'Red capitalists' unravel the party line
By Wu Zhong, Asia Times
HONG KONG - In an apparent move to defuse a decades-old ideological debate, China's Vice President Xi Jingpin, who is widely tipped to succeed President Hu Jintao, has proclaimed that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has turned itself from a "revolutionary party" into the "ruling party".
For observers, it is plain to see that the CCP is the ruling party of China, so Xi's statement seems to be tautologous. But for party members and Chinese people in general, this is a new definition of the CCP which is of great significance in theory and in practice.
It may even be a breakthrough for a new round of the "emancipation of minds".
Late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping's political wisdom was to shelve thorny issues that might impede progress. For example, in April 1978, a dispute rising from the sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands (called Senkaku Islands in Japan), a cluster of barren islets north of Taiwan and south of the Ryukyu Islands, flared up and threatened to disrupt the signing of a peace treaty between China and Japan.
Deng demanded the territorial dispute be shelved. In October of that year, Deng visited Japan and attended a ceremony to exchange the instruments of ratification for the Sino-Japanese Peace and Friendship Treaty. When he was asked about the Diaoyu Islands issue, he said, "The issue of Diaoyu Island ... could be set aside for the moment; probably the later generations would be cleverer than us and would find a practical solution."
At home later that year, Deng started economic reforms aimed at turning the socialist command economy into a capitalist-style market economy. He was fully aware this was a revolution that would spark fierce political and ideological debates which could ruin his goal.
In turn, he used all his authority to suppress attempts to instigate such debate. The issue of whether the economic reforms were socialist or capitalist "must never be debated, not in 100 years", Deng said in what was later called his "political will" during an inspection trip to the south in 1992, his last public appearance.
Deng's pragmatic approach proved successful in pushing forward economic reforms. However, the tough stance also meant many necessary political and ideological changes were put off and now must be clarified in face of fundamental changes in Chinese society.
Foremost among these issues is how to define the CCP in a capitalist-style market economy.
According to classical Marxist, Leninist and Maoist theories, political parties are products of class struggles with each party representing the interests of a certain social class. A communist party is thus the vanguard of the proletariat.
In fact, the current CCP constitution still stipulates just that: "The CCP is the vanguard of the Chinese proletariat ... The highest ideal and ultimate goal of the party is to achieve communism."
According to the charter, China must "uphold [the] socialist road, uphold people's democratic dictatorship, uphold the CCP's leadership, uphold Marxism, Leninism and Mao Zedong thought ... and oppose bourgeois liberalization".
But if the CCP remains a revolutionary party representing the interests of the working class, how can it lead reforms aimed at developing a capitalist-style market economy?
After Deng's death in 1997, this "contradiction" has been used by orthodox Marxist ideologues led by Deng Liqun, the CCP's former propaganda tsar, to attack economic reform and open-door policies as trying to "restore capitalism". In the view of Deng Liqun and his cohorts, this goes against the principles of the party itself. In recent years, Deng Liqun has found dozens of young followers mainly based in Beijing.
Nevertheless, in practice the CCP has quietly adopted a pragmatic approach toward this problem by accepting people from various social sectors - including "red capitalists". This approach has gradually changed the CPP into an "all-peoples party" rather than the so-called "vanguard of the proletariat".
According to Vice President Xi, the number of CCP members was 4.4 million in 1949 when it seized power, growing to more than 36 million by 1978. By end of 2007, party membership jumped to 74 million, of which 70% were new members who joined the party after Deng's economic reforms.
The number of CCP members in the private sector now totals more than 4 million.
But change has come quietly for the CCP. The party shied away from publicly abandoning revolutionary rhetoric until now. The timing is good: after 30 years, Deng's reform and open-door policy have taken root. The few surviving senior revolutionaries and orthodox ideologues are getting old (Deng Liqun is now 93 years old) and their young followers wield little influence. Addressing the issue in today's political and economic climate is unlikely to stir up serious debate.
It was against this backdrop that Xi Jingpin on September 1 told new students at the Central Party School, the CCP's top training center of which Xi is the president, that the:
CCP has matured from a party of revolution into one which "holds the power to rule the country in the long term".
His full speech - 23,000 Chinese characters in total - was later published by the Study Times, the official newspaper of the Central Party School.
Analysts say Xi certainly wasn't just offering his personal opinion, but announcing a policy decision made by the top CCP leadership.
This signals - after 30 years of economic reforms and openness - the CCP is finally willing to declare its departure from revolution.
"It is good that finally the CCP explicitly says goodbye to revolution. 'Revolution' always reminds people of the cruel struggles during the early CCP rule under Mao. And declaring itself as the ruling party, it must try to continue and consolidate its rule by devoting its efforts to better serve, and thus 'flatter', the majority in society, rather than relying on violent means. This is big progress," a retired political science professor at Nankai University told Asia Times Online.
Still, the CCP may have to revise its charter to reflect this change and its new emphasis on putting people first, he added.
Chinese dissidents in exile, however, have criticized the announcement, claiming that it does nothing to change the actual nature of the party. For example, Xu Shuiliang wrote that calling the CCP a "ruling party" does not change the fact that it remains a one-party dictatorship. After all, opposition parties are still not allowed.
There is difference, however, between a revolutionary party and a ruling party. By calling itself a "ruling party", the CCP must be responsible for its rule. Therefore, CCP officials must take responsibility for what happens under their jurisdiction. The CCP must now be subject to public supervision, while as a revolutionary party, it could always suppress dissent in the name of "the revolution".
On celebrating the 30th anniversary of Deng's reforms, Chinese leaders, including Hu himself, have encouraged officials to further "emancipate their minds". In this regard, Vice President Xi has set a fine example by addressing a thorny ideological issue.
Hopefully, this will encourage more officials to follow suit, and more new ideas to take root.
COMMUNISTS IN INDIA NEED INTROSPECTION
Dr. Ravindra Kumar
Generally I should have no reason to question the integrity and patriotism of the Indian Communists. Rather, I should admire them when they talk of downtrodden and raise issues related to commonmen on the one hand, and express their confidence in democracy and its process on the other.
But, when many a times, leaving aside the gospel of nationalism, which itself is the first and basic step of internationalism, and national interest, they, guided by external elements, talk of internationalism, they in fact flee from the national cause, or in other words keep at distance from the welfare of commonmen.
It was in 1942 when during the course of the Quit India Movement the role of the Indian Communists proved to be the most shameful.
As the people familiar to the series of events of the contemporary Indian history know that formerly the Communists to accede to the call of Mahatma Gandhi declared their participation in that movement. It was in fact for the reason that there was a treaty betwixt Soviet Union, their guiding force, and Germany and Germany was involved in war with Britain and its allies. The cycle of time underwent change and Hitler, the Nazi dictator of Germany, by breaking the bonds of treaty, attacked Soviet Union. In such state of affairs, to counter the attacks of Germany a new alliance comprising of Soviet Union, Britain, America and France emerged at the international level.
The Indian Communists, due to this new friendship betwixt Soviet Union and Britain [and its allies], started favouring the English on the one hand, and they began to oppose the Quit India Movement on the other.
In support of Stalin, who himself was an ardent supporter of ‘Socialism in one Country’ or the theory of ‘Nation First’, by ignoring the basic tenet of internationalism, the Indian Communists like opportunists began to talk of internationalism; they forgot that without expressing devotion to nationalism, the talk of internationalism was baseless.
Again in 1948 when the whole nation was worried for the safety of innocent people facing atrocities in the State of Hyderabad, and its ruler, the Nizam, with the support of communal forces was willing of freeing the State by getting involved in anti-Indian activities, the hidden role of Communists was also filled with shame.
Simultaneously, the behaviour of one of the groups of the Indian Communists at the time of war betwixt India and China in 1962, and of the other during the declaration of emergency in 1975 was definitely grievous.
At that time they neither gave a thought to the larger national interests nor they cared for the commonmen; rather they gave a thought to or cared for the interests of their guiding forces.
Now, again their behaviour in context of Indo-US Nuclear Deal is totally ungraceful.
India has given a lot to the entire world including knowledge. Indians are wise; they know what their interest is. That is why; majority of them are in favour of this deal, and they wish for more economic and political cooperation with the US.
So, it is high time that keeping the interest of the nation nucleus, the Indian Communists should introspect; they should realize and by learning a lesson from the past should come forward to care for their countrymen first instead of caring for the others, failing of which they will loose their political ground more than ever.
Universally renowned Gandhian scholar, Indologist and writer Dr. Ravindra Kumar is the Former Vice-Chancellor of CCS University of Meerut