Rajani Palme Dutt 1967

Whither China?

Source: Pamphlet published in London in 1967 by the Communist Party of Great Britain, text dated 13 March 1967. Scanned and prepared for the Marxist Internet Archive by Paul Flewers.

The names of Chinese Communists are presented in the Wade-Giles transliteration that was then in use; below are the Pinyin equivalents.

Chen Po-ta — Chen Boda
Chen Yi — Chen Yi
Chiang Ching — Jiang Qing
Chou En-lai — Zhou Enlai
Chou Yang — Zhou Yang
Chu Teh — Zhu De
Ho Lung — He Long
Li Fu-chun — Li Fuchun
Lin Piao — Lin Biao
Liu Ning-yi — Liu Ningyi
Liu Shao-chi — Liu Shaoqi
Lo Jui-ching — Luo Ruiqing
Lu Ting-yi — Lu Dingyi
Mao Tse-tung — Mao Zedong
Peng Chen — Peng Zhen
Peng Te-huai — Peng Dehuai
Po I-po — Bo Yibo
Teng Hsiao-ping — Deng Xiaoping

* * *

What is happening in China?

The victory of the Chinese socialist revolution nearly two decades ago brought joy to people all over the world.

Here was the second greatest socialist revolution after the victory of the Russian socialist revolution fifty years ago. It was part of the inspiring advance after the Second World War and victory over fascism, which swept forward socialism from a single country to a world socialist system of fourteen countries, or over one-third of mankind.

Bright hopes were aroused by this advancing strength and unity of the socialist world, alongside the advance of national liberation and of the working-class movement in all countries.

The Chinese Communist Party declared in the Political Report to its Eighth Congress in September 1956:

The unity and friendship between China, the great Soviet Union and the other socialist countries, built upon the basis of a community of objectives and mutual assistance, is unbreakable and eternal. To further consolidate and strengthen this unity and friendship is our supreme international duty, and the basis of our foreign policy. (Liu Shao-chi, Political Report to the Eighth Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, September 1956)

This was the declaration of the last congress held by the Chinese Communist Party up to the time of writing. Let it be noted that this congress was held after the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and specifically approved the great objectives adopted at that congress for peaceful coexistence and for the strengthening of the democratic functioning of the party, with the ending of the harmful cult of the individual.

Then something happened. A strange new trend began to manifest itself increasingly in the declarations and actions of the Chinese Communist Party and government. No new congress has been held since that Eighth Congress over ten years ago, although the party rules call for the election of a new congress every five years. The realist economic planning of the Eighth Congress, expressed in the Second Five-Year Plan, was jettisoned, and replaced by the fantastic targets of the so-called Great Leap Forward, with disastrous economic consequences, and subsequent cessation of publication of economic statistics. In the political field similar wild tendencies have revealed themselves during recent years, with increasingly manifest divergences from the teachings of Marxism-Leninism, the cult of Mao Tse-tung as the supposed infallible sole source of wisdom and leadership, open repudiation of previously agreed objectives of the international Communist movement (previously agreed also by the Chinese Communist Party), and violent denunciation of the majority of other socialist states and Communist Parties.

Today this unhappy abnormal phase has erupted into a fever of internal conflict and violence. The storm of denunciations has extended to the majority of the best-known leaders of the Chinese Party and revolution. There have been ceaseless official reports of clashes, strikes and armed collisions on a considerable scale. The elected committees of the party and elected state organs of the People’s Republic have been displaced in many centres. A reckless campaign of anti-Soviet abuse has been accompanied by provocative acts against Soviet representatives.

Why? Why? Why?

Why is all this happening?

What can be the outcome of this abnormal phase in the Chinese revolution?

No wonder these questions are being asked on all sides. No wonder these extraordinary developments are causing deep anxiety and concern, not only among Communists, but among all who are concerned for the future of the Chinese revolution and of the cause of the peoples all over the world.

Only the Chinese people can solve the problems of the Chinese revolution. But these present alarming developments are inevitably of international concern. They have done harm to the reputation of Communism throughout the world and to the international Communist movement, through promoting confusion and disruption, and directly fomenting splits. The division of the world socialist camp has played into the hands of imperialism and its aggressive aims, as shown over Vietnam. Further extension of this situation could even menace the stability of the regime in China.

When we endeavour to consider the difficult and dangerous problems of the present abnormal phase in the development of the Chinese revolution, we need to approach them with understanding and in the spirit of internationalism. We need to approach them with the full solidarity and support for the Chinese revolution which all Communists and progressives have demonstrated in action all over the world from the beginning. Above all, we need to approach them with full confidence in the creative forces of the people of a great socialist country to overcome every difficulty, however grave the immediate situation.

Can We Know the Facts?

Experienced observers will view with distrust the reports on the present Chinese situation appearing in the capitalist press. Press agency scare stories and travellers’ impressions, even when giving genuine impressions, can be misleading. The record of the reporting of the Russian socialist revolution has sufficiently demonstrated that. Recalling the kind of reports which used to appear regularly from the Riga correspondent of The Times to describe the situation in the early Soviet Republic, we can view with suitable scepticism reports emanating from Hong Kong.

Still worse are all the solemn ‘interpretations’, speculations and pontifications by the ‘China experts’.

But the essential facts of the present situation are sufficiently clear from the Chinese official statements and governmental press and radio communications.

It is true that the language used follows a certain conventional terminology. Leaders who have opposed the official policy are described as ‘the handful in authority in the party’ who ‘have taken the capitalist road’. A ‘cultural revolution’ is used to describe what is in essence a political battle, even though also including the cultural field from a political viewpoint. Strikes paralysing production and transport are described as actions of ‘misled workers’. ‘Economism’, the term devised by Lenin to describe the confinement of the working-class movement in a capitalist country to trade unionism and denial of the political struggle, is transferred to describe the demands of workers in a socialist country for better wages and conditions.

It is also true that we do not yet know the strength of the alignment and forces involved, save so far as it can be inferred from official statements of the seriousness of given conflicts and clashes in given areas. We do not know the specific political line advocated by the leaders in opposition, since we have not been vouchsafed so far any statement of theirs to explain their viewpoint. We have only the information of the statements condemning them, that they have opposed the line of Mao Tse-tung and ‘taken the capitalist road’. Indeed, it is only with the development of the present conflict that the names of some of those under attack have been given, and the information that they were already in opposition to the line of Mao in 1959, that is, in the period of the Great Leap Forward, and again in 1962.

Nor do we know any details of events or incidents behind the scenes, including in the sphere of state relations, which may have affected the development of this abnormal phase.

Nevertheless, even on the basis only of the official documents put out by the Chinese Communist Party and government, articles or speeches published in the People’s Daily, Red Flag, Hsinhua News Bulletin or Peking Review, or statements put out by Radio Peking, it is possible to form some provisional conclusions on the causes of the present conflict and the issues involved.

What are these issues?

The capitalist press commentators and ‘China experts’ are all ready with their answers. It is a ‘struggle for power’ between rival leaders, a ‘struggle for the succession’ to Mao after his prospective death.

Marxism, while fully recognising the importance of the role of individuals, is never satisfied with superficial explanations of historical events in terms of personalities and rival leaders. Marxism always looks for the class forces involved. It is only in relation to such a social analysis, and laying bare of the contradictions in a given society, that the role or conflicts of individual leaders can take on significance.

Background of the Chinese Revolution

Every revolution has its unique concrete character, within the general principles of the historical epoch in which it takes place, and can therefore never be measured by ready-made formulas. Never was this more true than in the case of the Chinese revolution.

The Chinese revolution, the second greatest socialist revolution, was different in character from the previous socialist revolutions.

Marxism had no roots in China prior to 1917. It is true that in 1906 parts of the Communist Manifesto were translated. But it was the guns of the victorious October revolution in 1917, as Mao has said, which first brought knowledge of Marxism and Communism to China. Prior to that the Chinese people had a long record of valiant national armed struggles against Western imperialism and reactionary rulers, and revolts of the peasantry against feudal lords. The Chinese revolution, which opened in 1911 with the victorious overthrow of the Manchu Empire, developed from the outset as a national anti-imperialist, anti-feudal armed battle against the armed counter-revolution of imperialism and its satellite warlords. The working-class movement developed more slowly and later. There was a significant strike movement in 1912 and 1913. There was no record of any trade union in China until in 1915 in Hong Kong.

1917 Revolution: The victory of the Bolshevik revolution in 1917 transformed the character of the national revolution in China, and drew the most progressive national fighters to friendship with the Soviet Union and to the beginning of assimilation of the ideas of Communism. Sun Yat-sen, the foundation leader of the national movement and its party the Kuomintang, and the first President of the Chinese Republic, recognised the significance of the Soviet revolution as the pioneer of the world revolution and the indispensable ally of the victory of the Chinese revolution. In his final testament, in his letter to the Central Executive Committee of the USSR, the leading organ of the Soviet state, written on the day before his death in 1925, he recorded his last instructions to his party to keep ‘constant contact’ with the Soviet leadership:

You are at the head of the Union of Free Republics — that heritage left to the oppressed peoples of the world by the immortal Lenin. With the aid of that heritage the victims of imperialism will inevitably achieve emancipation from that international regime whose foundation has been rooted for ages in slavery, wars and injustice.

With this object I have instructed the party to be in constant contact with you. I firmly believe in the continuance of the support which you have hitherto accorded to my country.

Taking my leave of you, dear comrades, I want to express the hope that the day will soon come when the USSR will welcome a friend and ally in a mighty free China, and that in the great struggle for the liberation of the oppressed peoples of the world both these allies will go forward to victory hand in hand.

The younger militant students, including Mao Tse-tung, already active in the national struggle, notably the 4 May 1919 movement, and imbued with national revolutionary enthusiasm, adopted Communism as a whole in 1920. Mao thus came to Communism with no direct experience of the intense struggles which all Communists from before the Bolshevik revolution had been ceaselessly waging, during those preceding years, against the flood of ultra-leftist anti-Soviet slanders accusing the Soviet Union and Lenin of betraying the revolution, of passing over to capitalism and becoming allied with imperialism. These allegations (subsequently vulgarised by Trotskyism against the post-Lenin leadership of the Soviet Union) have now been revived like a novel discovery by the present Chinese Communist leadership, who had no knowledge or experience at the time of these early struggles to help them to realise how hoary and discredited is the tune they are now playing.

Thus the evolution to Marxism was here notably different from the older type. Previously in those centres where Marxism first took root, there had been a long process of development of generations of the working-class movement reaching gradually, through the battle of trends and policies and practical experience, to the acceptance of Marxism by the vanguard of the organised workers. In most of Asia, apart from Japan, Marxism was only introduced after the Russian revolution of 1917. In China the first Marxist groups were created in 1920, in the midst of an anti-imperialist armed struggle, and the Communist Party formed a year later.

Workers and Peasants: The Chinese working class conducted heroic struggles. But the industrial working class was only one per cent of the population before the revolution (three per cent today). After the dominant right-wing Kuomintang leadership, under Chiang Kai-shek, had passed over to imperialism with the betrayal of Shanghai, won by the blood of the workers, in 1927, the domination of imperialism over the coastal cities and main urban centres, through the Kuomintang, cut off the main body of the working class for many decisive years from directly leading the national revolutionary armed struggle, expressed in the guerrilla warfare of the liberation armies, mainly based on the peasantry, and centred in Yenan after the suppression of the Canton rising and the Long March. It is worth noting that during this period of prolonged and arduous civil war, while Mao Tse-tung at the head of the party led the liberation armies and areas mainly based on the peasantry, Liu Shao-chi, on behalf of the party, had the task of leading the struggle in the cities and areas controlled by the Kuomintang, that is, leading and organising the struggle of the main body of the working class (there was only a small minority of the industrial workers in the liberation areas) under illegal conditions.

All these special characteristics of background and class alignment need to be taken into account in order to understand the problems of the Chinese revolution. The victory of the Chinese socialist revolution, led by the Communist Party, took place in a predominantly peasant country, where the main preceding content of the revolution was the national anti-imperialist and anti-feudal armed struggle, with the main basis in the peasantry; where the main body of the working class was for prolonged periods cut off from directly leading the national revolutionary armed struggles based on the peasantry; and where the leadership of the working class was in consequence expressed through the leadership of the Communist Party, drawn from the most progressive national revolutionary fighters who had come over to Communism. In this background and class alignment the potentiality of all the problems which have broken out into the forefront in the present phase can be traced.

Victory and Initial Advance

The victory of the Chinese revolution in 1949 was an integral part, and the highest achievement, of the advance of the world socialist revolution after the Second World War. This victory was made possible both by internal and by international factors.

Internally, the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party; the brilliant political and military strategy through the many changing phases of the preceding decades; and the unity and heroism of the mass struggle and liberation armies, in contrast to the corruption and hated tyranny of the American-backed Chiang Kai-shek Kuomintang regime, brought the victory.

Internationally, the support of the international working-class movement; the 1945 defeat of German and Japanese militarism and fascism through the alliance of the peoples, with the decisive role of the Soviet Union; and the consequent advance of socialism and national liberation, weakening of imperialism and formation of the world socialist camp, created the conditions making possible the victory of the Chinese revolution and the defeat of the American interventionists.

Every declaration of the Chinese leadership following the victory recognised this role of the international working-class movement, and especially the decisive role of the Soviet Union, in making possible this victory:

Following the teachings of Lenin and Stalin and relying on the support of the great Soviet state, and all the revolutionary forces of all countries, the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese people achieved a few years ago an historic victory. (Mao Tse-tung, ‘The Greatest Friendship’, Pravda, 10 March 1953)

The role of the Soviet Union in the victory of the Chinese revolution was not only that of providing the inspiration, the teaching and the example. The Soviet Union also gave direct help. In 1945 this found expression in the supply of the vast stores of arms from the defeated Japanese armies in Manchuria to the liberation armies. After the victory it was the military strength of the Soviet Union, and its nuclear strength, which stood guard over the new People’s Republic against the further designs of the American interventionists who had spent billions of dollars in backing Chiang Kai-shek.

Soviet Help: No less important was this role of the Soviet Union and socialist countries in the gigantic tasks of reconstruction following victory and the laying of the economic foundations of socialism. The Soviet people, after having suffered heavier destruction than any other nation in the war, nevertheless deprived themselves in order to help build socialism in China. The decisive significance of this Soviet aid was testified by Chinese official statements:

The fact that our country is able to push ahead so rapidly with the First Five-Year Plan for Development of the National Economy is inseparable from the assistance given to us by the Soviet Union and the People’s Democracies, and particularly the assistance of the Soviet Union. The 156 industrial construction projects which the Soviet Union is helping us to design form the nucleus of industrial construction in our First Five-Year Plan.

The Soviet Union is giving systematic all-round assistance to our country’s construction... The great Soviet working class, which is helping us with the greatest enthusiasm, is making every effort to produce the best equipment for us as quickly as possible. The great Soviet government also gives us first priority in supplies of the best equipment... The Soviet Union has extended a great deal of financial aid to our country both by a succession of loans granted us on the most favourable terms and by trade, selling us technical equipment and materials at low prices...

It is clear from the above that Soviet assistance plays an extremely important part in enabling us to carry on our present construction work on such a large scale, at such high speed, on such a high technical level, and at the same time avoid many mistakes. (Vice-Premier Li Fu-chun, Chairman of State Planning Commission, Report on First Five-Year Plan to the National People’s Congress, Peking, 5 July 1955)

As regards quantity and scale Soviet economic aid to our country’s economic development has no precedent in history. (People’s Daily, February 1959)

By 1960 the percentage of Chinese total output produced by Soviet-supplied plants was: iron, steel and rolled stock, 35 to 40 per cent; aluminium, 100 per cent; lorries, tractors, 85 per cent; electric power, 40 per cent; power equipment, 45 per cent; heavy machinery, 35 per cent.

With this Soviet aid the first Five-Year Plan, running from 1953 to 1957, laid the foundations of socialism and modern industry in China.

Eighth Congress

The Eighth Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in September 1956 (the only congress so far held since the victory, the preceding Seventh Congress having been held in 1945) recorded the advance achieved, and adopted the Second Five-Year Plan.

The Eighth Congress also adopted important political decisions. The Political Report, delivered by Liu Shao-chi, recorded approval of the outcome of the Twentieth Congress of the Soviet Union in the following terms:

The Twentieth Congress of the CPSU was an important political event of world significance. It repudiated the cult of the individual which had grave consequences inside the party. It also advocated further promotion of peaceful coexistence and international cooperation, making an outstanding contribution to the easing of world tension.

The aim of peaceful coexistence was fully set out, together with the confidence that in the changed balance of the world situation ‘the possibility of lasting world peace has now begun to materialise’, without making this dependent on the prior ending of imperialism. The Report on the Revision of the Party Constitution, presented by Teng Hsiao-ping, condemned the cult of the individual:

An important outcome of the Twentieth Congress of the CPSU is that it showed what serious consequences can follow from the deification of the individual... Our party abhors the deification of the individual.

The same report condemned the interval of eleven years between congresses as ‘much too long’, and laid down that in future a new congress must be elected every five years, and should hold annual recall sessions in between:

More than eleven years elapsed between the Seventh and Eighth Party Congresses. This interval is of course much too long... For a complete elimination of this defect and a full development of democratic life in the party, the Central Committee has decided to introduce a fundamental reform in the draft party constitution. A fixed term is to be given the national party congress... The national party congress is to be elected for five years... Under the new system the party’s most important decisions can all be brought before the congress for decision.

The delegates to the Eighth Congress could little have guessed that during the succeeding years all their principal decisions would be repudiated and reversed: not only the realist estimates of the Second Five-Year Plan, but also the political decisions, the attitude to the Twentieth Congress of the CPSU, the line on peaceful coexistence and cooperation with the Soviet Union, the condemnation of the cult of the individual, or the new rules for inner-party democracy, with the requirement for the election of a new congress within five years. They certainly never anticipated that no new congress would have been elected for now over ten years, to be able to consider these reversals of policy; and that the leaders who gave the main reports at the Eighth Congress would now be denounced and condemned.

Change of Course

What led to the change of course of the Chinese Communist leadership after the Eighth Congress?

This change of course was to lead them into costly economic consequences at home, increasing conflict with the general body of the international Communist movement, violent anti-Soviet provocation and incitement, and finally the present destructive conflict in China itself.

We cannot know yet what incidents or inner discussions can have given rise to this change of course. We have already seen the potential weaknesses which lay in the class background of the revolution. There was the dominant national revolutionary background, with Marxism only as a later addition. There was the predominance of the peasantry and petty-bourgeois elements in the composition of the population.

Historical experience and the teachings of Marx and Lenin have shown that in a country struggling against feudal and autocratic oppression the peasantry can be a tremendous driving force of revolution. But owing to its class basis in petty ownership, traditional concentration on possession of a piece of land, consequent division of upper, middle and lower strata, with germs of capitalism, and also owing to its dispersed character, the peasantry can never be the leading class in a revolution. Only the industrial working class, even though much smaller in numbers, can, if strongly organised and with Marxist political consciousness and leadership, successfully fulfil this role, and in alliance with the peasantry lead the revolution to victory. But in the case of China, in the conditions of guerrilla warfare, the cutting off of the main forces of the working class from direct leadership of the peasant masses for over twenty years in key periods and phases of the revolutionary struggle meant that the leading role of the working class was exercised through a Communist Party leadership sprung from the national revolutionary movement, with no strong Marxist tradition. All this could give rise to the danger of subjective erratic trends; petty-bourgeois revolutionism or vacillation into extremes of nationalist deviations, unless counteracted by the strength of internationalism expressed in close association with the other socialist countries and the international Communist movement.

So long as close association was maintained with the Soviet Union and the other socialist countries and the international Communist movement during the first seven years of the Chinese People’s Republic up to the Eighth Congress, these dangers were avoided, and brilliant successes were achieved with the triumphant establishment of the foundations of socialism.

US Imperialism: But subsequently changes began. It may be that over-confidence arising from these successes, and the sense of boundless strength to achieve any goal in the shortest time by will-power and harnessing the enthusiasm of the masses played a part in producing these changes. It may be that there was an element of national pride to compel the recognition of China’s rightful place as a great power; and there is certainly no doubt that the role of United States imperialism in blockading China with massive offensive armaments and open bellicose threats, maintaining its satellite regime in Taiwan, and excluding China from international political relations through the United Nations, bears the heaviest responsibility for the present difficulties. Another factor may have been dissatisfaction with the temporary confusions and cross-currents arising in the international Communist movement after the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. There may also have been grievances in the course of negotiations with Soviet representatives over particular questions of state relations (and no one would wish to claim that there can have been no faults on the Soviet side in the course of such negotiations). Any or all of these causes may have been operative. What is clear is that new subjective and arbitrary trends began to appear, which were at first limited in character, but gradually extended into open divergences from Marxism-Leninism and the main body of the socialist camp and international Communist movement, and finally reached wild extremes.

Leap to Economic Adventurism

The first public sign of the new course was the announcement of the Great Leap Forward in the spring of 1958. The First Five-Year Plan, running from 1953 to 1957, had laid the foundations of the socialist transformation of China. It had increased industrial production by 141 per cent, and agricultural production by 25 per cent. The Second Five-Year Plan, adopted at the Eighth Congress, provided for further development by 1962 to double the industrial output planned for 1957, and to increase the agricultural output by 35 per cent. These realistic targets of the Second Five-Year Plan were to be reached, it was emphasised in the decisions of the Eighth Congress, through carefully-planned ‘step by step’ development. But in 1958 all these decisions for carefully-planned ‘step by step’ development to realistic targets were flung aside in favour of the Great Leap Forward, which, on the basis of the newly-established People’s Communes, and the extension of ‘simplified’ rural industries, including a kind of backyard steel industry, proclaimed fancifully ambitious targets. The five-year targets set for 1962 were to be accomplished within one year. In place of doubling industrial production, it was to be multiplied six and a half times. In place of the increase of agricultural output by 35 per cent, it was to be multiplied two and a half times. Steel output of 5.5 million tons in 1957 was to be doubled to 11 million tons in 1958. China was to surpass Britain as an industrial power within fifteen years, and in heavy industry within ten years, reaching a steel output of 40 million tons by 1972 and soon 100 million tons. The People’s Communes were to represent a shortcut to Communism. Three years of toil would lead to ten thousand years of happiness. Poetry was displacing Marxism as a guide to economics.

Soviet Experts

The Soviet experts who had been sent to China to help socialist industrialisation were serious technicians. Between 1950 and 1960 no less than 8500 highly-skilled Soviet specialists had been sent to China to provide economic aid, as well as 1500 experts to help in developing science, higher education, public health and culture; while nearly 10,000 Chinese engineers, technicians and skilled workers had completed their production and technical training in Soviet industrial enterprises and research institutes. The great industrial enterprises built in China with Soviet aid constituted, according to the declaration of Peking Review on 29 April 1958, ‘the backbone of China’s socialist industrialisation’. Now the Soviet experts were to see all their careful planning sacrificed to the fantasies of the Great Leap Forward. In duty bound they warned that serious industrial development could not be accomplished by imaginary short-cuts and primitive ‘do-it-yourself’ methods, which they pointed out were wasting precious resources. As a result they were denounced as ‘conservatives’ and ‘reactionaries’ and ‘defeatists’. In some cases they were even publicly reviled, and presented with white flags, in contrast to the red flags presented to the Chinese engineers who proclaimed their faith in the Great Leap Forward. Under these conditions the Soviet Union decided to withdraw the experts in June 1960. Thereafter a flood of propaganda has been let loose from Chinese official sources to represent this withdrawal as a malevolent action of the Soviet Union designed to injure China’s economy. The facts prove the opposite. Within three months of the withdrawal, in the autumn of 1960, the Soviet Union made an official offer through Mikoyan to send back the experts provided they could be assured of normal conditions of working. No response came from the Chinese side to this offer.

The outcome of the Great Leap Forward proved the justice of the warnings of the Soviet experts. For 1958 triumphant announcements were issued of record achievements. The grain crop of 185 million tons in 1957 was stated to have leaped to 375 million tons; steel was stated to have doubled in one year to over 11 million tons. But at the Central Committee in August 1959, it was announced that some errors had been made in calculating these totals, and some ‘adjustments’ of the figures would have to be made. In place of 375 million tons, the real total grain crop in 1958 should be assessed as 250 million tons. Similarly of the 11 million tons of steel, three million tons were produced by the ‘simplified’ methods and were declared to have been found unsuitable for use in industry; therefore the corrected figure should be eight million tons. Future targets would have to be accordingly scaled down. In addition to these industrial miscalculations two years of natural disasters hit agriculture. The previous grandiose claims and predictions grew increasingly dim. During recent years the previous regular publication of economic statistics has been abandoned.

Ideological Offensive

This diversion into subjective and erratic trends after the Eighth Congress, replacing the previous rational Marxist approach, which had manifested itself in the economic sphere in the Great Leap Forward, was not confined to the economic sphere. Corresponding trends of increasing diversion from Marxism-Leninism developed in the ideological and political sphere, and in the sphere of relations with other socialist countries and the international Communist movement.

This ideological and political offensive went through a series of stages before it revealed its full character. At the 1957 international meeting of Communist Parties, although there had been some differences in the preliminary discussions, an agreed declaration was reached. At the 1960 international meeting of 81 Communist Parties the divergences in the discussion were sharper; nevertheless, a united statement was reached, even though representing a certain compromise character in some formulations, and was signed by all parties, including the Chinese Party. Thus this 1960 statement has constituted during these succeeding years the authoritative statement of the modern outlook of the international Communist movement.

Thereafter the divergences became open. In some cases the Chinese Communist Party began to challenge some of the formulations of the 1957 and 1960 documents. Thus on the key question of the transition to socialism the agreed 1957 and 1960 statements of the entire international Communist movement had emphasised that the ‘opportunity’ exists today ‘in a number of capitalist countries’ for the peaceful transition to working-class power and socialism ‘without civil war’, although the possibility was added of ‘non-peaceful transition’ becoming necessary ‘in the event of the exploiting classes resorting to violence against the people’. The two alternative paths were thus recognised, just as Marx and Lenin had done, with the emphasis that Communists ‘seek to achieve the socialist revolution by peaceful means’, and that the outcome ‘in each individual country depends on the concrete historical conditions’. But the Chinese viewpoint sought to insist that there was only one way, that of violent revolution: ‘violent revolution is a universal law of proletarian revolution’ (The Proletarian Revolution, 31 March 1964). When it was pointed out this was contrary to the agreed statement recognising the two paths, the reply was that the documents contained ‘serious weaknesses and errors’, and that ‘it is necessary to amend the formulation of the question in the Declaration and the Statement through joint consultation of Communist and workers’ parties’ (The Proletarian Revolution).

The ideological offensive appeared at first as a controversy on the principles of Marxism-Leninism and the interpretation of the documents of 1957 and 1960. On this basis, although the method of argumentation caused some surprise among experienced Marxists, the most painstaking endeavours were made in all Communist Parties to examine the theoretical questions raised and give the viewpoint of each party upon them. Such statements were adopted by the Executive of the British Communist Party in January 1963; September 1963; and May 1964; as well as fuller elaboration of the arguments in the party press on each of the issues raised.

Peculiar Method of Controversy

To review all the varied and complex ground covered in the course of this theoretical controversy would require a lengthy book. What was noticeable was the method of argumentation of the flood of articles and pamphlets which poured out from the Chinese official press in all languages in the pursuit of this controversy. The method was far removed from Marxism. The method of Marxism was always, as Marx and Engels used to insist, the ‘critical’ method, that is, never to lay down dogmas, but to analyse with the most exact care concrete historical situations in order to draw conclusions. The method of these pamphlets was to lay down some generalisation as a dogma, without any attempt at examining a concrete historical situation, and then to belabour all opponents as traitors, cowards or scoundrels. Alternatively, some entirely imaginary viewpoint would be attributed to the leaders of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union or of other Communist Parties, such as that they were calling on all the peoples engaged in national liberation struggle to lay down their arms and accept enslavement to imperialism, without any attempt to offer some evidence of an actual quotation or statement of those criticised to justify the allegation; and then censorious lectures would follow on the basis of these imaginary allegations.

A similar type of misrepresentation was to allege that supporters of peaceful coexistence were advocating abandonment of the class struggle. Despite explicit repudiations of this distortion of the meaning of peaceful coexistence, and demonstration of its falsity by the practice of all Communist Parties in all capitalist countries, this misrepresentation continued to be repeated.

Another example of this method of misrepresentation was on the question of revisionism and dogmatism. The agreed documents of 1957 and 1960 had warned against the parallel dangers of revisionism and dogmatism. They had pointed out that at that moment the main danger was revisionism, with specific reference to trends in Yugoslavia. But they had added that ‘dogmatism and sectarianism in theory and practice can also become the main danger at some stage of development of individual parties’. The offensive of the Chinese campaign, however, ignored the warning against the twofold dangers of revisionism and dogmatism, concentrated the entire offensive against revisionism alone, and transferred the charge of revisionism from the question of the situation in the Yugoslav Party at that time to a charge against the leadership of the Soviet Union and other socialist countries and the majority of Communist Parties.

Peace and Peaceful Coexistence

The central issue raised in the controversy was the question of peace and peaceful coexistence. Previously the Chinese Communist Party had officially expressed the same view as other Communist Parties of support of the aim of peaceful coexistence between states with differing social systems, along the same lines as Lenin had originally laid down after 1917 for the policy during the era of the parallel existence of imperialism and socialism. The constitution of the Communist Party of China, adopted in 1956, laid down:

The Communist Party of China advocates a foreign policy directed to the safeguarding of world peace and the achievement of peaceful coexistence between countries with differing social systems.

The Eighth Congress in September 1956, in the Political Report presented by Liu Shao-chi, specifically praised the achievement of the Twentieth Congress of the CPSU in having ‘advocated further promotion of peaceful coexistence and international cooperation, thereby making an outstanding contribution to the easing of world tension’. The Political Resolution of the Eighth Congress endorsed the view that the change in the balance of forces in the world situation, including the increasing isolation of ‘the aggressive cliques in the United States’ made world peace realisable without this being declared dependent on the prior ending of imperialism:

As a result of the tremendous growth in the strength of the socialist countries, of the socialist movement in various countries, of the movements for national independence and of the forces for world peace, and because of the intensified contradictions between the imperialists (especially between Britain and the United States), the aggressive cliques in the United States which persist in the policy of arms drives and war preparations have found themselves more and more isolated, and are confronted with increasingly insurmountable difficulties. In these circumstances the world situation is tending towards a relaxation of tension, and a possibility of lasting world peace is now beginning to materialise.

Similarly the Political Report of Liu Shao-chi noted the importance of the distinction between the more bellicose and the ‘more sober-minded’ elements in the ruling class of the United States:

Even within the ruling circles of the United States there is a section of more sober-minded people who are becoming more and more aware that the policy of war may not after all be to America’s advantage. The world is heading for peace. Given the solidarity and concerted efforts of the forces of the socialist countries and the forces for peace and democracy the world over, lasting peace for the world and the cause of human progress will eventually triumph.

A Different Line: But as the controversy developed, a very different line was adopted. The presentation of the policy of peaceful coexistence as the general line of socialist states was denounced:

It is a mistake to regard peaceful coexistence as the general line of the foreign policy of the socialist countries. (Letter of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, 14 June 1963)

While the aim of peaceful coexistence was still accepted in words, in practice the Soviet policy of peaceful coexistence was denounced as a policy which ‘caters to imperialism and abets the imperialist policies of aggression and war..., seeks to replace the proletarian revolution with pacifism and thus renounces proletarian internationalism’ ('Peaceful Coexistence: Two Diametrically Opposed Policies’, 12 December 1963).

Soviet–United States top-level negotiations were no longer praised as a step to ease world tension, but were denounced in the same document quoted above as ‘Soviet–American collaboration for the sake of ruling the world’. The aim of peaceful coexistence was stated to be unrealisable:

Those who think that agreement can be reached with the imperialists and peaceful coexistence achieved are only deceiving themselves. (Liu Ning-yi, speech to the World Peace Council, Stockholm, December 1961)

This line was indeed far removed from the Eighth Congress declarations that ‘the world is heading for peace’, and that ‘the world situation is tending towards a relaxation of tension, and a possibility of lasting world peace is now beginning to materialise’.

Nuclear War

If, according to this new line of the Chinese Communist Party, the aim of peaceful coexistence between the world socialist camp and imperialism is to be dismissed as unrealisable, the alternative would be the assumed inevitability of a third world war, which under modern conditions would be a nuclear world war.

On this crucial question of the menace of a nuclear world war Chinese propaganda offered the picture that on the ruins of such a war, after hundreds of millions of human beings had perished, ‘a truly beautiful future’ would be achieved. On 1 September 1963, the Chinese official version was given of the speech of Mao Tse-tung in Moscow in 1957 recounting his conversation with ‘a foreign statesman’ (understood to have been Nehru) in the autumn of 1956:

Let us imagine how many people would die if war should break out. Out of the world’s population of 2700 million, one-third — or, if more, half — may be lost... If the worst came to the worst, and half were annihilated, the other half would remain while imperialism would be razed to the ground and the whole world would become socialist; in a number of years there would be 2700 million people again and definitely more.

The first public polemic, Long Live Leninism, published in April 1960, put this viewpoint in the following terms:

We consistently oppose the launching of criminal wars by imperialism because imperialist war would impose enormous sacrifices upon the people of various countries including the people of the United States and other imperialist countries. But should the imperialists impose such sacrifices on them, we believe that... those sacrifices would not be in vain. The victorious people could very swiftly create on the ruins of imperialism a civilisation thousands of times higher than the capitalist system and a truly beautiful future for themselves.

Scientists differ on the question of how far any life would survive on the planet after the full use of modern nuclear weapons. But it is evident that even in the assumed situation the painful task of reconstruction by a surviving fragment in the midst of radio-active ruins would represent the most unfavourable conditions for the building of socialism. And no greater disservice could be done to the cause of Communism today than to create the impression that Communists offer a picture that the way to their ideal future may lie across the path of the destruction of hundreds of millions of human lives in a nuclear war.

Three-Continent Theory

At the same time a new theory of the world revolution was presented which broke away from the class basis of the theory of Marxism-Leninism. Marx in the nineteenth century had already shown the unity of interests of the working-class revolution with the national liberation movements, and from the mid-nineteenth century onwards had devoted the closest attention to China where he predicted the future victory of the Chinese Republic, and of India where he predicted the future victory of Indian independence. Lenin developed this in the era of imperialism, and showed how the victory of the world socialist revolution turned on the alliance of the working class and socialism with the national liberation movement, which after 1917 became a constituent part of the world socialist revolution. Lenin defined the principle:

While formerly prior to the epoch of world revolution movements for national liberation were a part of the general democratic movements, now, however, after the victory of the Soviet revolution in Russia and the opening of the period of world revolution the movement for national liberation is part of the world proletarian revolution.

The new theory of the Chinese Communist Party, in this period of hostility to the governments and parties of the Soviet Union and other European socialist countries, turned this theory of Marxism-Leninism upside down, and instead of presenting the main base in the working class and socialist countries, with the national liberation movements as allies, proclaimed the national liberation movements in Asia, Africa and Latin America as having now become the main force of the world socialist revolution:

The various types of contradictions in the contemporary world are concentrated in the vast areas of Asia, Africa and Latin America; these are the most vulnerable areas under imperialist rule and the storm-centres of world revolution dealing direct blows at imperialism. In a sense, therefore, the whole cause of the international proletarian revolution hinges on the outcome of the revolutionary struggles of the people of these areas. (Letter of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, 14 June 1963)

By 1965 this geographical three-continent theory of the revolution, conspicuously separating Europe and the Soviet Union from the main area of the world revolution, was carried forward into a theory of the battle of ‘the rural areas of the world’ against ‘the cities of the world’:

Taking the entire globe, if North America can be called ‘the cities of the world’, then Asia, Africa and Latin America constitute ‘the rural areas of the world'... In a sense the contemporary world revolution hinges on the revolutionary struggles of the Asian, African and Latin American peoples who make up the overwhelming majority of the world’s population. The socialist countries should regard it as their internationalist duty to support the people’s revolutionary struggles in Asia, Africa and Latin America. (Lin Piao, Peking Review, 3 September 1965)

Auxiliary Role: Thus socialism and the international working class, so far from constituting the vanguard of the world socialist revolution, are reduced to an auxiliary role. This geographical theory of the battle between ‘cities’ and ‘rural areas’, drawn from the experience of the Chinese revolution, and transferred to the world scale, plays straight into the hands of the current reactionary imperialist theories which seek to deny the Marxist class analysis of the contradiction between imperialism and socialism as the main world contradiction, and to substitute a picture of the conflict between the ‘have’ countries (in which they include the Soviet Union in the same basket with Western imperialism) and the ‘have not’ countries. Thus this theory, while professing to give clamorous voice to the anti-imperialist struggles of the peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America, in reality disrupts them from the unity of the world socialist front which is the indispensable basis for their victory, and thereby renders them vulnerable to imperialism.

In striking contrast to this ‘three-continent’ theory of the Chinese leadership, which separates the Soviet Union from the national liberation movement, and even in its more extreme expressions accuses the Soviet Union of alliance with imperialism and opposition to the national liberation movement, is the testimony of the leaders of the national liberation movement to the key role of the Soviet Union in their struggle:

Without the existence of the Soviet Union the socialist revolution in Cuba could not have been possible. (Fidel Castro, speech in the Red Square, 28 April 1963)

The progress of the African peoples is unthinkable without the fraternal and sincere assistance of the Soviet Union. (President S‚kou Tour‚ of Guinea, speech quoted later in Izvestia, 2 October 1965)

The Soviet people and government helped us both morally and materially in the years of our struggle for independence, and they continue to help us in every way: with credits, industrial plants and specialists. (President Henri BoumediŠne of Algeria, New Times, 9 June 1965)

Many other similar statements could be quoted.

A Campaign of Disruption

In this way the campaign, which had initially taken on the appearance of an ideological controversy on the interpretation of Marxism-Leninism and its strategy and tactics, revealed itself increasingly in practice as a campaign of active disruption directed against the Soviet Union and other socialist countries and against the majority of Communist Parties, conducted under a very superficial dressing of Marxist phrases.

For an initial period the real direction of this campaign was veiled under cover of certain conventional forms. The attack was made against ‘Yugoslav revisionism’ or against the alleged ideas of ‘certain persons’. But this form was subsequently dropped. The attack was openly directed against the named leaders of the Soviet Union and of Communist Parties.

This development bears a certain analogy with the process of development of Trotskyism as a current in the post-revolutionary period: first, as a line of theoretical controversy and dissent within the party; then extending to a general platform of attack on the leadership and policy of the party; then expanding to a denunciation of the whole regime in the Soviet Union as a betrayal of the revolution and surrender to imperialism; and moving in the international sphere to systematic work for the promotion of splits in Communist Parties and the formation of a rival ‘Fourth International’. There is the marked difference that in the present case the line, although bearing some similarities in content, has developed on the basis of the leadership of a major socialist country and party, and that therefore, while the immediate harm done is thereby greater, the basis exists for the correction of this temporary unfavourable trend.

The campaign against the leadership of the Soviet government and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was carried to extremes of denunciation and calumny and has been still further highlighted in the processes of the present so-called ‘cultural revolution’. The Soviet leadership was accused of ‘open betrayal of Marxism-Leninism’ and of entering into a ‘New Holy Alliance’ with US imperialism:

The policy pursued by the Soviet government is one of allying with the forces of war against the forces of peace; allying with imperialism to oppose socialism; allying with the United States to oppose China; and allying with the reactionaries of all countries to oppose the people of the world. (Chinese Government, Statement on the Test Ban Treaty, 31 July 1963)

Capitalism was stated to have become dominant in the Soviet Union:

The capitalist forces in Soviet society have become a deluge sweeping over all fields of life in the USSR, including the political, economic, cultural and ideological fields. (People’s Daily and Red Flag, 31 March 1964)

Anti-Soviet Offensive: The phantasy of such a picture of the Soviet Union on the eve of the fiftieth anniversary of the socialist revolution, with the triumph of socialist achievement visible to the whole world, showed that here the frenzy of calumny had abandoned all pretence of reason or plausibility. But worse was to follow. By the time of the ‘cultural revolution’ the flames of anti-Soviet incitement (nominally not ‘anti-Soviet’, but ‘only’ against the ‘revisionist’ leadership, government, party, Soviet organs and all other institutions of the people, and therefore in practice, especially for the ingenuous understanding of the youngsters inflamed to frenzy by these heady calls to hatred, ferociously anti-Soviet) were fanned to new heights. The language in the People’s Daily during this period, such as ‘Listen, you handful of Soviet revisionist swine’ and so forth, was paralleled by such slogans as ‘Bash in the dirty skulls of Brezhnev and Kosygin!’ (Hsinhua News Bulletin, 30 January 1967).

While the main offensive has thus been conducted against the Soviet Union as the vanguard of the world socialist camp, a similar offensive has also been conducted in respect of other socialist countries. At the same time a campaign was launched to promote disruption in all Communist Parties which were not prepared to accept the line put forward by the Chinese Communist Party. In June 1963, the call was sounded for factionalism and splits:

If the leading group in any party adopt a non-revolutionary line and convert it into a reformist party, then Marxist-Leninists inside and outside the party will replace them and lead the people in making revolution. (Letter of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, 14 June 1963)

On the basis of this line steps were taken to promote the formation of splinter groups in a number of countries, and these splinter groups were then described in Chinese statements as ‘the Communist Party’ of the given country, while the real Communist Party was ignored. As with the previous Trotskyist attempts at splits, these splinter groups were in general tiny and had no representative character.

Harm to Communism

Grave harm has been done to the cause of Communism, and to the international working-class movement and to the world peace movement and democratic movement, by this campaign of disruption, following on the ideological offensive against the previously-agreed policies of the international Communist movement. The main harm has not been done through the campaign of disruption winning any wide support; it has been generally ineffective in its attempts to do so. The overwhelming majority of Communist Parties have been much too experienced and mature to fall for this kind of empty abstract ‘ultra-revolutionary’ propaganda and anti-Soviet incitement, too long familiar from Trotskyist and similar sources, which they have been fighting for years, long before the Chinese Communist Party adopted this discredited line of propaganda. Nor has this type of propaganda won any support among the overwhelming majority of organised workers.

The main harm has been done through the distorted picture of Communism thus created for the widest body of popular opinion. The impression is of the international Communist movement as hopelessly split, with open extreme conflict between the two biggest socialist countries and their parties and leadership. Hence the conventional press description of the issue as a ‘Sino-Soviet conflict’ — a misleading description of a situation in which the Chinese Communist Party has been going through an abnormal phase, bringing it into conflict with the overwhelming majority of the rest of the socialist camp and of other Communist Parties.

Harm has further been done by the confusion caused in the world democratic and peace movement, where the introduction of what can only appear to many participants as internal Communist theoretical controversies is inappropriate, and where the greatest possible unity for common objectives is of paramount importance.

Harm has also been done by the difficulties thus created for young people and all those newly coming towards Communism, in a world situation where every fact of experience is proving the teachings of Marxism and awakening interest in Communism, but where they find themselves at the very outset met with the obstacle of this dispute and picture of division in place of a united Communist movement. This harm is particularly acute in the newly-independent countries where the popular movement is in full ferment and seeking the path to scientific socialism.


The greatest harm of all is the obstruction of united action of the international Communist movement in the most urgent immediate issues of struggle against imperialism, irrespective of the ideological differences which have arisen, or even while these differences have still to be settled.

This problem arises most acutely at the present time in relation to the urgent need for the fullest solidarity and common action in support of the struggle of the Vietnam people, against the aggression of United States imperialism.

The division within the world socialist camp has been the main factor which has encouraged and facilitated the American aggression against Vietnam. The more this division has been sharpened, with the open hostility of the Chinese leadership to any suggestion of unity or cooperation, the more the American aggression has been escalated. All the American strategic experts have openly calculated on this division.

Repeated proposals have been made by many Communist Parties, including by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, for a united front, joint consultation and common action in support of the struggle of the Vietnam people. All such proposals have so far been turned down by the Chinese Communist Party.

Chinese spokesmen have argued that it would be fruitless to attempt to form a united front of China and the Soviet Union in support of Vietnam, since they regard the ‘revisionist’ leadership of the Soviet Union as the ally of American imperialism.

Faced with the glaring facts of Soviet aid to Vietnam, which by deeds exposes the falsity of their pretext for refusing cooperation, they have sought to belittle that aid, and to sneer at it as of small value and consisting only of a handful of obsolete weapons. Vice-Premier Chen Yi, in a reply to the correspondent of the Japanese organ Akahata on 30 December 1965, said (Peking Review, 7 January 1966): ‘Who can believe that the Soviet leaders are giving genuine support to Vietnam?’, and referred to the ‘meagre aid’ sent by the Soviet Union. On the question whether there had been obstruction of aid passing through Chinese territory, he denied this, but added the provocative statement:

The Soviet leaders harp on the fact that the Soviet Union has no common borders with Vietnam, as if all aid material for Vietnam has of necessity to go through China. This is not true. There are sea routes between the Soviet Union and Vietnam. Why cannot Soviet military material for Vietnam be shipped by sea as is that of other countries? But the Soviet Union dare not take the sea routes.

Soviet Aid to Vietnam: The Soviet Union has not only supplied every aid asked for by Vietnam, but has made clear that every further aid, of whatever kind, which may be asked, will be supplied. The Vietnam leaders have equally testified that every aid they have asked for from the Soviet Union has been supplied.

The Vietnam Communist leaders have themselves given the lie to the false statements of the Chinese Communist Party seeking to disparage Soviet support and aid for the Vietnam people’s struggle.

Ho Chi Minh, Chairman of the Vietnam Workers’ Party, declared in his message to the Twenty-Third Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in April 1966:

In the struggle against the US imperialists to save their country, defend North Vietnam, liberate South Vietnam and unite their homeland, the Vietnamese people constantly feel the sympathy, support and all-sided assistance of the Soviet people... We take this opportunity to express sincere gratitude to the party, government and fraternal people of the Soviet Union for the active support and assistance that they have given and continue to give to the Vietnam people.

On behalf of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam, its Chairman, Dr Nguen Huy Tho, declared in a message to the same congress:

The people of South Vietnam highly evaluate the great achievements of the fraternal Soviet people and regard them as the common victory of progressive mankind. Our people are deeply grateful to the Communist Party, government and people of the great Soviet Union and will never forget the massive and ever-increasing aid and support that they are rendering them in their patriotic struggle against US imperialist aggression.

On the strategic effectiveness of the Soviet weapons supplied to Vietnam the United States generals have themselves given their evidence. General John F McConnell, Air Force Chief of Staff, was reported in an article in the New York Times Magazine on 16 October 1966, as stating that the North Vietnam air defence represents ‘the greatest concentration of anti-aircraft weapons that has ever been known in the history of defence of any town or area in the world’. The same article declared that, in addition to conventional anti-aircraft artillery, North Vietnam had been using surface-to-air missiles for the first time in any war; that these Soviet SA2s ‘are the most sophisticated and deadly weapons ever used against aircraft'; and that the rate of US plane losses, per mission flown, was more than double that of the Second World War.

The feeling of the Vietnamese Communists for the Soviet Communist Party was eloquently expressed by their First Secretary, Le Duan, when he said in his speech at the Twenty-Third Congress of the Soviet Party in April 1966:

For us Vietnamese Communists there are two homelands — Vietnam and the Soviet Union. The Soviet people are helping us today in the same way that they have been helping us ever since the founding of our party and ever since the years of the war of resistance. It can be said that there are drops of blood of men of the Red Army in each of our victories.

Opposition Within the Chinese Communist Party

It should not be thought that the increasingly wild and reckless course adopted by the official leadership of the Chinese Communist Party during the period after the Eighth Congress went on without opposition within the Chinese Party.

The course had brought setbacks and harmful consequences within China, as well as internationally and in the international relations of China.

We have already seen the disastrous economic consequences of the Great Leap Forward and the disappearance of the loudly-proclaimed astronomical targets into a great silence.

Internationally also the new line met with a series of defeats. The largest Communist Party outside the socialist camp, the Indonesian Communist Party, with three million members, whose leadership had moved to support of the Chinese line, met with the heaviest reverse and destruction experienced by any Communist Party since the coming to power of Hitler in Germany.

The favourite Maoist formula had taught that ‘power comes out of the barrel of a gun’. This caricature of Marxist-Leninist theory recalls the notorious ‘force theory’ of Professor Dhring which Engels tore to pieces in his Anti-Dhring. Professor Dhring had argued that military force was the original creator of social-political institutions. Engels showed that, so far from military force being the creator of social-political institutions, it was the stage of economic development and corresponding stage of social-political forces which governed the forms and role of military force. Marxism teaches that the power of a revolutionary movement comes from the masses, and that the gun is only the instrument. But the counter-revolutionary generals in Indonesia acted on the principle that ‘power comes out of the barrel of a gun’, and slaughtered half a million Indonesian Communists.

Japanese Communists: The Japanese Communist Party reported, by the beginning of 1967, the unhappy experience of their delegation to Peking in 1966. Their delegation had worked out the lines of a joint communiqu‚, concentrating on points of agreement, in talks with Liu Shao-chi and Teng Hsiao-ping, and subsequently with Chou En-lai, Peng Chen and Kang Sheng. But Mao had then vetoed the agreed draft communiqu‚ on the grounds that it failed ‘to place the Communist Party of the Soviet Union on the same level as US imperialism’, and demanded that the communiqu‚ should include ‘the stand of an anti-American anti-Soviet united front’. As a result no communiqu‚ was issued, and posters were put out in Peking describing the Japanese Party as ‘revisionist’. This led to the Japanese Party recounting the facts of what had happened. The Japanese Party organ Akahata proclaimed their refusal to accept the proposition that it is ‘the touchstone of Marxism-Leninism or revisionism whether or not unconditionally to follow the words of Mao Tse-tung’, and declared that the ‘dogmatic charge’ brought against the Japanese Party proved those responsible for spreading this charge to be fulfilling the role of ‘a saboteur in the international Communist movement’.

The Korean People’s Democratic Republic official news agency published on 27 January 1967 a statement condemning false propaganda put out by newspapers and leaflets of the Chinese ‘Red Guards’ alleging a coup in Korea, as ‘impermissible slandering of our party, our government, the people and the People’s Army of our country’.

The Vietnam Workers’ Party, as we have seen, has publicly proclaimed its support of and confidence in the Soviet Union, in direct contradiction to the statements of the Chinese Party.

Premier Castro on behalf of the Cuban revolution publicly chastised the Chinese government in an official statement on 6 February 1966, as guilty of ‘flagrant violation of the most elementary means of respect which must exist between socialist countries and even between non-socialist ones’, and declared:

Division in the face of the enemy has never been a correct strategy, has never been a revolutionary strategy, has never been an intelligent strategy in any epoch of history, in any period of mankind, ever since the appearance of the first revolutionary in the world.

The splinter movements promoted, often at great expense, to split the Communist Parties have been a conspicuous failure.

Strength of the Chinese Opposition: In view of this manifest discredit and failure of the adventurist dogmatic course, both internationally and in the consequences within China, it is not surprising that opposition should have been growing within the Chinese Communist Party, including in the highest levels of leadership.

In December 1959, Mao Tse-tung vacated his position as Chairman of the Chinese People’s Republic — in order, it was stated at the time, to concentrate on the situation within the party and to spend more time on theoretical work — and in April 1960 Liu Shao-chi became Chairman in his place.

The subsequent proceedings and indictments of the ‘cultural revolution’ have now revealed that the opposition, involving some of the foremost leaders of the party, had already at the time denounced the Great Leap Forward as ‘boasting’, ‘indulging in fantasy’ and ‘substituting illusion for reality'; had delivered a ‘ferocious attack’ at the Central Committee meeting in December 1959, at which the collapse of the claimed figures of vast achievements of the Great Leap Forward had to be admitted and later, in view of the ‘economic difficulties’ of 1959-62 following on the Great Leap Forward, had ‘launched a new attack’ ('Open Fire at the Black Anti-Party and Anti-Socialist Line’, Liberation Army Daily, 8 May 1966).

The subsequent naming of individuals and indictment of leaders as involved in this opposition, originally described as ‘right-wing opportunist’ and subsequently as ‘taking the capitalist road’, has included the Chairman of the Republic, the General Secretary of the party, and most of the best-known leaders other than Mao Tse-tung, as well as the principal party committees and leadership in Peking, Shanghai and the other main centres, especially the main centres of the working class.

The strength of this opposition now revealed within the party and the working class, already from the time of the Great Leap Forward, against at any rate the extremes of the reckless, adventurist and eventually anti-Leninist and anti-internationalist course is significant. However difficult and dangerous the present immediate situation through the violent measures to crush the opposition, this active struggle of key sections of the working class and the party is significant as a pointer to the finally decisive positive forces for the future of the Chinese revolution.

Against Whom Is the ‘Cultural Revolution’ Directed?

It is in this situation that the cause and purpose of the launching of the extraordinary offensive described as the ‘cultural revolution’ or ‘great socialist revolution’ in 1966 is clear.

Initially this offensive appeared during the early months of 1966 as directed principally to the field of literature and culture, to attack certain trends regarded as reactionary, and naming as the objects of attack various individuals, not of the top leadership, but in charge of cultural and propaganda work and newspapers and magazines in the capital city, Peking. This offensive in the cultural field repeated in the most exaggerated form the kind of trend which had been familiar in the early days of the Russian Revolution in the movement known as ‘proletcult’, and which had been soundly trounced by Lenin — the tendency to what Lenin described as ‘cultural nihilism’, of the denunciation of the whole classical heritage of pre-revolutionary culture as ‘bourgeois’ or ‘feudal’ and worthless for revolutionaries. Against this trend Lenin had emphasised the importance for the working-class movement and the socialist revolution to take over and absorb all that was best in the entire heritage of human culture. In his earlier days of adherence to Marxism, Mao had also repeated this teaching of Lenin (in his ‘Talks at the Yenan Forum on Literature and Art’). But now Chou Yang, who was deposed as deputy head of the propaganda department of the party, was denounced in a long indictment which accused him, among other things, of having ‘wanted the theatre and opera to present such pieces as La Traviata, Romeo and Juliet, Othello, King Lear’.

The political aim behind this ‘cultural’ offensive was soon made clear. At the Central Committee in August 1966, the full-scale political offensive was launched. The struggle was declared to be against ‘those in authority who have wormed their way into the party and are taking the capitalist road’. Resistance was ‘still strong and stubborn’. The task must be to ‘dismiss from their leading posts all those in authority who are taking the capitalist road and so make possible the recapture of the leadership for the proletarian revolutionaries’.

Who, then, were ‘those in authority in the party’ who were ‘taking the capitalist road'? No definition was offered. No evidence of any kind was presented, but only a general denunciation of ‘ultra-reactionary bourgeois rightists and counter-revolutionary revisionists’. No names were given in the Central Committee resolution.

However, as the names of those under attack began to be made known during the succeeding months, either through direct naming in the official press, removal from their posts, public pillorying and humiliation before mass demonstrations, denunciation on posters, parading in dunces’ caps, arrest, or announcements of attempted suicide or suicides, it became clear that those under attack as ‘taking the capitalist road’ meant all in the leadership who had shown any opposition to the wild extremist policies, from the Great Leap Forward onwards, associated with the leadership of Mao Tse-tung. It further became clear that the leaders thus under attack as ‘taking the capitalist road’ included the majority of the best-known leaders of the party with outstanding revolutionary records.

This alignment becomes clear if the names which have been made available are considered.

Anti-Party Offensive: On the side of Mao Tse-tung the only names which have been given prominence at the time of writing have been his secretary Chen Po-ta; Lin Piao, who was installed as Minister of Defence to replace Peng Te-huai in 1959; and the ex-actress fourth wife of Mao, Chiang Ching. Premier Chou En-lai has repeated in public the formulas of the ‘cultural revolution’, but has always combined this with calls for moderation, against attacking too many of the leaders, and against interfering with production.

Those who have come prominently under attack have included: Liu Shao-chi, the Chairman of the Republic; Teng Hsiao-ping, the General Secretary of the party; Peng Chen, Mayor of Peking, stated in December 1966 to have been arrested; Lu Ting-yi, Chief of Propaganda since 1949, removed in July 1966; Chou Yang, Deputy Chief of Propaganda, removed in July 1966; Lo Jui-ching, Army Chief of Staff — his photograph published in the Red Guard organ Combat with his leg in plaster and the statement that he had attempted to commit suicide; Po I-po, former Head of the State Economic Commission and Deputy Premier. Also under attack have been Chu Teh, Peng Te-huai and Ho Lung — three of the outstanding military leaders who helped to bring about the great victory of 1949. And many, many more.

Leading party committees stated to have been under ‘capitalist’ domination, and requiring to be stormed, have included those in Peking, Shanghai, Nanking, Nanchang and numerous other cities.

It is not surprising in these circumstances that the key slogan of the ‘cultural revolution’, repeated again and again by Lin Piao and in the official calls, should be ‘Bombard the Party Headquarters!’ and ‘Seize Power!'; or that the resolution of the Central Committee of August 1966 should call for the removal of ‘those in authority’ in the party accused of ‘taking the capitalist road’ in order to achieve the ‘recapture of the leadership’.

Equally it was significant that in January, when the army was called in to act against the manifest strength of the mass opposition, the official army organ, the Liberation Army Daily, quoted by the Hsinhua News Agency on 25 January, should declare that even though the supporters of Mao ‘may be just a minority temporarily’ the armed forces ‘must support them without the slightest hesitation’.

It is evident that the ‘cultural revolution’ has represented an offensive against key forces of the party, its cadres and strongholds, in order to compel acceptance of an increasingly discredited political line which has been pressed by Mao Tse-tung against the opposition of most of the other leaders.

‘Red Guards’ and the Cult

Once it is clear that the offensive of the ‘cultural revolution’ is essentially an offensive, not against an imaginary ‘capitalism’ (the national capitalists in China, over a million of them, are happily enjoying their lavish incomes entirely outside this turmoil), but against the key forces of the party, and also, as the subsequent clashes have shown, of the working class, then it becomes clear why this offensive could only be conducted by a specially-created extraordinary organisation outside the party and the working-class movement.

When the Central Committee of a Communist Party adopts a resolution, its fulfilment normally becomes the task of the party organisations. Here, however, a different method was adopted, outside the party organisations.

The so-called ‘Red Guards’ were established as an organisation in May 1966 by the simple device of closing all schools and colleges for a year (later, when the disturbances grew too much, this was cut to six months), thus releasing tens of millions of youngsters, completely without political experience, to be mobilised and transported for the purposes of the offensive. They received their marching orders from the Central Committee resolution of 12 August 1966. They received their official seal of approval from the mass demonstration in Peking under the auspices of Mao Tse-tung on 18 August 1966, at which Mao donned the armband of a ‘Red Guard’.

It was an ironic commentary on this ‘cultural revolution’ that it should be inaugurated by depriving China’s future, desperately needing educated cadres, of months of education of a whole generation.

Even more serious was the use to which they were put. Filled with zeal and political innocence, without experience of class struggle or revolutionary struggle, taught only to chant the magic words of Mao as the sum total of political wisdom, and to brandish their ‘little red books’, they were transported all over the country in highly organised operations involving many millions, to parade in their multitudes, harry old people and shopkeepers, insult and humiliate old revolutionaries bearing the wounds of revolutionary struggle upon them, ‘bombard the party headquarters’, and even to attempt to assail the factories in order to put right recalcitrant ('hoodwinked’ in the official formula) workers.

Working-Class Resistance: It is evident that their assaults on the party and the workers met with resistance. Reports of clashes and strikes were incessant in the official press and radio. Complaints were made that mass organisations of workers were being ‘misled’ or ‘hoodwinked'; that ‘misleading’ slogans were being put out such as ‘Defend the Party Headquarters’, or describing the ‘revolutionary students’ or ad hoc self-appointed ‘rebel groups’ as ‘counter-revolutionaries’. To clear this confusion the Red Flag editorial (no 15 of 1966) explained the distinction between the party headquarters and the real ‘proletarian headquarters’:

How can we call those headquarters which oppress the masses headquarters of the proletariat? Why can’t we ‘bombard’ such headquarters? What is meant by the proletarian headquarters? It means those that resolutely support Chairman Mao and Mao Tse-tung’s thought.

This is the context in which the reason for the fantastic extremes of the cult of Mao Tse-tung becomes clear. Honour for the great leader of a victorious revolution is one thing. But the puerile absurdities which have presented the magical inspiration of the teachings of Mao as solving every problem from ping pong to hairdressing have aroused not surprising derision all over the world. But here also the reason exists behind the apparent unreason. What principle or rational system or ideal could be offered these tens of millions of youngsters to inspire and guide them on their buccaneering expeditions? Their organisation had no connection with the Young Communist League, which passed out of view. They had no training in Marxism-Leninism; instead, they were taught that ‘Chairman Mao’s every word is truth and carries greater weight than 10,000 ordinary words’ (Liberation Army Daily, 19 December 1966, reprinted in Hsinhua News Bulletin, 21 December 1966). They could not be appealed to in the name of devotion to the Communist Party; instead, they were taught to despise and ‘bombard the party headquarters’. They could not be inspired by the ideals of the international Communist movement and the world socialist camp; instead, they were taught to go into a frenzy of hysterical hatred at the sight of a Soviet representative or any citizen, even a child, of a socialist country. Nothing was left but to offer them a deity — ‘Chairman Mao’ — as the magical all-sufficing all-embracing infallible answer to every problem, and a ‘little red book’ to finger like a rosary.

Military Action: Needless to say, the decisive offensive could not be conducted by these youngsters. They were described as the preliminary front-rank ‘shock force’ intended to ‘make frontal attacks’ and ‘mow down all resistance’ (People’s Daily, 29 August 1966). But adults began to be added to their ranks in the guise of ‘instructors'; and new special organisations entitled ‘Revolutionary Rebels’ began to be formed alongside the ‘Red Guards’, all based on the single principle of allegiance to Mao. With the further development of the offensive it was these ‘revolutionary rebels’ groupings which were brought increasingly to the forefront to displace the existing party committees and organs of local government. Nevertheless, the official press and radio again and again issued reports that in one centre or another the resistance of the workers and party organisations was defeating the assault. Thus in Nanchang, capital of Kiangsi province, Radio Nanchang declared on 22 January 1967, that workers and peasants had instituted a ‘white terror’ and had ‘overwhelmed’ the units of the ‘Red Guards'; and that, commanded by a ‘large number of party cadres of high and low rank’, had closed factories, mines and retail stores, barricaded roads and cut off water and electricity supplies. The broadcast called on the police to crush the opposition.

By the latter part of January the orders were given for the army to be brought into action. The army newspaper, Liberation Army Daily, quoted by the official news agency on 25 January, stated that the ‘cultural revolution’ had reached a ‘new stage’, and it was no longer possible for the armed forces to refrain from intervening. It was in this same article that the revealing statement was made, already quoted above, that even though the supporters of Mao ‘may be just a minority temporarily’, the armed forces ‘must support them without the slightest hesitation’.

Thereafter the announcements of Radio Peking and the official press took on more and more the character of military bulletins, declaring that one province after another, with a highly-organised extending strategy which could be followed from successive announcements like the operations in a war, had been successfully ‘recaptured’ from the local party leadership.

Class Forces in the Struggle

What is the relation of class forces in this struggle?

All the Chinese official statements give one simple answer. It is the decisive battle for power between the working class and the capitalist class: ‘It is the decisive battle between the proletariat and the masses of working people on the one hand and the bourgeoisie and its agents in the party on the other.’ (Red Flag, no 3, 1967) It is ‘a revolution of the proletariat to liquidate the bourgeoisie’ (Red Flag, no 2, 1967).

But where are the capitalists? Who is the bourgeoisie? Certainly the reference is not to the real capitalists who do flourish at present in China with the blessing of the regime. There are at present over a million national capitalists in China living on the exploitation of the working class. They are the former owners, who in the eighteenth year of the people’s revolution still continue to receive from the state their five per cent interest on the capital value of their nationalised enterprises. By the original decision of the State Council this payment of interest to the bourgeoisie should have been completed by 1962. But a decision was taken to prolong it to 1966. Now it has been decided to prolong it ten years further.

Is this ‘revolution to liquidate the bourgeoisie’ directed against these real capitalists? Not at all. They are not involved. No offensive is directed against them.

The so-called offensive against ‘the bourgeoisie’ is an offensive against revolutionary party leaders and fighters who are accused of having expressed some measure of opposition or criticism of the recent reckless adventurist policies associated with Mao Tse-tung from the Great Leap Forward onwards; who may have been responsible for the withdrawal of Mao from the office of Chairman of the Republic in December 1959, and his replacement by Liu Shao-chi in April 1960; and who have now been made the targets of a very fierce offensive (with the slogans of ‘criticise and liquidate’ and ‘seize power from those in authority in the party who have taken the capitalist road’) as having supposedly ‘taken the capitalist road’. There is evidence here of a difference on policy in the party. No evidence is offered of a ‘capitalist road’ or of any proposal or policy having been put forward which could be interpreted as a ‘capitalist road’.

What of the working class? There is plenty of evidence, from the official press and radio statements, of considerable strikes and clashes and resistance to the ‘Red Guards’ and also of wage demands. But all this is not part of the offensive of the ‘cultural revolution’ or of what Red Flag has called the ‘acute class struggle’ between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. On the contrary. The strikes have taken place against the offensive delivered from above through the ‘Red Guards’ and other ad hoc organisations divorced from the working-class movement, in defence of the party headquarters and for economic demands denounced by the official radio. When Shanghai, the largest city in China, under the leadership of its elected Party Committee and its elected Municipal Committee, was resisting the offensive in January, with the strike movement paralysing the city and rail communications, the official statements declared that ‘the Shanghai Party Committee stubbornly clings to the bourgeois reactionary line'; and the local party leaders were stated to have misled the workers into resisting the offensive of the ‘cultural revolution’ by proclaiming such slogans as ‘Defend the Proletarian Dictatorship’, and by organising an ‘Army of Defenders of Red State Power’ against the assailants.

Wages and Welfare: The local party leaders were also stated to have ‘corrupted’ the workers by acceding to demands for increased wages or attempting to ‘restore some erroneous measures adopted in the past in regard to wage and welfare systems’. It is not clear what are the ‘measures... in regard to wage and welfare systems’ which have thus evidently been withdrawn, and which it is regarded as an indication of playing for popularity to propose to restore. It would certainly be an insult to the revolutionary workers of Shanghai, with their long record of struggle under the most difficult conditions and in face of every kind of privation, to suggest that they would be ‘corrupted’ if they were to win any increase in wages. But there is obvious significance in the increasing official warnings against ‘economism’, the term used to describe demands for improved wages and living conditions in place of concentrating on the political and military offensive of the ‘cultural revolution’. The ceaseless sermons of Radio Peking, preaching to the workers the virtues of austerity and calling for postponement of demands for wage increases, could give points to Mr Gunter. All this suggests that in the present situation, with the hardships following on the economic policies of the Great Leap Forward and after, there are arising elementary economic demands of the workers which are very different from the abstract ‘decisive struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie’ defined in the formulas of the ‘cultural revolution’.

Whose State Power?

Even more extraordinary is the variety of definitions and contradictory formulas offered with regard to the question of state power in the official explanations of the ‘cultural revolution’. Following on the definition of the ‘cultural revolution’ as the ‘decisive struggle’ of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie, the conclusion is drawn that the ‘central task’ of the ‘cultural revolution’ is the conquest of political power by the proletariat from the bourgeoisie and its agents within the party:

Marxism-Leninism, Mao Tse-tung’s thought, teaches us that the basic question of a revolution is that of political power. The central task of the great proletarian cultural revolution, in the last analysis, is the struggle by which the proletariat seizes power from the handful of people within the party who are in authority and taking the capitalist road. ('Proletarian Revolutionaries, Unite!’, Red Flag, no 2, 1967)

But if the proletariat has still to conquer political power, what is the definition of the present state? Is it or is it not the dictatorship of the proletariat? On this question the Chinese Communist Party, which has never had a programme and still has no programme, has always shown a certain confusion and variation. In the initial period following the victory of the revolution Mao Tse-tung described the new state as ‘the democratic dictatorship of the people’, interpreting ‘the people’ as incorporating the quadruple alliance of the working class, the peasantry, the petty-bourgeoisie and the national bourgeoisie. In this period he emphasised that there was a fundamental difference between this ‘dictatorship of the people’ and the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’. Subsequently this definition was amended, and the Eighth Congress defined the People’s Republic of China as ‘a people’s democratic dictatorship led by the working class and based on the alliance of the workers and peasants’. At the Peking ‘Rally of Literature and Art Workers for the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution’ Chiang Ching, Mao Tse-tung’s wife, declared: ‘Ours is a country of the dictatorship of the proletariat.’ (Peking Review, 9 December 1966)

But if the dictatorship of the proletariat already exists, how can the central task of the ‘cultural revolution’ be stated to be the conquest of political power by the proletariat? A new formula was offered by Red Flag (no 2, 1967) to solve this conundrum: ‘Chairman Mao teaches us that to wrest power from these persons means the revolution of one class to overthrow another class in the conditions of the dictatorship of the proletariat, that is, a revolution of the proletariat to liquidate the bourgeoisie.’ Thus the proletariat has to fight to conquer political power ‘in the conditions of the dictatorship of the proletariat’. A remarkable solution.

Paris Commune: Finally a further new formula was offered to solve the problem. The task of the ‘cultural revolution’ in respect of state power was declared to be the replacement of the existing organs of state by new ‘provisional organs of power’ which would utilise the lessons of the Paris Commune on the need to ‘smash’ the existing organs of state power and set up new organs of power:

Experience proves that in the course of the struggle for the seizure of power it is necessary to establish provisional organs of power... In summarising the experience of the Paris Commune Marx pointed out that the proletariat must not take over the existing bourgeois state machine but must thoroughly smash it... Since a number of units in which a handful of party people in authority taking the capitalist road have entrenched themselves, have been turned into organs for bourgeois dictatorship... we must smash them thoroughly. (Red Flag, no 3, 1967)

Thus the teaching of Marx and Lenin on the necessity to destroy the organs of state power of capitalism is twisted into an instruction to destroy organs of state power of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and the glorious example of the Paris Commune is quoted to justify this. In practice this has meant that the elected committees of the party, and the elected organs of the People’s Republic have been displaced in centre after centre by army action, to install groups of so-called ‘Revolutionary Rebels’, without any corresponding basis of popular representation or election.

These confusions and contradictions of the attempts to find a theoretical basis for the ‘cultural revolution’ only the more clearly expose its real character as a ruthless offensive to endeavour to crush resistance and enforce the maintenance of an increasingly discredited and disastrous policy of economic adventurism, departure from Marxism-Leninism, and hostility to the world socialist camp and international Communist unity. The evident measure of resistance of many party organs and leaders and workers to this offensive is the most positive feature of the present disturbing situation.

What Is the Perspective?

The present situation in China is grave and dangerous.

The dangers are manifest, both for the internal prospect in China, and for the international consequences.

Internally, open conflict has been revealed equally in the highest levels of leadership in the party and the governing apparatus, and on the regional and local levels. A ruthless offensive by the dominant sections of the central party leadership, conducted in the name of Mao Tse-tung, has been directed against most of the best-known party leaders and leading provincial and town committees. This offensive has been met with resistance from many local party organs and considerable sections of the working class, with strikes and clashes. After five months of this conflict, the army, from whose command high officers, apparently suspected of opposition tendencies, have been removed, has been called in to crush the resistance. While this conflict and the resistance and unrest may be successfully overcome for the time being with the aid of military discipline and the universal veneration for the name of Mao as the historic leader of the victorious revolution, it is evident that this is the gravest situation since the victory of the revolution seventeen and a half years ago, and that big questions of policy, including the review of the whole abnormal line of policy since the Great Leap Forward nine years ago are involved.

Internationally, the immediate dangers are even more manifest. What began as a highly polemical ideological conflict against the leadership and policies of most other socialist countries and Communist Parties has now erupted into ugly incidents. It is evident that, as the internal struggle has increased, the attempt is being made at the moment to deflect popular emotion and anger into a hysterical frenzy of hatred against representatives of the Soviet Union and other socialist countries in a way that can only be regarded as provocative. The menace of this frenzy developing to an open war situation is inescapable.

What will follow? There are already signs that this ruthless offensive has met with such resistance from party organisations, the working class and wide sections of the peasantry, and the excesses have done so much harm to production and to the whole organisation of the socialist state, that an attempt has begun to be made to moderate the offensive and reach towards some kind of possible compromise solution, with moves towards restoration of some of the leaders and elected organs previously under attack.

Events are moving with speed. Anything that is written now is likely to be outdated before it is read. Even for the analysis of the background of the present situation new information may become available revealing more clearly the origins of the struggle and the trends and alignment within the leadership and the party. Nevertheless, it is justifiable and necessary to attempt, even on the basis of the existing limited information, to make some preliminary estimate as has been done here of the causes and issues of the present urgent situation, which can only be of concern to the peoples all over the world.

The present situation of this critical phase through which the Chinese revolution is passing is explosive. It may grow worse before it becomes better.

But there are two considerations which should be borne in mind in endeavouring to reach a judgement.

Socialist China: First, China is a socialist country. During the First Five-Year Plan the foundations of socialism were securely established. Despite all the abstract talk of a ‘decisive struggle’ between ‘socialism’ and ‘capitalism’ in China, there is no sign or indication whatever of the foundation of socialism being abandoned or overthrown. The people will not readily renounce the gains of their revolution, by which they obtained possession of their country from the hands of the landlords and the reactionary capitalists allied with imperialism. But socialism is a tremendous creative force. The advance of the people and of the productive forces which socialism releases can be retarded by ill-considered policies, but cannot be checked. The strength of the present fight of working class and party forces to resist a destructive offensive is the most positive factor in the present grave situation. Experience has shown how socialist revolutions can go through difficult and dangerous phases, but can in the end overcome them and carry forward the advance.

Second, the main responsibility for the present difficulties in China lies, not in the internal situation, but in the international situation, in the criminal aggressive role of United States imperialism. The US imperialists have cut off China from her rightful place in international politics and maintained a permanent war situation. If Chinese representatives had been enabled to occupy their rightful position alongside the Soviet representatives among the five permanent powers on the Security Council in the United Nations, from 1949 to the present day, this would not only have had a far-reaching and beneficial effect on the international situation. It would also have meant that the Chinese representatives would have been under the necessity, in the same way as the Soviet Union, to work out concrete answers to all the manifold issues arising in every aspect of the international situation, in place of eventually turning to back-seat driving and hurling critical abstract formulas from offstage. When the US Defence Secretary MacNamara could casually declare on 26 January 1967: ‘We estimate that a relatively small number of warheads detonated over 50 Chinese urban centres would destroy half of the urban population (more than 50 million people) and more than one-half of the industrial capacity’, it is not surprising that this permanent attitude on the part of the principal power of imperialism should have its effect on the development of the internal situation in China, lead to concentration on the aggression of US imperialism as the all-inclusive issue dominating the entire international horizon, or to suspicion of any advance towards the aim of relaxation of tension with US imperialism as equivalent to capitulation and betrayal. These external factors need always to be in the forefront of attention in considering the recent abnormal phase in the development of the Chinese revolution.

For this reason our international duty, irrespective of any differences on policy or tactical questions with the Chinese leadership within the international Communist movement, is to maintain solidarity with China and the Chinese people and the Chinese revolution against the aggression of US imperialism.

British Communists and China: The British Communist Party has fought on the side of the Chinese revolution from its foundation, and in the early days before victory was won, when such support was less easy. The proof of such support is not merely in words, but in action, including action against British imperialism when it was pursuing its predatory and counter-revolutionary role in China. Tom Mann, veteran of the British working-class movement and Executive member of the British Communist Party in China; the record of George Hardy, foundation member of the Communist Party, conducting work of organisation in Shanghai and Hankow in the most dangerous years between 1927 and 1929 when the Kuomintang butchers were beheading within twenty-four hours every Communist caught; the stand of Harry Pollitt when he faced the assault of the jingoes in Plymouth and Dartmouth at the time of the Amethyst gunboat aggression on the Yangtse — all this is part of the expression of the true friends of China.

While making plain in temperate language its own viewpoint and policy on the various questions raised in the international controversy arising from the polemics launched by the Chinese Communist Party, the British Communist Party has always sought to overcome the rift on a principled basis, and to make the governing aim the restoration of the unity of the international Communist movement.

Despite the present formidable difficulties and dangers, which at the moment show no signs of abating, we maintain our confidence in the future of the great Chinese revolution and the Chinese people, and in the creative forces of a socialist revolution. We are confident that in the final outcome the Chinese Communist Party, at the head of the Chinese working class and people, will solve the present problems and repair the consequences of a temporary abnormal phase. We look forward to the time when China will resume its rightful honoured place in the community of socialist peoples, and the Chinese Communist Party will resume equally its responsible and honoured place in the fraternal unity of the international Communist movement.