Lubomir Ledl on the position of the Czech radical left concerning China and the Chinese Communist Party, with an introduction of Jiří Málek.
The Society for European Dialogue (SPED), in cooperation with the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation has organised on its Prague premises the international conference ‘China and Central Europe. Political, Economical and Geopolitical Consequences – Standpoint of the Left’. This conference, which took place in December 2018, focused on problematics of left-wing approaches to the realities of current geopolitical situation, as well as on the position of China towards Europe, and was attended by a number of experts in the field of Sino-European relations. It is a pleasure to me to present you the essential ideas presented at the conference, this time with the contribution of Lubomir Ledl, a deputy chairman of Czech Party of Democratic Socialism (CZ).
Jiří Málek, board member of transform! europe, SPED;
Contribution of Lubomir Ledl at the international conference ‘China and Central Europe, political, economic and geopolitical consequences – standpoint of the Left’
The relationship towards the People’s Republic of China and, consequently, towards its policies, as well as an assessment of the Communist Party of China is a source of persistent, long-standing disputes and disagreements in the ranks of the European’s left. I do not mean, of course, the controversies associated with the China’s legacy of Mao Ce Tun but rather a subsequent period of dramatic and extremely successful modernisation of post-Mao China, its opening to the world with predominantly positive consequences of this course.
A number of leftist parties and movements keep increasingly accusing Chinese Communist Party (CCP) of betrayal of the ideals of communism and submission to capitalism principles. They claim that under CCP’s leadership People’s Republic of China performs a set of imperial, and to a certain degree imperialist policies through the implementation of a national imperial capitalism model – a model that does not seem to be any better or softer than all other kind of imperialism. The CCP’s ruling circles – it is told – consist, at least partly, of multi-billionaires who made and multiplied their fortunes by squeezing blood and sweat from the working class in China and elsewhere.
I have to admit that Czech authentic radical Left to which our Party of Democratic Socialism (SDS) belongs together with Czech Communist Party (KSČM) and several other left-wing alternative organisations has a largely opposite view on this. This, in particular, was a reason why SDS has insisted (and succeeded) on inviting a CCP delegation as a guest to the 2nd Congress of the European Left that took place in Prague in 2007- an event that has been organised by SDS with a close cooperation and strong support of KSČM.
Comprehension for views that lay outside the traditional europa-centric paradigm
Let us try to provide a set of key arguments that would enable us to justify our positive and comprehending approach towards Chinese Communist Party and its policies:
We tend to believe that the European and Asian Communist movement have been historically evaluating from somewhat different backgrounds in terms of values and cultures. While European communist and workers’ parties, including Social-Democratic ones have emerged as the result of class conflict and subsequent labor movements, the Asian ones, including Chinese, have their roots primarily in anti-colonial struggle and national liberation processes. While Czechoslovak Social Democratic and consequently Communist Parties have their historic background similar to the one of other European communist parties, they have been at the same time particularly strongly affected by the patriotic and national-democratic element, especially in relation to the processes of Czech and Slovak national revival, the eternal resistance to Germanic expansion, and the anti-fascist struggle. Hence this may be one of a reasons for our somewhat more eager understanding of nation-oriented ideas comparing to values and approaches propagated by more “matured” European parties.
Czech Communist Party was probably the one with the most extensive experience of the bourgeois-democratic parliamentary activities in the region of Central and Eastern Europe. It possessed a large number of capable, experienced and educated personalities. In addition, unlike other parties in this region, most of these people have survived through the turbulences of the 30th and the first half of the 1940s (with the exception of the Communists who have fallen in battle with the Nazis). This availability of experienced personnel has enabled Czech Communist Party to apply communist theory into practice and to seek out her own, realistic approaches. These ideas, however, have almost always, with an exception for the concept of the People’s Front presented at the 7th Congress of the Comintern, fallen on deaf ears. Like, for example, the program of the Czechoslovak Way to Socialism presented at the IX Congress of the Communist Party or the program the XII Congress that attempted to develop the ideas of XX Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1960’s – the times when the political climate in the USSR has already changed. These attempts culminated in the events of 1968. And, finally, the last attempt of Husak Communist Party leadership in 1974 to return to economic reforms of 1960’ s upon completing the ‘normalisation’ of the political situation in the country.
In all these cases Czechoslovak communist have been told in more or less ‘friendly’ way that there was already a proven and the only correct model of socialism and hence there were no need to invent something different. Moreover, the attempts to do that were regarded as anything but not a devoted observance of the holy principles of communist movement. This is perhaps another factor why we are taking a rather skeptical approach to proponents of the-only-right-way who are pretending to possess a monopoly on truth.
Therefore, the efforts of the Chinese Communists to pursue their own path, obviously a successful one, find the support on the Czech left.
Paradoxically, China and its Communist Party score additional positive perception in the eyes of Czech left by the fact that China has become on the territory of the former Czechoslovakia and perhaps of the whole region both the object of systematic anti-Communist propaganda as well as often its instrument. Most of anti-Chinese campaigns and hysteria in CEE region do not target just China itself but are at the same time directed against the domestic left, especially communist, with a goal of affecting domestic public opinion. The organisers of these campaigns very often use hypocritical approach, lamenting, for example, about alleged human rights abuses in PRC while being not a bit interested in them. This often brings an opposite effect while Communists and their left-wing supporters have a tendency to defend the PRC even when no one requests them to do that or it is not appropriate.
Despite of all these quite expensive in terms of resources and efforts campaigns, China’s overall perception by the Czech society is rather positive, both due to the traditionally good relationship of Czechoslovaks to China and the popularity of Chinese history, cuisine, medicine, etc.
We tend to believe, however, that our Chinese friends should not take this positive background for granted but rather take a more pro-active and effective approach in the CEE region in cooperation both with left as well as with the other parts of political spectrum. I would definitely recommend to perform more public activities combined with an intensified cooperation with left-wing political structures and parties; more systematical work with the Party of European Left, whatever internally divided it seems to appear. To put it another way – not to rely completely on cooperation with the ones who seems to be of higher importance or more influential.
Perhaps the most important reason of our positive perception of the role of the PRC and the Communist Party of China is our belief that China through all its spectacular achievements, its non-aggressive, non-confrontational policy and the methods by which it promotes its interests increases a hope that our world will avert a big war.
This conference contribution was published by the Czech leftist newspaper Halo Noviny (31.12.2018);