Gu Suhua writes from Beijing: Marxism has supposedly been dumped by the Chinese leadership in favour of the regulated free market. At least that is what most people around the world think. They are wrong. The top comrades are at it again, praising Karl and calling on the masses to give him another chance. (Why on earth our designers put Vladimir Lenin alongside Chairman Mao on the image to this piece, I have no idea.)
One very important Communist Party boss has said recently that Marxism is crucial for China. Notice, he said ‘crucial’. No way can the country survive without it. Li Changchun, one of the nine comrades who rule China, thinks that it is a great time for the Chinese to tuck into the full works of Karl and absorb his unique wisdom. And why does Comrade Li think that, you may wonder. Because, he says, it all has to do with developing a consensus and working out a way of moving forward. (How about producing proper goods for a change, Comrade Li, and cutting down on all that communist propaganda crap?)
But seriously, the main reason why the Communist Party has gone all supportive of Marxism again is because things are not really working out for its brand of free market without a hint of democracy, and the crazy teachings of the mad German are seen as a good possible way to unite the masses behind the Party. It’s a long shot really, but Chinese comrades are desperate, feeling the bite of reality. (How long can the bluff with the Chinese economic boom continue to work? It’s pretty much obvious to everyone that this farce is coming to an end.)
The thing is that for the past thirty-odd years the Communist Party of China was telling its people that it is the only force in the land that can provide astonishing growth of the economy. It worked before but it is starting to sound pretty hollow now. Too many people in China haven’t experienced the wonders of the boom years and are now voicing doubts about the whole arrangement. And the sudden interest in Marxism of the top comrades proves that they are getting more and more nervous about the whole situation.
The Party propaganda department is desperately thinking how to make Marx relevant to the the Chinese again. In February, amid a huge fanfare, a campaign was launched to glorify the heroes of the communist years, pointing to their devotion to socialism, readiness to make any sacrifice and total lack of interest in material things. Considering that the new generations of the Chinese are bent on becoming rich as quickly as possible it proved to be a tough call.
The fact that Li Changchun has come out praising Marx proves that the campaign to champion communist values went down like a lead balloon. Clearly, most Chinese just laughed at it. It also proves that the top comrades are living in a fantasy world and have no idea how to respond to changes in their own country. You can’t build an economic superpower and base it on Marxism. The Soviet Union is proof of that. You either reform or you go down.
The two main ideologies of modern China at the moment are Confucianism and Maoism. Confucius taught deference to authority, honesty and commitment to the common good. There is nothing about class conflict in his writings. On the other hand, Mao hated all that Confucius stood for and wanted to undermine his influence.
Maoism is an even hotter potato for the communist leaders. His loony economic policies – the Great Leap Forward of 1958-61 cost at least 40 million lives – and the madness of the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) almost destroyed the country. Mao was economically illiterate and could not cope with numbers. Clearly, the Chinese communists will have a hard time convincing citizens to take his ideas seriously. By the way, no one is allowed to debate in public the depredations of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. So it has to be a sanitised Maoism for the masses. The middle class, now perhaps 150 million strong, will not be impressed.
Then there is nationalism. Since about 90 per cent of the population is Han Chinese, nationalism is attractive to the leadership. However nationalism does not solve difficult social and economic problems. It is great as a rabble rouser but reality bites afterwards.
The military are a cause for concern. Take Marxism out and you are moving towards a professional army, air force and navy. As such those with guns become a powerful interest group. The fact that the Party has been beating the drum of loyalty and obedience lately shows that there is a problem.
So the Party leadership are in a fix. With an economic downturn almost inevitable, how do they convince the people that they are capable of solving any problem? Li thinks that quoting and teaching Marxism is the answer. This is unlikely and reveals how bereft of ideas the top leaders are.
Marxism is a dead horse in the Middle Kingdom. It would take a magician to bring it back to life. Not even Merlin could do it.