US Constitutionalism Is Unworthy of the Name (Wang Hailou)

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I haven’t forgotten to write more about the constitutionalism debate, as promised, but have been juggling a few other things in the past few weeks. In the mean time, this article is the second in a People’s Daily front page series criticising the US, it was published on 6 August.

Mainstream Anglo-American scholars believe that their constitutionalism is this kind of political structure: the Constitution is the highest authority that exceeds everything, the Constitution is also a reflection of natural law and the will of the entire people, consequently, the US is a democratic, free, human rights and rule of law society.

But the US Constitution itself is a contradictory body, on the one hand, it basically guarantees the bourgeoisie’s power to monopolize the means of production and exploit the popular masses; on the other hand, it talks about popular democracy and freedom for the entire people in many different places. These two factors can impossible exist at the same time. Which side’s provisions can be implemented more in the end? Clearly, it is the former’s.

In the US, the Constitution is higher than the will of the US popular masses, but it is not higher than everything. The US Constitution is not the highest authority, the will of US oligarchs who monopolize capital is. How to interpret and implement the US Constitution and laws, has the will of US monopolist oligarchs as the fulcrum. The bourgeoisie is able to realize all of this, generally speaking, because it relies on its monopoly over productive forces. They rule just for themselves, the bourgeoisie has presented its own interests as being the common interest of the whole body of members of society”, “and has endowed its own ideology with universalist forms”. At present, the true independent intellectuals in the US, such as the critical legal school, do not deny this.

It can be seen that the “name” of US constitutionalism does not conform by far to the “fact” of constitutionalism. US constitutional scholars and their Chinese vassals propagate a sort of completely democratic and free “constitutionalism” that reflects Heaven’s will, that does not exit in reality. That sort of constitutionalist conceptual structure is the myth with which the US misleads the popular masses and safeguards its own autocratic rule, and is a weapon of information and psychological war of the US capital-monopolist oligarchs and their representatives in China, used to overturn China’s Socialist system. This sort of constitutionalist structure that does not exist at all, naturally cannot be compatible with Socialism.

The essence of US-style constitutionalism, was rather frankly revealed by one of the US Founding Fathers, Hamilton in the “Federalist Papers”. He believed that it was necessary to use all means to prevent the majority of the poor to infringe the interests of the minority of property owners, and the best way to achieve this was not a feudalist autocratic method, but ensuring that “society itself is divided in many parts, interest groups and civilian classes”, and “even though it is impossible to ensure that the irrational majority of the whole links up, it is extremely unlikely”, in his view, this method “could be used as an example for the American Federal Republic”.

The US political model has operated stably for 200 years, the fundamental internal causes for this are the maturity of the US bourgeoisie, its formidable and tight organization, and what they face is the correspondingly puerile, weak and scattered situation of the proletariat. Looking from the outside, the main reason is that these imperialist countries have always used old or new colonialist methods to exploit the Third World, and not because of the superiority of their own model. For example, it is exactly because of the relative relaxation of the external environment that the US bourgeoisie and the US constitutionalist structure were able to arduously pass through such a lethal period such as the Civil War. Some Third World countries (such as India, the Philippines, etc.) have implemented US constitutionalism, because their bourgeoisie itself is weak and dependant, they have not been able to effectively resolve their original illnesses.

The US President’s power is not locked in a constitutional cage, but is locked in a capital-monopolist oligarch cage. When US officials break through constitutional and legal restraints, and use the power in their hands to seek profit for the capitalist wealth clique and obtain huge commissions from it, they will not meet with obstruction – in the US, the revolving door between officialdom and commerce is an extremely widespread phenomenon; but if someone breaks through constitutional and legal restraints to shake the bourgeois’ sacred right to property, he will most certainly be severely punished. Above the US Constitution, there is another high-level law that overrides it, only, it isn’t God’s will or natural law, but the will of the monopolist clique.

In order to guarantee the fundamental power of the bourgeoisie, the US Constitution must protect the basis of the bourgeois dictatorship, which is the monopolistic power over the means of production; and in order to cover up the essence of the bourgeois dictatorship, the US Constitution must have a certain hypocrisy. For example, it does not dare to clearly recognize that the US are a bourgeois dictatorship, for example, those abstract freedoms for all the people, popular sovereignty and other such words. In fact, between both of these, there is an immitigable clash – as long as the monopolistic power of the bourgeois over the means of production is guaranteed, democracy and freedom will not exist among the broad US people, this is an important reason why US constitutionalism is not worthy of the name.

On this matter, the Chinese Constitution is completely opposite.

The logic and method of the proletariat governing the country is fundamentally different with that of the bourgeoisie. The result of Socialist countries learning from US constitutionalism can only open doors for the bourgeoisie to grasp power. Gorbachev did political structural reform, and was thoroughly defeated because he used Western constitutionalism as a blueprint. When the cart in front is overturned, lessons from history are close at hand.

(The author is a Senior Research Fellow at the Haiyang Security and Cooperation Research Institute, and an Invited Research Fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Global Socialism Research Centre)

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