Tony Cliff

The monolith cracks

(Autumn 1963)

From International Socialism (1st series), No.14, Autumn 1963, pp.3-16 & 24.
Thanks tio ted Crawfird & the late Will Fancy.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Tony Cliff is well known to our readers. Has written Stalinist Russia, A Marxist Analysis (now out of print), a study of Rosa Luxemburg (4s 6d post paid from this address) and many other works. He is at present completing a book on Khrushchev’s Russia.

The crack-up of the massive Russian-Chinese bloc is an international event of the greatest historical importance. The present article will attempt to answer the following questions: What are the issues in dispute between Moscow and Peking? What are the causes of the dispute? What probable effect will it have on the Communist Parties throughout the world? What impact will it have on the world labour movement?

We shall start with the issues in dispute. There are two, and they are interconnected: firstly, the differences in attitude to ‘peaceful co-existence’; secondly, the differences in attitude to the colonial revolution (and to the bourgeoisies of the ‘uncommitted nations’).

1. ‘Peaceful Co-existence’

The conflict between Moscow and Peking over the issue of ‘peaceful co-existence’ first showed itself at the time of Russia’s dramatic successes in the conquest of space. On 26 August 1957, Moscow announced that Russia had successfully tested an intercontinental multi-stage ballistic missile; on 4 October, the launching of the first earth satellite; on 3 November, the second sputnik.

On 18 November, Mao Tse-tung, attending an international congress of Communist Parties in Moscow for the first time, argued that the balance of forces between the capitalist West and the socialist East tipped heavily towards the latter:

‘I consider that the present world situation has reached a new turning point. There are now two winds in the world, the East Wind and the West Wind ... I think the characteristic of the current situation is that the East Wind prevails over the West Wind; that is, the strength of socialism exceeds the strength of imperialism.’

Mao went on to draw the following strategic conclusions from the military superiority of the ‘socialist camp’:

‘In order to struggle against the enemy, we have formed the concept over a long period, namely, that strategically we should despise the enemy in the overall situation, and pay attention to him in every specific issue. If we do not despise the enemy in the situation as a whole, we will commit the mistake of opportunism ... But if we do not attach importance to the enemy in specific questions ... we will commit the mistake of adventurism. The war can only be fought battle by battle, and the enemy can only be eliminated bit by bit ... Strategically we can despise a meal. We can eat it. But the concrete act of eating is carried out mouthful by mouthful: you cannot in one mouthful swallow the whole feast. This is called the one by one solution, and in military literature it is called smashing the enemy one by one.’ [1]

Following this speech the Chinese press proceeded to deflate the strength of the Western camp. Thus Shih-chieh Chih-shih (World Culture) of 20 December 1957 stated,

‘The absolute superiority of the Soviet Union with intercontinental ballistic missiles has placed the striking capabilities of the United States ... in an inferior position. The Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles not only can reach any military base in Central Europe, Asia or Africa, but also force the United States for the first time in history to a position where neither escape nor striking back is possible.’

From now on the United States would be referred to in the Chinese press as ‘the paper tiger’.

Khrushchev, on the other hand, had and has a much more realistic evaluation of the relative strength of East and West; he made no claim that the sputnik had brought about such a radical reversal in the balance of forces. He argued that the East was becoming stronger and the West relatively weaker, but without the former having as yet a decisive superiority. As late as 4 March 1958, he told an East German audience that if it were possible to invent an instrument to measure with precision the political and military strength of the Eastern and Western blocks, it ‘would show that both sides are sufficiently strong at present’. [2] He repeatedly asserted that in case of war Russia, too, would suffer extremely grave damage. Khrushchev also paid tribute to Western economic strength when he announced that the Soviet bloc would not achieve ‘wor1d historic victory’ over capitalism until about 1970, when it would overtake the West in both the physical volume of production and per capita output. ‘Material production,’ he emphasised, ‘is the decisive sphere of human endeavour.’ Again, at the 22nd Congress, Khrushchev was very cautious in his evaluation of the relative stability and strength of Western capitalism. This stands in marked contrast to the Chinese estimates, and to Stalin’s last important statement on the perspectives for world capitalism in his Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR (1952).

For Khrushchev, the sputnik alone was not enough to enable the communists to swallow their enemies ‘one by one’. A contrary possibility perturbed him. As he stated on 21 November 1957,

‘We must not think that under present conditions minor wars would be localised. Should such wars break out, they could soon grow into a world war.’ [3]

The new strength served Khrushchev as a means to press on with negotiations with the West, and a couple of months after the launching of the sputnik the Soviets called for immediate summit talks. [4]

Since the first sputnik, the cleavage between Moscow and Peking regarding war and peace has widened. During the Lebanese crisis five years ago, Khrushchev declared in favour of a summit conference within the framework of the Security Council, only to meet with open hostility to the plan from Peking, accompanied by the shelling of Quemoy and Matsu from the Chinese mainland. After visiting China at the end of July, Khrushchev withdrew from summitry for a time. But at the height of China’s border dispute with India and her conflict with Indonesia over the 3 million Chinese residents in that country, Khrushchev chose to pay a visit to the two countries. In the summer of 1960, his disarmament policy exacerbated the quarrel. On 20 June of that year Pravda stated editorially that ‘disarmament was not only necessary but possible’. This was more than an oblique rebuttal of an assertion that appeared two weeks earlier in the New China News Agency: ‘that such a proposal (for disarmament) can be realised when imperialism still exists, and that the danger of war can be eliminated by relying on such a proposal ... is an unrealistic illusion.’

The following month, China and Russia fell out over policy towards the Congo, with Russia supporting the 14 July resolution calling for UN intervention and the Chinese characterising the decision as ‘a shield for new crimes of the US pirates.’ On Algeria, Khrushchev is remembered for his statement in March 1960 about the ‘historic ties’ between France and Algeria, while Mao recognised the Algerian Provisional Government and was reported to be supplying it with arms. More recently, two papers devoted to Chinese affairs have been closed down in Moscow, and Russian technicians have been withdraw from China.

Regarding the global effect of war, Khrushchev and Mao have differed increasingly. In Vladivostok, on 8 October 1959, Khrushchev made it clear that ‘only an irresponsible person can be fearless of war in our days.’ Four months later he told the Indian Parliament: ‘Let us not approach the matter commercially and figure out the losses this or the other side would sustain. War would be a calamity for all the peoples of the world.’ He repeated the lesson to members of the French Peace Council shortly afterwards: ‘Imagine what will happen,’ he said, ‘when bombs begin to explode over cities. These bombs will not distinguish between communists and non-communists ... No, everything alive can be wiped out in the conflagration of nuclear explosions.’

To emphasise the global effect of a world war, Major-General N. Telensky, a commentator on military affairs, estimated that nuclear warfare would, in a main theatre of war, destroy between 500 and 600 million out of 800 million people. [5] Similarly, Khrushchev in his speech to the SED Congress in Germany on 16 January 1963 said,

‘What would happen if all these nuclear weapons were brought down on people? Scientists estimate that the first blow alone would take a toll of 700 to 800 million human lives. All the big cities would be wiped out or destroyed ... The effects of a nuclear war would continue to tell throughout the lifetime of many generations, causing disease, death and the worst deformities in the development of people.’ [6]

All this had little effect on the Chinese leadership. They all but pooh-poohed the effect of nuclear war:

‘... we have always held that in the final analysis atomic weapons cannot change the laws governing the historical development of society, cannot decide the final outcome of war, cannot save imperialism from its doom or prevent the proletariat and people of all countries and the oppressed nations from winning victory in their revolutions.’

In support they quoted Stalin’s statement of September 1946:

‘I do not believe the atomic bomb to be as serious a force as certain politicians are inclined to regard it. Atomic bombs are intended for intimidating the weak-nerved, but they cannot decide the outcome of war since atomic bombs are by no means sufficient for the purpose.’

The Chinese went on to say,

‘After World War I, some imperialist countries noisily advertised a military theory, according to which quick victory in war could be won through air supremacy and surprise attacks. Events in World War II exposed its bankruptcy. With the appearance of nuclear weapons, some imperialists have again noisily advertised this kind of theory and resorted to nuclear blackmail, asserting that nuclear weapons could quickly decide the outcome of war. Their theory will definitely go bankrupt too. But the modern revisionists, such as the Tito clique, are serving the US and other imperialists, preaching and trumpeting this theory in order to intimidate the people of all countries.’ [7]

The collection Long Live Leninism!, which was approved by the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, summed up with words,

‘We consistently oppose the launching of criminal wars by imperialism ... But should the imperialists impose such sacrifices on the peoples of various countries, we believe that ... these sacrifices would be rewarded. On the debris of imperialism, the victorious people would create very swiftly a civilisation thousands of times higher than the capitalist system and a truly beautiful future for themselves.’ [8]

Mao Tse-tung was quoted in extenso in Red Flag, the theoretical organ of the Chinese Communist Party, on 30 March 1960:

‘If the imperialists insist on unleashing war we should not be afraid of it ... World War I was followed by the birth of the Soviet Union with a population of 200 million. World War II was followed by the emergence of the socialist camp with a combined population of 900 million. If the imperialists insist on launching a third World War, it is certain that several hundred million more will turn to socialism’

... and not to ashes!

With such a callous attitude to the effect of global nuclear war, how easy it is for the Russian leaders to accuse the Chinese of wanting war, of being war-mongers, (for which there is no basis in any of Peking’s statements):

‘We would like to ask the Chinese comrades who suggest building a bright future on the ruins of the old world destroyed by a thermonuclear war whether they have consulted the working class of the countries where imperialism dominates. The working class of the capitalist countries would certainly tell them: are we asking you to trigger off a war and destroy our countries while annihilating the imperialists? Is it not a fact that the monopolists, the imperialists, are only a comparatively small group, while the bulk of the population of the capitalist countries consists of the working class, working peasantry and working intelligentsia? The nuclear bomb does not distinguish between the imperialists and working people, it hits great areas, and therefore millions of workers would be destroyed for one monopolist. The working class, the working people, will ask such ‘revolutionaries’: what right have you to decide for us the questions of our existence and our class struggle? We also are in favour of socialism; but we want to gain it through the class struggle and not by unleashing a thermonuclear war.’ [9]

Why is it that Mao can shrug off the danger of nuclear bombardment? The reason is China’s backwardness. Mao is not a member of the nuclear rocket coterie, and it will take decades before China can appear as a serious contender for inclusion. Shrugging off the danger is but an expression of national self-centredness. This was clearly pointed out in the Open Letter of the Central Committee of the CPSU:

‘If both the exploiters and the exploited are buried under the ruins of the old world, who will build the “bright future”? In this connection it is impossible not to note that instead of the internationalist class approach expressed in the call “workers of all countries, unite!” the Chinese comrades stubbornly propagate the slogan which is devoid of any class meaning: “The wind from the East prevails over the wind from the West”.’ [10]

2. Attitudes to the ‘Uncommitted’ Nations

The CPSU leadership argues that the national bourgeoisie has a ‘historically useful role to play’ and that there is a basis for ‘lengthy cooperation’ between it and the socialist countries. Thus E. Zhukov, a leading Soviet expert on underdeveloped countries, wrote,

‘It is known that at the head of the majority of new national states of Asia and Africa stand bourgeois political leaders who usually take a position under a nationalistic flag. However, this cannot belittle the progressive historical importance of the breakthrough that has taken place on the imperialist front ... For many lagging countries of Asia, and especially Africa ... the central task ... remains for a comparatively long period of time that “of struggle not against capital but against survivals of the Middle Ages”. From this stems the possibility of the cooperation over a long period of the workers, peasants and intelligentsia ... with that part of the national bourgeoisie which is interested in the independent political and economic development of its country and is ready to defend its independence against any encroachments by the imperialist powers.’ [11]

The new CPSU programme, adopted at its 22nd Congress, emphasises that ‘although the national bourgeoisie shows an increasing inclination to compromise with imperialism and domestic reaction’, its ‘progressive’ role in ‘accomplishing the basic tasks of an anti-imperialist and anti-feudal revolution ... is the solution of pressing national problems ... is, therefore, not spent.’ To such forces, the programme adds, the CPSU regards it as its ‘internationalist duty’ to render ‘all-round support.’ It was thus implied that the cause of world communism stands to gain more through collaboration with national-bourgeois elements on the international scene than through active opposition to them— through more aggressive local Communist Party agitation— on the domestic scene.

Against this the Chinese argue that the national bourgeoisie is not to be trusted:

‘... these states can never expect to effect the transition to socialism, nor indeed can they thoroughly fulfil the task of the nationalistic, democratic revolution. It should be added that even the national independence they have won is by no means secure ... (The bourgeois nationalists) may even pave the way for emergence of bureaucratic capitalism, which is an ally of imperialism and feudalism ... In the final analysis, they can never escape from the control and bondage of imperialism.’ [12]

And in answer to Moscow’s praise of Nehru’s socialism, Peking sneeringly says that ‘a motley variety of so-called “socialisms” have emerged from among the exploiting classes in certain countries ... They only put up the signboard of “socialism” but actually practise capitalism’. [13] It is merely a ‘deception’ of the peoples of the colonial areas to suggest that under the leadership of the bourgeoisie they can not only achieve complete victory in the national democratic revolution but even ‘march into the period of socialism by way of state capitalism.’ [14]

In support of their argument the Chinese were able to quote Moscow statements of not very long ago regarding the national bourgeoisie. As recently as 1955 the periodical Sovetskoe Vostokvedenie wrote that the ‘anti-imperialist and anti-feudalist revolution’ in Africa could never triumph in league with the national bourgeoisie, but ‘only on the basis of the alliance of workers and peasants and led by the communists.’

Narody Afriki (The Peoples of Africa), a book that appeared in Moscow in 1954, for example, described Kwame Nkrumah’s People’s Convention Party and the first government formed by Nkrumah as ‘a shield behind which is concealed in reality the dominion of British imperialism.’ [15] Khrushchev’s concept of ‘peaceful co-existence’ is very much against the interests of the Chinese bureaucracy: Soviet capital resources are devoted to the ‘neutral bloc’ countries. In an effort to win them away from Washington, Russia tries to buy—not overthrow—the rulers of these countries. Hence Nasser can keep his communists in jail and still get Russian aid. Sukarno and Kassem could outlaw their Communist Parties without fear of economic reprisal. Rubles are required to flirt with these countries. But Mao is not being courted by the United States, so why waste rubles on him?

Since 1956 scarcely any credit has gone from Russia to China. There was some flow before this, but its extent is shrouded in mystery. However some light is thrown on the subject by the figures for foreign trade. As trade between the two countries is bilateral, it is clear that where China has an adverse balance of trade, Russia is making up the difference in credit.

The picture of Soviet aid to China in the years 1950-55 looked as follows: in 1950 the excess of Soviet exports to China over imports was 197 million dollars; in 1951, 147 million; in 1952, 223 million; in, 1954, 181 million; in 1955. 105 million. Altogether China got a balance of 993 million dollars in the six years 1950-1955. Since then the picture is reversed. In 1956 China exported to Russia more than she imported, the balance being 31 million dollars; in 1957, 194 million; in 1958, 247 million; in 1959, 146 million; in 1960, 31 million; in 1961, 184 million. Altogether China gave a balance of 833 million dollars in the six years 1956-1961. [16]

From 1957 Russia gave some 1,227 million dollars in loans to under-developed non-communist countries. The European Soviet bloc countries contributed another 354 millions. Of these sums India got 362, Egypt 208. Syria 184, Afghanistan 115, Indonesia 113 millions. [17] Up to 1961, India alone had received a commitment of more than 800 million dollars, which is more than had originally been promised to the Chinese, and almost as much as was actually delivered. Altogether Russia spent, between 1954 and 1960, over 10,000 million (old) rubles, or over 2,000 million dollars on foreign aid. [18]

China received from the USSR nothing like the aid the uncommitted countries got. In 1959 Iraq alone received 550 million rubles, the United Arab Republic 4,000 million; China, since 1950, received altogether ,6200 million. On a per capita basis, the long-term credits received by these countries were as follows: Iraq, 78 rubles; United Arab Republic, 154 rubles; China, 9 rubles. How much of the Chinese attitude, one wonders, derives from Marxism, and how much from the interest of the Chinese bureaucracy in getting more economic aid from Russia?

For its attitude China was accused of being nationalistic, narrow-minded and selfish. Thus F.V. Konstantinov, editor of Kommunist (No.17, 1961), said

‘... this nationalistic narrow-mindedness and egotism of Hozha and Shehu ... found expression in their resentment of the aid rendered by the Soviet Union and other socialist countries to underdeveloped countries of Asia and Africa.’

For Hozha and Shehu, of course, read Mao and Co.

Similarly the Czech publication Prace, reporting a meeting between trade unionists and economists, reproduced the following comment:

‘The Albanian leaders have strange ideas about socialist internationalism. Among other things, they want us, for instance, primarily and first of all to assist only the needy countries of the socialist camp and then some time in the future—when these countries no longer need assistance—to help the other underdeveloped countries. Assistance to underdeveloped countries, however, is an integral part of our concept of internationalism.’ [19]

It should not be hastily concluded, however, that Peking has a consistent attitude to the rulers of the uncommitted nations. Their policy has, over the years, suffered a complete about-turn. In 1949 Peking was in complete accord with the then current Soviet picture of a world sharply divided into only two hostile camps, with no place for uncommitted nations. Thus Liu Shao-ch’i had written in 1948,

‘The world has been divided into two mutually antagonistic camps: on the one hand, the world imperialist camp, composed of American imperialists and their accomplices, the reactionaries of all countries of the world; on the other hand, the world anti-imperialist camp, composed of the Soviet Union and the New Democracies of Eastern Europe, and the national liberation movements in China, South-East Asia and Greece, plus the people’s democratic forces of all countries of the world. American imperialism has become the bastion of all the reactionary forces in the world; while the Soviet Union has become the bastion of all progressive forces ... These two camps include all the peoples of the world—of all countries, classes, sections of the population, parties and groups.’ [20]

Liu Shao-ch’i had stated bluntly, ‘to remain neutral or sitting on the fence is impossible, [21] and Mao Tse-tung underlined this view in 1949, declaring that ‘neutrality is merely a camouflage and a third road does not exist.’ [22] However, since the death of Stalin, especially in the years 1954-7, a new picture of the world has been drawn, with three main groups, two of which—the communist bloc and the newly independent and uncommitted countries—seek to align themselves together against the third, the imperialist bloc led by the United States.

After the Geneva Conference, which ‘settled’ the war in Vietnam by dividing the country at the 17th Parallel, Peking suddenly decided to try her charms on the rulers of the uncommitted countries. Thus in June 1954 Chou En-lai, Premier and Foreign Minister of China, visited New Delhi. He went to great lengths to give assurances of communist China’s peaceful intentions:

‘All the nations in the world can peacefully co-exist, no matter whether they are big or small, strong or weak, and no matter what kind of social system each of them has. The rights of the people of each nation to national independence and self-determination must be respected. The people of each nation have the right to choose their own state system, without interference from other nations. Revolution cannot be exported; at the same time outside interference with the common will expressed by the people of any nation should not be permitted. If all the nations of the world put their mutual relations on the basis of these principles, intimidation and aggression by one nation against another would not happen, and peaceful co-existence of all nations of the world would be turned from a possibility into a reality.’ [23]

The joint communique signed by Chou and Nehru reiterated the Five Principles, which became a central theme in Peking’s propaganda: ‘mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty; non-aggression; non-interference in each other’s internal affairs; equality and mutual benefit; and peaceful coexistence.’ The clearest demonstration of Peking’s effort at alliance with the uncommitted countries was the Afro-Asian Conference at Bandung early in 1955. After it, in 1956-57, Chou undertook a grand tour of South and South-East Asia, visiting North Vietnam, Cambodia, India, Burma, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal and Ceylon. He embraced the rulers of all these countries, and did not utter a word about communist revolution. Liu Shao-ch’i said of the uncommitted countries,

‘Mutual friendly relations in line with the five principles of peaceful co-existence have been established and developed between many nationally independent countries and socialist countries, which together form a broad zone of peace.’ [24]

‘Peaceful co-existence’ and aid has been Peking’s main theme in its dealings with the countries of Asia and Africa. In accordance with this policy, China made significant free grants to the Kingdoms of Cambodia and Nepal, to Egypt and Ceylon. She gave loans to the Imam of Yemen, to Burma, Indonesia, Ceylon and Ghana. And China is very, very poor!

However in 1959 a radical change took place. After the Tibetan revolt, Peking adopted an entirely new attitude to India and Laos, and reformulated her attitude towards the bourgeoisies of the uncommitted countries. The about-face was a refutation of the 1954-7 policy and a return to the position as formulated under Stalin, and by Mao and Liu in 1948-9.

But even with this turn to the ‘left’, Peking is careful not to burn her bridges behind her; she continues openly to flirt with such ‘progressive’ rulers as the Kings of Nepal and Cambodia. Among the patriotic elements with which the communists are called to collaborate in Asia, Africa and Latin America we find ‘not only the workers, peasants, intellectuals and petty bourgeoisie, but also the patriotic national bourgeoisie and even certain kings, princes and aristocrats, who are patriotic.’ [25]

‘In some of these countries, the patriotic national bourgeoisie continue to stand with the masses in the struggle against imperialism and colonialism and introduce certain measures of social progress. This requires the proletarian party to make a full appraisal of the progressive role of the patriotic national bourgeoisie and strengthen unity with them.’ [26]

However, with all the internal contradictions and inconsistencies in Mao’s attitude to the colonial revolution, there is no doubt that he supports them much more enthusiastically than Khrushchev. Actually, all recent Chinese documents against Khrushchev and his line almost completely identify world revolution with the national struggles in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The working classes of the industrial countries hardly get a passing mention. The Russians find it easy to describe the Chinese as warmongers because they do not (any more than the Russians) clearly differentiate between two kinds of wars: imperialist wars which rely on nuclear weapons, and revolutionary wars—of colonial nations struggling for independence, or working classes for socialism—which are inherently dependent on mass participation. Nuclear weapons cannot be used in civil wars; popular control of nuclear weapons is a contradiction in terms. (Khrushchev’s introduction and later withdrawal of nuclear weapons in Cuba only deflated the importance of the people of Cuba; it was done without reference to their wishes.) The Russians, by not distinguishing between the two types of war, try to turn the natural repugnance and fear of nuclear war into apathy towards colonial revolutions. The Chinese, while they do support the latter, show complete indifference to the working class of the industrial countries, a policy which leads to callousness towards the effects of nuclear war. [27]

3. More To Those Who Have More

Economically Khrushchev’s concept of ‘peaceful co-existence’ means that not only the neutral bloc countries, but even more the Eastern European satellites, are preferred to China. His policy thus creates an abyss of antagonism between the countries of Eastern Europe and China, A national industrial base prescribes a certain investment policy. A million rubles invested in Russia will do more to surpass the US than a loan or a gift of the same amount to China. The same applies to the services of technicians. And if Russian capital is to be exported, it is much more fruitfully invested in the more advanced European ‘People’s Democracies’, which are largely integrated with the economy of Russia, than in backward China. (It is no accident that neither China nor North Korea nor Vietnam belong to Comecon—the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance—that covers Russia and her European satellites.) For economic competition with the US and for the development of heavy industry, Eastern Europe - especially the advanced countries in it (in order, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, whose industrial level is even higher than that of the USSR, Poland and Hungary)—are of greater usefulness than China.

In 1954, ‘about 90 per cent of East Germany’s exports to the Soviet Union consisted of finished products of which 80 per cent were machines and electrical appliances. The remainder consisted of precision optical and mechanical instruments, chemicals, books, paper, cement, glass, musical instruments, etc.’ [28]

In 1955, ‘East Germany had supplied the Soviet Union with 32 per cent of all the machine tools, 71 per cent of the press forge equipment, 79 per cent of the rolling mill equipment, 64 per cent of the food-processing equipment and 68 per cent of all the instruments imported by it.’ [29] In 1956, machinery and equipment accounted for 76.3 per cent of East Germany’s exports to the USSR. [30] In exchange Russia gave East Germany raw materials and semi-finished goods, chiefly petroleum, coal, ores and steel. The overall picture of trade between Hungary and Russia is similar. Thus in 1955 machinery and factory equipment constituted 61 per cent of Hungary’s exports to the USSR. [31] Here again Russia gave in exchange mainly raw materials. Altogether, as regards machinery and equipment Russia is a net importer from her satellites, exporting in 1953 goods to the value of some 200 million US dollars and importing goods to the value of some 700-750 million dollars. [32] As against this, the Chinese in the main imported machinery from Russia (in 1950-54 over 95 per cent of Chinese imports from Russia were capital goods [33]), while her exports were mainly vegetable oils, animal products, tea. The extent of China’s neglect by Russia is well illustrated by the fact that China, with her 700 million people, got less Soviet machinery in 1961 than little Bulgaria with her eight million people. (The figures are 97 and 112 million rubles respectively.) [34]

Machinery is more useful for catching up with the USA than pig bristles!

Luigi Longo, Deputy-Secretary of the Italian Communist Party, hit the nail on the head in his speech to the Central Committee of his party (24 December 1961) when he pointed out that the basic conflict between Peking and Moscow was the former’s claim for more aid from the advanced socialist states to the more backward:

‘The quarrel between the Soviet and the Chinese Communist Parties refers to a much more important question than that of peaceful co-existence, possibilities of avoiding nuclear war or the dispute over the cult of Stalin’s personality. The real issue is a difference between their views on the true way to socialism and communism. The Chinese believe that the development of communism in the various countries of the socialistic bloc should be indivisible. The countries that are more advanced economically should therefore take more interest in the troubles and sufferings of the more backward socialist countries and place all their material resources at their disposal. Those who hold this view cannot accept the competition between the Soviet Union and the United States and the capitalist countries. Nor can they accept peaceful co-existence or Soviet aid to under-developed countries. This help should be given to the economically backward countries in the socialist camp. The Chinese comrades do not hide their misgivings but we Italian communists believe that the Soviet policy of competition with the United States is more useful for the development of world communism than a concern for the equal development of all the countries in the socialist camp. The effect of Soviet policy is to accelerate the development of conflicts within the capitalist camp and to draw the colonialist peoples into the socialist camp.’ [35]

According to this pattern, Albania, Rumania and Bulgaria are more likely to feel sympathy for Peking than the more advanced East European satellites. (Clearly, however, not only economic, but political elements too, decisively influence events.) Albania openly sided with China against Russia, Rumania more hesitantly tried to play off the one against the other. Rumania’s main complaint is that the Soviet-dominated East European Council for Mutual Economic Aid (Comecon) finds Rumania’s economic targets and plans too ambitious. Gheorghiu-Dej, First Secretary of the the Rumanian Communist Party, is rumoured to have resisted Soviet plans for the closer integration of the countries belonging to Comecon. He apparently fears that these plans will encroach on Rumania’s independence and prevent it from building up the full range of industries that every underdeveloped country wants. In March 1963 the Rumanian Central Committee met and put out a statement which, while approving the ‘socialist division of labour’ in principle, emphasised that economic co-ordination must be based on national plans and must respect national sovereignty. [36]

The Bulgarians, though to a lesser degree than the Rumanians, have made it clear that they have great misgivings regarding the Soviet plans for the economic integration of Eastern Europe.

China’s opposition to Soviet economic policies is not only that as regards the supply of capital China is being neglected to the advantage of the uncommitted countries and the industrially advanced East European satellites, but that in actual trade between Russia and China the former drives a hard bargain. Time and again it is announced that the price charged by Russia for her products and paid for by China’s products conform to those of the world market. Now, world market prices entail the exploitation of backward countries by advanced countries. As the Marxist law of value shows, industries with a high ‘organic composition of capital’—i.e. with a great deal of capital compared with labour—acquire part of the surplus value produced by workers in industries with a low ‘organic composition of capital.’ This applies also to international trade between more developed and less developed countries, ie countries which have relatively more capital and those with relatively little. As Marx put it, ‘the favoured country obtains in such an exchange more labour in return for less labour.’ This is the situation under conditions of free competition. The exploitation of the poor countries becomes even harsher when the rich country for one reason or another holds a monopoly position. The backward countries are then charged even higher, and paid even lower, prices then those prevailing in the world market.

This is the situation dominating trade between Russia and her satellites.

A few figures will show this. Russia charged her satellites 307 rubles per ton of wheat sold in 1958, while countries outside the Soviet bloc were charged only 273 rubles, a difference of 12 per cent. The comparable figures for barley were 259 and 214 rubles, a difference of 21 per cent. Russian tractors were sold to the satellites for 21500 rubles each, while outside the bloc they fetched 13600, a difference of 51 per cent. Cotton goods sold at 1800 and 600 rubles per square metre respectively, ie the satellites had to pay three times the price charged by Russia in the world market. Interestingly, the more agricultural and backward the individual satellite country, the higher the prices charged by Russia. Albania and Bulgaria did considerably worse than Czechoslovakia and East Germany.

On the other hand, for 17 commodities for which information is available, Russia paid 20 per cent less than she would have paid if charged the same prices by the satellites that they charged outside the Soviet bloc. [37] Actual data regarding the terms of trade in the transactions between Russia and China are scanty. There are, however, some indications that the terms are most disadvantageous to China. The informed Hong Kong journal, Far Eastern Economic Review, wrote,

‘For bristles and tung oil, which were the major items in China’s export before the war, have been offered in Western European markets, including Rotterdam, at prices below the market prices in Shanghai and Tientsin. Since the Soviet Union is the exclusive agent for Red China’s export goods, Moscow’s marketing of pig bristles and tung oil at such low prices indicates that it bought the Chinese goods at even lower rates ... On the other hand, the imports Red China is receiving from the outside world through Soviet Russia have been found to be priced two to ten times higher than those of the similar Western products available in Hong Kong. Chinese Communist purchasing agents have been forced to pay more than 50000 Hong Kong dollars for a Soviet Zis 4-ton truck in Tientsin. The price for a comparable 5-ton truck of Western make is less than 15000 dollars in Hong Kong. However, the export of Western trucks from Hong Kong to Red China is prohibited. Czechoslovakian saccharine, also imported through Soviet Russia, is sold at 106.40 Hong Kong dollars per pound in Tientsin. German saccharine of equal quantity is obtainable at 6.60 Hong Kong dollars per pound in the British colony ... Soviet oil sells at about 50 rubles a metric ton to Western Europe, but eighty six and a half to China.’ [38]

Thus ‘peaceful co-existence’ between Russia and China means Russian extortion of Chinese surplus value.

4. Back to National Economic Self-Sufficiency

With the drying up of Soviet credits, and extortionate trade conditions, Mao, making a virtue out of necessity, adopted a radical new concept of national economic self-sufficiency in 1958. In mid-1955 communist leaders spoke of China’s requiring some 40 to 50 years to become ‘a powerful country with a high degree of socialist industrialisation.’ A few years later they told a different story. In 1958, in a hasty crash programme, People’s Communes were established all over China in one fell swoop. Peking sought its own way Jo build ‘communism’ at a headlong pace with very limited resources and a rapidly growing population. The principal aims of the Communes were to mobilise China’s one abundant resource—its manpower— in huge peasant labour armies on an unprecedented scale, to raise agricultural production and to develop cottage industries, at the same time tightening control over peasant consumption so as to syphon off surpluses for capital accumulation. A closely related aim was to substitute organisational weapons of mass mobilisation and regimentation aided by ideological incentives, in the form of bright prospects of an early passage to the paradise of communism; this in place of the material incentives Khrushchev had so much emphasised since Stalin’s death. ‘It seems that the attainment of communism in China is no longer a remote future event,’ stated the Central Committee in August 1958. ‘We should actively use the form of people’s communes to explore the practical road of transition to communism.’ [39]

It is true that after burning their fingers through excessive haste, the Chinese leadership had to beat a retreat; a halt was called to some of the excesses, and the implementation of some features of the programme was slowed down. Now it was asserted that ‘the transition from socialism to communism is quite a long and complicated process of development.’ [40] But with all the zigzags, the constant element in economic policy has been national autarchy. Peking radio summarised the new line:

‘China should never rely on foreign aid for socialist industrialisation.’ [41]

The same idea was put in even sharper form in the letter of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party to the Central Committee of the CPSU (14 June 1963):

‘Every socialist country must rely mainly on itself for its construction ... If, proceeding only from its own partial interests, any socialist country unilaterally demands that other fraternal countries submit to its needs, and uses the pretext of opposing what they call “going it alone” and “nationalism” to prevent other fraternal countries from applying the principle of relying mainly on their own efforts in their construction and from developing their economies on the basis of independence, or even goes to the lengths of putting economic pressure on other fraternal countries—then these are pure manifestations of national egoism.’ [42]

5. ‘Peaceful Co-existence’ and the Siege Mentality

In the aftermath of the Hungarian revolution, Mao launched his campaign ‘Let All Flowers Bloom Together. Let Diverse Schools of Thought Contend.’ He thought that the best way to handle China’s own contradictions was through a loosening of control. In May and June 1957, Peking tried to encourage free expression. Thus Mao admitted,

‘Certain people in our country were delighted when the Hungarian events took place. They hoped that something similar would happen in China, that thousands of people would demonstrate in the streets against the people’s government.’ [43]

Alarmed by the upsurge of criticism Mao reversed the more liberal course after a single month of relaxation, and the Party undertook a massive, vicious ‘anti-rightist’ campaign.

A widespread ‘purge’ was carried out, engulfing a number of provincial governors, three alternate members of the Central Committee, a leading communist writer, a couple of Vice-Ministers, and others.

Significantly, immediately after the ‘100 Flowers’ period was ended, Peking de-emphasised its former ‘peaceful co-existence’ policy.

It was then that the bombardment of the off-shore islands occurred. This coincided with the campaign to organise the peasants in People’s Communes. Shortly after, the first serious border dispute between China and India broke out. China’s extremely difficult job of pulling herself up by her own bootstraps makes severe demands on the morale of her people. It requires maximum national unity under centralised command. An atmosphere of siege helps to justify the sweat and toil. Hence a border dispute with India is manufactured and inflated to threatening proportions, although the tracts of land in question are strategically and in every other way worthless to China. So deep is the siege mentality in Peking that it has yet to accredit an ambassador to Britain some thirteen years after recognition. ‘Peaceful co-existence’ breaks down this siege mentality. To accept tremendous sacrifices over decades is bad enough. But to have to do so without the conviction or illusion that it is dictated by a besieging army is worse. The loss of another element in the siege—the feeling of togetherness— will make it yet more difficult tp discipline the Chinese masses. Khrushchev strikes at the heart of this feeling. In effect he says to Mao, We are not in it together. While your people are practically starving, we will gorge ourselves. For China to belong to the same bloc while getting less and less materially from her rich partner is bad enough in itself. But as a morale-buster, the effect on Mao’s highly disciplined camp can be catastrophic in the long run. If one of the main functions of the Iron Curtain—from Stalin’s standpoint—was to prevent Russian workers from comparing their lot with that of Western workers, a much thicker bamboo curtain will have to be built to prevent Chinese workers from making a similar comparison with Russian workers.

Hence Yugoslavia—the most ‘liberal’ of the communist countries—is anathema to Peking; and the worst crime— the Hungarian revolution.

6. The ‘Cult of the Individual’

From the start, Peking’s reaction to Khrushchev’s denunciation of Stalin at the 20th Congress was quite cool. Any reaction at all was slow in coming, but eventually the Politbureau published an article entitled On the Historical Experience of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. [44] The views expressed were much more favourable to Stalin than were Khrushchev’s. Although the article stated that Stalin had ‘exaggerated his own role’ and had made ‘unrealistic and erroneous decisions on certain important matters’ he had nevertheless ‘creatively applied and developed Marxism-Leninism’.

‘Some people consider that Stalin was wrong in everything; this is a grave misconception. Stalin was a great Marxist-Leninist who committed several gross errors without realising they were errors.’ [45]

‘Stalin’s works should, as before, still be seriously studied and ... we should accept as an important historical legacy all that is of value in them, especially those many works in which he defended Leninism and correctly summarised the experience of building up the Soviet Union.’ [46]

The denunciation of the ‘cult of the individual’ fitted in badly with the prevailing cult of Mao in China. Special obeisance is made to him at all public meetings. A description of a mass trial ran,

‘The meeting opened with the singing of the national anthem ... Then everybody took off their hats and bowed to the national flag and to the portrait of Chairman Mao.’ [47]

At another meeting, aping the high-and-mightiness of former landlords and rulers, Map’s picture and the pictures of other communist leaders were carried on sedan chairs after the singing of the national anthem, and again ‘everybody bowed to the national flag and the picture of Comrade Mao’, [48] just as they had done formerly to the landlord as he was carried by.

With the increasing regimentation in the People’s Communes the role of the leader rose even higher. In the most recent correspondence between Peking and Moscow, the former included in its count of ‘revisionist’ crimes the attack on the ‘cult of the personality’:

‘Over the past few years, certain persons have ... raised the issue of “combatting the cult of the individual”; this is erroneous and harmful.’ [49]

Again and again Stalin is put next to Marx, Engels and Lenin, and referred to as ‘our great teacher’. Time and again he is quoted as an authority to be relied on. [50] It may be suspected that while Khrushchev’s denunciation of Stalin at the 20th Congress was mainly impelled by domestic resistance to his political innovations, the attack on Stalin at the 22nd Congress (followed by the removal of his body from the mausoleum, the change of Stalingrad to Volgograd, etc.) were motivated mainly by anti-Chinese intentions.

7. The Ideological Split

While the Russo-Chinese conflict should not be attributed to ideological motivations, the role of ideology should not be underestimated, nor visualised as a pure rationalisation of political behaviour. If this were the case, the heated effort at doctrinal justification, largely made up of selected and adapted quotations from Marx, Engels and Lenin (and, in the case of the Chinese, Stalin) would not have been made.

The cleft between Russia and China brings with it the danger of a closer alignment of the Communist Parties in Asia, Africa, and Latin America with Peking, and the drifting of the Communist Parties of Western Europe towards a looser relationship with Moscow (see below). This must have quite a serious effect on Russia’s ideological health.

Russia will again have to revise her international role. Lenin and Trotsky envisaged the Soviet state as a citadel from which world revolution would be promoted. Stalin had come to consider the international communist movement as a part, a subordinate part, of the camp headed by the Soviet Union: the world communist movement became a means for the reinforcement and expansion of the Soviet empire. As regards national self-centredness, Khrushchev follows in Stalin’s footsteps. But Khrushchev, with his ‘peaceful co-existence’ and coolness towards colonial revolutions, will in time have to admit that the USSR is not going to unify the earth around itself, that this is not after all going to be the Soviet century.

Internationalism of a sort is central to the ideology of Moscow. It will take time for these ideological implications of the schism to be generally realised by Soviet communists. But once it sinks in, the effect can be quite serious on the efficiency of the Kremlin’s propaganda and the working of the regime.

It would therefore be very damaging for Khrushchev to allow the Chinese propaganda—accusing him of betraying internationalism and betraying the colonial revolution—to be spread in Russia. It is not that the arguments of Peking regarding ‘peaceful co-existence’ may make any dent at all among Russian people. (There is, incidentally, a secondary reason: independent of the merits of the ‘dogmatists’ argument, the unaccustomed need for discussion among communists is repugnant to the Kremlin.) Mockingly the Chinese tantalise the ‘revisionists’:

‘The doughty warriors who claim to possess the totality of Marxist-Leninist truth are mortally afraid of the articles written in reply to their attacks by the so-called dogmatists, sectarians, splitters, nationalists, and Trotskyites whom they have so vigorously condemned. They dare not publish these articles in their own newspapers and journals. As cowardly as mice, they are scared to death. They dare not let the people of their own countries read our articles, and they have tried to impose a watertight embargo. They are even using powerful stations to jam our broadcasts and prevent their people from listening to them. Dear friends and comrades, who claim to possess the whole truth! Since you are so definite that our articles are wrong, why don’t you publish all these erroneous articles and then refute them point by point, so as to inculcate hatred among your people against the “heresies” you call dogmatism, sectarianism and anti-Marxism-Leninism? Why do you lack the courage to do this? You fear the truth. The huge spectre you call “dogmatism”, ie genuine Marxism-Leninism, is haunting the world, and it threatens you.’ [51]

The ideological effect of the schism on the Chinese will be much smaller. With three quarters of humanity in Asia, Africa and Latin America—the patrimony of Peking—the revolutionary mission will not be missing. And as, for over two decades, the Chinese communists lived in the countryside without any contact with the industrial working class, while paying lip-service to ‘working-class leadership’ they would hardly miss the industrial working class of the West, especially as in the coming period it is not likely to show any dramatic activities. Yet again, because of the general ignorance in China, practically the only people Mao has to keep convinced of his and their mission are the cadres, and they in any case are sufficiently imbued with the fervour of raising China from her backwardness and poverty to the position of being a mighty, modern state. Maoism, on the face of it, is quite close to Marxism-Leninism: only ‘trifles’ are missing—the industrial working class, substituted by the elite party claiming to represent it; and authentic internationalism substituted by the nationalist-centred Han leadership of the colonial people. Hence Peking does freely publish the arguments of the Russians and their allies: after all, their equivocal position regarding the colonial revolution cannot endear Moscow to the Chinese comrades, nor will their talk of the threat of the H Bomb and the imperative need for ‘peaceful co-existence’ cut much ice in China.

8. The Split Between China and Russia. General Summary

In explaining the self-reliance and independence of the Yugoslav leaders in face of Russia, Mose Pijade stated,

‘... certain heads of other parties ... arrived in their free countries with pipes in their mouths, and ... for four years, four times daily, vainly called on the masses to struggle, via radio, while we won our freedom with arms in our hands.’ [52]

The Yugoslav leaders therefore felt superior to the Rakosis, Paukers and other governors of the Russian gubernias, and on an almost equal footing with the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The same applies, even more so, to the Chinese leaders.

To say that the Sino-Russian conflict is a national one is true, but does not explain the social content of the struggle. An old national form in a new social setting is not quite the same national form. National struggles have different characters as, for instance, when Abyssinia fights against Italy, when France fights against Germany, or China against Russia. The character of the struggle and the real motives behind it are dependent in every case on the stage of development of the nation concerned. A national struggle between the big landlords of two nations is necessarily concentrated primarily on the question, who is to own the big estates of a certain territory? The national struggle between the Croat peasants and the Hungarian landlords was fought on the question of land reform. The struggle between the rising class of Indian industrialists and British imperialism was fought over hegemony in the Indian market. Of course there is no Chinese wall separating the various classes of the different nations, and as long as a certain class rules it has a social, political and cultural influence over the lower classes of its nation, and carries them with it into the national struggle, even, in many cases, when this struggle bears no relation to their particular needs. Further, to avoid over-simplification, it must be remembered that there is, of course, no Chinese wall, either, separating the different aspects of human life, economic, social and cultural. For instance, when the Croat peasants fought against Hungarian landownership they fought at the same time for democratic rights, and in the cultural field against the Magyarisation of the schools, the press and so on.

The struggle between China and Russia is a struggle between the ruling bureaucracies in these countries. Therefore, the motivation, the driving force in the national struggle derives from the character of this class and from its place in the economic system. The material basis of a bureaucracy ruling in a state capitalist economy is the state enterprise, primarily in industry, and the only historical explanation, if not justification, for its existence is the pursuit of industrialisation and the accumulation of capital. Any serious national fight between two groups of bureaucrats ruling in state capitalist countries is inevitably concentrated on this key problem, their ‘be-all-and-end-all’. Conflict around capital accumulation and industrialisation is the mainspring of the conflict.

To say that the conflict is between two national bureaucracies having separate administrative, political and economic bases does not go far enough. It must be added that many of the specific features of the conflict are the result of the different stages of economic development reached by the two countries: China at the morning of industrialisation, at the stage of the ‘primitive accumulation of capital’, and Russia practically at the threshold of mature, ‘welfare’ state capitalism. But the explanation of the conflict as a reflection, purely and simply of the different stages of economic, social and political development, will not do. If it did, then once China emerged from the ‘Stalinist’ primitive stage of development—let us say 40 or 50 years hence (assuming the world still existed)—the conflict would disappear. Alas, two separate, highly centralised bureaucracies controlling different masses of capital in the framework of world economic competition could not have harmonious relations. The conflict takes place in the general set-up of a continuous struggle between each of the two powers and the Western bloc headed by US imperialism.

To the extent that the race between Russia and the West— above all the USA—compels Moscow to adopt a steep rate of capital accumulation, it increases the rift between itself and Peking. Any impediment on the path of economic growth in Russia, such as the crisis of a practically stagnating agriculture, has a similar effect.

The conflict between Russia and China is affected radically by the colonial revolution.

Khrushchev’s foreign policy over the last eight years has been based on the assumption that 1) the economies of the Western capitalist countries will be badly hit by de-colonisation, so as to tip the balance between the Soviet bloc and the West in the former’s direction, and 2) the ex-colonial countries will move nearer the Soviet bloc. The first assumption—derived from Lenin’s analysis of imperialism—proved completely wrong because of changes in the nature of capitalism—mainly the decline in the meshing-in of the economies of the metropolitan countries and their colonies. [53]

The fact that this assumption failed to be realised meant that an alliance between the colonial revolution and a CP-led West European working class also failed to be realised. (See, for instance ,the inertia of the French working class faced with the Algerian struggle.)

Khrushchev’s second assumption regarding the colonial revolution also proved on the whole to be unfounded. Except for Cuba, all the other colonies have, over the past few years, shown a trend away from Moscow. The coup in Iraq and Syria and the hanging of communists there, the persecution of communists in Egypt, the illegalisation of the Communist Parties of Algeria, Morocco and Tunis, the arrest of hundreds of communists in India, the expulsion of the Soviet ambassador from Guinea, all point the same way. Thus the race with the United States plus the colonial revolution, instead of leading to cohesion in the Eastern bloc, led to a widening rift. [54]

9. The Effect on the World Communist Movement

With the crack-up of the monolith and the emergence of at least two authorities in the world communist movement, the movement itself will tend to split into a number of pieces. Up to now the pieces have not arranged themselves in any very clear order. In reporting the facts first we shall try to give as accurate a picture as possible.

Among the Communist Parties of Asia up to the time of writing the picture is as follows. Of the Communist Parties in power, those in North Korea and Vietnam side with Peking, that of the Mongolian People’s Republic with Moscow. China gave more economic aid to Korea and Vietnam than did Russia, and was involved with them militarily. On the other hand, the Mongolian People’s Republic was under Russian tutelage for over four decades. In addition, Peking’s ambitions regarding Mongolia must be quite a headache for Ulan Bator, as there are many more Mongolians in the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region of China than in the Mongolian People’s Republic.

Of the non-ruling parties in Asia, the Indonesian is by far the biggest Party not in power in the world. This sides with Peking. So also do the Communist Parties of Malaya, Thailand, Japan (after the expulsion of a dissident minority) and one of the rival Communist Parties of Burma. The Indian Communist Party has a well-defined and strong pro-Chinese minority. The Provincial Communist Party organisations supporting China are: Uttar Pradesh, Madras, Punjab, Kerala, Andhra, West Bengal. (It is interesting to note that, in the national elections of February 1962, the Communist Party did much better in these provinces than in the pro-Russian strongholds—such as Maharashtra, where S.A. Dange, Chairman of the Party, lost his parliamentary seat.)

The only Communist Party in Asia supporting Moscow seems to be the Ceylon Party. (Is rivalry with the strong pro-Chinese Trotskyist Party there the cause?) The Arab Communist Parties in the Middle East are on the whole Moscow-oriented. The only exception is Iraq, where the Party has a very strong ‘Chinese’ faction. The split between the factions in Iraq was brought to a head when, on 5 July 1959, the militant pro-Chinese wing won the upper hand in the Politbureau, and issued a defiant statement of opposition to Kassem. Radio Peking immediately publicised this declaration, while Moscow ignored it and continued to speak kindly of Kassem. A few days later an uprising in Baghdad and other towns (including Kirkuk), led by ‘Chinese’ elements, was sharply criticised by Moscow. Later in July the Iraqi Party under Soviet pressure, it seems, changed its line, and published a long mea culpa for its ‘irresponsible acts’ and promised to cooperate faithfully with Kassem. On 17 August Pravda published this self-criticism, while the Chinese kept mum. [55] The African Parties’ delegates to the 22nd Congress of the CPSU (October 1961) were more or less evenly split, with the Tunisian and Sudanese supporting Moscow, but the Moroccan, Algerian and South African not. Since then however the Parties in Morocco and—surprisingly in view of the past close association with China—Algeria have come out strongly in support of Moscow. The few communists in tropical Africa are on the whole, it seems, Moscow-oriented.

The situation among the Latin American Parties seems still to be fluid: most of the older leaders support Moscow, but the new ‘Fidelist’ groups look towards Peking and seem to be gaining influence in their Parties. It is reported that of the Latin American delegates at the 1960 Moscow Conference, those from Argentina, Chile, Columbia, Uruguay and Venezuela sided with the Chinese. But later, at the 22nd Congress of the CPSU, the Chilean leadership changed about, and along with other Latin Americans supported Khrushchev’s attacks on Albania. In the end only the delegates from Guatemala, Paraguay and the Dominican Republic failed to denounce the Albanian leadership. But since the 22nd Congress the Guatemalan and Paraguayan leaderships, too, have come out strongly in support of Moscow. The Caribbean Parties of Guadeloupe and Matrinique, who did not speak up in support of Moscow at the 22nd Congress, have likewise since done so. The Communist Party of Brazil has been split wide open, with a very important section siding with Peking. [56]

Cuba has and will have a very important influence on the alignment of communists in Latin America. Castro’s policy, however, is a lesson in equivocation. He is trying very hard to straddle the two horses. For months during the sharpening of the Sino-Soviet conflict, Moscow was conspicuously unsuccessful in obtaining the complete backing of Castro on such matters as the condemnation of the Albanian leadership, the ‘cult of the personality’, or concurrence with Soviet views of the course of the national liberation movement of Latin America. Castro repeatedly denied the applicability of the ‘peaceful road’ to Latin America, both in the Havana Declaration and in his speech to the Congress of Women of the Americas on 16 January 1963. The Cubans published articles extolling the Chinese People’s Communes and supporting China in the Indo-Chinese border dispute.

Unfortunately for Castro, while his heart is in Peking, his stomach is in Moscow—he is dependent for machinery, petroleum, etc. on Russia, Czechoslovakia and East Germany. He will probably, therefore, have to side with Moscow. This is bound to have quite an effect—at least for some time—on the alignment of communists in Latin America. The Communist Parties of Eastern Europe, with the exception of Albania, side with Moscow. Albania’s rulers adhere to China above all because they hate Yugoslavia. This hatred is rooted in the fact that Yugoslavia is the most liberal of the communist states, and that it has an Albanian minority with a higher standard of living than Albanians in their own country, and impressive educational facilities including a university. ‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend’ is obviously Enver Hozha’s motto.

The Communist Parties of Western Europe, without exception, side with Moscow. But in a number of them— above all in those of Italy, Belgium and Sweden—there are significant pro-Chinese factions. In Belgium the faction fight has culminated in an open split into two Communist Parties. It would be wrong to assume that the ‘Chinese’ factions or groups in Italy, Belgium or Sweden accept the views of Peking in toto, especially the defence of Stalin, opposition to Khrushchev’s liberalisation in Russia, hatred for the Hungarian revolution, or indifference to nuclear war. They are rather opposition groups which resist their Parties’ slipping to the right and ‘bourgeoisification’.

The Communist Parties of the United States and Canada support Moscow, but the New Zealand Party supports Peking, and the Australian is split wide open. The alignment of the Japanese, New Zealand, and a large part of the Australian Communist Parties with Peking is somewhat out of step with the general pattern of only economically backward countries aligning with the Chinese. Here the explanation may be geopolitical: as these countries are neighbours of China, a central issue in the policies of their Communist Parties over many years has been opposition to any alliance with the United States against China and rapprochement with the latter.

10. The Trend to Polycentrism

In 1956, after the 20th Congress, Togliatti coined the now famous concept of polycentrism:

‘The Soviet model should no longer be obligatory ... The complex of the system is becoming polycentric, and in the communist movement itself one can no longer speak of a single guide ... the criticisms of Stalin gave rise to a general problem, common to the whole movement.’ [57]

After the 22nd Congress the Italian Communist Party revived the concept of polycentrism and propagated it with added vigour.

A number of centres of communist authority inevitably heralds the end of monolithism in the individual Communist Parties. Rights of disagreement and freedom of expression, if accepted as a principle in relations between parties, are bound to be reflected in the internal life of the individual parties. And once monolithism is rejected, the question arises, how far are people with different views entitled to be organised to spread their views? Are they entitled to factions? At a meeting of the Central Committee of the Italian Communist Party, held a month before the 22nd Congress of the CPSU, a Central Committee member, Fabiani, said,

‘The degeneration of socialist legality in the USSR began when the myth of unanimity and monolithism was created, a myth which was mistaken in theory and false in reality because there cannot be unanimity in as great a task as the construction of a socialist society ... We are not theorising about the myth of unity. The construction of socialism demands a debate which is honest and unprejudiced, with full rights for all ideas; no one should be branded for this as an enemy of the revolution, a purveyor of bourgeois ideology or even as an anti-party figure.’ [58]

With great enthusiasm, welcoming the downfall of monolithism, Giorgio Amendola declared,

‘The 22nd Congress ... represented the end of a formula of fictitious unanimity which had nothing to do with political and ideological unity. We should welcome this fact as positive. In our party, too, debate must be developed, if necessary even to the extent, from time to time, of the formation on various problems of minorities and majorities: this does not mean formation of groupings which would stabilise and so dessicate debate, as happens in other parties; it means the progressive development of an internal democratic dialectic.’

Thus Amendola called for a dynamic inner-Party life, an ‘internal democratic dialectic’ but stopped short, however, of advocating the right to factions. A step further was taken by Giancarlo Pajetta, head of the Press and Propaganda Section of the Central Committee:

‘At the time of Lenin’s leadership in the Bolshevik Party no one was afraid of voting; majorities and minorities were formed on every question; unity was not always identified with unanimity. A majority vote is certainly better than false unanimity. The whole party must courageously and responsibly face the consequences of the present situation, and pose those problems which demand a solution, without nostalgia for a past which is increasingly distant and irrevocably condemned in its worse aspects.’

Senator Secchia went as far as to say, ‘The alternation of leading groups in a normal and dialectical way must become possible once again.’

The reaction of other Communist Parties to the Italians’ spelling put of de facto polycentrism was rather bitter. Thus Maurice Thorez strongly opposed the concept of polycentrism on the ground that it covered the ‘tendency to factionalism’:

‘On the plane of party organisation, the formation of a majority and minority is regarded as possible—in other words, a return to trends and fractions and the abandonment of the Leninist conception of the new type of party. A national communist youth organisation has brought out a paper in which we find blazoned across a whole page the heading “Degeneration of the Socialist State”. There is even talk of giving Trotsky back his place! ... Comrades, in fighting revisionist and opportunist trends, we cannot neglect sectarian and dogmatic deviation, which might become the greatest danger of all if we cease to fight it.’ [59]

And the Plenum cf the Central Committee of the French Communist Party passed a resolution saying,

‘The view that it would be useful to create several “centres” of communism in different parts of the world, can only undermine communist unity of thought and action, which is based on class solidarity, proletarian internationalism, and the scientific principles common to all Marxist-Leninist parties.’

Polycentrism with this interpretation was also attacked by other leaders in both Western and Eastern Europe. Thus, for instance, Vladimir Koucky, Secretary of the Czechoslovak Communist Party, rejected it because it reflected a lack of confidence in the correctness of the policies of the Soviet Union, would let loose the forces of neutralism in the communist movement, and would prevent the European parties from having any say about Asian problems. [60]

Under the double pressure of the other Communist Parties on the one hand, and, even more important, the danger that the élan in the Italian Communist Party would get out of hand [61] on the other ,the Central Committee of the Italian Communist Party, meeting a month later than the Plenum mentioned above—in December 1961—called a retreat.

Giorgio Scoccimarro, the arch-Stalinist head of the Party disciplinary organ, the Central Control Commission, in a sharply worded speech called for the rejection of the concept of polycentrism:

‘After the 22nd Congress there was renewed talk of “polycentrism” as an affirmation of the autonomy of the Communist Parties. But this is not correct. Polycentrism has never signified either an affirmation or a limitation of the parties’ autonomy. The fact is that with the present relations between Communist Parties polycentrism can only assume the meaning of international fragmentation. This explains the anxieties expressed in the criticisms voiced by some Communist Parties from other countries, But such was not at all our intention. Therefore there is no need for any further discussion of polycentrism. The question has been raised of the continued validity of the international resolutions of 1957 and 1960 after the disagreement which has arisen with Albania and the dispute with China. Those documents still retain their full validity. There may be debate between the parties, but ... it is possible to discuss in order to strengthen the unity of the international communist movement, not to break it’ [62]

Deputy-General-Secretary Longo followed by proposing the abandonment of the term polycentrism. Togliatti agreed. Pajetta, after his radical speech at the Central Committee the month before, became alarmed by subsequent developments and now joined in the call for caution.

Thus the disintegration of the monolith has not yet led to a neat arrangement of the pieces. There are trends towards bicentrism intertwined with those towards polycentrism, movements towards greater freedom which stop short and turn again to greater monolithism. In some parties the trend is to greater internal freedom, in others to splits into separate—but monolithic—’Russian’ and ‘Chinese’ parties or sects. Thaws and freeze-ups follow each other or happen concurrently in different parties, or even in one and the same party. The zig-zagging, the flux, goes on.

11. The Two Great Alignments

It seems probable however that after a time the Communist Parties of the world will align themselves into two camps, one headed by Moscow, the other by Peking.

On the whole, the Communist Parties of the backward colonial and semi-colonial countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America will probably follow Peking. Khrushchev’s version of ‘peaceful co-existence’ and summitry with Washington in order to retain the status quo, to limit revolutionary activity everywhere, cannot attract the restless people of the poor countries. The suffering millions lack patience and a capacity to derive vicarious pleasure from learning about the promises Khrushchev makes to the Russian people. In the same way that the American film industry has been a great agent in the ‘revolution of rising expectations’, through showing the poor three quarters of the world how the other quarter lives, so any propaganda successes by Khrushchev in the backward countries—showing the tremendous economic achievements of Russia—only rebound against him, raise revolutionary aspirations even further, and oil the wheels of Chinese propaganda.

As has already been shown, the Communist Parties of the industrial countries, with very few exceptions, side with Moscow.

One should avoid the conclusion that the world communist movement is split into reformist and revolutionary wings.

The Chinese bureaucracy is not more revolutionary than the Stalinist was at a similar stage of development, in the late twenties or early thirties. We have already referred to the opportunism of Peking towards the Kings of Cambodia and Nepal. Even more enlightening is the case of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), the staunchest supporter of Peking’s policies. This party is in no way revolutionary. A few facts will show this. The party had a mass following for some time. In the general elections of September 1955 it got 5,477,707 votes in Java, or 20.6 per cent of the total vote. Two years later, in the 1957 local elections, the PKI got 7,514,197 votes in Java, or 37.2 per cent of the total vote. How did the PKI use this mass influence?

In 1957, Sukarno, relying on the army, imposed his so-called guided democracy. He postponed general elections indefinitely. Parliament was reduced to an appointed, ineffective body. The PKI welcomed this as ‘a major victory for the democratic forces over the forces of reaction who had waged a ferocious campaign against Parliament.’ [63]

As four fifths of the people of Indonesia are peasants, the most important criterion is obviously the agrarian policy of the PKI. Since a peasant conference convened by the PKI in 1959, it has made the ‘six-to-four’ slogan the ‘axis’ of its peasant programme. Under this slogan the party campaigned for a division of crops between share-croppers and landowners in the ratio of 60 to 40 per cent respectively! (On 20 November 1959, Parliament enacted a bill providing for a fifty-fifty division of crops). [64]

In Indonesia strict censorship has been imposed; all political activities are closely watched by the police and army; strikes are illegal. And the PKI obediently accepts all this.

12. Towards One International?

While the Communist Parties of the backward countries will probably become more and more attached to China, the Communist Parties of the West are likely to become with time more and more detached from Moscow.

A characteristic of Communist Parties the world over in the past was their blind following of the Kremlin. Wherever there was a zigzag in Russian foreign policy, the Communist Parties meekly followed. This was the result of a number of historical social circumstances. Firstly, the Communist Parties rose in the wake of the October revolution. Secondly, with the expansiveness of Russian imperialism the communist leaders quite clearly saw their parties in immediate terms as pressure groups on the Western powers in Moscow’s interests, and potentially as the embryo of an apparatus of power when their territory should have been occupied by the Soviet army. Thirdly, after a series of defeats of their own working class—especially since the rise of Hitler—in the face of misery, anxiety and a feeling of helplessness the need for identification with a God and a Paradise became urgent, and Stalinism became the opiate of the people’. And fourthly—largely connected with the previous factor—the leaders of the Communist Parties conceived of their parties as primarily dependent for domestic progress on the prestige and power of the USSR, and therefore regarded their identification with Russia as their main asset.

However, the Communist Parties cannot be free from the effects of changes in the environment, national and international, in which they work. The effect of the first factor mentioned above must be eroded with time, especially with the deepening ideological dispute between Moscow and Peking, and with the breaking of the colonial revolutionary movement with Moscow. The second element has been ended by the H-Bomb, the rockets, and the new conviction of Moscow that the military expansion of Russia into Western Europe is not on the cards. The third factor is no more. On the contrary Western Europe witnessed the continuous expansion of capitalism, accompanied by a rising standard of living and successful struggles for reforms. The working-class supporters of the Communist Parties therefore do not crave for the old Stalinist God and his Paradise. As regards the fourth factor, not only did the disappearance of the third cut the ground from underneath it, but to the extent that the Communist Parties became mass parties, and became integrated into the structure of Western capitalism— with numerous MPs, local councillors, trade union officials, etc.—and to the extent that this integration is going to continue over the coming period, the hopes of the Communist Party leaders of rising in influence independently of the power and prestige of the USSR will increase (especially when this prestige suffers from the withdrawal of China and her worldwide supporters).

Now reformism and internationalism are incompatible. A reformist party is attached by millions of strings to the national state. Hence the collapse of the Second International in 1914. Reformism in particular cannot build a bridge between the workers of the advanced countries and the colonies—hence the Second International was always practically a purely white-man organisation. With the separation of the Communist Parties of Europe from those of the backward countries, a new push towards reformism, and pari passu a new blow to internationalism, will take place.

Despite the fact that the above description has possibly telescoped and simplified current and future developments, the picture drawn will possibly prove valid. The break-up of the world communist movement will not stop at the stage of two centres, but will go on until the Communist Parties of the West turn into national reformist parties, the chains tying them to Moscow (and to one another) being slowly but surely corroded.

The two largest Communist Parties in the West—the Italian and the French—show these trends quite clearly, paradoxically, in opposite ways. In Italy open ‘revisionist’ and reformist policies are prevalent (see, for instance, the PCI substitution of ‘structural reform’ of capitalism for the socialist revolution). In the case of the PCF, we see verbal revolutionism and ‘orthodox Marxism’ (for instance Thorez’s insistence on ‘the absolute pauperisation of the working class’ as a fact), but actually real passivity (softness towards Gaullism and apathy towards the Algerian War). But both the open reformism of the PCI and the rigid ‘abstentionism’ of the PCF are basically expressions of one process: an increasing adaptation of the Stalinist parties to expanding capitalism.

The process of disintegration of the Moscow International is therefore likely to take very complicated and varied forms—more freedom in some parties, splits between different parties, each going its own way, splits between different factions, each maintaining monolithic unity, preaching revisionism openly, rigid ‘orthodoxy’ etc. etc. The disintegration or erosion of the International does not need to take formal expression. After all, the Second International still exists! (although of course British members of it, the Labour Party, did not participate in shaping the Algerian policy of the French section, nor were they consulted about the Bad Godesburg Programme of the German SPD).

Two authorities have risen in the world communist movement, undermining the concept of the High Authority, the leader, as such. The appearance side by side between 1378 and 1417 of numbers of Catholic Popes, each attached to a national monarchy, did great damage to Catholicism. When Henry VIII quarelled with Rome and decided to cut the connection between the Church in England and the Pope without greatly modifying the religious rites and dogmas, he opened the door to non-conformism. If every secular power imposes its truth as the absolute and only one, conformism as such is exposed. Henry VIII’s heirs were the Levellers and Diggers! Out of the ashes of the Stalinist movement, the new beginnings of an authentic international revolutionary socialist movement can arise.


1. New China News Agency (NCNA), Peking, 31 October 1958.

2. Pravda, Moscow, 5 March 1959.

3. Tass, Moscow, 5 December 1957.

4. Premier Bulganin’s message to President Eisenhower, Pravda, Moscow, 12 December 1957,

5. International Affairs, Moscow, October 1960.

6. Soviet News, 17 January 1963.

7. More on the Differences between Comrade Togliatti and Us, Peking, 1963, pp.71-2.

8. Long Live Leninism!, Peking, 1960, p.22.

9. Pravda, 14 July 1963; Soviet News, 16 July 1963, p.33.

10. Ibid.

11. Pravda, 26 August 1960.

12. The Victory of Marxism-Leninism in China, Liu Shao-ch’i, Peking, 1959.

13. Quoted in the Sino-Soviet Dispute, G.F. Hudson and others, London, 1961, p.109.

14. International Studies (in Chinese), Peking, 3 May 1960.

15. Africa: Nationalism and Communism, Fritz Schatten, Survey, June 1962, p.151.

16. 1950-58: The Development of Trade between the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China, M. Sladkovskii, Vneshnyaya torgovlya, October 1959, pp.3, 6, 9. 1959-60: Vneshnyaya torgovlya Soiuza SSR za 1960 god, Moscow, 1961, p.9. 1961: Far Eastern Economic Review, Hong Kong, 28 June 1962, p.642. Quoted in Sino-Soviet Trade: A Barometer, M.I. Goldman, Problems of Communism, November-December 1962.

17. Soviet Economic Aid, Joseph D. Berliner, New York, 1958, p.33.

18. Neue Zeit, No.13, Moscow, 1961, p.23.

19. Prace, 5 November 1961.

20. Internationalism and Nationalism, Liu Shao-ch’i, Peking, 1949, p.32.

21. Ibid., p.33.

22. On People’s Democratic Dictatorship, Mao Tse-tung, Peking 1949, p.7.

23. Strategic Problems of China’s Revolutionary War, Mao Tse-tung, Yenan, 1941, p.51.

24. The Significance of the October Revolution, speech by Liu Schao-ch’i, 6 November 1957, in Current Background No.480, 13 November 1957.

25. A Proposal Concerning the General Line of the International Communist Movement, Peking, 1963, pp.15-16.

26. Ibid.

27. The racialist undertone in China’s policies is pointed out clearly in the Open Letter of the CCCPSU which states that the Chinese delegation ‘came out against the participation, at the Third Solidarity Conference of the People’s of Asian and African Countries at Moshi, of representatives of the Afro-Asian Solidarity Committees of the European socialist countries. The leader of the Chinese delegation told the Soviet representatives that ‘the Whites have nothing to do here’. At the journalists’ conference in Jakarta the Chinese representatives attempted to prevent Soviet journalists from participating as full delegates in the plea that ‘the Soviet Union ... is not an Asian country!’ (Pravda, 14 July 1963; Soviet News, 16 July 1963.)

28. Vneshnyaya torgovlyagermanskoi demokraticheskoi respubliki (Foreign Trade of the German Democratic Republic), Vneshnyaya Torgovlya, Vol XXIV, No 10, October 1954, pp.19-27.

29. Vneshnyaya torgovlya SSSR s sotsialisticheskimi stranami (Soviet Trade with Socialist Countries), Moscow, 1957, p.113.

30. Mirovaya sotsialisticheskaya sistema khozyaistvft, Moscow, 1958, p.242.

31. Vneshnyaya torgovlya SSSR s sotsialisticheskimi, op. cit., p.127.

32. Economic Survey of Europe in 1954, United Nations, Geneva, 1955, p.118.

33. Vneshnyaya Torgovlya, Moscow, No.2, 1956, p.3.

34. The Times, 21 November 1962.

35. L’Unita, 23 December 1961; Survey, No.42, June 1962, p.36.

36. The Economist, 20 April 1963.

37. The Terms of Soviet-Satellite Trade, H. Menderhausen, Review of Economics and Statistics, Harvard, May 1960.

38. The Middle-East: Sino-Soviet Discords, W.A.C. Adie, Survey, June 1962, p.137.

39. Peking Review, 16 September 1958.

40. Party Resolution of 10 December 1958 on Questions Concerning People’s Communes, in NCNA, 18 December 1958, Current Background, No.542, 29 December 1958.

41. NCNA, 29 May 1957.

42. A Proposal Concerning the General Line of the International Communist Movement, Peking, 1963, pp.45-6.

43. On the Correct Handling of Contradictions among the People, speech by Mao, 27 February 1957.

44. Editorial in People’s Daily, 5 April 1956; Current Background, No.403, 25 July 1956.

45. Ibid.

46. Ibid.

47. How the Tillers Win Back Their Land, Hsiao Ch’ien, Peking, 1954, p.72.

48. Ibid.

49. A Proposal etc., op. cit., p.43.

50. Thus, for instance, in More on the Differences between Comrade Togliatti and Us, at least five direct quotations from Stalin are used to support the Chinese case against the ‘revisionists’.

51. More on the Differences etc., op. cit., pp.193-4.

52. Borba, 10 July 1948.

53. A clear confession of this may be found in the book by the Soviet economist E. Varga, Twentieth Century Capitalism, London, 1963, p.99.

54. The connection between this and a parallel split in the NATO alliance—mainly between de Gaulle’s France and the US—is beyond the limits of this article.

55. The Middle-East: Sino-Soviet Discords, W.A.C. Adie, Survey, June 1962.

56. Sino-Soviet Rivalry in Latin America, D. Tretiak, Problems of Communism, January-February 1963.

57. Interview in the periodical Nuovi Argumenti, also published in L’Unita, 17 June 1956.

58. L’Unita, 12 November 1961. For a translation of this Report of the important Plenum of the CC of the Italian CP in November 1961, together with a very useful introduction by Perry Anderson, see New Left Review, January-April 1962.

59. L’Humanité, 27 November 1961.

60. Rude Pravo, 24 November 1961.

61. Thus, for instance, the paper of the Young Communist Federation, Nuova Generazione, a month after the 22nd Congress of the CPSU called for the rehabilitation of Trotsky, publishing a photograph of him with the caption, ‘One of the most original personalities of the October Revolution, whose ideas have recently come under discussion again.’ (Issue of 10 November 1961).

62. L’Unita, 22 December 1961.

63. Indonesian Communism, A.C. Brackman, New York, 1963, p.275.

64. The PKI and the Peasants, D. Hindley, Problems of Communism, November-December 1962.

Last updated on 26 March 2010