Peng Shuzi


Written: 1967
Source: World Outlook, March 24, 1967
Transcription/HTML Markup: Andy Pollack
Public Domain: Peng Shuzi Internet Archive 2005. This work is completely free to copy and distribute. Please cite the Marxists Internet’s Peng Shuzi Internet Archive if the contents herein are reproduced.

Dear Comrades,

In May 1966, in the Liberation Army Daily, the chairman of your party, Mao Tse-tung, launched the so-called Cultural Revolution. Since then, and especially since the organization of the Red Guards in August 1966, a storm has arisen over China, and a series of extraordinary events have taken place which have greatly shocked some of the most devoted friends and supporters of the Chinese revolution. In particular, these events have included such things as the dismissal, arrest, and imprisonment of top leaders in your party and government like P'eng Chen, Lu Ting-i, and Lo Jui-ch'ing, without any recourse to the laws of the state or the regulations of the party. These same people have also been so insulted and abused, and even humiliated by being paraded through the streets by the Red Guards, that some of them have attempted suicide. Hundreds of other well-known leaders and cadres in the cultural and educational fields, such as Chou Yang, Wu Han, Teng T'o, T'ien Han, Hsia Yen, Yang Han-sheng, Li Ta, Lu P'ing, Kuang Ya-ming, P'eng Kang, etc., have been purged. Even Liu Shao-ch'i, a vice-chairman of the party and president of the People's Republic of China, and Teng Hsiao-p'ing, the general secretary of the party, have been openly attacked by the Red Guards and obliged to make self-criticisms. Moreover, in recent weeks, Mao Tse-tung has used the army to take over the government and party apparatuses in certain provincial capitals such as Taiyuan in Shansi, Nanchang in Kiangsi, and Hofei in Anhwei.

All these events taken together demonstrate that your party not only finds itself in the grave crisis of an open split, but that the country itself could be on the brink of a civil war. If this situation is not corrected in time, the outcome will be catastrophic and socialist China will be led into an impasse. For the sake of the perspectives of socialism in China, the fundamental interests of the workers and peasants, and the fate of thousands of militants inside and outside the party, I can no longer remain silent. Therefore, I am addressing this letter to you in order to express my views on the crisis in the party, and to offer my ideas on how that crisis can be resolved.

First of all I would like to ask you to notice that all the top leaders of the party, as well as the leading cadres in the cultural and educational fields, have been purged or attacked for the “crime” of being “antiparty,” “antisocialist,” and opposed to “Mao Tse-tung Thought,” and they have been accused of being “capitalist restorationists” and of “taking the capitalist road.” But, one must demand, what evidence is there to support such extreme charges as being “antisocialist” and “taking the capitalist road” We must say that absolutely no such evidence has been offered, and that these charges are very clearly nothing but a frame-up. They are similar to the ones Stalin employed thirty years ago when he eliminated his political opponents by accusing them of being “enemies of the people.”

As far as I am concerned, I am not in agreement with the fundamental political positions and organizational methods of those leaders of your party who have been purged. Nevertheless, I feel that these leaders cannot be accused of being antisocialist, nor are they taking the bourgeois road and trying to restore capitalism.

I am personally acquainted with Liu Shao-ch'i. I know him very well since I was a co-worker with him in the party from 1920 to 1927. Since he joined the Communist movement in the autumn of 1920, he has actively and wholeheartedly participated in revolutionary activities. After the defeat of the second Chinese revolution, our ways parted politically (Liu supported the position of Stalin, while I turned in the direction of Trotsky). However, at that time I still considered him to be a revolutionary. As far as your party is concerned, Liu has made a very great contribution. During the “White Terror” of Chiang Kai-shek, he worked in the underground under very difficult and dangerous circumstances in order to overthrow Chiang Kai-shek's bourgeois regime and to put China on the road to socialism. It is absurd and absolutely impossible to believe that such a person as Liu Shao-ch'i, who enjoys the high post of head 6f state, would, seventeen years after the victory of the revolution, now turn against socialism and work for the restoration of capitalism.

Teng Hsiao-p'ing, P'eng Chen, Lu Ting-i, Lo Jui-ch'ing, and others, in the cultural and educational fields—who all have a history similar to that of Liu Shao-ch'i—have also been labeled “antisocialist” and accused of “taking the capitalist road.” Such absurd accusations can only be described as slanderous. Are these not almost the same accusations as those used by Stalin when he accused Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, and their supporters of being “capitalist restorationists” and “enemies of the people” How could such base and absurd slanders find their way into your party? This is the central question that now confronts you, and which you must try to understand and resolve.

Your party refers to itself as “Marxist-Leninist,” and has stated in its statutes that it bases itself on democratic centralism. But as you know only too well, in reality there is no democracy in your party, but only a bureaucratic centralism in which the power is centered in the hands of the party's chairman, Mao Tse-tung. All the important decisions taken by the party are arbitrarily decided by Mao Tse-tung himself, and the party must accept them as being infallible. If anyone did not agree with or criticized Mao's opinions, he would be accused of being “antiparty,” “antisocialist,” and “anti-Mao Tse-tung Thought,” and would almost certainly be purged. These procedures, which violate democratic centralism, are the source of the grave crisis in which your party presently finds itself.

If your party actually operated on the basis of democratic centralism, such slanders would be impossible. The method of democratic centralism practiced by the Bolsheviks placed all important questions before the entire membership, and allowed them to freely present their own ideas and to criticize anyone's position, including that of the top leaders. The final decisions were taken at the party congresses, and it was after these decisions that the party became united. The minority had to obey the majority decision, although it had a right to maintain its ideas, and to ask the party, at any time it felt necessary, to reconsider them. The minority was at no time punished for its ideas. This, then, was the democratic centralism instituted by the Bolsheviks under the leadership of Lenin.

During the period of Lenin's leadership of the Soviet party and government, the congresses of the party were held each year, and emergency congresses were even called when urgent and important issues arose. It is only by such practices that the opinions of the rank and file can find expression. This is the embodiment of democratic centralism.

In the Soviet party, then, all important issues, such as the Brest-Litovsk Treaty and the New Economic Policy, were decided upon only after a full and free discussion. After the decisions were taken, the minorities were able to maintain their political position. It was only mandatory that they unite with the rest of the party to help carry out the majority decisions. The leaders of the minorities, such as Bukharin and Radek, who continued to maintain their minority position concerning the Brest-Litovsk Treaty, were not only not punished, but they retained their official posts in the party and in the government. This is a concrete example of democratic centralism in practice.

After the death of Lenin, Stalin usurped the leadership of the party and turned the democratic centralism practiced by the Bolsheviks into bureaucratic centralism without democracy. He took all the power into his own hands and made himself into a dictator. Under these conditions, all the important issues concerning the party and state were arbitrarily decided by Stalin himself, and as a result, neither free discussion within the party nor regular scheduled party congresses were any longer necessary. (After the Sixteenth Congress, when Stalin established his rule, there were only three congresses of the party until his death in 1953—a period of twenty-three years.) Those who did not agree with Stalin and criticized him were purged as being “rightist,” “antiparty,” and “enemies of the people.” It was for this reason that the entire generation of the Old Bolsheviks, as well as numerous newer, young revolutionaries, were liquidated under Stalin's dictatorship.

Since your party took power in 1949, none of the important questions has been decided upon at a party congress following a democratic discussion. For example, the “Great Leap Forward” policy—especially the People's Communes, involving the lives of 500 million peasants—and the current “Proletarian Cultural Revolution” policy, were never democratically discussed by the party or decided upon by a party congress, nor were they even discussed and decided upon by your Central Committee. These and all other important questions have been decided by your party's chairman, Mao Tse-tung, and he has merely given the party orders to carry them out. The Central Committee of your party only meets to ratify Mao's decisions, often after they are already being carried out. For example, Mao Tse-tung arbitrarily instituted the People's Communes in the beginning of August 1958, and then an enlarged meeting of the Political Bureau at the end of August 1958 had to ratify his decision. And again in May 1966, Mao organized the “Cultural Revolution,” and it was not until August 1966 that the plenum of the Central Committee, which adopted the resolution on the “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution,” took place.

During the seventeen years that your party has been in power, there has only been one party congress—the Eighth Congress in 1956. Therefore, the conditions of your party resemble those of the Soviet party under Stalin, if in fact they do not duplicate them. Hence, if your party continues in the same way, it will engage in a purge comparable to the one carried out by Stalin in the 1930s. The present purge of P'eng Chen, Lu Ting-i, Lo Jui-ch'ing, and the others is only a prelude to a much greater tragedy.

The most serious and dangerous condition which has so far presented itself is your Chairman Mao's ordering the army to intervene in the struggle taking place inside the party. He has used the army, as well as the Red Guards, in order to take over, step by step, the offices and administrative powers of the party and state throughout the country, in order to establish his Bonapartist military dictatorship. By doing this he has ignored and violated all laws (these are laws which were initiated and passed by your party and government). Mao has gone beyond the actions of Stalin. This situation will inevitably lead to a large-scale civil war if it is not countered in time.

As you already know, the Mao-Lin Piao faction is a very small minority among the rank and file of the party. Except for Peking and the capitals of Kwangtung, Shansi, Kiangsi, Anhwei, and Heilungkiang provinces, where the Maoist forces claim they have control—even in these places the Maoist forces have had to depend upon the army and the Red Guards for their power—the rest of the country remains under the control of the opposition or neutralist elements. If Mao Tse-tung continues to insist upon occupying the rest of the country, he will undoubtedly meet strong resistance from the opposition and neutralist elements, who will be forced to unite to protect themselves in many areas, and especially in the Southwest, Northwest, and in Inner Mongolia; in such an event, a great civil war will be unavoidable. Who can say what amount of economic destruction would take place in the event of a civil war, or how much suffering it would bring to the people, and how many would meet their death? It is impossible to say. Yet, there is one thing which can be predicted: a civil war would set China back many years, her energy would be exhausted, and the cause of socialism would receive a very, very damaging blow. There is even a strong possibility that American imperialism would be influenced to take this opportunity to strike. In the event of such developments it is impossible to predict what the fate of China would be.

My dear comrades, the present situation is so serious that not only is your party endangered, but the fate of socialist China itself is at stake. The time has come for you to rise up and begin to struggle.

It is claimed that your party has around twenty million members, and the youth organization around thirty million. The party is unique because of its huge mass membership, and because of the real and potential power it possesses compared to all other forces in China. With such masses and power, any and almost all obstacles should be easily overcome. Except for a minority of corrupt bureaucrats, case-hardened Stalinists, and Maoists, I believe that the majority of the party is made up of militants who are loyal to socialism and concerned that China remain on the socialist road, and who are willing to sacrifice themselves in the interest of the worker and peasant masses. Therefore, I would like to put forward the following proposals as a means to overcome the present critical situation.


You must immediately make an appeal to the whole party and its youth, calling on them to intervene with practical action. First you must demand that your chairman, Mao Tse-tung, comply with the following measures:

1. Immediately stop using the army to remove the party and government officials throughout the country. The leadership of the party must be elected by the members of the party through democratic procedures. As regards the government, it should be democratically elected by Soviets (councils) of the workers, peasants, and soldiers.

2. Immediately dissolve the Red Guards, because the majority of them are completely controlled by Ch'en Po-ta (Mao's ex- secretary) and Chiang Ch'ing (Mao's wife) through the Cultural Revolution Group, and because they have been used as an instrument to slander and physically attack the opposition. Their activities have been contrary to democratic procedures, and are hence reactionary.

3. Immediately release all the party opposition leaders and cadres who have recently been arrested and imprisoned, and restore them to their original positions. At the same time, release all those political prisoners who have been arrested in the past and who believe in socialism, and let them freely express their opinions and participate in political activities.

4. All the organs of the party, as well as other journals and radio broadcasts, must immediately stop their slanders against the oppositions—the use of such epithets as “antiparty,” “antisocialist,” and “capitalist restorationist”—and stop the absurd propaganda relating to Mao's personal cult. Substitute in their place the actual political positions of the different tendencies, and launch a public discussion on all important questions.

5. Immediately establish a consulting committee made up of representatives of all the different tendencies in the party. Its task should be to prepare a party congress and to launch a democratic discussion inside the party on all the essential questions on which differences have arisen, such as the failure of the People's Communes and the “Great Leap Forward”; the different ideas on literature, art, and education; the personal cult of Mao Tse-tung; democratic centralism in a Bolshevik party; the reasons for the tragic defeat of the CP in Indonesia; and especially the question of a united front with the other socialist countries to oppose U.S. imperialism in Vietnam. The many different tendencies should be allowed to express their opinions and submit their resolutions on the issues stated above, and then a final decision should be adopted at the party congress.

These proposed measures, if carried out, would make it possible to avoid a civil war, and would restore peace.


If Chairman Mao fails to comply with the measures outlined above, it would demonstrate that he has absolutely no respect for your opinions, and that by using the Red Guards and the army he is bent on taking the power and destroying any and all opposition in the party and government in order to establish his own Bonapartist military dictatorship. This, then, will inevitably lead to a civil war which could lead socialist China into a blind alley.

In such circumstances, you not only have the full right but a duty to split with him and openly appeal to the worker, soldier, and peasant masses, calling on them to struggle in defense of the socialist conquests and for the reunification of the country, that is, to transform the present factional struggle into a revolutionary struggle against bureaucratic dictatorship.

As a program in this struggle, I urge you to consider the following proposals:

1. It is absolutely necessary to defend the conquests of the revolution and the socialist property relations, and to resolutely attack all attempts at capitalist restoration led by the remaining bourgeois elements, rich farmers, and corrupt bureaucrats who might try to take advantage of the present situation. The payment of interest to the remaining capitalists must be stopped, and they must be removed from their high positions in the factories, etc.

2. It is necessary to form a united front with all socialist- minded groupings in order to do away with the dictatorship by one faction or by one party. At the present time your party is divided into two uncompromising factions—pro-Mao and anti- Mao—but in reality it is already split into two parties. In addition to this, there are several tendencies in the opposition. There are also many revolutionaries who are outside the party, such as those people who were expelled after the crackdown on the “Hundred Flowers” movement. All these revolutionary “tendencies must be allowed to form their own independent party or grouping, and every group or party claiming to be fighting for socialism must be allowed to present its political position and program in an attempt to win the support of the masses. These different socialist groupings and parties must then unite in one common front to oppose the Mao-Lin Piao faction and prevent it from establishing a Bonapartist military dictatorship—thereby preventing a tragedy similar to that of Stalin's purges in the 1930s—and in order to establish a truly democratic socialist regime.

3. To establish a democratic socialist regime, it is necessary to work among the worker and peasant masses, to call on them to struggle, to encourage them to form Soviets and elect their soviet representatives by secret ballot, and to form a government based on Soviets, in place of the present government which obtained power by fraudulent elections. The organization of Soviets is not only one of the best ways to mobilize the masses for struggle, but it is the only type of structure that can lead to a democratic socialist government.

4. The present militias must be expanded and reorganized, and their commanders elected through secret ballot by those who belong to the militias. This organization must take the place of the public and secret police in maintaining social order, and if necessary, it should be used to defend the democratic socialist government against its enemies.

5. Workers' committees must be democratically formed by secret ballot in every factory and mine in order to direct production in cooperation with the technicians, and administrative committees must be formed in every commune, through the same democratic methods, in order to manage production and distribution. As for the communes themselves being reorganized, this question should be resolved only after a complete and thorough discussion among the whole peasantry.

6. It is necessary to improve the living standards of the masses by such means as increasing wages and cutting working hours for the workers, and increasing the incomes of the peasants while doing away with their excessive work loads. Improving the material benefits of the working masses and developing their initiative through democratic procedures is the only way to increase production and to mobilize the masses for struggle. At the present time, Mao's faction considers any material improvement for the masses to be “economism.” This only reflects the psychology of those in the top bureaucratic layer who themselves enjoy privileges, including luxurious material benefits.

7. In the history of China, the antagonisms between national minorities have led to many civil wars. Resolving the question of the national minorities, therefore, has become a very important factor in unifying the nation and stabilizing society as a whole. In 1922 the Chinese Communist Party decided to acknowledge the right of self-determination of the national minorities, which meant they had the right to establish their own independent government in such places as Tibet, Inner Mongolia, and the Muslim community in Sinkiang. This decision was taken in order to win the sincere collaboration of the national minorities and to unify the nation on the basis of equality.

Since your party took power in 1949, it has yet to solve the problem of the national minorities on the principles practiced by Lenin. Formally the party has established the autonomous regions of Tibet and Inner Mongolia, yet, in practice the national minorities are still ruled in the tradition of the great Han race, and they have never enjoyed the right of self-determination, let alone the right to establish their own independent government. It is for this reason that old antagonisms still lie just beneath the surface and could possibly foment a crisis of still another civil war. Already in the present crisis of the party, the problem of the national minorities has again erupted.

To unify the nation, then, it is absolutely necessary to acknowledge, both in word and deed, the right of the national minorities to form their own independent parties and governments in Tibet, Inner Mongolia, and among the Muslims in Sinkiang. Only in this way will it be possible to win the sincere collaboration of the national minorities, and to form a Soviet Union of China, that is to accomplish the socialist unification of the nation. It is imperative, then, that the recognition of self-determination for the national minorities be an important point in any socialist program.

8. It is necessary to adopt a revolutionary foreign policy, and in order to do this, it is necessary to draw the lessons of the tragic defeat in Indonesia. As you have all personally witnessed, the leader of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), D. N. Aidit, visited China several times, and each time he talked with Chairman Mao. Aidit also made several speeches in which he supported the NASAKOM of President Sukarno. These speeches were reprinted in the People's Daily, the organ of your party, not only without criticism, but even with much praise; the Indonesian CP was held up as a great Marxist-Leninist party, and D. N. Aidit as its great revolutionary leader. Mao encouraged the PKI to lend its support to Sukarno in order that Mao himself might win Sukarno for his own diplomatic interests. He also encouraged Aidit to practice the same revisionist policies of Khrushchev in order to win Aidit to his side in the dispute with Khrushchev. The result of these policies was the great October tragedy in which the blood of hundreds of thousands of Indonesian Communist militants, workers, and peasants was spilled. This gigantic defeat has dealt a serious blow to your party and to the cause of socialism in China and all of Asia.

The tragedy of the PKI is a repetition of the disastrous setback dealt to the Chinese revolution in the years 1925-27. Mao's encouragement of the PKI's support of NASAKOM—support which was the very reason for the defeat of the PKI—echoes the way Stalin forced the Chinese CP in the 1920s to support Chiang Kai-shek and his continuation of the “Three People's Principles,” the program of Sun Yat-sen. The only difference is that the defeat in Indonesia was a still greater calamity. From this we have to learn an important lesson: the policy of class collaboration, embodied in the theory that a bloc of four classes—working class, peasantry, petty bourgeoisie, 'and national bourgeoisie—is required to carry out a national democratic revolution before coming to the stage of a socialist revolution, is a policy which dooms the revolution to a catastrophic defeat. This lesson must be clearly presented in any program seeking to promote the world revolution, especially in the backward countries of the world.

9. At present, Chairman Mao Tse-tung accuses all his opponents of being Khrushchevists, that is, modern revisionists, and this has caused considerable confusion in the party. Mao has even said that there can be no unity with the Khrushchevists, and has in practice tried to break off all relations with the USSR. Therefore, it is necessary to clarify the question of Khrushchevism.

First of all one must define Khrushchevism. In general, there are two different aspects of Khrushchevism. One is the political revisionism, i.e., the policy of peaceful coexistence between socialist countries and capitalist countries, and the perspective of a peaceful transition to socialism. This is, of course, complete opportunism, and must be rejected and exposed. The other aspect is de-Stalinization, i.e., the partial repudiation of Stalin's personal cult, and the partial exposing of his personal dictatorship and horrendous crimes. However limited the de-Stalinization has been, it is nonetheless progressive, and must be supported with the necessary criticisms of its inadequacies.

Mao lumps both of these two quite different aspects together, attacking them both as “revisionist.” It is even being said in official party publications that under the leadership of Khrushchev the Soviet Union is becoming a capitalist state. This is absolutely absurd, because the socialist property relations remain intact. One must differentiate between the socialist property relations and the bureaucratic political dictatorship. Every Marxist must defend the former against the latter;

Mao's own political policies have not differed much from those of Khrushchev, as the Indonesian affair demonstrates. Consequently, when Mao speaks against revisionism, he is for the most part attacking de-Stalinization, and he attacks de-Stalinization in order to maintain his own personal dictatorship and cult.

As far as the relationship between the socialist countries is concerned, it must be pointed out that the ideological struggle must not interfere at the state level nor interrupt the advancement of the country by hindering such things as commerce, military aid, etc., despite the fact that the ideological struggle must still be carried on against the revisionists.

10. Since U.S. imperialism began its systematic escalation of the war in Vietnam and its savage bombing of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, it has inflicted immense suffering upon the people. Not only has the Vietnamese war of resistance been endangered, but China herself is being threatened, and there is even a possibility of a nuclear war. The only way these perils can be overcome is for the socialist countries to unite in a common front to oppose the aggressive might of U.S. imperialism. However, Chairman Mao has refused to join in any united front, under the pretext of opposing revisionism. Objectively, such a sectarian position only helps U.S. imperialism in the end. It is absolutely clear that the Soviet bureaucracy, with its line of peaceful coexistence, is not resolved to help the Vietnamese people win their struggle against imperialism. On the other hand, because of the pressures from the people of the USSR and the other socialist countries, the Soviet bureaucracy has been forced to take certain steps to aid the Vietnamese people, and even to adopt the position of agreeing to a united front with the other socialist countries. China has no alternative but to accept the united front proposals, and to join in common action with the other workers' states to oppose U.S. imperialism in Vietnam.

Should the Soviet bureaucracy then reject the united front, they would expose themselves before the whole world as insincere. If they accepted the united front but then sabotaged it in practice, it would be much easier to expose them and their treacherous policies. The possibility of such an exposure might be enough to prevent them from even attempting such sabotage. The result would be to enormously strengthen the Vietnamese people. For these reasons, it is necessary to counter Mao's sectarian policy with the policy of joining in a united front so that the Vietnamese people can carry their struggle forward to victory.

The program outlined above can be condensed into the following slogans:

Struggle against the restoration of capitalism and defend socialist property relations.

Down with the personal cult and dictatorship of Mao, and establish a democratic socialist regime.

Advance the world revolution by replacing all class-collaborationist policies with revolutionary Marxism.

A united front with the socialist countries and all revolutionary and democratic-minded forces to defend the Vietnamese revolution.

February 15, 1967


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