Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Andrew Murray Goes Xi Jinping: “China increasingly reveals the advantages of socialist systems and societies.”

with 3 comments

“..the CPC remains the leading force and develops plans for Chinese society on a scientific basis” Andrew Murray.

In a less than challenging interview for Tribune, (the Podcast A World to Win), Andrew Murray talks about on his much heralded book, Is Socialism Possible in Britain? Reflections on the Corbyn Years (to be published by ‘new left’ Verso in September). Responding to the hard line Lexiteer (pro Brexit left) Grace Blakely, who “really enjoyed the book”, the former key Corbyn adviser talks of Labour Party history. This is marked, he asserts, by a division between “hard and soft reformism” in the party, and the lack of Marxist and Leninist influence.

The long-term Communist Party of Britain activist disposes of the its founding political force, the Independent Labour Party, in which Marxism was a marginal influence, and its “ethical socialism”, which he believes is a distinctive mark of the British labour movement. Other may observe that the German revisionist Eduard Bernstein was charged with this for his appeal to Kantian critique and ethics in his picture of ‘evolutionary socialism’, and amongst the French reformist current, the influential figure of Benoît Malon (1841 – 1893) wrote of “La morale social” which has also been compared to Kant (Emmanuel Jousse. Les hommes révoltés. Les origines intellectuelles du réformisme en France 1871-1917. 2017). 

Labour historians may equally question in more depth Murray’s claim that the ILP was not interested in the class struggle. Caroline Benn’s memorable biography of a ILP and Labour Party founding figure, Keir Hardie, is full of accounts of their backing for striking workers, trade unions, and the way in which the Scottish socialist mediated ethics, Christianity, socialism, and even references to Karl Marx. “Hardie firmly believed as well that the ILP was the ‘advanced wing’ of the working class, as ‘Marx intended the socialist section of the working class to be.'” (Page 260. Keir Hardie. 1997).

Corbyn and Corbynism was, he admits, “soft reformism”, a Parliamentary road to socialism, if rooted in the “politics of mass protests”. The book promises more on this, and, at the centre, the role of UNITE which substantially backed the anti-austerity movements, above all the People’s Assembly, that formed during the Conservative governments post 2010. It is without doubt the case that the left leader of the Party’s distance from the Parliamentary “game” and refusal to accept market liberal policies created great hostility from those who would have no truck with any form of reformism that could upset them. Above all one that was rooted on the “outside” world of street demonstrations, extra-parliamentary campaigns, or what Blakely grandly calls “social movements”,

That, by the former UNITE Chief of Staff, will be well worth reading, although dismissing ‘Parliamentary socialism’ – in Ralph Miliband’s view a loyalty to Parliament that outweighs any socialist policy is problematic (Parliamentary Socialism: A Study of the Politics of Labour (1961). It does not mean much unless you have a convincing argument and evidence for extra-parliamentary politics beyond marches, small local groups in civil society, a left presence in trade unions that is limited to the prime function of unions to defend members’ jobs, conditions and pay, and public meetings. Nor is it helpful for Murray, from his own political background to talk of Labour in terms of something external to be dissected. It is a mass party, a movement with a changing balance of forces between more complex lefts and rights than soft or hard reformists, and very far from socialist forces such as those around Tony Blair’s ‘modernisers’, groups in Parliament, local government, councillors, CLPs. and card-carriers. Aware of this potentially changeable structure Miliband’s final book, Socialism for a Sceptical Age (1994) did not think Labour was fixed in its direction. He speculated long before Murray’s sketch of the conditions that encouraged the growth of Corbynism, and during the first wave of modernising right-wing politics under Neil Kinnock, that one could never exclude social and political pressures that could push a move to socialist policies in a democratic party of the left.

But the former Chair of the Stop the War Coalition has a bee in his bonnet about “Imperialist social democracy”. Murray suggests that it is the right of the Labour Party , champions of NATO and Trident (UNITE backed Trident, on the basis of employment in the arms industry) champion, who have been the source of opposition to Jeremy Corbyn’s anti-imperialist foreign policy, seen as a threat to the “ruling elite”. Blackley, with a good degree from Oxbridge University, does not push the pillar of the StWC on the criticisms of their ‘anti-imperialist’ stands from left-wing internationalists on issues such as Syria, and Ukraine. Or China.

There are many reasons to criticise the form of anti-imperialism that Murray represents. The Tribune interview does not mention China…

Our job is made simpler by this article, which appeared a couple of days ago in the Chinese state chauvinist outlet, Global Times.

China’s power in the world, economically and politically, a fact not going to change: former Corbyn adviser.

“Andrew Murray (Murray), a former communist, deputy president of London-based anti-war organization Stop the War Coalition, and former adviser to former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, shared his views on these issues with Global Times (GT) reporter Xia Wenxin.”

Is China’s success under the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC) fully understood in British society?

Murray: Many of the CPC’s enormous achievements are generally neglected in the narrative in British society. I think that was based on a view that China would eventually become a sort of liberal, capitalist, bourgeois democracy. Now there is great anger that has not happened, and the CPC remains the leading force and develops plans for Chinese society on a scientific basis. So, I think the role of the CPC is not well understood. Partly it is seen as if it was merely the same as the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in years gone by, despite the many differences and the historical experience between the two countries.

I’m sure China will definitely carry on developing in the foreseeable future. The economic growth will not perhaps be at the rate it was 20 years ago, but that is normal – you can’t grow at a rate of 10-12 percent a year forever. But I’m confident that China will continue to develop.

My hope is that its development will increasingly reveal the advantages of socialism. I hope having made this tremendous development will not let inequalities breed too far, or let private domination of the economy go beyond a certain limit. China does not seek to be a model for any other country. It says, we do what works for China, and other countries can learn as they please. But China increasingly reveals the advantages of socialist systems and societies.

Murray thinks China, in contrast to the ‘neo-liberal’ imperialist West is a socialist beacon. One imperialist capitalist market bad, one imperialist capitalist market society good.

There is a word for the kind of thinking that enables somebody to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them. Perhaps a trawl through Google will help


Written by Andrew Coates

August 25, 2022 at 12:20 pm

3 Responses

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  1. At times, Murray comes over as one of the saner and more thoughtful conributors to the Morning Star (eg on antisemitism on the Corbynite left and on the fact that Putin’s Russia is imperialist). But when it comes to China and the human rights of the Uighurs, he just retreats into typical Stalinist “campism” and denial of basic human rights. The stance of more educated Stalinists like Murray towards China is all the more extraordinary because they know that China is capitalist (albeit “state capitalist”) – at least their forerunners who apologised for Stalin’s USSR genuinely believed they were campaigning for a non-capitalist beacon of the future.

    Jim Denham

    August 25, 2022 at 6:56 pm

    • Indeed, Murray does come across as sane.

      The interview even includes a bit referring (briefly) critically to “identity politics” which he qualifies by saying he does not use the term in a pejorative sense (clearly his words about “rancid identity politics” in The Fall and Rise of the British Left, 2019, had rankled with some), and regrets about Labour dropping the Green New Deal, no doubt to butter up Grace Blackley.

      Perhaps Murray’s views on China should be thought of as an Enlightenment imaginative fable designed to show through a voyage to an imaginary land where there are capital controls, the state is in charge of the economy, and a wise group of dedicated cadre can run things better, promote growth, and harmony, better than is the way in the lands of neo-liberalism,

      Andrew Coates

      August 25, 2022 at 7:41 pm

  2. Watching some videos on the SWPTVUK channel and there is one from the Marxism 2022 on Ukraine where Alex Callinicos announces in the meeting that the (Stalinist) Campists are no longer a force in StWC and that they have been sidelined, presumably, by a combination of the SWP and Counterfire.
    I don’t think that is true but for Callinicos to state that is notable.


    August 27, 2022 at 10:15 pm

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