The Guardian December 13, 2000


Socialism in the 21st Century

by CPA President Dr Hannah Middleton

Socialism in the 21st Century was the title of a conference held in 
Kathmandu, Nepal from November 5-10. There were 51 delegates from 29 
political parties in 19 countries, including China, Vietnam, the Democratic 
People's Republic of Korea, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Burma, 
the Philippines, Malaysia, Australia, Denmark, Italy, Greece and Germany. I 
was privileged to represent the Communist Party of Australia. The 
conference received 43 solidarity messages from all parts of the world.

The composition of the participants was unusual. It was not a gathering of 
communist and workers parties nor a meeting of a broad range of progressive 
social forces from communist to social democrat.

It brought together a mixture of communist and left radical parties. 
Australia, for example, was represented by the CPA and the DSP.

The conference was organised by the Madan-Ashrit Memorial Foundation which 
commemorates two leaders of the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist 
Leninist) who died in a suspicious vehicle accident.

CPN (UML)

The CPN (UML) arose out of efforts to re-unite a splintered communist 
movement in Nepal. The original Communist Party of Nepal was founded in 
1949; the CPN (UML) was established in 1990.

Today the CPN (UML) is the largest and most influential communist 
organisation in Nepal. It was widespread influence in rural areas as well 
as Kathmandu and other cities.

The CPN (UML) has been the main opposition party during the last ten years 
except for a nine-month period when it formed the government. Today the 
party has 71 MPs in the House of Representatives.

There are eight other communist organisations in the country at present. 
One of them, the CPN (Maoist) is waging an armed struggle in parts of the 
country.

Political points

The CPN (UML) and other speakers emphasised the need to take into account 
the different conditions in each country and to recognise that Marxist-
Leninist principles will be applied differently in different countries at 
different times.

Further, it was stressed that pluralism is an objective reality in all 
aspects of life. It should be accepted within the communist movement and 
other left or socialist organisations should be respected.

Quite a deal of emphasis was given to the need to be prepared to use all 
forms of struggle and to work out which were correct in specific 
circumstances.

Disagreements among speakers were evident on the use of armed struggle and 
on the value or otherwise of parliamentary forms of struggle.

Following his paper, the representative of the Communist Party of China was 
asked questions about China's socialist market economy; how productions 
relations could remain socialist with so much privatisation and with the 
Chinese entry into the WTO; and on the rise of individualism among the 
Chinese people.

He responded that when the PRC was established in 1949, the country did not 
even have the technology to produce matches. When socialism was established 
in 1956, impatience led to mistakes.

The cultural revolution was an all round mistake which had damaged the 
material foundation of socialism, confused party theory, destabilised the 
Party and the people, caused the loss of precious intellectuals, wasted the 
country's and the Party's resources and was not the correct way to solve 
the contradictions of socialist society.

The market is a means or a method; it does not represent the essence of 
capitalism, he said. The role of the market is increasingly important in 
the allocation of resources in China.

China is a socialist country: the people are the masters, the state is 
under the leadership of the Communist Party, public ownership remains 
predominant in the economy, the key sectors of the economy remain in the 
hands of the state, and private and other forms of ownership are only 
supplements to the predominant public ownership.

The system still operates on the basis of from each according to his 
ability, to each according to his work.

He acknowledged that some people and some regions are becoming rich first. 
He says that the government encourages this and works actively to help the 
other social strata and regions also become rich. "Our experience teaches 
us, he said, "that poverty does not lead to socialism."

Aware of the danger of the development of individual self-interest and 
"money love", the government is paying close attention to "ethical and 
spiritual construction".

Conclusion

No final statement was adopted by the conference. A draft was presented but 
a number of parties did not agree that such a document should be issued.

The draft was amended and was released as a press communique from the 
conference organisers. It stated in part that the delegates resolved:

* That socialists, while relentlessly engaged in class struggle for the 
abolition of all forms of exploitation and oppression, must also lead, 
support and participate in people's movements for the attainment of civil 
liberties and healthy environment and to end discrimination related to 
gender, race, caste, etc.;

* That socialists around the world intensify their resistance against 
common threats from imperialist globalisation and continue to lead and 
support the national liberation movements and movement for democracy 
throughout the world;

* That different forms of struggle to achieve socialism should be 
respected, and regular dialogues should be held to enhance mutual 
understanding;

* That socialists all over the world earnestly defend the achievements of 
socialism in all countries;

* That socialists throughout the world should forge alliances and 
strengthen solidarity to advance the common cause of human liberation; and

* That the 21st Century is the People's Century, the century of socialism 
for justice, freedom and peace.

* * *
A selection of the conference papers will be published in a forthcoming issue of the Australian Marxist Review

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