Tue Sep 27, 2022
September 27, 2022

Projetamento Economics: a Stalinist Farse

A rehashed “theory” emerged in Stalinism to explain the economic growth of China in recent decades and, at the same time, to justify what they call Chinese socialism. One of its greatest propagandists is the Communist Party of Brazil, through Elias Jabbour, a member of its Central Committee.

By: Marcos Margarido
It is the Projetamento [1] Economics, an economic model theorized, according to Elias Jabbour, by Ignácio Rangel, composed of the union, or combination, of Keynesian mechanisms, Modern Monetary Theory and Soviet planning. Other ingredients would be added, in this century of technological achievements, with the introduction of “new forms of industrial organisation” based on the “incorporation of the internet, big data and artificial intelligence to the real economy,” in the words of the Chinese dictator Xi Jinping (according to Elias Jabbour’s article) [2], to designate the New Projetamento Economics.
According to its defenders, the adoption of this model by the Chinese government is responsible for the GDP growth of about 10% a year, on average, at the beginning of the 21st century and it puts Chinese socialism in the foreground, transforming that country into a world power. All this would be characterised, once again according to Elias Jabbour, by three “great narratives” of this beginning of the century: 1) national development projects; 2) socialism and 3) new and superior forms of economic planning.
In truth, this is nothing new, it is yet another reheated dish to make us swallow the fable of socialism in China today, or, as the Chinese leaders say, although less and less so, of “market socialism.” First of all, it must be made clear that since the end of the 1970s of the last century, there has no longer been a transition economy to socialism in China, that is, an economy under the control of a workers’ state. The capitalist restoration carried out by Deng Xiaoping with his “four modernisations” from 1978 left no stone unturned in the achievements of the Chinese workers and peasants obtained by the victory of the 1949 revolution.
A series of events from 1978 onwards introduced capitalist relations of production into the Chinese economy – for instance, the special economic zones on the southern coast and family businesses in the countryside – and reinforced by the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, that Chinese capitalism received the impetus and political stability necessary for its reconstruction in a country where there was no longer a bourgeoisie, but which today, according to Forbes magazine, has 400 billionaires listed in its ranking, becoming the second country in the world to reach this sad record.
China’s richest man, Ma Huateng, owner of the internet company Tencent, has a fortune of US$60.4 billion. He had more money than Mark Zuckerberg, the all-powerful CEO of Facebook, before the pandemic. It is ridiculous to talk about socialism in a country where a population of 1.3 billion is exploited by 400 billionaires, not to mention the thousands of millionaires, who even inhabit the congresses and CC of the Communist Party of China. Xi Jinping himself would be among the 400 billionaires, with a personal fortune (with no traceable origin) estimated at $1.5 billion.
It is only by forgetting this basic fact – the existence of exploitation – that one can speak of anything like “socialism” in China. The very definition of “market socialism,” inaugurated by Deng Xiaoping, would make Marx rise from his grave – like the ghost of the Communist Manifesto – to haunt these vulgar “Marxists.” For Marx made it clear that in the first phase of communism – which is conventionally called socialism – the first economic fact would be the end of the law of value and, therefore, of the existence of the market, although some norms of bourgeois law could persist for some time [3].
Anti-imperialism?
Another argument widely used by Chinese “socialism” defenders is its supposed anti-imperialism. The recent trade war initiated by Trump against China evidently seems to reinforce this position. But it does not hurt to recall the famous – often quoted – phrase “It’s the economy, stupid,” created in Bill Clinton’s electoral campaign.
It should first be pointed out that having a government that confronts imperialism does not transform the country that applies such a policy into a socialist one. But can we say that the Chinese government is anti-imperialist?
In the 03/09/2020 edition of the Economist it is read:
Yet in one part of the global economy the pattern is of superpower engagement, not estrangement: high finance. BlackRock, a giant asset manager, has got the nod to set up a Chinese fund business. Vanguard, a rival, is shifting its Asian headquarters to Shanghai. JPMorgan Chase may spend $1bn to buy control of its Chinese money-management venture. Foreign fund managers bought nearly $200bn of mainland Chinese shares and bonds in the past year.” (Why is Wall Street expanding in China?)
It is clear that a workers’ state, as revolutionary Russia was until Lenin’s death, must do business with capitalist countries, especially since it is isolated like an island in a capitalist ocean. But, the problem is the criteria for doing business with the class enemy. Let us remember that even under NEP, Soviet Russia maintained strict control of foreign trade (contrary to Stalin’s views), maintained nationalisation of the means of production, and authorised controlled capitalisation in the countryside without giving up nationalisation of the land. Obviously, it never gave up state control of the financial system and its nationalisation. None of this happens in China.
On the contrary, the Chinese government is relaxing the rules of access of foreign capital to the Chinese financial market, until then under very restrictive state control by imperialist standards, allowing foreign banks to carry out financial operations with the international market and facilitating the buying and selling of shares of private companies on the stock exchanges.
As we see, there is nothing anti-imperialist in these decisions of the Chinese government, but only the facilitation of the entry of foreign financial capital to balance its balance of payments, a commonplace procedure among pro-imperialist governments all over the world.
What is projetamento economics?
Projetamento economics is defined as the union of the three economic fields mentioned above. Is it possible to unite them? From the point of view of the current capitalist economy, which Marx would call vulgar, it may be possible to unite some characteristics of each of these fields, provided that we abstract from the existence of social relations of exploitation in capitalist society. Let us leave this discussion to the economists. But is it possible to talk about the use of this type of economy in a socialist country?
Left-wing Keynesians have long tried to demonstrate that Marxist economics – or better, Marx’s critique of political economy in the Capital – and the elaborations of John Maynard Keynes in his book General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money sail in the same boat. To do this, they did what the apologists of the projetamento economics do today: they strip Marxism of any trace of class struggle and turn it into a caricature, into an economic system to be taught in universities. They forget that, for Marx, the general law of capitalist accumulation is based precisely on the exploitation of the working class by the bourgeoisie, which has the industrial reserve army as its main base of support (by force of arms, of course).
This attempt to unite Keynesianism and Marxism was theoretically destroyed by the English Marxist Geoff Pilling in his book The Crisis of Keynesian Economics, A Marxist View, published in 1987. Pilling took issue with the left-wing Keynesian economist Joan Robinson and showed that the two systems are opposed at the apex. In fact, one cannot even call Keynesianism a theory, for it is a collection of empirical concepts that have been destroyed by the evolution of the capitalist economy itself. The Keynesians’ stance that strong state investment in the economy is necessary to end unemployment and regulate the functioning of capitalism is, in itself, an antagonistic statement to the Marxist view that the existence of an army of unemployed is fundamental to the development – and regulation – of capitalism.
Modern Monetary Theory is nothing more than a renewal of the old jargon that money has value for its own sake, that is, that it is not a fetishised “representative” of the value of commodities produced in capitalism, and that it would be enough to create money out of thin air to make possible the realisation of investments that would result in the end of unemployment. This theory is also antagonistic to Marxism, for the same reasons as Keynesianism: it does not recognise the law of value developed by Marx as the basis of the functioning of the capitalist economy. It creates miraculous schemes to end unemployment, something impossible in capitalism. It is worth saying that none of the proponents and followers of these two bourgeois economic fields advocates replacing the capitalist economic system with a superior mode of production, but only want to make it “viable”. That is, they hope that their recipes will be able to quietly maintain the continuity of the exploitation of the workers by the bourgeoisie.
Is planning synonymous with Marxist economics?
Finally, the pro-China Stalinists claim that these two models were united with Soviet planning in order to, together with the new production techniques of the 21st century, propitiate China’s impressive progress. As we said above, they are cleaning up Marxism, “cleaning out” everything that refers to class struggle, exploitation, the 18-hour working days of the 19th century but still existing today in the textile industries of Pakistan, slave and child labour, and transforming the Marxist critique of the bourgeois economics into … planning.
Planning, though important for the smooth functioning of the economies of workers’ states, is but a technique, and is only effectively possible after the expropriation of the bourgeoisie, workers’ control of the means of production through their democratic institutions, the end of exploitative relations, the end of the market and of everything that refers to the anarchy of capitalist production. Several capitalist economies have some kind of central planning to try to organise and restrict crises in some way, and they do not succeed because there is a contradiction between the market, that is, the search for profit, competition intrinsic to capitalism, and real planning of the economy. By the criteria of these worshippers of the Chinese model, Italy and France in the 1960s would be socialist.
But the centre of the question for socialism is not planning itself, but the end of exploitation. Something (the end of exploitation) that evidently does not exist in China.
Unless a “new mode of production” (according to Jabbour) called the “New Projetamento Economics” is emerging in China and that, therefore, must be superior to the hypothetical Chinese socialism. Are we finally reaching “communism in one country”? This is what Jabbour states in his fantasies about the Chinese paradise.
For us, life is simpler. The economic development of China was made possible by the restoration of capitalism and the consequent over-exploitation of the working class, and by the metamorphosis of the Communist Party of China, which became a bourgeois party, both in its statutes and social base and defended the capitalist class tooth and nail after the restoration. This metamorphosis did not only affect the party but most of its leaders, who became capitalists and joined the ranks of the exploiters.
This “new mode of production” needs no new name and no new theory to explain it. It is enough to read Karl Marx’s Capital.

Notes:

[1] – Projetamento is a neologism that combines the words project (projeto) and planning (planejamento) in Portuguese.

[2] – Elias Jabbour, On Socialism and the “New Projetamento Economics”, https://portaldisparada.com.br/economia-e-subdesenvolvimento/nova-economia-do-projetamento/
[3] – See Marx’s Critique of the Gotha Programme on this, and a brief discussion on the two phases of communism on https://litci.org/en/the-two-phases-of-communism/

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