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AUSTRALIAN
MARXIST
REVIEW

Journal of the Communist Party of Australia

ISSUE 69December 2018

Clipping imperialism’s claws: Why China needs to support communist parties in the imperialist countries

Growing international opposition to One Belt One Road combined with intensified imperialist aggression towards China should encourage Chinese policy makers to reconsider their abandonment of proletarian internationalism in the 1990s. Rather than a financial burden or political risk, practical support for communist parties in imperialist countries is a viable strategy for diminishing the capacity of those states to pursue aggressive anti-Chinese policies. History has proven that communist-led or influenced anti-war movements have limited and occasionally reversed imperialist policies and actions. As communist parties in the imperialist countries begin to rally after the fall of the Soviet Union, the Communist Party of China (CPC) has a unique chance to not only further the cause of Communism internationally, but to secure Chinese national security and foreign policy goals. By understanding the specific challenges that these parties face and providing the help necessary for these parties to achieve “critical mass”, the CPC will be securing the stable and peaceful international situation necessary for China’s peaceful rise.

The decline of class conscious internationalism

Opening and Reform in China marked the beginning of a new phase in China’s attitude towards the international communist movement and the struggles of fraternal parties. CPC policy gradually shifted from a class conscious position of firm material support of the proletariat and oppressed peoples of the world to a self-imposed isolation from the international movement.

In 1982, the Constitution of the Communist Party of China proudly declared the Party’s intention to persist with proletarian internationalism and to unite with the proletariat, oppressed peoples and peace loving peoples of the world to jointly oppose imperialism, hegemonism and colonialism. However, by 1992 all mention of proletarian internationalism, the class character of international relations and current opposition to imperialism had disappeared from the CPC Constitution. The drastic changes between these documents were a sign of the changing attitude of the CPC towards the international communist movement.

The term proletarian internationalism began to fall out of use in the 1980s as scholars, media outlets and even officials following the 14th CPC Congress in 1992 stopped using the term (Li 2017 p.29). At this time, the CPC consciously decided to downplay proletarian internationalism in a bid to normalise relations with the capitalist world (Li 2017 p.30). Whether withdrawing support for the international communist movement was actually necessary for achieving this goal is debatable, considering that the US was actively inviting China to participate in the international capitalist system in order to encourage counter-revolution within China, not because Chinese policy had changed (Hooper 2016).

However, it is unfair to simply criticise China for this change when other socialist countries and even major Communist parties in the capitalist world did the same thing. In 1992, Proletarian Internationalism was deleted from the constitution of the Korean Workers’ Party with the Communist parties of Japan, Portugal and France following suit (Li 2017 p.30). The important difference though, is that the CPC commands far greater resources than all of the aforementioned parties combined or even the Soviet Union at its height. Despite having enormous economic power, China today provides even less material support to the international communist movement than pre-Reform and Opening China or tiny Cuba has done.

The win-win character of supporting Communist parties in the imperialist world

It goes without saying that all Marxist-Leninist parties have a duty to support the international communist movement without sacrificing their own domestic struggle. However, rather than being a burden, fraternal aid to the Communist parties of the imperialist world is actually beneficial for the CPC’s own immediate political goals by limiting the aggressive foreign policy of imperialist states.

Imperialist aims in regard to China have remained the same: Crush the Communist Party of China and re-enslave the Chinese people. Formerly, they used brutally direct methods such as bombing China under the pre-text of the Korean War, and then less-direct methods such as encouraging China to join the world capitalist system and pursuing “peaceful evolution” (Jiao 2015). With the “Pivot to Asia”, the US and its vassals in Asia are carrying out a new round of “engaging and containing”. However, it is not the strength of the Chinese economy or the power of the Chinese military that will deter imperialism. Instead it is political pressure from within the imperialist countries that will lead to a weakening of their anti-Chinese policy.

History has shown that a “... proven moderating influence on the policy of imperialist countries is mass political campaigns by progressive domestic political forces” (Briton & Hooper 2016). Imperialism’s campaign against Vietnam didn’t end because the Vietnamese army defeated the US military in combat, but largely because of the anti-war movement in the imperialist countries (Briton & Hooper 2016). Australia’s involvement in Vietnam ended when “The Liberal government, which had kept power for 22 years, was defeated by mass opposition to Australia’s role in the Vietnam War. Upon winning the election, the new Whitlam Labor (social democrat) government withdrew Australian forces from Vietnam. This new government, which took power in a climate of powerful Communist-led labour unions and successful public campaigns for social justice causes, finally recognised the Peoples’ Republic of China.” (Briton & Hooper 2016).

A strong, progressive, anti-war movement in imperialist countries helps limit imperialist adventures and protects the peaceful international situation China requires for development. However, these movements require class-conscious, principled leadership from Marxist-Leninist parties in order to preserve their correct orientation and to maintain their momentum once an issue has fallen from the media spotlight. These Communist parties must first overcome some serious problems and achieve a critical mass in order to achieve the necessary level of leadership over these mass movements to continue defending China’s peaceful rise.

The vicious cycle that holds Communist Parties in the imperialist world back

History textbooks are filled with the heroic exploits and sufferings of the Bolsheviks and early CPC members. Workers were tortured in Tsarist dungeons, ate grass to survive on the Long March and fought in brutal civil wars. There is no disputing that these comrades made extraordinary sacrifices under grim conditions. Yet their enemy was divided and on the cusp of self-destruction. The situation facing Communist parties in the imperialist countries is not as grim but is far more challenging.

While Communists in the imperialist countries today don’t currently face firing squads for their activities, they are instead faced with an extremely well-funded and state-of-the-art propaganda apparatus at the command of an ascendant ruling class with no revolutionary situation in sight. This class has perfected a stable system of hegemony that effectively keeps workers from questioning the system or considering alternatives. On the occasions that workers do begin to suspect the status quo, faux-socialist groups such as the left-wing of the Australian Labor Party and the Greens are “safe” outlets for their frustrations. Desires for genuine revolutionary change are filtered through these organisations and turned into petty reformism. Modern technology has drastically shortened the attention spans of working people and the atomisation of society has broken communities into individuals with few links to each other. An Australian survey revealed that more than half of respondents are not members of any kind of social organisation, while membership in all kinds of organisations such as unions, church groups, sporting clubs and political parties is declining (Lewis 2016). An analysis of all of the above phenomena is beyond the scope of this paper but it suffices to say that it has become increasingly difficult for Communist parties to function in imperialist countries.

Despite improved work methods and dedication by volunteer members, Communist parties such as the Communist Party of Australia continue to lack important resources that are necessary for them to lead the struggle of the working class. Among the most important of these resources are sufficient numbers of paid, full-time professional cadre; technical skills for producing propaganda, conducting education and carrying out political activities and training. The result of constant shortcomings in these areas is a vicious cycle, where a lack of one of the above resources causes further shortcomings in other areas, preventing parties from reaching the critical mass of members and activity necessary to begin achieving victory.

Working people in imperialist countries today will not take propaganda from political organisations seriously unless it is presented in an extremely professional and polished manner. This is a major change from previous decades where plain material was eagerly read as long as the content was compelling. Indeed, even professionally designed material runs the risk of being ignored by “consumers” with limited attention spans. There is a growing pressure on Communist parties to not only produce visually striking banners and leaflets but to also engage through electronic media. Professionally produced videos on topics of interest to the working class would make an excellent way of engaging workers. Unfortunately, while the ruling class can easily afford graphic designers, marketing specialists and media talents, working class organisations can’t compete. Comrades typically don’t join with highly developed media production skills nor can overworked volunteers devote the time or money necessary to acquiring these skills.

Another unique challenge is the rise of social media such as Facebook and Twitter. As society in the imperialist countries becomes more atomised and individuals become ever more isolated, people are spending more and more time on social media, a platform that is well known to be manipulated by ruling class interest groups. People are drawn into sterile ultra-leftist discussions and turned away from real activity. Other disgruntled youths are attracted to the far-right through online gateway communities. Lenin said that if you want to help the masses, one: “... must absolutely work wherever the masses are to be found” (Lenin 1964). One area where young people today may be found is precisely on social media. Unfortunately, while many members of Communist Parties use social media, parties often lack talented social media staff that focus their attention on furthering the Party’s will online. A lack of training, personnel and the means of supporting them financially hobbles parties in this regard.

Simply taking these two issues as examples demonstrates the pressing need for greater full-time professional cadre, technical training and the funding to support them. Unfortunately, to achieve the necessary funding would require the parties in question to already have the cadre and technical training that the funding is being raised to support! It is a vicious cycle that requires a certain critical mass to break out of. Currently, the communist parties of countries like the United States and Australia have not reached this critical mass, despite continuous improvements and great effort on the part of members.

How can the CPC assist?

Aware of their internationalist duty, seized of the mutual benefits that international cooperation provides and armed with knowledge of the specific problems facing Communist parties in the imperialist countries, how can the CPC best assist fraternal parties?

Unlike the CPC, which received Soviet aid, these Communist parties do not receive any kind of support from the existing socialist countries. The CPC is in an excellent position to offer exactly the kinds of support that Communist parties in the imperialist world need to reach a critical mass. This support should primarily focus on resolving the technical and human resource shortages of local parties but could also, depending on local conditions, involve provision of technical equipment or online resources.

One of the most important ways that parties such as the CPC could assist fraternal parties is by providing training to foreign cadres. As mentioned in the previous section, one of the key problems facing communist parties in the imperialist world is the lack of technical skills, especially those related to the production of high-quality propaganda. The CPC could establish cadre training schools just as the Soviet Union established the Communist University of the Toilers of the East. These schools could provide training in skills the cadres of fraternal parties lack whether they are technical, such as graphic design and video production; or ideological, such as Marxist philosophy and economics.

On the question of CPC branches abroad

Since 2017, Western media outlets have begun publishing stories about Chinese scholars and exchange students establishing CPC branches in the US (Allen-Ebrahimian 2018, Gan & Zhuang 2017). This isn’t a phenomena dreamed up by Western media as part of a scare campaign since Chinese media not only confirms that this takes place but also endorses the practice (Zhang 2017). In fact, this trend isn’t limited to the US as the National University of Defence Technology alone has established Party branches in over 20 countries for its students studying outside of China (Zhang 2017).

According to media reports, these overseas CPC branches carry out numerous activities ranging from ideological education for the benefit of branch members to attempting to raise support for CPC policies amongst locals (Zhang 2017). Unfortunately, what these branches don’t do is support the struggle of the local proletariat or work with local Communist parties. This is an unacceptable departure from the principle of proletarian internationalism.

An important element of proletarian internationalism is that Communists, no matter where they find themselves, must engage in the struggle of the local working class. It does not matter where one is born, only where one can serve. This is a long standing internationalist principle that most, but not all, Communist parties follow. To facilitate this principle, the Constitution of the Communist Party of Australia states that: “Membership of the Communist Party of Australia is open to any person 16 years of age or over, who normally resides in Australia”. Many, though not all, fraternal parties adhere to this position and have traditionally directed their members who migrate to Australia to join the CPA and serve the cause of the Australian working class. Even if members relocate to another country temporarily, they could contact the local Party organisation and offer their support. So for example, members of the CPC residing in Australia could contact the Communist Party of Australia and ask how they could best contribute. Yet despite tens of thousands of CPC members coming to Australia every year, I am only aware of a single case where a CPC member residing in Australia asked to help the cause of the local working class.

To continue with the Australian example, why is it that so many Chinese communists arrive in Australia and express no interest in the Australian proletariat? Instead of directing members overseas to carry out publicity for Chinese government policies, these members should be encouraged to involve themselves in local struggles, under the leadership of local Communist parties. If the CPC Central Committee is worried about the ideological danger of members spending time in the capitalist world, what better way is there to temper comrades than in the proletariat’s struggle for emancipation? If members are spending their time in contact with working people, hearing about their critiques and struggles against capitalism, surely they will gain a greater appreciation of socialism and the struggles of the original Chinese revolutionaries?

It would assist local movements and Communist Parties if CPC members in foreign countries did not form branches of the CPC but instead contacted local Communist Parties and offer to join their struggle. Likewise if CPC members migrate to foreign countries then it would assist if they resigned from the PCP and joined the Communist Party of that country.

Conclusion

With the fall of the Soviet Union and the retreat of the CPC from the world scene, the international communist movement was at its lowest ebb. However, after decades of retreat, the Communist parties of the imperialist countries are like green shoots that only require a little watering to flourish. Yet, despite the exceedingly challenging circumstances these parties find themselves in, they have been left to struggle on their own by parties that previously benefited from Soviet generosity.

The international situation is now ripe for Communist parties like the CPC to return to performing their internationalist duties. This duty should not be seen as a burden but rather an effective measure for limiting the aggressive foreign policy of imperialist countries. If parties such as the CPC used a tiny portion of their massive human resources to aid communist parties in the imperialist world, it would make a big difference to everyone’s fortunes.


Cited Works List

Allen-Ebrahimian , Bethany. “The Chinese Communist Party Is Setting Up Cells at Universities Across America.” Foreign Policy, 18 Apr. 2018,
foreignpolicy.com/2018/04/18/the-chinese-communist-party-is-setting-up-cells-at-universities-across-america-china-students-beijing-surveillance/.

Briton, Bob, and Hooper, Michael. “Reliable Friends of China.” Australian Marxist Review, no. 63, Dec. 2016, pp. 1–5.

Constitution of the Communist Party of Australia. cpa.org.au/resources/cpa-doc-current/cpa-constitution-adopted-1992-amended_2017.pdf.

Gan, Nectar, and Zhuang, Pinghui. “Why a Chinese Communist Party Branch at the University of California, Davis, Was Disbanded.” South China Morning Post, 21 Nov. 2017,
www.scmp.com/news/china/policies-politics/article/2120707/why-chinese-communist-party-branch-university.

Hooper, Michael. “The Task of Our Time.” Australian Marxist Review, no. 63, Dec. 2016, pp. 18–19.

Jiao, Shixin. “The Problem with American “Engagement” with China.” Institute for China-America Studies. Institute for China-America Studies, 29 Sept. 2015.

Lenin, Vladimir. Lenin Collected Works. Vol. 31, Progress Publishers, 1964.

Lewis, Peter. “Unions, Clubs, Churches. Joining Something Might Be the Best Act of Resistance.” The Guardian, 22 Nov. 2016,
www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/23/unions-clubs-churches-joining-something-might-be-the-best-act-of-resistance.

李爱敏. “改革开放以来中国国际主义思想的创新与发展.”湖州师范学院学报, vol. 39, no. 11, Nov. 2017, pp. 29–35. CNKI.

Zhang, Yu. “CPC Members Encounter Obstacles While Trying to Establish Party Branches Overseas .” Global Times, 28 Nov. 2017, www.globaltimes.cn/content/1077619.shtml.

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