From International Socialism (1st series), No.29, Summer 1967.
Reprinted in International Socialism (1st series), No.61, June 1973.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
To understand, the forces. behind the Cultural Revolutions lone must start by analysing the socio-economic problems with which China is wrestling.
Up to 1957, the end of the First Five-Year Plan, China followed Stalin’s model of economic advance: the emphasis was on heavy industry to the detriment of light industry and agriculture. Thus, for instance, during the First FYP, agriculture received only 6.2 per cent of State investment, while industry’s share was 61.8 per cent. Of the amount invested in industry, only 11.2 per cent was scheduled for light industry (even lower than in Russia during her First FYP when the corresponding figure was 14.1 per cent).  As the figures refer to gross investment, that is, without taking into account depreciation of existing capital, it is doubtful if the Plan envisaged any net investment at all in light industry.
There can be no doubt that one of the main factors behind the very high rate of industrial growth in the USSR was the fact that a very large portion of the capital invested in industry went into capital-goods rather than consumer-goods industries. A machine to produce machines plays a greater role in capital formation than a machine producing, say, shoes for the people to wear.
There is an intimate connection between the neglect at light industry and the neglect of agriculture in both Russia’s and China’s first Five Year Plans. If the light industry which supplies the needs of the peasants is neglected, the peasants have little incentive to increase agricultural output. In Russia the springboards for the fantastic achievements of industry under Stalin were forced collectivisation and the enforced syphoning off of grain to the towns to feed the newly recruited industrial working class that was engaged primarily in heavy industry.
Alas, as early as towards the end of the First FYP, it became clear that Mao simply could not follow in Stalin’s footsteps, that the Soviet model of development could not be transferred effectively to China. First of all, the industrial base from which Mao started was much narrower than that from which Stalin launched his industrialisation drive. Even in absolute terms, China’s industrial output in.. almost every sector lagged well behind that of Russia in 1913. Per head of population china was still worse off, her population being four times as big as Russia’s at that time. Second, however swiftly China developed industrially (and: during the First FYP her advance was very impressive – a 14 per cent annual rate of growth!), the growth of employpient possibilities lagged far behind the growth of population. Thus, non-agricultural employment rose from 36.5 millions in 1953 to 40.9 millions in 1957, or by 4.4 millions. The average annual increase in employment outside agriculture was, therefore, 880,000. The population of working age increased during the same period by an annual average of 4 millions (a figure that probably rose to 5 millions in the years 1958-62 and to 7 millions in the years 1963-7). The result was that the~agricultura1 labour force did not decline – as happened in Russia under Stalin – but rose by 75 million from 222 million in 1952 to 297 million in 1957.  A third cause for anxiety at the time was the way that agriculture threatened to lag behind the multiplying population. One must . remember that China prior to Mao’s comisig to power and for more than two generations, had been a net importer of grain (unlike Russia which prior, to the Revolution, was a .granary for Western Europe). Any deterioration in her precarious grain balance – either a decline in the productivity of agriculture, or even a failure to keep pace with the increase in population – would wreak havoc, given the infinitesimal margin of output above the absolute minimum needed to avoid famine.
With the lagging of agricultural output behind population growth and especially with the rise in the size of the agricultural population, Mao found it more and more difficult to get hold of agricultural surpluses to feed the towns and for exporting abroad to get the wherewithal to import machinery and the like. State procurements and taxation in kind, which in the agricultural year 1953-4 together amounted to 29.12 per cent of all grain produced, declined to 25.15 in the year 1956-7. 
But above all, there were, and are, other fundamental reasons why the methods of forced syphoning off of agricultural output from the countryside could not work as effectively in China as in Russia. The failure of forced deliveries in China was forecast in 1957:.
In Russia, State control ever the Machine Tractor Stations guarantees that a big portion of whatever the peasants produce will go into the State treasury to provide capital for industrialisation. In China the role of the machine tractor stations – even in the few places where they do exist – could not be as commanding, as intensive agriculture, especially garden cultivation is not, and could not be, as dependent upon mechanisation. The converse of this greater importance of human labour is that the will to work, care and zeal in production play a much greater role in China’s agriculture than in Russia’s. Forced deliveries, together with the emphasis on heavy industry, inevitably pour cold water on the peasant’s desire to increase production: not only is he prevented from eating more but no consumer goods are offered to induce him to sell his surplus output. And without inducement, increased output from intensive agriculture is most unlikely.
The conclusion that the pattern of Russian collectivisation is likely to prove a false guide to China gains support from the economic history of the two countries ... ever since Chinese agriculture became dependent on irrigation, serfdom gave place to a peasant economy based on private property. However exploited and oppressed the peasant may have been, it was not the whip which urged him to work. As against this, serfdom and the feudal whip were the salient features of rural society in Russia, with its extensive agriculture, for a thousand years. 
In 1958, Mao tried to break out of the above contradictions by a new forced march.
The People’s Communes and the Great Leap Forward had as their slogan “Walking on both feet” – agriculture to keep pace with industry. The aims of the Great Leap Forward can be summarised thus:
1. To increase agricultural output and radically redistribute it in order to syphon off large surpluses;
2-To widen employment opportunities, not only in large-scale industry, but also in agriculture, in construction work in the countryside, and in small industry and handicrafts;
3-To syphon off agricultural products for the ‘surplus’ population – who were to be in visible proximity to the peasants, engaged on work that was obviously contributing to their income – by having the peasants feed them directly: this was intended to help overcome the difficulty of getting the food to follow those who migrated from the countryside into the towns. In a gallant and heroic effort to accomplish these great tasks the unique experiment of the People’s Commune was launched. Millions were mobilised in the countryside to work on water conservancy. In the three years 1949-52, “about 20 million people took part in water conservancy work” , but for 1957 and 1958 it was reported by Vice-Premier Po I-po (in February 1958): “At present nearly 100 million men and women are going out every day in China to work on irrigation work,” each working for an average of 100 days.  Millions were mobilised to build steel ovens, and 60 million were engaged in iron smelting and steel refining furnaces. 
However, the Great Leap Forward ended in disarray. [1*]
Once again Peking had to change course. That the Great Leap Forward ended in a shambles is clear from the Chinese authorities’ complete silence since 1959 on the subject of actual output or even planned output expressed in physical terms. When one compares this statistical blackout with Peking’s eagerness to publish a multitude of statistics beforehand – even on the number of flies eliminated – one may be sure that the production figures were not favourable.
The first clear hint of the coming Third Turn was given in the Report of Li Fu-ch’un to the National People’s Congress in March 1960. He put forward the idea that agriculture should be regarded as the foundation, with industry taking the lead in economic development.  But no indication was given yet that the basic policy of giving priority to the development of heavy industry had been changed. It was in the autumn of 1960, when the harvest turned out to be much worse than expected, that a new policy turn became apparent. In late September a movement of “all people to agriculture and food grains” was brought to a peak by cadres all over the country.  This represented a complete turnabout from the nationwide movement of “all people to iron and steel” that had taken place in the late summer of 1958.
In January 1961 Li Fu-ch’un, in his report to the 8th Plenum of the Central Committee, admitted that the planned agricultural output for 1960 had not been attained because of “severe natural calamities in 1959,” and “natural calamities in 1960 that were unprecedented in 100 years.” This led the Plenum to reaffirm the movement of “all the party and all people to agriculture and food grains.” The Plenum decided further that “since there had been tremendous development in heavy industry in the last three years – its output of major products already far in excess of the planned level for 1961 and 1962 – the scale of basic construction should therefore be appropriately reduced.” The general industrial policy was to be that of readjustment, consolidation, reinforcement and improvement. 
Chou En-lai’s report to the National People’s Congress on 27 March 1962, entitled The Work of Readjusting the National Economy and Our Immediate Tasks, put forward ten immediate tasks, three of which were of direct concern to industry:
Task 3. Contract further the basic construction front, and redirect the materials, equipment and manpower to the most urgent areas.
Task 4. Properly reduce urban population and workers and functionaries, the first move being to send those workers and functionaries who came from the rural districts back to take part in agricultural production, so as to strengthen the agricultural front.
Task 10. Improve further the work in planning and ttyto attain a comprehensive balance among different sectors in the national economy in accordance with the (declining priority) order of agriculture, light industry and heavy industry. 
That a great shift from industry to agriculture in the balance of the economy probably did take place after the retreat from the Great Leap Forward is clear from the following estimate of the Gross National Product of China and its composition :
Gross National Product of China
Aggregate in million yuan
2. Modern industry
After the end of the Great Leap Forward there was a marked relaxation of State control in agriculture. The People’s Communes have in many places become empty shells, while the small production teams and peasants’ private plot are the important factors of production.
In 1958, all the Chinese peasants were organised in 24,000 Communes with an average of over 20,000 people per Commune. All land and other means of production, such as livestock and ploughs, were declared the common property of the Commune, which, besides managing agriculture, was to own and manage industrial undertakings and educational and other social institutions such as schools, nurseries and hospitals. All members of the Commune were to be fed in a number of common mess-halls. The Commune was also declared to be a political-military unit of the State and Party.
The Commune ownership of practically all means of production was only a transition stage to State ownership, “the completion of which may take less time – three or four years – in some places, and longer – five or six years or even longer – elsewhere.”  The transition to complete communism in China as a whole was on the horizon.
... the People’s Communes are the best form of organisation for the attainment of socialism and gradual transition to communism. They will develop into the basic social units in communist society ... It seems that the attainment of communism in China is no longer a remote future event. We should actively use the form of the People’s Communes to explore the practical road of transition to communism. 
In tightening the control over peasants, an end was put to the elements of private property tat still existed in the agricultural producer co-operatives.
To realise the Great Leap, a big effort was made to raise the rate of capital accumulation in the Communes. Thus, the People’s Daily recommended that 30-40 per cent of the net income of Communes should be put to reserves “over the following several years”.  However, the high tide of Commune building lasted only a few short months; then came the ebb. A turning point was reached in August 1959 at a Plenum of the Central Committee, which criticised the Commune movement for “tendencies to over-centralisation, to egalitarianism and extravagance.”  The production-team of some 10 to 20 families was now to become the basic accounting and production unit.
There was no more talk of the imminent transfer of Commune property to full State ownership. In the high fever of Commune building, all garden plots, livestock and other property had been expropriated on the promise that all needs would be satisfied by the Commune. In the about-face, individual initiative and work were to play a significant role. Small plots of land were returned to individual householders for private cultivation. In addition, “the Commune members should be enabled to utilise their spare time to grow some food grains, melons, vegetables, and fruit trees, and raise some small domestic animals and domestic poultry on vacant plots of land and waste land.” 
As a result, individual farming was now going to play quite a considerable role in the life of the peasantry. It was found, for example, in P’enghsing Commune, Hupeh Province, that the share of individual farming in the general income of production- brigade members was: one brigade, 36.38 per cent; a second brigade, 28 per cent; a third brigade, 19.76 per cent.  In Hsiaokang People’s Commune, Hupeh, peasants individually raised 65 per cent of all pigs sold and 95 per cent of all chickens and eggs sold.  One paper noted, in 1965, that 70 per cent of subsidiary production in agriculture was on private plots.  As the income from subsidiary production makes up over 60 per cent of the total income from agriculture , it is to be concluded that income from private plots constitutes as much as 40 per cent of the total income from agricultural production.
Peasants were now no longer obliged to work on Commune enterprises. Thus, for instance, the Kwangtung Provincial Committee of the Communist Party decided that “the enterprises of the Communes (including those in the categories of industry, communications, forestry, animal husbandry, subsidiary production and fishery) are as a rule not allowed to draft more than eight per cent of the labour power of the production-brigades.” 
Production brigades were now allowed to deduct only up to 3 per cent of their income for accumulation.  The hullabaloo about Commune-run industry subsided completely. Now we are informed:
To initiate Commune industry, rural People’s Communes should depend mainly on the profits of Commune enterprises and Commune reserve funds and may not expect funds either from above (the State) or from below (brigades). Under present conditions, Commune industry should generally not take up more than two per cent of the total number of labourers in production brigades. 
At the time of the Great Leap Forward, we were informed that the building of the People’s Communes helped the Party to keep the countryside under its control. “Why do we say that with the setting up of People’s Communes the Party leadership will be strengthened? ... a large-scale, highly centralised organisation is naturally easier to lead than a small-scale, scattered organisation.” 
Now, with the great retreat, a relaxation of Party control over the countryside took place.
During the Great Leap Forward, the authority of Party Committees at the local and enterprise levels was enhanced. A system of “close co-ordination among management, workers, technical personnel and administrative staff under the leadership of the enterprise s Party committee” was inaugurated.  The secretary of the Party Committee became, to all intents and purposes, the chief executive of the enterprise. The emphasis was, as the press put it at the time, on ‘redness,’ not ‘expertness.’
However, when the Great Leap Forward met with reverses, the policy had tothange. In April 1959, the weather-cock, Chou En-lai, put it thus: “Every industrial enterprise must carry through the system of the manager taking full responsibility under the Party Committee’s leadership.”  However, some time later, at the end of 1960, the manager re-emerged as the recognised ‘head of enterprise’.  Thus the balance tilted in favour of the ‘professionals’ at the expense of the Party.
Later, on 10 August 1961, Marshal Ch’en Yi, the Foreign Minister, made the emphasis on ‘expertness’, not ‘redness,’ even plainer:
At present we should stress specialised studies because failure to do. so will keep our country perpetually backward in science and culture. In the early years of the liberation, it was completely necessary for the Party and the Government to’ stress political study ... There is a need for us ... to train a large number of specialists.
To make efforts in the study of his special field is the political task of the student ... the students ... should devote most of their time and efforts to specialised studies. Of course these students should also study politics to equip themselves with a certain degree of political consciousness ... 
After 1961, all aspects of ‘independent managerial authority’ were stressed, and it was made clear that it was up to the enterprise manager to make the correct economic decisions with the capital granted him and the task the State assigned him.  The Party sphere of influence shrank rñdically and the morale of the Party cadres suffered correspondingly.
Not only did the intellectuals take advantage of the innited liberalisation of 1960-62 to criticise the Party and its policies of the Great Leap Forward, but they resisted subsequent efforts to reform them. Mao himself was moved to comment on their obstinacy. In 1963, it is now revealed, he said that in the cultural field “... very little had been achieved so far in socialist transformation. ... Wasn’t it absurd that many communists showed enthusiasm in advancing feudal and capitalist art, but, no zeal in promoting socialist art.” In 1964 Mao complained that most of the associations of literary and art workers and their publications “... had not carried out the policies of the Party and had acted as high and mighty bureaucrats, had not gone to the workers, peasants and soldiers and had not reflected the socialist revolution and construction. In recent years they had even slid to the verge of revisionism. If serious steps were not taken to remould them, they were bound at some future date to become groups like the Hungarian Petofi Club.” 
One significant expression of the general relaxation of Party control over agriculture, industry and the intellectuals was Mao’s relinquishing of the chairmanship of the People’s Republic of China. He kept his other job, as chairman of the Central Committee of the Party, the first job going Liu Shao-ch’i. The extent of the Party’s retreat, the loss of self-confidence and nerve, can be seen also in the fact that for a number of years the Central Committee had held no Plenary session: the 10th Plenary Session of the 8th Central Committee was held in September 1962, while the 11th Session took place in August 1966, some four years later. (Article 33 of the 1945 Party Constitution provides that regular sessions of the Central Committee. should take place every six months!)
In many ways the period after the Great Leap Forward was similar to the NEP period in Soviet history. In the years 1924- 28 a remarkable debate on economic policies took place in Russia. (An excellent account of this can be found in Erlich’s book. ) One of the main protagonists was Nikolai Bukharin, by far the best educated economist of the Party. His arguments have been repeated, practically word for word, by Chinese economists since 1961 (though it is very doubtful if there has been any direct influence of the former over the latter).
Bukharin argued that the key problem facing the Soviet economy of the mid-twenties revolved around the relation between agriculture and industry, and that the development of the latter was dependent on that of the former. Agricultural production should be encouraged by incentives: by lowering the prices of industrial goods supplied to the peasants, and relatively improving the prices paid for the farm produce. He vehemently opposed turning the terms of trade against the farm as a means of syphoning off resources from agriculture into industry, so as to accelerate capital accumulation in industry. This method was suggested by Preobrazhensky, Bukharin’s most consistent opponent. Preobrazhensky called this “the primitive accumulation of capital”, which he defined as
the accumulation in the hands of the State of material resources obtained chiefly from sources lying outside the State economic system. This accumulation will, necessarily, in a backward agrarian country, play a colossal role ... Primitive accumulation will predominate during the period of industrialisation ... We must, therefore, term this whole stage as the period of primitive or preparatory socialist accumulation. 
Bukharin argued that if the terms of trade turned against agriculture, there was a danger that the peasantry would turn away from the market, cut supplies to the towns, and indulge in self-sufficiency. It was in this context that Bukharin disinterred Guizot’s famous “enrichissez-vous”, which was later to haunt him for years: “We have to tell the whole peasantry, all its strata: get rich, accumulate, develop your economy.” 
To the extent that industry developed, the emphasis, Bukharin argued, should be on light industry, not heavy industry:
We believe that the formula which calls for a maximum of investments in heavy industry is not quite correct, or rather, quite incorrect. If we have to put the main emphasis on the development of the means of production, we must combine this development with a corresponding expansion of light industry which has a quicker turnover and repays within a shorter time the amounts spent on it. We must attempt to get the optimal combination of both. 
After all, “Our economy,’ Bukharin declared, “exists for the consumer, and not the consumer for the economy.” 
If the speed of industrialisation is dictated by its subordination to the pace of advance of agriculture, while heavy industry is subordinated to light industry, it is just too bad if industry crawls forward. This is unavoidable: “We have come to the conclusion that we can build socialism even on this wretched technological level ... that we shall move at a snail’s pace, but that we shall be building socialism and that we shall build it.” 
It is really uncanny how Bukharin’s arguments have been resurrected in China after 1962 in practically every detail. First of all a number of Chinese economists made it clear that industrial development should be dictated by the development of agriculture:
As the foundation of the national economy, agriculture demands that all production departments including those of industry, all construction units and all cultural and educational undertakings develop themselves with the actual conditions of agricultural production as the starting point and give due consideration to the quantities of commodity grain and industrial raw materials and to the sizes of the market and the labour force which agriculture can supply. In other words, all social undertakings cannot separate themselves from these conditions which agriculture provides.... Agriculture plays a decisive role in influencing and restraining the national economy and the whole social life ... It is only after agricultural production has been rehabilitated and expanded and after agriculture, the foundation of the national economy, has been consolidated that industry, communications and transport, and cultural and educational undertakings can be better developed ... National economic plans should be formulated in the order of agriculture, light industry and heavy industry. 
The Chinese economists went much further than Bukharin did in subordinating industrial advance to agriculture. Some of them argued that for a long time industrial advance should help release labour power from the towns to the countryside, instead of leading to the more common, opposite direction of population movement:
Productivity of labour in industrial and mining enterprises must be raised, labour must be saved, the number of workers and employees must be reduced and the population of the cities must be decreased. In this way, more people will go back to the countryside to increase the labour force there and greatly strengthen the agricultural front and hasten the development of agriculture. 
The terms of trade, which have historically been against farming, have to be radically changed in its favour.
While Preobrazhensky recommended the syphoning off of capital surpluses from agriculture to industry and Bukharin aimed at industry and agriculture travelling on parallel rails, Chinese economists went further and argued for capital transfer from industry to agriculture:
Under the present conditions in our country, so far as the source of accumulation is concerned, the accumulation from industry will increase at a faster rate than that from agriculture, because the rate of growth of industry and the rise of its labour productivity are faster than those of agriculture. So far as the allocation of accumulation is concerned, the accumulation used for agriculture will increase at a faster rate than that used for industry, because the production level of our agriculture is still very low at present and so is its labour productivity, and the State must place the emphasis of its economic work on agriculture and invest heavily in agriculture and give it massive material support, so as to change the backward aspect of agriculture as soon as possible and enable it to meet the needs of the development of all branches of the national economy. [2*] 
Practically repeating Bukharin’s words that “the economy exists for the consumer and not the consumer for the economy” and the need to subordinate heavy to light industry, one Chinese economist wrote:
Under ordinary conditions, should arrangements be made first for the necessary consumption of the people throughout the country and then, if circumstances permit, for accumulation? Or, should arrangements be made after accumulation has been guaranteed? According to the basic aim of socialist production, it should be the former and not the latter. 
The Chinese Neo-NEP widened the gap between rich and poor, advanced and backward areas and villages, and increased the earnings of factory managers, technicians and better-off peasants.
Yet it is fraught wit the greatest dangers to a large section of the bureaucracy. It weakens Party control and could in the long run undermine its monolithism, threatening to fracture the Party under the pressure of sectional interests. Its continuation would also put an end to any grand nationalist ambitions for the quick transformation of China into a country of heavy industry and a mighty military-industrial establishment.
The alternative to Bukharinism, i.e., the continuation of NEP, has been supplied by the history of Russia – when Stalin broke with Bukharin and carried out forced industrialisation and collectivisation, enforcing the severe regimentation of workers and peasants. But in trying to follow the same path, Mao is hampered by much greater obstacles than Stalin was (and one should not forget how tough the going was in Russia). First, there are the objective factors mentioned above (the much narrower industrial base from which Mao has to launch his industrialisation than Stalin had; the lower agricultural output; the greater population pressure; the difficulty of State control of intensive rice farming, etc.). Further obstacles accrue from the fact that the administrative set-up in China is not conducive to easy victory of the Centre over centrifugal tendencies.
Because the Communists came to power in -the different provinces at the head of marching armies, there has not. been the wide, even if not complete, separation of the personnel of the Party, Army, Police and State administration that existed in Russia.
Prior to 1949 it was difficult to distinguish between Party and military leaders, because of the widespread practice whereby the same people held military, Party and State offices at the same time. After 1949, this practice continued in the military and administrative committees. Practically all Party leaders have a military rank: General Mao Tse-tung, General Chou En-lai, General Teng Hsiao-p’ing (General Secretary of the Party), Marshal Ch’en Yi (Foreign Minister), etc. The regional military commanders show an impressive continuity if one examines their military careers after Liberation and before the establishment of the regions in 1954.
Ten out of the thirteen commanders in the period 1954-58 (of whom eight are still in office either as commander or political commissar) had held leading military positions within the region after Liberation. Thus Huang Yung-sheng, commander of Canton until; 1958 and again after 1962, had been deputy commander and then commander of Kwangsi military district until 1954, Ch’en Tsai-tao, commander of Wuhan since 1954, had commanded the Honan military district from 1950 onwards. Two more, Teng Hua (Shenyang) and Hsieh Fu-chih (Kunming) were appointed to their military regions after service in Korea. Only one of the thirteen original commanders, Wang Hsint’ing (Tsinan), was moved directly from one part of China to another (from Szechwan to Shantung) ... Information on political commissars is less revealing. It seems that in many cases until 1958 the posts of commander and commissar were held concurrently, and that their functions were separated and the deputy commissar promoted to full commissar at the time of the Great Leap Forward. (In Inner Mongolia and Sinkiang the posts are still concurrent.) In general, most leading military officers in the field have remained almost stationary within their particular region since the early fifties. 
There is a large overlap in the jobs of Political Commissar of the Army and First Secretary of the Provincial Party Committees.
Out of fifteen commissarships identified in or around 1960, nine were held by the first secretary of the province. The commissars of Peking and Shanghai garrisons were also ranking Party secretaries. All these appointments appear to date from the Great Leap Forward and the increasing attempts at that time to establish more effective Party control over the Army. On a much smaller scale, this trend can also be noted in the military regions, where the most recent appointment to the post of political commissar (Tsinan region, 1964) was given to the first Party secretary of Shantung, T’an Chi-lung. Earlier, T’ao Chu, the first secretary of Kwangtung province, became political commissar of Canton region, relinquishing the post again in 1962. In the key defence areas of Inner Mongolia, Sinkiang and Foochow, the commander and/or commissar since 1954 has also been the Party secretary (Wu Lan-fu, Wang En-mao and Yeh Fei). 
The tie-in between the Security Service and the Party machine is probably also quite close, although for obvious reasons this cannot be documented.
Stalin used one arm of the bureaucracy against another: if need be, he used the Secret Police against the Party; and when he wanted to purge the Secret Police itself (as when he got rid of its chief Yagoda in 1936 and, subsequently, his successor, Yezhov, in 1938) he used his own private security organisation, headed by the sinister General Alexander Poskrebyshev. Mao cannot use the same weapons in the same swift and effective way.
A further obstacle, to smooth centralised control is the fantastic size of China: in area it is larger than the whole of Europe, but it has a minute railway system, only two thirds the length of Britain’s, or a third of India’s!
Central sway is also hampered by the fact that a very large proportion of industry is under local administrative control. During the Great Leap Forward the control of industry was decentralised, and this has not been reversed. The changes during those years show clearly in the following figures (percentages) :
The increasing dispersal of industry must also strengthen the centrifugal tendencies.
Another factor strengthening the centrifugal tendencies is the impact of neo-NEP conditions – trade and. speculation [3*] – on farming. There is a great divide between the southern provinces (above all Szechwan Province) which have a grain surplus and the northern provinces which are always grain deficient.
One of the most striking aspects of the Cultural Revolution is that Mao did not mobilise the Party with its more than 20 million members, nor the Young Communist League and the Pioneers with their 150 million members. Instead he created a new body, the Red Guards ... The movement started its own paper, Red Guard, on 1 September 1966 soon after the disappearance of China Youth on 16 August and China Youth News, the daily paper of the Central Committee of the YCL, on 20 August. Since then little has been heard of the YCL, but posters in Peking attacked Hu Yao-pang, First Secretary of the YCL, and other former YCL leaders, who were accused of seeking to “convert the YCL into a low, popular Komsomol of the Soviet type.”
Why does Mao look to the students for his main support? First, the students are fairly privileged compared with the overwhelming majority of the people. As one professor put it:
The State provides very favourable conditions for university students to study – annual expenditure for one university student is equivalent to the fruit of labour of six to seven peasants toiling through the entire year. 
Second, the students are not yet integrated into the ruling bureaucracy, and hence are less affected by the moods of those bureaucrats who mellowed under the neo-NEP.
Third, on the whole, students see themselves as a non-specialised section of society, and in a manner of speaking they represent the interests of the nation’ as against conflicting sectional interests. Students are also most sensitive to the technical lag of their country behind the advanced countries. Participating in the scientific and technical world of the 20th century, they are stifled by the backwardness of their own country. They aspire to industrialisation and modernisation so as to leap from medievalism to the nuclear age.
Fourth, having passed through a radical, revolutionary change in knowledge through their own lifetime – especially if they come from peasant or workers’ families – the sky is the limit for them, and Mao’s voluntarism strikes a willing chord. [4*]
There is also a purely technical reason why Mao finds it so convenient to use the students in his ‘Cultural Revolution’. Students’ demonstrations are quite easy to organise centrally: by simply closing the schools, or part of them as need be, by fiat. As one English teacher who worked in China for a year described the ‘spontaneous’ demonstrations:
If it is a 250,000-man demonstration ... then a third of every class will go. If it is a 500,000-man demonstration ... then two-thirds will go, but if it is a million-man demonstration, the whole college will be out for the whole day. 
Closing schools for some nine months is one thing; to close factories – for any length of time – is a totally different business.
Besides the student body, another instrument Mao used is the Army. As early as 1960 Lin Piao, the Minister of Defence, had begun to move into the ‘cultural struggle’. He founded an Arts Institute in the People’s Liberation Army which graduated its first class in 1965. Writers were one of the first groups in 1964 directed to display the revolutionary tradition of the PLA in their work. A novel by a member of a PLA drama troupe, The Song of Ouyang Hai, the story of a PLA squad leader, was the most important literary event of the first half of the 1960s. Members of the PLA became authoritative critics of the arts, film, theatre, and literature. When the ‘Cultural Revolution’ unfolded, key Army people grasped complete control over propaganda and agitation: T’ao Chu, former head of the Army Political Department of the Fourth Army, became the new head of propaganda, and Lietenant-General Hsiao Wang-tung became acting Minister of Culture. Actually, Liberation Army Daily made the running in the ‘Cultural Revolution’ from its inception. It played an incomparably greater role than the Party paper, the People’s Daily. Again and again the PLA has been set up as a revolutionary model for the whole country. There was a frequent coupling of Lin Piao’s name with that of Mao, attributing to him, as to no other leader, the distinction of ‘creatively’ applying Mao’s ideas.
At the first mass rally of the ‘Cultural Revolution’ – 18 August – Mao, as well as his wife, Chiang Ch’ing, appeared wearing army uniforms. (Next day the Liberation Army Daily published an editorial stressing the great significance of Mao’s wearing his military uniform.) Speaking to the rally, Chou En-lai called on the Red Guards to observe the PLA’s “three main rules of discipline and eight points of attention”, adding: “The Red Guards must be built into a highly organised and disciplined militant army with a high level of political consciousness and become the reliable reserve force of the Liberation Army.” Many of those present at the rally wore army-style uniforms and were transported in Army lorries.
Since then at every stage of the ‘Cultural Revolution’ – which for lack of space cannot be described here – and especially its latest stage, that of establishing new authorities (the so-called ‘Three-Way Alliance’), the PLA played a central role. There are a number of reasons why the PLA on the whole – notwithstanding provincial and regional centrifugal tendencies – sides with Mao. First of all, the Army rises above society. It is identified with national grandeur and above all with the development of a heavy-industry-military establishment.
One notion quite widespread in the West, about the egalitarian nature of the PLA, is completely unfounded. The PLA officers are a privileged group. It is true that originally and for many years, the prevailing system provided both officers and men with food and small allowances in lieu of salaries. However in 1955 the system was replaced by cash payments. “The present scale of pay – which ranges from US$2.50 per month for a private to $192-236 for a full general”  is indicative of the differentials. The stratification in the PLA is reflected in privates’ cotton uniforms, officers’ gaberdine; in privates’ fourth class travel in trains, officers’ – from captain upwards – first-class fares.
Above all, Mao must know that if political loyalties cannot be imposed on the army with its advantages of military discipline and total control of personnel, there is no hope at all of regimenting civilian life.
The greater the objective impediments – including popular resistance – to the dictates of a centralised State capitalist bureaucracy, the greater the emphasis on voluntarism, on the omnipotence of the will of the righteous people, ie, of those who blindly follow the Leader. Maoist voluntarism by far surpasses its Stalinist precursor. Stalin tried to pull Russia up by her bootstraps industrially-militarily; Mao tries to do the same to a country without boots and without straps. Stalin repeated again and again that “there is noting that Bolsheviks cannot do” – but he always made it clear that this was by using German techniques or, in later years, American techniques. Mao’s whole ideology is the omnipotence of sheer will, the omniscience of ‘The Thoughts of Mao Tse-tung’.
It is this that explains why Mao found it necessary in the midst of the ‘Cultural Revolution’ to swim nearly 15 kilometres in the Yangtse in just over one hour! [5*]
This extreme voluntarism of Mao bestows superhuman qualities on him. The cult of Mao far surpasses that of Stalin. To quote a few examples, selected at random: an article entitled Chairman Mao, You are the Red Sun in our Hearts, in the theoretical organ of the Central Committee, Hung Ch’i (Red Flag)  ends like this:
The seas may dry up, the mountains may rot. The red hearts of us hundreds of militia men who are loyal to. you will never change. Whoever opposes you is also removing our hearts and taking our lives. To defend you we are willing to go up mountains of knives, descend into seas of fire. Let our hearts roll and let our hot blood flow.
O, most beloved chairman Mao, you are the Red Sun in our hearts. We cheer every day and sing every day. There are many intimate words we want to say to you. There are many songs we want to sing to you from the bottoms of our hearts. All words of praise.in the world may be exhausted, but they cannot do full justice to your wisdom and greatness. All hymns in the world may be exhausted, but they cannot do full justice to your abundant merits and great achievements. I can’t help jumping and shouting at the top of my voice a thousand times, ten thousand times: Long live, long live, long live the great teacher, great leader, great commander, great commander and great helmsman, Chairman Mao!
A paper called New Sports, of 19 May 1966, had an article entitled A Talk on the Philosophical Problem of Selling Watermelons in a Large City. The conclusion of the article was that Mao’s teachings are the main inspirer for selling watermelons.
The People’s Daily shows a picture of a mother and son reading Mao Tse-tung’s book. The title is Parents are not so dear as Chairman Mao. Nothing is so good as Chairman Mao’s writings. 
New China News Agency quotes a Chinese seaman saying, “If the water in all seas were ink, it would not suffice for us to write about our warm love for Chairman Mao, nor are thousands of songs adequate to express our gratitude to Chairman Mao.” (NCNA, 10 January 1967.)
One mass meeting of commanders and privates of the PLA sent a message to Mao stating:
Respected and beloved Chairman Mao, if all the trees in the world were pens and all its waters ink we still could not say enough about your love and concern for our upbringing. You are our greatest teacher, leader, supreme commander and helmsman.
To assume that the ‘Thoughts of Mao Tse-tung’ are omnipotent, one must accept that not only the Leader but also his cultural aides-de-camp – the writers, poets, artists, etc – are ‘human engineers,’ ‘engineers of the soul.’ It demands a rejection of the validity of any artistic creation or tradition taken from the past, as these reflect the limitations of the individual. In ‘socialist realism’ there are no Hamlets or Othellos – in the real world they are all too common. Zhdanovism is the necessary price of bureaucratic omnipotence. In China, recently, during the ‘Cultural Revolution,’ Zhdanovism reached depths even lower than did its Russian archetype. To quote only a few examples of cultural nihilism:
Yang Hen-sheng, former vice-chairman of the All-China Federation of Literary and Art Circles, was denounced for extolling such bourgeois literary men as Shakespeare, Moliere, and Ibsen. 
Chou Yang, who translated Chernyshevsky and Tolstoy into Chinese, was accused in Red Flag of the crime of praising the ‘foreigners’ (this word is actually used in the accusation) Belinsky, Chernyshevsky and Dobrolubov.  Chou Yang “stubbornly announced” that “in aesthetics he was a faithful follower of Chernyshevsky.” 
Chao Feng, formerly Secretary of the Secretariat of the Association of Chinese Musicians and Vice President of the Central Conservatory of Music, was accused of having “produced Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony which proclaimed ‘love of mankind’” (i.e. Khrushchevite Revisionist ideology – TC). [6*] He also “extolled Swan Lake.” 
For some 30 years Mao, and his mouthpiece on literary affairs, Chou Yang, had accepted, if critically, the Chinese literary tradition. Yet in the summer of 1966 all the culture of the past – even such classics as The Dean of the Red Chamber – was labelled feudal and rejected. All this nihilism in the name of Culture!
At the time of writing, the ‘Cultural Revolution’ has reached a new stage: with the bureaucracy split from top to bottom, the industrial working class has stepped into the arena. For the first time since the Revolution of 1925-27, mass strikes took place in China, in December 1966 and January 1967.
The only source of information regarding the strikes has been the official declarations from the Maoist authorities who opposed them. Hence we cannot be sure of the actual breadth of the strike movement. But that the strikes have been very widespread is clear from the statements of the authorities themselves, who certainly would have liked to conceal them.
A preliminary remark is necessary. The Maoist press explains the strikes as the work of “a handful of persons in authority within the party who were taking the capitalist road.” This is repeated hundreds of times. It is very doubtful if there is any more truth in this kind of explanation than there is in the usual explanation in the western capitalist press, of strikes in the west as the handiwork of “a handful of troublemakers”.
A strike of stevedores and dockers in Shanghai port went on for nearly a fortnight.  Strikes paralysed railway traffic between Shanghai and Hangchow and between Shanghai and Nanking for 12 days, from 30 December to 10 January 1967.  Workers also stopped work at the Yangshupu Power Plant.  In Nanking, in the Urban Transport Company, supporters of Mao “set out to gain control over the company’s finances and stopped paying a bonus which had originally been issued to sap the fighting will of the revolutionary workers.”  In the Taching Oil Field, the “handful” used “material incentives to lure large numbers of workers to leave their production posts.’ They were using State money to sabotage production.” 
Similar stories come from a number of factories: “... a large number of workers at the Shanghai No.17 Textile Mill were taken in and deserted their posts.”  In the Shanghai Glass-making Machinery Factory, the “handful” deceived a number of workers, including heads of work teams, technical personnel and other cadres in the basic production units, and incited them to desert their production posts. Some of them “hid blueprints and other technical data, left their posts and of course affected production.”  In Shanghai No.2 Camera Plant, as a result of a strike “only 9.2 per cent of the (production) target was completed in the first 14 days of January.”  Peking’s No.2 Machine-Tool Plant fulfilled “in the first 18 days of January ... only one third of the month’s production target.”  750 workers of the National Cotton Mill No 31 of Shanghai, incited by “bad elements”, left the factory.  Similarly, “a large number of workers at the Shanghai No.17 Textile Mill were taken in and deserted their posts.” 
One of the most interesting phenomena is that throughout the ‘Cultural Revolution’ the trade unions and their daily paper Kung Jen Jih Pao was not once quoted as playing any role at all.
The similarities and differences between the problems facing contemporary China and Russia at the time of her industrialisation drive have been the central themes of the present article.
One factor that played a key role in Russia on the eve of her industrialisation and collectivisation drive was the Marxist-Leninist Opposition – the Trotskyist Left Opposition. This, or a tendency similar to it, is completely missing in China.
On the face of it, there is a formal similarity between the Trotskyist programme of the years 1923-8 and the policy of Stalin after 1928. Trotsky, in opposition to the Stalin-Bukharin bloc, advocated economic planning, accelerated industrialisation and the collectivisation of agriculture. Stalin opposed this policy, saying in his usual crude way that the peasant needed a cow; “he needs Dnieproskroy like he needs a gramophone.”
With Stalin’s launching of the FYP in 1928, and subsequently, it seemed as if Stalin simply stole Trotsky’s clothes. Many of Trotsky’s followers (Preobrazhensky, Radek, Smilga, Smirnov, and so on) believed this to be the case, and decided to join Stalin’s bandwagon. With hindsight it is easy to see that there was only a purely formal similarity between Trotskyism and Stalinism.
For Stalin, the workers were the object of industrialisation and planning. They were to be planned, regimented by industrialisation. Collectivisation was to do the same to the peasantry. The workers had to be completely disenfranchised, politically and economically.
For Trotsky, the working class was the subject of history, whose self-emancipation – improvement in material and cultural conditions, extended democratic control over all levers of power – were the rungs on the ladder to socialism and communism. To cite at random a few extracts from Trotsky: in November 1928, Trotsky stated that the “criterion of socialist upswing is constant improvement of labour standards,” and wages “must become the main criterion for measuring the success of socialist revolution.” The 1927 Platform of the Left Opposition called for “a consistent development of workers’ democracy in the party, the trade unions and the Soviets.” 
Workers’ democracy means freedom to judge openly all party life, free discussion on it, and also election of the responsible governing personnel and the collegiums from top to bottom. 
The work of the trade unions should be judged primarily by the degree to which it defends the economic and cultural interests of the workers. 
The absolute independence of the shop committee and local committees from the organs of management must be guaranteed. 
Trotsky in 1931: “The standard of living of the workers and their role in the State is the highest criterion of socialist success.” 
If it was axiomatic for Trotsky that the active creator of socialism was the working class, it was also axiomatic that the arena for the establishment of socialism must be international. ‘Socialism in one country’ is nothing but prostration before the pressures of world capitalism. As long as world capitalism is stronger than the workers’ State in one country, and especially in a backward country, its pressures must lead to distortions in the workers’ State and finally to its degeneration and collapse. [7*]
While there is without doubt a ‘Bukharinist’ wing in the Chinese Communist Party, and a Stalinist (Maoist) wing – even though there are differences between them and their precursors, in their different national and international environments – there is not a Trotskyist or Left-Oppositionist wing.
The Left Opposition in Russia represented the continuation of the traditions of the working class which came to power in 1917. The Chinese urban working class played no role at all in the rise to power of Mao. Hence there is no Left Opposition inheritance. The workers’ strikes in China, therefore, do not yet find political expression.
However, without indulging in crystal gazing, one may be quite optimistic about the future development of a revolutionary working-class movement in China. First, the Chinese working-class, in absolute terms, is much bigger than was the Russian in the 1920s – four or five times bigger. Second, while working-class activity was quite low in Russia during the years of struggle of the Left Opposition [8*], in China the movement is rising very stormily. Third, while the 1920s, and even more so the 1930s, were years of working-class defeat in one country after another, today the international scene is much more favourable. Last, and most important, the crisis in the Russian economic development of the 1920s could be overcome by sheer Stalinist brute force. In China the impediments to development are much greater, and hence the crisis is much deeper and more prolonged, and it is bound to effect deep cleavages in the bureaucratic structure. The crisis from above may also spur on a new, revolutionary working-class political movement below.
1*. One important sidelight: it has been estimated that the value added in the iron-smelting and steel-making Communes sector was actually negative – the product was of lesser value than the materials used in the manufacture. (See Wu Yuan-li, The Steel Industry in Communist China, New York 1965, Chapter IV.)
2.* Once the concept that industry will not get resources from agriculture is accepted, more care must be given to cost- accounting, as the profit of the industrial plant is the source of capital accumulation. (During forced industrialisation, with the emphasis on heavy industry and the exploitation of farming, the gross volume of industrial output was accepted as the criterion of success). On 19 July 1962, the People’s Daily published an article by two economists who are generally identified with the less liberal wing, in which the following statement occurs:
Cost accounting is the foundation of economic accounting of enterprises ... we believe that we should principally use the cost target and the profit target for the evaluation of the economic results of the enterprises, the two being equally important ... In spite of the fact that there are defects to the profit target, it is, after all, the quality target for the whole work of enterprises. It includes results that cannot be reflected by the cost target, and it is also the principal basis for the calculation of accumulation for the State because the realisation of the financial budget of the State is represented by the profits that have been paid to the Government. (Yang Jun-jui and Li Hsun, A Tentative Discussion on Economic Accounting of Industrial Enterprises,’ JMJP, 19 July 1962; SCMP 2817.)
3*. For some time in 1961 the official retail price of rice in Nanking was 0.13 yuan per shih catty (1.1 lb.) while the free market price was 3 yuan. The official price of cooking oil in Shanghai was 0.61 yuan per catty while the free market price was 30 yuan (JMJP, 14 March 1961; Yuan-li Wu, The Economy of Communist China, London 1965, p.96). The scarcity conditions with the lag of agricultural output behind population growth explain these huge differences.
4*. These generalisation are very schematic. It must be borne in mind that students are not an island separated from the rest of society, hence they do not constitute a homogeneous body which supports Mao completely in the ‘Cultural Revolution’.
5*. Incidentally, this achievement was so staggering that the President of the World Professional Marathon Swimming Federation, Senor Carlos Larriera, invited Mao to enter two ten-mile swimming races in Canada since his reported time was almost four times as fast as the world record for 10 miles.
6*. The Maoists, it seems, have not noticed that Karl Marx had a lifelong admiration for Shakespeare, that Lenin loved Beethoven and that Chernyshevsky had a decisive formative influence on Lenin!
7*. Bukharin was formally further away from Trotsky than Stalin – both Stalin and Trotsky suggested planning, accelerated industrialisation and collectivisation, while Bukharin did not. But in content Bukharin was much nearer to Trotsky. He still represented a wing of Bolshevism. He reflected the pressure of factory managers and trade-union bureaucrats on Bolshevism, but did not, like Stalin, repudiate all the aspirations of Bolshevism, did not aim at the total expropriation of the political and economic rights of the workers. The fact, too, that the supporters of both Trotsky and Bukharin were massacred by Stalin suggests the degree of basic agreement between both and Bolshevism.
8*. The number of workers involved in strikes in State-owned enterprises in Russia was: 1922, 192,000; 1923, 165,000; 1924, 43,000; 1925, 34,000; 1926, 32,900; 1927, 20,000.
1. Li Fu-chun, Report on the First Five Year Plan for Development of the National Economy of the People’s Republlc of China in 1953-57, Peking 1955, p.47.
2. Shigeru Isbikawa, Long-term Projections of Mainland China’s Economy: 1957-1982, Tokyo 1965, p.32.
3. Ibid., p.36.
4. Y. Gluckstein, Mao’s China, London 1957, pp.171-2.
5. New China’s Economic Achievements, 1949-52, Peking 1952, p.196.
6. New China News Agency (NCNA), 13 February 1958.
7. Ibid., 19 November 1958.
8. Jen-min Jih-pao (JMJP, People’s Daily), 31 March 1960.
9. Ibid., 27 September 1960.
10. Kung Hsiang-cheng, Produce More and Better Light Industrial Products for Daily Use, Hung-ch’i (Red flag), 10 February 1962.
11. JMJP, 17 April 1962.
12. Y.L. Wu, P.P. Hoeber and M.M. Rockwell, The Economic Potential of Communist China, 1963; quoted in Choh-ming, China’s Industrial Development, 1958-63, China Quarterly, No.17, p.18.
13. People’s Communes in China, Peking 1958, p.7.
14. Ibid., p 8.
15. JMJP, 31 October 1958; Survey of the Chinese Mainland Press (SCMP) 1961.
16. NCNA, 26 August 1958.
17. Chung-kuo Ch’frg-nien Pao (China Youth News), 8 July 1959; SCMP 2086.
18. JMJP, 24 August 1959; SCMP 2092.
20. Ta-kung Pao, 2 June 1965; SCMP 3490.
21. JMJP, 19 July 1965; SCMP SCM? 3520.
22. JMJP, 11 July 1960; SCMP 2301.
23. Kung Jen Jih Pao, Peking, 21 July 1961; Current Background (CB) 669, Hong Kong.
24. Ibid., 28 July 1961; CB 669.
25. Che Hsueh Yen Chiu (Philosophical Study), No.5, 10 September 1958; Extracts from China Mainland Magazines (ECMM), 149.
26. Liu Shao-ch’i, The triumph of Marxism-Leninism in China, JMJP, 1 October 1959.
27. JMJP, 19 April 1959.
28. Hsu Hsin hsueh, Strengthen Further the System of Responsibility in Industrial Enterprises, Hung-ch’i, 16 October 1961.
29. Chung-kuo Ch’ing-nien Pao, 1 September 1961.
30. Chin Li, Discussions in the Very Recent Period by our Country’s Economists on Problems of Socialist Economic Accounting, Ching-chi Yen-chin (Economic Research), 11 November 1962, pp.66-67.
31. Raise High the Great Red Banner of Mao Tse-Tung’s Thought and Carry the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution to the End, op. cit., pp.18, 17.
32. A Erlich, The Soviet Industrialisation Debate, 1924-1928, Cambridge, Mass. 1960.
33. E.A. Preobrazhensky, The Law of Primitive Socialist Accumulation, article published in 1924 and then included as a chapter in his New Economics (Russian), Moscow, 1926, Vol.1, Part 1, pp.57-58; published in English as The New Economics, Oxford 1965.
34. Erlich, op. cit., p 16.
35. Ibid., pp.81-82.
36. Ibid., p.79.
37. Ibid., p.78.
38. Lu Hsu’n and Li Yün, On the Practice of Economy, JMJP, 21 August 1962; SCMP, 2817.
39. Sun Meng-ming, On the Proportional Relationship between Industry and Agriculture, Ta-kung Pao, 15 June 1962; SCMP, 2882. (My emphasis, TC)
40. Ouyang Ch’eng, Concerning the Question of Harmony or Disharmony in the Proportional Relationship between Industry and Agriculture, Ta-kung Pao, 22 October 1962; SCM?, 2863. (My emphasis, TC)
41. Yang Ch’i-hsien, On the Need to Arrange National Economic Plans in the Order of Agriculture, Light Industry and Heavy Industry, Ta-kung Pao, 11 December 1961; SCMP, 2649.
42. J. Gittings, Military Control and Leadership, 1949-1964, China Quarterly, No.26, p.95.
43. Ibid., pp.99-100.
44. Choh-ming Li, China’s Industrial Development, 1958-63, China Quarterly, No.17, p.16.
45. Chung-kuo Ch’ing-nien Pao, 21 July 1962; SCMP, 2795.
46. Diana Lowry, Teaching English in China, China Quarterly, No.24, p.7.
47. Edgar Snow, The Other Side of the River: Red China Today, New York 1962, p.289.
48. 1 October 1966.
49. JMJP, 22 September 1966.
50. Kuang-ming Jih-pao, 27 December 1966; SCMP, 3681.
51. Hung-ch’i, 1 January 1967.
53. Kuang-ming Jih-pao, 22 January 1967; SCMP, 3872.
54. Hung-ch’i. 1 February 1967; SCMM, 564.
55. NCNA, 9 February 1967.
56. Ibid., 16 January 1967.
57. Ibid., 14 January 1967.
58. Ibid., 15 January 1967.
59. Ibid., 9 January 1967.
60. Ibid., 15 January 1967.
61. Ibid., 17 February 1967.
62. JMJP, 2 February 1967; SCMP, 3881.
63. NCNA, 28 January 1967.
64. Ibid., 9 January 1967.
65. Leon Trotsky, The Real Situation in Russia, London, p.100.
66. Ibid., p.129.
67. Ibid., p.56.
68. Ibid., p.57.
69. Leon Trotsky, Problems of the Development of the USSR, New York, 1931, p.40.
Last updated on 19.10.2006