The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, together with various institutions under its umbrella, including the Academy of Marxism and the World Socialism Research Centre, organised the 13th World Socialism Forum in Beijing, November 28-30.
Numerous Chinese delegates, including leading members of the Communist Party of China, scholars, researchers and students of Marxism, and others, were joined by scholars and political and social activists from around the world. They included leaders, representatives and members of communist parties and other left-wing parties and organisations from many countries, including Cuba, Vietnam and Laos; Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Turkiye, Lebanon, Syria, Japan and Australia; South Africa, Zambia, Ghana and Kenya; Peru, Argentina, Brazil and the USA; and Russia, Hungary, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Britain, France, Switzerland, Finland and Cyprus.
Friends of Socialist China was represented by our co-editor Keith Bennett.
Following the main conference in Beijing, the international delegates were divided into two groups which travelled respectively to Shandong and Fujian provinces.
The following is the text of the speech given by Keith at the conference at Fuzhou University. Citing VI Lenin, JV Stalin, Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping and Xi Jinping, Keith touches on the relationship between socialist countries and the struggle for socialism on a world scale and proceeds to analyse how this relates to President Xi Jinping’s concept of a shared future for humanity and especially the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Keith also delivered a similar paper (slightly abbreviated due to time constraints) at the forum in Beijing.
First, I would like to express my sincere thanks to the Academy of Marxism of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and to Fuzhou University, along with all the organisers and co-organisers, for their kind invitation, excellent arrangements and generous hospitality.
I would also like to join our comrade from the Communist Party of the USA, who spoke a little earlier, in saying how inspiring it is to see so many young students here today and, in particular, so many young women students. Seeing you all brings to my mind what Chairman Mao said to the Chinese students in Moscow in 1957 – that the future of China and the world belongs to you and that our hopes are placed in you.
It is not by chance that we meet here in the People’s Republic of China, the world’s leading socialist country, to discuss the prospects for world socialism.
It is also very significant that we are joined here by representatives of the heroic socialist nations of Vietnam and Laos, and I take this opportunity to again warmly congratulate our Laotian comrades on yesterday’s 48th anniversary of the victory of their revolution.
In his Draft Theses on the National and Colonial Question, written for the Second Congress of the Communist International on June 5, 1920, Lenin wrote that, “proletarian internationalism demands, first, that the interests of the proletarian struggle in any one country should be subordinated to the interests of that struggle on a world-wide scale, and, second, that a nation which is achieving victory over the bourgeoisie should be able and willing to make the greatest national sacrifices for the overthrow of international capital.”
In his talk with African friends on August 8, 1963, Comrade Mao Zedong said: “The people who have triumphed in their own revolution should help those still struggling for liberation. This is our internationalist duty.”
In his talk with former President of Tanzania Julius Nyerere on November 23, 1989, Comrade Deng Xiaoping said: “So long as socialism does not collapse in China, it will always hold its ground in the world.”
In his report to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, delivered on October 18, 2017, Comrade Xi Jinping said that socialism with Chinese characteristics “offers a new option for other countries and nations who want to speed up their development while preserving their independence; and it offers Chinese wisdom and a Chinese approach to solving the problems facing humanity.”
It is 10 years since President Xi Jinping put forward the Belt and Road Initiative and barely a month ago, I was privileged to be seated in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People to listen to President Xi open the Third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation.
Xi Jinping said that over the past decade “we have learned that humankind is a community with a shared future. China can only do well when the world is doing well. When China does well, the world will get even better.”
President Xi, in my view, expresses things here with such simplicity and clarity, making it sound like obvious common sense, that it might seem that this is acceptable to all and that nobody could possibly disagree with it.
But this is far from the case. The BRI is concerned with development, modernisation and globalisation. And there are two fundamentally different approaches to these questions in today’s world. It is not a coincidence that the approach to these questions that represents and embodies the interests of the overwhelming majority of countries, and the overwhelming majority of the people in every country, should be put forward by the world’s leading socialist country. Nor is it a coincidence that it is above all the world’s leading imperialist country that announces a supposed alternative to the BRI every few months, none of which achieve any traction or any concrete result.
Comrade Liu Jianchao, the Minister of the International Department of the Communist Party of China’s Central Committee, spelled matters out clearly in a recent article, where he wrote:
“The vision of building a human community with a shared future and the three global initiatives are scientific. They encapsulate the stances, viewpoints, and methods of Marxism, reflecting the hallmarks of Marxism, and demonstrating salient theoretical character. Underpinned by dialectical and historical materialism, the vision and the three global initiatives reveal the laws governing the development of human society and its future direction.”
Already in 1920, in the Theses from which I quoted a little earlier, Lenin wrote that “there is a tendency towards the creation of a single world economy, regulated by the proletariat of all nations as an integral whole and according to a common plan. This tendency has already revealed itself quite clearly under capitalism and is bound to be further developed and consummated under socialism.”
Careful study of the White Paper released by the Information Office of China’s State Council on October 10, to coincide with the tenth anniversary and the Beijing Forum, can help to understand this more concretely.
The White Paper again makes clear that whilst the BRI has been launched by China, it belongs to the world and benefits the whole of humanity.
“Irrespective of size, strength and wealth, all countries participate on equal terms.”
Making very clear the distinction between the socialist and imperialist approaches to such questions, it notes that the type of development advanced by the BRI diverges from “the exploitative colonialism of the past, avoids coercive and one-sided transactions, rejects the centre-periphery model of dependency, and refuses to displace crisis onto others or exploit neighbours for self-interest.”
The same point was made even more forcefully by President Xi Jinping in his report to the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China delivered on October 22 last year, where he stated:
“In pursuing modernisation, China will not tread the old path of war, colonisation and plunder taken by some countries. That brutal and blood-stained path of enrichment at the expense of others caused great suffering for the people of developing countries.”
These words of President Xi surely acquire even greater relevance and poignancy today in the face of Israel’s genocidal war in Gaza and the courageous resistance of the Palestinian people, a veritable 21st century Warsaw Ghetto. On one hand, the United States, Britain, France, Germany and a handful of others, aid and abet the genocide and even seek to curtail and deny their own peoples’ right to protest. On the other hand, socialist China, along with the overwhelming majority of the countries of the world, principally the Global South, stand for peace, an end to the war of aggression, and for the long overdue realisation of the national rights to an independent state of the Palestinian people.
And the same fundamental distinction with regard to which road to take informs socialist China’s approach to globalisation. In the western countries, the prevailing discourse, from much of both the left and the right tends to assert that China has wholeheartedly embraced the model of globalisation advanced by the major capitalist powers. This is so far from reality as to suggest that those who advance it are either ignorant or malicious. Or quite possibly both.
The White Paper is clear that the fruits of economic globalisation have until now been dominated by a small group of developed countries. Rather than contributing to common prosperity at a global level, it explains, globalisation has widened the wealth gap between the rich and poor, between developed and developing countries, and within the developed countries themselves. Many developing countries have benefited little from economic globalisation and even lost their capacity for independent development. Certain countries, it notes, have practiced unilateralism, protectionism and hegemonism.
But just as, in their day, Marx and Engels could not endorse, but rather repudiated and stood against, the Luddite approach which, faced with the undoubted depredations and cruelties of the industrial revolution, sought to reverse the objective course of historical progress, China, unlike some, does not reject globalisation. But it stands for a different globalisation. Economic globalisation, the White Paper insists, remains an irreversible trend. It is unthinkable for countries to return to a state of seclusion or isolation. But economic globalisation must undergo adjustments in both form and substance.
The focus of BRI, it explains, is precisely on contributing to a form of globalisation that generates common prosperity and that brings benefits particularly to developing countries. Thus, while the BRI is open to all, it is neither accident nor coincidence that the majority of its participants are developing countries. The developing countries as a whole all seek to leverage their collective strength to address such challenges as inadequate infrastructure, lagging industrial development, and insufficient capital, technologies and skills, so as to promote their economic and social development.
And as Lenin pointed out in his article Better Fewer, But Better, written on March 2, 1923:
“In the last analysis, the outcome of the struggle will be determined by the fact that Russia, India, China, etc., account for the overwhelming majority of the population of the globe. And during the past few years it is this majority that has been drawn into the struggle for emancipation with extraordinary rapidity, so that in this respect there cannot be the slightest doubt what the final outcome of the world struggle will be. In this sense, the complete victory of socialism is fully and absolutely assured.”
It is with this extraordinary prescience, writing when the world’s first workers’ state was literally fighting for its very existence, and when most of the world was still carved up between a handful of imperialist powers, that Lenin could anticipate the events of exactly a century later when the GDP of the BRICS has surpassed that of the G7. And it is precisely the stand, viewpoint and method of Marxism and Leninism that enables us to appreciate the fundamental and epochal significance of such developments.
Grounded as it is therefore in the stand, viewpoint, and method of Marxism, it should be clear that the BRI is based on and inherits not only the Silk Roads of antiquity, but also the diplomatic history of socialist China as well as the international standpoint and practice of the international working-class movement more generally, particularly since the establishment of workers states, the constitution of the working class as the ruling class.
It resonates, for example, with China’s building of the Tazara railway in Zambia and Tanzania in the 1970s. With the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence put forward by Premier Zhou Enlai in 1954 and the Ten Principles adopted by the Afro-Asian Conference held in the Indonesian city of Bandung the following year.
As far back as 1921, even before the official formation of the USSR, Lenin’s government concluded treaties with Afghanistan, Persia and Turkiye, which provided for mutual support, aid in the financial, technical, personnel and other fields, and especially for support in their struggles to win and maintain independence from colonial and imperial powers.
This in turn built on the deliberations of the Second Congress of the Communist International, held in 1920, which, in the Theses to which I previously referred, established the absolute duty of the working-class movement to support the struggles of the colonial and oppressed countries and peoples for liberation and for independence against imperialism.
As Stalin summed up in his 1924 work Foundations of Leninism:
“The struggle that the Emir of Afghanistan is waging for the independence of Afghanistan is objectively a revolutionary struggle, despite the monarchist views of the Emir and his associates, for it weakens, disintegrates and undermines imperialism… For the same reasons, the struggle that the Egyptian merchants and bourgeois intellectuals are waging for the independence of Egypt is objectively a revolutionary struggle, despite the bourgeois origin and bourgeois title of the leaders of Egyptian national movement, despite the fact that they are opposed to socialism.”
The Belt and Road Initiative, and the other global initiatives put forward by President Xi Jinping, are the 21st century inheritance and expression of this Marxist theory and practice. The difference is that today it is becoming a material force that is progressively uniting and mobilising the majority of humanity and thereby transforming the world. This is a major part of why Xi Jinping Thought can justly be acclaimed as Marxism for the 21st Century and why, as President Xi constantly reminds us, we are witnessing changes unseen in a century, that is since the birth of the first workers’ state, and so recalling the stirring line from The Internationale:
A Better World’s in Birth.
Thank you for your attention.