Saturday, December 21, 2013

Benjamin Carlson — China will require its 250,000 journalists to pass a 'Marxism test'

Journalists across China are now boning up on Marxist terminology like the “labor theory of value” and “commodity fetishism.”
The United States “is bent on undermining China” — that’s a “fact”they’re committing to memory.
Their jobs depend on it.
Thanks to a new regulation promulgated last fall, all 250,000 of China’s journalists and editors will have to pass an exam on the “Marxist view of journalism” in January or February of 2014. In the several months leading up to the exam, the government has mandated that reporters take weekly classes to ensure “political consistency” with the Communist Party line.
Global Post
China will require its 250,000 journalists to pass a 'Marxism test
Benjamin Carlson

Learning from Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes?


Ryan Harris said...

Seems rational that a socialist country would want reporters reporting on their government and economic system to understand basics of socialism. Otherwise everything reported gets filtered through ignorant medium. I'm constantly astounded when I read the western journalists and economists give their analysis of what is being done at any given moment. They view the policies and changes that have happened as another case of a country developing toward a more capitalist and free future when there is no evidence that the path China designed is anything other than the communist party's pragmatic mix of socialism and free markets. The lessons and failures of early socialism lead to this iteration of their system that looks more like capitalism but smells very different. Neither capitalism nor freedom are anywhere on the docket, ever. That assumption is reporters projecting their own limited ignorance onto another. The sooner the world understands that, the better, so educate the journalists, because the western universities clearly don't do it. Of course the Chinese government is going to have propaganda included in the teachings but all governments do that.

Tom Hickey said...

Right. It's not like Western media don't reinforce (propagandize) capitalistic ideology. The control lever isn't the hand of government, however. It's who's paying the bills. And the people who own the media and pay for advertising are the ones most benefited by a system that privileges them and which conveniently comes complete with revolving door and legalized bribery. In the end, it's the same result as far a ideology goes.

Peter Pan said...

Workers in China do not own or manage the businesses they work for. By Marx's definition that makes these businesses capitalist.
The existence of wage labour should put an end to any pretence that China is practising socialism.

The lack of democracy in China is also incompatible with Marx's definition.

Tom Hickey said...

The bulk of business and land ownership in China is still state owned, although the state is divesting to a degree. The leadership has asserted that the direction is toward further divesture but in a way that doesn't threaten stability.

Just what market socialism is destined to be is in process, but it's pretty certain that the leadership and people in general are not interested in Western-style neoliberal capitalism in which .01% have a disproportionate share of wealth and most of the income and wealth produced by the country flow to the top 1%.

I would say that their attitude toward democracy is similar. I don't think that Asian democracy will imitate Western as it proliferates, owing to historical, cultural and institutional differences. Doing our own thing irrespective of society and community is not programmed it, at least yet, and the leadership is vigilant not to let that happen culturally.

Americans are highly individualistic and have a property fetish as a result of America's historical development. Most other cultures are less so, some much less so. It's difficult for Americans to understand this. We tend to universalize our mindset.

Moreover, most Americans are a lot less free than they think they are.

Jose Guilherme said...

Also, one should keep in mind that the banking sector of China is state-owned.

That means the state ultimately controls both the monetary base (the top of the monetary pyramid) and deposits (the promises to pay in state money).

This makes for a huge difference vis a vis western capitalism.

Ryan Harris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JK said...

If you're not already familir with this speech, its very interesting and on topic. I recmmend listening for flavor, and while listening following the transcript for clarity.

Chomsky in 1970, on government in the future:



Magpie said...

Course syllabi of the College of Journalism and Communications (University of Florida, U.S.A. land of the free):

"PUR 6934 Financial and Business Essentials for Communication Professionals - section 138F - Moreau (PDF)":

"Case studies [50% total]:
"1- Understanding the dynamics of profitability, staffing, and leverage (25%)
"2- Compensation administration (25%)
"• Harvard Business School case studies will be purchased by each student."

Oh my! These poor kids are being indoctrinated in capitalism...


Mind you, they are also being indoctrinated in:

Literature (JOU 3741 - Literary Journalism);
Science (JOU 4930 - Science Writing);
Fashion (JOU 4930 - Fashion & Journalism);
Sports (JOU 4313C - Sports Reporting);
Politics (MMC 3614 - Media and Politics).

God, maybe even in Media and Entertainment!

Tom Hickey said...

The notion that socialism was shown to be highly inefficient through the Russian Communist experiment is nonsense. Russia was highly effective and reasonably efficient in achieving its goals, which involved industrializing a chiefly agrarian society as well as militarizing it against the expected of opposition of powerful foes.

Developing a consumer society was never an objective at this stage, and it would have been foolish to do so, given the challenges that the Russia faced. This involved developing a colonial empire to secure resources, as the West had done, and to create buffer states between the West and the homeland.

There were a lot of factors that went into the failure of empire that occurred, and economics was only one aspect. A stalling economy was the surface indication of a failing social and political neo-imperial system that bitten off more than it could chew.

Similarly, China went from a poor underdeveloped country ignominiously treated by the West and then defeated by Japan to a world power capable of resisting the West militarily and ramping up the second largest economy in the space of decades, leapfrogging centuries of development in the West. Again, developing a consumer society has not been the focus at this stage of development.

There may be many things to criticize about Russia and China under socialism but economic development wrt effectiveness and efficiency is not one of them. Doing so appeals to criteria that are entirely inappropriate to the reality of the situation.

Like Russia, China's problem is its sheer size which magnifies the problems and makes them difficult to deal with. But this has been a problem for China for a long time previous to the advent of the communist regime. China's communist regime is organized on the traditional mandarin system with the literature of Marxist-Leninist-Maoist though replacing the Confucianism and the Chinese classics.

The problem with both Russia and China is the imperial heritage that resulted in both countries creating a new bureaucracy to replace the old one. Like Russia, China has inherited an empire comprised of a large region encompassing many different peoples. For Russia it turned out to be unmanageable. Whether China will be more successful remains to be seen. But it is a huge task, and much of China still remains backward.

Similarly, German and Japan developed economically quickly enough using a command structure to be able to challenge the Allies militarily. They came closer to victory than many Western political and military leaders who knew the insider story were comfortable with at the time. Looking back in hindsight we may think that victory was a slam dunk, but it wasn't. But they, too, succumbed to empire, spreading themselves too thin to maintain.

Empire gets them all in the end. America beware.

Peter Pan said...

China faces the same kinds of challenges that all capitalist countries do. The decisions made by the elite, whether they are party bureaucrats or private interests, will negatively impact the lives of everyone else. This sort of power arrangement is not socialism. The social and economic relationship between workers and those who are in control of those means are comparable to what exists in the United States, or Norway. Cultural differences do not alter this fact.

Socialism has never been achieved by any of these so-called regimes. Their success or failure can be attributed in part to their methods, which were and remain authoritarian. The more extreme cases were regarded as fascist.

Life for a majority of China's people is inhumane by western standards. Judging by the number of riots that are said to occur inside the country each year, this may be their perception as well.

Tom Hickey said...

Capitalism is private ownership of the means of production. Socialism is public ownership of the means of production. There is a range of both from libertarian to state. The matrix is libertarian capitalism, libertarian socialism, state capitalism, and state socialism. The developed countries are state capitalists to varying degrees. The communist countries (China, NK, Cuba) are state socialist to varying degrees. There are no countries that are either libertarian capitalist or libertarian socialist to any significant degree.

There are many reasons for this, power being one of the chief factors. But there is also the difficulty managing an operation of any size and complexity, public or private, non-hierarchically. This is a practical obstacle that has not yet been solved on any large scale.

The result is that modern societies are organized on the hierarchical military statist model that has proven itself to be the most effective and efficient historically. The organizational success of the Roman legion decided this decisively. Rome was organized as republic for a time, until expansion of power led to the replacement of the republic with empire.

The consequence is top-down leadership of an elite. As history shows, part of elite compensation is exacted in class privilege.

While liberalism in the West, which arose gradually since the Magna Carta and picked up steam in the 17th and 18th centuries somewhat modified the imperial model, which had been adopted by the Church as a dominant cultural institution.

This manifested as the American and French Revolutions, and then the mostly failed revolutions of the 19th century. It was not until the 20th century that aristocracies were largely replaced in the West, but they were replaced by "old money" and the rising power of the haute bourgeoisie as the new elite.

The US government and constitutional documents were modeled on the British, which the founding fathers regarded as most evolved at the time. They moved away from hereditary aristocracy but kept most of the institutional structure in place, with a ruling elite based on property ownership rather than birth. France, of course, quickly lost the revolution and Napoleon established a new empire.

The Russian Empire didn't fall until the revolution in 1917, and the new government was soon modeled on the old bureaucracy with Stalin eventually becoming the new Tsar. Now we have Tsar Putin.

The Chinese emperor, although greatly weakened in the 20th century was still on the throne at the time of the Maoist revolution. Mao became the new emperor and the new bureaucracy was modeled on the old one.

The point is that the situation is evolving and nature doesn't move in leaps. To the degree there is progress in the unfolding of greater liberty, it builds on the past.

History does seem to have a liberal bias, however, the path is not linear and there have been many setbacks on the way.

Where I see most hope for clearer sailing toward a more liberal future socially is through networking. The digital-information-knowledge age suggests that former obstacle to non-hierarchal organization may be surmountable.

On the other hand in his final book, Managing in the Next Society (2002), Peter F. Drucker held that the reason we have large organizational structures like firms, governments and militaries is management efficiency and effectiveness (the Roman legion).

Maybe networking can get around this. I see this as the dynamic that is developing. Different societies and cultures will come at this from different directions based on path dependence and hysteris.

Peter Pan said...

The global economy is based upon the 'capitalist mode of production'. The only exception I can think of is subsistence agriculture and the few remaining hunter/gatherer groups.

Tom Hickey said...

The global economy is based upon the 'capitalist mode of production'. The only exception I can think of is subsistence agriculture and the few remaining hunter/gatherer groups.

That is an oversimplification in my view. There is still a lot of tribalism, feudalism, warlordism and proto-capitalism mixed in with various forms of capitalism, and some proto-socialiasm.

On the whole there are mixed economies of varying degree of mixture, with the situation in many places in flux, rather than pure forms.

There is a strong push at present by the neo-imperial hegemon to force its economic regime of corporatocracy on the ROW, and there is rising resistance to that endeavor.

Outcomes are uncertain, but I think that the likelihood of a monolithic outcome is low. As more countries come into their own, there is greater impetus to chart one's own destiny, and the rough edges are showing.

Peter Pan said...

I you accept the term 'state capitalist' then there is no such thing as 'state socialist'. Public ownership doesn't mean that the public has any say in how those assets are run. As a consequence, the public does not determine how our economy functions.

The top-down form of governance is ubiquitous. All I'm saying is that none of it should be termed socialist. A mixed or planned economy does not alter the socio-economic order that replaced feudalism hundreds of years ago.

Peter Pan said...

That is an oversimplification in my view. There is still a lot of tribalism, feudalism, warlordism and proto-capitalism mixed in with various forms of capitalism, and some proto-socialiasm.

To the extent that commodities are produced for consumption by someone else, you have the basis for capitalism - or socialism. Some of the characteristics of feudalism can be found in familial relations, but that too is an oversimplification.

Tom Hickey said...

Sometimes it is useful to see in black and white. But I would not necessarily term that "capitalism" or "socialism" since these terms have a variety of meaning. In fact, without specifying the meaning, both terms are so ambiguous as to be meaningless other than the connotation (emotional charge) associated with them.

As we enter the age of automation and robotics, labor is going to be less and less of a consideration. The issue is distribution. Since the advent of the surplus society and monetary economies distribution has been decided historically chiefly based on power and money.

So the question become, Is there a better way, or are we stuck with that.

Peter Pan said...

Welfare, basic income guarantees and job guarantees are potential solutions to the underemployment problem. These do not require system change.

Transforming the workplace into a democracy might require system change.

So capitalism and socialism are ambiguous, while feudalism is not? I would say there are enough characteristics to tell them apart.

Tom Hickey said...

I think that feudalism is mostly forgotten and ignored, but just take the estates in Britian. Pretty huge remnant.

I see "capitalism" and "socialism" as slogans, along with "democracy." The slogan in the West is capitalism and democracy, so I often write that capitalism and democracy are incompatible. That is a slogan, too, aimed at confronting what has become a cultural meme.

"Liberty," "freedom" and many other words that are often repeated in political discourse have also become slogans or symbols, as is wrapping oneself in the flag.

We need to deconstruct all this and get down to what is actually at stake.

I would prefer a radical approach to transformation but realize that this is unlikely on a mass scale, where change is iterative other than at major turning points.

I am not particularly concerned with the type of system as much as the quality of the elements. If people were functioning at a high level, the type of system would either be irrelevant or adapt quickly.

I see the issue as one of "consciousness-raising" as did Marx, as well as many people who are regarded as either forward thinkers or sages.

The issue is personal but it also involves education, institutions and culture. Unless minds and hearts are changed, and this is manifested outwardly in institutional and cultural shifts, changes in the socio-economic system will not persist and there will be inevitable backsliding. There is often radical change after a revolution but after the initial euphoria wears off the backsliding begins.

This kind of shift may be in works in the US if Strauss and Howe are correct in The Fourth Turning, where they anticipate a fourth "spiritual awakening" in America to occur around now. They admit, however, that this is no way to predict what that will look like or what the outcome will be. That would have a major impact on the rest of the world.

Malmo's Ghost said...

"I am not particularly concerned with the type of system as much as the quality of the elements. If people were functioning at a high level, the type of system would either be irrelevant or adapt quickly."

I'm of the same mind. Whatever arrangement brings about optimal emotional and physical health would be a noble goal. At the very least people are entitled to a dignified (not stigmatized) existence when it comes to safety, housing, food, leisure and medical care. Those aspects of living should be antecedents not tied to the quid pro quo of job compensation linked to market driven wages. The eradication of class society could be an offshoot too, although that would be a process, not an immediate offshoot.. A problem which impedes getting us fro point A to point B is one of scale. The macro must respect the micro unit of community and vice versa. There are vital use functions in the large and small units of community (local and national). A culture of respect and tolerance for both would go a long way in removing the local units skepticism of those fronting unhealthy and overbearing nationalism.

Peter Pan said...

Democracy is about power, and who gets to wield it. If you are part of a minority, as the 1% are, democracy is a mechanism to be avoided.
If the quality of life of ordinary people were given precedence, capitalism could help obtain those outcomes. Other outcomes would be achieved through non-market approaches.
Incompatibility occurs when you place capitalism (or any ism) before other considerations. We live in a society where the precepts of capitalism are placed on a pedestal, while democracy is given lip service. The logical outcome of that prioritization is clear for everyone to see.
When the Communist Party of China blabbers on about their commitment to 'socialism', they are placing their ideology above all else. The only check to this nonsense is pragmatism. Or blood-letting.

By all means de-construct the slogans that pass for discourse. I consider workers in China to be 'wage slaves'. Is that merely a slogan, or is there substance to it?

Tom Hickey said...

It's relative. Most people in Russia and China were poor before the revolutions and they became better off after the revolution, although they may still be "poor" in comparison with developed countries, where many of those below the poverty line are rich by comparison.

The salient fact is that most people under state capitalism and state socialism are not free in the liberal sense of free to develop their potential.

This has led liberals of left and right to conclude that "the state," i.e., hierarchical government is the problem.

But libertarian capitalism would simply result in domination by the rich without the protection that a liberal state gives through representative government and the rule of law. Similarly, libertarian socialism is subject to hijacking.

Without raising the level of collective consciousness permanently there is no lasting way out of power and class structure. Changing the system alone will not be sufficient, at least for very long.

Peter Pan said...

It shouldn't be too difficult to convince people that they need to participate in the management of their society. Analogies can be made to raising a family or running a business. Are these tasks that can be delegated away and voted on every few years?

In a direct democratic model, there are no political parties or leaders. Having such a model would go a long way to convincing people that those things are unnecessary.

That of course, brings up the question of whether direct democracy is workable.

Libertarianism is associated with anarchism, a tradition of thought that deserves its own analysis.

Tom Hickey said...

People are trained to think that they cannot manage themselves. But this is nonsense. Most workers have families and some large families. The term "economics" is derived from a Greek term meaning household management.

As far as direct democracy goes, it was the original organizational form in communities of the early northern colonies, and the "New England town meeting" still exists in some places.

There is a long history of community cooperation in the US. It was essential in agricultural communities prior to the industrialization of agriculture and the advent of agribusiness.

The Rombach Report said...

Tom - I have an idea of what "libertarian capitalism" would look like, but can you elaborate on what "libertarian socialism" would look like?

Tom Hickey said...

I have an idea of what "libertarian capitalism" would look like, but can you elaborate on what "libertarian socialism" would look like?

This is one of the questions to be asked and the second is how would we get there from here?

There are many proposals on the table, but I don't know of any that have worked through the social, political, and economic issues comprehensively so as to give a vision of what the society would look like institutionally, or how to scale this up.

My own view, and I think Roger's too, is that it must be an experimental process and at this point the model to use is expansion of distributed networks. It's already happening practically with computing and alternative energy to some degree and through social media and peer to peer (P2P).

There are also many promising signs of collective consciousness universalizing through communications and transportation technology, as well as the tendency away from tradition and tribalism toward openness and pluralism. In fact, socially, this is the dominant dialect globally, reflected in US politics.

It's happening quickly from the historical reference point but too slowly given the challenges that humanity faces from a number of direction, any one of which could result in serious culling and even an extinction event.

TPTB are suppressing awareness of this urgency, but the word is getting out quickly through the net and there is reason to hope that enough people will rise up angry to change things politically, which is necessary to change things economically in an era of statism captured by special interests, in both capitalistic and socialistic countries.

I take a holistic perspective on this. The problem is fundamentally spiritual in the broad sense, where the basis of spirituality is experience of unity. So a rise in the general level of collective consciousness signifies a change in mind and heart that manifests as more universal attitude and behavior.

In my view, this is the sine qua non, since the fundamental problems arises from pursuit of narrow self-interest at the expense of the whole, which, practically speaking, now the global social, political and economic system.

This would make possible a shift in interpersonal relations toward greater cooperation and coordination, greatly increasing the adaptive rate. This would manifest in changes to principle institutions and a shift in culture reflective of the shift in collective consciousness. It would reduce conflict and therefore the perceived need to commit some much of humanity's resources to military use. This alone would fundamentally change the equations as forward thinkers like Bucky Fuller and Kenneth Boulding emphasized decades ago.

I don't think we can foresee just how this would manifest yet. So trying to come up with specific plans is merely a useful exercise at this point to et people thinking about the issues and debating alternatives. There have been experiments going on for some time, and some interesting models that have already been time-tested are available to consider.

However, I think that limiting ourselves at this point to current thinking is inadvisable and premature. "Let a hundred flowers bloom." We need to be exploring options creatively at this point, and this means freeing up creativity and generating a sense of urgency. There is not just one way forward. We need to explore alternatives and let the most successful ones bubble up toward the top of the list.

Peter Pan said...

You haven't answered his question, Tom. Libertarian socialism is related to the anarchist tradition, who disagree amongst themselves what it means.

Even US libertarians speak of things that can be found in anarchist literature.

Tom Hickey said...

Bob, I think virtually all the anarchist thinking abut an anarchist vision is pie in the sky, other than reports of anarchist experiments in intentional communities. Dissidents in general are good at diagnosis but poor at therapeutics.

I was an activist in the Sixties and Seventies and several things became clear to me. First, the dissident leadership was great as diagnosis and leading protest but clueless about how to fix things and if they had been successful and acceded to political leadership, it would have been a disaster not much different from what happened in Russia and China.

Secondly, I have participated in some anarchist experiments and researched more. The successful ones would be very difficult to scale up and the unsuccessful one often damaged the participants. I have also sat in many strategy circles where people were lost in their heads and were clearly didn't have a practical bone in their body. In other circles when it came time to ante up, the hands quickly folded. Getting from though to action is difficult, especially when there are perceived personal costs.

The people that can act are generally not so good on the thought side, and the people good on the thought side are unable to translate it into action. This a reason protests often turn violent, and revolutions are violent and the leaders that emerge afterward are violent people.

Even if someone came up with the greatest idea in the world, how would the world or a large nation like the US get there from here. To me it's useful as a speculative exercise that might have some relevance in the future, but at this point, it's impractical.

It was Marx's weakness. He was at the cutting edge in the economic analysis of his time, but his political thought did not measure up. He did not have a clear vision or path to it, and his belief that the socialists revolutions would emerge in capitalist countries never materialized.

The socialist revolutions that were successful happened in agrarian countries that were backward relatively at the time. Moreover, the notion of the dictatorship of the proletariat turned out to be a disaster, as Bakunin had predicted.

In my view, many libertarian socialists aka anarchists seem to think that if the conditions of oppression and exploitation are only removed, then some version libertarian socialism, presumably theirs, will arise from the ashes. I think this is wishful thinking based on my experience, absent a rise in the level of collective consciousness toward greater appreciation for universality arising in experience.

Peter Pan said...

If you believe that change must originate from below, then activism takes on a lesser meaning.

Without public support, the tail (activists) can never wag the dog (non-activists). Unless you have lots of money. Or guns.

Ideals are not to blame for the failure of their proponents. Yet that is the impression I am getting from your experiences as an activist. Without the contributions from anarchist literature, would we be able to question the status quo?

If I could make direct democracy trendy or fashionable, I would.

Tom Hickey said...

Bob, I became radicalized while serving as naval officer during Vietnam and realized what was really going on. It had nothing to do with reading anarchist literature. As someone involved in operations, it became obvious. I was interested in winning and saw that the policy, strategy and tactics were fundamentally flawed, resulting in huge waste of life and resources on both sides. The fabricated policy reasons fed to the public were not the actual policy reasons, and the strategy was ignorant of the French experience, just as the Afghan experience now is ignorant of the experience of former invaders. But the real interests being served are being served in spite of the cost and likely outcome, when the public finally gets tired of the cost and politicians pull back support.

The game is always dupe the rubes and the way to end it is to expose the game, on one hand, and secondly, to take one's own game elsewhere, withdrawing support for it. And alternative games supply experimental models.

Peter Pan said...

You were interested in winning what? The Vietnam War?

Solution: end the draft.

Reading anarchist literature is an alternative to reinventing the wheel. But I suppose every generation believes that it has some unique insight that has never been tried or thought of before. In marketing this is known as re-branding.

Most people don't like geopolitics, but accept that it is part of living in a world divided into competitive nation-states.

Tom Hickey said...

You were interested in winning what? The Vietnam War?

Hey, I was a gung-ho Republican that had pretty much bought into the bullshit at the time. This was the mid Sixties when things were just heating up and what became obvious later wasn't then. My tour was 64-67, after which I joined the anti-war movement.

Peter Pan said...

So you were radicalized twice ;)

Tom Hickey said...

It's ongoing. For example, I didn't "step over the line" at first, but I recall the moment I made the decision to when I was a grad student. At that point, I realized that there was no turning back. Lots happened after that, and I could not have anticipated any of it.

Actually, it happened a lot earlier, I guess. My favorite poem in high school was Robert Frost's The Road Not Taken.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Peter Pan said...

Thank you Tom :)
I too, have taken the road less travelled. Over the years there have been paths that I could've taken to return me to the well-worn road, but have not followed them. I do not adapt.