First Published: The Forge, Vol. 7, No. 39, November 12, 1982
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.
L’avenir du maoisme, (The future of Maoism, In French only), Samir Amin, Editions de minuit, 149 p.
The title is a bit overwhelming, but it doesn’t really do justice to the book, which every revolutionary should read in this period where socialism is in crisis.
Samir Amin is already well-known for his works on Arab and African economics and on imperialism. This recent publication (already the subject of an all-too-short review in October magazine) describes the exemplary progress made by China since its liberation, the contributions of Mao Zedong to Marxism, and the fundamental difference between revisionism and socialism.
In his book Amin deals with a whole series of questions that preoccupy the revolutionary movement: the question of Stalin, the slide towards revisionism in China under Deng Xiaoping, democracy and the class struggle under socialism, the need to develop a living Marxism and to reexamine certain conceptions, particularly those concerning the functioning of vanguard parties.
All in all a mine of information and ideas; all we can do here is give a taste of it.
The political turnabout in China since the death of Mao Zedong has thrown cold water on the enthusiasm many people had felt for this country.
In the WCP, or rather the League before it, this enthusiasm sometimes went too far, as if we wanted to copy the Chinese model here.
But while it was necessary to break with an idealist vision of China, it’s unfortunate that since then China’s achievements have tended to be forgotten. And they are extraordinary achievements (and encouraging ones), especially as far as economic development is concerned.
“China’s development strategy over the entire period from 1950 to 1980, clearly represents the major success in the development of socialism in our epoque. Starting from a level of development significantly lower than that of India...China has put in place the foundations of a complete industrial system, autonomous vis-a-vis the outside world, and capable, despite its backwardness and its weaknesses, of meeting the basic needs of public consumption and national defence, and finally, the modernization of agriculture and industry itself. On this basis China has managed to resolve a problem that no other third-world country, even those much richer and more highly developed, has even begun to deal with, (All quotes our translation)
Finally, Amin remarks, China has created a society that is one of the most egalitarian in the world. Even if major differences in wage levels remain, they reach nowhere near the same proportions as in the capitalist countries.
Evidently, China is still experiencing economic problems – unemployment has not been completely eliminated, for example – but nonetheless, “growth of this nature over a long period has never occurred in history other than in exceptional circumstances.”
China has shown that socialism is an economic system infinitely superior to capitalism, and has done a much better job of proving it than the U.S.S.R. before the war.
According to Samir Amin, the most remarkable achievement of Mao Zedong was his ability to maintain the alliance of the working class and the peasantry and the fact that he laid the theoretical bases for resolving contradictions among the people.
This was a clear break with Stalin, whom Amin considers responsible for the origins of revisionism in the Soviet Union.
In order to develop the economy, Mao mainly made use of profits from the most advanced industries. Stalin, for his part, developed Soviet industry through the confiscation of half of the peasants’ income.
The Soviet model developed during the 1930s through a massive state levy on the countryside. While the collectivization of agriculture in China... won the almost unanimous support of the peasants, the collectivization carried out in the U.S.S.R., between 1930 and 1935was imposed on the majority of peasants by violence. This forced collectivization automatically put an end to the worker and peasant alliance which, from 1917 through 1930, had formed the basis of the Soviet state power. The roots of revisionism go back to this break. The forced collectivization led to the development of a police apparatus that rapidly gained substantial autonomy from society and even from the party. Gradually around this apparatus crystallized a new class and the transformation of the state into a state oppressing the people.
Strengthened by its repressive role towards the peasants, the state was able to break later resistance by the working class and impose a policy of wage differentials in industry. Thus a ruling class rebuilt itself, a class we will call a ’state bourgeoisie’ for want of a better term, and finally stamped its will on the nature of the state.
Continuing his comparison of the Soviet and Chinese models, Amin has an interesting theoretical approach to the question of the class struggle under socialism.
He maintains that as long as the international state system exists, the popular classes are obliged to use the state as an instrument of domination. Yet this state conserves a certain level of autonomy relative to social classes. “It is not just the instrument for a dictatorship of the workers and peasants, it is also the place where another class can reconstitute itself.”
Therefore class struggles under socialism do not oppose the popular classes and the leftovers of the capitalist class, except very early on. Nor are they simply ideological struggles.
They oppose workers, peasants and the state amongst themselves... These are contradictions among the people so long as the worker-peasant alliance and the class character of the state are the principal aspect of the situation. But if these contradictions among the people are not dealt with correctly, the state loses this character, and class struggles become the reflections of contradictions between the people and a state within which are crystalizing the forms of a new exploiting ruling class.
“Revisionism,” Amin concludes, “is simply this: the final result of the growth of contradictions among the people that were not dealt with correctly.” This was evidently the case in the Soviet Union.
Hence the importance of democracy under socialism.
While Mao made a major cantribution to socialism with his theory on the resolution of contradictions among the people, Samir Amin considers that a lack of democracy has been a weakness even in China. Administrative power has often trampled on the initiative of the masses.
“Democracy,” Amin states, “is the historical result of the bourgeois revolutions in the West, and represents decisive progress in the evolution of human society. Since socialism is a superior social system, the gains in democracy should not be wiped out, rather they should be enriched through the transfer of the property of the means of production to the workers. So-called Soviet democracy, limited to the right to a job and education, is by this very fact a non-democracy. The abolition of bourgeois democracy in the U.S.S.R. constitutes irrefutable evidence of the oppressive and exploitative nature of the state.”
Among the democratic traditions developed by the bourgeoisie that socialism should conserve, Amin mentions the separation of powers, and the need to have institutional counterweights like control commissions, and so on.
Concerning the question of the vanguard party under socialism, Amin believes that it shouldn’t be fused with the state. Perhaps Marxists should reexamine the conception of the monolithic party as defined by Lenin in What Is to Re Done. It may also be desirable to abandon the idea of a single party under socialism.
Finally, the unions, like all mass organizations, “should be autonomous organizations with the aim of defending their members, if even it be against their own state, and not (as Pravda constantly reminds us about Poland) simple ’transmission belts’.” The same conception applies to art.
Samir Amin doesn’t answer all the questions, but he opens doors. 1982 is not the first time that Marxism has been in crisis, and as Amin concludes Lenin and Mao helped Marxism out of the crisis of their times. Today it is up to all revolutionaries to enrich Marxism once again, and, despite the difficulties, to continue to explain how socialism continues to be the most desirable future for humanity.