Chinese Communist Party: a party of workers or capitalists?

It’s 100 years today since the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was first formed by just 50 members, mostly intellectuals, but including railway and mine workers.  100 years later to the day, the official membership figure is 95m and there are 4.8m party branches.  This is surely the largest political party the world has ever seen. A quarter of the membership is under 35 years; 29% are female, up from 12% in 1949 and over half of members have college degrees (that means half don’t!).

In 2021, is the CCP a party of and for capitalists or of and for workers?  The short answer is that it is neither.  But the long answer is more complex. 

The CCP was led at first by two intellectuals, Chen Duxiu and Li Dazhao, with the help of the Communist International (Comintern).  These leaders saw the CCP as the party for the Chinese working-class (tiny as that was), modelled on the Bolshevik party in the Soviet Union.  For them, the working-class was the agent of change and revolution in China, not the peasantry that constituted 90% of the population.  Nevertheless, the CCP did lead various peasant movements in 1925-27 period. 

But the Comintern ordered the CCP leaders to work with the nationalist bourgeois forces including Chiang Kai-Shek, who defeated various regional warlords.  In 1927, the CCP through workers uprisings seized control of Shanghai, China’s most industrialised city.  Chiang entered the city and massacred the CCP activists. Chiang then ordered the murders of CCP leaders in Beijing including Li. The CCP leaders fled to Wuhan where there was a supposedly ‘left nationalist’ government.  But the Wuhan government declared support for Chiang and massacred more CP members. 

The CCP was forced into the countryside and opted to build a peasant-based guerrilla army in the countryside (it really had no choice).  Chen went into opposition for which he was expelled from the CCP by the Comintern and ended his life in obscurity.  Mao’s CCP then fought a long and hard struggle against the Japanese invasion, Chang Kai-Shek’s forces and foreign intervention, before triumphing in 1949 and occupying the cities, ruthlessly brooking no opposition from outside or within the party or from independent workers organisations in the cities.

Even from this short, potted history, it is clear that the CCP lost its base in the working class after the defeats of the 1920s and became bureaucratised in the long guerrilla struggle.  Although its members were mainly peasants, its leadership were intellectuals, on the whole.  But neither was the CCP ever a party of the bourgeois, who on the contrary fled in numbers to Taiwan (Formosa).

But what is the composition of the CCP now? There is an excellent new study of the social composition of the party membership, recently published on the World Inequality Database by Li Yang, Filip Novokmet and Branko Milanovic.  It’s entitled “From workers to capitalists in less than two generations: a study of Chinese urban elite transformation between 1988 and 2013”.

Actually, the empirical evidence offered does not confirm the title of this paper.  The CCP after 100 years may not be mainly composed of workers (or at least industrial workers and farm labourers), but neither it is composed of owners of businesses.  

Using household surveys covering the period 1988-2013, the authors study the changes in the characteristics of the richest 5% of China’s urban population.  This top 5% of income earners the authors define as the ‘elite’ in China (“Elites can be defined as individuals and small, relatively cohesive and stable groups with major decisional power.”)

The CPP has lost its majority peasant base that it had before major urbanisation began in the 1980s.  But the study shows that the CCP is still not dominated by business owners, large or small, but increasingly by ‘professionals’ and even this layer is still a minority.  Professionals are defined as “all the professional and technical personnel working in science-related sectors (e.g., science, engineering, agriculture, medical care) and social science-related sector (e.g., economics, finance, law, education, press and publication, religion)”. 

Actually, these are workers – at least when related to the means of production.  Indeed, they are better designated as ‘professional workers’. This professional layer constituted 25% of the overall CCP membership in 2013 (little changed since 1988).  The official 2021 figure is now 27%.  But that ratio is much higher among the party ‘elite’ (the top 5% of earners who are CCP members): the professional layer is 38% of the ‘elite’ party members, up from 28% in 1988.

Actually, on the data, the social composition of the overall party membership is little changed in 2013 from 1988.  Workers were 16% of membership in 1988, but constituted 30% in 2013 (the official 2021 figure is now 34%), thanks to urbanisation and industrialisation.  Adding in clerical workers and government officials, then these three groups were 75% of the members in 1988 and were still 70% in 2013. What is also noticeable is that the share of outright capitalists (owners of businesses etc) was tiny in 1988 and was still only 3% of CCP members in 2013. 

What is different is the social composition of the ‘elite’ party members.  Workers and government officials were 72% of this layer of members in 1988, little different from their share of the overall membership.  But in 2013, that share had fallen to 57%, as the share of professionals and the bourgeois had risen to 43%.  The ‘elite’ CCP members are generally university educated professionals and executives in companies, both state and private.  In effect, there is an increasing divergence between the social composition of the party rank and file and the better-off members of the party.

The authors sum this up: “while the Party overall has still a majority membership of the “old” social groups, its top is increasingly dominated by the “new” social groups.”  The CCP is over-represented by the professional layer (26%) compared to the Chinese population (18%).  Workers constitute 50% of the Chinese urban population now, but only 30% of CCP members and just 15% of the ‘elite’ party members.

But is this some form of ‘political capitalism’ (whatever that means) as the authors (led by Milanovic) claim?  It is not proven by the data.  First, the bourgeois are still a tiny layer of CCP members (just 3% of the overall membership).  You might argue that is the case in any capitalist party.  The majority of members in the US Republican party or the British Conservative party are not capitalists, small or large.  But I bet the ratio of such bourgeois and petty-bourgeois layers is much higher than in the CCP.  And that would especially be the case among the ‘elite’ members.  In the CCP, only 5% of even the party elite are outright capitalists.  Second, the study is of the social composition of the CCP, not of the economic and social foundations of the Chinese economy, which surely is the place to decide on whether China is capitalist or not.

China’s Communist Party never started as a party composed of workers in its majority (because the working class was so small in 1921).  And it is no democratic party, with all policies decided at the very top and followed without (at least open) dissent by the rank and file.  The top leaders decide all.  That is not definition of a democratic workers party.  But neither is the CCP 100 years later a party of capitalists.  In its social composition, it is a party of workers, technocrats and government officials; and that includes its ‘elite’. 

In effect, with 95 million members, the CCP, the state machine and state enterprises are completely integrated and are in control of China. The CCP is not controlled by any capitalist class.  The majority of CCP members are workers (manual, white collar and professional), although its ‘elite’ leaders have a nationalist not an international socialist ideology, and have connections to the capitalist sector.

60 thoughts on “Chinese Communist Party: a party of workers or capitalists?

  1. I know it is a minor point, but the name of the party is CPC, not CCP. Also, I don’t think the professional intelligentsia should be considered workers.

    1. Michael has used the commonly used name.
      The Communist Party of China, commonly known as the Chinese Communist Party.

      1. “CCP” is, unfortunately, a derogatory term popularized by the enemies of china. Pompeo, Trump and Bannon use it. It also has something distasteful about it.

  2. Sorry about the typo. Please post this version instead. Thanks.
    This needs expansion: Representation and composition is relational. The CCP represses the workers of Xinjiang and Hong Kong as well as others. There are two sides to it: the class composition of the party and how that party relates to classes in its functions. Otherwise, it just sounds that the CCP is a working class party.

  3. No fim das contas a China se orienta pelo lucro e está enredada na concorrência mundial entre empresas e países. Mesmo que o estado mantenha empresas não lucrativas por anos o objetivo é ganhar mercado e permitir o lucro no futuro. A China é capitalista. O que falta definir é que tipo de capitalismo é o dela.

  4. “But neither is the CCP 100 years later a party of capitalists”

    It’s been a party _for_ capitalism certainly since that bastard Deng: surplus value is going either directly to the state through the enterprises it owns or to capitalists’ pockets through the enterprises they own.

    It’s long past time for another Chinese revolution.

  5. We should not mechanically transfer the Western model and parameters onto China. Otherwise, we’ll come to absurd conclusions such as that the Labour Party (or any other Western social-democratic party) is a workers’ and democratic party while the CPC is not. If any Western party had the numbers and the results of the CPC, it would no doubt be immediately classified as a party of the working class, or at least pro-working class.

    Yes, you could argue socialist parties in the West aren’t socialist in practice because they’re stifled by capitalist hegemony – but that logic also applies to China (albeit on an international, foreign relations scale).

    The CPC is not mandated dictatorially by the Politburo. They recently released some kind of white paper on how the CPC works internally; I’ve read it and it doesn’t seem to be any different from any socialist or communist party in the West (you have local, regional, provincial and central spheres, in a system of elections of delegates). If there’s anything wrong with the paper, it’s with the assumption the CPC is special or has some kind of “Chineseness” in the way it operates – doesn’t seem to be the case to me. Members of the Politburo are not born in the Politburo: they were once local delegates who showed results and kept being elected to the upper stances of the Party.

    If you to to CGTN (China’s official or extraofficial tv channel) website, there’s a series of small articles and graphs showing how the different stances (including the issue of party discipline) work. They work like a normal Western communist/socialist party even on the discipline side (the concept of “democratic centralism”).

    Most importantly, we should not automatically transfer the Western division between workers and peasants to China. Yes, the first generation of the CPC was born and molded by the Comintern and followed the established formula. But the generation of Mao already had a completely Chinese vision of the problem in China. China was the most prosperous feudal nation in the world: what was a Dark Age for the West actually was a Golden Age for China. As a result, the peasants of China had a different complexion than its European (Russian) counterpart. The peasantry in China was much more diverse and worked much more in artisanship and small manufacturing than the Russian peasantry. Put in other words, the Chinese peasantry was much more advanced than the Russian peasantry. It resembled much more the late English peasantry (who gave birth to capitalism). As a result, being a peasant party in China meant being a proletarian party, the line was much more blurred.

    Class composition is not decisive evidence. What matters is real power. In China, the armed forces (PLA) is undoubtedly under peasant-proletarian control. As long as they have monopoly of violence, they have real power – that’s how the real world works (see the Royal Army using Jeremy Corbyn’s portrait for target practice; do you think the working class would really be in power had Corbyn won the 2017 elections?).

    There are two factors that, from a historical point of view, make the CPC undoubtedly a party of working class (or, at least, for the working class):

    1) the results it’s been delivering undoubtedly show it is pro-working class (rising wages, rising life standards etc. etc.);

    2) it is working towards the extinction of the peasantry and the building of the proletariat as the majority of the country (mass industrialization, mass urbanization, automation of agriculture). That it managed to do it peacefully instead of violently (as was the case of the USSR) comes from the aforementioned fact that the Chinese peasantry already was much more “proletarianized” (i.e. developed) than the Russian peasantry;

    3) on a global scale, the CPC has been able to break some cyclical movements that were deemed impossible by the capitalist ideologues (i.e. it is, so far, the only Third World nation to be able to rise to “superpower” status).

    1. “Yes, you could argue socialist parties in the West aren’t socialist in practice because they’re stifled by capitalist hegemony – but that logic also applies to China (albeit on an international, foreign relations scale).”


      1. The Washington Post is to the American CIA what Pravda was to the Soviet KGB.

  6. Was surprised and heartened to read this accurate conclusion, contrary to some commenters. Yes, China is quite a bit more socialist than capitalist. For the “Chinese characteristics” – which are pretty prominent in China, y’know – just mesh much better with socialism than capitalism. As Jack Ma now knows well, the capitalists are controlled by the state, the party and ultimately the people, more than vice versa. The influence and credibility of the westernizers in the party and academia is declining abruptly. They were the only real threat – the only revolution in the offing was a counter-revolution. In reality, slowly but rather surely, Xi has been moving China mostly Left.

    1. Na minha opinião, há uma camada de pessoas, tanto líderes antigos quanto parentes de antigos líderes, que dominam e controlam os comitês políticos. Não há eleições abertas com candidatos diferentes para líderes partidários. Tudo é decidido nos ‘corredores do poder’.

  7. Michael,

    While I admire your analysis of contemporary capitalism, I do not agree that China is very socialist. SOEs contribute about a quarter of China’s GDP while POEs contribute 60%. In terms of employment the estimates of SOE share is 5 to 16% while POE and business individuals’ share is 43.9. Even in industry, a place where you would expect a high SOE share, the break down is 39% of assets, 23% sales revenue and 18% of employment. Source:

    If these shares are accurate then China’s nationalized sector is similar in proportions to that of the more “statist” capitalist economies after the Second World War like Austria or France, not the Soviet Union or other socialist countries. Furthermore, legally most of the major SOEs in China are corporatized, no different from any capitalist enterprise, with the state holding most of the equity. The Soviet doctrine was that the state directly owned the means of production, while enterprise only had “operative management”, which circumscribed their activity. “Planning” in China is not done through physical indicators or material balances, but is essentially beefed up indicative planning. The large scale of public investment is certainly impressive, but it is more like what Italy was doing in the 50s and 60s, with its state directed investments into the Mezzogiorno, than the Soviet Five Year Plans. (interestingly the Italian experience was closely paid attention to by Labour figures in that period – Stuart Holland wrote paeans to the IRI and GEPI)


    1. Cyryl this post discussed the social composition of the CPC or CCP not the social and economic basis of the Chinese economy and state, which requires a different analysis. I referenced in the post my work and views on that. In those posts and papers I discuss all the points you make.

      1. I admit, writing this comment, I did make a mental leap from the content of the post. And looking over your posts and papers on China’s social-economic model, you explicitly say China is not socialist currently, so I’m sorry for putting words in your mouth!

  8. More than half of CPC members have academic degrees. The annual admission of new members is even more skewed, since the percentage has risen steadily from 36 percent ten years earlier. For comparison, a little under 20 percent of the population age 25 to 64 has a tertiary certificate or degree.

    Migrant workers, workers in precarious delivery jobs, assembly workers in domestic- and foreign-owned factories do not have a communist party they can call their own. –C.A.

  9. Quantitative analyses are never sufficient. In the UK the Labour Party lost the 2017 elections despite 400,000 new members because of the actions of a few hundred Labour Party bureaucrats who undermined Jeremy Corbyn. The Chinese Coputalist Party (get it, a fusion of capitalist and communist) knows its history. The Chinese Capitalist class is not exactly stupid either. They know that if they seek to democratize the country they would have to mobilise a working class numbering hundreds of millions against the Party, but as 1848 already showed in Europe, dammit, workers tend to raise their own independent demands. As for Jack Ma and co, so what. The Chinese state is more pro-active instead of being reactive as in Western countries. It identifies problems before hand and saves the capitalists from their own vices whereas in the west the state bails them out afterwards. In China the state uses infrastructural engineering to boost the economy rather than financial engineering as found in the west. So what, the intention is the same, to keep capitalism afloat. And if anyone is foolish enough to consider China as anything other than essentially capitalist, then pray, please explain how China found itself so vulnerable to computer chip embargoes under Trump. Answer, the profit motive. China is the workshop of the world, the manufacturer and assembler of the world, and these market driven companies chose to buy foreign chips, bankrupting their own FABs, because chips made in Taiwan and South Korea were cheaper, more reliable and powerful. That is why China was caught with its pants down . They paid the price, for well, being successful capitalists. Only now is state capitalism raising its head in this sector of the economy, not out of choice but out of necessity.

    1. Quantitative analyses are never sufficient and have to be interpreted. But his post was about the social character of the party membership not the class nature of the Chinese state. As I said in the post, that requires a different analysis, which was referenced in the post.

  10. China is the most contentious issue on the left. That said, I lean to the perspective that state power is STILL in the hands of the same PLA and Party that led the revolution in 1949. In spite of orthodox Maoists claiming a counter-revolution happened when Deng gave a speech (idealism!) no real counter-revolution can be located. Counter-revolution is something very simple to see in central and eastern Europe and the USSR. Unless you are an anarchist or anarcho-syndicalist, and ‘state capitalism’ was installed in 1949, you have to explain when China magically became a capitalist STATE. As anyone studying the Russian revolution can tell you, the economy did not immediately change on Nov. 7, 1917 when the Bolsheviks took state power. Economy is subservient to state power, though the capitalists in China are certainly whittling away at that power. Roberts is right that the proletarian segment of the CPC/CCP was tiny at the time of the revolution, which should lead us to a somewhat caustic class conclusion about the nature of “Maoism” as a thoroughly proletarian ideology. Mao himself dismantled the various revolutionary Communes that arose during the Cultural Revolution, which tells you he was part of the bureaucracy even then.

    1. “Counter-revolution is something very simple to see in central and eastern Europe and the USSR.”

      Is it a counter-revolution if it only happens at the top?

      1. It happened across the whole economy, in the individual factories and industries, banking, in the military, beginning in the political process. Defections in the CPSU (Yeltsin, Putin et al.), defections in the military (tanks joined the counter-revolution…) then the economic effects of the ‘crash course’ were felt by the population, even to this day. The public economy was sold for a song to the West or internal oligarchs. This is far more than a ‘top.’

  11. I’m curious about the use of the word ‘bourgeois’ or ‘bourgeoisie’. Is that equal to ‘capitalist class’ or does it encompass cultural factors. Can the bourgeois be a class element, or social group that has a favourable attitude to capitalism, or is it actually privileged through other factors. Is the bourgeois those who live within the ‘burg’, the inner city sanctum. If you have ‘bourgeois’ thinking, as I might be accused, then can that thinking be detached from my ‘objective’ class position?

  12. It is not valid to indicate, as stated in the article, that since the CCP is not made up of capitalists, it is already a workers’ party. If so, ALL Western parties (left or right) would be.
    Nor is it valid to indicate, as M.R. in the comments, that the analysis of the Chinese Communist Party is different from the analysis of the Chinese State for the reason that the CCP and the Chinese State are the same collective subject and are composed of the same individuals. The 95 million party members and officials are the state. And no one else is.
    1.-It is certain that only quantitative analyzes are not enough because you need an explanatory verbal argument, but it is also certain that they are DECISIVE. And, for this reason, the data provided by Ryzak (published by the World Bank) is decisive: Chinese private capitalist companies produce 60% of annual GDP. In other words, the supposedly ‘’ socialist ’’ state (administration + public services + state companies) only has 40% of total GDP. If that is not being a capitalist model, we’d better stop thinking about communism since “everything is the same” and capitalism is indistinguishable from communism. ” If you add a temporal analysis (the film, the movement) to China, that analysis says that China has been reducing the state sector for 30 years and increasing the capitalist sector, the conclusion is worse: Is a workers’ party one that reduces property state social? The bottom line is China and its Communist Party have not been socialist for a long time. ,
    2.- And of course- as the commentator VK suspects, Anticapital confirms it, the author Samir Amin exposes it, and that is my point of view- that it is only the world capitalist pressure (the majority model still) the cause of the collapse of socialism in China. In China and throughout the rest of the planet since the 80s of the twentieth century. It is a cycle of class struggle in its regressive phase. And that regression only stops with a revolution.

    1. 1. The social composition of a ruling party and the class nature of a state are not the same. I did not say that the ccp was a workers party only that it was not a party controlled by capitalists but an elite of officials and technocrats
      2. The quantification of the role of state in China is a matter of debate. See my papers on this. The world bank data is dubious and misleading. There are many other sources that paint a different picture on whether the economic decisions of capital or the state rule in China
      3. I do not consider China is a socialist state which is an oxymoron in Marxist terms and I do not consider either that China is on the way to socialism all by itself. But I do not consider it is a capitalist state either with all the economic crises that are engendered by capitalism
      4. So not capitalist and not socialist. Things are not always black or white but changing. It’s called dialectics

      1. Michael, why not organise a zoom meeting to thrash out the categorization of China. China is now the heart of the world economy and it would be a travesty for Marxists to fail to correctly identify it.

        I am truly mystified by your position that China is not capitalist. Take your point 3, it is not factual. I have provided graphs which correlated the fall in the rate of profit to the collapse in investment in China leading to a narrowly escaped recession at the end of 2015 which was avoided not only by the intervention of the Peoples Bank of China but other Central Banks as well. Now if it is the case that investment responds to profits in China this is quintessentially capitalist. You have always stood by this definition why abandon it now. See these graphs here.

        When we put the CCP on trial one day it will face two sets of distinct crimes. Abuse of workers and abuse of language. They are nothing but capitalists masquerading in communist fancy dress.

      2. In reverse order:

        4. I don’t know what that is, but it sure isn’t dialectics. “Changing” from what to what might be of help, but “changing” as a category of its own has nothing to do with Marx’s critique

        3. Right, a “socialist state” is an oxymoron, but a dictatorship of the proletariat is not an oxymoron. So what distinguishes one from the other, and does China qualify for non-oxymoronic categorization. I don’t think so. What does it mean to say that China is not “on the way to socialism all by itself”? What conditions are required for China to be “on the way to socialism”? Which way is China headed now, and certainly not all by itself?

        2. The quantification of the state role may be subject to debate, but what impulses to what class relations has the Chinese state fostered; nurtured?

        1. Right, they’re not the same, but historically the bourgeoisie have relied on officials, professionals, bureaucrats (and the police, of course) to manage their affairs. If China’s state apparatus is analogous to that of a capitalist state (different origin, but same function– maintain the extraction and marketing of surplus value, then this party is the analogue to capitalist parties, filled with the wannabee wealthy.

      3. You want dialectics? Well, is the economic process in China headed toward communism or more capitalism? For materialist investigation, how about some of the major facts: there is no longer a unified plan for the overall allocation of investment. Accumulation is capitalist: every corporation, state-owned or private, aims for profit in large degree or totally. The party leadership approves of and enforces this economic motion – and they scramble for huge fortunes for their families, the hundreds of millions of dollars (including the family of Xi Jinping). If you compare the tools that the state uses to “guide” the economy, you find they are much the same as the ones that Japan used in its rapid industrialization in the decades after World War Two.

      4. ucanbpolitical wrote “I have provided graphs which correlated the fall in the rate of profit to the collapse in investment in China leading to a narrowly escaped recession at the end of 2015 which was avoided not only by the intervention of the Peoples Bank of China but other Central Banks as well.” Well, I do agree that resumption of a business cycle in China would demonstrate capitalism taking over, for the same kinds of reasons the emergence of the business cycle marked the triumph of the capitalist sector over the old economy. But the conclusion that there is a business cycle in China that is invisible because Keynesian smarts prevented it, strikes me as a wild conclusion. If Keynesianism works, then socialism is irrelevant, a foolish dream.

        It seems to me that if you looks at real history and society, the role of parties in a predominantly bourgeois social formation centers very strongly on maintaining (which means re-working as events compel) the relations of production. That in politics means land, labor and tax policies. Does the CPC has a faction which advances in the party by promoting the private ownership of land by commercial farmers? Does the CPC have a faction which ensures that urban land can be capitalized as rental properties? Does the CPC have cells in every corporation which serve as representatives of the firm to the party?

        I do not believe “elites and technocrats” are sufficiently defined terms to serve for analysis.

    2. Capitalism is imperialism and has been in decline since the end of its golden years under US hegemony. China’s revolution was anti-imperialist (which is to say, necessarily anti-capitalist). China has been able to exploit capitalism’s weakness without succumbing to them (as Roberts has pointed out) by virtue its “socialist” characteristics: state ownership of the land, control of finace, etc. China is not a colony of the US (like members of the G7), nor is it imperialist itself, but might be hastening neo-imperialism’s demise in its support of other anti-imperial movements and states: Cuba, Venezuela, Lula in Brazil, economic development activities in Africa, etc. Is China “socialist” or “capitalist “? Recent imperial economic aggressions and threats of war suggest it is both, but necessaarily leaning to the left.

  13. 👍Excellent analysis. It cuts through a lot of American leftist hype about the CCP.

    On Thu, Jul 1, 2021, 3:49 AM Michael Roberts Blog wrote:

    > michael roberts posted: ” It’s 100 years today since the Chinese Communist > Party (CCP) was first formed by just 50 members, mostly intellectuals, but > including railway and mine workers. 100 years later to the day, the > official membership figure is 95m and there are 4.8m part” >

  14. This is a very interesting post, and the comments as well are more enlightening then posts on a blog usually are. Cheers

  15. this article takes the wrong approach. There are plenty of capitalist political organizations and parties in which the working class composes a large sector and the capitalists themselves are only a small minority. The Democratic Party is a (very imperfect) example. It doesn’t really have a membership, per se. And it varies from state to state. But I’m sure that at almost all state conventions of that party, there would be a significant working class component of delegates and that the capitalists themselves would not be very numerous. Despite that, it is a capitalist party.

    As far as the CCP, the only way to answer the question of whether it is a capitalist or working class party or something in between would be to see its dynamics. How decisions are made, what is the relationship between the party leaders and the capitalist class, etc.

  16. “Only when the real, individual man re-absorbs in himself the abstract citizen, and as an individual human being has become a species-being in his everyday life, in his particular work, and in his particular situation, only when man has recognized and organized his “own powers” as social powers, and, consequently, no longer separates social power from himself in the shape of political power, only then will human emancipation have been accomplished.”
    “On the Jewish Question,” Deutsch-französische Jarbücher, February 1844.

    “Capital — interest, land — ground-rent, labour — wages, where profit, the specific characteristic form of surplus-value belonging to the capitalist mode of production, is fortunately eliminated.
    “On closer examination of this economic trinity, we find the following:
    “First, the alleged sources of the annually available wealth belong to widely dissimilar spheres and are not at all analogous with one another. They have about the same relation to each other as lawyer’s fees, red beets and music.
    “Capital, land, labour! However, capital is not a thing, but rather a definite social production relation, belonging to a definite historical formation of society, which is manifested in a thing and lends this thing a specific social character. Capital is not the sum of the material and produced means of production. Capital is rather the means of production transformed into capital, which in themselves are no more capital than gold or silver in itself is money. It is the means of production monopolised by a certain section of society, confronting living labour-power as products and working conditions rendered independent of this very labour-power, which are personified through this antithesis in capital. It is not merely the products of labourers turned into independent powers, products as rulers and buyers of their producers, but rather also the social forces and the future [? illegible] [A later collation with the manuscript showed that the text reads as follows: “die Gesellschaftlichen Kräfte und Zusammenhängende Form dieser Arbeit” (the social forces of their labour and socialised form of this labour). — Ed.] form of this labour, which confront the labourers as properties of their products. Here, then, we have a definite and, at first glance, very mystical, social form, of one of the factors in a historically produced social production process.”
    Karl Marx
    Capital Vol. III
    Part VII. Revenues and their Sources
    Chapter 48. The Trinity Formula

  17. ”Even from this short, potted history, it is clear that the CCP lost its base in the working class after the defeats of the 1920s and became bureaucratised in the long guerrilla struggle.” Really? In a guerrilla struggle? This is to divert attention from where the problem of bureaucracy really lies, namely with the Leninist party and its concept of the leading role of the party or really the party elite, an oligarchy: the party substituting itself for the people, “the party organisation substituting itself for the Party, the Central Committee for the party Organisation and finally the dictatorship substituting himself for the Central Committee” ( Trotsky, ”Our Political Tasks” P 71) or in Mao’s paradox ”the bourgeoisie in China sits on the Central Committee of the Party”! There is a wretched pre-war novel ”Peking Picnic” wherein it declaims that there is nothing more exhilarating than hurling through the countryside on a rickshaw. This of course assumes one is lolling in the back and not sweating in the front. But history demonstrates that when our erstwhile revolutionary ascends to lolling in the back his view of the world changes. A party is controlled by an oligarchy of leaders; put it in power and sooner or later they will come to see the world from as from the back of the rickshaw! We need democracy to prevent this. Recall the original features of a democracy: the government chosen by lot, no member to serve longer than a year, large juries chosen by lot, no judges, all major decisions to be decided by referendum i.e those without resources ( a broader term than the proletariat ) rule themselves. Finally, cannot Marxists get away from identifying the juridical status of an enterprise as expressing its real economic relations. A modern capitalist company is not the property of its chief executives. In China the high party functionaries have the power to enrich themselves, and so have done. Does the Deng family owe its millions to hard work and frugal savings?

    1. All you say is true, ideally.

      Therefore, ideally, the CPC is the party of the bourgoisie and the oppressor of the Chinese people? China is itself imperialist and a danger to its neighbors? an enemy of democracy and the working class? more so than the US forces necessarily surrounding it? threatening a war of liberation to free the oppressed Chinese people from the imperialist, Leninist CPC?

      Such views among many Western “leftists” left 30 million Soviets dead after WW2.

      Trotsky and Mao idealists?

      1. Some leftists hold on to a sentimental attachment to the Russian and Chinese Revolutions and refuse to face up to the fact that 50 million or so who died trying to protect them died in vain, and that alas Russian and China are ruled by anti-communists e.g.’Police in Shandong’s Jining city are running a nationwide operation targeting leftwingers in a bid to “maintain stability” ahead of the politically sensitive anniversary, Taiwan’s Central News Agency (CNA) quoted sources as saying.
        The operation, which began on May 12, has largely been carried out in secret, with no information given to detainees’ families after going incommunicado.
        Among them is Maoist dissident Ma Houzhi, 77, who was released from a 10-year jail term in 2019.
        A retired Qufu Normal University professor, Ma was jailed for setting up a Chinese Maoist Communist Party, defying a ban on the registration of new political parties under the CCP.
        Other prominent leftists including Liu Qingfeng, Fu Mingxiang, Hu Jiahong, Nie Jubao and Wu Ronghua have been detained. Most of them are under 30, CNA said’. Mandm has surely read Michael’s post of 24th June that informs us that Russia is the most unequal of advanced countries ( flat rate of 15% income tax!) and China is more unequal than the UK and has the second highest number of billionaires after the US. It does no service to socialism to defend such, even though we oppose the US/UK imperial adventures that threaten the territorial integrity of Russia and China.

  18. I thought your readers should see the following quote from Fortune magazine. I find it disturbing when bourgeois commentators get it right and many on the left get it wrong.

    “The combination of numbers 60/70/80/90 are frequently used to describe the private sector’s contribution to the Chinese economy: they contribute 60% of China’s GDP, and are responsible for 70% of innovation, 80% of urban employment and provide 90% of new jobs. Private wealth is also responsible for 70% of investment and 90% of exports.” Today, China’s private sector contributes nearly two-thirds of the country’s growth and nine-tenths of new jobs, according to the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce, an official business group.”

    I will be writing an article shortly on China with the sub-title from gang master to imperialist in 40 years.

    1. Further, please if you can, include a section that deals with the actual economic structure of state companies as opposed to their juridical status.The state in all capitalist societies plays a role in the direction of economic activity, Japan being the most obvious case.

      1. As for Chinese imperialism, how about the ‘Road To Nowhere’? blaming the country’s previous government for catapulting the country into historic debt with this project, which was signed in 2014 with the China Road and Bridge Corporation, and funded by the Export-Import Bank of China. “We are now [a] victim of the extremely bad decision of the former government,” said an exasperated Montenegrin Deputy Prime Minister Dritan Abazovic to Euronews this spring in an effort to appeal to the EU to come to Montenegro’s rescue; the country aims to be an EU member one day.

        A copy of the loan contract reviewed by NPR shows that if Montenegro is not able to repay China’s state-owned Export-Import Bank on time, the bank then has the right to seize land inside Montenegro, as long as it doesn’t belong to the military or is used for diplomatic purposes.

        In addition, Montenegro’s former government signed off on allowing a Chinese government court to have the final say on the execution of the contract.’ Seizing land, extra territorial courts? Sounds like imperialism to me!

  19. Two important economic data in favor of M.Roberts’ controversial “neither socialist nor capitalist” thesis on China and a powerful one against it.
    One of the two favorable data (no crisis) is remembered by himself as an allegation of his point of view.
    1.- Solution to crises.- For example Covid19 and Crash08. Only strong state-central planning can justify the almost zero impact of these crises on its economy. Unlike the if strong impact on all capitalist economies. Always uncoordinated economies and with only private and not social benefits. To carry out this central planning, the Chinese state must have some kind of control over the entire economy.
    2.- The growth.- The growth of China (today above 5% per year and above 10% during the last decades, as long as these data are valid?) Is not capitalist. It is a purely socialist growth. This is what happened in the real socialism of the 20th century and in the Golden Age of the West until the 1980s. It is the State as the main economic agent. A locomotive 10 times greater than the largest capitalist company in each country. Capitalism does not grow today beyond 1-2% and no short, medium or long-term forecast, official or private, exceeds these figures. There is talk in the academy of ‘secular stagnation’.
    A possible explanation for this ‘hidden’ socialism in China is that capitalist companies may have 60% of GDP but the state has some form of control over them (participation, gold shares, legislation, etc.). Gold with business decision-making power of the state have been very frequent in Western privatizations. The question, and one that I cannot answer, is whether or not the Chinese State has that control over its capitalist companies. If it does, it is not absurd to say that China is still a somewhat socialist state. Although on the way to disappearance (below).
    A decisive fact against.
    Against socialism in China is the movement (and this is Dialectic), the direction, the temporal analysis, of the Chinese economy in the last 30 years. Where is China going? It is an economy that has reduced the state sector year after year and increased the capitalist sector. If we add that all socialist countries WITHOUT EXCEPTION have suffered this regression due to capitalist pressure as explained and predicted by the thesis of the cycle of class struggle, there is no doubt where China is heading.

    1. Antonio – I tend to agree with all three points. The dialectic is still to be decided, but if there is no democratic change in China and/or social change in the imperialist countries, then China cannot survive as it is indefinitely.

      1. Antonio the greater recent intervention by the state is due to the crisis of profitability that erupted in China by 2019. For example one of the metrics I will focus on in my forthcoming article is the after tax rate of return of the top 500 private companies which at 3.4% in 2019 is below the cost of capital of 3.5%. Thus the state is dealing with an escalating crisis of overaccummulation which is only marginally being reduced by investment in belt and road projects. This is not an ideological issue but a real living contradiction which in the end will overwhelm state intervention. Capitalism is not about picking and choosing, recessions are just a big a part as booms in the life of capital.

    1. Pretty much
      except that I do not consider the Chinese bureaucracy a class, which is defined by the relation to the ownership of the means of production and the CCP is not a class in that sense. Also that means China is not capitalist or socialist but in a ‘trapped transition’ that cannot last forever, but still can last for a long time.

      Smith calls China a HYBRID BUREAUCRATIC COLLECTIVIST CAPITALISM. I think it is a hybrid but better defined as ‘bureuacratic collectivist’ not capitalist. What’s in a name, you might say? Well, if we were to define China as some form of capitalism or where capitalism was dominant and the capitalist class was in control as a class, then we would have to explain why it is the most successful capitalist economy in history in a period where every other capitalist economy is struggling to grow (including India, Brazil, South Africa and even Korea). The answer is that the publicly owned and planned economy dominates, not the capitalist market.

      1. That is generally the perspective I have as well. From a qualitative macro perspective China simply does not respond to changes in the world economy in a manner analogous to other capitalist countries. The main question at this point is, will the proletariat in the PRC be able to force a transition to a more democratic system without a revolution?

  20. What defines the class character of a state?

    Some seek to prove that China remains a deformed workers state because President Xi has decreed that the State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) must be prioritised over private enterprises since about 2011 and us “‘Trotskyist’ impressionists” simply can’t explain this phenomenon, characteristic of a deformed workers state and not of a capitalist state.

    First let us explain, once again, what defines the class character of a state. According to Trotsky’s succinct definition, “the class character of the state is determined by its relation to the forms of property in the means of production” and “by the character of the forms of property and productive relations which the given state guards and defends”. This implies a dialectical rather than a mechanical relationship between base and superstructure: it is not merely a question of the existing forms of property but of those which the state defends and strives to develop.
    Underlining this approach, Lenin argued in March 1918 that:

    “No one, I think, in studying the question of the economic system of Russia, has denied its transitional character. Nor, I think, has any Communist denied that the term Soviet Socialist Republic implies the determination of the Soviet power to achieve the transition to socialism, and not that the existing economic system is recognised as a socialist order.

    “But what does the word “transition” mean? Does it not mean, as applied to an economy, that the present system contains elements, particles, fragments of both capitalism and socialism? Everyone will admit that it does. But not all who admit this take the trouble to consider what elements actually constitute the various socio-economic structures
    that exist in Russia at the present time. And this is the crux of the question.

    “Let us enumerate these elements:
    (1) patriarchal, i.e., to a considerable extent natural, peasant farming;
    (2) small commodity production (this includes the majority of those peasants who sell their grain);
    (3) private capitalism;
    (4) state capitalism;
    (5) socialism.

    “Russia is so vast and so varied that all these different types of socio-economic structures are intermingled. This is what constitutes the specific feature of the situation.”

    If we were to ask that very empirical question, what relations of production does the Chinese state defend and develop? then they could give only one answer – the Chinese Stalinist bureaucracy use statised property to defend and develop capitalist property relations. This is the total opposite to what Lenin did via the NEP and what all USSR bureaucrats did, even Gorbachev up to the late 1990s; they used a certain measures of controlled capitalist production and distribution to guard and develop collectivised property relations. This deformed workers state theory is a reversion to the old Grantite/Militant theory that a workers’ state is defined by the degree of nationalisation. Ted Grant, in The Colonial Revolution and the Deformed Workers’ States written in July 1978 gave us the following hilarious list: “In Vietnam, Laos, Kampuchea, Burma, Syria, Angola, Mozambique, Aden, Benin, Ethiopia and as models, Cuba and China (which in their turn had the model of Eastern Europe as a beacon showing the way) there has been a transformation of social relations.

    The only conclusion we can draw from this is that the Russian state after October 25, 1917, was a workers’ state, despite the fact that it did not expropriate the capitalists until January 1918 and still had a great many capitalist elements in its economy long after that, because it sought to defend and develop socialist property relations from the beginning (initially via workers’ control, which failed) and the Chinese state is capitalist since October 1992 because it has sought to defend and develop capitalist property relations since then with no significant internal opposition in the Communist Party of China (CCP) to that course.

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