Thank goodness the Chinese Communist Party has only ever held 18 national congresses, because as the 19th congress looms next month, it is already filling newspaper pages and airwaves with unrecyclable torrents of bullshit that threaten both to overwhelm and bore everyone to death.
We are treated to allegedly informed appraisals of ideological shifts, claims of new initiatives and, most frequently, mounds of speculation about who’s in and who is out.
The reality however is that what is described as a discussion, even a debate, is absolutely nothing of the kind. All the major decisions have already been taken behind closed doors; the function of the congress is to provide a rubber stamp and put on a stilted performance designed to awe and cow the citizens of the PRC plus the rabble of useful foreign idiots who line up to add their support.
Not only is there no real debate or discussion nowadays, but even in the days when the Communist Party was not in power, the congress served as a way of enforcing the leadership’s decisions. Back then, there was perhaps a scintilla of debate, but it was largely conducted in coded language and minority voices were quickly snuffed out or, worse, extinguished.
The shell that remains and is called the CCP has long abandoned any real interest in Marxist ideology; indeed it is highly questionable whether even Mao Zedong had much interest in this subject, but he shrewdly played along with his Soviet paymasters, putting up a lively show.
If there is any lingering ideology, it largely consists of ultra nationalist bluster; Karl Marx’s internationalism has long been consigned to the dustbin of history. And, as far as guiding principles are concerned, well, that’s simple; they consist in their entity of methods of retaining power for a small self-perpetuating elite.
What marks out the party’s current leader Xi Jinping is how rapidly and comprehensively he has consolidated his personal dominance over the party. This congress will merely underline in public the process that is already well underway in private.
There will however be any number of speeches where fine sounding words such as ‘progress’, ‘responsibility’ and even ‘welfare of the people’ will be uttered but, like the PRC’s constitution, these words have very little meaning.
In this sense, the CCP is like all dictatorships that operate a system of mirrors and deflections designed on the one hand to reinforce and on the other to disguise the party’s control.
Of course the dictatorship system that most influenced the Chinese Communist Party was that of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. In this regard I still vividly recall my student days attending lectures on Russian history by Tibor Szamuely. In his broad Hungarian accent, he would regale us with detailed accounts of the Soviet constitution and how it worked. As he came to the end of his peroration he would raise his head and say ‘ladies and gentlemen, of course this has absolutely nothing to do with reality. The constitution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is no more than a work of fiction’. And so it is with the PRC’s constitution.
Meanwhile, here in Hong Kong, there is a marked reluctance to even talk about the Communist Party, despite the fact that the party is the pivotal force determining the SAR’s future. Moreover, local party members still keep their membership secret. Various bigwigs nonetheless strut around proudly proclaiming their presence on a clutch of state bodies and even go so far as to claim that they have some impact on policy.
The poor dears seem gloriously unaware that they are attending the wrong parties and the only party that matters is The Party. They don’t even get a toenail in the door of influencing this party’s policy and actually pretend that what happens in the CCP has no impact on Hong Kong. Dream on suckers!
caption : The well-oiled rubber-stamping machine in action.