Friday, June 4, 2010

When the Party lost Stalin’s Knife

Twenty-one years ago, the tanks rolled on Tienanmen Square. Old Deng had used Stalin's knife once more.

China is not an ordinary country.
China is one of the last two States in the world strictly adhering to the Marxist Theory while engaged on a seemingly wild capitalist path (‘with Chinese characteristics of course). But for the past 60 years, the Communist Party of China (CCP) continues to rule supreme over the Middle Kingdom.
From time to time, China watchers have predicted the ideological and economic collapse of the Chinese empire, but despite many prophesies, Beijing continues its ‘peaceful rise’ and has now reached the Number 2 economic slot after the United States of America.
Unlike Indians, the Chinese like to analyze the future; they like to be prepared for any eventuality. An Indian friend recently explained to me that this is not really required in India which has 33 crores of gods and goddesses and above all, the Supreme Grace always ready to intervene. So, why bother!
Not having the ‘Grace’ advantage, Chinese rulers have to bother about the future of the Communist Dynasty. They are aware that, in the past, Heaven has withdrawn its Mandate to many dynasties, bringing disasters, famines, floods or earthquakes to different parts of the Empire and dethronement for the Emperors.
It is probably the reason why the State Council ordered in June 2006 an eight-episode TV research entitled Preparing For Danger in Times of Safety – Historic Lessons Learned from the Demise of Soviet Communism.
The project was given to no less than the Academy of Social Sciences, the prime Government think tank.
Later CCP’s party members were requested to watch the series and carefully study and ‘discuss’ the conclusions offered by the Chinese President himself. Hu Jintao affirmed: “There are multiple factors contributing to the disintegration of the Soviet Union, a very important one being Khrushchev throwing away Stalin’s knife and Gorbachev’s open betrayal of Marxism-Leninism.”
In China, as earlier in the Soviet Union, the Party is the foundation stone of the entire nation; if one day the CCP collapses, like in Soviet Union in the early 1990’s, the Apparatchiks in Beijing believe that Chaos will prevail and a new Dynasty may take over.
The matter is so serious that in 2000, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences created two special research groups: one to study the strength and decline of the Soviet Communist Party and the other the rise and fall of the Soviet Union. It was designated as “fundamental national social science research topic”.
Arthur Waldron in a paper entitled Chinese Analyses of Soviet Failure: The Party in the China Brief of the Jamestown Foundation mentions the film: “The message is that the Soviet party failed because it gave up the dictatorship of the proletariat, ceased to practice democratic centralism, criticized Stalin, was beguiled by western concepts such as democracy, and also tripped up by Western propaganda and other operations.”
Indeed the film praised Lenin’s Theory [i.e. the dictatorship of the proletariat led by a revolutionary vanguard party]: “After the victory of the October Revolution, Lenin led the Bolshevik Party in implementing the War Communism and the New Economic Policy, and conducted a painstaking exploration on how to build socialism in underdeveloped countries such as Russia,” but also Stalin’s Work.
Though acknowledging the ‘excesses’ of Stalin, it states that his realizations will remain in history: “The Soviet people who had personal experiences of Stalin’s times fully affirmed Stalin's great historic feats, but they also experienced the expansion of his purges, as well as the bitter fruit from his autocratic working style and the mistakes caused by his abusive manner. However, as time goes by, when we brush off the dust of history, people feel more than ever that Stalin's errors should never tarnish his position as a great Marxist and a proletarian revolutionary in history.”

But then came the Destroyer of the Party.
On February 14, 1956, the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of Soviet Union (CPSU) was held in Moscow. At night, the delegates were suddenly summoned back to the Kremlin by Khrushchev, the first secretary of the Central Committee who presented the famous ‘secret’ report entitled On Personal Worship and its Consequences. The Chinese film says: “In the secret report, Khrushchev exaggerated Stalin's errors and expressed sharp criticism of Stalin. After the 20th Congress of the CPSU, the Soviet Union launched a nationwide campaign criticizing Stalin.”
This was the beginning of the end. The Party was condemned to death; as Mao Zedong said “the CPSU had lost the knife of Stalin”.
Without a ‘knife’, the Soviet Union could not survive.
The script explains: “Young people in the CPSU grew up under Khrushchev’s ideological influence [after the 20th Congress] …They were unfamiliar with the Party's revolutionary tradition, and lacked firm beliefs in socialism. They were later known as the ‘the babies born at the 20th Congress’. After the mid-80s of the 20th century, it was exactly these people who became the backbone that disintegrated the CPSU and buried the socialist system”.
In the early 1990’s, Gorbachev, probably considered as a ‘baby of the 20th Congress’ put the last nail in the coffin of the Soviet Union and the Party.
The film regretted: “A party that Lenin personally created; a party that led the Russian working class in overthrowing the reactionary rule of tsarist Russia and successfully established the first socialist state under the dictatorship of the proletariat; a party that resisted the armed intervention of 14 countries and successfully defended the fruit of the revolution; a party that defeated Nazi Germany in the great patriotic war, and made great contributions to victory in World War II; a party that has made brilliant achievements in socialist development and was the first to send satellites into space; why, after 74 years in power, did it actually lose its ruling position?”.
The lessons are crucial for China. Deng Xiaoping who wore the Emperors’ Mantle after Mao’s death knew it only too well. He cleverly set up an Open Policy at the end of 1978 as the only way to save the Party. He knew that by opening the door to foreign businesses, he was offering the Chinese people the ‘glory of becoming rich”. He could thus pacify the masses’ frustrations after the Cultural Revolution and this, without encroaching on the supremacy of the Party.
In the early 1980’s, one leader could have been a Chinese Khrushchev; it was Hu Yaobang, the then Secretary General of the CCP. When Deng realized the danger of democratic ‘opening’, Hu was quickly tackled from within the Politburo and sidelined.
When Hu died in April 1989, students gathered spontaneously on Tiananmen Square to mourn his demise. What started as an expression of grief, quickly turn into the massive pro-democracy demonstration. Tens of thousands occupied Tiananmen Square till the fateful night of June 3-4, 1989.
The knife had to save the Party. Deng decided to send in the tanks and massacre the students.
When one looks at the last 20 years of the history of the People’s Republic of China, the ‘knife’ has been the Party’s instrument for keeping its predominant position.
Take the unrest in Tibet in March/April 2008. Beijing could have tried to understand the motivations behind the protests (it is what several Chinese think-tanks suggested), but the leadership decided to use disproportionate force and not take any chance. The Part could not afford to lose control. It is what Hu Jintao had already done in March 1989 when he quelled unrest in Lhasa. A few hundred Tibetans were killed.
The knife was again used in Xinjiang in July 2009 for the same reason; were the Party to show weakness, it may have been wiped out from ‘minorities’ areas’.
In the film, the script mentioned: “In June 1988, at the 19th National Conference of the CPSU, [Gorbachev] for the first time, clearly stated that the goal of reform is to establish a ‘humane and democratic socialist’ society, fundamentally different from the current socialism (which he called ‘authoritarian socialism’. …To reform the party’s guiding ideology according to the ‘humane, democratic socialist’ theory is to use the old theories of western social democratic parties to replace the party’s Marxist theoretical basis.”
This destroyed the Soviet Union. The present leadership does not want to fall in the same trap. It is the reason why the brutal regime of North Korea will continue to be supported, even at the cost of Beijing’s image as a responsible world power.
Now, Beijing is front of a serious dilemma: the ‘proletarian’ strikes in a Honda factory in Foshan. As reported by Xinhua: “The assembly plants of Japan's second-largest automaker Honda in China have been forced to halt production as workers at a parts maker went on strike demanding higher salaries. Hundreds of workers, wearing white uniforms, red-and-white caps and even masks, rallied at the compound of Nanhai Honda Auto Parts Manufacturing Company in Foshan, southern Guangdong Province Thursday, asking for an increase of $118-$147 in monthly pay.”
Will the Politburo use the knife against protesting proletariat? The Party has never walked on a tighter rope, caught between different slogans, ‘not giving up the dictatorship of the proletariat, not dropping the knife and a ‘humane society’?
The question is, how long can a ‘harmonious society’ use Stalin’s knife to survive? In the Middle Kingdom, many are asking today this question.

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