Communist Party of Britain general secretary Robert Griffiths and international secretary John Foster attended a seminar on ‘Marxism in China’ on July 20, hosted by the embassy of the People’s Republic of China.

Among the guests welcomed by Ambassador Liu Xiaoming were included CWU general secretary Billy Hayes, Labour MP Tristram Hunt, former Respect MP George Galloway, Dr Jenny Clegg, Marx Memorial Library president David McLellan and director John Callow, leading peace campaigner Carol Turner and European Transport Workers Federation president Graham Stevenson.

As one of five panellists invited to deliver an opening address, Robert Griffiths said:

‘Comrade ambassador, comrades and friends, Lenin once pointed out that every country will find its own path to socialism. This has been confirmed by the experience of the Communist Party of China (CPC) over the past 90 years, and by the efforts of the Chinese people in the struggle to liberate themselves from reaction and imperialism in 1949.

The General Programme of the CPC declares that "China is at the primary stage of socialism, and will remain so for a long period of time". Indeed, this period is then estimated to be one of more than a hundred years. The programme continues: "In socialist construction, we must proceed from our specific conditions and take the path to socialism with Chinese characteristics".

Here is an affirmation of the classic approach expounded by Marx in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852), where he wrote that "Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past".

Of necessity, therefore, China’s communists have sought to apply the principles of Marxism-Leninism to their own nationally specific conditions. These conditions have presented unique challenges and particular contradictions, in theory as in practice:

  • How to achieve socialist revolution in a society with a small industrial working class and a very large peasantry.
  • How to undertake mass industrialisation, fulfilling the historic tasks of capitalism without a ruling capitalist class.
  • How to exercise political leadership without a revolutionary party based primarily on an industrial proletariat.

The CPC General Programme declares that "the principal contradiction in Chinese society is one between the ever-growing material and cultural needs of the people and the low level of production".

There is no doubt that utilising Western capital and technology within the framework of a planned economy, state ownership of the banking industry and Communist Party rule, has contributed substantially to the struggle to resolve this contradiction – while also aggravating other contradictions of social inequality, trade union organisation and those associated with China’s new role as a world economic and political power.

Through Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory and the model of a socialist market economy, the Four Cardinal Principles and Jiang Zemin’s Theory of the Three Represents, the CPC is developing and applying "Marxism with Chinese characteristics" to meet these challenges and in a world-historic attempt to resolve these contradictions.

That process demands serious study by communists and Marxists around the world, indeed by everyone interested in – and committed to – the struggle for the liberation of humanity’.