China FAQ 常见中国问题解答系列 – Is China a capitalist country? 中国是资本主义国家吗?

This long read taken from the informative Chaung blog is a series in which the important FAQ is China a capitalist country is analysed.

 

For the second and third in our series of short communist responses to common questions about China, we split one common question into two. We are often asked: “Is China a capitalist or a socialist country?” This is possibly the most common and most complicated of the frequently asked questions about China, so we’ll cheat a little bit here and provide a longer answer by splitting it into its two component questions. First, addressed here, is the question: “Is China a capitalist country?” Then, in a forthcoming post, we will address the question: “Is China a socialist country?” In contrast with the first post in the FAQ series, which consisted entirely of responses from our Chinese members and friends, this and subsequent entries incorporate such individual responses into articles collectively authored by both our Chinese and our international members.

As always, we encourage readers to reformat these answers for use across platforms. If you’ve designed pamphlets or infographics using these materials, please send them to us (e-mail: chuangcn@riseup.net) so that we can archive them here and repost on social media! 

Money

China is capitalist. It is capitalist both because it is fully integrated in the global capitalist system and because capitalist imperatives have penetrated all the way down to everyday life. The population in China, as elsewhere, depends on the market for survival, either directly or indirectly. In other words: you need money to survive. Since money is the lifeblood of capitalist production (in technical terms, we say that it is the necessary form of appearance of value), this dependence on money for survival is the clearest signal that a population has been incorporated into global capitalism.

But part of the problem you run into with this question is that the basic definitions are often unclear. So, let’s backtrack a bit and start with the fundamentals: Capitalism is a form of society that obscures its own social character, treating relationships between people as purely economic relationships between different things that are bought and sold. In other words, it is a society that pretends not to be a society. At the heart of this system is the requirement of infinite growth. It has always been an international system and it has always needed to both expand its geographic boundaries and to incorporate more and more aspects of human social interaction into the market. Within this society, the survival and prosperity of every individual is fused to the survival of “the economy.” Money is the expression of all this: it is how we calculate “growth,” it is the way that relationships between people are reduced to market transactions, and it is our everyday measurement of how well we can live or if we can afford to live at all.   

For most people in China, as elsewhere, the money they need to survive takes the form of wages paid for work. It doesn’t matter if these wages are disguised as “sales” (i.e. for street vendors), “donations” (i.e. for livestreamers) or as some sort of “bonus” or “social insurance payment” (common names for additional wages earned by industrial workers in China). These people are forced to depend on wage income because they have no collective control over production itself, and production is the source of the goods they need to survive and live a full life. Even when unemployed, people in this group (called the proletariat) still need money to survive, so they end up depending on others’ wages (i.e. borrowing from family), going into debt (i.e. depending on loans from the wealthy) or subsisting on meager unemployment or pension payments from the state, which are just second-hand wages (or second-hand profits) since welfare funds are paid for by taxes, including an income tax.

Government of the Rich

For a small share of the global population, the money they use to survive is obtained from profits, which are returns on money invested in some sort of business. This doesn’t just mean casual investment of spare cash. To receive enough to survive on, you must already have a large sum of money to invest. In other words: you have to be rich. In China, this latter group (called the bourgeoisie or simply the capitalist class) is split into two important sub-categories: those “inside the system” (体制内) and those “outside the system” (体制外). In both cases, the “system” is the party-state, which is an organization of the Chinese members of the global capitalist class.

In the party-state, capitalists hold all major decision-making power. At first glance, this might seem different than the “democratic” governments of other countries, even if we recognize that these democracies are, in fact, oligarchies where the rich exert indirect control through political middlemen. But direct rule by the rich is almost universal for countries in the first stages of capitalist development—at least for those that have successfully triggered periods of rapid growth. The first countries called “state capitalist” or even “state socialist” (in the late 19th century) were places like imperial Germany and Japan, where the wealthy had more or less direct control of the state and used it to implement wide-ranging developmental projects and forms of social welfare, often in an effort to undercut opposition from below. This included outright state ownership of key industries, such as railways, as well as the emergence of enormous monopolies that were thoroughly integrated with the state—in some cases even tasked with printing the official currency and running the national bank. Similarly, rapid development in places like South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore in the later 20th century took place under one-party dictatorships that implemented state-led economic plans.

Even the classic cases of capitalist development in “democratic” countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States took place in eras where the political system was entirely populated by the wealthy, whether landed aristocrats in England or the early industrialists and slaveowner plantation elite in the US. These were “democracies” in which the vast majority of the population (women, slaves and men without property) could neither vote nor stand for office. In other words, they were effectively also “party-states” in their own way, even if different factions of the wealthy organized into competing “parties.” In all cases, the state is the government of the wealthy.

China today follows in the same footsteps, but in conditions of even more intense global competition. So it is not surprising that the union between Chinese capitalists and state power is similarly intense. In the Chinese party-state, all upper-level positions (roughly county level and above) are staffed by guanliao (官僚), a term often translated simply as “bureaucrats,” but which actually designates only these higher-level government posts—almost universally held by wealthy individuals who, in any other country, would clearly be seen as capitalists. The guanliao form the official core of the group of capitalists who are “inside the system.” But almost all major capitalists in the country can also be categorized as lying “inside the system,” including those who hold no official bureaucratic post but are nonetheless party members, such as Jack Ma. Similarly, all major companies, including “private” ones, have party members placed in upper management.

One objection that might be raised is that the party can’t be called a capitalist organization, when most party members and most lower-level civil servants (called gongwuyuan – 公务员) are not themselves capitalists. But this is true everywhere. As in any country, the bulk of membership in political parties and state bureaucracies will always be drawn from the proletariat, who are the majority of the population. However, the fact that most registered Democrats and/or state employees in the US are workers hardly makes the Democratic Party a “workers party” helming a “workers’ state.” Just like the Democrats and Republicans, the Chinese Communist Party and the party-state it helms are ruling class institutions, adapted to settle disputes between major capitalists and help keep the economy running smoothly, which mostly means keeping growth rates up, keeping inflation down and suppressing any unrest. Those “inside the system” have privileged access to the resources controlled by other capitalists inside the same system and have some influence in the collective decisions made by the party.

Nor is this a system on the decline. The exact opposite is true, as the past two decades have seen an active attempt to recruit more and more capitalists into the party, visible in the 2002 reform of the party constitution that enabled “entrepreneurs” to join (and gave after-the-fact endorsement to the many party members who had already used their positions to become capitalists in the 1980s and 1990s). Similarly, the wealthy who refused to submit to the leadership of the more powerful capitalists in control of the party or who pursued their own interests in a way that threatened to produce instability for everyone else were targeted in various “anti-corruption” campaigns, often resulting in their imprisonment and execution. The result is that, today, those “outside the system” are mostly smaller capitalists who have not (yet) joined the party, or oppositional larger capitalists who have refused to do so—often because they are able to have one foot in China and one foot overseas.

This is important, however, because it is a reminder that capitalism is global, meaning that the capitalist class is also global. Capitalists in China are only one fraction of this class. Even if they’re able to solve some of their own internal conflicts through the party apparatus—and even this ability is unlikely to last forever—they still face harsh competition from capitalists elsewhere. This competition is often expressed as “geopolitical” conflict or as a “trade war.” In a simpler way, it is already evident in the very existence of multiple, competing nation-states, each overseeing a “national economy,” often riven by its own internal divides between capitalists. At root, though, these are all battles between competing groups within a single ruling class.

State and Nation

Most of the confusion about whether or not China is a capitalist country is to be found in two related errors: the first is the incorrect assumption that individual countries somehow choose economic systems which are then largely confined to those countries, making it possible to speak of “socialist” countries, “capitalist” countries and any number of possible variations; the second is the assumption, already mentioned above, that “the state” and “the market” are two fundamentally separate institutions, and that capitalism is defined by the dominance of the market, whereas “socialism” is defined by the dominance of the state.

Both errors are rooted in a misunderstanding of what the “state” is. In the first error, it is assumed that the nation-state is a natural or inevitable form of human community and that the economy is subordinate to it. It’s easy to imagine, then, that people in a given territory, so long as they agreed, could just reorganize their economy to their liking. They could, for instance, choose some sort of Northern European-style social democracy with free healthcare and lots of investment in education, infrastructure and renewable energy. In this way of thinking, it is only greedy, stupid, or confused people who prevent this from happening.

In imagining the country as a community, though, real conflicts of interest are ignored. What if “bad” people are not what is preventing the “good” choices from being made? What if, instead, many of the bad things in society actually benefit those in control of society? In reality, it’s actually worse than this: the bad things are made necessary for everyone because they’re necessary for “the health of the economy” on which we are all forced to depend. If inflation gets too extreme it means your wage buys less. If growth slows it means it’s harder to find or keep a job. We are all chained to the economy. In wealthy countries these chains are looser. More concessions are always possible. If you’re at the very top of the system, you might even feel as if you aren’t chained to it at all. But as soon as it begins to slide down a cliff, those chains become an undeniable reality. If it sinks, we sink with it.

But the poor sink first. That’s why, as soon as an economic crisis breaks out, the state is mobilized to “restore the health of the economy” by bailing out the rich. Those at the bottom might get some support, but it will always be a fraction of what the wealthy receive. Since the wealthy are the ones in control of production, “rescuing” the economy means that their interests will be prioritized because they have cultivated a situation in which all of our interests are dependent on theirs. This is a clear demonstration that the country is not a “community” of shared interests. It is one territory in a global capitalist system. That territory is mostly owned and controlled by the rich. It is not your country, and it never has been. It is theirs.

The state is the expression of this ownership (but that’s not the same as just saying that the rich “own” or “control” the state). More specifically we can say that, since capitalist society pretends that it is not a society, its unity appears to us as an expanse of separations.[i] The apparent separation of the “political” from the “economic” is what produces the nation-state as we know it today, which is the specifically political form taken by capitalist social relationships. In simple, functional terms, we can think of the state as the way that certain capitalists in certain places negotiate their disputes, forge temporary allegiances against competition from capitalists elsewhere, coordinate to repress uprisings of the poor and attempt to save the economy from its own extremes. In a broader sense, it is also the way that relationships between people appear to be “naturally” regulated by things like lawmaking and citizenship. In an even broader sense, this results in the idea of the “nation” as the “natural” form of human community. But the nation-state did not preexist capitalist society. It evolved within that society because it served a function for it. This isn’t conspiratorial—it’s not a bunch of rich people getting together and scheming about the best ways to trick people—it is instead adaptive, in the evolutionary sense, where features helpful for certain purposes become more important over time and those that serve no function slowly wither away. 

Since we are all chained to the economy, we are also chained to the capitalists in control of the economy in the places that we live. This means that there is a real interdependence that lies beneath the myth of the nation-state, since the failure of one territory’s capitalists also means that regular people suffer. This is what is being talked about whenever there is a debate about how to “create jobs” in an area. It’s also why developmental programs led by capitalists in a certain country do, in fact, lift many people in those countries out of abject poverty, even if they do so unevenly. In recent decades, China has repeated the sort of “economic miracle” seen in many other capitalist countries in the past, often using similar methods: the construction of public utilities, national road and rail systems, the (sometimes forced) relocation of the poorest ruralites and the extension of basic education and healthcare.

But this interdependence doesn’t really take the form of a universally shared “national” interest. Instead, it is a complex chain of shifting and competing dependencies, inset within a global hierarchy of social power. On the one hand, it is always inherently international. This is visible in the simple fact that the success of so many factories in China (and therefore the prospects of China’s own capitalists) depends on both investment and consumption demand from wealthier countries. Similarly, capitalists in these wealthy countries benefit from this relationship both in the direct sense of deriving profits from this production, and in an indirect way, since a steady supply of cheap consumer goods for workers in rich countries helps to mute unrest by creating a credit-fueled veneer of prosperity.

On the other hand, these dependencies are also often sub-national, in the sense that certain regions in a country often benefit far more than others. This means that interests can diverge within individual countries as well, since the success of rich coastal cities might not spill over into the poor landlocked regions in the interior, even if these poor areas still benefit in a distant way from the fact that they lie within a “wealthy” country. Similarly, the success of a country’s capitalists is enabled by the exploitation of workers in their own country just as much as workers elsewhere. The accumulation of vast wealth by Chinese capitalists was obviously enabled by the exploitation of Chinese workers, even if plenty of this wealth also got distributed to multinational corporations headquartered in Japan, South Korea, Europe and the US. Even though the workers do ultimately get back some share of this enlarged social wealth, it is only a small fraction of the total. More importantly, they have no control over society’s productive power despite being necessary to production.

One Big Company?

Before concluding, it will be helpful to approach the question one final time from a slightly different angle. Above, we emphasize the lived reality of dependence on money for survival and give some explanation of the way that the capitalist class is structured in China. This explanation is something of an oversimplification, though, because capitalism can actually make use of many different types of labor deployment (some of which, like slavery, might not force people into dependence on a money “wage”) and many different forms of organization among the ruling class (sometimes, for example, a class of non-capitalist or semi-capitalist landed elites is equally important to government). In order to illustrate the flexibility of capitalist production when it comes to questions of government, let’s use simple thought experiment:

Often, China is spoken of as if the government was in complete control of production and the population were brainwashed into obedience. This is absolutely not true in any sense and myths like this have a long, racist history stretching from the “Yellow Peril” narratives of the 19th century through to similarly orientalist portrayals of the country in today’s media. But we can take this extreme distortion of the facts to make a point about the nature of capitalism. Let’s re-imagine the question in these terms: what if China were, in fact, organized as a single large monopoly corporation? What if the state really was in control of all the productive forces? What if these forces weren’t even organized into individual “enterprises” that competed with one another for profit, but had their activity planned by a central planning agency? Again: none of this is true! But let’s imagine. Certainly, you might think, it would no longer be correct to say that China is capitalist, if this were the case.

However, even this non-existent “China Inc.” scenario changes very little. This hypothetical nation-wide monopoly, within which every Chinese citizen would be an employee, would still be a capitalist firm. That’s because, at the end of the day, it would still be competing with other firms on the global market. Its survival would remain dependent on the survival of capitalism as a global system.

Think about it for a moment: there already are large capitalist monopolies—fully “private” companies like Amazon and Walmart—that command quantities of resources and populations of workers comparable to small countries. Inside these companies, there are no markets guiding transactions. Resources are moved between departments according to large-scale plans formulated in corporate headquarters distant from the actual worksites.

But these are hardly “socialist” institutions. Ultimately, their internal plans are geared toward growth, which can only be guaranteed if the company successfully competes against others in the global market. In other words: they’re just forms of corporate accounting. And extensions of corporate accounting to more spheres of the economy is not in any way a challenge to capitalist society. In fact, it is capitalism’s own long-run trend! One of Marx’s most consistent predictions is that the “social scale” of production will increase. The example he most frequently gives is a tendency toward precisely this sort of monopolization. But this does not mean that such monopolies contain a pre-made socialist planning infrastructure in embryo. They are forms of class domination, plain and simple. Marx saw this as an important trend not insofar as monopolies give communists ready-made machinery for coordinating production, but because the increasing scale of production also means that more workers are drawn into interaction with one another across the world in more complex ways, making the social character of production more visible even as it poses difficult strategic questions for any potentially revolutionary movement—evident in the case of global food and energy systems, for example, where immediate destruction would lead to mass starvation and death, while the failure to dismantle such systems in the long term will lead to environmental devastation with even worse results. At every stage in the general increase of the scale of production, the possibility and even necessity of alternate, socialistic methods of coordination become more and more obvious. But, again, such methods are distinct from and opposed to the existing methods of coordination visible in today’s monopolies. This is precisely the reason that Marx saw revolution as a necessity. Corporate accounting and capitalist statecraft never simply evolve into socialism.

One might then suggest that the solution lies in “delinking” the Chinese economy from the global market. At first, it might seem like this fixes the issue: all the planning that was conducted to serve the global market—and which could therefore be thought of as “capitalist” planning, as occurs in existing monopolies—is severed from this market, leaving only the planning apparatus intact. Even if not “socialist,” this planning seems as if it would, at least, cease to serve capitalist imperatives. But this makes about as much sense as arguing that Amazon or Walmart could “delink” themselves from the global economy.

Even if this were a political possibility, there are simple, practical limits that make the proposition absurd: since the bulk of planned activity in these companies is geared toward making profit and serving the market, “delinking” would leave the vast majority of their internal planning mechanisms useless. The entire corporate structure is built around capitalist imperatives such as making a profit and serving the market. Remove them, and the “plan” collapses. Preserve them, and the “plan” will immediately seek to relink to the global economy or, if this is not feasible, to simply fracture and again give birth to capitalist imperatives at the local scale, recreating a market within the “delinked” sphere based on competition between spin-off enterprises or departments within the monopoly (regardless of whether they are “state-owned”).

The same basic problem applies to the prospect of “delinking” the Chinese economy from that of the world. In fact, such a delinking is even less feasible in this case, given the degree to which global production as a whole depends on Chinese industry and, more importantly, the reverse: the degree to which Chinese industry depends on the global market. An enormous portion of production in China is currently geared toward serving the global market, either directly or indirectly. In 2019, China’s total bilateral trade in goods totaled some 4.6 trillion USD (about a third of its GDP that year), meaning that China imported or exported goods roughly equivalent to the entire GDP of a country like Germany. Even if China were a single large monopoly dominated by planning mechanisms, this sort of delinking would be effectively impossible, because a huge portion of that monopoly’s business is serving the international market.

But, of course, China is not a single large monopoly and its economy is not dominated by planning mechanisms. Chinese firms are structured very similarly to firms elsewhere in the world. Growth and profitability are their bottom-line goals, and the entire structure of these corporations is oriented around securing these goals. Given this reality, “delinking” is even more laughable, because it would require thousands of Chinese enterprises to willingly leap into bankruptcy. This is no more likely to occur in China than it would be in any other country in the world.

Summary

Let’s review the basic points: China is a capitalist country. This is evident in the fact that everyone needs money to survive and therefore has to depend on “the economy.” Most of the population is proletarian, which means that they don’t have any control over production and therefore must work for wages to survive. Only the minority of the population who are extremely rich, called the capitalist class, can instead survive off the profit from their investments, which demonstrates their ownership of production. While this dictatorial ownership is the core feature of capitalist rule, nation-states emerge as the political expression of this social power. The state serves as a necessary means for capitalists to coordinate and compete with one another, but it also helps to maintain the baseline conditions for capitalist society to exist in the first place. This includes repression (police, prisons, the military, etc.), the maintenance of a legal system founded on property rights, and the mobilization of public investment (in infrastructure, healthcare, education, etc.), all involving the creation of a myth of shared “national interests” rooted in “national culture.”

In China, the capitalist class rules directly through the party-state. Capitalists hold all the leading positions within the communist party and the government. Similarly, most large capitalists who hold no bureaucratic position are, at minimum, party members. This allows them to be “inside the system,” where they have preferential access to resources (through credit), greater protection from competition with capitalists in other countries (through tariffs and subsidies) and a seat at the table for all the major decisions (through the party infrastructure). Those left “outside the system” are mostly smaller capitalists who have not yet joined the party, rebel capitalists who refuse to submit to the others and/or capitalists more aligned with foreign interests. In reality, the party infrastructure is messy and often violent, since capitalists have competing interests. But even if it were perfectly coordinated and coordinated, enrolling all Chinese capitalists as members, this would still only represent one fraction of the global capitalist class in competition with others.

Source > Chang


中国是资本主义国家吗?­——常见中国问题解答系列

这是我们对中国相关的常见问题给出的简短共产主义回答,第二和第三部分是其中一个问题一分为二。经常有人问我们:“中国是资本主义国家还是社会主义国家?”这可能是经常问到的中国相关的问题里最常见、最复杂的了,所以我们耍个花招,将问题分成两个紧密联系的问题,然后给出长回答。这里回答的是第一个问题:“中国是资本主义国家吗?”然后下一篇将回答,“中国是社会主义国家吗?”第一部分完全由我们中国成员与朋友们的回应组成。与它不同的是,这一篇以及问答系列的后续篇目将这些个人回复整合进中国与国际成员集体撰写的文章中。

和以往一样,我们鼓励读者用其他格式把这些回答转发到各个平台。如果您利用这些材料设计了小册子或者信息图表,请发送一份给我们(邮箱:chuangcn@riseup.net),这样我们就可以留个存档,并且在社交媒体转发!

货币

中国是资本主义国家。之所以是资本主义国家,既因为中国完全融入了全球资本主义系统,也因为资本主义的动机已经全方面渗透到日常生活。中国的民众与其他地方一样,要直接或者间接依赖市场而生存。换句话说,需要货币来生存。既然货币是资本主义生产的命脉(用技术术语来说,就是价值必要的表现形式),那么如此依赖货币而生存,就是民众已经融入全球资本主义的最明确的信号。

但是,剖析这个问题时遇到的难题之一,是基本定义通常不甚明了。所以我们退几步,先从基础知识开始:资本主义,是一种隐蔽自身社会性质的社会形式,将人与人的关系当作被买被卖的不同的物之间的纯经济关系。换句话说,这是一个假装不是社会的社会。这个系统的核心无限增长的要求。这个系统从来就是国际的,并且从来就需要扩大地理边界的同时,将人类的社会交流的越来越多方面融入市场。在这个社会之中,每一个个人的生存和富足都经济的生存相熔合货币是所有这些的表现:我们用货币计算“增长”,人与人的关系通过货币还原为市场交易,每天我们用货币来评估自己生活得多好或者生活能否为继。

中国大多数人用来生存的货币和其他地方一样,是以工资形式出现的。这些工资是不是伪装成“营业额”(比如地摊小贩)“捐赠”(比如网上的主播),还是什么“奖金”或者“社保支付”(中国的个体工人所赚取的额外工资的俗名)并不重要。这些人被迫依赖工资收入,因为他们无法集体控制生产本身,而生产是他们生存活命所需的商品的来源。这个群体的人(被称作无产阶级)即使失业了也需要钱来生存,于是他们只能依赖别人的工资(比如向家里人借钱),高筑债台(比如向富人要贷款),或者领着国家微薄的失业或养老保险来维持生计——这些不过是二手的工资(或者说二手的利润),因为福利的资金来源是缴税,包括收入税。

富人政府

对全球人口里的一小部分人来说,他们用以生存的货币是从利润获得的,而利润就是从投资某种商业所得的货币回报。这个意思,不光是随便拿闲钱去投资。要获得足够的回报来维持生存,你得先有一大笔钱来投资。换句话说,你得先成为富人。在中国,这个群体(被称作资产阶级,或者就称作资本家阶级)分为两个重要的次类别:体制内的和体制外的。二者所说的“体制”指党国体制,这是全球资本家阶级里中国成员的组织。

在党国里,资本家掌握着所有重大的决策权力。乍一看,这似乎与其他国家的“民主”政府不大一样,即使我们承认这些民主国家实际上是富人通过政治掮客进行间接控制的寡头国家。但是,资本主义发展早期的国家几乎普遍存在富人的直接统治,至少那些成功引发经济迅速增长的国家是这样。第一批被称作“国家资本主义”甚至“国家社会主义”(19世纪晚叶)的国家包括了德意志帝国日本帝国等等,其中的富人或多或少直接控制国家,并利用国家来推行大范围的发展规划和社会福利,目的往往是削弱下层的对立情绪。这些做法包括关键行业直接为国家所有(比如铁路),以及彻底融入国家的巨型垄断体的出现——某些情况下,这些垄断体甚至承担了印刷法定货币和运营国家银行的任务韩国、台湾和新加坡等地在20世纪晚叶能够迅速发展,基本上也是在一党专政的条件下施行国家引领的经济计划

即便是英国和美国等“民主”国家的资本主义发展经典案例,也是在政治系统充斥着富人的时代之中发生的,无论是英格兰的地主贵族还是美国早期的工业家和蓄奴种植园精英。这些“民主国家”大部分人口(妇女、奴隶和无财产的男性)既无投票权也不能担任公职。换句话说,这些国家也就是某种“党国”,即使这些富人的不同派系组织成了互相竞争的“政党”。无论如何,国家是属于富人的政府。

今天的中国步其后尘,只不过全球竞争的状况更加激烈了。所以,中国资本家和国家权力之间的联合同样激烈也不足为奇了。在中国党国里,所有上层职位(大概是县级或以上)全是官僚——这个词在英文一般直接翻译成bureaucrat,但是实际上只指这些高级别的政府职位。这些职位几乎普遍被富人把持,他们在任何其他国家显然会被视作资本家。官僚构成了“体制内”资本家这个群体的官方核心。但是,中国几乎所有的大资本家都可以划为“体制内”,包括那些没有正式的官职却还是党员的人,比如马云。同样,所有大型公司——包括“民营”的——都有党员身处高级管理层

可能有一种反对意见说,党就不能说是资本家的组织,因为大部分党员和大部分底层公务员本身不是资本家。但是哪不是这样呢。任何国家的政党党员和国家官僚,大部分必然抽取自占人口大多数的无产阶级。但是,美国大部分注册的民主党人和/或政府雇员是工人,丝毫不能说明民主党是替“工人国家”掌舵的“工人党”。中国共产党和美国民主党、共和党一样,它及其掌舵的党国是统治阶级的建制,适用于调和大资本家的争端,协助经济的顺畅运行——大多时候的意思就是维持增速,压低通胀,镇压动乱。“体制内”的人可以优先获取同一个体制内的其他资本家所控制的资源,对党作出的集体决定也具备一定影响力。

这个制度也没有出现衰落。相反,过去二十年主动招募了越来越多资本家入党,这在2002年修改党章,允许“企业家”入党(并且给1980和90年代许多党员利用职位之便成为资本家提供事后背书)的时候显露无疑。同样,有一些富人曾经拒绝听从控制党的更有权势的资本家,或者追求自身利益的手段威胁了其他所有人的稳定,这些人在各种“反腐败”行动中被针对,往往以入狱或死刑收场。结果,今天的“体制外”大部分是(还)没有入党的小资本家,或者是拒绝入党的反对派大资本家(往往因为他们能够一只脚在中国,一只脚在海外)。

然而这一点很重要,提醒我们资本主义是全球的,也意味着资本家阶级同样是全球的。中国的资本家只是这个阶级的一小撮。他们即便能够通过党的机器来解决部分内部冲突——这种能力也不可能持久——也要面临他处的资本家的残酷竞争。这种竞争通常表现为“地缘政治”冲突或者“贸易战”。从更基本的层面来说,多个相互竞争的民族国家的存在早就体现了这一点。这些民族国家各自督查着常常被资本家的内在分歧撕裂的“国民经济”。不过追根溯源,这些都是单一的统治阶级内部互相竞争的群体之间的战斗。

国家与民族

关于中国是不是资本主义国家的困惑,大部分体现在两个关联的谬误之中:第一,错误地假定单个国家选择了经济制度以后,这个制度大体上局限于自己国家里,这就为讨论“社会主义”国家、“资本主义”国家和其他各式变种提供可能;第二,上文也已经提及,假定“国家”和“市场”是两个根本分离的建制,并且将资本主义定义为市场主宰,“社会主义”定义为国家主宰。

这两个谬误的根源在于误解了“国家”是什么。第一个谬误假定,民族国家是人类共同体天然的或者必不可免的形式,并且经济附属于这种国家。这样就很容易想象,一定领土内的人民只要达成共识,就能按照自己的心意重新组织经济。比如说,可以选择某种北欧式的社民制,有免费医疗,还会大量投资教育、基础设施和可再生能源。按照这个思路,妨碍这些的人要么贪,要么蠢,要么脑子昏了。

不过,将国想象为共同体就会忽略真实的利益冲突。要是妨碍我们作出“美好”选择的不是“坏人”呢?要是社会当中的许多坏事其实对控制社会的人有益呢?现实中的情况其实可能更差劲:坏事对所有人来说成了必要存在,因为这是为了“经济的健康”,而我们所有人都被迫依赖这种健康。如果通胀走得太高,你的工资购买力就会降低。如果增速放缓,找工作或者保住工作就更难了。我们都被绑在了经济之上。这些绑绳在富裕国家会松垮些,在那里总有让步的可能。如果你身处制度的顶端,可能还会感觉不到自己的绑绳。但是一旦开始滑坡,绑绳就会变成无可否认的现实。一荣俱荣,一损俱损。

但是,先损的是穷人。这就是一旦爆发经济危机,国家被动员起来援助富人,从而“恢复经济健康”的原因。底层的人可能能拿到一些补助,但是这和富人拿到的的相比永远是沧海一粟。既然是富人控制生产,那“挽救”经济的意思就是以他们的利益为先,因为他们已经造就了这么一个局面:我们所有的利益都要依赖他们的利益。这清晰证明了国家不是利益共享的“共同体”,而是全球资本主义系统之中的一片领土。这片领土大部分为富人所有,被富人掌控。它不是你的国,从来不是。是他们的。

国家是这种所有制的表现(但这并非说富人“拥有”或者“控制”国家)。我们可以更具体地说,既然资本主义社会假装自己不是社会,那这个社会的统一也向我们呈现为分离的不断扩大[ii]。正是“政治”与“经济”表面上的分离产生了我们今天理解的民族国家,也就是资本主义社会关系具备的政治形式。用简单浅显的话来说,我们可以将国家理解为某些资本家在某些地方磋商争端、缔结临时同盟来抗衡他处的资本家、互相协调来镇压穷人起义、试图拯救经济走出绝境的方式。宽泛一点说,国家也是人与人的关系被立法和公民权等等“天然”规定好的方式。再宽泛一点说,这致使“民族”的观念成为人类共同体的“天然”形式。但是,民族国家并不先于资本主义社会。民族国家演化于资本主义社会内部,因为它可以满足这种社会的需要。这不是什么阴谋论,不是说一帮富人聚起来策划骗人的最佳手段,而是说民族国家具备演化意义上的适应性。某些特征有利于某些目的,于是逐渐变得重要,而不发挥作用的特征会慢慢消失。

既然我们都被绑在了经济之上,我们也被绑在了控制我们所住地方经济的资本家之上。这意味着民族国家的神话背后其实是真实的互相依赖,因为某片领土的资本家倒下意味着普通人一起受苦。每次争论在某个地方如何“创造就业”,其实说的就是这个。鉴于同样的原因,某些国家的资本家领头的发展规划确实令该国的许多人走出赤贫,就算这个过程不均衡。最近几十年,中国重现了许多资本主义国家以前的“经济奇迹”,大多用的是类似的方法:建造公共设施、国有公路和铁路系统,迁移最贫困农村人口(有时是强迫),扩大基本教育和医疗等等。

但是,这种互相依赖并不具备普遍共享的“民族”利益形式。相反,它是一个不断转变和相互竞争的复杂依赖链,嵌在了社会权力的全球等级制度之中。一方面,这种互相依赖固然是国际的。一个简单事实就能体现:中国许多工厂的成功(以及中国本土资本家的前景)依赖的是富国的投资和消费需求。同样,这些富国的资本家从这个关系中受益,出于两个方面:直接方面,从生产中获得利润;间接方面,为富国工人稳定供应廉价消费品,有助于创造信贷所催生的繁荣假象,从而抑制动乱。

另一方面,这些依赖往往在民族一级以下,也就是说,一国的某些地区获得的好处往往大于其他地区。这就意味着各国内部的利益也可能存在分歧,即便内陆的贫困地区依然能获得一些渺茫的好处(因为内陆和富裕沿海城市同属一个“富国”),沿海的成功也可能不会溢出到他们那里。以此类推,某一国的资本家之所以成功,是因为本国的工人受到和别处的工人一样多的剥削。中国资本家积累到的巨量财富,即便当中有不少分配到了跨国企业在日本、韩国、欧洲和美国的总部,也显然出自被剥削的中国工人。即便工人最终能拿回这个扩大的社会财富中的一部分,也只是总量的沧海一粟。更重要的是,他们尽管是生产的必要因素,却无法控制社会的生产力。

单个大公司?

在收尾之前,先从一个稍微不同的角度解答开头的问题并无害处。我们在上文强调了依赖货币生存的生活现实,并且解释了下资本家阶级在中国的构成。不过,这种解释有点过度简化了,因为资本主义实际上能够利用许多不同类型的劳动调配(诸如奴隶制就可能不会强迫人们依赖货币“工资”生存),以及许多不同的统治阶级组织形式(比如,非资本家和半资本家的地主精英有时候可以共掌大权)。为了展现资本主义生产在治理问题上的灵活性,我们做一个简单的思维试验:

人们往往说得好像中国政府完全控制生产,人民被洗脑以后乖乖听话。这完全是一派胡言,类似神话的背后是长久的种族主义历史,从19世纪的“黄祸”叙事延伸到当下媒体对中国同样东方主义的描绘。但是,我们可以从事实被如此极致歪曲之中理解到资本主义的本性。我们这样来重新想象问题:要是中国实际上组织成了一个单一的大型垄断企业呢?要是国家真的控制了所有生产力呢?要是这些生产力根本没有组织成争相牟利的单个“企业”,而是被中央计划机构计划好了行动呢?记得,这些全是假的但是先想象一下。你当然会想,要是这样的话,说中国是资本主义国家就不对了。

但是,即便是这个不存在的“中国公司”场景也没有什么区别。这个假想的国家级垄断体,这个每个中国公民都成了雇员的垄断体,还是一家资本主义企业。因为到头来,它还是要和全球市场上的其他企业竞争。它的生存还是依赖资本主义之为全球系统的生存。

停下来想一想:大型的资本主义垄断体已经存在了——比如亚马逊和沃尔玛这种完全“私有”的公司——它们统制大量资源和工人,堪比一些小国。这些公司的内部没有市场去引导交易。远离实际工作场地的企业总部规划好大型计划,资源就根据这些计划在部门间流动。

这些算不上“社会主义”建制。它们的内部计划最终以增长为导向,而增长只有公司在全球市场的竞争中胜出的时候才能保证。换句话说,这些计划不过是企业的核算形式。将企业核算扩大到更多经济领域,绝对不是什么对资本主义社会的挑战。实际上这就是资本主义自身的长期趋势!马克思最为坚持的一个预测,就是生产的“社会规模”将会增加。他给得最多的例子,恰恰就是如此垄断化的趋势。但是,这不是说如此的垄断体在萌芽之初就包含了一套现成的社会主义计划的底层结构。一言蔽之,这些垄断体是阶级统治的形式。马克思认为这个趋势重要,不是因为垄断体能给予共产主义者一套现成的生产协调机制,而是因为,生产规模扩大还意味着全世界有更多的工人,通过更复杂的方式被卷入互相的交流之中。这样会更加凸显生产的社会性质,虽然也给任何具备革命潜力的运动提出了战略难题——比如说全球食品和能源系统,如果立刻消灭掉就会引发大规模饥荒和死亡,但是不能瓦解的话,长期来看会引发环境破坏,后果更加严重。这个生产规模总体在增加的趋势,其中每个阶段之中另类的、社会主义式的生产协调法的可能性甚至必要性会变得越来越明显。但是要重申,这种方法和今天的垄断体所暴露的现有协调法截然不同,而且是对立的。正是因为这样,马克思才认为革命是必要的。企业核算和资本主义国家治理术永远不会演化为社会主义。

这时候可能有人会提出,问题的答案就在于将中国经济和全球市场“脱钩”。这乍一看似乎能够解决问题:所有用来满足全球市场的计划——继而可以认为是现存的垄断体中出现的“资本主义”计划——从此与这个市场割裂,于是只剩下完好的计划机关。这种计划即使不是“社会主义”,似乎起码可以不再迎合资本主义动机。但是,这就好比认为亚马逊和沃尔玛可以与全球经济“脱钩”一样没道理。

即便这样做有政治上的可能,也存在简单而实际的局限让如此提议变得荒谬:既然这些公司的大部分计划活动以获取利润和满足市场为导向,那“脱钩”就会使得绝大部分内部的计划机制成为废品。整个企业架构是围绕获取利润和满足市场等资本主义动机而构建的。移除这些动机,“计划”就会崩溃。保留这些动机,“计划”就会立刻试图与全球经济重新挂钩,如果挂钩不可行,计划就会破裂,然后在局部层面重燃资本主义动机,在“脱钩”空间内部再造一个市场,此时的空间,是以分拆后企业、或者垄断体(不管是不是“国有”)内部门之间的竞争为基础的。

这个基本问题同样适用于中国经济与世界经济“脱钩”的前景之上。实际上,考虑到全球生产总体对中国工业的依赖,加上更重要的中国工业对全球生产总体的依赖程度之深,这样的脱钩更不可行。中国国内生产目前有一大部分直接和间接满足全球市场。2019年,中国的货物双边贸易总额达到4.6万亿美元左右(约占当年GDP的三分之一),这意味着中国进出口的货物量大概与德国这种国家的全部GDP相当。即便中国是一家被计划机制主宰的单一垄断企业,这种脱钩在实际层面也是不可能的,因为这个垄断企业一大部分的业务要满足国际市场。

不过呢,中国当然不是一家单一的大垄断企业,中国经济也并非为计划机制主宰。中国企业的构造与世界他处的企业十分类似。增长和盈利能力是这些企业的目标基线,它们的整个结构也以保证这些目标实现为宗旨。鉴于这种现实,“脱钩”的想法就更好笑了,因为这就需要上千家中国企业自愿一夜破产。在中国发生这种事的概率不比世界上其他国家高。

总结

我们回顾一下基本点。中国是资本主义国家,体现在人人都需要货币来生存,因而不得不依赖“经济”的事实之中。大多数民众是无产阶级,意味着他们丝毫无法控制生产,故而必须工作,挣得工资来生存。唯有少数极端富有、被称为资本家阶级的人,可以靠投资所得利润而活,这体现了他们对生产的所有权。这种专制的所有制是资本主义统治的核心特点,民族国家则逐渐成为这种社会权力的政治表现。国家成为资本家互相协调和竞争的必要手段,但是它也有助于维持资本主义社会必不可少的基线条件。这些条件包括镇压(警察、监狱、军队等等)、维持以产权为基础的法律制度、动员公共投资(到基础设施、医疗、教育等等之中)。所有这些共同创造了以“民族文化”为根基的共同“民族利益”神话。

中国的资本家阶级直接透过党国来统治。资本家掌控共产党和政府内所有高位。那些没有官位的大资本家,大部分也是党员起步,这样他们就能成为“体制内”,可以(透过信贷)优先获得资源,与他国资本家竞争的时候(透过关税和补贴)获得更多保护,参与所有重大决策(透过党的底层结构)。剩下的“体制外”大多是还没入党的小资本家、不愿听命他人的反叛资本家,以及/或者更亲和外国利益的资本家。现实中,党的底层结构混乱而暴虐,因为资本家的利益互有冲突。不过即便党能够完美协调,将所有中国资本家招为党员,他们也只代表互相竞争的全球资本家阶级中的一小撮。


[i] This idea of “unity in separation” is central to the communist critique of capitalist society. It’s often used to describe the way that most of us are part of the same class (the proletariat) and subject to very similar fundamental conditions of life (we need to make money to survive), but at the same time we can’t really experience this basic unity without first confronting the ways that we are clearly different, often expressed in terms of identity. The liberal viewpoint emphasizes this difference and takes identity as its starting point, denying any underlying unity. What appears to us as debates between “liberals” and “conservatives” are mostly debates about how these identities are weighted and organized within society. Often, “Marxism” is portrayed as being a “class reductionist” viewpoint. In this caricature, communists just want people to forget about their real differences, recognize the underlying unity that exists in those fundamental conditions of life, and work together. But this is a strawman—a weak version of an opposing argument that someone invents just so that they can easily tear it down. The real communist position is to emphasize “unity in separation,” recognizing the reality of both that really-existing unity and the many separations of circumstance and identity that divide us. In fact, the two are interdependent. Separation is the form that unity takes under capitalism. 

[ii] 这个“分离中的统一”理念是对资本主义社会的共产主义批判的核心,通常用来描述我们中的大多数属于同一个阶级(无产阶级),身处非常相似的根本的生活条件(需要赚钱来生存),但是如果要体验这种基本的统一,首先就要直面我们显然存在差异的方面。这些方面通常表现为身份,自由派的观点会强调这种差异,并且以身份为起点,拒绝任何潜在的统一。在我们眼中,“自由派”和“保守派”的争论大部分是关于这些身份在社会内部如何排序和组织。在这种缩影看来,共产主义者只想要大家遗忘掉真实的差异,承认那个存在于根本的生活条件之中的统一,然后一起努力。可这是在立稻草人,是编造出来的一个羸弱版本的观点,方便他们驳倒罢了。真实的共产主义立场会强调“分离中的统一”,承认两个现实:一个是真实存在的统一现实,一个是有着环境、身份等许多分离因素,将我们分隔开的现实。其实这两个现实是互相依赖的。统一在资本主义之下具备了分离的形式


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