[PEN-L:13342] Raymond Lau on China's SOEs

Stephen E Philion philion at hawaii.edu
Mon Nov 8 13:32:55 PST 1999

Hi Sam, I want to clarify one thing before responding to any of your questions. Raymond Lau is not a Maoist. He is a Trotskyist, but not of the sect-cultarian type.

BTW, I mentioned that Lau had some other articles in addition to the one that I did the short summary of. I think his article "Left and Right in China's Economic Reform in the 1990's and the Facade of the 'Third Thought Liberation' in "The Pacific Review," Vol. 12, No. 1, 1999, pp. 79-102 is really worth reading. So too are his "The Role of the Working Class in the 1989 Mass Movement in Beijing," in The Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics, Vol. 12, no. 3 Sept. 1996, and his "China: Labour Reform and the Challenge Facing the Working Class," in *Capital and Class*, Sept. 1997, Vol. 61, pp.45-79 are also very rich with data and analysis from an independent Marxist perspective.

In my book, his critique in the Lau article on "Left and Right in China's Economic Reform in the 1990's..." is much deeper and more reflective of what is really happening in China in the moment of political-economic restructuring. Because Lau is fluent in Mandarin, has quite good contacts in the CHinese planning apparatus, and has no political obligations to that apparatus' ideological reproduction, he is able to, as any serious Marxist should, examine the correlation between ideology and the actual restructuring of class relations of production that are taking place in China at the moment. Cui, like many mainstream economists in the US and their epigones in the Chinese academy (and planning apparatus), are only able to reiterate ideology and tell us that if ideology does not match with reality, it is because of 'corruption.' Cui is right in one sense, laws can be read diferently. The question, which his writing gives us no sense of, is what are class relations of production like in the Chinese SOE sector like today such the ideal interpretation of 'labor property rights' in China does not get realized.

Its interesting that Cui mentions Locke in his article by the way. Maybe I can put up part of the article on the list, if I can get it. The dominant interpretation of 'labor property rights' in China today is that, a la the gentleman scholar Locke, laborers have the right to sell their labor power and that power is guaranteed by contracts. I ran into this interpretation over and over and over again during my stay in China.


Stephen Philion Lecturer/PhD Candidate Department of Sociology 2424 Maile Way Social Sciences Bldg. # 247 Honolulu, HI 96822

On Mon, 8 Nov 1999, Sam Pawlett wrote:

> Stephen,LBO&Pen-L,
> What do you think of the work of Robert Weil? I just finished his "Red
> Cat, White Cat." and found it disappointing. Very impressionistic and
> missing good,hard class-analysis of the post-Mao changes in China.
> Petras' articles on China are better. Weil really yearns for the days of
> Mao, he spends a lot of time defending the Great Leap Forward and
> Cultural Rev. I don't think turning back the clock is feasible or
> desirable. A renewed socialism in China will look different, though I
> confess Mao had some good ideas.... the particular form of socialism
> will grow through class struggle and will be worked out through
> practice. With regards to top-down reforms, as Trotsky said:
> "Karl Marx saw the failure of the March revolution in Germany in the
> fact the it "reformed onlt the very highest political circles, leaving
> untouched all the layers beneath them-- the old bureacracy, the old
> army, the old judges, born and brough tup and grown old in the service
> of absolutism." Socialists of the type of Kerensky were seeking
> salvation exactly where Marx saw the cause of failure." History of the
> Russian Revoltion, p221
> More Trotsky [few write like this anymore!]
> "Their class instinct was refined by a political criterion, and though
> they did not think all their ideas through to the end, nevertheless
> their thought ceaselessly and stubbornly worked its way in a single
> direction. Elements of experience, criticism, initiative,
> self-sacrifice, seeped down throught the mass and created, invisibly to
> a
> superficial glance but no less decisively, an inner mechanics of the
> revolutionary movement as conscious process. To the smug politicians of
> liberalism and tamed socialism everything that happened among the masses
> is customarily represented as an instinctive process, no matter whether
> they are dealing with an anthill or a beehive. In reality the thought
> which was drilling through the thick of the working class was far
> bolder, more penetrating, more conscious, than those little ideas by
> which the educated classes live. Moreover, this thought was scientific:
> not only becasue it was to a considerable degree fertilised with the
> methods of Marxism, but still more because it was ever nourishing itself
> on the living experience of the masses which were soon to take their
> place in the revolutionary arena. Thoughts are scientific if they
> correspond to an objective process and make it possible to influence
> that process and guide it. Were there qualities possessed in the
> slightest degree by the ideas of those government circles who were
> inspired by the Apocalypse and believed in the dreams of Rasputin? Or
> maybe the ideas of the liberals were scientifically grounded, who hoped
> that a backward Russia, having joined the scrimmage of the capitalist
> giants, might win at one and the same time victory and parliamentarism?
> Or maybe the intellectual life of those circles of the intelligentsia
> was scientific, who slavishly adapted themselves to liberalism, senile
> since childhood, protecting the imaginary independence the while with
> long-dead metaphors. In truth here was a kingdom of spiritual inertness,
> spectres, superstition and fictions, a kingdom, if you will, of
> "spontaneuousness." But have we not in that case a right to turn this
> liberal philosophy of the February revolution exactly upside down? Yes,
> we have a right to say: At the same time that the official society, all
> that many-sided superstructure of ruling classes, layers, groups,
> parties and cliques, lived day to day by inertia and automism,
> nourishing themselves with the relics of worn out ideas, deaf to the
> inexorable demands of evolution, flattering themselves with phantoms and
> foreseeing nothing--at the same time in the working masses there was
> taking place an independent and deep process of growth, not only of
> hatred for the rulers, but of critical understanding of their impotence,
> an accumulation of experience and creative consciouness which the
> revolutionary insurrection and its victory completed." Ibidp169-70
> Sam Pawlett

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