Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Why the Chinese Communists Are So Scared (Is It Time to Wither Away?)

Marx and Engels wrote that the state would wither away after the Communists Party accomplished its tasks. The Chinese Communist Party fears that someone may ask: “Is it time for us to wither away?”

The threat of a Jasmine Revolution scared the Chinese Communist Party. The Chinese Communists reacted to fear of contagion from the Arab Spring by stepping up repression, but their concerns have deeper and more permanent roots.

China is much different from the Arab Spring countries. Its economy is booming. Real incomes are rising. China is less corrupt, and people believe central authorities are relatively honest. China is said to be run by a competent government that deftly avoided the world financial crisis and created growth.

So why are the Chinese Communists so fearful? Why are informal church services, poets, film makers, artists, and nationalists of any stripe suppressed with extreme brutality? Why does every demonstration, no matter how small, strike fear into the hearts of authorities?

Why do not the Chinese Communists, with their record of achievements, feel secure?
Answer: The Chinese Communist Party no longer has a claim to legitimacy. It has no real purpose other than to keep itself in power. It is that simple.

The preamble to the Chinese Constitution illustrates the quandary: It tells of the glorious victory of the heroic Chinese Communist Party in 1949, fighting with long odds against the imperialists, the revanchists, and the nationalists to set the Chinese people on the “socialist road guided by Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong thought.”

After the glorious victory, the Communist Party’s role was to lead the “continuous revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat … to achieve great victories both in socialist revolution and socialist construction.” Without the Communist Party’s leadership, the battle “between the socialist road and the capitalist road” could still be lost. The Party’s role was not limited to politics. It was needed to secure economic victory by “practicing economic planning on the basis of socialist public ownership.”

Without the Communist Party firm hand, hard-fought political and economic achievements were at risk, or so it was said.

The 1975 Constitution makes the case: The Communist Party is legitimate because the people and the party are one, and daunting task lie ahead. As Article 2 states: “The working class exercises leadership over the state through its vanguard, the Communist Party of China.”

This heroic narrative loses its glow in the haze of the constitutional amendments from 1982 to 2004, which were required by the reality of Chinese reforms.

China now aims for “socialist modernization.” Instead of “continuous revolution,” the Party advances society “along the road of Chinese-style socialism… persists in reform, improves socialist institutions, develops a socialist market economy, advances socialist democracy, improves the socialist legal system and turns China into a powerful and prosperous socialist country.” The state no longer plans the economy because "the state has put into practice a socialist market economy.” The State is reduced to “formulating economic laws, improving macro adjustment and control” like any other conventional state.

In effect, the “New deal” is that the Chinese Communist Party offers the people growth and prosperity if they refrain from asking the “withering away” question.

As the Communist Party loses its raison de etre, it is increasingly threatened by the constitutional guarantees of “freedom of speech, correspondence, the press, assembly, association, procession, demonstration and the freedom to strike, and enjoy freedom to believe in religion and freedom not to believe in religion and to propagate atheism.”

If people are free to gather, criticize, and express opinions, they may ask: “Why do we even need the Communist Party? If we are allowed to vote, why is there only one slate of candidates?

The asking of such questions has dire consequences. “The exercise by citizens of their freedoms and rights may not infringe upon the interests of the state, of society and of the collective, or upon the lawful freedoms and rights of other citizens.” Private correspondence can be censored according to the “needs of state security.” Citizens can complain about officials “but fabrication or distortion of facts with the intention of libel or frame-up is prohibited.”

Notice that virtually any exercise of constitutional rights can be deemed “contrary to the interests of the state or the needs of state security.” Dissidents cannot judge the consequences of their acts, although they know the reaction will be negative.

In 2012, a new majority of the Communist Party Politburo will be chosen from among leaders who were not alive in 1949. The contenders must understand that the Communist Party dictatorship has lost its reason for being. The “Maoists” will argue that China must regain its revolutionary fervor. It must return to a “pure” socialist road. The “Reformers” may decide that a “dictatorship of the proletariat” is not longer appropriate for a society of private ownership, foreign investment, and an integrated world economy.

How they decide will have a stunning impact on the world in which we live.

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