05 August, 2020

Joseph E. Stiglitz and the Trajectory of Chinese Communism since 1980

Stiglitz in China

In a recent Lecture to a Norwegian Business School Conference, Joseph E. Stiglitz (from Columbia University in the USA - he has been advising the Chinese Communist Leadership since the early 1980s, upon a transition to fitting China into a Market Economy globally), was, in his contribution to that Conference, extremely informative, in ways totally unmentioned either by the Citadels of Capitalism globally, OR by the current Left, supposedly opposing that system (including, surprisingly, many of the self-professed the Marxists)!

His contribution was NOT, of course, superior to those critics of Capitalism, but it DID highlight the inadequacies of the current Left's policies for fighting for both the End of Capitalism, in the West, AND, crucially, exactly how to achieve the necessary Revolution, without the major liabilities of the Rise of Stalinist Bureaucracies, as have followed such Revolutions in the past.

Now, immediately prior to the period that Stiglitz covers, the writer of this paper was resident in Hong Kong, as a lecturer in a University there, and had visited Communist China, as an already committed Marxist. So I was aware of the then current fight between the Maoist so-called "Gang of Four" (including Mao's wife) and the "Capitalist Roaders" - led by Deng, so I knew who won that fight, and how they disagreed with Mao's "Cultural Revolution". And, I travelled through the countryside observing how the smaller Country Soviets were working. So I am able to link up Stiglitz's account to its immediate prehistory in the Chinese Communist Party. But I must emphasise, most strongly, that in spite of the great value in studying Stiglitz's account, he is, certainly, no Marxist, nor even a Socialist. He is a Capitalist Economist, who accepts Capitalism, and plots its "best possible" consequent Trajectory economically, as both essential, yet worthy of much better critical study than it is usually accorded.

Indeed, literally all the criticisms of Capitalism, that both inform and energise the Socialist and Communist oppositions to it, are totally missing in Stiglitz: for his account is more like a modern Keynesian critique of current Neoliberalist Capitalism, rather than taking a steadfast position of requiring Capitalism's total termination.

Yet interestingly, Stiglitz was brought in to help, as it became increasingly clear to the Chinese Leadership, that the insertion of some tightly regulated Capitalist enterprises in China, was running into problems with the many country-localities in China, that were not included in the joint schemes, and these leftover-and-leftout town and village "Soviets" were clearly not benefiting from the economic changes, and were beginning to oppose the plans of the Central Bureaucracy, which would ultimately reveal iteself in the Tianamen Square Events: and require a Wholly New Phase, integrating this opposition into becoming part of the New Turn, and economic boom, in what was called the TVE (Town & Village Initiative), but to make it work, any remnants of the "Soviet" nature (which I had observed when I visited China before 1980), just had to go - and this, in time, would again require yet another New Phase!

CCP propaganda poster 1979

Guangdong Province (I think)

School in China 1979

Villagers building dam

Photographs from my travels in Communist China, 1979

But, as the reader will have already imagined, the alternatives to be put forward on this blog are most certainly NOT Keynesian criticisms of Capitalism, but, on the contrary, major criticisms of the current Left's opposition to Western Capitalism, as they were surprisingly and increasingly revealed by the experiences in China in the last 40 years, which has revealed a very Marxian Trajectory of differently necessary Phases of development, as what were previously-Working-Policies ran out of steam, and had to be regularly replaced, but, in a very pragmatic - "Crossing the River by Feeling for the Stones" way, as they put it! For, every change in Policy, was NOT occurring within an established Socialist Economy, but now in a mixed Communist/Capitalist Economy, both unavoidably linked to World Capitalism, and thereby guaranteed to engender such Crises regularly, and ultimately, at some point, precipitate a Wholesale Collapse.

NO, what I intend to extract from those twisted-temporary-experiences in China, is a much better Theory, extracted from and among Real 21st century Marxists, intended to guarantee the Success of Socialist Revolution in the West!

For, a comprehensive, all-areas-applicable Marxism (more properly described as Dialectical Materialism) was not sufficiently fully defined by Karl Marx - for though his contributions were Truly Revolutionary, they were not soundly applicable when not limited only to Marx's completed work: indeed the absolutely crucial area of The Sciences, was not significantly addressed, comprehensively, until the second decade of this century, with the various critiques of the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Theory published in SHAPE Journal and elsewhere on the Web, by 2019.

And, in addition, the now available extensive range of lectures by David Harvey, all now on Youtube, both on Marx's Kapital and the Grundrisse, have brilliantly revealed aspects of Marx's method and begun to make them more generally applicable, BUT ONLY if tackled in the same way as Marx had worked, and in addition by scientifically-trained-experts, not only covering the specialist ground, but also, and crucially and necessarily extending the Marxist Method.

Indeed, though he didn't realise why it was necessary, Stiglitz, in his account of the trajectory in the last 40 years of Communist China, clearly identified the various key Crises, in the sequence of required changes, which could alternatively be explained using Harvey's interpretations of Marx's Method, but extended beyond what Marx had access to.

Now, the most important re-application of these methods is NOT primarily in addressing the failures of the Stalinists in China, but, in the far more important criticisms of the truncated appreciations of Marxism currently available, and unavoidably incorrectly applied to the necessary political agitations NOW, against Capitalism in the West! For, no matter what they all call themselves, the various Left political elements are NOT equipped with the 21st century Marxism that I am talking about: and hence, necessarily, their "Theory" leads to both Strategies, Tactics and Propaganda, that are all doomed to result in failure!

And, if Proof is required, they should all be pressed to explain both the various Phases that have been forced upon the Stalinists in China, AND, even more importantly, exactly how those same analyses can be effectively applied to their own current positions and policies - for there definitely are similarities, indicating what inexplicable-to-them failures they will most certainly encounter, and hope to understand enough, to be able to plot paths around them.

And, if they cannot do it, redirect them to both Harvey and Marx's original works to effect a radical change in what they consider to be MARXISM!

For, no-one on the Left seems to be aware of the Revolutionary Situation they are careering towards at some considerable speed, and are ALL at a loss to see what transforming Transitional Demands they will undoubtedly need, to orient themselves and Their Class to what must be done!

Have they read "Ten Days that Shook the World" by John Reed?

Do they not know why the slogan "Bread, Peace and Land", was their cry, and that it worked, and why it did so?

What should our demands be?

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