By Andy Brooks
NCP leader Andy Brooks took part in an international seminar titled “Marxism in the 21st Century and the Future of Socialism in the World” in Shenzhen in People’s China on 28th May. Over 100 leaders and representatives of 75 communist parties from 50 countries from around the world met to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx. This is the New Communist Party of Britain’s contribution to the debate.
No one would disagree with Chinese President and Chinese communist leader Xi Jinping who said: “Marxism has not only profoundly changed the world, but also China”.
Marx and Engels stand out among the great scholars and revolutionary leaders of all time. They showed the working class and all oppressed people the way to emancipation from oppression and exploitation. They proved scientifically the possibility and the necessity of building a new society free of exploitation, oppression and poverty, with production, science and culture at the service of the people. Their research on class struggle, socialist revolution, socialism and communism has become the science of the development of nature, society and human thought.
Marx and Engels never expected to see socialism in their own lifetimes. They did, however, believe it was inevitable.
The bourgeois gurus who talked about the ‘end of history’ and a new golden age of capitalism, consigning socialism to the scrap-heap of history once the former Soviet Union had succumbed to imperialism and counter-revolution, did so because they were sure there was a new gateway to more global conquests opening up. They have been proved wrong as the flames of the October Revolution continue to blaze in People’s China, Cuba, Democratic Korea, Laos and Vietnam. Nevertheless we, as communists, have to try to understand why Soviet power failed while the people’s democracies whose economies were not directly linked to the USSR survived.
Though the Bolsheviks, led by Lenin and Stalin, showed that it was possible to build socialism in one state the USSR that was established following the communist victory in the civil war was a unique state, a union of socialist republics based on Soviet power. It was not the model for the people’s republics that were established during the revolutionary upsurge that followed the Soviet victory over fascism in the Second World War.
People’s democracy, based on communist united front policy, was an acceptance of the role of forces beyond that of the working class in the building of the new people’s governments. All communists accepted that this was a transitional period along the road to socialism whose length would be determined by the balance of class forces and the economic demands of each specific country. But the people’s democracies of Eastern Europe, whose economies were speedily integrated with that of the USSR, embarked on a programme of rapid collectivisation of the land, nationalisation and socialisation of society that seemed to work at the time but was ultimately tied to the performance of that of the Soviet Union.
In China, the people’s government established in 1949 initially followed the Soviet-led example of Eastern Europe but that failed to take into account the concrete conditions in the country – the poorest in the world in 1949. Subsequent attempts to use exhortation to boost production in the Great Leap Forward and the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution also failed in the long-term so the decision of the Communist Party of China to adopt a policy of reform and opening up was perhaps the only alternative in the late 1970s. 40 years later we can assess what has been achieved.
China is now the second largest economy in the world. Millions upon millions of people have been lifted out of poverty while the opening up has given China access to the high technology needed to enable China to provide concrete assistance to the peoples of Africa, Asia and Latin America and enable the country to play a greater role in enhancing stability and peace throughout the world.
We meet today in a world where the primary contradiction is between American imperialism and the rest of the world it seeks to dominate. The imperialists preach about the superiority of the capitalist system, which they call freedom. But it freedom only for the exploiters to continue to rob and plunder working people across the globe to ensure that a tiny handful of parasites can live the lives of Roman emperors on the backs of the millions upon millions of working people.
The imperialists claim they stand for intellectual freedom but it is the freedom of the straitjacket and the dungeon. They preach this freedom with their Stealth bombers, their special forces and their economic blockades against all those who dare to stand up for themselves. We see what the ruling class mean by freedom in occupied Palestine, on the streets of Syria and the hills of Afghanistan.
They say we have free speech and live in a democracy but its democracy and freedom only for them. In fact bourgeois democracy is democracy only for the exploiters. It’s dictatorship in all but the formal sense for the exploited. Bourgeois elections, when they are held, are used so that the smallest number of people can manipulate the maximum number of votes.
But wherever there is oppression, there is resistance and now imperialism is on the defensive. Capitalism is in the throes of a deep crisis -- the slump that began in 2008 and continues still without any sign of real recovery.
In the opening words of the Communist Manifesto in 1848 Marx and Engels said “A spectre is haunting Europe - the spectre of communism.” That spectre is still there, despite all the twists and turns of the past 150 years. Now it haunts the entire globe because socialism is still charting the future in Asia, in Democratic Korea, People’s China, Vietnam and Laos and the Caribbean island of Cuba.
While millions of people scrabble to earn a living just to keep a roof over their heads a tiny elite live lives beyond the reach and often beyond the imagination of most workers.
Only socialism can end this. Only through socialism can the will of the masses, the overwhelming majority of the people, be carried out. Only socialism and mass democracy - not the sham democracy of the bourgeoisie or the myths of the social democrats, end the class system and free working people from their slavery.
Under socialism there will be no exploitation. Everyone will have decent housing, a job, good education, a truly free national health service and a decent pension when the time comes to retire.
There will be no more slums. No more poverty, racism, discrimination or bigotry. There will be culture, sports, arts and entertainment for all, by the masses and for the masses. The old decadent culture of selfishness, individuality and competition that pits worker against worker will go. Workers in their plant, office or collective will have an important role to play.
The destruction of the environment by capitalism will be replaced by planned sustained production for use, not profit.
There will be no more white-collar and blue-collar divisions and no more dead-end jobs because every job will have a value for society. Hours will be less and workers will have more recreational time; time to appreciate life, to discover and debate, to play or travel, time to ponder, time to create.
Socialism will unleash the great potential of working people to build a new and better society for themselves and the generations yet to come. Marx and Engels spent much of their creative lives in Britain as practical revolutionaries as well as great thinkers. They knew they would never see socialism in their own lifetimes but they never doubted the inevitability or the necessity for change. And the torch of freedom that fanned the fires of the Paris Commune and the flames of the 1917 Russian Revolution continues to blaze in Asia and the Caribbean.