“Soft Fascism”?

Ascendancy of Capitalism in China

Harsh Thakor

Today even under Xi Jinping professing ‘Socialism with Chinese Characteristics’, China is masking itself as a Socialist state or disguising its capitalist nature. No doubt, it is a more progressive state or economy than other third world countries, with the state administering the market economy, and citizens enjoying more benefits in all spheres of life. Post-1978 the Chinese State completely undid or reversed the policies from 1949-1978.All positive features of China today had their seeds planted in the steps taken in the Maoist era. Since 1978 China reverted all the Socialist methods, like dismantling the communes and promoting profit-oriented production by inviting American Special Economic Zones.

True, it is not classically capitalist like the Western Democracies and its socialist modernisation road was more progressive than Western capitalism. However even if state controlled it is market forces that determine the economy, which has paved way for mushrooming of billionaires.

After the death of Mao Zedong, China became a bourgeois state. China is definitely not a bourgeois democracy, but, it is also not quite a fascist state of the Nazi type. Its practice could be categorised as “soft fascism”. Here, the people are mostly not convicted unless and until they rebel to change the social system. No publications are allowed which try to educate and organise the people in organising a revolutionary movement. The Internet is severely censored, as are foreign publications, films, etc.

Today like Cuba, in certain ways, particularly citizen’s welfare, one must defend China, from the lies or conspiracy of the Western media, but still must expose in essence, its social–imperialist nature.

The working conditions of contemporary Chinese workers are very poor. Workers are generally faced with such dilemmas as long working hours and strong work intensity, being often in arrears with wages and being underpaid, insufficient social welfare, minimum security of working environment, and illegal layoffs.

The standard working hours stipulated by Chinese laws are 8 hours per day, an average of no more than 44 hours per week, and at least one day off per week. However, according to the investigation of data, the working hours of most wage posts far prolong 44 hours. For example, according to the statistics of the National Bureau of Statistics in July 2018, the average weekly working hours of Chinese enterprise employees in that month were 46 hours. (Including those bureaucratic wastes that do nothing)

Wages are often low with wage arrears, a routine feature. Construction workers’ wages are most seriously in arrears. Most labour disputes in China are caused by wage arrears. In the context of the COVID-19, wage arrears in China can be seen everywhere. There are too many cases of salary arrears. Wage arrears are more likely to ignite the spark of the workers’ movement.

On May 28, 2020, Li Keqiang, then Premier of the State Council, publicly said at the press conference of the Third Session of the 13th National People’s Congress: “The average monthly income of 600 million people with low and middle income and below is about 1000 yuan”. In response to the outside world, the spokesman of the National Bureau of Statistics said, “The monthly per capita income of 600 million people is 1000 yuan, which can be verified by the national household income and expenditure and living conditions survey data”. Private organisations have also investigated the problem of low wages. For example, according to the judgment of a private survey organisation, if the minimum wage should be 40% of the average wage, it is suggested that the monthly minimum wage in Guangdong Province in 2019 should be 3728 yuan in Guangzhou, 2331 yuan in Dongguan, and 2588 yuan in Huizhou, while the minimum wage in the fourth-tier cities like Heyuan is 2298 yuan—while the actual minimum wage in these four places is only 2100 yuan, 1720 yuan, 1550 yuan, and 1410 yuan respectively.

According to the data of the National Bureau of Statistics, in 2020, the basic endowment insurance for employees will only cover about 71% of urban employees, and only 47% of employees will have unemployment insurance. The current social security model in China is the intergenerational compensation system, that is, the social security provided to the elderly in the same period with the tax paid by the young.

On April 10, 2019, the report released by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences showed that the current balance of the basic endowment insurance fund for urban enterprise employees in China would be negative for the first time by 2028, after which the endowment insurance fund reserve would decline rapidly and the accumulated balance might be exhausted around 2035. It can be understood that China’s current social security model —intergenerational compensation system—has a tendency to collapse in contemporary China, where the aging population is deepening. This is one of the important reasons why the Chinese revisionist party has repeatedly enforced the birth restriction. The reason for the insufficient welfare of social security is that many enterprises fail to pay social security for their employees in accordance with the law.

Production safety is supposed to penetrate the whole production process, but the authorities do not give priority to this field of production safety. Although many documents emphasise production safety, this kind of production safety only exists on paper.

Many types of illegal layoffs were tacitly given sanction by the authorities. It is also important to point out that the current situation of the working people is deteriorating under the wrong and extreme epidemic prevention policy of the Chinese ruling establishment. In areas where the epidemic is grave, many factories have become redundant, and workers have almost no source of wages. Not only the factory workers are facing such difficulties, but also many takeout workers living in urban villages are seriously affected. These takeout workers have to take a quilt with them to sleep in the street because they are afraid that the village will be closed down and they can no longer feed themselves and their families. Some workers engaged in shelter construction were found infected after the project was completed, but the Chinese government just wanted to let these workers leave quickly, and did not provide any medical support to these workers.

Under the wrong and extreme epidemic prevention policy, some factories in high-risk areas did not stop working, and workers were ordered to continue working but could not do a good job of protection, resulting in continuous infection of workers. These infected workers are trapped in the park without effective treatment. Faced with such abominable working conditions, many friends spontaneously resisted. However, the people who bravely fought for the rights of the working class were victimised by Chinese government.

Most factories in China today can be called “sweatshops” which is the outcome of privatisation. In the era of Mao Zedong, the factory strictly abided by the provisions of the “Angang Constitution”—“cadres participate in labour, workers participate in management, reform unreasonable rules and regulations, and combine workers, leading cadres and technicians”. Under the guidance of Angang’s Constitution, the factories in Mao Zedong’s era not only had high status of workers, but also had high enthusiasm for production, which was conducive to the progress of production technology. The advanced factory system like the Ansteel Constitution only exists in the socialist society. Since the restoration of capitalism, the Constitution of Angang has also been eradicated. With the abolishment of the Angang Constitution and the restoration of the “one leader system”, workers lost their rights and were naturally slaughtered in the factory.

Since the restoration of capitalism in China, the domestic workers’ strikes and other collective actions ignited one after another. The vast majority of these strikes and collective action incidents are spontaneous. According to incomplete statistics, there were more than 14000 such incidents in the decade from 2011 to 2021. Some of these strikes were led by Maoists, some by bourgeois liberals.

Strikes are illegal in the Constitution of China. While being brutally suppressed, these workers were stigmatised as “colluding with foreign forces”, which is a common practice.

China’s “new left” refers to the trend of thought that was born in the 1990s and is different from the traditional Marxism-Leninism (Marxism Leninism Maoism), so it is called the “new left”. Their goal is to cultivate the western “democratic freedom” trend of thought and its “criticism” of traditional views, After the counter-revolutionary coup in 1976 in the last century, those who were stood loyal to Chairman Mao’s revolutionary line in the Chinese party and government were severely punished. After that, the so-called leftist ideologies spread only when some rebels who missed Chairman Mao and escaped the purge secretly publicised socialist theory through legitimate magazines and pretended to support Deng Xiaoping Theory.

The Maoist forces have undertaken some practical work to win the support of the masses, but members basically act in their personal identities, rarely in the name of the organisation, because it is easy to expose their identities when acting in the name of the organisation. They irregularly carry out social surveys on the working class, give some common-sense legal guidance to workers who need to safeguard their rights, distribute leaflets and post leaflets. The content of the leaflet includes an analysis of the current society, as well as information about the contemporary international communist movement.

 The neo-Maoists have to make a departure from conventional methods and devise new forms of organisation in accordance to changes in the digital age in production and machinery. Still the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution methods are relevant, but people’s war as path is outdated and even conventional communist party vanguard party concept has to be revised. Unlike the 1949 revolution which was rural based, the current revolution would be urban based.

[The author is grateful for information from an interview with Chinese Maoists in Beir Bua Resistance Reports in Bearbua.medium as well as East Asia Forum.]

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Vol 56, No. 17-20, Oct 22 - Nov 18, 2023