Blog 204.Part II
Part I of this blog looked at the ideological struggle that was emerging between the west, led by the American democracy and China, led by the Communist Party (CCP.) Both parties look at the struggle as an exhibition ground on which to demonstrate alternative political systems in the belief/hope that their particular system proves so attractive that it will be adopted by other nations.
While nearly all countries claim to be ‘democratic’ (a word which, by excessive usage, has come to mean little other than ‘good’) the versions of democratic governance vary widely between countries. In the West, at one extreme there are the Nordic social democracies, committed to socialist measures of welfare and levels of taxation resulting in low Gini figures of societal inequality. In the USA, at the other extreme, higher levels of social welfare and high taxation are regarded as ideological anathema. The would-be exemplary USA, being more responsive to wealthy elites, has departed so far from the original democratic concept that it would now be better described as a plutocratic oligarchy. Complex It could be argued, especially after the most recent developments in Washington and the witch-hunt that looks set to follow, that it is in reality, like China, a one-party state – with the crucial difference that the ruling party has no interest in altruism and is more concerned with its own well-being than the welfare of US society as a whole.
With the collapse of the USSR and its Eastern European satellite governments, there are now far fewer governments that call themselves ‘communist.’ The rump of Communist ideology can be found in only five countries, North Korea, Laos, Cuba, Vietnam and China. While all the communist countries insist on one-party rule of the polity, a truly ‘communist‘ country should forbid the ownership of private property. It is in this latter aspect of economic regulation that there is a significant deviation from ideological purity. In China’s alternative model, in the political sphere, one party rule of the CCP is absolute. However, on the economic front, there is a full spectrum of private and public ownership and capitalisation.
All governments, even the most autocratic, depend on popular acceptance – whether voluntary or imposed. They also require a population that is healthy and able to contribute to the nation’s economy and defence. All governments therefore share much in common. There is, however, a fundamental and significant difference in the origin of the cultures of Western electoral democracies and the so-called communist and socialist countries.
Historically, western democracies emerged from an untrammeled industrial capitalism in which individuals accumulated wealth through exploiting members of their own societies and those of other countries. Gradually, the adverse social consequences of unchained individual greed came to be recognised. To assuage these unwelcome side-effects of capitalism, there emerged from its brutality and squalor, varying degrees of welfare state of which some of the most advanced examples are to be found in Europe. Welfare
As industrial capitalism emerged from medieval agrarian societies, in certain instances the pace of adaptation to the needs of the population proved too slow. Not all societies could wait for incremental evolutionary change. Through taking the philosophical ideas of thinkers such as Karl Marx, they attempted to leapfrog out of the reality of their capitalist hell into an imagined communist heaven – in just one revolutionary bound.
The nations that adopted this course had varied experiences as they faced the full hostility of the capitalist governments that they challenged. The leading experimenter with the Marxist ideal of a society, in which all property was owned in common and all citizens had equal life-opportunities, was Russia. The USSR struggled valiantly in the face of multiple, first-mover mistakes and the overt hostility of the capitalist powers. Ultimately its state-owned, centralised economy succumbed, having proved unable to compete with the private initiative and universal hostility of western capitalism.
China had followed Russia into communism. However, learning from the latter’s demise and its own early-mover mistakes, while retaining, the one-party system, China rapidly hybridised its economy with private enterprise to make it fully competitive with that of the USA and other western economies.
America claims that China, under the CCP, should be viewed as “a revisionist autocracy vying to disrupt and displace this system.” That is only partly true. It is not the wish of the CCP to disrupt the system to which it owes its current growth to prosperity and influence, but its ultimate objective is to modify it into something altogether more law-abiding, less destructive and more conducive to human happiness. Below are the words of Godfree Roberts, an American expert on Chinese affairs.
“China is not a Communist country and does not pretend to be. It is a socialist republic with a Communist government.
The Communist government intends to attract everyone into becoming communists–but unselfishness requires more individual and collective maturity than most people currently possess. So they are taking it in stages.
Deng’s ‘greed’ stage will end next year, and Xi’s ‘sharing’ stage will begin: China will focus on bringing its Gini coefficient down from 0.41 (when Xi was elected) to Finland’s current level of 0.27–the best in the world.
From 2012 and 2015 it fell to 0.38, so they are making rapid progress towards communism, which implies a Gini coefficient of 0 (a figure which China approached under Mao). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gini_coefficient “
Probably the most important lesson to be drawn from the collapse of the USSR’s Marxist idealist experiment was that it was just that: an unachievable ideal of perfection in human social behavior. At the present stage of development of human consciousness, no government should sensibly aspire to implement such an ideal.
Consequently, the pragmatic theoreticians of the CCP are not attempting to force on their own society, or on any other, the Marxist ideal of how an individual should relate to society. In Marx’s distant vision of an impractical Utopian ideal, the government would ultimately disappear completely. The CCP, dedicated as it is to the welfare of its people, as is demonstrated by its current successful management of its hybrid economy, is far too sensible to attempt the Marxist ideal implied in a Gini coefficient of 0! As Roberts says, it is contenting itself with achieving Nordic levels of social justice – and then will wait to see if human nature can advance beyond that point.
Further progress in that direction is neither a forlorn hope nor an unreasonable position. Necessity is the mother of invention. As humanity is about to be faced with the existential threat of climate change, it could well be that the extent of cooperation called for in that struggle will inspire changes in human attitudes and behaviour that drive nations further towards the communist ideal.
China, now having demonstrably succeeded in adapting its economy to compete with those of the western democracies, there remain only two clear distinctions between the CCP’s and the West’s ‘freedom-loving’ democracies. The first of these is in their origins: the one in selfish greed and the other in currently unattainable selfless idealism.
These separate origins should not be ignored, as they continue to exert a cultural influence over the decision-making processes in both systems. In difficulty, the CCP will tend to revert to the altruistic ideals of its founding ideology and concern itself with the well-being of the whole society. Western governments, under their two, or multi-party systems, will tend to revert to their self-seeking origins and prioritise the interests of one part of the population over others.
The above ideological considerations carry their relevance over from the national to the international domain. To the idealist in pursuit of a Marxist ideal, no matter how remote, the fate of all humanity will be of concern. The only concerns that need oblige the capitalist is the satisfaction of shareholders and the availability of a workforce and consumers willing and able to buy.
It is this distinction between single-party and multi-party systems that illustrates the other major difference between the two systems. In the Chinese instance, we have the altruistic, selfless idealism of a well-conducted, one party system that offers political continuity and social cohesion. The USA’s democracy, judging from it present low point, has achieved the exact opposite in offering neither political continuity nor social cohesion. However, that is not to say this need always be the case. As clearly evidenced by Nordic examples, western democracy is capable of progressive and enlightened modification.
Approx. 9% of the Chinese adult population are party-members. (87 million members; 4 million branches.) The CCP’s selection of its members is rigourous, based on ability, demonstrable acceptance of socialist theory and devotion to the well-being of the Chinese community as a whole. CCP
The idea of passing responsibility to a competent and dedicated vanguard comes easily to the inheritors of a millennia-long tradition of a scholarly and dedicated civil service Servants Whereas at the local level there is very lively and democratic participation in decision making, at the national and international level, the general population is comfortable with its delegation of decision making to the internal processes of the Party. At this level, major instances of corruption having been eliminated and as evidenced by both economic success and the Harvard approval survey quoted in Part I of this blog, pragmatic, effective and conscientious decision-making prevails.
The Chinese community seems to accept the surveillance and limits on freedom to incite disharmony as a worthwhile price to pay for the security and prosperity that the Party has so successfully provided. Though the Party has autocratic powers, its rule is by no means arbitrary or seen as unfair and is conducted according to the law. Judiciary
Both the alternatives of Chinese communism and western democracy have proved capable of self-refinement toward the mutual acceptance of a common middle-ground of benefit for all their citizens. It is a tragedy that America is so in the grips of its plutocratic elite that it has decided all forms of socialism are threatening. It is therefore doing all in its vast power to persuade other nations to adopt hostile policies towards the Chinese version of socialism. The American government agencies and private plutocrats exercise significant control over the western media and key elements of academia. It is hardly surprising that this successfully propagates a distorted vision of reality among their own population and those of its wealthier allies and their political leaders. Pew
Of all ‘socialist’ countries, it is China that is the most likely to successfully demonstrate to the world the material and social advantages of adopting socialism and the pursuit of social equity and justice. America should restrain its hostility and dissemination of falsehoods about China, and adjusts its own system to better concern itself with the well-being of its own population. Only then, will the socially more advanced western democracies and the Chinese one-party system be free to harmonise their efforts in saving themselves and the rest of humanity from an impending, climate induced, hell on Earth.
The major difference between the two confronting systems can be summarised in their origins. The one has arisen from the greediest and most selfish aspects of human nature and the other from a most unrealistic idealism that in essence runs counter to the reality of human nature. From both ends of the spectrum the most advanced societies are moving towards a common- ground of human happiness and well-being in which refusals to cooperate and expressions of ill-will should have no place. Those negatives, which currently characterise global relations, emanate from a USA leadership that wishes to force its society and the rest of the world to return to an atavistic capitalism, red in tooth and claw. Modern democracies need to resist the blandishments of the beneficiaries of the USA’s continuing and destructive militarism and of its empire’s compradors in their midst.
For those too exposed to western media, with its many voices eager for confrontation, and who wish to balance their diet, I would recommend a (free) subscription to the Dongfeng news service. Collective and/or Godfree Roberts’ ‘Here comes China.’ Here comes