Some Views on the Issue of Constitutionalism

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Wang Tingyou

Red Flag Manuscripts, 13 June 2013

Where Socialist countries are concerned, is Western capitalist constitutionalism a good and beneficial thing? Or is it a bad and even harmful thing? Does it conform to China’s national circumstances? To scientifically understand the question of constitutionalism, we must persist in taking Marxism as guidance, use Marxist standpoints, viewpoints and methods to analyse it.

I, The source, content, essence and substance of capitalist constitutionalism

According to the explanation in the “Encyclopaedia Britannica”, there mainly are two contents for constitutionalism: the first refers to a constitutional monarchy, the second refers to constitutional government. This encyclopaedia also provides textual research, the earliest use of the term constitutional monarchy in writing is by the Briton John Lock, mainly in the second half of the 17th Century. The earliest use of the terms constitutional government or constitutionalist doctrine are in France, Portugal and other such countries in the beginning of the 19th Century. The historical source of constitutionalism is traced back even further. In November 1869, in his “Notes on Goldwin Smith’s Book ‘Irish History and Irish Character'”, Engels mentions to the book “Constitutional History of England, Henry VII to George II”, published in two volumes in London by the British scholar Henry Hallam in 1827, which traces the history of English constitutionalism back to the end of the 15th Century (see “The Complete Works of Marx and Lenin”, Vol. 45, People’s Publishing House, 1985, p. 750).

England is the country that established the first constitutional monarchy system in the world, and consequently is the first country to implemented constitutionalism. In the second half of the 18th Century, the French bourgeois revolution started the thorough elimination of the monarchy system, and replaced with a bourgeois democratic republic (which was finally established in 1875). Afterwards, after the bourgeoisie in quite a few countries gained victory in their own national revolutions, they successively established capitalist government systems with democracy and republicanism as basic characteristics. In the face of these tides, in order to avoid the fate of elimination from history, traditional constitutionalist thinking began to absorb republican concepts such as popular sovereignty, etc., and progressively evolved into the many interpretations of constitutionalism in today’s West, such as  the support for separation of powers, democracy and the rule of law, restraining government power with a constitutional and legal system, guaranteeing citizens’ fundamental rights, etc.

In the process of the emergence and development of constitutionalism, constitutions have played an extremely important role. Constitutions are the outcome of bourgeois revolutions. The “Bill of Rights” passed in England in 1689, the “Constitution of the United States” formulated in the US in 1787 as well as the “Declaration of the Rights of Man” published in France in 1789 are all important documents in the Wests’ establishment of constitutional monarchies and democratic republican systems, they are milestones in Western constitutional history, and laid the political and legal foundations for the current Western constitutionalist systems.

How should we look at Western constitutionalism and constitutionalist systems? Historical materialism tells us one basic principle, which is that the economic base decides the superstructure. The social mode of production and the social economic base constituted by economic relationships decides a society’s politics, laws, morality, etc., as well as all sorts of institutions related with these. To scientifically understand political and legal phenomena in a society, and political or legal institutions, we must start from the society’s material production methods and its economic base. Marx pointed out that: “the relationships in law are the same as the form of nations, we can neither understand them in an of themselves, nor can we understand them as the common development of the so-called human spirit, conversely, they spring from relationships in material life”; (“Selected Works of Marx and Engels”, Vol. 2, People’s Publishing House, 1995, p. 32. “This sort of legal relationship that is contractual in form (regardless of whether that contract has been determined using the law) is a deterministic relationship that reflects economic relationships. The content of this sort of legal relationship or deterministic relationship is decided by this sort of economic relationship” (Id., p. 143). Engels also clearly pointed out that “economic relationships are reflected in legal principles, and at the same time, will inevitably revers this sort of relationship. The process of emergence of this reflection is outside of the consciousness of the actor; legal scholars believe that they rely on a priori principles in their actions, still, this is merely a reflection of economic matters.” (“Complete Works of Marx and Engels”, People’s Publishing House, 1971, p. 488).

Starting from the above principles, Marx and Engels further elaborated on issues such as the origin and genesis of law, etc., they point out that law, like countries, is a phenomenon characteristic to class societies, and is the outcome of irreconcilable class contradictions and class struggles. In order to uphold its own class interest and social order, under the name of representing the entire society and the universal will of the people, and with the backing of the means of State violence, the ruling class often formulates and promulgates norms that members of society must commonly uphold and standards for action, such as people’s rights and obligations as well as their boundaries, etc., in order to standardize and restrain people’s actions. This creates favourable conditions for law to emerge as a tool for class rule. This is the class nature of law, and its essence as well.

Constitutions began to emerge as human societies developed into the capitalist stage, and are the result of the bourgeoisie’s struggle to oppose feudalism. In order to fundamentally dominate royal power and impose norms on the entire body of citizens, the bourgeoisie needs to formulate a general charter for the country, which on one hand clarifies the nature of the national political system (in opposition to feudalism), the basic social system (capitalism) as well as the organizational form of the regime (multi-Party systems, parliamentary democracy, separation of powers, etc.), in order to indicate the position of all classes in the country and in society and the relationships between them, as well as to provide a basis and a yardstick for the formulation of further concrete laws. This general charter or basic law is the constitution.

What came in the wake of constitutions was the capitalist concept of rule of law. In societies before Socialism, even though law and the phenomenon of law existed, law in the slavery era and law in feudal societies only constrained the ruled classes and did not constrain the ruling classes, both in terms of form and nature (although there were also provisions that regulated relationships among the ruling classes), and slave owners and feudal lords clearly enjoyed privileges exceeding the law. Ruling power was higher than the power of the law, class privileges overrode the power of the law, and the law did not have a supreme position (this sort of societies can be named rule of man societies). By the capitalist era, humankind’s rule of law concept had seen great progress. The class nature of the law had not changed, but at least in terms of form, all members of society including the bourgeoisie were brought into the scope of applicability and constraint of the law, and in political terms, it was declared that all persons would be equal before the law, and it would not be permitted that individuals, groups or organizations enjoyed privileges in excess of or separate from the law (this sort of societies can be named rule of law societies).

The rule of law replaced the rule of man, which was a great step ahead in human civilization. Even so, what must be considered is that the law was formulated by people, but not every person had the power to formulate laws, from the angle of formulating a constitution and legislation, the constitution and the laws are not supreme, the supreme power is grasped in the hands of the ruling class who formulate the constitution and the laws. Even at the judicial level, the bourgeoisie would always be able to use its own special economic and social position to avoid the constraints and limitations that the constitution and the laws place on its class power. Whenever articles in the constitution or the laws would fundamentally conflict with the interests of the bourgeoisie, the bourgeoisie would rudely revise or abolish the relevant articles, in order to adapt to the needs to develop its class interests. Financial privileges, i.e. capital privileges have replaced the privileges and hereditary powers of the feudal orders, this is the essence of bourgeois law.

Exactly because of this, Marx pointed out that bourgeois societies’ “constitutions first and foremost establish bourgeois rule. Because of this, the right to association mentioned in a constitution clearly only refers to tolerance of those associations that can coexist with capitalist rule and are in line with the bourgeois system” (“Complete Works of Marx and Engels”, Vol. 1, People’s Publishing House, 1995, p. 423). Marx also exposed the falsehood of the Constitution of the French Republic passed on 4 November 1848, saying that: “The eternal contradictions of this Constitution of Humbug, show plainly enough, that the middle-class can be democratic in words, but will not be so in deeds — they will recognise the truth of a principle, but never carry it into practice — and the real “Constitution” of France is to be found, not in the Charter we have recorded, but in the organic laws enacted on its basis, an outline of which we have given to the reader. The principles were there — the details were left to the future, and in those details a shameless tyranny was re-enacted!”  (Complete Works of Marx and Engels”, Vol. 10, People’s Publishing House, 1998, p. 692) Engels even more unforgivingly pointed out that the so-called rational kingdom “was merely an idealized bourgeois kingdom; eternal justice was realized in the bourgeois judiciary; equality would be bourgeois equality before the law; it was declared that the most important human right was the bourgeois right to property; and the rationality of the country and Rousseau’s social contract are expressed in practice, furthermore, they can only be expressed as a bourgeois democratic republic.” (“Complete Works of Marks and Engels”, Vol. 3, People’s Publishing House, 1995, p. 356).

The rule of law is not supreme either. As a method of governing the country and managing politics, the rule of law falls into the category of the superstructure, it is built on a certain economic basis, and is directed by a certain ideology, what it upholds is the fundamental interest of the class the occupies the ruling position economically.

After having clarified the essence and nature of law and constitutions, it is no longer difficult to understand the nature and essence of Western constitutionalism. The basis of constitutionalism is a constitution, which originally served to restrain royal power (which is embodied in political terms as constitutional monarchy), and in countries where royal power has been abolished, came to be used to restrain the whole body of citizens (embodied in political terms as democratic republics), it is the outcome of the integration of the class domination tool of law (constitutions) with the capitalist system, it is the legalization of the bourgeois dictatorship system, its objective is to uphold the bourgeois ruling order, in order to provide an escort for the development of capitalism.

Concerning the nature and essence of capitalist constitutionalism, we can find concrete interpretations in the classic documents of Western constitutionalism, the “Bill of Rights”, the “Constitution of the United States of America” and the “Declaration of the Rights of Man”. Although these three documents differ more than a century in age, the formulation of their content and their degree of perfection are dissimilar, and differences exist in the national system, historical traditions and political systems that they reflect, they basic spirit and principles that they establish are completely consistent, they all uphold the capitalist economic system based on the bourgeois ownership system, they uphold a capitalist political system based on multi-party systems, parliamentary democracy and the tripartite separation of power, and they uphold capitalist ideology and culture with bourgeois ideology in a dominant position. In the present western world, any country’s constitution, without exception, provides for or contains these principles and contents. Western constitutionalism, in fact, is a synonym for the capitalist system, and is another sort of formal expression for the social system of bourgeois dictatorship.

II, An analysis of a few main viewpoints advocating for the implementation of constitutionalism in China

The viewpoints that advocate the implementation of constitutionalism in China can generally be divided into two categories. The first category advocates that China implements the constitutionalism of European and American countries, and guide China towards the path of capitalism through this sort of constitutionalism. This sort of viewpoint openly violates the Four Cardinal Principles, and should be repudiated with clear banners flying. The other viewpoint does not endorse China’s indiscriminate imitation of Western constitutionalism, but advocates that China can combine this with its own national circumstances, and do “Socialist constitutionalism” with Chinese characteristics. It can be clearly said that these two kinds of “constitutionalist” views are not identical in terms of standpoints and objectives, and are even fundamentally opposed, therefore, we concretely judge concrete situations in theory and practice, and cannot treat both in the same way. But some viewpoints mong them are certainly confused, and require theoretical clarification. This article only discusses individual views on some representative viewpoints, which are offered for deliberation.

1. Does having a constitution mean having constitutionalism?

Looking at the present situation of various countries worldwide, the countries that have implemented constitutionalism do not necessarily all have a clear and systematic written constitution, and countries having a complete written constitution are not necessarily all constitutionalist countries. The United Kingdom is the country that is generally recognized as having the longest history of constitutionalism in the Western world, but even so, the United Kingdom until today does not have a written constitution (the “Bill of Rights”) is not a written constitution, in fact). Furthermore, New Zealand, Israel and other such countries are similar, and yet this does not influence them being listed among the ranks of constitutionalist countries. Conversely, present Socialist countries, including Socialist countries that existed historically, universally promulgated relatively concrete written constitutions after their establishment, but both in the past and in the present, the Western world never recognized that these countries were constitutionalist countries. Because of this, the essence of not being constitutionalist does not lie in not having a constitution, the key is what the nature of this national system and political system is, and which social system is implemented. Having a constitution or not is only a symbol of constitutionalism, the fundamental standard to judge whether or not there is constitutionalism is whether or not a social system of bourgeois dictatorship is implemented.

Although they are equally constitutions, there are differences in nature between the constitutions of Socialist countries and capitalist countries. Because of the fact that the ruling class is not the same, the essence and content of the constitution reflecting its will cannot be the same either. Lenin profoundly pointed out that: “Proletarian rule is manifested through the abolition of the system of landlord and capitalist ownership.” “The reason why our Constitution has the power to exist in history, and why it has won this power, is because the abolition of this system of ownership was not only written on paper.” “The Constitution has recorded the resolution of the problem of abolishing the capitalist and landlord ownership system in real life” (“Complete Works of Lenin”, Vol. 38, People’s Publishing House, 1986, p. 281). Mao Zedong also pointed out that: when drafting the first constitutional draft of the New China, “there were two fundamental principles: the principle of democracy and the principle of Socialism. Our democracy is not bourgeois democracy, but people’s democracy, which means that it is the people’s democratic dictatorship under the leadership of the proletariat and on the basis of the alliance between workers and peasants. The principle of the people’s democracy runs through our entire Constitution. The other is the principle of Socialism” (“Collected Works of Mao Zedong”, Vol. 6, People’s Publishing House, p. 326). “Our Constitution is of a new Socialist kind, which is different from the bourgeois kind,” “it summarized the experiences of the people’s revolution which opposed imperialism, feudalism and bureaucratic capitalism under the leadership of the proletariat, and summarized the most recent experiences of social reform, economic construction, cultural construction and government work in the past few years”, (Id., p. 325), this established the achievements of the New Democratic Revolution as well as the Socialist revolution, and developed them.

Our country’s current constitution affirmed and consolidated the fruits of the Party’s leading the people of all ethnicities in conducting the revolution, construction and reform, and stipulated the nature of the country, its basic system, basic tasks, leadership power, guiding ideology and other such important matters. It pointed out that: the People’s Republic of China is a Socialist country with a people’s democratic dictatorship that is led by the working class and based on the alliance between workers and peasants. The Socialist system is the basic system of the People’s Republic of China. The basic task of the country is to concentrate forces to conduct Socialist modernization construction along the path of Socialism with Chinese characteristics. All power in the People’s Republic of China belongs to the people. The principles of democratic centralism are implemented in the State organs of the People’s Republic of China. The Socialist economic system of the People’s Republic of China is based on the Socialist ownership system of the means of production. The public property of Socialism is sacred and inviolable. The State advocates the virtues of love for the motherland, love for the people, love for work, love for science and love for Socialism, it conducts education about patriotism, collectivism and internationalism among the people, it conducts education about dialectical materialism and historical materialism, it opposes capitalist, feudal and other corrupt ideologies.

The above provisions in our country’s Constitution are clearly completely opposed to the principles and content of Western constitutions that establish and develop capitalism. The Western bourgeoisie cannot approve of the establishment of the leadership of the Communist Party, the people mastering their own affairs, the development of Socialism and other such principles and content in our country’s Constitution, and they can certainly not recognize that our country has constitutionalism because it has a constitution. Some people advocate that having a constitution means having constitutionalism, perhaps they have the good intention to resist the West’s criticism that our country has no constitutionalism or democracy, but this cannot stand theoretical deliberation, and objectively speaking may bring about the opposite result. Exactly because Western countries put their hopes on China’s proclaiming and implementing constitutionalism, they may use this as a breach, and progressively abolish the leadership of the Communist Party and the Socialist system, this requires our vigilance and attention.

2. Is constitutionalism “democratic politics”?

We cannot abstractly deal with this phrase of Mao Zedong concerning “constitutionalism is democratic politics”, and make this into a basis to say that China should practice constitutionalism.

Equating constitutionalism with democratic politics does not conform  with the basic intention of Mao Zedong. In fact, Mao Zedong firmly opposed dealing with this theses of “constitutionalism is democratic politics” in an abstract manner, and advocated the use of class viewpoints and the method of class analysis to clearly understand the issue of democracy and constitutionalism. On 20 February 1984, Mao Zedong said in his speech at the foundational meeting for the association to stimulate constitutionalism: “What is constitutionalism? It is democratic politics. […] But the democratic politics that we want now, what kind of democratic politics are these? They are New Democratic politics, and this is New Democratic constitutionalism. It is not old, out-of-date, Euro-American, bourgeois dictatorship so-called democratic politics; at the same time, it is also not yet Soviet-style, proletarian dictatorship democratic politics” (“Selected Works of Mao Zedong”, Vo. 2, People’s Publishing House, 1991, p. 732). Mao Zedong used “if there is food, let everyone eat” as a metaphor for New Democracy, and afterwards, used Sun Yat-sen’s phrase “for the common ownership of the common man, not for the private gain of the minority” to explain the New Democratic constitutionalism, pointing out that: “a few revolutionary classes have united in the democratic dictatorship that opposes the traitors and the reactionaries, which is the constitutionalism that we pursue today. Such constitutionalism is also the constitutionalism for the United Front to Resist Japan” (Id., p. 733). Mao Zedong also especially demonstrated the essence of the constitutionalist programmes put forward by the various political factions in China at that time: “The constitutionalism that China’s die-hards talk about, is foreign, old-style bourgeois democratic politics. They say that they want this sort of constitutionalism, but they don’t really want this sort of constitutionalism, they use this to deceive the people. In fact, what they want is Fascist one-party dictatorship. The bourgeoisie in the Chinese nation truly wants this sort of constitutionalism, it wans implementing bourgeois dictatorship in China, but they will not succeed. Because no-one among the Chinese people wants this sort of thing, and the Chinese people do not welcome the dictatorship of the bourgeois class” (Id., p. 732). It can be seen that Mao Zedong opposes the abstract discussion of the relationship between constitutionalism and democratic politics, and clarified the class nature of democracy and constitutionalism.

3. Does having the slogan of “New Democratic constitutionalism” amount to the fact that we should have “Socialist constitutionalism”?

Even though Mao Zedong put forward New Democratic constitutionalism, he strictly limited constitutionalism to the scope of the New Democratic society. He said: “Now, the democratic politics that our China needs, is neither old-style democracy, nor non-Socialist democracy, but the New Democracy that conforms to China’s national circumstances. The constitutionalism of which the implementation is being prepared at the moment should be New Democratic constitutionalism” (Id., p. 733). He also emphatically pointed out that: “What is Socialist democracy like? It is naturally very good, in the future, the entire world will implement Socialist democracy. But this sort of democracy, in present-day China, is unfeasible, and because of this, we have to reject it for the time being. Only in the future, when certain conditions are present, will it be possible to implement Socialist democracy” (Id., pp. 732-733). It can be seen that Mao Zedong believed that New Democratic constitutionalism was a form of democratic politics that was situated between capitalist constitutionalism and proletarian democratic politics, which in the end was transitional towards the latter, and did not have an independent form.

The reason that the New Democratic society could implement constitutionalism, was decided by the nature of the New Democratic society. Mao Zedong repeatedly discussed that: the New Democratic society was different from the “semi-fascist semi-feudal capitalism” that Chiang Kai-shek engaged in, New Democracy had “as a sort of capitalism, its own vitality, and its revolutionary nature”, “its essence was to assist Socialism, it was revolutionary, useful and beneficial to the development of Socialism”, (“Collected Works of Mao Zedong”, Vol. 3, People’s Publishing House, 1996, pp. 384-385), but “its basic essence still is capitalist” (Id., p. 56). The New Democratic Revolution was “a democratic revolution of the proletariat, in which the broad people in the entire country participates, that basically did not destroy the capitalist essence of the private property system” (Id, p. 59). The New Democratic country and government “were a country and a government that implemented a thorough democratic system but did not destroy the principle of private property. (“Collected Works of Mao Zedong”, Vol. 2, People’s Publishing House, 1993, p. 134). The capitalist nature of the New Democratic society indicated that it corresponded to and was linked with to capitalist constitutionalism. That is to say, constitutionalism might serve  the capitalist democratic politics of constitutional monarchies or democratic republics, but might also serve the New Democratic society that had a capitalist nature as well. Both were connected in nature, which decided that the New Democratic society could choose constitutionalism as a real form of democratic politics.

Naturally, the New Democratic society could accept constitutionalism, which absolutely was not equal to the indiscriminate copy of the constitutionalism of European and American countries, it was necessary to start from the reality of the New Democratic society to carry out a revolutionary transformation of constitutionalism and endow it with revolutionary content. Because of this, Mao Zedong put forward that New Democratic constitutionalism was “the joint dictatorship of a number of revolutionary classes” and “the constitutionalism of the United Front to resist Japan”. This fundamentally differentiates New Democratic constitutionalism from Euro-American bourgeois dictatorship constitutionalism, the constitutionalism of the Chinese bourgeoisie and the constitutionalism of the Guomindang reactionary fascists.

Exactly because Mao Zedong at that time limited constitutionalism strictly to the scope of the New Democratic society, and so to the scope of capitalism, the wordings “Socialist constitutionalism” or “proletarian dictatorship constitutionalism” where never used in any of Mao’s open documents, and he never even mentioned the word constitutionalism after the foundation of the New China.

4. Does rule of law equal constitutionalism?

As our country has put forward the strategy of ruling the country according to the law, should implementing “Socialist Constitutionalism” become a part of building a Socialist rule of law country? The author believes that constitutionalism is not the same thing as rule of law, and that both cannot be confused with each other.

It has been mentioned before that the rule of law means that the ruling class manages the country and the society according to the laws it formulated itself, and thus realises one method of class rule. The rule of law in capitalist societies has been put in a supreme position in formal terms. The rule of law is a sort of social phenomenon, and exists in all societies rules according to the law. Now, constitutionalism is a social and political system that is particular to capitalist societies that accompanied constitutions. Evidently, the rule of law is not a concept of the same order as constitutionalism. The former is a sort of method to govern a country and a society, the latter falls into the category of social systems, and has specific institutional implications.

Even though this is the rule of law, under different social conditions, because the objects of its service are different, and its objectives and tasks are different, it will have a different essence and manifestation. The objective of rule of law in capitalist societies and its basic task is to uphold bourgeois rule and peace and order for capitalist societies. The objective and basic task of Socialist rule of law is to carry forward Socialist democracy, guaranteeing that the people are masters of their own affairs,  and peace and order for Socialist countries. Comrade Jiang Zemin pointed out that: “Ruling the country according to the law means that the Party leads the people in governing the country, guaranteeing that the people implement democratic elections, democratic policymaking, democratic management and democratic supervision according to the law, and safeguarding the fundamental interest of the broad popular masses.” “To rule the country according to the law, we must implement two principles: the first is that we must persist in the leadership in the Party and the Socialist orientation, the second is that we must guarantee that the broad popular masses fully exercise democratic rights” (“Jiang Zemin on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics (Topical Extracts)”, Documentary Press of China, 2002, pp. 329, 328). Comrade Hu Jintao also pointed out: to develop Socialist democratic politics, we must persist in the political development path of Socialism with Chinese characteristics, it is crucial that we must persist in the organic unification of the leadership of the Party, the people mastering their own affairs and ruling the country according to the law. The Party’s leadership is the fundamental guarantee for the people mastering their own affairs and ruling the country according to the law, the people mastering their own affairs are the essence and core of Socialist democratic politics, ruling the country according to the law is the basic strategy of the Party leading the people in governing the country. General Secretary Xi Jinping stressed in his speech at the capital conference to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the promulgation of the current Constitution: “To persist in the political development path of Socialism with Chinese characteristics, it is crucial that we must persist in the organic unification of the leadership of the Party, the people mastering their own affairs and ruling the country according to the law, make guaranteeing the people mastering their own affairs into the basis, make strengthening the vitality of the Party and the country, and mustering the vigour of the people into the objective, broaden Socialist democracy and develop the Socialist political civilization.

It can be seen that rule of law in different societies has different class contents and social properties. In this sense, building a Socialist rule of law country is not equal to implementing constitutionalism.

5. Are the terms “Socialist constitutionalism” and “constitutionalist Socialism” tenable?

As we are able to have a Socialist market economy and the Socialist rule of law, why can we not have Socialist constitutionalism? One basic precondition is that constitutionalism belongs to a different level in a social system than the market and rule of law, the former belongs to the category of basic institutions, and the latter belong in the category of systems and mechanisms.

Take the market economy, for instance, it belongs in the category of economic systems and operational mechanisms, it is a method and means  to develop production and regulate the economy. Although the market economy is a product of capitalism, Socialist countries can have it, and can use it to serve the development of Socialism. Furthermore, under the precondition that the public ownership system maintains the dominant position, implementing a market economy that is integrated with the basic Socialist economic system cannot change the essence of our country’s Socialist economic system, on the contrary, it benefits giving full rein to the basic role of the market in allocating resources, it benefits the invigoration and flourishing of the urban and rural economy, and stimulates the development of social productive forces.

The same is true for the rule of law. Although the rule of law has a class nature, as a method and means of class rule and social management, it can serve different classes. Historically, the bourgeoisie has paid extreme attention to absorbing and using the experience of rule  of law under feudal rule and even during the era of slavery. Engels pointed out: “In England, the institutions before the revolution are continued in the institutions after the revolution, landlords and capitalists have come to compromise, this is manifested in the fact that litigation is still dealt with according to precedent, and that the form of a number of feudal laws has been piously preserved. In France, the revolution completely broke with the traditions of the past, and swept away the last vestiges of the feudal regime, furthermore, its civil code has taken the law of ancient Rome and ingeniously used it for modern-day capitalist conditions” (“Selected Works of Marx and Engels”, Vol. 3, People’s Publishing House, 1995, p. 710).

The Socialism that we follow is Socialism with Chinese characteristics. What is Socialism with Chinese characteristics? The Report of the 18th Party Congress pointed out that: “Socialism with Chinese characteristics means persisting in the basic principles of scientific Socialism, endowing them with distinctive Chinese characteristics on the basis of the conditions of the times, and deepening our understanding of the laws of Communist Party governance, the laws of Socialist construction, and the laws of development of human societies with a completely new vision, systematically answering the fundamental questions of what kind of Socialism to build and how to build Socialism in this large Oriental country of China with its large population and its low starting base by integrating theory and practice, to ensure that our country develops rapidly,, and ensure that the people’s livelihoods and living standards in our country rise rapidly.” On 5 January 2013, General Secretary Xi Jinping further stressed in his speech at the discussion class for the new members and alternate members of the Central Committee to study the spirit of the 19th Party Congress: “Socialism with Chinese characteristics is Socialism and not any other ism, the fundamental principles of scientific Socialism cannot be lost, if they are lost, this isn’t Socialism.” Can the fundamental principles of scientific Socialism be combined with constitutionalism? The answer is negative. The “Communist Manifesto” published in February 1848 succinctly elucidated the fundamental principles of scientific Socialism, in political terms, it stresses that the working class is to organize into its own political party, a Communist party, to wrest political power from the hands of the bourgeoisie, ensure that it becomes the ruling class itself, establish the dictatorship of the proletariat, etc. There is no way in which these principles of scientific Socialism are compatible with upholding the constitutionalism of the bourgeois dictatorship.

On 24 March 1884, Engels wrote this paragraph in his letter to Eduard Bernstein: ” it must not be forgotten that it is precisely the democratic republic which is the logical form of bourgeois rule; a form however that has become too dangerous only because of the level of development the proletariat has already reached; but France and America show that it is still possible as purely bourgeois rule. The ‘principle’ of liberalism considered as something ‘definite, historically evolved’, is thus really only an inconsistency. The liberal constitutional monarchy is an adequate form of bourgeois rule: 1) at the beginning, when the bourgeoisie has not yet quite finished with the absolute monarchy, and 2) at the end, when the proletariat has already made the democratic republic too dangerous. And yet the democratic republic always remains the last form of bourgeois rule, that in which it goes to pieces.” (Complete Works of Marx and Engels”, Vol. 36, People’s Publishing House, 1974, p. 131). This paragraph by Engels discusses and indicates that constitutionalism is incompatible with scientific Socialism. Engels believes that, even thought democratic republics are the fundamental form of bourgeois political rule, they are the last form of bourgeois political rule, and they will be replaced by class rule by a new and even more advanced class, this is the political rule of the proletariat, which is reflected in terms of national system in proletarian democratic republics.

(Wang Tingyou, Assistant Professor at the Renmin University of China Institute of Marxism)




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