1960s >> 1960 >> no-665-january-1960

10 years of the “Peoples” Republic – Part 2

 

It would be misleading to paint too dull a picture of China on her 10th birthday, for there is a small section of the population for whom every day could well be a day for celebration. Those fortunate few are the capitalists. Capitalists in “Communist” China! But why be surprised, for Article 10 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China begins as follows: —

  The State protects the right of capitalists to own means of production and other capital according to law.

Perhaps the best plan would be to let one of the leading capitalists tell all about it. which he did to the Editor of Eastern World, April, 1957. Mr. Y. L. Kan is Managing Director of the Nanyang Bros. Tobacco Company, one of the largest companies in the country, owning a number of factories. One of the shareholders of this Company was formerly T. V. Soong, a member of the Nationalist Government who absconded to Formosa. The Chinese Government have seized his shares which makes their shareholding 40 per cent. of the stock; 35 per cent. are owned by Mr. Kan’s family and the balance by 8,000 other shareholders. Mr. Kan’s father was a former managing director of the Company, but the son was only appointed to his present position by the Government in 1950 on his return to China from abroad. And this is what Mr. Kan said:

 Immediately after entering into joint ownership with the Government we realised that we were benefitting by that move. Production and capacity went up continuously until it reached, today. 250 per cent. the output of 1949. This has been mainly due to the incredible enthusiasm of the workers. I confess that I had never thought possible such complete change of atmosphere and such incredible improvement in output owing to this different attitude of the workers to what they, quite rightly, consider a factory of which they are part owners. Our Company, to my astonishment, proved to be about 50 per cent. more efficient than those enterprises which had remained entirely in private hands. Also we had none of the labour difficulties or frictions with the workers as became frequent in the private sector of industry.

The account further described the luxury in which the Kans live and explains that in addition to his salary a fixed dividend of 5 per cent, is paid free of income tax, and this, the report adds, on his substantial holding of shares makes for considerable income, far more than the net income which would be received in the West. “I am only a managing director.” Mr. Kan went on to say.

  But I am also an executive member of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce, as well as on the committee of Light Industry which has to deal with the interests of 6.000 factories. Altogether there are 37,000 factories of mostly light, but some heavy industry in Shanghai, and the total number of commercial and industrial concerns amounts to 160,000.

Capitalism is capitalism all the world over, with its gulf between the exploiter and the exploited. Riches at one end of the scale presupposes poverty at the other no matter whether in China or the West. When the worker is fooled as to where his real interests are, and, as a consequence. is induced to work like a maniac, it is the capitalist who, waxing wealthy, congratulates the worker. This task of misleading the worker is made easier when by means of partial or complete nationalisation, the worker can be induced to believe that he is a partner in the enterprise and that his interests are no longer opposed to those of the exploiter.

The Indian Incident
This anniversary review could hardly be concluded without reference to the border fighting when China overran and seized part of the Indian province of Ladakh in Kashmir, in the process killing the Indian guards. These events have sometimes been presented in a sensational light as though they were the precursor of large-scale warfare. In this case the war mongers watching out for the main chance on the side lines may well be disappointed, for it is likely to be merely a matter of bargaining over a road from Khotan to Gartok in Tibet (secretly built by the Chinese for the subjugation and subsequent colonisation of Tibet) which crosses a corner of the Indian province.

The incident may prove useful to the Indian Government who seem to be using it to work up a sense of patriotism among their workers and patriotism can be very useful in some emergencies when ruling-class interests are really threatened. And what do they stand to lose in exchange? Just a piece of barren and unpopulated land. It is the Chinese workers who have built the road and Indian workers who have lost their lives repelling the Chinese. In this system of society, whichever capitalist group succeed, it is the workers who always seem to be at the sticky end of the wicket.

No one who remembers the sheer poverty, starvation and street deaths under the old regime can deny the overall improvement in physical conditions and also in the security for the workers. Achievements in industrial construction, agrarian expansion, health, education and sanitation constitute a remarkable story. On the debit side, as the Sunday Times 27/1/57 says, there is bland but total suppression of freedom of thought and expression. imposed under a puritanical regime, which is mass-producing a race of robots in blue overalls.

The robots, it must be conceded, are apparently happy. “Communism” has not yet changed the innate friendliness. charm and generous human behaviour of the Chinese; maybe it has not changed their subtlety and expedient patience, either.

The Chinese have had recent experience of living under a regime of oriental feudalism. Now that they are living in Capitalism (even though some label it Communism), they can compare the two systems. With the tremendous intellectual fervour the vast upheaval has made, argument and discussion continue at high pitch. Like the British under Macmillan’s Tory Government, the Chinese under Mao-tse-tung. it is claimed, have never had it so good. Certain it is, all observers agree, that Mao-tse-tung could win a free democratic election with perhaps greater ease than Macmillan’s party won the last general election here. The Chinese workers, surrounded by new-fangled commodities such as radios, bicycles and tinned foods and ball-point pens that they can now buy, like their British counterparts with their televisions, scooters, cars and council flats, do not realise that exploitation goes on just the same.

 

When productivity increases, the workers may themselves absorb a greater amount of goods without any radical change in their state relative to that of the master class. But sure it is that the Chinese have got Capitalism whether they know it or not. and that, by-and-large, being subjected to similar economic conditions as workers in the rest of the world of Capitalism, they will develop Socialist ideas.

 

China, with her vast sea of people increasing by about 12 million per year, was civilised and ruled by an aristocracy of culture a millenium before the tiny speck of island now known as Great Britain was redeemed from barbarism by the Roman invaders. But in the course of time the face of the world changes and Capitalism first took root in England. The establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 was the political event which marked the entry of that country into the world of Capitalism.

 

So we of the Socialist movement of Great Britain, the oldest Capitalist country in the world, in a spirit of comradeship. and breaking through the barrier of language which is perhaps more of a bar to communication than mere distance itself, give you—the youngest working-class in the world—this, our anniversary greeting coined by a Socialist a century ago:

Workers of the world unite. You have only your chains 
to lose, you have a world to win.

 

Frank Offord