Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Resume of CPL views

Mao Tse-tung revisionist theories

First Published: The Worker, Vol 11, No 3, February 15, 1979
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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The initial reports of Enver Hoxha’s new book Imperialism and the Revolution, which presents his first extensive criticism of Mao’s role, have created tremendous excitement within the workers’ movement. The courageous struggle being waged by the Albanian communists against the most modern form of modern revisionism is of international significance, and shows that Marxism-Leninism can never be suppressed.

The Canadian Party of Labor first attacked Chinese revisionism in 1971, as the China-U.S. “love match” began to heat up. Since then, we have developed and deepened our explanation of the sources of Chinese revisionism, and the insidious role played by Mao Tsetung. On a wide range of questions, our views about China, published over the past eight years, are in harmony with those of Comrade Hoxha. We believe that it is an appropriate time to review and summarize these views.

“The Canadian Party of Labour came into being during the period of sharpest struggle between the CP of China and the Soviet revisionists,” we wrote at the time of Mao’s death in 1976. “We followed the GPCR very closely and it raised out commitment to the struggle for socialism. During that period we learned much that was good and some that was bad from the Mao leadership, we should make no mistake about it. However, for the continued growth of our Party and our grasp of Marxism it became absolutely necessary that we attack and clearly break away from the opportunist theories of Mao which carried him into the camp of counter-revolution.” (Vol. 8, No. 16, Sept. 1976 – this, and all other citations, are from The Worker)

In 1971, a series of articles in our newspaper established this break with the Chinese line. “China’s ’diplomacy’ ... An obstacle to revolution” attacked the famous “ping pong” diplomacy of Chou En Lai: “Opportunism is everywhere strengthened since international working class solidarity is being replaced with the line: ’every man for himself’.” (Vol. 3, No. 4, May 1971).

Under the headline “China betrays revolution”, we wrote:

The revisionists now ruling China are breathlessly anxious to be with their own kind. So Kissinger and Chou made haste to take up matters that couldn’t be trusted to lesser lights. Nixon in Peking will round out a veritable murderers row of reactionary politicians who in recent months have been filing in to eat at Chou’s... Not to appear an utter renegade, Chou En Liar has reminded everyone that China remains a firm supporter of revolution around the world. A look at the Chinese ’support’ for the Palestinian struggle against Israeli Zionism, shows them to be hypocrites. All of China’s nationalist pals in the Mid-East, from Sadat to Selassie, work overtime at setting up the guerillas to be slaughtered by Hussein’ s army...” (Vol. 8, No. 6, August, 1971.)

At that time, the Progressive Labor Party in the U.S., with which we were then associated, attempted to analyze “the reversal of workers’ power in China”. (PL magazine, Nov. 1971). Although we welcomed any attempts to clarify and explain the tragic developments in China, we had severe doubts about their document and never endorsed it. In particular, we did not approve of its one-sided criticism of Stalin, its exaggerated praise for the cultural revolution, its contention that peasants had an identical revolutionary consciousness with industrial workers, and its incorrect assessment and condemnation of Lenin’s New Economic Policy. We later realized that PL had no desire to defend the science of Marxism-Leninism, but rather preferred to develop its own brand of Americanized socialism, from which it saw Maoism as a starting point. PL’s greatest complaint with Mao was that he betrayed “Maoism”.

There are others, as well, who share this view. The French philosopher Charles Bettelheim also developed a theory that Maoist principles have been betrayed in China. We have always subscribed to the view that China’s current revisionist line is the outcome and the direct product of Mao and his theories, and not a repudiation of them. We have criticized Bettelheim’s thesis in our paper, as well as Bettelheim’s anti-communist slanders of Stalin in his latest “masterpiece”. (Vol. 10, No. 1, Jan. 1978)

At the time of Mao’s death, in the fall of 1976, we made out estimate of his “contributions”. We traced Mao’s revisionism to his theory of “new democracy”, of “partnership” between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.

Mao, like Tito and most of the other post-World War II communist leaders, was from the class of ’35... In the forties he argued for ’new democracy’ which he said was neither rule by the bourgeoisie nor rule by the proletariat. More that one of his faithful have become tongue-tied trying to explain it. (Vol.9, No.14, Sept. 1976)

On Mao Tse-tung Thought:

This was a thought of Anna Louise Strong, if you can call it thinking. During the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, the Maoist leadership helped to get everything sidetracked by arguing that Marxism-Leninism had reached a new and higher stage to be christened Mao Tse-tung Thought. It was pegged on the notion that Mao’s theories were uniquely suited for the struggle in the so-called Third World. But most of what is called Mao Tse-tung Thought is standard Marxist-Leninist theory, and it was developed by the world movement and lucky for Mao. To the extent that there is an identifiable body of ideas that are Mao’s, they generally represent a petty-bourgeois deviation from Marxism, not an advance to a ’new stage’... (Vol. 9, No. 14, Sept. 1976)

On Mao’s attitude to the world communist movement:

Even in his best moments, Mao rarely gave the international movement anything more than ’tea and sympathy’. For all of his left rhetoric, Mao agreed with the craven sellouts Tito and Togliatti on this question. Each to his own. They all praised autonomy and fought against a centralized world movement, without which the dream of a world socialist economy is worthless... Mao was very happy with the dissolution of the Comintern in 1943. He, like Tito, was a mountain-topper. Of such people, Stalin said: They’re like radishes. Red on the outside, white on the inside. After launching a sharp ideological struggle against the Soviet revisionist leadership, the Chinese Party reneged on any effort to sort out or lead the various new forces that took up their banner. Mao himself never gave them anything but his profile. (Vol. 9, No. 14, Sept. 1976)

On Mao’s personality cult:

... it is obvious that Mao believed in it as a way of controlling the masses . . . Direct, firm and comradely exchanges and frank admission of error make for a healthy and combative Party. Unfortunately, very little of Mao’s writing on the subject took the form of personal example... (Vol. 9, No. 14, Sept. 1976)

On Mao’s view of “contending forces” within the Party: “His liberal theories on inner party struggle, which were based on this spirit of compromise and “united front” , nurtured and encouraged elements like Teng Hsiao-ping and Liu Shao-chi.” (Vol. 9, No. 14, Sept. 1976). At the time of the Tien An-men riots, when Mao was still alive, we pointed out : “Mao is simply being consistent with his role as mediator in the recurring outbreaks of quarrels between ’right-wing’ and ’left-wing’ factions.” (Vol. 8, No. 9, May 1976).

On the cultural revolution:

There is no doubt about the widespread grievances existing in 1966 with scores of economic conditions and ’vestiges of capitalism’. Even Mao has never tried to deny this. What the revolutionary workers did was tie these ’vestiges of capitalism’ to the capitalists themselves, who had never been truly crushed by the Chinese revolution, but instead allowed to thrive on the fertilizer of Maoist theory. According to Mao in On New Democracy, ’The republic will neither confiscate capitalist private property in general nor forbid the development of such capitalist – production as does not dominate the livelihood of the people... A rich peasant economy will be allowed in the rural areas... In general socialist agriculture will not be established at this stage.’ Mao Tse-tung, Liu Shao-chi, Lin Piao, Teng Hsiao-ping – in fact, the entire leadership of the Chinese Communist Party – was committed to this program.” (Vol. 9, No. 1, Jan. 1977)

We wrote about the Shanghai Commune of January 1967, when that city’s proletariat rose in revolt against the Chinese capitalists and their revisionist protectors:

It was a violent upheaval of the workers of that city directed against the Maoist system of ’new democracy’ and crowned with the declaration of the Shanghai Commune, patterned on the Paris Commune of 1871. It was described in one declaration as a state form ’more in keeping with the socialist economic base.’ But Mao crushed the Shanghai Commune, replaced it with a ’municipal revolutionary committee’ packed with ’rehabilitated’ party cadres and led by two of Mao’s henchmen... (Vol. 9, No. 1, Jan. 1977).

We attacked the wholesale abuses of proletarian democracy of which Mao was the master practitioner.

Since the crushing of the GPCR with Mao’s help China has been ruled by fascism... Mrs. Mao and Co. will never be heard from again (unless her crowd stages a counter-coup). She will never get a trial. Most likely she won’t even be seen again. From one end of the world to the other this is thought to be ’normal’. It is an outrage! It is fascist! It has nothing to do with Communism; with respect for the views of workers, respect for their right to consider and decide. Compare this brutal cynicism to Bolshevik practice. Following the revolution, certain ’socialist’ parties engaged in sabotage against Lenin’s Party. They were arrested and put on trial; the first of what the class enemy called ’show trials’. When foreign friends of the defendants complained of the arrests, they were invited to attend the trials and even allowed to help out with the defence. But, Lenin warned, the guilty would be executed. The accused could stand up and explain themselves. This gave the masses confidence in their government. (Vol. 8, No. 19, Oct. 1976)

On the Gang of Four:

They played the role of sellouts: like Trotsky, Kautsky, Allende and the leaders of today’s revisionist Communist Parties, they took the side of the workers as a gambit to lead them into the hands of the bourgeoisie. Once they had served their purpose for the capitalists, they were themselves discarded. (Vol. 9, No. 1, Jan. 1977).

As our criticism of Mao’s revisionism deepened, we appreciated more and more the tremendous role played by Stalin in leading the communist movement for three decades. We attacked Mao for his attitude towards Stalin:

Actually, Mao was greatly relieved by the death of Stalin, with whom he had major disagreements... Among Mao’s complaints: Stalin was too hard on the peasants, too insistent on the primacy of heavy industry, in philosophy he was a metaphysician. Mao alleged that Stalin mishandled contradictions among the people by suppression of the democratic parties and indiscriminate purges. The Krushchov secret speech of 1956 was answered with equivocation in Peking. Later the Chinese tried to suggest that their response to the attacks on Stalin were prompt and firm. Mao says that they assessed Stalin as ’30 percent for mistakes and 70 percent for achievement’ and that this meant ’we defend Stalin’. But judging by the articles in Volume V, Mao is preoccupied by the 30 percent mistakes and never has a thing to learn from the 70 percent achievements.” (Vol. 10, No. 3, Jan. 1978).

Mao says Stalin took him half seriously, half sceptically, and that he ’suspected that ours was a victory of the Tito type, and in 1949 and 1950 the pressure on us was very strong indeed’. Mao’s strategy of surround the cities from the countryside was the exact opposite of the communist program of ’urban insurrection’, and Mao’s base was in the peasantry, not the industrial proletariat. No wonder Stalin had some reservations. (Vol. 10, No. 3, Jan. 1978).

On Mao’s subjectivism and his unscientific views of socialist construction:

Lenin and Stalin knew that only with rigid adherence to a policy of heavy industrialization could the ’realities’ of backward Russia be overcome. Allowing maximum rein to the ’subjective factor’, they never tried to deny the objective problems. Mao was overcome by objective problems. His stress on the subjective, on peasant dedication to socialism replacing tractors, becomes more and more extreme. Eventually Mao turns socialism into a doctrine for ’the poor’, not the scientific outcome of the most advanced producing class in histroy, the industrial proletariat. (Vol. 10, No. 3, Jan. 1978).

Mao’s base in the countryside left him even more vulnerable to petty-bourgeois ideology. He succumbed to utopianism, an ideology of the peasant revolutionary, who, says Marx, ’found neither in society itself the material conditions for its transformation, nor in the working class the organized power and the conscience of the movement.’ Mao tried to compensate for this by ’fantastic pictures and plans of a new society’, one that would be created by the subjective will of the peasants and not the productive supremacy of the proletariat... (Vol. 10, No. 3, Jan. 1978).

We sharply criticized Mao’s philosophical views and writings, in particular his assertion that Stalin was “a metaphysician” and his insistence that Stalin did not recognize the “unity of opposites” but saw only the “struggle of opposites”. Mao’s philosophical theories provided a justification for his revisionist line about the “unity” of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie under socialism, and of the peaceful growing of the bourgeoisie into socialism.

Mao’s dialectics resemble the ideas of the Soviet right opportunists who viewed contradiction as ’equilibrium’... Mao wanted to be a great philosopher, but he won’t make it into the Marxist history books. Mao treated dialectical materialism in a subjective, idealist and utopian fashion totally alien to Marxism... On Contradiction is only the first expression of revisionist theories that were more fully formulated in 1956 and 1957. On dialectical materialism, written in 1940, has never been republished because of its glaring theoretical errors. On Practice amounts to a rewrite of Lenin – students would do better to consult the original. In conclusion, none of Mao’s philosophical writing can compare with those of Stalin, Lenin, Engels or Marx. (Vol. 10, NO. 4, Feb. 1978).

These arguments of ours, rooted in Marxist-Leninist theory, were well-known in Marxist circles within both Canada and the U.S. Of course, they could not dissuade those cynical revisionists who had already settled on a career as spokesmen for the Chinese line, come what may. When PL degenerated into anarchism, condemning virtually every revolutionary movement in the world from its narrow, chauvinist perspective, it accused us of being “dogmatists” and “Stalinists”. And from another quarter, the opportunist Hardial Bains slandered our criticisms on China as “neo-trotskyite social fascism”.

Recent articles from Albania, including the impressive new book from Enver Hoxha, have resulted in a widespread repudiation of Maoism by many of its former adherents around the world. This welcome development further convinces us that the science of Marxism-Leninism, the ideology of the revolutionary proletariat, can never be suppressed. The defeat of Maoist revisionism, and the return to the revolutionary theory and practice of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin, represents an advance in the protracted struggle of the proletariat for its liberation.