By Charles Onunaiju
IN her three part article published last week in the Punch Newspaper, former Education Minister, Mrs Oby Ezekwesili in an attempt to venerate the market economy and canonize the private sector, traded extensively on factual inaccuracies, poorly substantiated arguments and invested it with the typical personal ego of Nigerian elite of “I have had the privilege of interacting closely with new elected leaders of countries”. My understanding was that she was the Vice President of the world Bank, Africa region for a few years and the bank and her twin Bretton wood institution, IMF have fallen out of favour as a “destination of choice for policy advisory and bailout funds, as at the time, she was there.
One is concerned at her sweeping conclusions and generalizations even in matters, she does not have adequate grasp. In the third part of her article, she wrote that in 1978, the then Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping embraced the principles of the market; and further claimed that “it was less than three decades of abandoning communism and embracing what China calls “socialist market economic principles”, that it achieved the record two decades long double-digit growth. Actually 1978 was epochal and a turning for China but it was not because “Deng Xiaoping embraced the principles of the market”.
Following the chaos unleashed by the gang of four, at whose head was Chairman Mao’s wife, Jiang Qing, during the Cultural Revolution, China suffered enormous setback in her overall national construction and socialist modernization. Leading cadres of the communist party of China, including Deng Xiaoping who was party general secretary and vice premier has been purged and dubbed “capitalist roader No 2” by the gang of four and their mob of the red guard. Even the highly respected premier Zhou Enlai was similarly taunted as a prospective “capitalist roader”. Chairman Mao who was then, worried at the turn of the Cultural Revolution warned the gang of four about establishing a plant factory that manufactures and sticks labels at people. Even though, he has acceded to the purge of Deng Xiaoping, he vehemently refused his expulsion to the party. Deng has been a veteran of long march, in which the communist party marched or trekked more than six thousand kilometers for more than a year through eleven Chinese provinces, crossed over fifteen mountain ranges and ten rivers including the Yangtze river. Deng Xiaoping was the editor of the party press, the red flag and took notes at the historic Zunyi conference in 1935 at which Chairman Mao and Premier Zhou Enlai emerged the party leaders.
Following the death of the key leaders of the Chinese revolution in 1976, (Premier Zhou Enlai, died in February, army commander Zhu De died in June and Mao himself died in September) and the end of the Cultural Revolution, China was simmering with indecisiveness. In December, 1978, the communist party of China convened the historic third plenary session of the 11th central committee meeting of the party.
At the historic meeting, Deng Xiaoping who led the discussion and presented a report on the difficult phase of the party and urged his colleagues that the party must return to its fine tradition that the “criteria for judging truth is practice”, and emancipating the mind through seeking truth from fact. Affirming the party’s proletarian outlook and its Marxist theoretical foundation, Deng warned that without emancipation of the mind, people would be wrapped up in the trammels of conventional ideas, bend in whatever direction the wind blew and practice book worship which was divorced from reality. The policy implication of the historic third plenum of the 11th central committee of meeting of the Chinese Communist party, CPC was the landmark economic reform and theoretical ramification was the unique practice of socialism with Chinese characteristics. At no point was socialism and communism repudiated, but China maintained that it was at a primary stage of socialism and it would take several years even hundreds to reach the advance stage, which is communism. Infact, recently at the 18th congress of the communist party, the party affirmed that it is the core duty of every communist to believe in the communist future and work assiduously to its realization.
At the 14th national congress of the communist party, the party established the socialist market economy as the goal of the economy. Against Mrs Ezekwesili opinion that China has repudiated socialism, China’s economic reforms from the beginning were decidedly socialist and its architect, Deng Xiaoping was firmly convinced that “economic reform is the only way to develop the productive forces but also made clear that “in the course of reform, it is very important for us to maintain our socialist orientation.
Chinese current leader and Secretary General of the communist party of China, President Xi Jinping pointed out at a study session of political bureau of the 18th party central committee; that “reform and opening up is an in-depth revolution, a long term and arduous cause, always ongoing task that will never end”. For the avoidance of doubt for Mrs Ezekwesili, the political report delivered by the central committee of the communist party of China to the 18th national congress in November 2012, affirmed that China would hold “high the great banner of socialism with Chinese characteristics and reject both the old and rigid closed door policy and any attempt to abandon socialism and take erroneous path. The path of Socialism with Chinese characteristics is the fundamental accomplishment made by the party and the people in the course of the arduous struggle over the past 90 plus”.
State directed or centrally planned economy is not exclusively socialist, nor is the market economy the preserve of a capitalist economy. Whether with a private sector-led market or state directed market economy, there is a need for a strong, developmental and democratic state able to enforce its own laws and hold the ring for fair competition among all stakeholders. South Korea under the military dictatorship of General Park, the father of the current South Korean leader, Ms Park, created the framework for its current dynamic economy by huge state investments in core and priority areas of industry. And these are the stories of all modern capitalist market economies, including the advance Western countries of Europe and North America.
Following immediately after the victory of Bolshevik party in Russia in 1917, Vladimir Lenin established the New Economic policy, (NEP) which gave preponderance to market economy. One of the key figures in the Political bureau of the Bolshevik party, Nikolai Bukharin, advanced the view that peasants should be left to get rich by allowing the market to determine the prices of their produce.
The extensive Stalinist bureaucracy constructed after the death of Lenin and following the victory of the Josef Stalin faction against the oppositionist led by the Leon Trotsky ensured that the incipient market economy did not survive.
•Onunaiju writes from Abuja.