Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

In Struggle!

The stakes in the Mao – Stalin debate

First Published: In Struggle! No. 199, April 8, 1980
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.

Many Marxist-Leninist organizations and parties around the world have devoted a lot of attention in the past year to criticizing the life and works of Mao Zedong and Joseph Stalin. The Party of Labour of Albania basically started the polemic on this question with Enver Hoxha’s book Imperialism and the Revolution. Hoxha’s book made a radical critique of Mao Zedong and his thought, characterizing it as a 100% anti-Marxist revisionist theory. Since then a host of commentaries and two other books by Hoxha, Reflections on China and With Stalin have rolled off the presses. They carried the criticism still further and added an unqualified and all-embracing defence of the works of Joseph Stalin.

A goodly number of organizations and parties have fallen into line with the Albanian party. Ten of them recently made public a declaration dedicated to the defence of Stalin. It declares that all those who have criticisms of the former leader of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) are outright revisionists.

The defence of Mao

Other parties have rallied to varying degrees to the defence of Mao Zedong. Some of them, such as the Revolutionary Communist Party – United States of America, have been quick to castigate as revisionist all those who are attacking the former leader of the Communist Party of China (CPC). Two of the main texts that defend Mao are “Beat Back the Dogmato-Revisionist Attack on Mao Tsetung Thought” published in issue 5 of the RCP journal Communist and “Valoracion de la obra de Maozedong” by the Revolutionary Communist Party of Chile.

Fundamental questions are raised

Our view, as we have said before, is that the evaluation of the works of Mao and Stalin raises the whole question of the origins of modern-day revisionism. It brings to the fore the whole issue of the major setbacks suffered by the international communist movement since the Second World War. The Mao – Stalin debate as it goes on is drawing out the different and often opposing ways that different groups see a whole series of basic problems in the revolutionary struggle of the working class.

There are differences, for example, over the relative importance of the development of the productive forces and the transformation of the relations of production under socialism. The question of the existence of a bourgeoisie under socialism is seen differently. Some say that the bourgeoisie disappears relatively quickly. Others argue that it continues to exist and toreproduce itself under socialism and even within the communist party over a long period of time.

Another important issue which has provoked much controversy is the role of the peasantry and the national bourgeoisie in the liberation struggles of colonial and neo-colonial peoples. Depending on how people answer that question, their views varyas to how extensive the leadership role of the proletariat must be in those struggles.

Some unsatisfactory explanations

Nevertheless, we feel that one example will illustrate how unsatisfactory some of the explanations have been for the positions taken on these matters. The fact that the positions are presented as definitive conclusions actually justifies a number of incorrect practices on the part of many communist organizations and parties. Let us just take the example of the question of two-line struggle within the party. One of the main criticisms of Mao made by the PLA is that he accepted the continued existence of two lines – one bourgeois, one proletarian – in the communist party. There is no doubt that real errors were committed by the CPC on this matter which helped pave the way for the growth and even the victory of bourgeois opportunists within the party as notorious as Liu Shaoqui and Deng Xiaoping. But you cannot just analyze how the bourgeois line won out in the Chinese party and ignore the identical phenomenon in the Soviet party. Stalin was not a supporter of the theory of two-line struggle in the party. You would have to completely close your eyes to reality to not see that bourgeois elements, led by Khrushchev and Brehznev. took over the leadership of the party and the State. How can that be explained without an identification of errors and political moves that were in error there also which led to those consequences. How can it be understood unless in both cases the economic and social conditions which enabled the bourgeoisie to win out are examined?

On the other hand, those who make the defence of Mao Zedong a line of demarcation between revisionism and Marxism-Leninism cannot just say their piece and slip away without facing a few facts too. The recognition of two lines in the party did not stop the bourgeoisie from winning out in China. Further, the Chinese party was plagued by incessant factional disputes throughout its entire history. The stand on two-line struggle didn’t prevent the 7th Congress of the CPC from adopting a line which was completely consistent with that of the Soviet revisionists. Despite the great movements during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, that stand did not block the same revisionist line from coming quickly out on top.

The example of the debate over the question of two-line struggle within the party (and there are many other examples which are just as glaring) points out that the polemic must continue on these matters, to really get down to the nitty-gritty. It also shows that any attempt to accomplish the unity of communists on the basis of the present lines of demarcation is condemned to certain failure. Such an approach can only perpetuate the serious problems and divisons which have held back the development of the inernational communist movement for over thirty years now.

Note: The books and articles mentioned above are all avaiable at The Spark and L’Etincelle bookstores.