Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

FORUM Supplement: Peaceful Co-Existence and the Class Struggle: Remarks on the article by George Matthews in “Comment” No. 3, May 2nd 1964


First Published: FORUM for Marxist-Leninist Inner-Party Struggle, Supplement, 1964.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Sam Richards and Paul Saba
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The reader would assume from the title of the article that class struggle has something to do with peaceful coexistence; but not until he has plodded patiently to the very end is he told that “the coexistence of States with different social systems is itself a form of class struggle between capitalism and Socialism.”

Matthews alleged that the Chinese are defeatists, have abandoned a class approach, overestimate the power of imperialism, and fail to grasp the new features of the epoch in which we live.

THE REAL MEANING OF PEACEFUL COEXISTENCE

Matthews leaves it to his readers to guess what he means by “peaceful coexistence” but he gives the very strong impression that he is concerned with universal peaceful coexistence. In his article the role of the world-wide class struggle for liberation and against imperialism is completely ignored. The Chinese, on the other hand, point out that there are a number of contradictions in the world, including those between Socialist and capitalist States, and those between oppressed and oppressor nations; that peaceful coexistence is a state which can apply only between States having different social systems.

How is it possible to omit the anti-colonial and anti-imperialist struggles going on in Asia, Africa, and Latin America from an analysis of the meaning of “peaceful coexistence”.?. Chinese statements stress that Marxist-Leninists must not “regard the contradictions in the world as consisting solely and simply of the contradictions between the Socialist camp and the Imperialist camp”. (Apologists of Neo-colonialism, Peking, 1963 p.17). They point out that the liberation struggles are attacking imperialism at the weakest point, thereby assisting the Socialist countries to achieve and maintain peaceful coexistence with capitalist countries. What is this but a class approach?

CAN WORLD WAR BE PREVENTED?

The Chinese are said by Matthews to oppose the principles of the 1960 Statement on the question of war and peace that they donít believe a world war can be prevented while capitalism remains, that they are utterly defeatist.

One must assume that he has read the Chinese statements which declare firmly that “a new world war can be prevented providing the Communist Parties of the world keep on uniting and strengthening all the forces of peace and democracy that can be united.” They say further:

As the international balance of class forces grows increasingly favourable to Socialism and as the imperialist forces become daily weaker and the contradictions among them daily sharper, it is possible for the Socialist countries to compel one imperialist country or another to establish some sort of peaceful co-existence with them by relying on their own growing strength, the expansion of the revolutionary forces of the peoples, the unity with the nationalist countries and the struggle of all the peace-loving people, and by utilising the internal contradictions of imperialism. (Peaceful Coexistence – Two Diametrically Opposed Policies, Peking, Dec., 1963, p.16)

Similar statements have been made many times over. Why does Matthews need to distort the truth if he really feels he has a case to put?

THE CLASS STRUGGLE

Matthews alleges further that the Chinese “attempt to counterpose the fight for peace against the class struggle”. Again, this attack is based on distortion and a false presentation. The Chinese constantly emphasise that it is through class struggle that peaceful coexistence can be forced on the imperialist countries. They stress that the most reliable assurance of victory in the fight to enforce peaceful coexistence is the unity of all peace-loving forces to combat the imperialist plans of war and aggression. This unity must include all those engaged in the class struggle in capitalist countries, the Socialist countries, and the peoples fighting for national liberation. It is not sufficient to say, as Matthews does, that “to create the broadest front against the war plans of the imperialists is part of the class struggle,” and leave it at that. He is quite correct when he says:

Communists should ceaselessly explain the root causes of war and show that they will be eradicated by Socialism. But they should be prepared to work with all those who want peace, including those who may not yet fully understand the source of the war danger.

However, in practice this approach has led to the renunciation of leadership in the fight for peace, the burying of the class struggle for fear of giving offence, to tailism. The role of imperialism as the main enemy, and particularly the role of the United States as the leading imperialist power, has been glossed over. The obligation to expose the many faces of imperialism and to explain how to eliminate the root causes of war has been side-stepped. Constantly at international conferences the Chinese have put up a valiant fight to raise the level of understanding of non-Marxists, refusing firmly to help undermine the fight for peace by reducing it to the lowest common denominator. This is a principled class approach to the fight for peace.

TOWARDS PEACE AND FRIENDSHIP

Matthews attacks the Chinese for their “verbal professions of support for peaceful coexistence, but the most violent abuse for other. Socialist countries when they attempt to put principles into practice.” It so happens that the Chinese leaders are Marxists and apply their principle to concrete situations without abandoning principles. They strongly oppose unprincipled capitulation, such as the Soviet action over Cuba, when Khruschev, without consulting the Cubans promised international inspection of Cuban territory. They oppose “adventurism” which they consider occurred when the Soviet Union put nuclear missiles into Cuba. They believe that the Partial Test Ban Treaty is dangerous because it creates the illusion that the Socialist world has gained somehow, while in reality it is the U.S. which came out best in the bargain. They strongly oppose Soviet procedure, as in the cases of Cuba and of the Partial Test Ban Treaty, when she takes steps affecting the lives of all in the Socialist world without real consultation. This, they say, is great nation chauvinism, power politics. It is not proletarian internationalism.

The Chinese have shown on many occasions that they agree with and will take part in negotiations to settle disputes. Of the Korean armistice negotiations they commented: “resolute struggle against the U.S. imperialists compelled them to accept the Korean armistice agreement.” (Two Different Lines on the Question of War and Peace. Peking, 1963, p.33) Other international conferences in which they played an important part were two in Geneva, one in 1954 which brought to an end the eight-year long war in Indo-China and one in 1961 which led to the 1962 agreement on Laos. As a general principle they have declared:

We favour negotiations with imperialist countries. But it is absolutely impermissible to pin hopes for world peace on negotiations, spread illusions about them, and thereby paralyse the fighting will of the peoples.... (Two Different Lines... p.34)

On May 14, 1960 the Chinese issued a statement saying:

We support the holding of the Summit Conference whether or not this sort of conference yields achievements, or whether the achievements are big or small. But the winning of world peace should depend primarily on resolute struggle by the people of all countries. (Renmin Ribao, May 15, 1960)

The U.2. settled that particular Conference.

The Chinese maintain peaceful coexistence with U.S.-occupied Japan and with that outpost of imperialism, Hong Kong. They continue to call for a peaceful settlement of the Sino-Indian border question. They have shown the most outstanding patience in the face of the occupation of their island of Taiwan, the presence of the U.S. Seventh Fleet in the Taiwan Straits, and frequent provocative incursions from Taiwan into the mainland.

PEACEFUL COEXISTENCE WITH FRANCE AND PAKISTAN

Matthews berates the Chinese for their policy of peaceful coexistence with France. The Chinese point out that they distinguish between one capitalist country and another and act accordingly, that because of the law of uneven development each case must be dealt with specifically. They stress the need to point out the main enemy, the United States; that there are serious contradictions among the imperialist powers which make it possible for Socialist countries to develop relations with one or other at different times.

Even more strange is Matthews’ complaint that the China “bitterly attack” the Indian Government which is not a member of any military bloc, while cultivating friendship with Pakistan, a member of SEATO and CENTO, which are directed against Asian countries. China’s policy of peaceful coexistence was evolved with India in the famous “Five Principles” and with India and Pakistan, among other countries, at Bandung. How can Matthews even pretend to be ignorant of the fact that it was India which violated these’ principles under pressure from the U.S. and her own reactionary circles?

Does he consider that the Chinese should have allowed Indian aggression into Chinese territory, or that they should accept without protest the military build-up going on close to the Chinese border with U.S.-British-Soviet help?

Inside India itself the class struggle was seriously divided and weakened by the action of the Soviet Union in condemning China for the border clash and by the unforgivable action of sending Migs and other military supplies to India during and after the fighting. Had all Socialist countries supported a brother Socialist country wantonly attacked, the class struggle would have been strengthened. Instead, the Soviet Union sowed confusion and dismay among Socialist and other progressive forces, especially in India. An honest analysis of “peaceful coexistence and the class struggle” would have made this clear.

NUCLEAR WEAPONS AND THE CLASS STRUGGLE

Matthews complains that the Chinese “lack logic”, as for example, when they admit nuclear weapons to be “unprecedentedly destructive” but at the same time describe them as a “paper tiger”. A small effort to see what the Chinese mean would show him that the Chinese fully understand the destructive potential, while at the same time they believe that the united struggles of all the world peace forces can thwart the war plans of the imperialists. The Chinese rely on the class struggle and the unity of all those peace-loving forces, while Khruschev and those who hold like views rely on nuclear weapons in the hands of the Soviet Union and on agreement between the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R.

The allegation is made in the article that China’s opposition to the Partial Test Ban Treaty and their attitude on nuclear weapons arises solely from the selfish desire to possess such weapons, and the claim is advanced that Soviet nuclear strength is sufficient to protect the whole Socialist camp. Matthews seems to have forgotten the basic Marxist principle that arms in the hands of the people are arms for peace. He also overlooks the fact that the U.S. has been planting its nuclear weapons in bases all over the world and is working hard for the establishment of a Multi-lateral Nuclear Force which would include such countries as Fascist-minded West Germany. Further, does he not realise that the Soviet Union destroyed confidence in her good faith when she sent Migs to India and took part in the anti-China military build-up and when she sought to bend little Albania and big China to her will by tearing up contracts and damaging their economies?

IN DEFENCE OF WORLD PEACE

The contention is made in the article that the Chinese no longer support the 1960 Statement in its declaration that the unprecedentedly destructive, power of modern weapons demands the prevention of war. They Chinese reply:

We hold that to defend world peace it is necessary constantly to expose imperialism and to arouse and organise the people into struggle against the imperialists headed by the United States, and it is necessary to place reliance on the growth of the strength of the Socialist camp, on the revolutionary struggles of the proletariat and working people of all countries, on the liberation struggles of the oppressed nations, on the struggles of all peace loving peoples and countries and on the broad united front against U. S. imperialism and its lackeys. (Two Different Lines on the Question of War and Peace, Peking 1963, p.35)

The Chinese have consistently fought for this line in their statements, at international conferences, and at all times. This is not abandonment of the class struggle. It is a policy for expanding it, drawing in all possible allies, and wage it till final victory.