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The Knife of Stalin

July 5, 2010

Claude Arpi
The Statesman (India)
June 20, 2010

CHINA is one of the last two States in the world
strictly adhering to the Marxist theory while
engaged in a seemingly wild capitalist path
(‘with Chinese characteristics’ of course). But
for the past 60 years, the Communist Party of
China continues to rule supreme over the Middle Kingdom.

 From time to time, China watchers have predicted
the ideological and economic collapse of the
Chinese empire, but despite many prophesies,
Beijing continues its ‘peaceful rise’ and will
soon reach the Number 2 economic slot behind the United States of America.

Chinese rulers are, however, anguished about the
future of the Communist Dynasty. They are aware
that, in the past, Heaven has withdrawn its
Mandate to many dynasties, bringing disasters,
famines, floods or earthquakes to different parts
of the Empire and dethronement for the Emperors.
This is why the State Council ordered in June
2006 an eight-episode TV research entitled
Preparing For Danger in Times of Safety ~
Historic Lessons Learned from the Demise of
Soviet Communism. The project was given to no
less than the Academy of Social Sciences, the prime government think-tank.

Later the party members were requested to watch
the series and carefully study and ‘discuss’ the
conclusions offered by the Chinese President
himself. Hu Jintao affirmed: "There are multiple
factors contributing to the disintegration of the
Soviet Union, a very important one being
Khrushchev throwing away Stalin’s knife and
Gorbachev’s open betrayal of Marxism-Leninism."

Party and the Republic

IN China, the party is the foundation stone of
the People’s Republic; if one day the party
collapses, the apparatchiks in Beijing believe
that chaos can only prevail. Arthur Waldron in a
paper entitled Chinese Analyses of Soviet
Failure: The Party in the China Brief of the
Jamestown Foundation quotes from the film: "The
message is that the Soviet party failed because
it gave up the dictatorship of the proletariat,
ceased to practice democratic centralism,
criticised Stalin, was beguiled by Western
concepts such as democracy, and also tripped up
by Western propaganda and other operations.”

Indeed, the film praised Lenin’s theory, i.e.,
the dictatorship of the proletariat led by a
revolutionary vanguard party. "After the victory
of the October Revolution, Lenin led the
Bolshevik Party in implementing the War Communism
and the New Economic Policy, and conducted a
painstaking exploration on how to build socialism
in under-developed countries such as Russia," but also Stalin’s work.

Though acknowledging the ‘excesses’ of Stalin, it
states that his realisations will remain in
history: "As time goes by, when we brush off the
dust of history, people feel more than ever that
Stalin’s errors should never tarnish his position
as a great Marxist and a proletarian revolutionary in history."

But then came the destroyer of the party.

On 14 February 1956, the 20th Congress of the
Communist Party of Soviet Union (CPSU) was held
in Moscow. At night, the delegates were suddenly
summoned back to the Kremlin by Khrushchev, the
first secretary of the Central Committee, who
presented the famous ‘secret’ report entitled On
Personal Worship and its Consequences. The
Chinese film says: "In the secret report,
Khrushchev exaggerated Stalin’s errors and
expressed sharp criticism of Stalin. After the
20th Congress of the CPSU, the Soviet Union
launched a nationwide campaign criticising Stalin.”

This was the beginning of the end. The party was
condemned to death; as Mao Zedong said, "The CPSU
had lost the knife of Stalin."

Without a knife, the Soviet Union could not
survive. The script explains: "Young people in
the CPSU grew up under Khrushchev’s ideological
influence [after the 20th Congress] "They were
unfamiliar with the party’s revolutionary
tradition, and lacked firm beliefs in socialism.
They were later known as the ‘the babies born at
the 20th Congress’. After the mid-80s of the 20th
century, it was exactly these people who became
the backbone that disintegrated the CPSU and buried the socialist system”.

In the early 1990’s, Gorbachev put the last nail
in the coffin of the Soviet Union and the party.
The film regretted: "A party that Lenin
personally created; a party that led the Russian
working class in overthrowing the reactionary
rule of Tsarist Russia and successfully
established the first socialist state under the
dictatorship of the proletariat; a party that
resisted the armed intervention of 14 countries
and successfully defended the fruit of the
revolution; a party that defeated Nazi Germany in
the great patriotic war, and made great
contributions to victory in World War II; a party
that has made brilliant achievements in socialist
development and was the first to send satellites
into space; why, after 74 years in power, did it
actually lose its ruling position?."

The lessons are crucial for China. Deng Xiaoping
who wore the emperors’ mantle after Mao’s death
knew it only too well. He set up an "open policy"
at the end of 1978 as the only way to save the
party. He knew that by opening the door to
foreign businesses, he was offering the Chinese
people the "glory of becoming rich." He could
thus pacify the masses’ frustrations after the
Cultural Revolution and this, without encroaching
on the supremacy of the party.

In the early 1980’s, one leader could have been a
Chinese Khrushchev; it was Hu Yaobang, the then
Secretary-General of the CCP. When Deng realised
the danger of democratic ‘opening’, Hu was
quickly tackled from within the Politburo and sidelined.

Tiananmen Square

WHEN Hu died in April 1989, students gathered
spontaneously at Tiananmen Square to mourn his
demise. What started as an expression of grief,
quickly turned into the massive pro-democracy
demonstration. Tens of thousands occupied
Tiananmen Square till the fateful night of June
3-4, 1989. The knife had to save the party. Deng
decided to send in the tanks and massacre the students.

When one looks at the last 20 years of the
history of the People’s Republic of China, the
‘knife’  has been the party’s instrument for
keeping its predominant position. Take the unrest
in Tibet in March-April 2008. Beijing could have
tried to understand the motivations behind the
protests (it is what several Chinese think-tanks
suggested), but the leadership decided to use
disproportionate force and not take any chance.

The knife was again used in Xinjiang in July 2009
for the same reason; were the party to show
weakness, it may have been wiped out   from
"minorities’ areas," so the leadership analyses.
In the film, Gorbachev is criticised: “"to reform
the party’s guiding ideology according to the
‘humane, democratic socialist’ theory is to use
the old theories of Western social democratic
parties to replace the party’s Marxist theoretical basis."

Beijing believes that this destroyed the Soviet
Union. The present leadership does not want to
fall in the same trap. It is the reason why the
brutal regime of North Korea will continue to be
supported, even at the cost of Beijing’s image as
a responsible world power. Today, Beijing
confronts a serious dilemma: should it support
the proletariat striking in several car factories
in China or should the knife be used?

Without taking a clear position on the strike,
The People’s Daily recently stated: "The time has
come to narrow the gulf between rich and poor
which is stifling consumer demand”. A few days
earlier, Premier Wen Jiabao called on officials
to take greater  care of migrant workers. The
party has never walked on a tighter rope. The
crucial question is, how long can the ‘harmonious
society’ advocated by Hu Jintao, use a knife to survive?
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