This May, the international department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) hosted delegates from 70 communist parties in 50 countries at a conference marking the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx.
Held under the theme ‘The Historical Contribution of Karl Marx and the Contemporary Significance of Marxism’, it was the biggest such gathering organised in China for several decades, highlighting the more prominent role being assumed in the international communist movement by the CPC.
CPC general secretary and Chinese president Comrade Xi Jinping sent greetings to the conference, with the opening session also being addressed by leaders of the communist parties of Vietnam, Cuba, Russia, South Africa and the Czech Republic.
Our party (the CPGB-ML) was honoured to accept an invitation to attend and speak, as well as to be taken by our hosts on tours of Shenzhen (a major city near Hong Kong in southern China and venue for the conference), the capital city Beijing, and the eastern province of Anhui. We also had friendly and informative meetings with the head of international relations of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions and with the CPC’s international department.
Delegates were shown the incredible pace and scale of development in Shenzhen, and the CPC’s approach to encouraging innovation and towards private enterprise. The party centre in Shenzhen, for example, offers advice and office space to entrepreneurs and is part of a drive to ensure the party has more of a presence in all substantial businesses – and, indeed, in all areas of Chinese life.
Development in Shenzhen is focused on improving the quality of life for its citizens, ensuring that no home is more than a few hundred metres from necessary amenities such as schools, doctors, shops, transport and parks. Public transport is all electric, there are wide and comprehensive cycle lanes, and plenty of greenery throughout the city – an environmentally-friendly policy that is now being implemented across the whole of the country.
The campaign to eliminate extreme poverty has been hugely successful, and the CPC has pledged that the remaining 30 million impoverished rural Chinese citizens will be lifted out of poverty by 2021.
After touring Shenzhen, delegates were able to contribute their presentations in three workshops, joined by some 60 delegates from the CPC, as well as from various universities, journals and newspapers.
Our party’s speech at this conference is reproduced below.
Speech to the Karl Marx bicentennial conference
Comrades, thank you for inviting us to visit China on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx, and to join you in this conference. It is incredible to see what China, a country once destitute under the heel of imperialism, has been able to achieve for her people under the banner of socialism and the leadership of the Communist Party of China.
Comrades and friends from the international communist movement, it is an honour to speak to you on behalf of the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist).
We celebrate Marx not just because he was a brilliant thinker and tireless organiser on behalf of the working class, but also because his ideas signalled the beginning of a new era for humanity – that of the proletarian revolution and of communism.
Marx’s critique of capitalist economics is more or less acceptable to social democrats, anarchists, Trotskyites and various strands of the petty-bourgeois intelligentsia; however, his critique of the capitalist state and his understanding of what must replace it have been rejected or – more commonly – swept under the carpet.
From his experiences in the German revolution of the 1840s to the events of the Paris Commune in 1871, Marx solidified his ideas about the dictatorship of the proletariat – the path by which the working class will take control of its destiny and build socialism.
Lenin and the Bolshevik party developed the organisational strategies of a vanguard party capable of leading the working class to the overthrow of the capitalist order and the establishment of a proletarian state. China, Cuba, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and many other countries followed suit.
Lenin characterised the dictatorship of the proletariat as: “a most determined and most ruthless war waged by the new class against a more powerful enemy, the bourgeoisie, whose resistance is increased tenfold by its overthrow (even if only in one country), and whose power lies not only in the strength of international capital, in the strength and durability of the international connections of the bourgeoisie, but also in the force of habit, in the strength of small production.
“For, unfortunately, small production is still very, very widespread in the world, and small production engenders capitalism and the bourgeoisie continuously, daily, hourly, spontaneously, and on a mass scale. For all these reasons the dictatorship of the proletariat is essential, and victory over the bourgeoisie is impossible without a long, stubborn and desperate war of life and death, a war demanding perseverance, discipline, firmness, indomitableness and unity of will.” (‘Left-Wing’ Communism, an Infantile Disorder, 1921)
Elsewhere, he explained: “In the transition, the class struggle grows more intense. The transition from capitalism to communism represents an entire historical epoch. Until this epoch has terminated, the exploiters will inevitably cherish the hope of restoration, and this hope will be converted into attempts at restoration. And after their first serious defeat, the overthrown exploiters … will throw themselves with tenfold energy, with furious passion and hatred grown a hundredfold, into the battle for the recovery of their ‘lost’ paradise.” (The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky, 1918)
Not only did the socialist states founded in the 20th century develop and provide a standard of living that their workers would not have dared dream of before their revolutions, but they also swung the balance of class struggle across the world in the favour of national-liberation struggles and of the whole struggle of the working class.
Today, we are faced with the worst crisis of capitalist overproduction the world has ever experienced. We know there is no recovery, under capitalism, from the crisis the imperialist countries are now facing, other than war.
Since the triumph of revisionism in the USSR, and especially since the USSR’s collapse, opportunism has tended to hamstring the communist movement by tying it hand and foot to social democracy. Class collaboration has enabled the bourgeoisie to maintain its moribund rule over much of the world.
However, despite the setbacks caused by the relentless assault from the imperialists on all fronts, and by revisionism and opportunism within the working-class movement, our socialist history and the existing socialist nations proudly represent Marxism as a living, breathing science, and the only viable future for humanity.
Let us redouble our efforts to take this science to the working class in our respective nations by whatever means possible. First, we must urgently counter the growing threat of war with proletarian internationalism and class solidarity, and second, inseparably from the first task, we must build class consciousness among all sections of the working class wherever there is struggle and contradiction, recruiting the advanced workers to vanguard organisations capable of overthrowing the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.