Entdinglichung

… alle Verhältnisse umzuwerfen, in denen der Mensch ein erniedrigtes, ein geknechtetes, ein verlassenes, ein verächtliches Wesen ist … (Marx)

Archive for 1. Oktober 2009

60 Jahre Volksrepublik China

Posted by entdinglichung - 1. Oktober 2009

Zum Jubiläum des Staates (welcher hoffentlich bald von den ArbeiterInnen, LandarbeiterInnen, armen BäuerInnen und unteren MittelbäuerInnen in Rente geschickt wird) nachfolgend dokumentiert ein Artikel von Pierre Rousset, hingewiesen sei hier auch noch auf einen Artikel von Chris Slee zur kapitalistischen Restauration:

People’s Republic of China at 60: Maoism and popular power, 1949–1969

By Pierre Rousset

With the proclamation of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) found itself at the head of a country three times larger than Western Europe, with a population of some 500 million. The internal situation was favourable to the revolutionary regime. At the end of a long series of civil and foreign wars, the population sought and relied on the new leaders to achieve peace while the ongoing people’s mobilisation opened the way for a deep reform of society.

In December 1949, while fighting against the Kuomintang (Chinese Nationalsit Party, KMT) still raged in the south, Mao Zedong flew to Moscow to meet Stalin. The USSR may have been the first country to recognise the People’s Republic of China (PRC), but it had not yet abrogated the Sino-Soviet Friendship Treaty, signed with Mao’s opponent, KMT leader Chiang Kai-shek. For three consecutive weeks, the two heads of state played a game of cat and mouse before the Soviets agreed to prepare a new treaty – signed on February 14, 1950, by Zhou Enlai and A.Y. Vychinski, foreign ministers respectively of China and the USSR.

After the victory of October 1949, distrust was the rule between the Soviet and Chinese leaderships. Mao noted how Stalin looked down upon his experience (“He thought our revolution was fake”, Mao said) and did not want to commit to supporting China if it were attacked by the United States. However, it was Beijing that indirectly came to the help of Moscow when the Korean War broke out on June 25, 1950. The Korean War was not propitious timing for the Chinese leaders, who would have preferred to prioritise consolidation of the regime, revival of the economy (industry was ruined, famine hit the central plains) and gaining control of Taiwan from the KMT.

US hostility

Faced with the advance of US forces in Korea, the politburo of the CCP was split on Chinese intervention. But the decision was made to join the war effort when US troops approached China’s northern border, with Peng Dehuai leading the Chinese counteroffensive. Following four months of intensive and bloody fighting, the frontline was stabilised around the 38th parallel. Two years later, the armistice was eventually signed, on July 27, 1953, with up to 800,000 Chinese killed or injured.

The Korean War overshadowed and dominated the whole period following the 1949 Chinese Communists‘ victory. The confrontation (revolution/counterrevolution) assumed an international dimension, the United States building a security belt around China, with important military bases in South Korea, Japan (Okinawa), the Philippines, Thailand and South Vietnam. For the United Nations, under the hegemony of the United States, there was only one China: KMT-occupied Taiwan.

Faced with a new US imperial threat, China reverted to the Soviet bloc. But the seeds of Sino-Soviet conflict of the 1960s were already sown as Mao and the Chinese leadership lost trust in Moscow, Stalin’s promises of military aid failing to materialise. The Soviet leadership, on this occasion, gauged the power and the capacity of China to act independently with trepidation.

The first and primary consequence of the Korean War was disorganisation of the effort to consolidate the new regime, leading to a hardening of policy.

The social upheaval: 1949–1953

In China, the Korean War provoked vast anti-imperialist demonstrations. Workers sacrificed part of their wages and peasants increased production to support the war effort at the front. In this context, the campaign launched by the Mao regime to liquidate the counterrevolutionaries took a particularly violent turn. Over a period of six months, 710,000 people were executed (or driven to suicide) for their links, no matter how tenuous, with the KMT. Probably more than 1.5 million others were confined to camps of “reform by labour”.

Landlords and rural notables

China’s agrarian reform itself also took a violent turn in a society where class divisions in villages were wide: poor peasants did not forget the arrogance, contempt, stinginess and inhumanity (at their expense) of the wealthy. Poor peasants could not forget the manner in which large landlords, traders and notables had provoked deadly famine by speculating on cereals – refusing to return rice to the famished villagers to sell at a good profit in the cities. They could not forget all the militant members of peasant associations summarily tortured and assassinated by police, the army or the goons of the rich. They remembered the dispossession by powerful owners of children and young women from powerless families. Social relationships in the countryside were not brutal everywhere, but the domination of the wealthy over poor peasants was widespread. It was time for the historical settling of scores.

Where class divisions in the villages were narrow, and no one was really rich, social tensions were nevertheless acute because of extreme poverty, where notables and clan networks were the first target of the CCP. To address the complexity and the regional variations of rural stratification, the CCP classified families into five categories, from landless to landlords. In some places, middle or even poor peasants could suffer repression.

The CCP organised and encouraged mass meetings against landlords and the wealthy, at the risk, in its own words, of “excesses”. But the collective anger of poor peasants was not feigned. The revolutionary violence in the countryside was social, much more than a simple police operation. Beyond settling scores, it paved the way to a real change of power, the overthrow of the old order. In most villages, one landlord, sometimes several, was killed, summarily beaten to death or publicly executed. Many fled or were shielded from people’s vengeance. At the end of 1950, the class that ruled the rural world for centuries ceased to exist as a coherent social layer.

Urban bourgeoisie

In the urban centres social antagonisms, even if profound, were less acute than in rural regions. Moreover, in 1949, the CCP, stemming from the rural people’s war, was quite incapable of supporting industrialisation. In the framework of the “New Democracy”, the CCP tried to win the private entrepreneurs’ favour. But in 1952, the bourgeoisie felt strong enough to take the initiative against the new regime through sabotaging and blocking implementation of government policies, refusing orders given by the administration. Class struggle reasserted itself. On June 6, 1952, Mao Zedong announced that the entrepreneurs were becoming a target of political struggle.

In the cities, the Communist Party launched three mass mobilisation campaigns to remold the urban society. The first two targeted the underworld and capitalist class, the bourgeois elites: the “Three Anti” (against corruption, waste and bureaucracy) and the “Five Anti” (against corruption, fiscal evasion, fraud, embezzlement and leakage of state secrets) campaigns. Once again, most were not classical police operations and their implementation varied according to region or the fluctuating relationship of forces among factions of the CCP. Everyone was called to inform the authorities: workers denounced their superiors, cadres denounced each other, wives denounced husbands and children their parents. Psychological pressure was so great that the majority of human losses were suicides, not executions.

The fines imposed on private firms for illicit activities during these campaigns amounted to US$2 billion, a colossal amount at the time. The majority of the large traders and entrepreneurs withdrew to Hong Kong (transferring their means of production) or abroad. The capital drain actually began as early as 1946 in reaction to KMT rule. A certain number of large capitalists, however, remained and sometimes benefited from a very favourable situation. The activity of micro-entrepreneurs (craftspeople, hawkers, peddlers, and so on) was both repressed and tolerated by the regime.

Chinese capitalists were not physically liquidated and some collaborated with their own social disappearance. Following the “Five Anti” campaign, the bourgeoisie (merchants and industrialists) ceased to exist as a coherent class dominating the modern economic sector. Seven years after victory, in 1956, the nationalisation of industries and trade sanctioned the capitalist class’s disappearance as an autonomous social force.

As the old order was uprooted, the power structures of the KMT were dismantled, both in the urban centres and in the countryside.

The third campaign – reform of thought – targeted mostly urban intellectuals, in particular those trained in the West. Conceived ideologically as the “movement of rectification”, implemented in Yan’an (Yenan) during the war to consolidate the Maoist leadership’s authority, the campaign denounced individualism, elitism, indifference to politics and pro-Americanism. This campaign was implemented in different ways to the “Three Anti” and “Five Anti” campaigns: through successive self-criticism implemented by small discussion groups, combined with police repression. As such, intellectuals found themselves under the firm control of the Communist Party.

“Class origin” became an important criterion to gain access to education, political positions or good employment. Not without perverse effects, children of rich families (or classified as such) became forever “responsible” for who their parents were before 1949. But the symbolical upheaval of the social hierarchy had a radical ideological importance in a society where “inferior” classes were despised, and at everyone’s beck and call. The process was not merely symbolic. In parallel with the disintegration of the old dominating classes, the status of the dominated classes was substantially modified as new social layers developed.

Peasantry

The fact that the peasantry played an important role was not peculiar to the Chinese Revolution. Before the Long March, the Comintern enjoined the CCP to work among the peasantry, but for a long time the CCP politburo turned a deaf ear to that advice. The CCP became the principal political force organising the peasantry – which was not the case in Russia, where the influence of revolutionary socialists or anarchists (or, more simply, of local non-politicised rural elites) was much more significant than Communist Party influence.

In the years following the conquest for power, the CCP was careful not to impose a Stalinist type of forced collectivisation. The party started through the creation of “mutual aid” teams, paving the way for the formation of cooperatives. The approach evokes what Lenin envisaged retrospectively in one of his last critical and self-critical writings, constituting his “testament”: “On Cooperation” (January 4, 1923). The approach helped to consolidate the new status of the poor peasantry, while offering the peasant class a future in the revolution rather than demanding their transformation into agricultural workers in state farms. But in order to block any rural migration, the peasants had no right to change their residence without authorisation.

Working class

With the rapid industrialisation policy initiated by the Mao regime, the working class was considerably reinforced: from 3 million before 1949 to 15 million by 1952, and nearly 70 million in 1978. The change was not only quantitative, as a new state-directed industrial sector was born together with a new working class with a radically different status than had prevailed before 1949.

Workers were recruited in the framework of a policy of massive salarisation (“low wages, many jobs”). Only urban workers benefited from the new administrative status of “worker and employee”. As a general rule, peasants had no right to migrate in search of work in cities. Once obtained, employment became a guaranteed right. Low wages were offset by social benefits (including residence, health service, life employment, old-age pension). Each worker was assigned to an enterprise and to a work unit. Workers reaching retirement age could frequently pass on their status to a family member. Benefiting from important privileges in relation to the rest of the population – other than political cadres – the working class was for a long time a solid social base of the regime.

Women

In the 1920s in Chinese progressive circles, it was commonplace to denounce both “feudal” and “patriarchal” oppression. The emancipation of women and the criticism of Confucian conservatism were considered essential to modernisation. Laws in favour of gender equality were adopted under the Soviet Republic of Jiangxi. The establishment and development of feminist organisations were crucial in the nationalist and civil war eras. Membership in the CCP-led Women’s Democratic Federation reached 20 million in 1949 and 76 million in 1956.

In 1950, the law on marriage was among the first two pieces of legislation (with agrarian reform) promulgated under the young People’s Republic. This new legislation insured, in theory and often concretely, the free choice of partner, women’s equal rights and protection of the legal interest of women and children. The law opposed traditional arranged marriages and permitted administrative divorce by mutual consent. Thanks to measures of agrarian reform, women gained the right to own land. The law’s implementation faced strong social resistance – including within the CCP – but was supported by a strong women’s movement.

Cadres and bureaucracy

Two parallel power structures were established in China: the administration and the Communist Party. Cadres in both structures emerged from the revolutionary struggle. Those among them from well-to-do family backgrounds sacrificed wealth and social status to advance the revolution and were not privileged similarly to the old dominant classes. Henceforward, cadres in both structures enjoyed mostly modest privileges, but more importantly a quasi-absolute monopoly of political power. Even before the victory, CCP cadres constituted a thin “bureaucracy of war” in “liberated zones”. After 1949, the politico-administrative structure was considerably enlarged with the reconstruction of the state at the national level and the development of a vast public economic sector. These new social strata assumed an unprecedented place in Chinese society, rapidly gaining consistency and giving birth to a ruling social elite.

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