Essay China

Essay China

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Alone I stand in the autumn cold
On the tip of Orange Island,
The Xiang flowing northward;
I see a thousand hills crimsoned through
By their serried woods deep-dyed,
And a hundred barges vying
Over crystal blue waters.
Eagles cleave the air,
Fish glide under the shallow water;
Under freezing skies a million creatures contend in freedom.
Brooding over this immensity,
I ask, on this bondless land
Who rules over man's destiny?

-----Mao Zedong (1925)

The 1949 Chinese Revolution was a transformative, epochal event, not only for the Chinese but for the rest of humanity, as well. If the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia (that resulted in the creation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or Soviet Union) inaugurated an international competition for the hearts and minds of people all over the globe, the Chinese revolution raised the stakes of that struggle. The popular media, academics, political leaders and others in the "West" produced an understanding of this struggle as between "capitalism" and "communism," although these terms were rarely defined in more than loose and unusually flexible terms, and in spite of the fact that the Chinese revolution was shaped by domestic struggles with a long history within China, much more so than by global struggles between two super-systems.

Nevertheless, the intensity of the perceived global struggle between super-systems was shaped, in part, by the fact that communist ideology, as represented by certain statements of Vladimir Lenin, the central intellectual and political figure of the Bolshevik Revolution, was understood as grounded upon an idea of worldwide revolution --- all nations would, according to the logic (teleology) of this (orthodox) version of Marxism, ultimately succumb to communism. (The Soviet leadership expressly supported the idea of "worldwide revolution" and took steps to help achieve this objective, including organization and leadership of the Communist International or Comintern, although C.L.R. James, among others, argued that Stalin's political machinations sabotaged international solidarity within the communist movement.) The threat to "spread the revolution" created, at the least, the illusion of a mortal conflict (mortal from the standpoint of the elites who stood to lose if the resolution went against them). In other words, this idea of worldwide revolution and the efforts by Soviet lea...


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...s) must be a thing of the past only. In other words, there are a large variety of social conditions that may foster ancientism, just as there are a large variety of social conditions that may foster capitalism or feudalism or slavery and the temporal dimension is in no way a restriction on the potential existence of some variant form of these social formations (or the underlying class processes). I'm not saying "stuff happens" as if it is in some way random, but that there are multiple paths to any type of social formation based on the known five fundamental class processes (ancientism, communism, capitalism, feudalism, and slavery). This is an attempt to get us to stop thinking of the world in non-thinking ways: such as separating human social evolution into an ancient world and a modern world and therefore missing certain fundamental similarities, as well as unexpected differences. We need to do the analysis. I guess that is the theme of these lectures/essays. In other words, in addition to trying to understand China, I want us to do so with an aggressive use of the conceptual framework and, as much as possible, to avoid prejudging prior to the theoretical work having been done.

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