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China: A hopeful sign

Published Mar 17, 2006 9:54 PM

The National Peoples Congress of China “is consumed with an ideological debate over socialism and capitalism that many had assumed had been buried by China’s long streak of fast economic growth,” according to a lead story in the March 12 New York Times.

The debate forced the Chinese government to shelve a draft law to protect property rights that “had been expected to win pro-forma passage.” It also “highlighted the resurgent influence of a small but vocal group of socialist-leaning scholars and policy advisers,” said the Times. “These old-style leftist thinkers have used China’s rising income gap and increasing social unrest to raise doubts about what they see as the country’s headlong pursuit of private wealth and market-driven economic development.”

The debate, according to the Times, has its origin in a critique of the property law by a Beijing University professor, Gong Xiantian, who attacked the drafters of the law for “copying capitalist civil law like slaves” and offering equal protection to “a rich man’s car and a beggar’s stick.”

“Most of all,” the writer protested that the law did not make clear that “socialist property is inviolable.”

President Hu Jintao has reportedly advised cadre to study Cuba and North Korea to learn how to achieve social stability. Furthermore, films about the 1991 Yeltsin-led counter-revolution in the Soviet Union are being shown to cadres to warn what happens when socialism is destroyed.

This debate takes place against a background of 200 rebellions a day in the year 2005 as workers and peasants revolt against capitalist “reforms.” A campaign has been launched by President Hu and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao to close the income gap between the city and the countryside under the slogan of a “new socialist countryside.”

Land in China is leased by the farmer from the village and can’t be sold legally. The imperialist media expressed disappointment that this new agrarian plan left in place the ban on private sales of land. However, Chinese leftists are also disappointed that the leadership has not firmly restated the social character of land ownership.

The reemergence of the left in China is a setback to the imperialist ruling class, which hoped socialism was on a one-way downward spiral and would be inevitably overcome by capitalist counter-revolution—by the irresistible, evolutionary progression of global capitalist penetration of China and the inevitable advance of the domestic bourgeoisie toward political power through the takeover of the party and government.

This ideological and policy debate is at bottom the emergence of a representation—in various forms, more or less consistent—of the class interests of hundreds of millions of workers and peasants in China who have been subjected to the terrible downside of capitalist “reforms” that has accompanied rapid economic growth and the abandonment of socialist guarantees.

The debate appears to be a first step in what must be a long and difficult struggle against entrenched capitalist class interests. But the emergence of significant leftist political currents who are trying to steer China farther from the capitalist road and closer to the socialist road is a hopeful sign for all partisans of the great Chinese socialist revolution of 1949.