Editorial: The New Chinese Constitution

The new Constitution of the Chinese Republic, endorsed in Peking in September last by the delegates of the National People’s Congress, was published in full in the organ of the Information Bureau of the Communist and Workers Parties (Bucharest, 24 September, 1954).

According to the Preamble to the Constitution, the “People’s Republic of China” is “a people’s democratic dictatorship,” and the “system of people’s democracy—new democracy—of the People’s Republic of China can in a peaceful way eliminate exploitation and poverty and build a prosperous and happy Socialist society.”

It goes on to say that the Chinese Republic is now in a period of transition: —“The central task of the State during this transition period is to bring about, step by step, the Socialist industrialisation of the country and to accomplish, step by step, the Socialist transformation of agriculture, handicrafts and capitalist industry and commerce.”

The claim is made that in the past few years the land system has been successfully reformed, counter-revolutionaries have been suppressed and the conditions have been created “for planned economic reconstruction and the steady transition to Socialism.”

After the double talk about “democratic-dictatorship” and the familiar Labour Party phrases about step by step transition to Socialism, it was only to be expected that the term Socialism would be found to be used in the Constitution to mean various forms of capitalist organisation. The following extracts bear this out:—

Article 5: “The ownership of the means of production in the People’s Republic of China at present falls mainly into the following categories: State ownership, that is, ownership by the whole people; co-operative ownership, that is, collective ownership by die working masses; ownership by individual working people; and capitalist ownership.

Article 6: “State-owned economy is Socialist economy, owned by the whole people; it is the leading force in the national economy and the material basis on which the State carries out the Socialist transformation. The State ensures priority for the development of the State-owned economy.

“All mineral resources and waters, as well as forests, undeveloped land and other resources which the State owns by law, are the property of the whole people.”

We see from the above that the “Socialism” to which the Chinese Republic is said to be advancing, is a misapplication of the term Socialism to State Capitalism.

Article Seven tells us that co-operation, too, is “ Socialist economy.”

Article Eight reads:—“The State protects the right of the peasants to own land and other means of production according to law while Article Twelve gives the same protection to the right of citizens “to inherit personal and private property.”

Article Ten is especially interesting.

“The State protects the right of capitalists to the ownership of the means of production and other capital according to law.
“The policy of the State towards capitalist industry and commerce is: use, restrict and transform. Through control by administrative organs of the State, leadership by the State-owned economy and supervision by the workers, the State uses the positive qualities of capitalist industry and commerce which are beneficial to the national welfare and the people’s livelihood; encourages and guides the transformation of capitalist industry and commerce into various forms of State-capitalist economy, step by step replacing capitalist ownership with ownership by the whole people.
“The State forbids capitalists to endanger the public interest, disturb the social-economic order or undermine the national economic plan by any kind of illegal activity.”

One piece of unintended humour is that according to Article Twenty “the armed forces . . . belong to the people.” Whenever the Chinese workers come into conflict with the armed forces of the emerging Chinese capitalism they should reflect on that grim jest.

Much of the Constitution is naturally taken up with constitutional and electoral organisation and with the usual high flown declarations of the “people’s rights.” All constitutions contain these latter trimmings and they mean nothing at all. The workers never get and retain elementary rights of trade union organisation, voting, forming political parties, and so on, without struggling for them.

The aims set by the Constitution contained in the articles quoted above have no relationship to Socialism, which is at present quite beyond the knowledge and acceptance of the vast majority of China’s largely peasant population.

Their promised land is much more like the Attlee-Bevanite dream (or nightmare) of a rigidly government controlled welfare capitalism.

Let us hope that the Chinese workers may be spared that fate.

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