Monday, May 16, 2016
What Chinese Communism Never Was, and What we Risk in Forgetting what Capitalism Still is
As the Chinese look to try to gloss over the passing of the 50th anniversary of the "Cultural Revolution" it is important for us to to remember a couple of things.
First and foremost is the fact that their Communism, as well as the old Soviet model, or even the Cambodian attempt at same, is not, and never was Socialism. These were efforts towards collectivism at the point of a gun, and were brutally repressive precisely because they were premised not only on "rule by force," but on the intolerance of any competitive thought.
This situation was necessitated both by the fact that these nations did not have the level of technological, or industrial, development that Marx knew would have to be in place so that Socialism would have a chance to work (see Michael Harrington's "Socialism"), but also because of the elevation of an ideology to near religious extremes.
Marx thought that, if you had that level of development in place, that all aspects of the means of production, and distribution, could be put into the hands of the many, or at least into the interests of the many, so that a commercial, commodity, specialized labor, form of organization could be made to be responsive to social equity, and efficacy in terms of continued social development.
The problem there, of course, was two fold. First, that you can't have responsive commercial operations done by bureaucracies, and secondly that controlling the factors of prices, profits, wages as well the distribution of production, cannot be done in isolation. Not at least if you also want to be able to exchange by monetary means with other commercial entities in other nations, and to do so without it being cripplingly burdensome.
All of which is no more than to say that Marx, though quite informed as to the deficiencies of Capitalism, wasn't nearly so appreciative of what had to be the fundamental aspects required to keep it a viable competitive enterprise in the first place. A fact that shouldn't surprise us as he was unaware of the one additional technological development that would make truly socially mandated production possible: the electrification of experience retrieval. This because the whole point of capital's supremacy was it's ability to translate specialized human skill, as a commodity, into other commodities.
The other thing we need to remember, in regards to the Chinese Cultural Revolution, is that Communism has always been in turmoil not only because we, in the West, have worked to actively undermine it, but also because their attempt to have state run commercialized enterprise were always going to be doomed to inefficiency and corruption, for reasons already stated. And as that two sided coin weighed heavy in the pockets of doctrinaire leaders, seducing, and/or demoralizing the rank and file, backlash of one form or another was pretty much guaranteed.
The Chinese have come back, and come back strong, at lease economically, but they have done so at the expense of mitigating once strident adherence to Communist doctrine. They can compete now economically because of this, but it in no way excuses them from the harsh realities of Capitalism's still resplendent deficiencies; bad enough to keep a lid on in countries of only a few hundred million, but in one with over a billion? And where most of those still haven't benefited very much from all of the tremendous change that has been wrought. And because of that the leadership hunkers down ever more repressively to contain the disquiet.
We in the West are tempted to gloat on this certainly but we do so at great risk. This is so not only because a nation of one billion, formed of people pushed into desperation within an interdependent world, with an equally desperate leadership, is absolutely guaranteed to effect us. But also because we in the West have gone on for decades now blithely thinking that Capitalism's deficiencies could be overlooked, or papered over with the odd reform here and there. That we could do this without those deficiencies catching up to us eventually.
This last reality is made more acute precisely because that last technological development that Marx couldn't have anticipated has been working away for years now to make matters far worse. The very thing that would allow us to form an organizational model to put production, management, and distribution into the hands of the people, without governing intermediaries, is now accelerating and warping the old operational model beyond all human ability to control or understand. Hyper competition. Hyper marketing, and decision making in the hands of machines that increasingly program themselves because we can't begin to act or think fast enough any more to even contemplate being involved. Inevitable, despite what the AI community might think, only because of the demands of commercial and competitive imperatives.
In this reality we are headed for our own cultural revolution because the doctrines of "freedom," and "Democracy," cannot hold up against the dictates of ever more competition, commodity production, controlled information flow, consumption, and increasing profit for the few. The human psyche and spirit cannot tolerate it any more than the planet we live on can.
China Is Not Celebrating Cultural Revolution's 50th Anniversary