First Published: Challenge-Desafio Vol. 13, No. 17, September 23, 1976
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Chairman Mao Tse Tung of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) died Thursday morning. He was one of the outstanding figures of the 20th century and of the international communist movement. No one should slight his historical influence. Mao’s life contained and illustrated the principle contradictions of the 20th century and throughout the history of the international communist movement–the struggle between the line of revolutionary Marxism-Leninism and the line of accommodation and opportunism-revisionism.
AT THE AGE OF 82, HE SUCCUMBED TO illness. Previously, at the age of 74, he had succumbed to the line of accommodating to imperialism and capitalism. The latter was a greater tragedy, because, throughout this 50-year career as a revolutionist, Mao had made outstanding contributions to the cause of revolutionary communism.
–Mao was the first to organize peasants on a massive scale, directly under the banners of revolutionary communism. The peasant Soviets formed under his leadership involved millions in Hunan-Kiangsi. And they successfully fought hundreds of thousands of reactionary troops for 7 years. (1927-1934).
–Mao personally led the epic Long March from South China to Inner-Mongolia, an outstanding achievement in revolutionary warfare.
–These years Mao lent a great deal to the literature of revolutionary Marxism. His Report on Investigation of the Peasant Movement in Hunan, contains his famous dictum: “A revolution is not a dinner party or writing an essay, painting a picture or doing embroidery. It cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind and courteous, restrained and magnanimous. A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence, by which one class overthrows another”. On Practice, On Contradiction are two essays which clearly set forth the Marxist theory of dialectics. On Correcting Mistaken Ideas in the Party, Combat Liberalism, Reform Our Study, Oppose Stereotyped Party Writing, Some Questions Concerning Methods of Leadership, are five essays essential for understanding the nature of internal contradiction within a communist party. He also wrote some useful texts on guerrilla warfare. Nevertheless, as a revolutionary Marxist, Mao was weak on the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat. (“This is what constitutes the most profound distinction between the Marxist and the ordinary petit-bourgeoisie”. – Lenin.)
–In 1937, Mao disbanded the Soviets and the Red Army in order to reach an accommodation with Chiang Kai-Shek.
–In 1940, he wrote On New Democracy, which completely muddled the Leninist theory of the state and in essence discarded the dictatorship of the proletariat. This work became the fundamental text of the Chinese Communist Party for 30 years.
–In 1945, he was willing to negotiate the entrance of communists into a coalition government with Chiang Kai-Shek (in other words participate in a bourgeois dictatorship: this would have been a complete betrayal of Marxism-Leninism). Luckily Chiang would not agree to the terms.
–In 1949, on the eve of the triumph of the revolution, Mao wrote On the Peoples’ Democratic Dictatorship, which converted the Leninist dictatorship of the proletariat into a so-called people’s dictatorship which included the petit bourgeoisie. In this work Mao promised to “protect business” and declared that the national bourgeoisie, the class enemy of all workers, “is still standing along side us.” These were to be the unfortunate policies of People’s China.
–An instructive contrast between Lenin and the Bolsheviks and Mao and the CCP is that as the revolution approached in Russia, Lenin became sharper and more uncompromising on the dictatorship of the proletariat. The State and Revolution and The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky, his two sharpest expositions of this concept, were written on the eve of and just after, respectively, of the Bolshevik revolution. Mao, on the other hand, became more vague and muddled about the dictatorship of the proletariat as the Chinese Revolution approached. His famous and often quoted Report to the Second Session of the 7th Central Committee issued on the eve of the revolution which discussed in detail the outlook of the Peoples Rep. of China, did not even once mention the dictatorship of the proletariat in 14 pages, only saying it was necessary to regulate capital.
Nevertheless, even in his later years, Mao continued to make important contributions to the cause of the international working class.
1. He led the Communist Party of China to heroic victory over Japanese fascism (see current PL magazine).
2. Unlike the traitors Thorez and Togliatti, Mao refused to disband the Red Army in exchange for some cabinet post in a post-war coalition government.
3. He directed the victory of the Chinese revolution and the Chinese volunteers in the Korean war, two devastating blows against U.S. imperialism, that began its current decline.
4. Mao gave crucial support to key mass movements among China’s workers and peasants, such as the People’s Commune.
5. Mao was often an unrelenting critic of bourgeoisie art and literature. Although the CCP under his leadership produced only wooden caricatures of proletarian art, he understood the importance of communist culture in opposition to all bourgeois culture, more clearly than Lenin and Stalin.
6. Mao opposed Krushchev revisionism: in 1963-1965, under his leadership, the CCP wrote some brilliant exposes of revisionism: The Proletarian Revolution and Krushchev Revisionism, More on the Differences Between Comrade Togliatti and Us, Two Different Lines, on the Question of War and Peace, On Krushchev Phony Communism, by Mao himself, were the four best and easily rank among the most important Marxist-Leninist documents.
Yet the same time Mao bought the Krushchev line on nationalism. Both Mao and Krushchev abandoned proletarian internationalism simultaneously. They only differed on which bourgeois nationalists I to support. Krushchev preferred Nehru while Mao preferred Sukarno.
There are two aspects to the Sino-Soviet dispute, on the one hand there was the staunch defense of the principles of Marxism-Leninism, on the other hand, there was anti-Soviet Chinese nationalism pure and simple. When the Cultural Revolution was defeated by 1968 (see PLP pamphlet Road to Revolution III for more details on this), the aspects of Chinese nationalism predominated and the defense of the principles of Marxism-Leninism against Soviet Revisionism was forgotten.
At that point, the weaknesses that had been secondary in a revolutionary career became primary. The last eight years were a disgraceful finish for the career of a revolutionary. Some of the worst scums of the world made the journey to Peking to shake hands and be photographed with Mao. There were those disgusting pictures of Mao greeting Nixon, Ford and Kissinger; emperor Haile Selassie, Bandanardike of Sri Lanka with the blood of 40,000 revolutionaries dripping from her hands; the fascist dictator of the Philippines, Sudan, Pakistan, Thailand, Burma and elsewhere; decrepit royalty from Nepal, Iran, Cambodia, an elsewhere; the U.S. supported dictatorship of Pinochet; slimy capitalist politicians from all the major powers; the open support of fascists.
So we see both sides of Mao. And we won’t participate in the semi-religious cultism that started ten years before his death and will now undoubtedly intensify. The working class doesn’t need religion of any type.
Yet these unfavorable developments have to be looked at as a process, and Mao’s life must be understood as a contradiction. We have to learn from the positive contributions of Mao and study his revolutionary writings and deeds, just as we have to learn from his mistakes and see how ideological weaknesses on the dictatorship of the proletariat, internationalism, lead to treachery and betrayal.
Finally we have to understand that a man can only influence history as Mao did in conjunction with a mass movement. His strengths and weaknesses are, in the final analysis, the strengths and weaknesses of the mass movement of tens of millions–the international communist movement. Thus by understanding Mao’s strengths we can draw inspirations; in understanding his weaknesses we can see our duties.