Why the fake Left is against China
Lausan Collective as a case in point
(Part two of two)
We continue our dissection of the politics of Lausan and their co-thinkers. Read part one here.
Neither Washington Nor Beijing?
While acknowledging that ‘the history of Western imperialism’ is (only!) true ‘to a large extent’ and that ‘US exceptionalism’ is ‘no longer believable’ (in 2020!), the self-styled ‘de-colonial leftists’ of Lausan reserve most of their ammunition for China. On their website, we find troves of conflicting and contradictory explanations of Chinese imperialism. Their writers go from describing an ‘inter-imperial rivalry between the US and China’ and imploring readers to condemn ‘Chinese imperialism and U.S. imperialism alike’, to claiming that China is ‘complicit’ in imperialist plunder, to claiming that Washington has ‘no intention of subverting Chinese sovereignty’ and that China is merely an ‘enabler of US imperialism’. For starters, we simply ask them to make up their mind.
The unquestionable imperialist hegemon today is the USA with its endless wars of conquest and domination. With its financial and military might, it is able to maintain its position as the wealthiest country in the world with the unique ability to run an unlimited trade deficit and budget deficit. Its ability to do this stems from the US Dollar’s position as the world reserve currency, allowing the US government to issue as much USD-denominated debt as it needs to support domestic consumption at very low interest rates. Production could be outsourced to countries with low labour costs, such as China, which accounted for 28 percent of global manufacturing output in 2018. While the Chinese government has a stated goal of upgrading its manufacturing into more high-tech arenas such as robotics and biotech, the majority of Chinese manufacturing today is still within the low added-value consumer goods sector. It also has a much lower level of labour productivity compared to advanced capitalist nations. Despite this, China’s heightened technological development such as that in 5G is what provokes the US, which they see as a threat to their continued dominance in such sectors.
Unlike the financialised West, China does not have the ability to export financial capital while dictating the terms of trade and reap profits from dependent countries. All its endeavours in foreign trade and multilateral development, such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, must necessarily play by the rules set by the IMF, World Bank and WTO, institutions dominated by the West and which, in the vast majority of cases, have been on the side of the US in its disputes with China. Regarding the much-hyped Chinese investment in Africa, we will devote a future article analysing the phenomenon and responding to accusations of ‘Chinese imperialism’ in Africa.
The conflict between US and China is not an inter-imperial squabble over loot. The whole point of US provocation against China is to overturn the CPC regime and replace it with subservient kleptocratic asset-strippers like those which emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union and East European Stalinist regimes, opening up the vast resources and labour power of the country to untrammelled imperialist exploitation, keeping it poor and divided, and no longer a threat to decaying imperialism.
The politics of Lausan and Co.
The super-profits earned by the imperialist bourgeoisie allow them to furnish a section of their domestic workforce with a relatively stable, middle-class standard of living whilst worsening the lot of the vast majority of the working population. The reformist apparatus headed by social-democratic electoral machines, the trade union bureaucracies, religious and secular social relief organisations, allied media and educational institutions etc—directly or indirectly funded by imperialist super-profits, works to perpetuate bourgeois rule over the exploited masses in imperialist countries and galvanise popular support for its foreign conquests. This is what Lenin recognised as the tendency of imperialism to ‘split the workers, to strengthen opportunism among them and to cause temporary decay in the working-class movement’.
In the final analysis, the role of the ‘left’ in the imperialist heartlands derives from the bourgeoisie’s need to defend itself from the threat of a revolutionary workers’ movement. In the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s destruction, this need has been much diminished with the deepening financialisation and de-industrialisation of the imperialist powers. The ‘left’ today is mostly indistinguishable from other middle-class tendencies, firstly the liberals. In places where capitalism is in deep decay, such as Hong Kong, the pro-imperialist ‘left’ is often found in the ranks of fascistic populism.
In the US, the pro-imperialist ‘left’ has always been tailing, or been part of, the Democratic Party, the other ruling party of the imperialist bourgeoisie. Where their counterparts in western Europe and Australasia tail social democracy in the name of ‘socialism’, the pro-imperialist ‘left’ in the US has been gathering electoral fodder for an openly capitalist and imperialist party, in the name of the lesser-evil and ‘justice’ for various oppressed groups.
Regardless of these varieties in opportunism, the single thread that holds all of the pro-imperialist ‘left’ is this: their Sunday School ‘Marxism’ aside, they are all committed to reforming the imperialist status quo, i.e. making it more palatable for the exploited and oppressed, via a mainstream bourgeois ‘progressive’ party. They only call for the overthrow of state power when it is against an officially-designated ‘enemy’, such as the Soviet Union and the PRC, and even in such instances they recoil from calling the workers to take power, but consciously promote reactionaries groomed by the imperialist bourgeoisie.
Lausan and their political allies operate precisely in this milieu. Their so-called resistance against US imperialism and Trump’s ‘opportunistic’ promotion of the HK protests is to find support in the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), a fake-left appendage of the Democratic Party. From promoting Bernie Sanders’ ‘international progressive front’ to promoting the utopian pipe-dream of ‘prison abolition’ with forces that are supportive of prisons in US-promoted ‘Rojava’, Lausan’s collective of petty bourgeois academics, writers and US State Department-funded NGO officers embodies a political programme not exceeding that of the reformist US ‘left’. This programme, when put into action, amounts to nothing more than providing ‘progressive’ imperialist politicos with politically-correct talking points when they do their level best to restore/defend US world hegemony.
What the rehashed anti-USSR slogan ‘Neither Washington nor Beijing’ (NWNB) means today is really just ‘Neither the Republican part of Washington nor the whole of Beijing’. One could also note Lausan’s elegant formulation: ‘Fuck Trump Fuck CCP’. But the Republicans and Democrats are just two faces of the same imperialist war machine. In practice, this slogan pushes for the real destruction of the PRC and the imaginary installation of a ‘humane’ capitalism in the US by the Democratic Party.
The NWNB verbal acrobatics of Lausan and the DSA has its origins in the Max Shachtman tendency. Shachtman advanced the idea that the USSR was imperialist like the Western powers and broke with Trotskyism in 1939. He initially claimed a plague-on-both-houses ‘Third Camp’ position and became a Cold Warrior within a decade. Shachtman and his followers joined right-wing social democracy and then moved into the Democratic Party. He ended his life being a supporter of US imperialism’s genocidal war against Vietnam.
In Hong Kong, the politics of Lausan and similar ‘left’ outlets can be boiled down to giving left cover to the reactionary ‘self determination movement’. In the US, their politics is reformism sprinkled with in-season political correctness. In both settings, they have nothing to do with socialism and everything to do with left-washing support for US imperialism.
For Marxists, what the US actually needs in order to get rid of rampant inequality, unemployment, black oppression and other social ills is a proletarian revolution which abolishes the capitalist imperialist state and establishes the rule of the multiethnic working class based on the public ownership of the commanding heights of the economy.
The interests of the international working class demand the unconditional defence of China against imperialist attack and internal capitalist reaction—which means the defence of the PRC’s independence from imperialism and the public ownership of the key levers of economic and social life which underpins this sovereignty. This defence demands thoughtful vigilance and persistent focus on the struggle to build socialist democracy, and not unconditional support for the government and its policies. This leaves no room for compromise with ‘leftists’ who promote the reconversion of China back into a semi-colony under the guise of ‘woke’ slogans.
We urge all who want social progress to reject the fakery of Lausan & their ilk and their PC-coated pro-imperialist propaganda.
Afterword: Lo and behold, after the aforementioned ‘leftwashing’ of the ‘movement’ in Hong Kong, Promise Li finally plucked up the courage of saying “It’s time for Hong Kong to reckon with its far-right” at the end of November 2020. Why? Because the main propaganda outlet of the ‘movement’, Apple Daily, has been a major promoter of the idea that Hunter Biden, son of the President-Elect, has taken bribes from Beijing. Mr Li assures his readers that these allegations are false and went on to…. confirm everything honest people have been saying about the ‘movement’ from day one, which Lausan has either voraciously downplayed or denied until now.
Editors note: We at the International have published many articles which attempt to analyse and criticise the Hong Kong ‘movement’ from a Marxist standpoint. You can find these pieces here.