Issue 8 of Socialist News contained an article by Don Hoskins about the hand over of Hong Kong to China, entitled A "loss" we can only welcome. The article described this event in terms of it representing a great victory for world socialism and a serious blow to world capitalism.
Comrade Hoskins also argued that the crushing of the 1989 Tiananmen Square student/worker uprising was a necessary defence of socialism and indeed the comrade went so far as to claim that the Chinese democracy movement was the instigator of the most brutal violence against the Chinese state. Everyone with eyes to see, however, knows that the exact opposite was the case.
This article also flies in the face of reality by describing China as a last bastion of socialism. The Chinese leadership has always been an anti-working class Stalinist leadership. Although capitalism has been smashed in China, the country has always had a regime which denied direct political power to working people. A revolution to remove this bureaucratic layer while maintaining and extending the collectivised property relations is necessary for the working class to move forward. In fact, over the last decade we have seen the Chinese leadership begin a series of reforms which are opening China up to direct capitalist exploitation and bringing untold misery to the workers and peasants who comrade Hoskins, as a socialist, should be primarily concerned about.
The comrade would do well to think carefully about the meaning of the plaudits given to Deng Xiaoping, at the time of his death, by arch reactionaries such as Margaret Thatcher. It is now common coin among many imperialist leaders that they got it wrong in 1989. They openly say that it was necessary for the Chinese government to intervene to stop what was initially a student movement but which was dangerously beginning to tap into the anger of the Chinese working class against the capitalist reforms devastating their lives. In fact, the Chinese government decided to move against the protesters at the time when the working-class started to support the students through strikes and participation in the rallies.
Both the Stalinist leadership and the Western capitalists fear the workers more than anything. The former is opposed to working-class power because a democratic workers state would sweep those bureaucrats aside, while the latter knows that the current Stalinist bureaucracy is much more likely than direct workers rule to safeguard their profits in Hong Kong, the Special Economic Zones in the South and elsewhere, and perhaps even facilitate the restoration of capitalism throughout the state.
Allowing the capitalists to set up sweat shops all over China is a serious step backward. It brings back an increase in fatal industrial accidents, unemployment and despair. Hoskins, however, considers this an (unfortunate) part of a good trick(!) in which the Chinese Stalinists are out-trading capitalism by its own methods for Socialist ends. Since the comrade is so enthusiastic about this project we would recommend to him that he gets some first-hand experience of what it is like to work 12-hour shifts with virtually no break seven days a week, living in company barracks, having no sick pay and being subject to abuse of all sorts from the bosses.
We would also point the comrade towards the decision on 29 October of this year by the Beijing-backed provisional legislature in Hong Kong to overturn a set of labour laws passed by the former chamber at the end of June. This scrapping of the labour laws, which included support for collective bargaining and protection against anti-union discrimination, came following criticism by business groups, which argued that the laws would make Hong Kong less competitive. It is clear that it is business as usual for capital in Hong Kong the working class is no closer to liberation from exploitation and oppression than before the hand over.
There are a number of SLP branches and individuals around the country who refused to sell issue 8 of Socialist News. We sympathise with the impulse this represents. Comrade Hoskins position represents a minority of the SLP membership and reflects Stalinist politics that are fundamentally alien to socialism and need to be politically crushed if the SLP is to become a vehicle for socialist revolution.
However, we do not advocate this approach. We argue for more expression of differing political views, not suppression of them. It is good to see that the following issue of Socialist News contained two articles presenting two other perspectives on China. However, the initial presentation of Hoskins article gave it the appearance of a line article and in that sense the damage has been done.
By all means let Stalinists in the party bring their anti-working class politics into the open, but this must be within a framework which allows for the refuting of their ideas, rather than risking the misunderstanding that they represent the majority of party members. In a full debate on this and others subjects we are confident they would be politically defeated.