First Published: Progressive Worker, Vol. 3, No. 9, July 1967
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.
Crossing the border from one country to another; one’s initial reaction is to notice the apparent differences but then, on closer study, it can readily be discerned that they are all very much the same fundamentally. But crossing into China is like entering a new world with an entirely new set of values. Comparisons with other places and other experiences when applied to China today are very likely to prove more confusing than helpful.
It is this approach of relating the Cultural Revolution to some familiar experience that is one of the most commonly used incorrect methods in reporting on its development. This is sure to prove both inadequate and misleading, for the Cultural Revolution is an event quite new and without precedent in history, and interpreting it in the light of some experience from the past can only result in hopeless confusion and a completely erroneous idea of what the struggles all about.
The worst offenders in this respect are the so-called “revolutionaries” who keep their eyes fixed on Moscow as though it were the holy shrine of the revolution – not revolutionaries at all, but revisionists whose minds became ossified with the completion of the October Revolution. For them, in spite of all their declarations about “creative Marxism”, Soviet experience is the last word and permanent model in revolutionary development.
According to these “theoreticians” with the petrified minds, the Soviet Union and its Communist Party is the custodian of all Marxist-Leninist knowledge as well as of revolutionary wisdom and virtue. In their opinion there can be no progress except along the explored and trusted paths of Soviet experience and each revolutionary movement in its turn must slavishly follow the appointed leader through the path of “peaceful transition” to the “state of the whole people.” According to this line of thought the development and enrichment of Marxism come to an abrupt end with the death of Lenin. The Proletarian Cultural Revolution does not fit in to the revisionist design for a polite, peaceful “revolution” so it must be condemned as a “disastrous attack on the very essence of socialism.”
The trouble with these people is they either never really understood the fundamental concepts of Marxism-Leninism, or else the have forgotten or abandoned them. They have failed to grow ideologically and to learn the lessons of history and so have degenerated into social-democrats, opportunists, revisionists and, ultimately, into outright counter-revolutionary elements in the service of imperialism. They deny the existence of classes and class struggle in socialist society, and proceeding from that erroneous position they deny the role and function of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat in the transition period from capitalism to communism and substitute for it the so-called “state of the whole people” which is nothing more than the Dictatorship of the Bourgeoisie. On the basis of this false, anti-Marxist, counter-revolutionary policy they condemn and viciously attack the great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and its outstanding Marxist-Leninist leader and architect, Chairman Mao Tse-tung.
“Classes struggle, some classes triumph, others are eliminated. Such is history, such is the history of civilization for thousands of years. To interpret from this point of view is historical materialism; standing in opposition to this viewpoint is historical idealism.”
“In class society everyone lives as a member of a particular class, and every kind of thinking, without exception, is stamped with the brand of a class.” (Quotations from Mao Tse-tung)
Marx and Engels, in the Manifesto of the Communist Party, pointed to the fact that all written history was one of class struggle, a state of affairs which dated back, in fact, to the collapse and disintegration of primitive tribal communism. The theory of class struggle was neither invented nor discovered by Marx but was already known to the ruling class. Touching on this question in a letter to Joseph Wedemeyer, Marx wrote:
“... as to myself no credit is due me for discovering the existence of classes in modern society, nor yet the struggle between them. Long before me bourgeois historians had described the historical development of this struggle of classes and bourgeois economists the economic anatomy of the classes.”
But Marx did not stop at the point of a mere reiteration of something already known to the bourgeoisie. He went beyond the bourgeois economists and pointed to the historical necessity for the Dictatorship of the Proletariat as an essential step toward the abolition of classes. In the same letter to Wedemeyer he stated:
“What I did that was new was to prove: 1) That the existence of classes is only bound up with particular historical phases in the development of production: 2) That the class struggle necessarily leads to the Dictatorship of the Proletariat: 3) That the dictatorship itself only constitutes the transition to the abolition of all classes and to a classless society.”
Marx was not suggesting the need for the Dictatorship of the Proletariat merely as an exercise in statecraft for the working class. He meant it as a weapon for the forcible suppression of the enemies of socialism in the transition period, hence he recognized the existence of classes and violent class struggle during the socialist transition. Anyone who does not accept this concept of Proletarian Dictatorship – stops short at the theory of class struggle – is not a Marxist. These were facts well known to Lenin who wrote in “State and Revolution”:
“It is often said and written that the main point in Marx’s theory is the class struggle. But this is wrong. And this wrong notion very often results in an opportunist distortion of Marxism in a spirit acceptable to the bourgeoisie. For the theory of class struggle was created not by Marx, but by the bourgeoisie before Marx and, generally speaking, it is acceptable to the bourgeoisie. Those who recognize only the class struggle are not yet Marxists; they may be found to be still within the bounds of bourgeois thinking and bourgeois politics. To confine Marxism to the theory of the class struggle means curtailing Marxism, distorting it, reducing it to something acceptable to the bourgeoisie. A Marxist is solely someone who extends the recognition of the class struggle to the recognition of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. This is what constitutes the most profound distinction between the Marxist and the ordinary petty (as well as big) bourgeois. This is the touchstone on which the real understanding and recognition of Marxism should be rested.”
Dealing further with the question of classes and class struggle, especially as it is related to the period of socialist transition, Lenin outlined two famous theses: 1) Under the conditions of the dictatorship of the proletariat the resistance of the bourgeoisie becomes STRONGER. That is, AFTER the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, instead of withering away, the class struggle continues to exist. This Leninist thesis is one that is all too often forgotten or ignored. 2) The small producers spontaneously generate bourgeois elements and capitalism. Proceeding from these two theses it can be grasped that, under the dictatorship of the proletariat classes still exist and the question of who will win, bourgeois or proletariat, is not yet finally settled. In his “Greetings to the Hungarian Workers”, in 1919, Lenin wrote:
“The abolition of classes requires a long, difficult and stubborn struggle which, AFTER the overthrow of capitalist rule, AFTER the destruction of the bourgeois state, AFTER the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, does not disappear (as the vulgar representatives of, the old socialism and the old social democracy imagined) but merely changes its forms, and in many ways becomes fiercer.”
The Hungarians failed to heed Lenin’s warning and the Proletarian Dictatorship was overthrown by the counter-revolution.
In 1920 Lenin again underlined the point of class struggle under the Dictatorship of the Proletariat when he wrote “Left Wing Communism”:
“The dictatorship of the proletariat is a most determined and most ruthless war waged by the new class against a more powerful enemy, the bourgeoisie, whose resistance is increased TENFOLD by its overthrow (even if only in one country) and whose power lies not only in the strength of international capital, in the strength and durability of the international connections of the bourgeoisie, but in the force of habit, in the strength of small production. For, unfortunately, small production engenders capitalism and the bourgeoisie continuously, daily, hourly, spontaneously and on a mass scale.”
Lenin did not live long enough to solve the problem of class struggle and revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat. Stalin, although he gave some indication that he knew of the existence of the problem was unable to grapple with it. The result of the failure to tackle the problem and conduct sharp struggle against the bourgeois elements, especially in the field of ideology and culture, made it possible for the representatives of the bourgeoisie in the Party to seize power after the death of Stalin and to set up the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie disguised as the ”state of the whole people” and on the pretext that the dictatorship of the proletariat was no longer necessary as there were no longer any opposing and antagonistic class divisions in the U.S.S.R. – that the class struggle was ended. Now, 50 years after the October Revolution, the Soviet Union has returned to the capitalist path and bourgeois dictatorship thus making it necessary for the workers to make revolution for the overthrow of the bourgeoisie a second time.
Mao Tse-tung gave serious attention to the two theses formulated by Lenin and he systematically pointed to the existence of classes and class struggle in socialist society. Although this question is fundamental to Marxism-Leninism it can easily be overlooked or incorrectly handled under the dictatorship of the proletariat. This is a point to which some good Marxist-Leninists, not to speak of hardened revisionists of the Brezhnev-Kosygin type, failed to pay attention.
On this point Mao Tse-tung has greatly developed and enriched Marxism-Leninism. It was in the light of the experience and lessons of both the Chinese and international revolutionary movement that Chairman Mao drew attention to and dealt with the problem of class contradictions and class struggle in socialist society. AFTER the seizure of power and of the means of production there must be a revolution on the ideological and cultural fronts. It is especially in the field of ideology that the question of who will win has not yet been settled.
In late 1964 and early 1965 Mao Tse-tung pointed to the fact that a handful of leading people in the Party were taking the capitalist road. Having wormed their way into positions of authority in the Party and the government they were using their positions to launch attacks against the proletarian dictatorship. It is not the capitalists at large who could turn the dictatorship of the proletariat into the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie – they did not have the power or the ability. Those who could turn it into a bourgeois dictatorship are the capitalist roaders in positions of authority in the Party. The bourgeois reactionary line they put forward represented the demands of the bourgeoisie – the revisionist line of capitalist restoration.
The struggle in China finds expression in the conflict between two opposing lines – the revolutionary line of Mao Tse-tung and the bourgeois reactionary line of the capitalist roaders. The main target of the Proletarian Cultural Revolution is the capitalist roaders, the representatives of the bourgeoisie within the Party.
After the dictatorship of the proletariat has been established the struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie still finds expression in the struggle for the seizure of power. The bourgeoisie want to seize power and the proletariat, in defence of its dictatorship, must struggle against the bourgeois reactionaries who have gained some positions of power and try to use them against the proletarian dictatorship. Seizure of power and counter-seizure of power still exists in the struggle between socialism and the capitalist roaders. The rightists in authority attacked the dictatorship and the working masses counter-attacked with the Proletarian Cultural Revolution under the leadership of Mao Tse-tung.
If a Marxist-Leninist forgets this basic problem of class struggle and the seizure of power in socialist society, or fails to pay sufficient attention to it, he is a proletarian element who is in danger of becoming a revisionist in outlook – a social democrat. If he ignores the problem he will be in danger of following down the road of the Soviet ruling clique.
Chairman Mao says: “The imperialists and domestic reactionaries will certainly not take their defeat lying down and they will struggle to the last ditch. After there is peace and order throughout the country, they will still engage in sabotage and create disturbances in various ways and will try every day and every minute to stage a comeback. This is inevitable and beyond all doubt, and under no circumstances must we relax our vigilance.”
“... although in the main socialist transformation has been completed with respect to the system of ownership... the class struggle is by no means over. The class struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, the class struggle between the different political forces, and the class struggle in the ideological field will continue to be long and tortuous and at times will even become very acute.” (Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung)
It is this struggle between the classes, the struggle for the seizure of power and especially the sharp struggle to eradicate bourgeois culture and ideology and for the development of a proletarian culture to serve the masses and socialist construction that is at the root of the Proletarian Cultural Revolution. This is no secret and he who cannot see it or denies it is no Marxist-Leninist.
“A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous. A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another.” (Quotations from Mao Tse-tung)
If we are not in possession of a correct proletarian outlook, we will not clearly understand the question of “disorder.” There are two different kinds of disorder. One kind is disorder for the enemy and this kind of disorder is the main aspect of the Cultural Revolution in China: disorder for those in authority, the bourgeois leaders in the Party and in society generally, who are taking the capitalist road. The “disorder” generated by the revolutionary proletarians and students has routed these bourgeois elements and thrown them into utter confusion. Disorder such as this means victory for the Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Of course in such a fierce struggle between two opposing sides some people who are really on the side of the proletariat may be hurt by mistake. But these are individual cases and will be kept to a minimum. Besides, such people, in the final analysis, will be protected and compensated.
The significance of the Proletarian Cultural Revolution lies in the fact that it is a most profound and serious class struggle. The representatives of the bourgeoisie in the Party attacked first, whereupon the proletariat counter-attacked. The struggle started first in the field of ideology and gradually developed into a struggle in the economic field; a struggle for power. There are many complicated phenomena that have emerged in the process of the struggle but by adhering to the class viewpoint and tracing everything back to the root causes and class struggle what is desirable and should be retained and what is undesirable and in need of being discarded will be clear.
In this struggle – in the Proletarian Cultural Revolution, it is Chairman Mao Tse-tung who represents the correct revolutionary line and those who oppose Chairman Mao are the representatives of the bourgeoisie who would turn China back on the road to capitalism. When the revisionists attack Chairman Mao they strike at the vary heart of the revolution and give large support to imperialism and reaction. This has been well known to the revolutionary masses in China for a long time and they respond to the attacks by rallying more closely around the great leader of the revolutionary peoples. Now working people in every country in the world study closely the works of Mao Tse-tung and hail him as the greatest Marxist-Leninist of our era. In this period of the breakdown of imperialism and the advance of socialism it is the thought of Mao Tse-tung that guides and directs the revolutionary masses.
It is under the leadership of Chairman Mao that the masses are developing a sharp struggle on the ideological front in China. This ideological struggle is to guarantee the consolidation of the political power of the proletariat and the consolidation and development of the socialist system of ownership. Without this ideological struggle state power in China would change colour either quietly or as the result of a violent counter-revolutionary coup. Then the socialist system of ownership would be replaced by the capitalist system of ownership and the people’s communes would revert to the former system of ownership by landlords and rich peasants.
The outcome of the struggle now taking place will determine the future destiny of China and will exercise a decisive influence on the whole world because, as far as the present era is concerned, it is China that plays the really decisive role in the world. It is China that is the decisive factor so far as revolution, not only in China but in the world, is concerned. We can say with confidence there will be hope in the world so long as China does not fall and does not change its political colour. The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution is an event of vast importance which has a vital bearing on the destiny of the whole of mankind.
“Historically, all reactionary forces on the verge of extinction invariably conduct a last desperate struggle against the revolutionary forces, and some revolutionaries are apt to be deluded for a time by this phenomenon of outward strength but inner weakness, failing to grasp the essential fact that the enemy is nearing extinction while they themselves are approaching victory.” (Quotations from Mao Tse-tung)
(Editor’s Note: The above remarks are based on observations of the mass movement and the Cultural Revolution while on a visit to China. Additional articles will appear in future issues.)