Marxists Internet Archive

The Sino-Soviet Conflict As A Mirror of the World-Revolutionary Process

Written: June 9, 1963 by J. Posadas
Source: Red Flag Vol. 1, no. 2
Transcription/Markup: David Adams
Copyleft: Internet Archive ( 2003. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

The essential feature of this stage of the Sino-Soviet conflict is that the process is not consciously directed by either the Soviet or Chinese bureaucracies, though it poses conscious objectives. The Soviet bureaucracy is, of the two, the more conscious of its interests. Its conservative historical experience has given it a hypersensitivity and an extraordinary capacity to react. On the other hand, the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party does not act in a conscious or coherent fashion, because it has no programmatic consciousness of the revolution.

The differences between the Chinese and the Soviets are very great and very precise, in spite of the imprecision with which the Chinese express themselves. The Soviet bureaucracy arose as the usurper of the revolution. It did not make the revolution: it only appropriated its benefits. At a definite stage, which Trotsky placed in 1926-1927, the bureaucracy took over the revolution, swallowed it and made use of it. This is Thermidor.

The Chinese bureaucracy, on the other hand, organized, led and developed the revolution. It has constructed the essential basis for the development of socialism in China. It is bureaucratic not by virtue of its conservative interest, but by its bureaucratic manner of governing the country. The Chinese bureaucracy expelled capitalism, but it did not do this with the object of allowing the masses to intervene, to control, to plan, to play a full revolutionary democratic role. From the start the bureaucracy formed the leadership, provided the programme and organized workers' power in China. The masses did not intervene in the formulation of Chinese policy or in the economic plans. They decided neither the policy nor the plan which determined the economic development of China. They participated to a certain extent through the communes, but it is not they who form, decide and control the plan. In this sense we have a bureaucratic leadership which, with bureaucratic - administrative methods, leads the revolution. But this leader-ship does not have the entrenched bases of a bureaucratic body with conservative interests, even if there are elements of these.

The Chinese, by their policy in Korea, made an enormous step in the history of the class war. The Chinese participated directly in Korea; and this has influenced the Chinese themselves. This point will be developed in other articles and in other discussions, but it is clear that the year 1950 played a role of enormous importance in China. This was marked, for ex-ample, by a more resolute attitude than towards Vietnam. China was led into a generally revolutionary foreign policy, not for the conquest of Asia, but for the expansion of the revolution in Asia.

The communes originated in 1936. as attested in the famous report of Mao Tse-Tung on agrarian relations in Yenan. Already in 1936 the communes existed in strength. The communes were not therefore destined, in 1958, only to raise agricultural production. They were the expression of the objective needs of the revolutionary society, of the economic plan and of the need for the Chinese to overcome their economic backwardness, leaping decades, so to speak. Such measures inevitably influenced the consciousness of the leadership when it was neither fully bureaucratic nor conservative, when it did not have more or less consciously conservative interests.

The impossibility of access to the outside world—unlike the Soviet Union —non-participation in UNO, the impossibility for imperialism to co-exist with the Chinese, have all obliged and forced the Chinese to adopt the revolutionary way out of the cul-de-sac of peaceful co-existence and competition with imperialism.

The Chinese leadership holds the door open for its own evolution. The lack of inner-political life fetters this evolution, prevents it from receiving all the force. all the pressure of the objective developments of the Chinese revolution and of the world colonial revolution.

The fight between the Chinese and the Soviets took different forms over the years. The conflicts have existed since the formation of the CCP. They are not new. The Communist. Inter-national was already seeking to dominate and domesticate the CCP. There were big incidents. discussions and polemics in the CL The first big crisis took place in 1927 with the policy of submission to Chiang Kai-Shek. This was the first defeat of the Chinese revolution. There were later crises: at the time of the "Third Period" in the Communist International, then during the period of the policy of submission to the "National Front" (colonial variant of the "Popular Front" in Europe).

Another major crisis was that of 194.6, when Stalin wanted to make the CCP re-submit to Chiang Kai-Shek. The resistance of die Chinese showed that the leadership was not bureaucratic and that, from the bureaucratic point of view; the necessary conditions for such a policy were lacking. Further resistance developed over Korea, and this was when the open collision began. It did not show itself in the Vietnam crisis, as there was not the necessary struggle, but over Korea the two lines—ill-defined and scarcely conscious as they were— came into conflict: the line of the Chinese, who stressed the colonial revolution even at cost to themselves because they could actually provoke the intervention of Yankee imperialism, and that of the Soviet bureaucracy, which in defending its own conservative interests prevented the complete victory of the Koreans by failing to send them aircraft.


All the Chinese documents, from those of Mao Tse-Tung and Liu Shao-Chi downwards, are confused and contain opportunist positions. Indeed these are often atrociously opportunist: they say, for example, "we must educate the bourgeoisie." In 1959 they decide —in a country where power has already been taken—to "educate the bourgeoisie," to win over certain of its sectors and to give them a voice in the government. They combined this policy with the formation of a front for national liberation in the country, subordinating all the interests of the Party to those of the "nation"; but, in contrast to the Soviet CP, they asserted the class struggle on a national scale.

For a whole period the European workers' states have been subordinated to the interests of the Soviet Union. The pillage carried out in Germany and Czechoslovakia comes immediately to mind. In China it was not the same, due to the existence of a powerful Communist Party having a real base and support among the population which other Parties, who relied on the support of the Red Army, did not have. In China the Communist Party itself took power, and this was the foundation which enabled it to have sufficient confidence to defend Chinese economic interests in the face of Soviet bureaucracy. This in turn resulted in the development of a national revolutionary consciousness. But the weakness of this development explains its slow and tortuous course, and the reasons why the Marxist understanding of the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party is so confused and full of contradictions.


The development of the colonial revolution, of the workers' states, the struggle of the masses in Europe, are real stages in the process of the proletarian revolution. The establishment of new workers' states—Korea, Vietnam and, very shortly, Laos and Burma—the influence of the Chinese Communist Party, in Asia, the establishment of the Cuban workers' state: all these events have created a world-historical base much more favourable to the Chinese Party than to the Soviet bureaucracy. They have given the Chinese Communist Party greater security and confidence. It Is remarkable to see how, as the colonial revolution develops, the Chinese workers' state gathers strength economically. The Communist Party leadership, although in a bureaucratic way, is starting to inquire seriously into, and to write about, theoretical problems.

It is only since 1960 that the Chinese have decided to raise fully all the fundamental questions of this epoch. Their formulations are contradictory. Thus, from their pronouncements, it is possible to avoid war, but it is not possible to prevent the taking of power in whatever country is ripe for it. They admit the possibility of peaceful co-existence between states, but not between classes. But if co-existence between states, between different regimes is possible, then co-existence between classes is possible, because the workers' states represent the world interests of the working class, of the new social regime. If world capitalism can co-exist pacifically until the historical solution expressed through economic competition, why cannot this be achieved on the domestic, internal scene?


The Chinese criticism of Togliatti and Thorez is the following: “We are in agreement with peaceful co-existence; we champion it. We were the first to introduce it. We are in agreement that it is possible to prevent the war; we are the champions of this policy. But co-existence to hinder war is one thing; quite another is co-existence between classes. While we champion the cause of tying the hands of imperialism to prevent the unleashing of war, we say the colonial people should take power. If imperialism replies by unleashing war against the seizure of power by the masses, we say that the duty of the workers' states is to support the colonial revolution against imperialism. The war will be the end of imperialism, not the end of humanity." This is a revolutionary conclusion stemming from opportunist and reformist arguments.

The conciliationism of the Soviet bureaucracy, on the other hand, stems from the intensely conservative interests of this bureaucracy. The Soviet bureaucracy upholds the view that it is possible to avoid the war. And to avoid the war it is necessary to have a policy which will not provoke war. Consequently power cannot be taken in any country by violent means: it must be taken peacefully.

Also, it is necessary to establish a programme for 100, 200 or 300 years —the bureaucracy hopes to live this long—of peacefulness. To work daily, to demonstrate that socialism is economically right, that it is overtaking capitalism, means that the masses will see that socialism is better, that capitalism is incapable, and they will go towards socialism.

The Chinese say to Togliatti: "You argue that a reform of structures is necessary in Italy to develop the Italian economy and world commerce so that the Italian masses benefit from this. But obviously that interests Italian imperialism, because the development of commerce and the economy in Italy will not be in favour of the workers, but of imperialism: The masses will only endure greater exploitation and the preparations for war of Italian capitalism. In consequence Comrade Togliatti speaks in the name and in the interests of Italian capitalism."


This sharpening in the attitude of the Chinese does not reflect political life within China, because in that country there is no political life. There are discussions with leaders of state, kings, princes; But there is no sign of specific meetings for workers in the factories to discuss politics; there is no sign of political assembly or discussion in which the masses can intervene. All the resolutions come from the apparatus. Why, then, this attitude of the Chinese? What has brought them to the correct understanding, to a correct conclusion? Without question the advance of the colonial revolution has provided the objective base for their conclusions. But the source of their political comprehension is directly the Fourth International. It is we who have in great measure influenced the Chinese, who have provided the ammunition.

The Chinese say that Lenin argued: "To pursue peace Is our fundamental policy." Where did Lenin say that? Lenin was a revolutionist, who thought in concrete dialectical terms. Lenin certainly said "Peace is our policy" when there was no other policy than to make peace; but he added: "We cannot make war now because we lack the strength. The workers' state is exhausted, the world revolution has been arrested. They are stronger than we. Peace is preferable. Let us make peace." And Lenin as a good revolutionist said: "Messrs. imperialists, we de-sire peace" in the same way as when, in a strike, the workers, when they see that there is no point in continuing, but in order to preserve their positions, say to the capitalists: "Let us negotiate." Lenin was neither opportunist nor conciliator. He was a revolutionist who realized it was necessary now to extend the revolution, to reinforce the workers' state. Lenin posed the view: "We make peace while we prepare for the revolution, because our peace is an armed peace: it is the appeal to the revolution and to the development of the world revolution, because at this moment we cannot attack world capitalism."


Thus the Chinese, like Stalin, like Khrushchov, deceive their audience and the world working class when they suggest that Lenin said "Our policy is peace, and the essential policy of the Soviet Union is co-existence with the capitalist states." Lenin and Trotsky said: "Peace here and now is convenient to us." Under these conditions they looked for the best way of profiting from the contradictions of world capitalism, a revolutionary diplomacy oriented totally from the point of view of reinforcing the workers' state and developing the world revolution.

The differences with the Communist Party of the Soviet Union are irreversible. The struggle of the Chinese against the Soviet bureaucracy is of the profoundest significance and historically irreversible. Discussions can no longer paper the cracks. The documents show the abyss which divides them. The Chinese have drawn the basic revolutionary conclusions—revolution is essential, it is necessary to construct the revolutionary Party, the state cannot be reformed but must be smashed and replaced altogether by proletarian power, the Party must prepare the class to take power and not put forward phoney schemes for partial reform of capitalism. Hence they conclude, if to take power means war, war will come; it will not be the end of humanity but the end of capitalism. And they cite a phrase integral to our documents: "The decisive factor in history at our stage is not arms but the masses." The Cubans say to us: "How you insist on the masses!" The Chinese, like ourselves, insist on the role of the masses and see them as the determining factor in history. Thus, they point out, have said Marx, Engels and Lenin—we also claim Trotsky—it is not arms which determines the course of history but the revolutionary will of the masses; this is the most powerful arm in the creative process of history.


The masses cannot be destroyed. Nuclear war will be a terrible devastation of humanity, but it will not destroy humanity. Capitalism will be crushed because the war is the revolution immediately. All these ideas are our ideas, our conclusions, our analysis. When the Chinese deal with the Indian CP leadership they criticize it according to our methods and in our sense. Our articles on Italy and France described the policy of Togliatti. They exposed his opportunist policy of reforming the state, demonstrated the fact that there is no policy of economic development in Italy capable of containing the masses, that Italian imperialism cannot in any way accept the intervention or inclusion of the Communist Party in the government, seeing that what determines the Italian bourgeoisie is not the Italian economy but the preparation, allied to that of world imperialism, for the final settlement of accounts.

On proletarian internationalism, the Chinese are advancing towards our line. They show beyond all doubt imperialism's preparation for war: "It is possible to prevent the unleashing of war." But when a colonial country struggles for power "we must support it with all our forces, and it is the first task of the socialist states to support it by every means: arms, money, the lot. . ." If this intervention by fraternal solidarity unleashes war from the side of imperialism, imperialism will perish. These are our conclusions. which the Chinese also draw.


It is the need of the Chinese revolution to develop which is now determining the policy and will determine, with the pace, progress and heightening of the world revolution, the struggle for power: the essence of the revolutionary struggle at this stage.

The Fourth International will develop itself in this struggle. This it is doing in relation to Peronism in Argentina, as it is doing it in relation to the revolutionary crisis in the communist movement, aiding the development of a revolutionary tendency among the Chinese, towards the construction of a new, mass Communist International. Such is the future of the International. And already the International reveals all its strength, all its influence, in the position adopted by the Chinese.

The Soviet bureaucracy tries to defend itself. It brought Fidel Castro to the Soviet Union and kept him there more than a month to extract from him a declaration in favour of the Soviet bureaucracy and against the Chinese. To be sure, Castro's final agreement contained concessions to the Soviets, but these concessions were along the line of his own concept already expressed in the Second Declaration of Havana and with his previous positions in general.


The Soviets in fact lost out, because he extorted from them a very important concession: that each country will determine its own line of political development, which runs contrary to the essential political line of the Soviets: co-existence. And if the Cuban revolution has such influence and such force, that is not because its economy is revealed as superior to that of the Soviet Union, nor because its economic strength is a bastion, but because its social importance has a great influence on the whole communist world. Like all bureaucrats who think that the apparatus decides everything, Khrushchov thought that the voyage of Fidel Castro would decide. everything. Really, Khrushchov has gained little from it. But the mere fact of his having to canvass Castro's support shows Khrushchov's weakness: otherwise, he wants to not depend on Castro. But the masses of the world, of the Soviet Union itself and of the Communist Parties, see his weakness.

It is necessary to see the discussion in July as a stage opening subsequent struggles more violent and more serious, which will decide the ultimate course, on a global scale, of the political revolution.

(The above text has been extracted from the text of the report by Comrade Posadas to an extended Central Committee meeting of the Revolutionary Workers’ Party (Trotskyist) of Argentina on June 9, 1963.)