First Published: The Worker, Vol 11, No 13, August, 1979
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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Conclusion of the critique of the US Progressive Labor Party’s general line, Road to Revolution III (RTR III)
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The PL anarchists agree with the Maoists that the so-called Cultural Revolution was the greatest revolution in history, the farthest step yet reached for mankind, a revolution under conditions of the dictatorship of the proletariat to prevent capitalist restoration, a new ideological and cultural breakthrough for the working class, etc.
But in fact, the cultural revolution was none of these. The “cultural revolution” was a retrograde step, a vicious factional fight that finally tore apart the already faction-ridden Chinese Communist Party in an unprincipled power struggle. Its so-called cultural aspect was actually anti-cultural, xenophobic, super-nationalist and just plain ignorant on a scale last seen in Nazi Germany. Ideologically the “cultural revolution” was a farce, reducing the great science of Marxism-Leninism to a set of simplistic slogans, arithmetic formulations or petty aphoricms worthy of a backward religious cult. Even Mao-Tse-Tung’s writings, none too profound to begin with, were reduced beyond recognition to simple-minded proverbs. None of the leading factions involved had a deep commitment to socialism or to world revolution. And the working class, far from being in the vanguard of this “proletarian revolution” were more often the victims of assaults by various anarchistic elements. China’s economy, education and culture were so set back by this chaotic orgy that the subsequent leaders now have to go into hock to U.S. imperialism to organize some sort of recovery.
RTR III divided up the forces into Right, Left and Center camps. The Right consisted of Liu-Shao-Chi and other factions that opposed Mao. The Center was Mao, the “Gang of Four,” Lin Piao and other similarly oriented factions. PL could not identify any persons or organizations in the “Left” except for some Red Guard factions vaguely alluded to in CIA or Kuomingtang publications. Most probably however, there were no organized forces in China that fit PL’s description of “Left.” Thus, PL was forced to identify the “Left” by policies that PL approved of. In particular PLP identified three policies as representative of the “genuine Left:”
1. The policy of preventing Soviet arms from reaching Vietnam by derailing the munitions trains and seizing the weapons.
2. Refusal to go along with Mao’s “centrist” idea of carrying on production at the same time as making the revolution.
3. The belief that 90% of the CCP cadre were rotten and must stand aside.
It is not difficult to see why PLP hailed the policy of halting Soviet arms shipments to Vietnam. But is impossible to imagine a genuine Left group choosing this means of arms procurement. At this very same time the Vietnamese were fighting the big battles that culminated in the Tet Offensive. Even Soviet weapons could kill U.S. troops, and for someone to unilaterly decide that the Vietnamese front-line fighters shouldn’t use these weapons aided only the U.S. imperialists and did absolutely nothing to fight revisionism in China, Vietnam or in the USSR.
To stop all production for any length of time in order to carry on this factional struggle could only hurt workers and peasants. It is a typical anarchist idea. In the specific material conditions of China in 1967 a prolonged industrial shutdown could have caused a disastrous decline in food production. But PLP had already argued better to let the masses starve if the distribution system is not egalitarian. In this way the anarchists display their love for the people. The anarchists essentially are opposed to the dictatorship of the proletariat. They do not believe in any state, even a workers’ state. The demand for 90% of the cadre to step down (in China this meant at least 10,000,000 people) was a demand to dismantly the state apparatus altogether. Since the anarchists had nothing to replace it with except some purely local regional committees the bourgeoisie, imperialists and most especially the Soviet revisionist would have rushed into the vacuum.
There is no question that “Mao-Tse-Tung Thought” carried to its logical conclusion implied these totally anarchist positions. Mao to his credit stopped short of these suicidal policies, so PLP had good reason to be miffed with Mao.
Like a typical pragmatist organization PLP vacillated in the application of the RTR III line in subsequent years. But even in the periods when RTR III was shelved as a practical guide, it retained its theoretical centrality for PLP, and this steadily eroded the vestiges of Marxist thinking in the organization until they were only a memory. Periodically, when the PL leadership detected a “right-wing drift” in the Party, i.e. cadre becoming involved in the struggles of the masses, RTR III was brought forth with great fanfare, as the Bible, and the compass. What mass work existed was then systematically destroyed by a series of adventuristic exemplary actions. And the leaky vessel reaffirmed its anarchist and ultra-left course on the road to reaction and oblivion.