The Communist Road to Capitalism: How Social Unrest and Containment Have Pushed China's (R)evolution since 1949

SKU: 9781629638379
Author: Ralf Ruckus
Series: PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-62963-837-9
Published: 7/2021
Format: Paperback
Size: 6x9
Pages: 320
Subjects: Political Economy / Chinese History

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The Communist Road to Capitalism is an in-depth exploration of the central role that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) played in China’s transformation from socialism to capitalism. Many interpret this transition as the result of the “betrayal” by reformers in the party who wanted to establish capitalism. Ralf Ruckus reveals that the planned economy of socialist China not only created a class society under CCP rule that was based on exploitation, repression, gender division, and social exclusion but also led to class struggles against the new socialist ruling class, such as mobilizations of workers and students during the Hundred Flower Movement in the mid-1950s and the Cultural Revolution in the mid-1960s, culminating in the 1989 worker and student uprising in Tiananmen Square.

In typical authoritarian fashion, the Party leadership reacted with repression and rigid policies that were meant to strengthen and consolidate power. The restructuring of the state sector, as well as foreign investments, industrialization, migration, and urbanization, fundamentally altered the economy, the gender regime, and the composition of the working class. Large-scale struggles of the “old” socialist working class and the “new” migrant working class in the new millennium forced the CCP regime to adapt its economic and political strategies for fear of more escalations of social struggles.

By carefully tracing these developments, Ruckus provides us with an invaluable insight into how this would ultimately transform the CCP leadership itself, turning it into the core of the newly composed capitalist ruling class that is still in power today. While breaking with established orthodoxies that dominate stale discussions about China’s rise as an economic power, The Communist Road to Capitalism is both a bold reinterpretation of the history of the People’s Republic of China and a searing critique of centralized state power. This book appeals to those who wish to better understand the dynamics and power of social struggles and the measures taken by governments to contain them through repression and co-optation.


“The global Left is terribly confused about China. Thankfully, Ralf Ruckus has responded powerfully to this problem, one that has been made all the more urgent by China’s increasingly global ambitions and the attendant intensified imperial rivalry with the US and its allies. Undertaking a thorough and systematic analysis of evolving political, social, and economic dynamics, he reveals how China’s failed experiment with socialism laid the groundwork for its more recent explosive capitalist growth. But he also shows that the transition to capitalism was neither inevitable nor its victory final. Highly recommended!”
—Eli Friedman, professor of international and comparative labor at Cornell University and author of Insurgency Trap: Labor Politics in Postsocialist China

“What we in the western world take for granted and consume—clothes, computers, watches, mobile phones, etc.—depends largely on work and workers in today’s China. Yet work and workers in China have been almost invisible on the two sides of the Atlantic over the years. This book opens a window on the times and circumstances that ordinary women and men in China have gone through since the late 1940s. Ralf Ruckus unfolds a story of advancements, defeats, repressions, and revolts for better standards of living, individual and collective rights, freedom of expression and residence, dignity. This book will be indispensable to those who are not satisfied with grand geopolitical overviews about China, and who want to look closely into the People’s Republic of China’s past and current trends.”
—Ferruccio Gambino, veteran Italian activist, coeditor of the journal altre ragioni, and lecturer on international migrations at the University of Padua

“It is striking, with everything that has been written about contemporary China, how few works put the Chinese working class, in reality the key to China’s situation, front and center. Ralf Ruckus’s book is an excellent corrective to this lack. The Chinese working class, by its location in the world’s workshop, will shake the world as the Russian working class did in 1917, hopefully with a happier outcome.”
—Loren Goldner, coeditor of Insurgent Notes

“This highly original book traverses a range of contexts that will appeal to readers interested in nature and meaning of transition from socialism to capitalism in China. Of interest to both China experts and leftist activists, this timely book will help readers better understand both the complex history of the Communist Party of China and the contemporary nature of class struggle. Innovative in method and surprising in its findings, this superb book will prove to be a landmark work in advancing the field of Chinese labor history.”
—Andrej Grubacic, professor of anthropology at CIIS–San Francisco and coauthor of Living at the Edges of Capitalism and Wobblies and Zapatistas

“While there is renewed interest in socialism the world over, there seems to be consensus that socialism has not yet been realized. Even if this is true, it is curious how little time the socialist left spends on studying movements that claim to clear the path towards it. This is why The Communist Road to Capitalism is essential reading. Authored by a seasoned labor activist and scholar whose knowledge about working-class struggles in China is second to none, this book helps us answer some of the crucial questions of our time: Is there a way to socialism? Have we advanced on it? How do we reach its end?”
—Gabriel Kuhn, author of Antifascism, Sports, Sobriety: Forging a Militant Working-Class Culture

About the author:

Ralf Ruckus has been active in social movements in Europe and Asia for decades and publishes texts on social struggles in China and elsewhere. He edits and blogs on

See and hear interviews, book reviews, and other news on Ralf Ruckus's page coming soon.

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