Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Sinicization of the Bolshevik Revolution

by M. Ulric Killion

The photo shows Petrograd, 4 July 1917, and street demonstration on Nevsky Prospekt just after troops of the Provisional Government had opened fire with machine guns; Photo/Russian Revoluton/Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain).

In a recent New York Times article, Clifford J. Levy (Russia’s Leaders See China as Template for Ruling, NY Times, Oct. 17, 2009), made the following observation. Levy writes:
Nearly two decades after the collapse of the Communist Party, Russia’s rulers have hit upon a model for future success: the Communist Party. Or at least, the one that reigns next door. Like an envious underachiever, Vladimir V. Putin’s party, United Russia, is increasingly examining how it can emulate the Chinese Communist Party, especially its skill in shepherding China through the financial crisis relatively unbowed. United Russia’s leaders even convened a special meeting this month with senior Chinese Communist Party officials to hear firsthand how they wield power. In truth, the Russians express no desire to return to Communism as a far-reaching Marxist-Leninist ideology, whether the Soviet version or the much attenuated one in Beijing. What they admire, it seems, is the Chinese ability to use a one-party system to keep tight control over the country while still driving significant economic growth. It is a historical turnabout that resonates, given that the Chinese Communists were inspired by the Soviets, before the two sides had a lengthy rift.
Levy, though perhaps inadvertently, is addressing the history, or perhaps even human geography, of a past and present China. In other words, he is addressing a history of the growth of the early Chinese communists and the Chinese Communist Party. It is also a history addressing an earlier vision of Mao Zedong, when he wrote, “The salvoes of the October Revolution [or Bolshevik Revolution] brought us Marxism-Leninism. The October Revolution helped progressives in China, as throughout the world, to adopt the proletarian world outlook as the instrument for studying a nation’s destiny and considering anew their own problems” (Mao Zedong, Selected Works, Foreign Language Press, 1961, Vol. IV, 413).

In terms of the “May 30th Movement (1925) [“that pushed the May Fourth Movement into the past”] that is, generally, recognized as serving as the moment of crystallization, in terms of the pursuit of revolutionary policy by early Chinese communists,” for earlier “Chinese intellectuals pursuing Marxist ideology, the Bolshevik Revolution answered the question of whether a backward country could seize state power and commence the pursuit of modernization” (Ulric Killion, Modern Chinese Rules of Order (2007), Chapter 4).

Then there is the historical relationship and struggles between the former Soviet Union and China. “In the 1920s and 1930s, the early Chinese communists would often succumb to Lenin’s insistence, and then to Stalin’s insistence, in order to avoid impairing the solidarity between China and the former Soviet Union, such as what occurred in the 1950 signing of the new Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship and Alliance, and it attendant subsidiary agreements. In the 1950s and 1960s, Chinese leaders for the sake of solidarity would succumb to Stalin, and then Khrushchev. In the interim, the influence of the Bolshevik Revolution and Marxism continued to grow in the China of the 1920s and 1930s, and in subsequent years” (Killion, at Chapter 4). 

In subsequent years, the relationship between China and the former Soviet Union and then later by Russia would experience profound  changes; which is perhaps subsequent to the localization or even Sinicization of the Bolshevik Revolution. In other words, changes attributable to “the by-product of a Chinese phenomenon of taking borrowed and transplanted foreign concepts and ideas, such as Marxism and Leninism, and imbuing them with the Chinese revolutionary spirit, such as the continuing attempt to finalize the adaptation, Sinicization or localization of Marxism to the realities of traditional culture and society” (Killion, at Chapter 1).

Levy rightly observes that: “Nearly two decades after the collapse of the Communist Party, Russia’s rulers have hit upon a model for future success: the Communist Party. Or at least, the one that reigns next door.” In a historical context, it is phenomenon commencing in the 1960s that is much more, however. This is because: “In the 1960s and 1970s, China began to emerge as a world player, as it plays the strategic game alongside the former Soviet Union and the United States, in the Asia region. In the years that followed, China became increasingly intolerant of succumbing to the insistence of the Soviet Union and its leaders, as it had done so in past eras” (Killion, at Chapter 4). 

In the context of International communism, the former Soviet Union and now Russia, the consequences of the historical growth and development of China and the Chinese Communist Party are obvious. “In the new millennium, it is China, and not the former Soviet Union or now Russia, which is evolving into the leading Marxist, communist or socialist country. From the 1920s to the new millennium, China evolved into a world player and is no longer a puppet of the former Soviet Union, or mere pawn in the international communist movement. Rather, China is now a leading world player in the international community. China has, in effect, adapted, Sinicized or localized the Bolshevik Revolution. As for Marxism, China after borrowing the Western philosophy of Marxist philosophy, gave it a Chinese name, Mao’s socialism, and then commences the process of adapting, Sinicizing or localizing Marxism, and is continuing to do so, in an attempt to finalize its adaptation, Sinicization or localization. China also borrowed Soviet models of industrialization and planning, and then jointly pursued a socialist-political polity and capitalist-economic policy. It is no less different than when China borrowed Buddhism during the Han Dynasty, because the Taoists, after accepting the heavens and hells from Buddhism, gave them Chinese names and invented Chinese Gods that would preside over them” (Killion, at Chapter 4).

Copyright © Protected - All Rights Reserved M. Ulric Killion, 2009.