‘democracy’ in the liberal West). Out of this framework a plethora of terminological conjunctures, such as  capitalist socialism, bureaucratic capitalism, neoliberalism “with Chinese characteristics,” and state capitalism, have arisen to re-classify and condemn China.[66] Bureaucratic capitalism and state capitalism, of course, are not new – these have a long history of being used by Trotskyites and others in the compatible left to condemn the USSR.

What is common to all of these descriptions is a failure of dialectical thought – an inability to observe China’s construction of socialism as an ongoing process which will contain – as all things in the world do – internal contradictions which drive its development. In short, what is common in these descriptions (and others) is the purity fetish outlook with which China is examined. If their pure standard of what a socialist economy is supposed to be (absolutely everything under public ownership and central planning – something not even the Soviet Union had) is not met, and if the paradigm of liberal democracy is rejected in favor of a democratic people’s dictatorship, then reality must be condemned for the sake of the pure ideal; that is, China must not actually be socialist because it does not measure up to my Western Marxist standards and biases. Contrary to this purity fetish outlook, “a dialectical approach to modes of production,” would see that “different modes of production … can be included within a dominant mode that is far from being uniform or global.”[67]

The purity fetish ‘Marxists’ must remember what Engels said of definitions.

From a scientific standpoint all definitions are of little value. In order to gain an exhaustive knowledge of what life is, we should have to go through all the forms in which it appears, from the lowest to the highest. But for ordinary usage such definitions are very convenient and in places cannot well be dispensed with; moreover, they can do no harm, provided their inevitable deficiencies are not forgotten.[68]

In the purity fetish Marxists, Marxism, that is, scientific socialism, loses its scientific character. Things are no longer seen in their movement and interconnections, but treated abstractly and in a reified manner. Socialism becomes a rigid definition, with a series of characteristics reality must meet in order to be labeled as ‘socialist.’ Scientific socialism is killed with the purity fetish – for socialism is not, as Marx and Engels wrote, “a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself,” socialism is instead “the real movement which abolishes the present state of things.”[69] For Marx and Engels, as dialectical materialists, primacy was in the real movement of society, not in the abstract ideal (which is, nonetheless, not rejected as a goal to strive towards).

Socialist Markets? 

In V.I. Lenin’s ‘Conspectus to Hegel’s Science of Logic’ he states that,

It is impossible completely to understand Marx’s Capital, and especially its first chapter, without having thoroughly studied and understood the whole of Hegel’s Logic. Consequently, half a century later none of the Marxists understood Marx![70]

The central message in Lenin’s (rather audacious) statement is this: without a proper understanding of dialectics, Marxism is bound to be misunderstood. A century later and still, Western Marxists struggle to understand Marx, and hence, to understand the world through the Marxist worldview. This is lucidly seen in their treatment of China’s usage of markets, where they dogmatically accept Ludwig von Mises’ stale binary which states  – “the alternative is still either Socialism or a market economy.”[71]

As Roland Boer highlights, already in Capital Vol 3 (specifically chapter 36 on “Pre-Capitalist Relations”) Marx shows how markets existed in the slave economies of the ancient world, e.g., Rome and Greece, and in the feudal economies of the Middle Ages. Were the markets in each of these historical periods the same? Were they commensurable to how markets exist under capitalism? No. As Roland Boer states in his book Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, “market economies may appear to be similar, but it is both the arrangement of the parts in relation to each other and the overall purpose or function of the market economy in question that indicates significant differences between them.”[72] As Boer points out, Chinese scholars, following the analysis of Marx’s Capital Vol 3, understand that “market economies have existed throughout human history and constitute one of the significant creations by human societies.”[73] If markets, then, predate the capitalist mode of production, why would a socialist mode of production not be able to utilize them?

The essential components of a market economy must be understood in the larger socio-economic relations in which they are embedded. While the forms in which market economies show up in Greece, Rome, and the Middle Ages appear as the historical preconditions for the capitalist mode of production, these cannot be called ‘capitalist.’ In so far as these market economies existed outside of the capitalist mode of production, they can be ‘de-linked,’ from capitalism – and hence, their potential to be used in a socialist mode of production (especially one in its lowest stages) is completely possible. The problem is that the Western Marxist’s purity fetish considers, as Von Mises did, capitalism to be synonymous with ‘markets,’ and socialism to be synonymous with ‘planning.’ In reality, the institutional form of markets exists usually along with the institutional form of planning within capitalism itself – especially in its monopoly stage. To take this institutional form and reduce it to being a uniquely capitalist phenomenon is to participate in what Roland Boer and Chinese Marxists have called economics imperialism.[74]

As Leigh Phillips and Michael Rozworski argue in The People’s Republic of Wal-Mart, “Walmart is a prime example” of “centrally planned enterprises” whose scale allows them to function as “centrally planned economies.”[75] In fact, “almost all countries are mixed economies that include various combinations of markets and planning.”[76] Does this mean that Walmart is socialist? Only a fool would say yes. What it does show is that both planning and market institutional forms are conditioned by the socio-economic systems they are embedded in. Walmart’s planned economy is planned by capitalists to secure profits for the owners and shareholders of the enterprise. China’s socialist market economy is embedded within a larger socialist socio-economic system which conditions the market towards the common good, not just towards the profits of a few.

Chinese Marxism, following upon the tradition of Eastern European socialism (Lenin’s New Economic Policy, Yugoslavia’s socialist market economy, etc.), and the CPC’s tradition of mixed ownership and combined market and planning institutional forms (which can be traced back from the liberated areas in the 1920s to the late 1940s), was able to ‘de-link’ markets from capitalism and utilize them as a method (fangfa) and means (shouduan) to serve (fuwu) the ends of socialism, that is, to liberate the forces of production and guarantee collective flourishing.[77] If the last four decades – wherein China has drastically raised its population’s living standards and lifted 800 million people out of poverty – has taught us anything, it is that China’s usage of markets as a shouduan to fuwu socialism works.

Considering the plethora of advances China has been able to make for its population and the global movement for socialism, why have Western Marxist continuously insisted that China’s market reforms are a betrayal of socialism and a deviation down the ‘capitalist road’? Unlike some of the other Western misunderstandings of China, this one isn’t merely a case of yixi jiezhong, of “using Western frameworks or categories to understand China,”[78] for, if the dialectical framework and categories the Marxist tradition inherits from Hegel were properly applied, there would be no misunderstanding at all. Instead, it is precisely the absence of this dialectical framework which leads to the categorical mistakes.

In both Hegel and in the dialectical materialist tradition, universals are understood to be empty if not concretized through the particular. To separate the role the particular plays for the realization of the universal is to treat the universal abstractly – to disconnect it from the developments and interconnections which allow it to be actual. Since markets have existed throughout various modes of production, within the dialectic of universal and particular, markets stand as the universal term. There is no such thing as a ‘market in general,’ markets necessarily exist through a determinate – historically conditioned – form. The form the market takes is determined by the mode of production the market exists in. As an institutional form within the ‘moment of exchange,’ markets are determined by – and hence, reciprocally influence – the mode of production.

Markets, Boer argues, as a “specific building block or component of a larger system” are a “universal institutional form” (tizhi), which can only be brought into concrete existence via a particular socio-economic system (zhidu).[79] Since the particular zhidu through which the universal institutional form of a market comes into existence is a “basic socialist system” (shehuizhuyi jiben zhidu), the fundamental nature of how the tizhi functions will be different to how that tizhi functioned under the particular zhidu of slave, feudal, and capitalist modes of production. As Huang Nansen said, “there is no market economy institutional form that is independent of the basic economic system of society.”[80]

As was the case with the planned institutional form in the first few decades of the revolution, the market institutional form has been able to play its part in liberating the productive forces and drastically raising the living standards of the Chinese people. However, because 1) China took this creative leap of grounding the market institutional form in socialism, and because 2) Western Marxists retain an anti-dialectical purity fetish for the planned institutional form, 3) the usage of markets in China is taken as a desecration of their Western Marxist pseudo-Platonic socialist ideal. It is ultimately a categorical mistake to see the usage of markets as ‘taking the capitalist road’ or as a ‘betrayal of the revolution.’ It is, in essence, a bemusing of the universal for the particular, of the institutional form for the socio-economic system. As Boer asserts, “to confuse a market economy with a capitalist system entails a confusion between commonality and particularity.”[81]

The Importance of Supporting China

Today China stands as the main global force countering US/NATO led imperialism. Its rise signifies much more than the end of US unipolarity – it marks the end of the Columbian era of European global dominance that began in 1492. Today, the rise of China goes hand-in-hand with the rise of Africa, Latin-America, and other Asiatic civilizations. Through the Belt and Road Initiative and other programs, China’s development has mutually developed its international trading partners – especially those in the global South. Africa, a continent with a plethora of resources and potential, has been pillaged by the West for five centuries. It has been kept poor while its resources and people’s labor made the West rich. China’s rise and win-win relations with Africa has, on the contrary, helped develop African infrastructure and elevate the living standards of the African peoples.[82] While Western pundits have a frenzy over the potential of Africa taking the Chinese route, more and more African leaders are starting to see China not only as a trading partner and ally, but as a model which can help them develop and break their enslavement to Western imperialism.[83] The same is true with Latin America, the Middle-East, and the other parts of the world which European leaders see as ‘the jungle.’[84]

The World Bank reports that

Over the past 40 years, the number of people in China with incomes below US $1.90 per day—the international poverty line as defined by the World Bank to track global extreme poverty—has fallen by close to 800 million. With this, China has accounted for almost 75 percent of the global reduction in the number of people living in extreme poverty. In 2021, China declared that it has eradicated extreme poverty according to the national poverty threshold, lifting 770 million people out of poverty since 1978, and that it has built a ‘moderately prosperous society in all respects.’[85]

China is emerging in every category imaginable as the forefront civilization advancing humanity into a new historical stage. It has “the longest and most extensively used high-speed rail (HSR) network in the world;” it has developed, with maglev technology, the fastest train in the world; it has been, over the last 40 years, by far the fastest growing economy in the world – doing so at a speed never before seen in world-history (defying Western economist’s decades-long repeated predictions of slowdowns and collapses); in building its ecological civilization, it has indubitably been the vanguard in the fight against climate change; it has pushed back, over the last few years, against US led imperialist attacks on Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Syria, Russia, Iran, and others; in short, it has developed as the beacon of freedom, socialism, and progress for the new world we are entering into.[86]

Is it perfect? No. This is something they publicly recognize. As proficient dialecticians in governance – which they call ‘contradiction analysis’ over there – they understand that such perfection – such purity – is impossible. There are always contradictions to be resolved, and which, when overcome, give way to new contradictions. This is a basic law of the movement in all things in the world. But, it cannot be denied that while the American civilization train has been stopped in its tracks for decades, experiencing degeneration as the only form of change – the Chinese civilization train races towards the future at an unprecedented speed. It represents not only the advance of China and socialism – but of humanity at large. Any rational human being – let alone one who claims to adhere to Marxism – should see clearly why this is a project we must protect from the imperialist claws that seek to destroy it; the same claws that exploit and oppress us at home.

While the US encircles China with military bases and new imperialist alliances like AUKUS; while its Sinophobic politicians and media fabricate atrocity propaganda – from the ‘Chinavirus’ to ‘Uyghur Genocide’ and ‘Chinese Spy Balloons’ – in order to manufacture consent for a war with China which they predict taking place by 2025; it becomes the utmost duty of American socialists and communists to defend China, to expose the atrocity propaganda as just that –  propaganda – designed to, as Michael Parenti wrote, “invent another reality.”[87]

The defense of China from imperialist attacks is not a task which is disconnected from the struggles of the working class in the imperial core. On the contrary, there are a few reasons why both of these struggles should be seen as interrelated: 1) it is the tax dollars of American working people which are being used to fight wars abroad, while back at the ranch the American people’s lives keep getting worse; 2) sooner or later, it will be American workers which will be sent out to fight in wars to defend a hegemonic order that keeps them poor, and systematically sends them out to die, lose limbs, and acquire PTSD fighting against people whom they have more in common with than those who sent them to war; 3) China’s success is not just China’s, it is the success of socialism – and this success must be used to debunk the American myth that ‘socialism has always failed,’ and to show our working class what socialism can achieve, even while under the boot of imperialist hybrid warfare.

If American socialists genuinely want to bring the working masses of their nation to power, they must be fierce anti-imperialists and ardent defenders of China. Overcoming the purity fetish outlook, which functions as the ideological soil these erroneous views and positions grow out of, is an absolute precondition for this struggle.


[1] See, for instance: David Palumbo-Liu, “The Ongoing Persecution of China’s Uyghurs,” Jacobin (June 2019): ; Ryan Zickgraf, “A Mask Off Moment for the Left,” Sublation Media (May 2022): ; Ho Fung-Hong, “The US-China Rivalry Is About Capitalist Competition,” Jacobin (July 2020): ; Vincent Kolo, “Biden and Xi escalate U.S.-China conflict,” Socialist Alternative (May 2022):

[2] In “John Ross: from Trotskyism to power-worship” from the Trotskyite website Workers Liberty, economist John Ross and historian Carlos Martinez are smeared as ‘power-worshippers’ and admirers of authoritarianism for their support of China:

[3] Vijay Prashad, The Darker Nations (New York: The New Press, 2008).

[4] Roland Boer, “We need to talk more about China’s socialist democracy,” Friends of Socialist China (September 2021):

[5] John Ross, “Democracy and policies in China far greater than the west,” China Daily (December 2021):

[6] V. I. Lenin, Collected Works Vol. 28 (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1974), 249.

[7]Nectar Gan and Steve George, “China claims its authoritarian one-party system is a democracy – and one that works better than the US,” CNN (December 2021):

[8] Amin, Only People Make Their Own History, 110.

[9] Yi Wen, “China’s Rapid Rise: From Backward Agrarian Society to Industrial Powerhouse in Just 35 Years,” Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis (April 11, 2016):

[10] Justin Lifu Yin, Demystifying the Chinese Economy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 6.

[11] Deng Xiaoping, “Uphold the Four Cardinal Principles (1979),” Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping:

[12] Carlos Martinez, No Great Wall: On the Continuities of the Chinese Revolution (Carbondale: Midwestern Marx Publishing Press), 25.

[13] Karl Marx, Capital Vol I., (London: Penguin, 1982), 739.

[14] Marx, Capital Vol I., 635.

[15] Karl Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (New York: International Publishers, 1999), 21.

[16] Marx, Capital Vol. I., 929.

[17] Friedrich Engels, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific (Chicago: Revolutionary Classics, 1993), 109.

[18] Marx and Engels, MECW Vol. 24, 87.

[19] William Morris, “As to Bribing Excellence,” William Morris Archive:

[20] Engels, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, 109.

[21] Engels, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, 110.

[22] Capitalism “produces conditions that provoke an irreparable rift in the interdependent process of social metabolism, a metabolism prescribed by the natural laws of life itself.” Karl Marx, Capital Vol. III (London: Penguin, 1991), 949. For more see John Bellamy Foster’s work, especially Marx’s Capital and The Return of Nature, and Ian Agnus’s work, especially Facing the Anthropocene and The War against the Commons: Dispossession and Resistance in the Making of Capitalism.

[23] Karl Marx, Capital Vol III, 958-9.

[24] “CONSTITUTION OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF CHINA (Revised and adopted at the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China on October 22, 2022),” Qiushi (October 2022): 8.

[25] “Constitution of the Communist Party of China,” 10.

[26] John Bellamy Foster et. al., “Why is the great project of Ecological Civilization specific to China?,” Monthly Review (October 2022):

[27] Foster et. al., “Why is the great project of Ecological Civilization specific to China?”

[28] “Resolution on certain questions in the history of our party since the founding of the People’s Republic of China,” Marxist Internet Archive:

[29] Deng Xiaoping, “Emancipate the Mind, Seek Truth From Facts and Unite As One In Looking to the Future (1978),” Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping:

[30] Mao Tse-Tung, “Oppose Book Worship (1930),” In Selected Works of Mao Tse-Tung  Vol. 6 (India: Kranti Publications, 1990).

[31] Xiaoping, “Emancipate the Mind, Seek Truth From Facts and Unite As One In Looking to the Future.”

[32] Zhou Enlai, “Report on the Work of the Government (1975),” Zhou Enlai Internet Archive

[33] Martinez, No Great Wall, 33.

[34] Cheng Enfu and Jun Zhang, “Five Hundred Years of World Socialism and Its Prospect: Interview with Professor Enfu Cheng,” International Critical Thought 11(1) (2021): , 17.

[35] Samir Amin, Beyond US Hegemony: Assessing the prospects for a Multipolar World (UK: Zed Books, 2013), 23.

[36] Hu Angang, China in 2020: A New Type of Superpower (US: Brookings Institution Press, 2012), 27.

[37] “Serve the People: The Eradication of Extreme Poverty in China,” Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research (July 2021):

[38] “Serve the People: The Eradication of Extreme Poverty in China.”

[39] Martinez, No Great Wall, 32.

[40] John Ross, China’s Great Road: Lessons for Marxist Theory and Socialist Practice (New York: Praxis Press, 2021), 17.

[41] Ross, China’s Great Road, 17.

[42] “Serve the People: The Eradication of Extreme Poverty in China.”

[43] “Serve the People: The Eradication of Extreme Poverty in China.”

[44] Domenico Losurdo, “Has China Turned to Capitalism?—Reflections on the Transition from Capitalism to Socialism,” International Critical Thought 7(1) (2017), 19.

[45] Martinez, No Great Wall, 46.

[46] See Carlos Martinez’s chapter “Will China Suffer the Same Fate as the Soviet Union?” in No Great Wall.

[47] Martinez, No Great Wall, 47.

[48] Deng Xiaoping, “Excerpts From Talks Given In Wuchang, Shenzhen, Zhuhai and Shanghai (1992),” Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping:

[49] Martinez, No Great Wall, 48.

[50] Arthur R. Kroeber, China‘s Economy: What Everyone Needs to Know (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016,), 225.

[51] Xi Jinping, The Governance of China Vol. 1 (Beijing: Foreign Language Press, 2014), 128-130.

[52] Cheng Enfu, China’s Economic Dialectic: The Original Aspiration of Reform (New York: International Publishers, 2019), 46.

[53] Martinez, No Great Wall, 49.

[54] Cheng Enfu and Liu Zixu, “The Historical Contribution of the October Revolution to the Economic and Social Development of the Soviet Union—Analysis of the Soviet Economic Model and the Causes of Its Dramatic End,” International Critical Thought 7(3) (2017): , 304- 306. For more on Cheng Enfu’s views on the subject of the Soviet collapse see: Cheng Enfu and Jun Zhang, “Five Hundred Years of World Socialism and Its Prospect: Interview with Professor Enfu Cheng,International Critical Thought 11(1) (2021):

[55] Mao Tse-Tung, “Talks at a Conference of Secretaries of Provincial, Municipal and Autonomous Regions Party Committees,” In Selected Works of Mao Tse-Tung Vol 5 (Peking: Foreign Language Press, 1977), 357.

[56] Mao, Selected Works Vol. 5, 357.

[57] Mao, Selected Works Vol. 5, 357.

[58] Losurdo, “Has China Turned to Capitalism?, 18-19.

[59] Enfu and Zixu, “The Historical Contribution of the October Revolution,” 306.

[60] Deng Xiaoping, “We Must Adhere To Socialism and Prevent Peaceful Evolution Towards Capitalism (1989),” Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping:

[61] Deng Xiaoping, “Uphold Four Cardinal Principals (1979),” Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping:

[62] Lenin, Collected Works Vol. 21, 235.

[63] Lenin, Collected Works Vol 21., 236.

[64] Marx, Grundrisse, 106-107.

[65] Marx, Capital Vol. III, 600

[66] For a more detailed account, see Roland Boer “Not Some Other Ism.”

[67] Boer, “Not Some Other Ism,” 9.

[68] Friedrich Engels, Anti-Dühring (Peking: Foreign Language Press, 1976), 81.

[69] Marx and Engels, MECW Vol. 5, 49.

[70] Lenin, Collected Works Vol. 38, 180.

[71] Ludwig von Mises, Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1962), 142.

[72] Boer, Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, 119.

[73] Boer, Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, 119. It is also important to note that this realization is common knowledge in economic anthropology since the 1944 publication of Karl Polanyi’s The Great Transformation, where, while holding that “there is hardly an anthropological or sociological assumption contained in the philosophy of economic liberalism that has not been refuted,” nonetheless argues markets have predated the capitalist mode of production, albeit usually existing inter, as opposed to intra, communally. Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation, (New York: Beacon Press, 1957). 269-277.

[74] Boer, Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, 120.

[75] Leigh Phillips and Michael Rozworski, The People’s Republic of Wal-Mart (London: Verso Books, 2019), 16.

[76] Phillips and Rozworski, The People’s Republic of Wal-Mart, 14.

[77] Boer, Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, 118.

[78] Boer, Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, 13.

[79] Boer, Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, 122-3.

[80] Boer, Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, 124. Quoted from: Huang, Nansen. 1994. Shehuizhuyi shichang jingji lilun de zhexue jichu. Makesizhuyi yu xianshi 1994 (11): 1–6.

[81] Boer, Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, 124.

[82]  Ehizuelen Michael M.O., “China Helps Africa Realize its Potential,” China Daily  (July 2022):

[83] Wade Shepard, “Why China’s Development Model Won’t Work In Africa,” Forbes (October 2019):

[84] Josep Borrell, EU foreign policy chief, said in October 2022 that “Europe is a garden. We have built a garden. Most of the rest of the world is a jungle, and the jungle could invade the garden.”,go%20to%20the%20jungle%20to%20protect%20the%20garden.

[85] “Four Decades of Poverty Reduction in China,” World Bank (2022) xiii

[86] Vivi, “China High-Speed Rail Network,” China Travel (March 2022):,two-thirds%20of%20the%20world%27s%20total%20high-speed%20railway%20networks. ; Theo Wayt, “China unveils 373-mph ‘levitating’ train, fastest ground vehicle in the world,” NY Post (July 2021): ; “Four Decades of Poverty Reduction in China,” World Bank 17 ; Carlos Martinez, “China is building an ecological civilization,” Friends of Socialist China (November 2022):

[87] Courtney Kube and Mosheh Gains, “Air Force general predicts war with China in 2025, tells officers to prep by firing ‘a clip’ at a target, and ‘aim for the head,’” NBC News (January 2023):   Michael Parenti, Inventing Reality: The Politics Of The Mass Media (New York: St. Martens Press, 1986), 208.

2 thoughts on “China and the purity fetish of Western Marxism”

  1. An excellent article. The Marxist Purists evidently dont understand Marx. His views on the evolution of Marxist theories or the key writing of Marxists who did understand. It is a sad and bitter truth that the western so called Marxists have singularly failed ever to get a message out that has attracted mass support. There seems to be a destructive element in these groups that can only talk of destroying, never of building. Their fixation on the past seems to prohibit them from forming any coherent plan for the future. The egos of their leadership seem s to impede rational debate. China is an excellent model of the practical and logical application of Marxist policies fully in line with Marx’s evolutionary theory. The results are plain to see for any that care to look.

  2. I am from Vancouver,Canada and i wanted to say that i can see for myself the progress that have been made in Latin America and Africa since these countries became part of BRICS. A Multi-Polar World is becoming a Reality.
    Although there are still problems to overcome. The Middle- East today is on every ones mind. The People of Gaza are cut off from Food,Water, Electricity, Housing and if that is not bad enough been forced to leave their country. You would have to go back to the dark days of the Roman Empire to find conditions like that.
    China and Russia got a chance to save the Heroic people of Gaza and it needs to be done soon. People can’t live long in conditions like that. This problem goes back to 1948 and continues to this day. The western countries don’t care about it! So it is up to China and Russia to help the People of Gaza. The Al-Qassam Brigades did their part and did it good. People all over the world supports them. They just needs a bit of help to finish the job.

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