What’s Wrong with “Socialism In One Country” in China?
16-02-2020: The US Empire’s war on the People’s Republic of China (PRC) rages on many fronts. Although the outbreak of the novel coronavirus presents countless opportunities for anti-Chinese racism, Washington has yet to use it in a significant way against China as a whole. The rampant and multi-pronged war against the PRC continues in other ways, however. Bans on contracts for Huawei telecommunications equipment, the funding of anti-communist rioters in Hong Kong, relentless provocations by Western navies in the South China Sea, and fake campaigns for the “human rights” of Uyghurs in the west of the PRC are just some of the very real efforts to delegitimise the PRC in the eyes of the workers of the West. False propaganda, covert funding for “opposition” groups, and open military provocations softens up the public for what could be a catastrophic war against the world’s largest socialist state.
In this atmosphere, some leftists who rightfully see an urgent need to defend the PRC against imperialist assaults, look to adopt the central pillars of “Marxism-Leninism”, seeing them as a key reason for the rise of modern China vis-à-vis the decline and deterioration of the United States of America (USA), at least as far as its unipolar world power outlook is concerned. Chief among these are the twin policies of “Socialism in One Country” and “Peaceful Coexistence”. Both these positions feed in and reinforce each other, ultimately in a negative fashion in terms of the interests of the workers of the world. However, to some leftists who are open to “Marxism-Leninism”, the PRC’s defence of their country and the seeking of co-operation with world imperialism (chiefly led by the US), appear to be sensible and rational, or even “the best they can do” under the circumstances. As we intend to show, however, these sentiments are misguided, even if motivated by good intentions.
- “Socialism in One Country” means no class struggle
The theory of “Socialism in One Country” (SIOC) was unilaterally announced by Joseph Stalin towards the end of 1924, who had remained the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, despite V.I. Lenin’s desperate attempts to have him removed from this post before he passed away due to illness. Such was the authority of Lenin, Stalin had to wait some eight months before daring to declare SIOC, as it ultimately represented class collaboration within the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), as well as class collaboration internationally. Its natural corollary is “peaceful coexistence”, whereby the USSR sought to stave off hostility towards it from the imperialist powers – principally at that time, Great Britain, France, Germany and the United States of America.
SIOC is allegedly where a workers’ state consolidates the power it has conquered over the capitalists via revolution, while supposedly waiting for more favourable conditions for socialism to develop internationally. In reality, SIOC attempts to hold in check the enormous and relentless forces of class struggle, and even attempts to hold imperialism to one position. Needless to say, as class struggle is the motor force of all class divided societies, this is an impossibility. Any attempt to do so by the political leadership of a workers’ state – such as the PRC – involves political compromises of a huge scale at best, and open betrayal of workers’ interests at worst.
For example, in April 2017, US war provocations against the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or “North Korea”) were at extremely dangerous levels. Despite this, President Xi Jinping flew to dine with US President Donald Trump at his Mar-a-Lago estate, a 126-room mansion in Palm Beach, Florida. Trump and Xi Jinping reportedly ate chocolate cake together, while the PRC news agency Xinhua took out a full page advertisement in the New York Times, hailing the meeting as “a vital moment for the two nations, the Asia-Pacific region and the globe as a whole”. The political leadership of a workers’ state – even the world’s most powerful one – would need to somehow deal with the political leadership of an imperialist state. Trade agreements, non-aggression pacts, all kinds of diplomacy would be required, to avoid imperialist war, amongst other things.
However, the political task of the leadership of a workers’ state is to aid and assist the class struggle internally and internationally. The Communist Party of China (CPC), rigidly adhering to “Socialism in One Country”, does not seek to unleash class struggle anywhere. Instead of appealing to US workers, Xinhua’s advertisement appealed to the US as a whole, rich and poor alike. At the same time, the DPRK was being threatened with a nuclear strike from Washington, while the PRC leader wined and dined with the US President! Later that year, the PRC voted with the US in the United Nations Security Council to impose even more crippling sanctions on the DPRK. “Socialism In One Country” therefore not only means collaboration with imperialism in general, but also collaboration with imperialism against a smaller workers’ states.
It is true that the political leadership of DPRK workers’ state also practices “Socialism In One Country” and “Peaceful Coexistence” (with imperialism). Both the PRC and the DPRK should be uniting as one against US imperialism and promoting socialism in every possible way to workers of the Asia-Pacific and internationally. Yet this course, which would appear natural, would necessarily lead to the end of “Socialism In One Country”, and thus an end to the positions and (relative privileges) of the essentially nationalist bureaucracies of these states. In a similar way, a conservative trade Union official in the capitalist West cannot allow their workers to engage in ongoing class struggle. If such a struggle won significant victories, the Union official’s privileges (over the top salary, comfortable retirement etc.) would be undermined. Similarly, if significant class struggle erupted within a workers’ state – the PRC or the DPRK – the positions of the leading officials and respective bureaucrats would be seriously questioned. All classes together – the opposite of socialism – is the result.
- “Socialism in One Country” means socialism nowhere else
During 2019, right-wing anti-Communist Blackshirts rampaged throughout Hong Kong, over farcical demands for “democracy”. In reality, they were using extreme violence in a vain attempt to split Hong Kong from the PRC, and even calling on US President Trump to “liberate” them, while waving US flags. The Hong Kong police were stretched to the limit in an attempt to contain the violence, which, under any definition, amounted to terrorism. Some of the NGOs based in Hong Kong backing the violence have been funded by the West, including the notorious US National Endowment for Democracy (NED). As the violence dragged on, less and less support, and even outright opposition, emerged from pro-PRC Hong Kong residents. At times, the very health and safety of Hong Kong residents who did not back the pro-US demonstrations was under threat.
Hong Kong was returned to the PRC in 1997, after around 100 years of British colonialism. Yet at the time, the PRC leadership agreed to maintain capitalism in Hong Kong until 2047. It adopted the “One Country, Two Systems” policy, i.e. socialism in the PRC, capitalism in Hong Kong. “Socialism In One Country” sometimes doesn’t even mean socialism in your own country! Of course, the PRC leadership is attempting to integrate Hong Kong with the PRC, to some extent. The spectacular Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, the world’s longest sea-spanning bridge and tunnel system, is an example. Yet there is little or no attempt to win Hong Kong workers to the perspective of class struggle socialism. In fact, waging a class struggle against the fascistic Blackshirts in Hong Kong would have been the only way to politically defeat them. Their facile calls for “democracy” and their ties to the US government would have been exposed thoroughly. Yet the PRC leadership in Beijing, and its Carrie Lam led administration in Hong Kong did nothing of the sort. They simply attempted to “restore order”, and even made concessions. Very light sentences, or even just a community service order, were handed to those who were actually arrested for serious offences including rioting, assaulting police, and possession of weapons and explosives.
The PRC’s flagship Belt and Road Initiative (BRI or New Silk Road) has been dubbed “China’s Marshall Plan”. In fact, it is far more extensive than the plan of the post-World War II US government to rebuild capitalism in Europe after the destruction the war wrought. Western critics of the BRI question where the trillion-dollar funding is coming from. Yet the vast network of railways, ports and infrastructure built by the BRI in co-operation with the 70 odd countries which have signed on, will dramatically aid trade and economic development for all involved. It will even economically assist some European countries, as well as Asian and African countries. No leftist would think of standing in the way or linking with the right-wing to complain about such development. At the same time, the BRI does not seek to aid a path towards socialism in the countries it is co-operating with. The interaction with other countries is with their political leaderships, not with the workers of such countries. Diplomacy trumps the CPC’s “Marxism”.
- “Socialism in One Country” breeds nationalism and inaction
“Socialism in One Country” was originally the expression of the defeat of the revolutionary situations which developed in Europe, principally Germany, after World War I. The program of Marxism is the extension of workers’ power until it is completed internationally. If the political and physical/military conditions do not yet allow for this, the task of Marxists is to foster the political conditions in preparation. Stalinism/Maoism (which can mean many things but is assumed to be “Marxism-Leninism”) breaks with this essential condition and uses petty-bourgeois class collaboration to foster nationalism, in order to “protect” the building of socialism in one country. Ultimately, class-collaboration – the strongest tenet of nationalism – internally and internationally, does not at all protect a workers’ state surrounded by imperialism on almost all sides. For example, the class collaboration of conservative Union officials (saturated with nationalism) in the West is not in the class interests of their own members. A class struggle for socialism certainly is, however. In a similar way, the nationalism of the political leadership of the CPC does not ultimately protect the PRC workers’ state. Only the extension of socialism internationally, especially into imperialist centres such as the US, Europe, Japan and Australia, can permanently eliminate the threat of imperialist war.
This would require political activity and political education of workers, however. And this is the last thing that the CPC leadership desires. Instead, it delivers platitudes about building a “harmonious socialist society”, peaceful development, the “strength of the nation” and suchlike. “Socialism In One Country” implies that all workers in a workers’ state need to do is to build up the “nation”, and somehow, as if by osmosis, other countries around the world will one day arrive at socialism. All one has to do is protect the “home” nation, and wait. Needless to say, this breeds passivity, inaction, and even indifference to politics amongst workers. If the political leadership of the PRC workers’ state barely comments on major international political developments – even including imperialist wars against Libya and Syria, for example – why should PRC workers be concerned? It will all sort itself out eventually, once they adopt their own version of “Socialism In One Country”.
Such sophistry is a glaring departure from Marxism, to say the least. In fact, “Socialism In One Country” in practice only seeks to come to terms with imperialism, to allow it to plunder whole slabs of the planet, while small corners (or large corners in the case of the PRC) should be out of bounds. Yet the class struggle cannot be stopped still by temporary deals with the Pentagon. It goes on regardless and will turn against the working class if its political leadership does not lead a struggle to end capitalist power wherever it exists. What is required is genuine Leninism, as apposed to the class-collaboration of “Marxism-Leninism”. To be sure, workers need to defend the PRC workers’ state against internal counter-revolution, and against imperialist assault externally. This is best aided by the forging of Marxist vanguard parties, who stand with the PRC while illuminating the path to socialism.
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 Ibid, 7.