A century of struggle: the glorious achievements and historic contributions of the Communist Party of China

This reflection on the history of the CPC, written by Qu Qingshan – Director of the Central Institute of Party History and Literature of the CPC Central Committee – was originally published in Qiushi. It provides an overview of each generation of leadership of the CPC (under Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping) and describes how they each feed in to an overall trajectory towards an advanced socialism and national rejuvenation. It highlights the party’s clear position that Marxism must continue to provide the ideological base of its work: “If we deviate from Chinese socialism, all our previous efforts will go up in smoke”.


As General Secretary Xi Jinping has said, the past century has witnessed the Communist Party of China (CPC) work with devotion in pursuit of its founding mission, blaze new trails while enduring bitter hardships, and strive toward a brighter future. Since its founding in 1921, the CPC has surmounted one obstacle after another and achieved victory after victory by relying closely on the people. In this ancient land of China, it has brought about epic milestones in the history of human development and made groundbreaking contributions to the Chinese nation. 

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Report on CPC’s mission, contributions lauded overseas

This article by Chen Weihua and Chen Yingqun in China Daily about the recently-released report, The CPC: Its Mission and Contributions, includes comments made by Friends of Socialist China co-editor Carlos Martinez. A fuller analysis of the document can be read here.


Experts worldwide hailed a key publication shedding light on the Communist Party of China’s mission and contributions as “powerful” and “inspiring”, saying it has outlined the successes of the first century of the Party’s history and charted the route in the coming decades.

The report, titled “The CPC: Its Mission and Contributions”, was released by the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee on Thursday, expounding on the Party’s mission and contributions.

The document stressed that the CPC is a political party that seeks happiness for the people and progress for humanity, and “achieving national rejuvenation is the historic mission of the CPC”.

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Summary of ‘The CPC: Its Mission and Contributions’

Written by Carlos Martinez for Friends of Socialist China. The article has been translated into Dutch by our friends at ChinaSquare.


On 26 August 2021, the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee released an important document, entitled ‘The CPC: Its Mission and Contributions’. The publication, consisting in its English translation of over 28,000 words, clearly represents a wide-ranging discussion within the CPC, reflecting on its contributions of the last hundred years and its goals and challenges for the future.

Continuity

The document emphasises the basic continuity at the heart of the CPC’s mission. Since its founding in July 1921, the CPC has devoted itself to the project of building socialism, establishing China’s sovereignty, creating a better life for the population, and contributing to a peaceful and prosperous future for humanity.

Although the CPC has gone through many phases – including the first united front with the Guomindang (1925-27), the establishment of the first revolutionary base areas, the Long March, leading the war against Japanese occupation, the civil war from 1946-49, the early decades of socialist construction, and the period of reform and opening up from 1978 – it has stuck resolutely to its core mission and principles. It has remained grounded in the needs and aspirations of the people, and that is one of the key reasons for its success.

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Jenny Clegg: Was Mao a Marxist?

In this session for the Marx Memorial Library on 1 July 2021, Jenny Clegg explores how Mao adapted Marxist ideology to drive the Chinese peasant revolution from 1925-1949.


Introduction

Edgar Snow’s famous book Red Star over China opens with a series of questions he was looking to answer as he set off for Yenan in 1936:  was the CPC a genuine Marxist Party or just a bunch of Red bandits? was the Red Army essentially a mob of hungry brigands as the Right wing KMT Nationalists made out?

From the Left also, Mao was being accused of departing from proletarian politics – for Trotsky the CPC under Mao’s leadership had been ‘captured by the peasants’ rich peasants at that.

Today similar scepticism is directed at whether or not China is genuinely socialist referencing these doubts about the earlier CPC history.

Mao was indeed a peasant leader; the Communist Party could not have come to power without the support of hundreds of millions of peasants  – they joined its mass organisations, they joined the Party itself, they carried out and conformed with its policies, and they gave material support in paying taxes and enlisting in its armies.  

Mao’s strategy of protracted revolution, building Red bases in the countryside to encircle the towns, is familiar to most people and will not be my focus here.

To answer the question ‘was Mao a Marxist’ it might be expected then that I start with his essays on philosophy – On Practice and On Contradiction.  But these essays in themselves are not the focus of my discussion either.  

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Jenny Clegg reflects on a hundred years of the CPC

The following is the text of a speech given by British author, academic and campaigner Jenny Clegg at a recent webinar hosted by the Morning Star and Friends of Socialist China to celebrate the centenary of the CPC. Jenny discusses China’s unique contributions to Marxism, as well as outlining the history of the revolution and analysing the reasons for its continuing successes.

The story of how the CPC, founded in secret by just a handful of people, grew into an organisation of some 95 million members is truly remarkable.

It is a story that goes together with that of China’s transformation from the ‘Sick Man of Asia’ into the world’s second largest economy.  It is the Party that provided the political architecture that has made this possible. 

Taking stock at 100 years means looking not only at China’s achievements but also what this has meant – and means – for the world.

The CPC’s story is one of twists and turns, of tenacity against adversity, retreating when retreat was necessary but also daring to seize the time when the opportunity arose.  What has given the CPC its strength, its courage to face reality, to learn from mistakes, was and is Marxism.  For the CPC, Marxism is not a dogma, but a set of tools applied concretely to solve China’s problems.

The key to the success of the Revolution in 1949 lay mainly in the Party’s ability to mobilise the people effectively both around national and around class goals.  For this it drew on Marxist class analysis to devise a revolutionary strategy of shared benefit so as to unite all who could be united in the common goals of ending foreign domination and building the nation.

Fundamental here was land reform which gained the CPC the support of hundreds of millions of peasants  – they participated in its mass organisations, they joined the Party itself, they carried out and conformed with its policies, and they gave material support in paying taxes and enlisting in its armies.  

China’s contribution to the defeat of worldwide fascism in 1945 is often overlooked in the West.  It was Communist resistance together with the Nationalist armies that kept Japanese troops bogged down in China so that the Soviets could concentrate all their forces against the Nazis on the Western front.  This cost up to 20 million Chinese lives.  Nor is it widely understood that China the first country to end colonial rule as the Allies agreed to give up the Unequal Treaties in 1943.  China was to be one of the four founding members of the United Nations and the CPC was present at the occasion.

This example of how the Chinese people, led by a Communist Party, gained liberation in 1949 shone a bright light for colonised people around the world. Its experience of people’s war, revolution and the transformation of rural society was to be the inspiration for national liberation movements in many different countries in the years to come.

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A century of the Communist Party of China: No Great Wall

We are republishing this article by Friends of Socialist China co-editor Carlos Martinez, which originally appeared in the Morning Star on 9 July 2021. It is the sixth and final article in a series about the history of the Communist Party of China, which celebrated its centenary on 1 July 2021.


Many consider that “reform and opening up” was a total transformation of Chinese economics and politics and a negation of the first three decades of socialist construction.

Certainly, the strategy adopted by the Deng Xiaoping leadership from 1978 was in part designed to correct certain mistakes and imbalances; however, it was also a response to changing objective circumstances — specifically, a more favourable international environment resulting from the restoration of Beijing’s seat at the United Nations (1971) and the rapprochement between China and the US.

Thomas Orlik, chief economist at Bloomberg Economics, correctly observes that, “When Deng Xiaoping launched the reform and opening process, friendly relations with the United States provided the crucial underpinning. The path for Chinese goods to enter global markets was open.”

So too was the door for foreign capital, technology and expertise to enter China — first from Hong Kong and Japan, then the West. Then premier Zhou Enlai reportedly commented at the time of US secretary of state Henry Kissinger’s historic visit to Beijing in 1971 that “only America can help China to modernise.” Even allowing for Zhou’s legendary diplomatic eloquence, this statement nevertheless contains an important kernel of truth.

Mao and Zhou had seen engagement with the US as a way to break China’s international isolation. The US leadership, meanwhile, saw engagement with Beijing as a way to perpetuate and exacerbate the division between China and the Soviet. Union.

The tragic reality of the split in the world communist movement is that everyone was triangulating; for its part, the Soviet leadership was hoping to work with the US to undermine and destabilise China.

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The Communist Party of China is a Marxist party

A key message from Xi Jinping’s speech on the centenary of the CPC: the CPC is a Marxist party, and China’s success is proof of the enduring validity of Marxism.

Marxism is the fundamental guiding ideology upon which our party and country are founded; it is the very soul of our party and the banner under which it strives. The Communist Party of China upholds the basic tenets of Marxism and the principle of seeking truth from facts. At the fundamental level, the capability of our party and the strengths of socialism with Chinese characteristics are attributable to the fact that Marxism works.

Xi Jinping, 1 July 2021

Will China Suffer the Same Fate as the Soviet Union?

This article by Carlos Martinez, Will China Suffer the Same Fate as the Soviet Union?”, was published in World Review of Political Economy, Vol. 11, No. 2 (Summer 2020): pp. 189-207.


Carlos Martinez is an independent researcher and political activist from London, Britain. His first book, The End of the Beginning: Lessons of the Soviet Collapse, was published in 2019 by LeftWord Books. His main areas of research are the construction of socialist societies (past and present), progressive movements in Latin America, and multipolarity.

Abstract: It was widely assumed in the West following the collapse of European socialism that China would undergo a similar process of counter-revolution. This article seeks to understand why, three decades later, this hasn’t happened, and whether it is likely to happen in the foreseeable future. The article contrasts China’s “reform and opening up” process, pursued since 1978, with the “perestroika” and “glasnost” policies taken up in the Soviet Union under the Gorbachev leadership. A close analysis of the available data makes it clear that China’s reform has been far more successful than the Soviet reform; that, in contrast to the Soviet Union in the 1980s, all the key quality of life indicators in China have undergone significant improvement in the last forty years, and China is emerging as a global leader in science, technological innovation and environmental preservation. The article argues that the disparate outcomes in China and the Soviet Union are the result primarily of the far more effective economic strategy pursued by the Chinese government, along with the continued strengthening of the Communist Party of China’s leadership.

We should think of China’s communist regime quite differently from that of the USSR: it has, after all, succeeded where the Soviet Union failed. (Jacques 2009, 535)

This article addresses the reasons for the collapse of the Soviet Union, and seeks to understand whether the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is vulnerable to the same forces that undermined the foundations of European socialism. What lessons can be drawn from the Soviet collapse? Has capitalism won? What future does socialism have in the world? Is there any escape for humanity from brutal exploitation, inequality and underdevelopment? Is there a future in which the world’s billions can truly exercise their free will, their humanity, liberated from poverty and alienation?

The conclusions I draw are that China is following a fundamentally different path to that of the Soviet Union; that it has made a serious and comprehensive study of the Soviet collapse and rigorously applied what it has learnt; that the People’s Republic of China remains a socialist country and the driving force towards a multipolar world; that, in spite of the rolling back of the first wave of socialist advance, Marxism remains as relevant as ever; and that, consequently, socialism has a bright future in the world.

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Book review: Roland Boer – Socialism with Chinese Characteristics: A Guide for Foreigners

Roland Boer
Socialism with Chinese Characteristics: A Guide for Foreigners

Springer, Singapore, 2021. 316 pp., 103,99 € hb
ISBN 9789811616211

Reviewed by: Tamara Prosic


Ever since the reform and opening-up from 1978, and especially during the last few decades, China has often been portrayed as an economic and a political hybrid: an officially socialist country which has, under the aegis of its Communist Party and its leaders’ continuing declarations of allegiance to Marxism and building socialism, embraced two key components of capitalist systems: private ownership over the means of production and a market economy. For many, this hybridity is also an insoluble contradiction which, similar to the classical liar paradox, involves a range of mutually invalidating opposites lining up with popular understanding of ‘authentically’ Marxist/socialist/communist economic and political values, practices, etc., and respectively ‘authentically’ capitalist/liberal/neoliberal values, practices, etc. Overall, the reasoning goes that if China is truly socialist and if its Communist Party sincerely adheres to Marxism (as its theoretical and practical guide for building socialism and eventually communism), then introducing practices typical of capitalism constitutes a betrayal of Marxism (or deviation from it) and introduction of capitalism. Based on this essentialising dualistic logic, China has become ‘state capitalism’, ‘bureaucratic capitalism’, ‘capitalist socialism’, ‘neoliberalism/capitalism with Chinese characteristics’, ‘crony capitalism’, ‘red capitalism’, and many other capitalisms. Many of these ‘capitalist’ qualifications come from non-Marxists and are often just poorly veiled attempts to reassert Thatcher’s ‘there is no alternative’ slogan and Fukuyama’s ‘the end of history’ thesis. Unfortunately, many Marxists, especially in the West, also succumb to the trap of dualistic social ontology in thinking about China. The glaring fault in their approach: disregard for the basic Marxist method, more concretely, dialectics, which involves understanding reality, including the reality of socialism, as the constant development of contradictions and their resolutions through sublation.

Socialism with Chinese Characteristics challenges the simplistic mutually exclusive dualistic lens through which socialism in China is often viewed and judged. Truthful to its title, the book is a guide to Chinese socialism, both comprehensive and incisive, although not so much for foreigners as for those who lost sight of Marxist dialectics as theory, analytical method and most importantly, as a framework and guide for social practice. For others, who like myself, grew up and lived in a socialist country, reading Socialism with Chinese Characteristics is a journey simultaneously familiar and new: familiar in recognising the language of specifically socialist Marxism and new regarding the ways it has been applied in Chinese circumstances.

It is not easy to provide a short overview of Boer’s book. It has ten chapters (each one with many sections and subsections) which aim to provide comprehensive answers and explanations to many different questions one can ask about modern China. Some are more theoretical, other more factual, but all of them draw on a variety of strands involving history, Marxism, politics, law, linguistics, etc. The book covers what some might consider the ‘big’ issues such as the Marxist basis for the reform and opening up, the introduction of private ownership and market economy (chapters 4 and 5), the theoretical foundations and practical functioning of Chinese socialist democracy (chapters 8 and 9) and ideas about sovereignty and human rights and their practical applications (chapter 7). In dealing with these ‘big’ issues, however, a number of other questions are also clarified, such as the status of minority nationalities and their involvement in the democratic process (section 8.5), the meaning of ‘legal system’ and ‘rule of law’ (subsection 8.6.1), the role of the Party and the role of the government (subsection 9.6.2), views on globalisation (subsection 10.4.8), etc. Every chapter also involves quotes and references from Chinese sources, which include works and speeches by Party leaders (Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, Deng Xiaoping, Xi Jinping), documents from congresses and conferences and an incredible number of Chinese Marxist philosophers, political scientists, economists, etc., most of which are unfortunately unknown outside of China. The book also includes explanations of Chinese words, expressions and characters which are part of the Chinese Marxist discourse, such as shishiqiushi (seeking truth from facts) (32), datong (unity, togetherness, harmony) and xiaokang (moderately well-off, healthy, peaceful and secure) (chapter 6), baquan (hegemony) (256), etc.

The way in which all of this versatile material is woven together and presented is clear and accessible, but the book is far from being a simple descriptive journey as one would expect from a ‘guide’. It is also a deeply analytical work which in order to highlight the distinctiveness of Chinese Marxism and the complexities of building socialism involves careful reading of Chinese textual material (and their squaring up with actual practice), frequent comparisons with Soviet and Western Marxism and Western liberal thought, constant moving between the past and the present, zooming in on details and zooming out to the big picture and frequent expositions about how described practical aspects fit in with Chinese Marxist discourse. In this sense, reading through Socialism with Chinese Characteristics is not an easy ride. There is breadth and depth to it which requires constant focus and, most importantly, also an open mind and readiness towards accepting reconfigured, sometimes in a completely new way, well-known Marxist ideas and concepts. 

The picture of ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’ that emerges from this intense journey is of a vibrant, dynamic and complex society which is in constant development and in a critical dialectical dialogue within itself and with the rest of the world. Indeed, if I were to summarise what ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’ entails without doing grave injustice to its complexity, it would be that it exemplifies Marxist dialectics in real action. Dialectics was the force behind the reform and opening up (chapters 2, 3, 4, section 5.3) and it is still the dominant theory and method that informs and shapes development of Chinese socialism (section 1.2 and chapter 10). What differentiates Chinese Marxist dialectics, however, from Marxist dialectics in the classical sense is that it is referential to Chinese history and conditions (subsection 1.3) and that its primary focus is not anymore on contradictions arising from capitalism, but on resolving contradictions that arise in socialism, that is, in a post-revolution social reality where, as Marx would say, the expropriators have already been expropriated (section 3.4 and subsection 4.5.1). In other words, this is a type of socialist/socialistic dialectics whose main concern is development of socialism as concrete social, economic and political practice.  

Dialectics is the dominant theme of the book, but the key to understanding specifically Chinese socialist(ic) dialectics and appreciating the intricacies of Chinese socialism and its functioning are the first four chapters because most of the ideas they deal with are, with an ever-growing complexity, further elaborated in the rest of the book. In the introduction, Boer explains the role Marxism plays in China, what is specifically Chinese about it and a number of liberal and Western Marxists’ (mis)representations of Chinese socialism, which Chinese scholars and Boer view as inadequate and methodologically faulty since they try to understand China from the perspective of Western history, Western intellectual traditions and Western Marxism. The second chapter discusses Deng’s two principles (liberating thought from dogmatism for the purpose of liberating the forces of production, and seeking truth from facts as the basis of the Marxist method) that were instrumental for the move from strictly planned to mixed planned/market economy. The third chapter presents ‘contradiction analysis’ or dialectical materialism as it was developed in the Soviet Union, namely, the understanding that contradictions continue in socialism albeit in non-antagonistic form, and its application in Chinese conditions. Finally, the fourth chapter explains the reasons for the reform and the opening-up via contradiction analysis in a series of opposites such as collective/individual, equality/difference, revolution/reform, self-reliance/globalisation and their recalibration within the Chinese socialist economic and political context. From here, the book turns to an extremely detailed discussion of more concrete aspects of Chinese socialism, such as the economy, socialist modernisation, sovereignty, human rights and democracy, ending with an exposition of Xi Jinping’s thought. What all of these chapters clearly demonstrate is the firm footing of Boer’s claim from the introduction, namely, that Marxism is at the core of Chinese socialist project, although, as mentioned before, this is Marxism that is primarily referential to and applicable to problems arising in socialism.      

Does Boer’s book deliver on the promise to ‘redress the lack of knowledge’ about the concept and practice of socialism with Chinese characteristics? It certainly does and more so. For those who wonder whether China is still socialist or suspect that Chinese Communist Party abandoned Marxism, the book provides a lot of material on which to base their answers. In fact, anyone who wants to engage seriously and extensively with ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’ should read the book. As for me, I never doubted that China is socialist. What Socialism with Chinese Characteristics did for me was to reaffirm that communism is indeed ‘the riddle of history solved’, which I began to doubt after the Yugoslav and the Soviet disaster, and to rekindle the hope that the world will come to that solution sooner rather than later. China wants to lead towards achieving this aim by example and Boer’s book certainly shines a very bright light on the ins and the outs of that example.


Tamara Prosic is a Senior Researcher with the School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia.

Online Lecture: Was Mao a Marxist? (1 July 2021)

To mark the centenary of the Communist Party of China, the Marx Memorial Library is organising an online lecture by Jenny Clegg – former senior lecturer in international studies at the University of Central Lancashire, peace activist, and author of ‘China’s Global Strategy: Towards a Multipolar World‘.

The event will be held on Thursday 1 July, 7pm BST / 2pm US Eastern / 11am US Pacific. Register via Eventbrite.


Was Mao a Marxist? Mao and the Chinese peasant revolution (1925-1949)

One hundred years ago, on July 1st 1921, the Communist Party of China was founded by a handful of people who, for the sake of secrecy, held their first meeting on a boat on a lake to the south of Shanghai. Today, the CPC is a huge organisation with a membership of 91 million people.The CPC came to power with the support of the vast majority of the population: the peasants. The Party had come to understand that agrarian transformation was the main content of the Chinese revolution and the peasants its main force. Many on the Left still to this day under-rate Mao as little more than a peasant leader.This session will on the contrary discuss how Mao, through the sinification of Marxism, came to develop his distinctive policies and ‘mass line’ approach as he figured out ways to address the challenges of the Chinese revolution and social transformation through engaging in the revolutionary process in the countryside. Marking out the differences between Mao, Stalin and Trotsky, it will further consider the relationship between the national and the agrarian revolution.What are the lessons for us to draw on today from the Chinese experience of revolution?

Dr Jenny Clegg is an academic, activist and long term China specialist. Her PhD on China’s peasants in revolution was awarded by the University of Manchester in 1989. A revised version will be published later this year by Praxis Press.