The Communist Party of China at 90

By Heiko Khoo
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, June 17, 2011
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In the spring of 1921 the Communist Party of China was just an idea in the minds of a handful of revolutionaries led by Chen Duxiu. Today its membership stands at more than 78 million. This is greater than the memberships of all communist and social democratic parties in the rest of the world at the peak of their popularity combined. For the last 30 years, the CPC presided over the fastest economic growth of any country in history, and within a decade China will be the world's No. 1 economy. This shift in the global balance of power will have profound consequences for mankind.

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When Marx wrote the "Communist Manifesto," the working class of England was only 2 million strong. Today China's urban working class is well over 450 million strong. China has more workers than the United States and Europe combined. There is no country better placed to validate or negate Marx's prediction that the increasing power of the working class will usher in a socialist world of plenty.

The creation of the largest proletariat in the world is an outstanding achievement of the CPC in recent times. This working class is not an ideological construct nor a proletariat defined by its "redness" or by quoting Mao Zedong, but one forged out of the planned development of the means of production; a real, industrious, educated and cultured working class, whose home is urban modernity, whose means of communication are mobile phones and the Internet, and whose world outlook is scientific and universal.

The CPC rules over an economy in which the commanding heights, the banks and major industries, are owned and controlled by the state. It is on this material foundation of public property, enshrined in the constitution, that the party and state rest. This has facilitated the macroeconomic guidance of the economy and enabled China to avoid collapse when export markets contracted in the great recession of 2007-2009.

Many prominent Marxist economists believe that underlying the world financial crisis was another crisis caused by the long-term tendency for the rate of profit to fall. Under capitalism as competition for profit drives investment, expenditure on machinery rises relative to expenditure on labor. This causes the average rate of profit to decline over the long term, eventually leading to sharp economic contraction as capitalists go on strike.

China's planned economy does not abide by the same laws of motion as capitalist states do. Despite the low profit margins of state-owned companies in China, these companies continue to make massive investments for the medium- and long-term future of the nation as a whole. One stark example illustrates the comparative advantages of planned economics. China will spend 67 times as much on low-cost housing this year as India plans to spend over the next five years!

Marx thought that the working class would seize control and ownership of society in the advanced capitalist countries and that modern industry would rapidly produce abundance following such revolutionary change. However, the revolutions that Marx envisaged broke out in countries without developed industry.

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