A Maoist Response to “China In Africa: A Critical Assessment”

Socialism is the dictatorship of the proletariat. There can be no other definition. It is not the ownership of property by the state, or social welfare programs, or “lifting people out of poverty”, it is a class dictatorship that consciously and actively transitions towards Communism. If you are not on the Communist road, you are on the capitalist road. Socialism is the long period that is characterized by the active and conscious replacing of old capitalist things with new socialist things, and the defense of these new socialist things. Socialism is the period during which class struggle continues, and when the danger of capitalist restoration is still real. In a 1972 Peking Review article, Chi Ping wrote: “In 1957, Chairman Mao pointed out: “The class enemies will invariably seek opportunities to assert themselves. They will not resign themselves to the loss of state power and of their property. However much the Communist Party warns its enemies in advance and makes its basic strategic policy known to them, they will still launch attacks. Class struggle is an objective reality independent of man’s will. That is to say, class struggle is inevitable.” All class enemies, all ghosts and monsters will, without fail, come out into the open, this is decided by their reactionary nature. There has never been nor will there ever be a single instance in which the overthrown reactionary classes will leave the stage of history of their own accord without organizing resistance. Their reactionary class nature and idealist world outlook invariably mislead them into overestimating themselves and underestimating the forces of revolution. They mistake the absolute superiority of the proletariat for absolute inferiority. Whenever there is a chance, therefore, they cannot help showing themselves off. Despite severe blows and shameful defeats, they will continue to act according to this law.” 

China is no longer a developing power. It is a rising imperialist power, a social imperialist power, meaning socialist in words, imperialist in deeds. This position is upheld by Marxist-Leninist-Maoist Parties the world over, including those engaged in armed struggle in the Philippines and India. When Deng Xiaoping and his clique abrogated the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, the furthest that humanity has advanced towards Communism to date, forcibly liquidated the proletarian revolutionary line upheld by Jiang Qing and her comrades, suppressed the masses when they rose in rebellion, and swallowed up the gains of 30 years of socialist construction, China changed its color and ceased to be a socialist country. In “China In Africa, A Critical Assessment”, Ahjamu Umi argues: 

“The raging question among revolutionaries in general and revolutionary Pan-Africanists in particular is has China abandoned its socialist principles in exchange for market economies and a capitalist path?  This question is center to the challenge of China in Africa. Since the late 1970s, after the death of Mao Tse Tung and the policies of the then Deng Xiaoping government, China has implemented massive market “reforms” designed to stimulate the infusion of currency into the Chinese economy.  These changes have led to the development of prosperous private corporations, personal wealth/millionaires, and distinct class disparities. It’s these changes that have led to charges that China has completely abandoned socialism, but a critical analysis requires a much deeper inspection. While the previously stated is undoubtedly true, China has also continued to ensure that education, healthcare, and other essential services are available to all its people.  No small task for a country with over 1 billion people. China has also been exemplary in eliminating disease and improving the quality of life for millions of its people, including many of its almost 600 million peasants.”

Ahjamu Umi in China in Africa: A Critical Assessment

This line verges deep into revisionism and pseudo-social democratic understanding of socialism. By these standards, the Scandinavian countries and the Western European social democracies are socialist, yet we Pan-African revolutionaries mock the colonizers in the West who make such claims. Socialism is about class struggle. Which class is in control of the state? What road is the country on, meaning, where, if the general trend continues, will the country end up? There is also no comparison or mention of the socialist-era line and practice on healthcare, education, etc. and the modern day social imperialist line on these things. Indeed, China provides these things, but of what type? During the GPCR, the masses took direct control over the administration of their factories and schools. Now, social imperialist China rounds up Maoist students and the CCP is full of bureaucrats with fat pockets sending their red princelings to school in the US while the masses work for a few dollars an hour. The paper continues: 

“All of these latter things are unquestionably principles of socialist development. So, the question here is can we say China is socialist or not? And how does how that question is answered impact what China is doing in Africa today? We believe the question about China’s commitment to socialism cannot be completely answered today because the necessary variables to answer that question are still incomplete.  In other words, we believe the majority of Chinese desire socialism and are committed to seeing it develop in China. The Chinese know as well as anyone that a country with over a billion people, over half of who are peasants, cannot organize an economy around principles of profit over people and expect stability and growth. There are still enough people alive from the 1949 revolution who know such a move to capitalism would be disastrous for the Chinese masses.” 

China in Africa: A Critical Assessment

The paper continues to argue that modern day China hasn’t already made the move to capitalism. It has already been disastrous for the Chinese masses. Just take a look at Dazhai, which was a  model village operating under the collective, socialist model only to be gutted during Deng Xiaoping’s “reforms”. William Hinton writes: “Not only have yields declined in the last few years but the infrastructure, which includes terraces, access roads to fields, and irrigation systems, has deteriorated. At Dazhai the terraces seemed to be standing well. They are exceptionally well built. But the access road was eroding badly last June. An individual peasant had contracted the road-maintenance job and was clearly not living up to his contract. Over the county as a whole I saw many, many collapsed terraces, in some places as many as one quarter of the total. Each collapse means a reduction in crop area and a reduction in yield. Random coal mining at Shiping has so disturbed the groundwater that all the wells have run dry. If it were not for “West-Water-East,” the local irrigation project so roundly denounced by the central government during the repudiation of Dazhai, the village would be without water.”

So we see a China able to feed itself, where the masses held power and their Party was a real proletarian and peasants’ Party that exercised dictatorship over the bourgeoisie, to a China where these collectives were broken up and the revolutionary developments in industrial and agricultural organization realized during the GLF and the GPCR were cast by the wayside. China’s commitment to socialism went out the window when the proletarian revolutionary line was liquidated, the gains of the revolution were squandered, and the proletariat was ousted by force from the reins of state power. Indeed, the masses of China do want socialism still. Mao himself said that if the revisionists came to state power the masses would never tolerate it. But we must separate the masses of China from the clique that has arrogated state power away from them. The paper continues: 

Their challenge is since socialist development is rooted in the ability of that system to provide for the needs of its people, the industrialization of production in a socialist society is essential.  History has proven that due to this requirement, it is extremely difficult to develop socialism in a country with antiquated production capabilities. Since China emerged out of that antiquated feudal era in 1949, the ability to produce on a high technological level did not exist.  The only way to those technological capabilities is to be able to finance the development of the mechanisms necessities sary to facilitate that development. That requires the infusion of cash/currency to facilitate the development of mechanization.

China in Africa: A Critical Assessment

Once again, the author continues to see socialism as simply “providing for the needs of the people”. Nothing about class struggle, the proletarian revolutionary line in command, or the masses shaping their own destiny and taking bold steps for their well being. During the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward, there were bold steps taken to increase production and industrial output and these efforts bore fruit. This line is similar to Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping’s “theory of the productive forces”, which places excessive emphasis on technical advances, incentives, and other things which, if carried out without the participation and under the supervision of the masses, engender, instead of uproot, old bourgeois relations and strangle socialist new things and communist relations in the cradle. Charles Bettleheim wrote during the GPCR: “The struggle for the socialist transformation of the production relations cannot be waged in the name of the “development of the productive forces,” since the forms this development assumes reflect class relationships and are determined by the class interests, perceptions, aspirations, and ideas of the contending classes. Marx stressed this point on more than one occasion, particularly when he pointed out that a distinction should always be made between change in the economic base and upheaval in the superstructure and added that it is through the legal and political superstructure, “to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness,” that people engage in struggle and fight it out.”

In essence, we must work to transform the relations of production under socialism. “Grasp Revolution, Promote Production” was the line of march during the GPCR, and it applies just as well today. Without a correct political line and orientation, all the construction and infrastructure development will be for naught. The masses must supervise and technical cadres must engage in production. How Yukong Moved The Mountains is an excellent documentary film that shows this process in action. Without daring to scale the heights, trust the masses, and struggle through to communism, this development of the productive forces and technological advancement will lead right to where China is today, happily skidding down the capitalist road to the detriment of the people of Africa, the Philippines, India, and China itself. The paper continues: 

“Still, since the world today is capitalist dominated. So, in order to develop, China and any other socialist country, will need that cash flow to purchase technological advancements which the capitalist world controls.  The more success they develop in this process the better able they are to create and sustain socialist institutions. With its over 1 billion people, China has a much larger burden than any country on Earth in developing ways to feed and keep its people healthy. It can be argued that China’s expansion into market “reforms” has been very successful in bringing in much needed cash to permit them to create sustained development while providing for their people. It can also be argued that China’s continued commitment to a one party system – governed by its Communist Party – is indication that they see what they doing with capital as a simple method to industrialize so they can develop socialism as just described.  The problem is the permission of market economic “reforms” comes with it values committed to capitalist development and practices. With the millionaires and capitalist values that the influx of cash brings, if this is the vision of China’s leaders, it remains to be seen if they can successfully accomplish that task. Right now, it can easily be said that revolutionary political education in China is at a very low ebb. Significant numbers of people want material items and they are willing to sacrifice the good of society to get them. Racist and patriarchal ideals are commonplace in China. All of this is the result of capitalist ideology and practices. This is the reason we say the verdict on their socialist path is still very much up for debate, but it certainly is still a debate.”

China in Africa: A Critical Assessment

The author’s issue is the promotion of values committed to capitalist development and practices, yet he apparently doesn’t see how the market reforms and the theory of productive forces that he defends in his paper opens the door for this capitalist development and practice by removing the proletariat and its line from state power in the first place. When you engage with the capitalist system and capitalist roaders capture power in the Party and State, along with the “development” comes the values and behaviors that the writer laments, racism, etc. The paper consistently shys away from wrestling with the number one important issue for we Communists, the question of power. Without power, everything is illusion, to quote a popular slogan from the Communist Party of Peru. This means that without the proletarian line in power and in control at all times and an active struggle against bourgeois lines arising within the Party, all the construction is for naught and will be arrogated by the new bourgeoisie that will inevitably arise. The paper cheapens and revises the concept of socialism away from the class struggle and away from Communism and essentially waters it down to the establishment of so-called socialist institutions. How can one have socialist institutions if the proletariat is not in state power? A one party system does not a socialist state make, either. Fascist dictatorships have been one party states. The paper fails to deal with the fact that China has reverted from the past, it is not advancing towards socialism but further and further down the capitalist-imperialist road. Revolutionary political education in the PRC is at a “low ebb” because the educational system is not in the hands of the people as it was in the past and revolution is not on the agenda, rather, it is in the hands of the revisionists and social fascists who use the education system as a weapon against the people and their movement and as an apparatus to sharpen their control over society and the people. The current educational system in China is counter-revolutionary in character and is in the interests of the class that wields state power. The paper goes on to display even more confusion on the nature of socialism towards the end, where the author writes: 

“When we look at China’s specific operations in Africa its quite clear that what they intend to take away from these relationships are the materials they need to facilitate their technological march to progress.  Its also clear that China is willing to provide much needed capacity to Africa in exchange for those resources. For example, China continues to prefer to negotiate trade deals with African countries where China will do things like build and/or provide roads, airports, airplanes, infrastructure like water and power grids, technological equipment like transfer stations, water delivery systems, telecommunication systems, etc., in exchange for oil or other rare Earth materials instead of currency (which wouldn’t be possible with African currencies anyway).  The preference of China to negotiate deals this way probably proves that they are not focused on profiting from these relationships. Instead, they are interested in getting what they need in exchange for providing what African countries need. There is also little evidence that China, unlike Western imperialist countries like Britain and the U.S., is setting up infrastructures in Africa that will serve the future interests of China. There is also no evidence of China engaging the level of imperialist education and training in Africa that the imperialist countries have institutionalized. 

China in Africa: A Critical Assessment

What China has done is negotiate endless deals structured around infrastructure for resources in Africa.  In 2010, China’s China Industrial Fund (CIF) – a National state investment bank in China – negotiated a 7 billion dollar deal with Guinea in West Africa.  The deal required China to build transportation, water/power development, electricity infrastructure, and urban housing development in Guinea in exchange for exploration rights to bauxite and oil reserves. That same year, CIF initiated a similar deal with Zimbabwe for similar infrastructure projects in exchange for mining rights to diamonds, platinum, and gold.  Similar trade deals were established in the following years in Mozambique, Angola, and a host of other African countries.”

China in Africa: A Critical Assessment

The paper rehashes the productivist line and goes on to contradict itself. Earlier, it admitted that China has engaged in market reforms, and acknowledges that the millionaires and billionaires that run the companies currently picking Africa clean are driven by the profit motive, like all capitalists and imperialists throughout history. But now he’s claiming that they are not “focused on profiting from these relationships”. Why do imperialists engage in capital export? Why do they export workers and build this cheap, shoddy infrastructure? Why do they saddle countries in the debt that Sankara and Nkrumah hated so much? Getting what they need in exchange for what Africans need? This is an extreme simplification that is engaged in by many revisionists – this is a matter of imperialism and profit, not simple barter! Proletarian internationalism as it was practiced during the socialist period seeks to develop self sufficiency and mutual aid between equals, not make loans so that a state can seize a smaller state’s ports and resources. There is no big brother-little brother relationship between socialist states, and truly revolutionary societies do not make deals with neocolonialist dictators that bargain away the fruit of their people’s labor. Proletarian internationalist aid is offered without strings attached in the interest of developing other socialist countries’ self sufficiency. Using debt as a weapon is not developing self sufficiency. Revolutionary China was consistently and correctly critical of the way in which the social-imperialist USSR exploited countries in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Latin America, and Africa. Now we see China engaging in social imperialism with its own particular characteristics perfectly tailored to the era in which the national liberation leaders and parties of the past have become neocolonial, revisionist ruling parties.

The author has a correct critique of neo-colonial leaders in Africa bartering away the wealth which rightfully belongs to the masses of the Continent for a tinker’s damn. It is true that any deal made under the neocolonial regime will be to the detriment of the continent’s people. But, he washes this out with continued productivism about how “infrastructure is needed to build up Africa” and relegating the masses to the background. I’m sure he’d agree with me that the masses make history, not great men or social imperialist states. Why then does he spend most of his time arguing for the modern day PRC and engaging in mental gymnastics to justify their social imperialist machinations in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa? On what basis can we assert that the current system in China still has socialist elements? Furthermore, his failure to see that China is, indeed, an imperialist country as laid out by Maoists since the proletariat was ousted from state power shows the necessity of reading Marxist-Leninist-Maoist theoretical works. A study of such works as China – A Modern Social-Imperialist Power by the Communist Party of India (Maoist), Chinese Imperialist Motivations and Initiatives in Relation to US and Other Imperialist Powers, and countless other accessible works blows Umi’s case for China out of the water. He closes on a defeatist note, stating: 

As for China, as was stated, that country is trying to provide for its people. We believe they are also focused on positioning themselves to become the pre-eminent world power, taking that mantle from the U.S. That’s their mission and whatever engagement they have with us is designed to help them facilitate their objective. As revolutionary Pan-Africanists, we have to view Africa’s future the same way. Anything that happens for Africa has to be within that framework of building Africa’s capacity to be independent of anyone else. So we don’t believe China to be an imperialist country and we do believe the infrastructure being developed in Africa can help build up Africa.

China in Africa: A Critical Assessment

Providing for its people, at our people’s expense. China is also overfishing and seizing territory in the Philippines (and West Africa!), and cozying up with Bolsonaro in Brazil. Explain to the indigenous people of the Amazon who are having their heritage bargained away for nothing that China is “trying to provide for its people”. China provided quite well for its people without engaging in social imperialism from 1949 until the capitalist restoration. Furthermore, there can be no “state of the whole people”. The CCP allows capitalists, millionaires and billionaires, to be Party members. We can study how the Soviet Union fell to revisionism and changed its color and draw the same conclusion about China, with its own characteristics of course. I Wor Kuen wrote: 

“The external source of revisionism in the Soviet Union was the surrender to imperialist pressure, while the internal source of revisionism was the existence of bourgeois influence. These are the political and ideological sources of the new bourgeois elements. Externally the U.S. imperialists threatened nuclear blackmail of the Soviet Union, invoking the fear of atomic destruction. At the same time, the U.S. imperialists promoted reformist illusions that capitalism could be peacefully transformed. Capitulation to these pressures leads to a general abandonment of revolutionary ideals and principles.Within the Soviet Union, the revisionists took advantage of the death of Stalin, who had led many fights against revisionism in the Soviet Union, in 1953. These revisionist elements inevitably emerge under socialism; the revisionists and bureaucrats in the government, careerists in the party, unreformed bourgeois intellectuals and technicians, corrupt administrators, militarists in the armed forces are produced because of the remaining inequalities in socialism that are inherited from bourgeois society. These inequalities exist right in the economic basis of socialism. In the areas of ownership, relations among people, and distribution, there still exists bourgeois right which gives certain material privileges to some. New capitalist elements are engendered from the soil of bourgeois right. These elements found their political representative in the person of Khrushchov who by 1956 launched an all out offensive against socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat. He attacked the record of Stalin and the whole history of socialism in the Soviet Union in order to overturn the advances made by the working people. He promoted the “theories” of the “state of the whole people” and “party of the whole people” to destroy the workers’ state and the workers’ party. Led by Khrushchov, the revisionists soon took over the entire leadership of the party.”

I Wor Kuen

The paper does not believe China to be an imperialist country (while admitting inadvertently that it operates along capitalist-imperialist principles and lines), and claims that the infrastructure being developed in Africa can help build up Africa. Only the African people can build up Africa. I’m sure that both the author and myself agree on this point. We do not need social imperialists and revisionists in conjunction with neocolonial compradors stealing our birthright, nor their infrastructure.