Roland Lew: L’intellectuel, l’Etat et la révolution

From the very outset, Roland Lew, author of L’Intellectuel,
l’Etat et la Révolution, warns us that « true socialism is dying.
It survives in China, which, granted, represents nearly one quarter of humanity,
but this survival is more apparent than real.”

Having made this statement, he goes on to try to analyse
and understand the social and political significance of this authentic Chinese-style
socialism. He does this in a series of dense and well-documented essays, written
over a period of time, which accounts for a perceptible evolution in his thinking.
Thus, when he discusses the subject of China’s entry into the modern world
at the beginning of the century, he at first minimises the influence of anarchism,
a movement which was, after all, the first to confront head on the old Confucian
order, that foundation of despotism within the family and the state, by waving
the banner of equality, the only thing capable of liberating every individual.
But at the end of the day, he revises his position and recognises that anarchism
was, “until the beginning of the 1920s, the fertile soil from which later
radical movements emerged.” (1)

For Lew, the principal outcome of these radical movements
was the creation, in 1921, of the Communist Party, still glowing from the 1917
success of the Bolshevik revolution. But how could the revolution be carried out
according to a Marxist plan in a country like China, with its Lilliputian working
class drowned in an ocean of peasants? After the attempts at urban insurrection
in Canton and Shanghai, carried out according to Stalin’s and the Komintern’s
directives, ended in failure in 1927, amidst much bloodshed, it was necessary
to find another source of strength on which to rely in order to accede to power.
And it was Mao Zedong (2), then in the minority in his party, who would find the
necessary source of strength in this very peasant class, a group rooted in the
past, it is true, but representing a “malleable” mass of people who,
guided by the party, would allow it to bring its social project to fruition.

Next, the Japanese invasion (3) would help to mobilise
this peasant class by embellishing the party discourse with a nationalistic gloss:
“the defence of the homeland.” China would be considered a people and
a class. National liberation would thus have greater importance than social liberation,
and the peasant class would simply be an instrument of social upheaval, not an
active and conscious actor. This privilege would be reserved for the party-State,
whose cadres, especially the intellectuals who had left their critical judgement
behind and transformed themselves into disciplined militants (4), would be entrusted
with setting up this project to modernise urban industrialisation, a project meant
to represent “real socialism in action.” But the first reforms and initial
economic success could not for long hide the reality of a party that was independent
of the “masses” and would, through a series of substitutions, lead to
the total dictatorship of Mao Zedong. What had happened to the dream of social
emancipation? Deng Xiaoping, in turn, would “change everything in order to
change nothing”. The important thing, whatever evolution or change might
occur, was that the Communist Party should stay in power and remain in control
of the country.

The author concludes thus: “The appointment with social
auto-emancipation failed to take place. “How much longer will it be?”

Translated from French original by Dianna Martin

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