On 23 July 2021, the Young Communist League of Britain released the following statement:
Today marks the 100th anniversary on the foundation of our sister Party, the Communist Party of China. From humble beginnings in 1921, with just 12 comrades attending the Party’s foundation Congress in Shanghai, the Chinese Communist Party now stands over 95 million strong and growing in 2021. Over the last century, the Chinese people and their Party have transformed a divided, semi-feudal, semi-colonial land into a modern, prosperous, democratic society—lifting well over 800 million people out of poverty in the process.
China’s peaceful model of cooperation and common development stands in stark contrast to the aggressive, exploitative domination of imperialist countries like Britain and the USA. China has been a leading force for peace in our time, opposing US and NATO interventions across the world. Working people in Britain have nothing to gain from the New Cold War being waged by Britain and the USA against China. Rather than falling for, often racist, propaganda, working people of both countries must work together to win peace and create close links for development, study, and cultural exchange. Solidarity and congratulations to the people of China and their Communist Party on its Centenary!
To many around the world, the Communist Party of China represents hope for a better future. China’s peaceful rise from a nation beset by the three mountains of feudalism, imperialism, and bureaucratic capitalism to the second largest economic power in the world, independent and strong, with colossal improvements to living standards by almost every measure, has served as an inspiration to millions, and particularly those in developing nations. Now, under the leadership of General Secretary Xi Jinping, socialism with Chinese characteristics in the People’s Republic has entered a new era, but what does this “new era” look like?
Firstly, it is a new era of world-pioneering successes and milestones, both at home and internationally. Domestically, China has demonstrated that its socialist model is capable of lifting over 800 million people out of poverty, of raising life expectancy by over 40 years, and of providing high levels of employment, housing, health, and education that are unmatched by even some of the wealthiest capitalist nations in the West. Internationally, China has also demonstrated that a society’s productive forces can be developed without funding them through colonialism, empire, and war, and a monumental example of this has been its Belt and Road Initiative which has been establishing development and infrastructure projects in nearly 150 countries around the world.
These achievements could not stand in greater contrast to the situation in my own country, Britain, in which capitalist greed and neoliberal austerity policies have decimated our education and health services, exacerbated social instability, inequality, and conflict, and plunged over 500,000 children into poverty in the last 5 years alone. Internationally, too, our government continues to pull us into the US sphere of influence, deliberately sending warships into Chinese waters, launching propaganda offensives to undermine China’s leadership on human rights, and attacking Chinese popular sovereignty over Taiwan and Hong Kong. Is this in the interests of world peace and solidarity? Does this help ordinary, working-class people in the grips of a cost-of-living crisis, that are struggling to pay their bills and their rent, and to put food on the table for their families? Within this context, it is clear where the priorities of the British capitalist class really lie.
Secondly, the new era represents one of global risks and challenges. Most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated international growth and ruined the lives and livelihoods of millions globally. Britain’s unwillingness or inability to coordinate effective lockdowns and roll out vaccines and medical supplies efficiently has resulted in one of the highest death rates in the world, second only to the United States. This disaster has exposed the dangers of hollowing out our National Health Service for profit, and of the high levels of public distrust in our government. Despite this, our politicians haven’t faced retribution for their crimes, yet in China, many politicians have been removed from office for demonstrating anything other than the greatest care and proficiency in responding to the pandemic. Indeed, China’s COVID response has shown a “people-first” approach which should be expected of all governments, but instead of holding China up as a success story, more and more attacks have been levied against them by my country on the unfounded basis of restrictions to personal freedoms.
Climate change is another global challenge which requires a combination of large-scale state coordination, economic transformation, and mass mobilisation across the whole of society, all of which capitalist governments have proven to be structurally incapable of providing. Instead, private interests continue to be permitted to exploit our energy, public transport, and other sectors for profit rather than rational use. This has slowed our transition to a green economy considerably, and makes it increasingly unlikely that we will meet what are already profoundly unambitious carbon reduction targets in time. By comparison, China’s aspiration to establish an “ecological civilisation” on socialist principles has made it a world leader in reforestation efforts, environmental technologies, and electric vehicles. The CPC has also established one of the most ambitious carbon reduction targets in the world, going from peak emissions to carbon neutrality in just 30 years. Unlike other governments, the CPC’s record on poverty alleviation as well as other areas has shown that it will likely not only meet this target, but may even meet it early. It is difficult to look at China’s achievements and the competency of its government without a touch of jealousy.
The most rational response to these risks and challenges would be to cooperate with China and tackle them together. Unfortunately, this is also a new era of sharpened contradictions between capitalist and socialist states, most exemplified by a worsening relationship between the two global superpowers: China and the US. China continues to make the call for win-win cooperation and non-intervention in the internal affairs of other nations, yet the US and its allies have increasingly shown themselves to be unwilling to accept these terms, instead choosing to recklessly and dangerously bang the drums for a “New Cold War” between heavily armed nuclear powers. Old questions are therefore reasserting themselves around how realistic it is for capitalist and socialist nations to peacefully co-exist, and it remains to be seen how the socialist bloc should respond.
So, what is the role of young people in the new era? How do we face capitalist hegemony at home while navigating an increasingly polarised world abroad? Firstly, we must all redouble our efforts to foster the spirit of mutual understanding and respect, to combat misinformation in the bourgeois media, and to engage in ideological struggle. Britain’s Young Communists must carry out our study and work to rebuild our movement, improve the conditions of our class, and guide them towards a Marxist-Leninist programme. Young people, especially, have a historic role to play in this struggle. In Britain, more and more of us are defining ourselves as anti-capitalist and socialist, recognising the incompatibility between the relentless pursuit of private profits and a safe, just, and peaceful world led by working-class interests and in harmony with its environment. This has manifested in initial attempts to organise against the British ruling class, either through political parties, trade and tenant unions, or grassroots organisations campaigning on a wide variety of working-class issues. One of the greatest concerns among young people in Britain today is the threat of climate change, and indeed it was heartening to see so many young people join the COP26 protest march in Glasgow last year.
These developments should be celebrated, but many young people in Britain are still being led down incorrect paths towards socialism and communism due to the pervasiveness of anarchist, Trotskyist, and electoral reformist ideologies. At COP26, the YCL proudly marched behind a banner reading “Socialism or Extinction.” Either we transition to a new, socialist mode of production that aligns with the limits set by our natural environment, or we lose our shared home and even our lives as a species. As Marxist-Leninists, we have a clear and proven path to achieving this: revolution led by a Marxist-Leninist party of the working class, and we must fight back against those other ideologies that serve to distract or disempower us from reaching this goal. I believe that China’s survival following the dissolution of the USSR and its monumental achievements as it marched proudly into the 21st Century currently represent the single biggest threat to the legitimacy of these false ideologies. After all, if China is indeed a socialist nation moving towards communism, the same as Cuba, Vietnam, and more, then it stands to reason that Marxism-Leninism does in fact represent the blueprint to working class liberation, not only in China, but throughout the whole world. Because of this, other “leftist” groups and individuals are inherently opposed to the rise of China, leading them to either consciously or unconsciously align themselves with US imperialism and the international bourgeoisie. Indeed, it was my own experience studying Chinese, including spending a year at Dalian University of Technology and living with a Communist Party family, that helped me recognise that my own country’s portrayal of China was a lie, and that socialism did indeed represent a better system for humanity. This was the push I needed to finally join a communist organisation.
As young communists in the imperial core, the birthplace of capitalism, it is our primary duty to organise and strengthen the working class of our country to face down the threat of our ruling classes here at home, not only for ourselves, but for the whole world. As Comrade Mao Zedong wrote: “Leninism teaches that the world revolution can only succeed if the proletariat of the capitalist countries supports the struggle for liberation of the colonial and semi-colonial peoples and if the proletariat of the colonies and semi-colonies supports that of the proletariat of all the capitalist countries.” This is the spirit of internationalism and communism. This solidarity must also be extended between the proletariat of socialist and capitalist nations, allowing us to learn from each other and fight with each other, and to forge iron links and friendships between our movements.
In Britain, we must encourage more people to study and understand China, and to visit it if possible. We must strengthen our propaganda to shine a light on the true face of China and the CPC, and build cooperation with communist and working-class organisations in China and throughout the whole world. I hope that the Young Communist League’s participation in China’s World Youth Development Forum will be just one example among many of our ambitions for international solidarity. I would also encourage the young communists of China and the world that visit other countries for study or for work to get in contact with their local communist youth organisation. We have a lot to learn from each other, and we’re much stronger together. Here in Britain, the Young Communist League would certainly be proud to have your support.
Eben Williams, is the YCL’s Glasgow Chair