Location:Home Renewed Theory Quest
Balance-Oriented vs. Confrontational Thinking: Daoist-Legalist Socialism vs. the Right & the Left
By Sherwin Lu
2020-04-16 08:38:53

This article was first posted on this website on 2011-02-08 and is being re-posted as a "source article" for a chapter of the author’s new book DAOIST-LEGALIST SOCIALISMOne with real Chinese characteristics, §3-3(1-3) Gradually abating class confrontation till its extinction through non-self-assertive (无为) balance-oriented government.

DAOIST-LEGALIST SOCIALISM: One with real Chinese characteristics 
(Table of contents)


EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second major critique by the author of traditional socialism, following Productive-force-centrism: The Fatal Flaw in Socialist Political Economy. And a third one in English is forthcoming, dealing with the historical mission of the proletariat in this era with new characteristics (a version in Chinese is already available). 


About the Title

        The terms “right” and ”left” in this essay are used in the broadest sense to denote the two groups of people who are opposite to each other in political orientations and yet sharing the same confrontational way of thinking. “The Right” stands for those who are defending capital’s permanent domination over labor, and especially big capital’s domination over all others of the whole world, no matter whether in the name of “capitalism” or “(pseudo) socialism” of all brands, while “the Left” includes genuine socialists of the traditional type and all ultra-leftists as well. In spite of their opposite attitudes toward capitalism, they have one thing in common, that is, thinking of everything in terms of some kind(s) of ultimate confrontation as the supreme all-encompassing principle, or “confrontational thinking” for abbreviation. This is in opposition to traditional Chinese thinking in terms of seeking dynamic balance of a multi-dimensional whole, or “balance-oriented thinking”. That is to say, the “commonness” between the Left and the Right in this context is limited only to a certain aspect in the way of thinking. 

        As the Right and the Left are against each other in their goals, their ways of thinking and approaches cannot be totally similar, but the confrontational way of thinking shared by the Left does not help the transition from capitalism to socialism, or rather helps the retrogression from socialism to capitalism.

        The way of thinking is not only an issue of methodology but an important expression of one’s philosophical worldview. Only a correct way of thinking can ensure the gradual progress toward the final realization of socialism.

        A correct understanding about the way of thinking is of great importance to a proper judgment of the history of the conflict between socialism and capitalism, including the major events, major trends of thought and major figures involved, and to correctly summarizing and learning from the positive and negative experiences of the past century’s world socialist movement with a view to reviving and further advancing the world cause of socialism. Therefore, this discussion is necessary and worth earnest attention.
I. Balance-Oriented Thinking – The Chinese Tradition

        Laozi has presented a most succinct generalization of the supreme way (Dao) of all existence, man’s consciousness included: “From the Dao emerges One. From One emerge Two. From Two emerge Three. From Three emerge all things. All carry the opposites Yin and Yang, approaching harmony through moderation.” (Dao De Jing, 42). This classic generalization presents the following four interrelated aspects of existence: wholeness, multi-dimensionality, dynamicity, and general tendency towards balance. Adopting this philosophical worldview in looking at, thinking about and dealing with everything with a view to achieving dynamic balances in all relationships on and between all levels, i.e., to follow the Supreme Way, will help bring about greatest happiness for mankind.|

        It should be noted, however, that balance-oriented thinking does not overlook the conflicts and transformation between opposites resulting in the dying away of the old and coming into being of the new. As a matter of fact, only through interactions, confrontations, and even clashes with a certain degree of force within a certain range of time-space can any balance be realized. Hence the complex term “dynamic balance”, which is meant to distinguish it from such mechanical and static versions of the so-called “golden mean” as plastering over differences, or staying on the middle course, or going along with alternate currents.

       Meanwhile, what makes balance-oriented thinking different from confrontational thinking in social life is: Confrontations should always be controlled within a limited part on a lower societal level as far as possible and be subjected to the requirement for an overall balance on a higher level, the purpose of confrontations being to promote some kind of transformation towards such a balance. As human life functions on multiple societal levels, the terms “part” and ”overall” should be understood as relative to specific situations: the “overall” on a lower level might function as only a “part” on a higher level, or a “part” on a higher level as the “overall” on a lower level. Hence, it is the “comprehensive dynamic balance of a multi-dimensional whole”, not just the balance within a certain part or on a specific level of social existence, that should be the goal. The way leading to this goal should be a combination of the following two aspects:

On the one hand, all parties opposed to each other in interests should recognize that each party makes only a part of the whole, should be aware of the interests of other parties and the necessity of a comprehensive balance of all parties’ interests, and should give reasonable consideration to the overall balance between the interests of one’s own party, those of each opposed party and those of all parties as a whole, because, besides conflicts of interests, there must be existing certain mutual relatedness and commonness of interests between all parts of a whole and between each and every part and the whole. This accounts for the necessity for social ethics and personal moral cultivation.

On the other hand, there need be an institution which can represent the comprehensively balanced interests of the whole and do the adjusting from top to bottom so as to facilitate the dynamic balance of all parts. The necessity of such an institution stems from the fact that the opposed parties, being parts of a whole and restricted by subjective and objective conditions, may not be able, even if willing, to know how they can help achieve the above-said overall balance. And the feasibility of such an institution lies in the fact that, in any society, there are always various degrees of disparities between individuals in their natural gifts, acquired abilities and, thus, insights into social affairs, i.e., distinction between people with relatively higher moral integrity and intellectual capabilities, or social elites (in the positive sense), and the average population. This distinction does not only make it necessary but also possible to establish and run a management mechanism that operates on all levels of a society. This accounts for the necessity for constitutional democracy, economic democracy (gradual transition to socialist production relations), rule of law, and new world order based on the above.

“All (things) carry the opposites Yin and Yang”(万物负阴而抱阳, ibid.): Any party in a conflicting relationship, as one part of a whole, is self-assertive or even resistant in a degree – this is “Yang”; at the same time, it also needs to accommodate the need for overall balance in its relationship with other party or parties – this is “Ying”. The two aspects are mutually complementary, “approaching harmony through moderation ”(冲气以为和, ibid). 

History has proved again and again: Without the balance-seeking Ying consciousness, without a general requirement for all-round balance and an effective mechanism for its realization, local confrontations will inexorably develop into domination of one party by another, or a sort of hegemony, leading to serious imbalance affecting the whole society. If imbalance on a lower societal level (e.g., domination of labor by capital in grass-root business units) is not checked and redressed by authority from a higher-level (local or national, or even global, government), it will inevitably lead to more severe confrontations and imbalance on an even larger scale (domination of all labor and small capital by big monopoly capital). If this tendency continues and expands onto still higher levels (domination of the whole globe by world monopoly capital) till the highest (high-handed exploitation and destruction of the Earth’s ecosphere and its neighboring space by mankind being held under a spell by world monopoly capital), The imbalances and confrontations that originate on the grass-root level will finally inflate into a confrontation between man and Nature on an unprecedented scale, a confrontation most likely destructive for man. Man has to yield to the hard fact that he is only a tiny part of the infinite cosmic space-time, being embedded in such inescapable relatedness to it, a kind of relatedness he can never fully understand at that. Therefore, mankind should humble himself and try his best to gear all his activities to Nature’s irresistible command for an overall balance in all relations.

For mankind to comply with Nature’s demand for balance, it is absolutely imperative to restrain and, if necessary, properly resist the major forces that upset balance on any level from grass roots up, i.e., capital, monopoly interests, and economic, political and military hegemony, taking into consideration the degree and scope of their respective and relative harmfulness to the overall situation, That is to say, confrontations of varying degrees (resistance against economic exploitation, political hegemony and military aggression) are oftentimes necessary and unavoidable, but it is not the goal itself. The goal should not be confrontation for confrontation’s sake but to restore an all-round balance covering all aspects and all levels of social life as a whole. Without this goal in view, even people motivated by just aspirations, not to mention those prompted by special interests of a minority only, may get lost in battles against “alien forces” and easily miss the real target for resistance or mistake possible friends or allies as foes, thus failing to restore balance or replacing existing imbalance with new imbalance in the opposite direction (e.g., what happened in traditional socialist countries due to unchecked and unbalanced state power). If things continue to go on like this, the human society will always be pushed from one extreme to another and suffer endlessly.

To avoid repetition of such setbacks, mankind has to give up confrontational thinking and adopt traditional Chinese balance-oriented thinking, learn from historical practices guided by this way of thinking, and apply it to areas it has not been applied to traditionally (such as the election and supervision of officials) and to new areas of human social practice (such as capital-labor relations in modern large-scale social production, relations between monopoly and non-monopoly businesses, world-wide international relations, and relations between different civilizations). If only local and lower-level confrontations are properly staged and geared to the dynamic realization of overall balance on higher levels, all things that go against the advance of history will die out by themselves in the process while all that comply with the cosmic Dao will grow and thrive naturally, leading to the gradual but sure victory of socialism over capitalism.
II. Confrontation with Nature: Common to the Right and the Left

The relation between man and Nature overarches all human relations. On this topmost level, Nature runs the show and will not allow any confrontation against It staged by man. “Conquer nature”, however, has been a war cry shared by capitalism and traditional socialism, based on a same man-Nature confrontation pattern of thinking and same lack of man-Nature balance consciousness, in spite of the following two differences:

1. Monopoly capitalists’ confrontation against Nature is motivated by their selfish interests only and, so, they will not change their course even if the damage imposed on Nature has turned out to be disastrous to human survival, while genuine socialists aim to bring about happiness for all people and, so, will mend their ways once improper exploitation of Nature is found to be harmful to all. This marks the distinction between capitalism, pseudo-socialism and genuine socialism.

2. To monopoly capitalists, “conquer nature” is both their true intention and a pretext as well. The apologists for capitalism have been trying to defend it for its promise of “freedom”, i.e., the freedom to exploit Nature, other nations, the disadvantaged and all that is alien to oneself. Finally speaking, it is the “freedom” to usurp everything, material and spiritual, that is endowed to all humanity by Nature, only for the satisfaction of one’s own insatiable desires. Monopoly capital and their agents are, on the one hand, wielding their hegemonic power to prey upon Nature and, on the other, trying to cover up their exploitation of all humanity under the pretext of “conquering nature” for everyone’s benefit, just as they have been trying to use “clash of civilizations”, “war against terrorism”, and “patriotism” as pretexts to cover up their exploitation and oppression of their fellow countrymen and divert people’s attention from domestic social problems. In a word, the confrontation against Nature serves capitalism both materially and tactically and is in its very nature.

As to traditional socialism, due to its lack of awareness about man and Nature belonging to one organic whole, it, on the one hand, misses one dimension in its view of capitalism’s predacity and its harmfulness while, on the other, proves to be inadequate in its theories of political economy. This inadequacy was not intended to serve any special interests and thus different in nature from capitalist ideology, but, if not mended, will lead to consequences contrary to its original intention and catering to the greediness that is in the nature of capitalism. (See Productive-force-centrism: The Fatal Flaw in Socialist Political Economy by this author.)
III. Capitalism: Inciting Confrontations to Expand Hegemony
The capitalist society is one full of uncompromisable confrontations internally and externally on all societal levels. The root cause is in the domination of labor by capital, an imbalanced production relation and imbalanced primary social relation determining the essential nature of capitalism. This nature makes inevitable the cancerous growth of monopoly capitalism, and its sinister attempts at incessantly inciting confrontations and making enemies, especially external confrontations and enemies, because only thus can it maintain its domestic and global hegemony, i.e., monopoly of economic, political, cultural and military power over all others.

As capitalist relations of production are related to large-scale social production and even to economic activities all over the world, the domination of capital exists on various levels, which gives rise to internal split within the capitalist class into monopoly capital and non-monopoly small or medium capital, into world monopoly capital and local small and medium capital in individual nations of the world. Monopoly capital does not only exploit labor everywhere in the world but also oppresses local small businesses in every nation. Therefore, the conflicts between labor and small capital may be somewhat softened when confronted with the same hegemonic power of monopoly capital, although small capital will always waver opportunistically and yield to temptations from big capital using divide-and-rule tactics, and labor-capital conflicts will never get resolved so long as capital domination of labor persists.

To maintain its economic interests and hegemonic power, monopoly capital never fails to use its tremendous money power to control the media and the political orientation of the nation. At home, it gives financial support to different political parties simultaneously in order to control their line of action in its own interests while keeping up the appearance of “democracy”. More and more people are seeing through such tricks, as evidenced by the fact that, in the U.S., about half of the voters do not vote.

To further deceive its own people and at the same time to rob wealth from a wider area, besides playing divide-and-rule tactics at home, the monopoly capital-controlled governments never stop stirring up confrontations or even wars abroad to divert people’s attention from domestic woes. Their rhetoric about such so-called “universal values” as “freedom”, “democracy”, “human rights”, “patriotism”, and about “evil axis” or “terrorism” are all but lies made up to confuse and poison people’s minds.

Furthermore, they have expanded the global confrontations they have created and arms race beyond the Earth’s surface just to benefit the military-industrial interests, to prepare for war against whoever will not yield to their hegemonic power, to divert people’s attention from social woes, as said above, and to blaze the trail for future outer space colonization.

In a word, Western monopoly capital has inherited their ancestors’ tradition of limitless expansion domestically and internationally, of endlessly making enemies and inciting confrontations (either true conflicts or false appearances) for the purpose of diverting attention, practicing divide-and-rule, defrauding the majority of their support and maintaining and expanding its hegemonic power and interests. The scope of its influence is widening and its harmfulness increasing day by day. (See The Way towards Future: Chinese & Western social evolution patterns compared by this author.)

Confrontational thinking of all exploiting classes, including the capitalist class, is determined by their class nature. In order to maintain their privileges as exploiters, they have to confront and treat their victims as enemies. Though sometimes they also make concessions to ensure their exploitative gains, such concessions are always limited and they are always ready to confront squarely. Once their victims rise against their exploitation and threaten their core interests, they will immediately resort to confrontational and oppressive means to subdue them. Thus, confrontation is their basic and ultimate approach, and the confrontational way of thinking runs through the whole processes of their exploitation-related thoughts and actions.
IV. Traditional Socialism: Class Dictatorship & Social Management

Classical socialist theory has pointed out that class confrontations have been existing ever since the beginning of recorded history, especially between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat and between the monopoly capitalists and the majority of people including non-monopoly medium and small businessmen since modern times; that the private ownership of means of production has been the social root cause of class confrontations and that the only way leading to the end of exploitation is a socialist revolution led by the proletariat. This theory has lit up the hope for the liberation of mankind.

However, the revolutionary practices of the proletariat and all other laboring peoples in the past two centuries have revealed some inadequacies and flaws in traditional socialist theory while having proved in many ways its basic validity and great strength. The above-mentioned article Productive-force-centrism: The Fatal Flaw in Socialist Political Economy by this author has discussed the major flaw in its politico-economic theories. The following text will concentrate on the faulty way of thinking related to the issue of the “dictatorship of the proletariat” (DOP).

Before that it is necessary to talk about class dictatorship in general. The dictatorship by exploiting classes has been a usual thing in history, especially in Western history, which has seen successively the dictatorship of the slave-owners, of feudal serf-owners, and currently of big bourgeoisie (with the only exception of the short-lived 1871 Paris Commune). The October 1971 Russian Revolution started a new era in which governments led by political parties of the proletariat successfully put a stop to the dictatorship of exploiting classes in a wide area covering several continents, mainly in the East, and maintained the new order for decades, for the first time in human history. Its historical significance will last forever. The restoration of the dictatorship of world monopoly bourgeoisie on a global scale at the turn of this millennium is a transient phenomenon -- it is only a death-bed struggle put up by capitalism.

Now about the relation between class dictatorship and social management. These two things are closely related and even overlapping but still distinguishable. Class dictatorship means the rule of one or several classes over some other classes. Common as it has been in history, it is not inevitable everywhere and all the time, whereas social management is always necessary, always indispensable in any society, any time and any place. In a society with class dictatorship, the rule over other classes and the governing of the society have almost always meant one and the same thing. But since it was said above that class dictatorship is not always inevitable in all societies, that means there has existed in history (or might be existing presently somewhere) social management without class rule. As a matter of fact, a typical example could be found in the history of Chinese civilization.

In Chinese history, there never existed institutional slavery or serfdom as was seen in Western history. Though there were landlords, rich peasants, tenants and hired labor, the majority of peasants in old China were freeholders of the whole or a part of the land they tilled. Though there existed some degree of exploitation, the interest relationships between different classes and social strata were constantly and consciously being adjusted to maintain a kind of balance when Daoist-Legalists were in power and thus, in those times, there did not exist class confrontations on the macro social level. Therefore, all major dynasties in Chinese history, especially during their earlier times, would see peace and prosperity lasting for scores of or over a hundred years or even longer. Although all dynasties were overthrown by peasant uprisings or between domestic strife and foreign aggression, the root cause was usually a change from Daoist-Legalist regulative government, originated with founders of Qin and Han dynasties, to Confucianist laissez-faire approach in later years of all major dynasties, which latter indulged the growth of big landlord-bureaucrat plutocracy and its oppression and exploitation of peasants and small businessmen, thus triggering class confrontations all over the country.

Daoist-Legalist statecraft represented by Huang-Lao school of thought,, has developed a whole system of social management theories, as was different from that of the West, and put it to long years of successful practice (except for the issue of top ruler election, supervision, dismissal when necessary and succession). Hence, It is debatable whether we can allege that a society under Daoist-Legalist government should still be called one under class dictatorship. At least in essence it did not belong to the same pattern as Western dictatorships of slave-owners, of serf-owners and of monopoly capital.

A socialist theory that claims to have the liberation of all mankind as its final goal, especially that which claims to have a Chinese character, should have inherited, learned from and creatively applied to practice what is sound in traditional indigenous social management theories and experiences. But on the contrary, being swept along by the self-debasing currents of wholesale Westernization, leading theorists either failed to see the class dictatorship veiled under Western democracy based on atomistic-individualistic philosophy, or blindly imitated the Big Brother’s theory and practice of class dictatorship based on monolithic-collectivist philosophy, causing all the extreme twists and turns along the way towards socialism.

In the long-term view of human history, socialism is still a newborn thing and would naturally suffer some setbacks or even temporary failure. What is important at present is to free our minds from rigidly fixed but misleading ideas, sober-mindedly examine and summarize positive experiences and negative lessons from history. As a matter of fact, the concept of dynamic balance in traditional Chinese management theory, if creatively applied to the new conditions of today’s world, is helpful not only to the macro- and micro-level management of modern society but also to the realization of social goals that are supposed to be brought about by DOP, though the use of the term “dictatorship” needs further deliberation.

V. Daoist-Legalist Socialism: Abating Class Confrontations

through Balance-Oriented Adjustments

DOP is essentially different from dictatorship of the bourgeoisie and all exploiting classes: the latter’s purpose is to defend the political and economic interests of the ruling class(es) or of the ruling clique that consists of only part of the exploiting class(es) at the expense of all others’ interests; while, in total contrast, DOP was initially intended to gradually extinguish class exploitation and oppression so as to finally do away with class distinction and confrontation.

           Opposite goals should be reached along opposite lines of approach. The goal to liberate mankind from exploitation and oppression agrees with Laozi’s idea of “removing where there is excess and adding where there is lack” (损有余、补不足) and is a reflection in human consciousness of the “way of Heaven”, i.e., dynamic balance of an organic whole. Therefore, the way of thinking and acting leading to this goal must also agree with the principle of dynamic balance of an organic whole, i.e., the traditional Chinese balance-oriented way.

           This does not mean to reject all that belongs to capitalism, but to judge and choose what to accept or reject by that supreme principle. Take “rule of law” for instance. It has not only existed in the West but in traditional China as well. It is also absolutely necessary for the proletarian class to replace the rule of man with the rule of law before its goal can be realized. This is already a consensus shared by the majority of people. In this sense, we should study and learn from Western experiences in implementing the rule of law. However, the proletarian socialist law aiming at putting an end to class exploitation, oppression and confrontation once and for all is fundamentally different from the bourgeois capitalist law attempting to consolidate and prolong its hegemonic power over all others through persistently stirring up conflicts and confrontations. Therefore, we should not blindly copy everything from the latter.

           And take “democracy” for another instance. The West has a long tradition of democratic politics, and we need to study it. Some details of the Western democratic political procedure may agree in a certain way with the principle of dynamic balance, but not that of a multi-dimensional whole, as the whole procedure has been based on an unbalanced relationship between capital and labor on the grass-roots level and unbalanced socio-economic relations on the macro level. The relatedness between politics and economy is one of the most important “dimensions” of any society, but it was deliberately ignored by bourgeois ideologists. That is why a seemingly democratic procedure, when applied to a Western capitalist society, can only lead to undemocratic results, results serving only to strengthen the hegemony of monopoly capital in a more deceptive way.

           Now let us examine the theory and practice of the DOP by adopting the balance-oriented way of thinking to see what is good and should be carried on and what is not effective or even more of a hindrance than a help and should be mended. The term DOP will be used for the time being till further discussion at the end of the article.
Balance-Oriented Use of Political Force 

           The political task of DOP is, besides general social management, to suppress all those who use violence to oppose and sabotage socialist transformation and construction. Suppression is the use of political force and hence a kind of confrontation. If this kind of confrontation is necessary for the realization of social balance on macro-societal level and cannot be avoided, then it is justified, as said above.

           On the other hand, however, the use of political force through the state apparatus has a huge impact on the society. If correctly targeted, it is a good thing; but if not, it will lead to grave consequences and severely discredit socialism, as has been manifested in the history of the socialist movement. Therefore, state force cannot be used but strictly according to specific rules and with strictest caution. Concretely speaking:

           Any use of state force must abide by the law, not by the will of any individuals or group of individuals. And the law must be instituted through a procedure that truly reflects the will of the whole populace, a procedure that can be called socialist democracy. Such a law that can serve to promote peaceful and rational interactions between different social classes and strata regarding their different interests with a view to maintain an overall comprehensive balance – such a law would be in line with the supreme Dao (“From the Dao comes the law” – The Yellow Emperor’s Four Canons) and also with the interests of the whole population and, so, would be approved and obeyed by the entire people (or their absolute majority). A political party or organization sincerely aiming at the liberation of all mankind would certainly not shrink from seeing and hearing the people having their say.

           As socialism is still a relatively new cause, there are naturally different ideas as to the steps leading to the accomplishment of the historical task of extinguishing exploitation under the global domination of capital. Learning from positive and negative lessons through repeated exploring practices is definitely necessary before a successful way can be found. That is to say, an idea advocated by the leader(s) or even successful leader(s) or by the majority at specific times may not be a sound one, or may be a wrong one. History has witnessed again and again that oftentimes a truth was first recognized by a minority only. Therefore, the law must also serve to protect the minority, i.e., to make sure that state force should not be applied to dissenters in the minority so long as they do not resort to violence nor break the law in other ways. To suppress people with different views only is itself against a socialist law and should be punished and stopped. If a law that cannot prevent such unreasonable state violence, it cannot be a law in line with the supreme Dao nor with the will of the people, thus not a law of socialist nature, and needs to be mended or replaced.

           To keep discarding wrong or self-defeating policies and accepting new ideas with broader vision, deeper insight, and better foresight in the process of repeated practice, i.e., to keep transforming our own subjective world of cognition that is facilitated by and further facilitating the practice of transforming the objective world of social relations – this is itself a dynamic comprehensive process of continuing multi-dimensional interactions towards an overall balance of the whole society. Political force without a balance-oriented goal on a higher plane, or simply countering force with force and confrontation for confrontation’s sake, is prone to be mistakenly applied to potential allies or friends while missing the real target, leading to tragic consequences and disastrous setbacks to the cause of socialism.
Balance-Oriented Transformation of Private Ownership 

           The task to be accomplished by DOP on the economic front is to transform capitalist private ownership of the means of production into public/common ownership and build up and develop an economy based on socialist principles. Its purpose is to improve human relations on both the micro and macro levels as so to create social conditions for uplifting people’s mental and moral state to higher levels and boosting their emotional wellbeing, and also to develop production as allowed by the requirement for balance between man and nature and balance in social relationships on all levels so as to properly boost people’s material wellbeing, thus competing in a peaceful way with the capitalist world in both material and spiritual realms while building up strength for self-defense against possible attacks from hegemonic imperialist powers.

           As regards matters of capital, of the relationship between the private and the public/common, and of the transformation of private ownership, however, different ways of thinking and acting could lead to different results.

           In the balance-oriented perspective, there are two sides to the character of capital: On the one hand, capital is indispensable as a constructive factor in large-scale social production and its accumulation through industriousness and frugality can play a positive role in promoting commodity production and circulation (in fact, a fraction, however small it might have been, of the seed capital in history was undeniably obtained in this way and it should be the regular way of capital accumulation to be encouraged under a socialist system); while, on the other, capital is always born with some negative tendency and, if not regulated, would wreak harms or even become severely destructive, especially when it is in a dominantly powerful position. That is why, since ancient times, Chinese Daoist-Legalists have adopted a dual policy of encouraging and regulating capital at the same time and objected to the Confucianist self-contradictory stand, i.e., on the one hand playing down the social status of businessmen by dualistically pitting material interest and moral justice against each other while on the other advocating a laissez-faire policy towards the monopoly of social economy by big capital.

           And in the confrontational perspective, capital is seen as totally opposed to labor, in spite of the fact that capital can also be accumulated through hard work and careful spending and can play a positive role in social life and that capital and labor can co-operate on an equal footing in business management and profit distribution. The key point is whether labor has an equal say in the business, no matter whether it’s privately or “publicly” owned in name. Even state-owned enterprises, if without labor participation in the management, nor supervision by trustees authorized by the citizenship, i.e., the true owners of state capital, can also degenerate into (bureaucratic-) capitalist businesses under the name of “public ownership”.

           Confrontational thinkers also fail to see that small private lots of land owned by peasant families, small handicraft industries and small commercial businesses, which each combines small capital and labor in one and the same entity, i.e., the self-employed owner, will be needed to play a supplementary and balancing role in socialist economy for a long period of time and, so, they tend to be too eager to “shed off the tails (remnants) of capitalism”. (Actually, self-employed small businesses, if not hiring any other workers, are not capitalistic in nature in spite of their spontaneous tendency towards capitalism, if not regulated.) In short, confrontational thinking can easily lead to an ultra-leftist line of policy, which is very harmful to the advance of socialism, and once ultra-leftism is proved to be more of a hindrance than a help in practice, people would easily slip back towards the opposite extreme, i.e., the rightist line of capitulation to capital and capitalism.

           In the confrontational perspective, the “public” and the “private” are seen as totally opposed to each other, the “public” being a monolithic mass, not as a “joining together of equal ‘private’ entities on a democratic basis”, (however small the “public” may be, e.g., a firm, or a community of any size, as discussed in detail in a separate essay by the author), nor as a whole with all relevant interests dynamically balanced. Therefore, the confrontational thinkers would easily fail to realize that “publicly”-owned state enterprises without worker participation in management nor supervision by the citizenship can degenerate into private properties of “trustees” of state capital, and that, any enterprise, big or small, run by the state or by private entities, if only the workers have their equal share in the ownership and management or an equal status in other forms, is in fact “publicly”- or, commonly-, owned, not privately-owned by capital using employed labor.

           An overall transition from universal private ownership to common/public ownership based on democratic alliance will be a very long gradual process. It should start with those state enterprises nominally owned by the whole people. (If they are monopolized by bureaucrats, it is necessary to first seize them back into the hands of the people.) As to non-state businesses, their transition to labor-capital co-ownership should be based on voluntary trial, government support and careful plans meeting the general requirement for overall balance within and between all levels of social life (such as economic, political, material, spiritual, local, national, global, environmental). The transformation of ownership of means of production is itself a process of dynamic adjustments towards a comprehensive balance and a part of the multi-dimensional dynamically-balanced whole.
Balance-Oriented Transformation of Social Thought

           The task to be accomplished by DOP on the ideological front is to raise people’s spiritual consciousness level, i.e., to have them, through the practice of building socialism, consciensciously overcome any thoughts not in line with socialist economic, political and cultural norms and resist the corruptive influence of capitalist ideology, so as to facilitate the advance of socialist construction towards its final victory and boost the whole population’s material and spiritual welfare on a comprehensively balanced basis.

           The two different ways of thinking will also lead to different results in handling this task. The balance-oriented view sees the mutual interaction, adjustment and balancing between people’s thoughts and socio-economic-political reality, that is, that, on the one hand, a minority of people with advanced thoughts can play an exemplary role in changing the society, while on the other the majority will accept socialist ideas and give up ego-centric thoughts only after they see the superiority of the socialist system that is based on balanced social relationships. It is necessary to criticize erroneous ideas, especially those that prompt actions against the law. Such criticism will serve to redeem criminals and educate the public at the same time, as moral virtue grows out of implementation of the Dao-abiding law. 

           But, facts always speak louder. So, it is mainly through what people see and experience in the society, reinforced by positive influence from advanced personages and negative lessons from law offenders that average people overcome their wrong thoughts and accept advanced ideas. Confrontational denunciation of people who do not offend the law will only backfire and produce the opposite results, as has been evidenced by the shocking retrogressive contrast between the campaign of “fighting selfishness and repudiating revisionism” (“斗私批修”) in 1960s and today’s rampant political corruption and accelerating moral decline in China. Such ultra-leftist confrontations will only play into the hands of political careerists, adventurists and opportunists and cause tragic consequences of historical dimensions.
VI. Daoist-Legalist Socialism: Rule of Law instead of “Dictatorship”

           The conclusion from the above analysis is: All the tasks meant for DOP can be accomplished only through the seeking for an overall balance, which involves local confrontations, or even institutional violence, The “balance” meant by the author is the “dynamic balance of a multi-dimensional whole” and “dynamic” implies the possibility and necessity of both non-confrontational and confrontational interactions. To view and handle everything confrontationally is, like putting the cart before the horse, to become disoriented and lose sight of the ultimate goal, leading to failure of the socialist cause when success is in sight. If we make a careful study of the two opposed ways of thinking, we can see that the phrasing “dictatorship of the proletariat” actually reflects the confrontational thinking pattern.

           As we know, all exploiting classes, the capitalist class included, have always tried all means to sanctify their rule as a noble act of “benevolence” or protection of “freedom” or embodiment of “democracy” and what not. But the goal for the proletariat is the emancipation of the whole mankind, which cannot be realized by a savior of any sort but through the people rising to master their own destiny. To describe such a role to be played by the whole people as a “dictatorship” not only fails to deliver the real intention of the initial advocates of socialism but is also tactless. What has been even more disastrous to the cause of socialism is the ultra-leftist political practice under the name of DOP.

           It is also worth noting that, while the proletariat as a group, being deprived of the right to own and manage the means of production and to fully share the fruits of production and having to sell their labor to make a living, is, comparatively speaking, most prone to accept the idea of liberating the whole mankind before liberating itself, this is not saying that what each and every individual and leading figure in this group thinks and does always benefits the cause of human liberation, not to mention the existence of lumpenproletariat and the influence of bourgeois and petty bourgeois ideology in the ranks of the proletariat. Even some of its great leaders who have made outstanding contributions to the cause of proletarian revolution may sometimes have ideas or ways of thinking that fall short of the goal of human liberation.

           Under such circumstances, if we do not check the objective situation and our subjective consciousness against the supreme principle of overall dynamic balance but adopt a confrontational line of thought in handling the complex situations in promoting socialism, the spearhead of “dictatorship” may be directed to wrong targets, thus committing very serious mistakes with grave consequences.

           Considering the above, the author suggests that, besides changing the line of thought and action, the wording “DOP” be replaced by “rule of socialist law”. Furthermore, to distinguish from traditional socialism this new interpretation of socialism based on the “multi-dimensional, dynamically-balanced whole” worldview, we may call it “Daoist-Legalist socialism”, which will be a kind of socialism with genuinely Chinese characteristics. It will be a continuation of the socialist cause initiated by Marx and Engels, and its re-embarkation in the 21st century global East with renewed grandeur.


The Tao of Lassez-fair

(Note: See how the Dao has been misunderstood or distorted by Western mainstream scholars.)

Copyright: The New Legalist Website      Registered: Beijing ICP 05073683      E-mail: alexzhaid@163.com   lusherwin@yahoo.com