Source: International Information Bulletin, Volume 1968 No. 1. Published as a fraternal courtesy to the United Secretariat of the Fourth International by the (US) Socialist Workers Party
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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.
(This is part of the series on the Chinese Cultural Revolution authorized by the IEC at its Spring 1967 meeting)
I regret not being able to attend the Plenum, especially since the Chinese question will undoubtedly be the most important question on the agenda. It is for this reason and my concern about the position to be taken in regard to China that I am writing this letter.
First of all I should like to make a few comments on the statement issued by the United Secretariat, November 6, 1966, “The Internal Crisis in China”.
In general the statement seems to base itself only on a few documents and does not concern itself with the actual development of events. For example, the statement takes the slogan “Politics in Command” as one of its bases, but it does not try to analyse this slogan in the context of the actual situation. It merely accepts this slogan in the abstract and then attempts to generalize from there. The result does not only not correspond to the facts but is absolutely contrary to them.
The truth is that the conflict between the two factions—pro-Mao and anti-Mao—originally emerged from the failures resulting from the Great Leap Forward program which included such things as the People’s Communes, the back-yard furnaces, etc. The conflict was then aggravated by Mao’s policies on literature and art, education, and especially his attitude towards the USSR and the war in Vietnam and his foreign policy as a whole which has led to China’s isolation and to the serious defeat in Indonesia. These are concrete developments on which there have been many articles in our press, but the statement in no way considers these developments. It ignores the facts-and only considers the developments from the abstract point of view, and therefore, it draws the conclusions that the struggle in China has no social basis and is only a struggle between two sections of the bureaucracy, i.e., an “intrabureaucratic struggle”.
In reality each of the factions have ideas which reflect different social bases. I have already described in my interviews to some degree the different ideologies of the two factions as well as has comrade George Novack in several of his articles. If the statement had based itself upon these facts, it would not have been possible for the statement to reach the above conclusion of “intrabureaucratic struggle” nor would it have been possible to take a position of neutralism.
It is stated in the statement, “that one of the most frequent ideological themes advanced by the ruling group is the one dealing with equalitarianism,” but it must be asked, from where or in what documents can one find any appeals against Mao’s opposition on the basis of equalitarianism?
The statement also fails to point out Mao’s actions toward his opposition, such as the slandering of the opposition and not allowing them to state their ideas, the arrests, the imprisonments, the humiliations, the torture, etc. all of which has driven many to commit or attempt to commit suicide. Where do we stand in regard to the use of such methods? The statement does not only not clarify our position, but, on the contrary, it says that Mao has been “more inclined to bureaucratic paternalism than to measures of repression.” Are these not similar actions as those Stalin used against all his opponents? Did not Stalin begin by slandering all oppositions by accusing them of being anti-party, anti-socialist and of being enemies of the people? Did not the Trotskyists criticize the methods Stalin used against Bukharin as well as the Left Opposition? What then is the position of the Fourth International in regard to Mao’s action and methods—“bureaucratic paternalism”?
According to the statement the opposition to Mao is Khrushchevist. As I have clarified in an interview and in the Open Letter, there are two different aspects of Khrushchevism. However, this is in no way explained in the statement. In my opinion, the opposition to Mao agrees very strongly with the de-Stalinization measures carried out by Khrushchev, but I have never seen any evidence that they were in sympathy with Khrushchev’s political revisionism or that they were opposed to the CCP’s struggle against Khrushchev’s political revisionism. It also seems to me to be the exact opposite in the case of Mao himself. He is especially against the de-Stalinization because of his own personal needs of maintaining his own personal dictatorship in the CCP.
The overall position taken by the statement is one of neutralism, and this was affirmed by comrade Livio and comrade Pierre in a meeting of the United Secretariat in March. When Mao uses Stalinist methods, is it possible to take a neutralist position on this question? I have made clear in my two interviews—one which was printed many months before the statement was written—the general positions and ideas of the opposition to Mao, and I showed clearly that it was, in general, more progressive. How is it possible, then, to ignore the facts and to take a position of neutralism?
It should be pointed out that this is not just a neutralist position based upon the acknowledgment of the lack of information and therefore demanding a neutralist position until more information is obtained or until the events make themselves clearer. The statement characterizes both major factions, analyses the struggle between them and then proceeds to take the neutralist position of not being able to support either side.
Moreover, if the ideas expressed in the statement that the struggle is only an “intrabureaucratic struggle” and that the Mao faction has appealed to the masses against bureaucracy using equalitarian slogans are really considered to be true, then it is necessary to ask why the statement did not give critical support to Mao’s faction rather than take a neutralist position? Why did the statement hold back from adopting clearly the logical conclusion of the ideas put forward? The same ideas as those in the statement have been further clarified in more recent articles by comrade Livio and especially by comrade Pierre (for Livio’s articles see W.O. Feb., 3, and March 3, 1967; and for Pierre’s see W.O. March 10, 1967). According to these comrades, the workers in Shanghai intervened as an autonomous social force by going on strike and demanding higher wages as well as other benefits, in response to Mao’s appeals, in response to his equalitarian slogans and in response to the general ideas and goals of Mao’s “cultural revolution”. This, however, in no way corresponds to what actually took place. The Shanghai workers went into motion in response to the appeals by Mao’s opposition, the Shanghai Municipal Party Committee. It was they who organized the workers against Mao’s faction and against Mao’s cultural revolution. It was for this very reason that Mao’s faction accused the Shanghai Municipal Party leaders of “economism,” that is, of corrupting the workers and trying to turn the “cultural revolution” into a reactionary movement. The Maoist faction then proceeded to purge the entire Municipal Party leadership as well as many cadres and immediately brought to an end all the concessions which the opposition had given to the workers. This sequence of events is clearly documented by many articles. (If in the future it seems necessary, we will deal with this question in much greater length and in more detail).
In regard to the recent events, it is felt by some comrades that Mao and the bureaucracy as a whole is retreating in the face of the threat from the independent movement of the working class, and that Mao is searching for a compromise, a solution, to which the opposition itself might also be amenable. But as we have stated above, there has, as of yet, been no real independent movement of the workers.
What characterizes the present situation, if anything, is Mao’s own weakness in relation to the opposition. Mao is very weak mainly because he has no cadres in the party. It was for this reason that he was forced to go outside the party in the first place in order to carry out his purge, and it is for this very same reason that he has depended so heavily on the army from the very beginning. The present situation can best be described by saying that Mao is making a tactical retreat—not a compromise—in order to consolidate his gains, regroup his forces and prepare for another attack. Mao has taken several cities and now he has to try and consolidate his victories. For this he needs cadres, and it is for this reason that he is trying to regroup under his wing some of those cadres represented by Chou En-lai (it must be remembered that I have characterized the group represented by Chou En-lai as a third tendency and not part of the real opposition). Mao’s attitude toward the opposition, however, has in no way changed. The “handful taking the capitalist road” are still denounced with just as much vehemence as before, and the slogan “Seize Power “ is still on the order of the day for the Maoist forces in those places where the opposition remains in power.
The struggle between the two factions is, then, in my opinion, one of life or death. The struggle has deep sociological roots, and it cannot be terminated or compromised so easily. It could take extraordinary circumstances before a compromise could actually become a possibility between the two factions, and this is not at all the present reality.
Finally, the proposals put forward by the statement were only those abstract principles which can be applied to almost all the workers states. It did not deal in any way with the concrete events in China nor advance any proposals concerning them. Such abstract proposals are of no use to the Chinese comrades as far as action is concerned during the present crisis. From the few comments I have made above, I would like to ask the IEC to reevaluate the position taken by the statement and to base themselves in the future on the actual development of the events and not on abstract possibilities, theories and ideas.
My position and ideas as well as those of the Chinese section have been made clear enough in my two interviews and in the Open Letter. It is, therefore, not necessary to repeat them here. We consider the position taken by the statement to be completely wrong and that such a position places the future of Chinese Trotskyism in great danger. Our conclusion is that we must take a position of critical support to the opposition against Mao’s faction and his personal dictatorship.