Eric Wolf defines this mode in Europe and the People Without History as a tributary mode of production which incorporated and dominated kinship modes of production Peasant families organized as kinship modes of production had their tribute or rent expropriated by a class of landlord families which in turn paid the standing army and bureaucracy to administer society. Yet for all its advanced technology and trade relations the tributary mode of production tends towards stagnation and could not embark on the capitalist road. The ruling class was able to extract sufficient rents to maintain society and did not need to allow the formation of a middle class of merchants to bring wealth from unequal exchange overseas back to
China was highly successful in producing and exporting tea, running a trade surplus until the British ‘opium wars’ in the mid 19th century forced it to import opium in exchange for its exports. The tributary mode was thus subordinated to British imperialism which exploited
The Bourgeois revolution
Here Marx is anticipating the uneven and combined development that would see capitalism progressively free
The Kuomingtang (KMT), the party of the bourgeoisie under Sun Yat-sen, sought to complete the national revolution against
This class contradiction was recognized by the Bolsheviks because it had occurred in
Facing a similar situation in
The second revolution betrayed
Trotsky’s warnings that the workers and poor peasants must not subordinate themselves to Chiang Kai-shek’s military leadership were ignored. KMT were made honorary section of Comintern. The Comintern overruled the CCP leadership and suppressed the Left Opposition (LO). The KMT led the bloc of 4 classes to fight the imperialists but fearing the power of the exploited classes then turned on the CCP leadership and destroyed it. Stalin blamed the CPP leadership. Some of the CPP leadership opposed this and were expelled. Others were won to LO in
Meanwhile in the face of this betrayal the Maoist leadership of the CCP continued the failed Stalinist popular front tactic of the bloc of 4 classes and began to suppress the LO. The KMT regime under Chiang was a form of Bonapartist bourgeois regime balanced between the Chinese peasants and workers on the one side and the imperialists on the other. Because of the weakness of the national bourgeoisie the KMT regime encouraged the formation of a state bourgeoisie. The national war of liberation became a peasant ar and it took many years to drive out the Japanese the KMT and its backer, the
The third revolution
Thus despite the Stalinist Maoists the revolution succeeded in removing the imperialists and the national bourgeoisie. And because of the Maoists it failed to create the conditions for the transition to socialism. The nationalization of bourgeois property created workers property and a bureaucratic plan, but the working class and poor peasantry were never able to democratically control the state. This transitional form of society contained a contradiction between workers property and the parasitic Bonapartist bureaucracy. In that sense it was structurally a workers’ state degenerate at birth, the same as the states formed in Eastern Europe that were occupied by the Red Army, or like
We characterize this transitional form of state in
But does the analysis of the DWS occupied by the Red Army as an extension of the Soviet Union also apply to those countries that were not occupied by the Red Army –
Thus in China in 1949, as in Poland as Trotsky had argued in 1939, it was not the Chinese Red Army in itself that was progressive but the fact that the SU backed it against Japan and the US, expelling the comprador bourgeoisie, and forcing the Bonapartist CCP leadership to expropriate capitalist property.
Forward to socialism, or back to capitalism
The capitalist roaders won and began by replacing the rural collectives with the TVE (Town Village Enterprises) cooperatives in the 1980s, and then began transforming the SOEs (State Owned Enterprises) into privatized corporations in the 1990s. The shift to TVE cooperatives was decisive as it allowed a shift to personal shareholding. These became the basis of the conversion of the TVEs into privatized industries in the 1980s. This created a huge movement of displaced workers into the cities as a rural reserve army of formal wage labour who would then become a free wage labor force.
By the early 1990s the Chinese economy had been gradually opened to the influence of the Law of Value (LOV). State owned land was increasingly commodified with the development of a rental market, the SOEs were freed of any responsibility to meet the health, education and welfare needs of wage workers, and the state surplus increasingly became accumulated as private capital in pockets of TVE shareholders, SOE managers as well as private bosses. Thus at this point workers property relations were being replaced by capitalist property relations. The bureaucracy had converted the TVEs and SOEs into capitalist corporations in which a new bourgeoisie become the private owners.
Capitalist Restoration completed
The question of when workers property is replaced by capitalist property determines the change in the class character of the state. Here again, we apply Trotsky’s analysis of the counter-revolution in the SU. Up to the time of his death in 1940 Trotsky argued that the SU remained a DWS, and as we have argued the just as the occupied countries were DWs by extension of the SU. The counter-revolution in all of the DWS that emerged after WW2 would follow the same pattern as the SU. In the SU, the economy was characterized as workers property, or nationalized property, that was nevertheless coexisting with some elements of the market to allow demand to guide prices. But as long as the market was subordinated to the plan, no matter how bureaucratic, the allocation of resources would follow the plan rather than the law of value. That is why the SU was plagued by waste and shortages of basic necessities. Capitalism is restored when the LOV takes over from the plan in determining prices in allocating resources. Today when workers have little money the shortages of necessities result from lack of effective demand not lack of commodities.
In the EE states, attempts to remove the Red Army included elements that were for the defence of state property and those that wanted to restore capitalism. The bureaucratic suppression of both had the effect of subordinating the independence struggle to the restorationists. Thus by the 1980s the struggle for political revolution was weakened and the forces for counter-revolution strengthened. In the SU and EE this counter-revolution was completed between 1989 and 1992. At this point it was clear that the bureaucracy, despite competing factions, was committed to destroying the plan and re-imposing the LOV as the basis of production. Thus the SU and its buffer states ceased to be DWSs and became capitalist states. The first phase of the operation of the LOV was to destroy the existing industry and allow asset stripping by a new capitalist class to set its value on the world market. Trotsky anticipated this transition back to capitalism as a state capitalist phase.
Applying the same method to
Today by the measure of the LOV China is capitalist. In that sense a rapidly growing powerful capitalist
While the organic composition of capital in