By Yuezhi Zhao*
Introductory Note: This text was originally written in Chinese, by the attendees of the 1st Heyang Forum, an annual forum of progressively-minded scholars and agrarian researchers organized in Jinyun County, Zhejiang Province, China by the Heyang Institute for Rural Studies (HIRS). Founded in 2014, the HIRS is a no-profit organization dedicated to promoting rural-based research and bridging the urban-rural gap through concrete projects of communication and cultural empowerment.
The rapid expansion of global capitalism has caused severe strain on our planet. Today, we are witnessing an ecological rift, global warming, the severe pollution of air, water, and soil, and the endangering and extinction of wildlife species. Indeed, the basic needs for the survival of humanity are at threat. At the same time, in a society of rampant injustice and inequality, the deep chasms between the rich and the poor and the urban and the rural continue to widen, while wars, both literal and ideological, continue to be waged along the lines of class, ethnicity, and gender.
The problems caused by the inherent contradictions in capitalism cannot be solved by the capitalist logic. A new developmental path must be chosen: ecological socialism. Between barbarism and civilization, ecological socialism must be the way forward for socialism in the 21st century, and it must be the way forward for the construction of an ecological civilization.
Ecological socialism is grounded in the ideal of harmonious coexistence between humans and nature. It upholds and is guided by the values of justice and equality, demanding a redefinition of the ends and means of production, as well as a reconstruction of the social relationships of production. Ecological socialism searches for sustainable development, while rejecting the logics of capitalism and developmentalism, and of urban-centrism and consumerism.
Even after the waning of its magnificent 20th century, China, having undergone a profound and far-reaching social revolution, still retains a socialist legacy up to today. Confronting the sustained impact of a world guided by the policies and ideology of economic neoliberalism, Chinese socialists not only urgently need a perspective to transcend capitalism, but also find theoretical and practical resources from Chinese history to counter the coercive forces of capitalism and push for a viable global socialist movement.
We, a group of Chinese socialists, have come together to reach the following consensus:
1. We believe: only when production can serve the basic needs of the majority, and is not just for the sake of capitalist accumulation and for pursuit of profit, can the economic activity of human-kind avoid the alienation of society and the exploitation of labour. Only then can we prevent the disastrous outcomes of continued environmental destruction and the depletion of our natural resources. Only then can we simultaneously protect and use what is offered to us by the natural world. Only then can we develop green energy and fuel sustainable development. From the perspective of socialist productive relations and productive aims, sustaining ecological integrity must not be equated with environmental protection, let alone the latter’s appropriation by the “green consumerism” of the few.
2. We believe: the free and full development of human beings is the ultimate goal of human society. Towards this end, and within the socialist mode of production, the basic materials of production and communal resources must be publicly owned and shared. We oppose the privatization of resources including land, mines, forests, and pastures. We oppose the commodification of labor. We oppose the unleashing of capital at the expense of labor. We oppose the transformation of state owned enterprises and banks by private and foreign capital. We oppose a belief in the ‘omnipotent market’ in solving the problem of the provision of common goods and services such as food, health care, education, housing, and public transportation. We oppose technological innovation as a means to pursue capitalistic expansion, oligopolistic consolidation, and individualistic consumerism; yet, we stand strongly in favor of the development of a technological innovation system guided by the principles of national interests and public services. We oppose the use of intellectual property rights to turn a profit, as well as the monopolization of cultural, scientific, and technological resources.
3. We believe: urban and rural areas need to develop in coordination. We support rural revitalization and support the reorganization of rural households through various collective and cooperative means. We stand against any form of dispossession inflicted on the countryside, farmers, and villages, and we oppose any form of exploitation and discrimination against migrant laborers. We oppose the illegal seizure of land, any land use that compromises its arability, and the co-opting of land into the real estate industry to be gambled for the profit of the few. We support the food sovereignty movement, we are in defense of food security, and we stand against the easy penetration of transnational capital into local agricultural markets. We oppose the non-subsidization of agriculture, and the crushing of small and independent farmers by financial capital.
4. We believe: upholding the sovereignty of the people is integral to achieving a truly democratic society. Within this, the most important form of the people’s sovereignty is the active participation of laborers in the management of the economy and in social and political life. We oppose the fusion of state and private capital, the exchange of public power for private gain, as well as the compradorization of officials in conducting the state’s diplomatic affairs and economic and trade negotiations. We uphold the supremacy of the people and the sacred nature of labor. We insist on the agency of the working people and the necessity of rebuilding the worker-peasant alliance. We stand strongly against exploitative employment relations, as well as the utter disregard of workers’ rights to hold legal union elections, collective bargaining, contractual guarantees, restricted overtime, safe working conditions, as well as such basic rights as having wages paid in full and on time. We defend the class base of socialism and uphold gender equality. We insist on the equality and unity between nations and ethnicities and strongly oppose Han chauvinism.
5. We believe: A robust and wholesome socialist culture is one that valorizes the collective, extols labor, and prioritizes sharing. We oppose possessive individualism, market-driven consumption, as well as all forms and modes of waste. We believe that intellectuals and academics should see themselves as laborers who see a purpose in contributing to the nation and serving the people. In dedicating themselves to academic research, technological innovation, as well as literary and artistic creation, they ultimately make their mark in the collective goal of attaining global peace and prosperity. We also believe in the people character and creative nature of public communication, cultural production and spaces for social intercourses. We oppose the commercialization, profit-driven orientation, and the vulgarization of public media and the resulting forms of discursive domination.
6. We believe: National unity and sovereignty can not only coexist with, but also complements, internationalism. In fact, attaining this complementary relationship is an essential precondition for winning the socialist struggle. The unique history and traditions of each nation and their peoples must be respected, with the brilliance of each respective national and ethnic culture promoted. Moreover, we must also cherish the cultural heritage that is shared by all human beings. Beginning from our basic needs as humans from this earth and from the sharing of our local knowledge, we can open a world of multiple possibilities for human development. We oppose the hegemony of capitalism as the sole model of modernization. And with this, we oppose racism, neo-imperialism, neocolonialism, as well as any form of sectarianism and fundamentalism.
Socialists of China unite! Together with the Global South and all the progressive forces of the world, march upon the path towards eco-socialism and build a new global village that belongs to all!
*Yuezhi Zhao, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China, E-mail: email@example.com