The Gu Kailai trial & the struggle in China

A spectacle directed at the left as world capitalist crisis deepens


Gu Kailai’s trial and conviction for the alleged murder of British businessperson Neil Heywood is a show trial staged by the top leadership of the Communist Party of China for purely political purposes.

Whatever Gu may or may not be guilty of, the trial is a judicial procedure meant to support a political attack on her spouse, Bo Xilai, and his supporters in China who want to push back against the reckless further advance down the capitalist road by the present Chinese leadership. These are the underlying issues at stake.

The timing and political context of the trial are extremely important. It comes at a moment when the selection of the new top CPC leadership for the next 10 years is scheduled to take place — presumably this fall at the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress. This process has been discussed internally for the past year.

Bo Xilai, Gu’s spouse, had held the important post of Party Secretary of the municipal province of Chongqing, population 32 million, since 2007.  Bo was on the 25-member Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party and was a strong candidate to be promoted to the seven-member Standing Committee of the Politburo, which is the governing council of China.

Bo and Mao

Bo, while never opposing the fundamental concept of so-called “market socialism,” became the de facto leader of the left within the CPC when he developed the “Chongqing model.”

In Chongqing, Bo promoted increased state investment and planning, especially emphasizing infrastructure and massive low-cost housing for the workers, as well as social programs. He made it easier for peasants to gain access to benefits available to urban residents.

Bo waged a hard campaign against corrupt party officials, business people and the underworld, often interconnected, and called upon the masses to assist in identifying corrupt officials.

He promoted Maoist culture in theprovince, organizing the singing of Maoist songs, tweeting Maoist sayings to state workers, stopping the use of state television for commercial use and substituting socially conscious broadcasting. Maoist-inspired songs were an integral part of the Cultural Revolution, and Bo brought a choir of 1,000 singers to perform in Beijing.

Bo was purged after the former police chief of Chongqing, Wang Lijun, went to the U.S. Consulate (read CIA station) in Chengdu in Sichuan province, 210 miles east of Chongqing, on Feb. 6 and stayed for 30 hours. During that time Wang is alleged to have brought evidence against Gu Kailai.

Bo had been under investigation by the party leadership at the time. Once the Gu Kailai charges were made, Bo was removed as leader of Chongqing in March and then removed from all party posts in April. He has been under detention for alleged and unspecified “serious discipline violations” since then and has been held incommunicado.

CPC leaders and imperialists press vilification campaign

With Bo in detention, both the Chinese and the imperialist media launched a campaign of vilification against both Bo and Gu. The timing of the trial of Gu is significant. The advance leak of the leadership’s version of the details was calculated to poison the political atmosphere against Bo, and thus pave the way for punitive measures against him.

With regard to the trial of Gu itself, it is important to note that every bit of information available on the case is in the hands of a leadership which is politically hostile, in the extreme, to her spouse. The pre-trial conviction of Gu and the simultaneous campaign against her and Bo in the official Chinese media as well as the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the London Guardian, the Financial Times, etc., reflected a coincidence of interest between the capitalist-road, market-reform sectors of the Chinese leadership and world imperialism.

The two sides were in league in this case, despite the fundamental hostility of U.S. imperialism to socialist China. It is laughable to think that the imperialist forces are really concerned about murder and corruption.

Leaders fear Bo supporters and the left

The circumstances of the trial are also important. It was moved from Chongqing, where the alleged crime took place, to a site 750 miles away in Hefei province. The authorities fear the popularity of Bo among the masses in Chongqing. Moving the trial is a virtual confession of its political nature and the leadership’s fear of the left. The most important Maoist web site in China, Utopia, has been shut down, and other web entries defending Bo have been censored.

There were many apparent inconsistencies in the trial. It is important to note that Gu was not allowed her own lawyer. Her son, whose role was key to the case, submitted a letter to the court, which was not allowed to be heard. In a political struggle of this magnitude, confessions can be obtained, evidence can be fabricated, and frameups can be planned.

But whatever the true facts of the case turn out to be, this trial is part of the struggle over China’s future at a time of growing economic and social contradictions. Promoting private enterprise, capitalist exploitation, imperialist investment and the growth of the capitalist market to compete with socialist planning and state-owned enterprises leads to an untenable future for China.

World capitalism and ‘market socialism’ at a dead end

This is all the more so since the world capitalist system is at a dead end, with permanent low-growth, stagnation, crisis and growing mass unemployment.

The more developed the capitalist side of the Chinese economy becomes, the more integrated with and dependent upon the world capitalist economy it becomes, the more vulnerable it will be to all the irrationalities of the world system of private property.

China counteracted the effects of the global capitalist crisis in 2008-2009, when 20 million Chinese workers in the export-driven manufacturing industry in the eastern provinces were laid off, by turning to socialist measures. It implemented state plans and made massive state investments in infrastructure.

In this way China managed to replace 20 million jobs and also raised workers’ income by state spending on benefits.

Chickens come home to roost

But the world capitalist crisis remains. And the problems of the capitalist market economy remain along with it. With the downturn in Europe and elsewhere around the globe, layoffs are already taking place once again in China. The ruling-class press and the Chinese media talk about “overcapacity” in steel and other basic materials. But a crisis of “overcapacity” is really generated by capitalism and applies to production for profit under capitalism.

If the Chinese leadership has “overinvested” in steel to keep employment up, it is because their investment strategy is being determined by the capitalist market and not by the social and economic needs of the population. If there is growing unemployment and a dangerous real estate bubble, which the leaders are trying to manage by bourgeois monetary methods, it is de facto evidence of the failure of the capitalist-road strategy. And if they are stockpiling coal and steel, it is because the profit side of the Chinese economy is faltering under the twin blows of its own internal contradictions and the world capitalist crisis.

Each setback for the workers and peasants in what was supposed to become a socialist economy gives more evidence of the bankruptcy of trying to fit a continuous, upward development of capitalism into a socialist framework. As has been said: “It is like trying to put a saddle on a cow.”

This is the framework in which the trial of Gu Kailai must be viewed and evaluated. This is the prism through which the struggle against Bo Xilai must be seen.

The CPC leadership, since the defeat of the left and the rise of Deng Xiaoping and the capitalist-road wing of the party, has sold the socialist soul of the great Chinese Revolution of 1949 under the name of national development. Each year they are endangering more and more of what remains of the socialist structure of China.

Now the chickens are coming home to roost in a mountain of internal contradictions and increased suffering and instability for the workers, who are supposed to be the foundation of socialism and whose well-being is supposed to be the aim of socialism.

It has become evident that what was first advertised by the proponents of so-called “market socialism” as a clever device to build up the productive forces, so as to strengthen the material foundation of socialism, has become a permanent retreat from the real building of socialism.

World capitalism is at a dead end. Fraudulent Chinese so-called “market socialism” can only be dragged down by the undertow of this crisis, with the danger that it will all end up in the depths of capitalist chaos and full-scale counterrevolution.

The only way out is to break with the capitalist road and put China back on the revolutionary road to socialist construction. The coming period will show the relationship of forces between those who want to pursue the self-destructive path of relying on the capitalist market and the imperialist world economy, and those who are the partisans of the working class and the peasants, not just of China, but of the world.

Goldstein is the author of “Low-Wage Capitalism” and the soon-to-be-released “Capitalism at a Dead End.” He can be reached at [email protected].

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