If I wanted to advance capitalism in the world, there would be many worse routes than through Maoism.
(By Maoism I principally mean the Communist Party of China, though also the recently ‘elected’ Maoist government of Nepal)
The Nepalese Maoists have announced the formation of special economic zones (where foreign investors can employ local labour under optimum conditions), and that in these areas strikes will be banned.
Now let’s look at that. A ‘communist’ government banning strikes. Sometimes, the endless debates within the left seem complex and difficult. Then sometimes something shines through with breathtaking straightforwardness.
Don’t strike-break is a basic individual rule for individual socialists. Don’t ban strikes is a corresponding one for socialist movements. That’s because socialism is (supposedly, by most accounts) based on the power and organisational ability of the working class, and striking is the basic power of that class.
But then, how could a party governing a capitalist state, cutting deals with capitalists, writing and enforcing the law, respecting private property, not be opposed to strikes? How, equally, can it not be opposed to protests. If you take over the position of the capitalist state, you take over its needs and its imperatives, and you require yourself to defend capitalism. This is why socialists should reject parliamentarianism.
Something else interesting is the section about the ‘haliya’ – the Maoists have removed the legal restrictions on debt-enslaved, typically ‘untouchable’/dalit, labourers, but left them without any other means of support.
This is exactly the same traumatic liberation, the same proletarianisation, that capitalism had to ruthlessly accomplish in 19th century Europe and is currently accomplishing globally: take people who have a restricted position which provides a measure of security and stability, and rip it away, leaving them both ‘free’ to sell their labour in the new cities (Manchester, for example, was effectively a 19th-century Special Economic Zone) and also in practice forced to.
Turning away from present Nepal to past China, we can see Mao as having used communism ideology to acheive capitalism where capitalist ideology couldn’t. The Chinese Communists had many of the same aims as the Chinese Nationalists of the early 20th century – modernisation, industrialisation, liberation of women, re-taking China’s rightful place in the world. They both wanted to bring China (especially, urban coastal China) into the modern world.
The ‘Communists’ have succeeded in doing so, having defeated the less effective (though not wholly ineffective) Nationalists. How did they do so? They enlisted the peasantry. Their ideology, combining supposed egalitarianism with the promise of an industrial future, was able to secure the military and political support of the endless millions of Chinese peasants, who had previously rebelled against the modernity that they saw only in pollution, inequality, and foreign domination.
The peasants suffered horribly for it, of course, but eventually they were dragged into the modern world. Mao and many of his policies had to be dispensed with in the reforms of 1978. But he had established the preconditions for the flowering of Chinese capitalism: he had brought 600 million people out of rural, superstitious, subsistence-farming isolation, and into an effective, literate, bureacratic modern state, which could now marshall them for the provision of their labour power onto the market. The scale on which the now ‘liberated’ and ‘participating’ masses could now be exploited, even thrown to their deaths, was the premature attempt at industrialisation, the ‘Great Leap Forward’ – the largest famine ever.
It’s my belief that this will stand as the great historical acheivement of Mao, and more broadly of Leninist-inspired state ‘socialism’: it was the necessary tool at a certain juncture by which capitalism could drag 1/6th of the world into its orbit.