South African Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka With China's Premier Wen Jiabao
Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire Photo File
A talk by long-time Workers World Party member Stephen Millies to the WWP conference Nov. 17-18
Fifty-eight years ago, in 1949, Mao Zedong declared, “China has stood up.” The People’s Republic of China was born. One-quarter of humanity had liberated itself from imperialist enslavement. Chinese women broke their chains and stepped forward with unbound feet.
Wall Street responded to the founding of People’s China by launching the Korean War less than nine months later. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese soldiers died beside their Korean sisters and brothers. Among them was Mao’s own son.
The Chinese Revolution was a tremendous victory against racism. Malcolm X wrote in his “Autobiography” about its impact on him in prison. The unanimous Supreme Court ruling against segregated schools in Brown versus Board of Education was due in part to the existence of People’s China.
Robert F. Williams—hunted by the FBI because he led armed self-defense against the Ku Klux Klan in Monroe, N.C.—was given asylum by both Cuba and China. Upon the urging of Rob Williams, Mao Zedong issued a statement in support of the Black struggle, “Oppose Racial Discrimination by U.S. Imperialism.”
Members of Youth Against War and Fascism (YAWF—then the youth organization associated with Workers World Party) distributed 10,000 copies of Mao’s statement to the 1963 freedom march in Washington where Dr. King delivered his “I have a dream” speech. Comrade Key Martin, who died in 2000, told me that leaflets were snatched up by demonstrators, who were thrilled that a quarter of humanity was in their corner.
The history of Workers World Party is bound up with the Chinese Revolution. Even before our party was founded, Comrade Sam Marcy stood almost alone in 1950 when he described it as a proletarian revolution, despite the small number of Chinese workers. The front-page headline on the first issue of Workers World newspaper in 1959 was “Hail the Communes,” which saluted the socialist reconstruction of the countryside.
But now almost all the communes have been abolished. Following Mao’s death in 1976, the grouping inside the Communist Party led by Deng Xiaoping took over China, suppressed the left and adopted pro-capitalist measures. Deng’s opening to the United States was sealed by his treacherous invasion of Vietnam in 1979.
Today, China is almost totally enmeshed in the capitalist world market. Where previously there was almost no unemployment, China now has the world’s largest reserve army of labor. Capitalists exploit millions of workers.
At the same time China has made tremendous economic progress. Last year Chinese mills poured 400 million tons of steel. Ninety-eight percent of Chinese homes have electricity.
None of this would have been possible without a socialist revolution that shook the world. Compare China with India. People in China live on average eight years longer than people in India. While 95 percent of Chinese can read and write, only 68 percent of India’s population is literate.
All of us here will be the first ones in the street to oppose any U.S. military threat to China. That’s the Pentagon’s ultimate target. We all reject China-bashing, which will rise in a crescendo leading up to the Beijing Olympics.
It’s a mistake to think that China possesses an economic super weapon because it holds hundreds of billions of dollars and U.S. Treasury bonds. These are just tokens of value, which Karl Marx described as fictitious capital. Chinese financial reserves are hostage to the devaluing U.S. dollar.
Good revolutionaries and good communists can disagree on the class character of China. The dismantling of the communes and the opening of China to the world capitalist market represented the first expansion of capital into new territory in decades. It’s been disastrous for the communist movement and served to buttress bourgeois ideology around the world. The rapid growth of capitalist commodity production in China was a magnet for Mikhail Gorbachev opening the door to counter-revolution in the Soviet Union.
We don’t believe, however, that a counter-revolution has occurred in China. Despite the growth of a capitalist class inside the country, the great historical legacy of the Chinese Revolution is still a tremendous social weight that hasn’t been overcome by the bourgeoisie. They may have almost all the limousines but they don’t control the army.
Marxists consider the state machine, its army and cops to be a superstructure that ultimately has to be brought into accord with the actual class relations of production. But there can be a long historical lag between the two.
In the last year of Mao’s life, China tragically joined then-apartheid South Africa and Kissinger in backing the UNITA mercenaries trying to overthrow the People’s Republic of Angola. That’s how U.S. imperialism was able to manipulate the split between the Soviet Union and China.
That was 30 years ago. Just recently China stepped forward and rescued Angola from the clutches of the International Monetary Fund. China aids Cuba, whose soldiers died fighting for African freedom, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Chinese workers and peasants don’t thank George Bush, the Pope or the hundred or so billionaires in China for sending a Chinese cosmonaut into orbit around the earth. They credit their revolution and the Communist Party for this stunning achievement.
Millions of Chinese communists are concerned about the massive inequality that has developed inside their country. Speeches by Communist Party leader Hu Jintao are a reflection of this. Chinese trade unionists are organizing Wal-Mart workers—something the labor movement hasn’t done in the United States.
We think there are many more chapters to be written in the Chinese Revolution. The Chinese working class—now several hundred million strong—will have the last word. While we unconditionally defend China against the Pentagon—which in 1999 bombed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia—we look forward to a resurgence of communism inside China.
The Chinese Revolution lives!
Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011
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