It’s impossible to be a part of the Marxist community without noticing the increasing popularity of Dengism lately. For those not so well informed, Dengism is the political theory put forward by the reactionary former leader of China, Deng Xiaoping, who took over as the leader after the death of Mao Zedong. His focus was on the development of economy while disregarding socialism. This lead to the dismantling of the ‘Iron Rice Bowl’ which was the catalyst for the Tiananmen Square incident.
Let’s put the theory into some perspective. Deng advances the ‘Cat’s Colour Theory’: “It doesn’t matter whether a cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice.” The idea is that whether or not someone is a revolutionary is irrelevant in the eyes of the ability to do the job under the socialist economy. The reactionary aspect of this idea is apparent in the obvious rejection of class struggle in economic relations. However, this work is not intended to make the argument as to whether or not today’s China is socialist. The point here is to investigate why this reactionary idea has begun to flourish.
In my view, the rise of Dengism is a result of first worldism. This does not make Dengism itself first worldist. It was clearly born out of an underdeveloped economic situation, regardless of its reactionary nature.
I think the recent rise of the ideology is liked to three primary phenomena:
1. A lack of any concrete Marxist struggle
In our world today Marxist struggles are dying out all over the third world. Both India and the Philippines are witnessing the beginning of the end of their revolutionary movements. The imperialist nations are looking at a total failure to ever build a significant revolutionary movement. Today their ideology is so polluted with CIA pushed reactionary ID-pol that any building of a movement is basically impossible. While material conditions are changing in the US, they are quite far from having any form of organization capable of taking advantage of the coming crisis.
Many are aware of this on a fundamental level, even if they’re not conscious of it. Things right now are worse than they have ever been. As a result, they’re looking for something to champion, something to look at as an example to follow and support. They need an example to follow given the dismal revolutionary situation in the world today. They don’t have a real movement in their own countries to support, so they’ll champion the only thing they can find that shows any level of success. This desperation manifests itself in finding something to fill the gap where revolutionary organizing is supposed to take place. But such organization is fruitless in the face of the reactionary first world, both in theory and global class position.
2. Dengism is Easy reformism
The essence of Dengism is capitalism with a high degree of state intervention. Market relations are still widespread throughout the country, where even state-owned enterprises still operate on a competitive basis. There can be little honest investigation that could lead one to think China is socialist. This idea of merely having a great deal of state intervention is much easier to achieve for the first worldist than revolution. Instead of risking one’s life in a revolution, which the American people are not interested in doing, they see voting people like Bernie Sanders into power as a solution. They see it merely as a matter of getting social democratic reforms.
This is far more palatable than the struggle of building a revolution in the midst of a reactionary global bourgeoisie. In the desperate situation where those who want revolution know that it is currently impossible, the idea of such capitalism with state intervention is seen as very possible, which it is. The problem is that this is reformism, not revolution. It does not fundamentally alter the capitalist nature of the US. In the end, it’s really just handing over social democratic reforms to the public – which will make revolution even more difficult.
3. A Strategic Move on the Part of Xi Jinping
Xi Jinping is currently pushing the facade of Marxism in China with great effort. All over the place in the ideological realm people are being bombarded with glowing praise of Marx, yet an economic reality in the productive relations that quite contradicts it. This lofty praise for Marx is being eaten up by first worldists by their need to have something to support. I believe that Xi knows this and is playing to it. He’s actively trying to get Marxists around the world to embrace his reactionary politics to make it more palatable to the radical left. As China extends its influence around the developing world where most of the people actually willing to engage in revolution are, increases the popularity of the Chinese model. The hope is that potential movements will ally with them economically along the same ideology.
We can also see this as Xi throwing a theory starved global Marxist community a bone in order to win them over. This pushing of Marx is a gloss over reactionary politics that make it more likely to be accepted by the Marxist community who see no real movement taking place. Combine the ideological desperation with lip service to Marx and you have a very attractive model indeed. Marxists who would have previously rejected China’s phony-revolutionary politics are now much more open to it, and willing to support it.
The fact is, as first worldism continues to degenerate further down along the path chosen for it by the CIA in the advent of identity politics, those who reject it will be falsely led into the Chinese line out of a desire to get away from it. They are wrong, first worldism is wrong, they are incorrect theories which have a proven track record of failure. A reorientation of theory must be undertaken to steer any possible revoltuion away from these two reactionary traps.