Clem Sunter


2009-09-09 09:46

I read with great interest Mphatjie Monareng's article on MyNews24 Who is on the side of the poor? He made the following comment: "Communism in today’s world is a disgraceful shadow of what it could have been. Communist rhetoric today deceives - and works against the aspirations of - the masses."

As a paid-up member of the bourgeoisie, I beg to differ in a surprising way. There is one example of an eminently successful Communist Party - China. I was fortunate to be the guest of the Central Party School in April 2006. It is the highest institution to train officials of the Communist Party of China. It is based just outside Beijing and, at any one time, its highly guarded campus has 1 300 students.

Previous presidents of the school include Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping and Hu Jintao, the current president of the country. The joke at the school is that you must drive very slowly in the grounds because one of the pedestrians is probably the future General Secretary of the Party! Another key role of the school is being a lead agent in the formulation of the five year plans which have shaped China since the middle of the last century.

My point is this: The school has moved on from the classic class struggle model of the bourgeoisie versus the proletariat developed by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in The Communist Manifesto, published just over 160 years ago in 1848. it was the model adopted by Chairman Mao in the Cultural Revolution and it brought China to the brink of ruin by the time of his death in the 1970s.

A transformation in communist ideology was introduced by Deng in 1978 when he formulated his "open door policy". Instead of waging a war against the bourgeoisie, he basically suggested that in the interests of future economic growth in China the Party should use the talent of the bourgeoisie  - both local and overseas - to work alongside the government and create a new, co-operative model.

Thus was the entrepreneurial spirit unleashed in China. Thus did the tidal wave of foreign investment in China begin. In one of the lecture rooms at the school is displayed Deng's famous quote: "I don't care if a cat is black or white as long as it catches mice." Senior members of the school's faculty confirmed to me that this more practical approach is at the core of the current teaching.

The rest they say is history. China has risen 97 places in the world economic league in the last 30 years (from No 100  to No 3). At the present differential between economic growth rates in America and China, China is due to overtake America to become the world's largest economy somewhere between 2030 and 2040. Even now, China as the biggest holder of American Treasury Bills could pull the plug on America's economy by simply selling its stock or not purchasing more. It won't do that because America is its most important export market. But it could.

Returning to the title of Mphatjie's article, China has uplifted 300 million people (more than six times South Africa's current population) from abject poverty to qualify as a low income group of somewhere between $1 000 and $3 000 a year. It doesn't sound much but it's light years away from the economic misery of the Mao dynasty.

Ironically, therefore, the best performer in modern economic times is a country run by a communist party. But it is neocommunism. And just for interest, all the senior party officials I met drive around in middle-of-the-range Audis!

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