First Published: In Struggle! No. 141, Jan 16, 1979
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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No political question attracted more attention in 1978 than China. Hardly a day went by without the international press reporting on the most recent events in that country – everything from the announcement that a Coca-Cola plant was to be built, to the “sexual revolution”. Clearly, the ruling classes around the world – both in the West and in the USSR, although for very different reasons – are greatly interested in the evolution of the “Middle Kingdom” of Old.
While the Western bourgeoisies are captivated by the “liberalization” of the “post-Maoist era” and the USSR worries about the growing ties between China and the U.S., communists (Marxist-Leninists) have in the past months been carefully following the policies pursued by the Chinese Communist Party and government under the leadership of Teng Hsiao-ping and Hua Kuo-feng.
Present Chinese policy could considerably alter the balance of power between imperialist blocs. This is why the policy meets with such different reactions. For the international working-class movement, it is nothing less than a total betrayal of the proletarian revolution. Behind their so-called “realism”, the Chinese leaders are trying to hide a complete revision, a radical deformation, of Marxism-Leninism.
The Western bourgeoisies heaved a great sigh of relief in the mid-50’s. Following Khrushchev and Co.’s rise to power, the USSR abandoned the road of socialist revolution and instead consolidated its economic power and military might. The first socialist country thus became both a partner and a rival of the imperialist countries.
The most important thing for the imperialists at that time was that the USSR ceased to be a model that could inspire the working class around the world in its struggle for socialism.Liberal circles spellbound with the dream of “peace and democracy” praised the “liberalization” of the Soviet regime. They were overjoyed at peaceful co-existence between the West led by the U.S. and the once socialist bloc of the USSR and Eastern Europe. At the instigation of parties that remained loyal to Moscow, such as the Communist Party of Canada, there was no hesitation in denouncing the “ideological purism”, the radicalism, and the isolationism of China and Albania.
With the exception of the Moscow revisionists, very few people would still talk about the “liberalization” of, the Soviet regime – the “psychiatric hospitals” are too well known. As for peaceful co-existence, everyone knows that it means hundreds of billions of dollars each year in new weapons. This explosive situation is all the more striking when there are attempts to hide it behind talks and declarations on disarmament.
In 1979, China is the new partner that the USSR was 20 years ago. Furthermore, it is a country with little industrialization and with over 800 million inhabitants who, if they develop the taste, could certainly consume a lot of Coca-Cola, not to mention other products. It is also a country with enormous natural resources (including a lot of oil) and which is very open to imperialist participation in their exploitation in exchange for technology and capital. For all imperialist countries in the throes of a crisis of overproduction, access to the Chinese market is a windfall for reducing the effects of present economic stagnation.
China is also a prize ally for the Western powers, especially the U.S., in their battle against Soviet penetration in the underdeveloped regions of Asia and Africa. China and Mao have great revolutionary prestige, much more than the USSR, whose image is being systematically tarnished as its imperialist activities are unmasked.
But there can be no illusions. China’s intentions in 1979 are no more unselfish than those of the USSR in the late 50’s. The honeymoon between China and the U.S. can only lead to contention between the two countries. There is a contradiction in their present unity which can only become more exacerbated – i.e. the U.S. wants to remain the dominant power in Southeast Asia while China has hegemonistic ambitions in the same region. Their present temporary unity is based on their common opposition to the USSR’s penetration into this region from its base in Vietnam. This also unites both of them with Japan, which is already a serious rival.
Clearly, Chinese foreign policy no longer has anything in common with proletarian internationalism ̵ i.e. with the active support of the revolutionary struggle of the people and with proletarian revolution throughout the world. On the contrary, its policy is essentially based on the defence of its own national interests. This explains China’s haste in unilaterally breaking all collaboration with socialist Albania which refused to adopt its counter-revolutionary policy of collaborating with imperialism. Nor did it hesitate in joining the Shah and President Carter against the revolutionary people of Iran. It has also lent its support to butchers like Mobutu and Pinochet, to name but two.
Chinese policy is not only contrary to the interests of the people of the world. it is also, first and foremost, contrary to the interests of the Chinese people. The temporary acceleration in the country’s industrialization which may result from the penetration of Western and Japanese capital and technology should not make us forget that all this is being done at the expense of abandoning the dictatorship of the proletariat. In the long run, it will only serve the new bourgeois bureaucracy which has risen to power in recent years.
The lessons of the revisionist degeneration in the USSR are very recent and very dear. They leave no doubt as to what awaits the Chinese people whose march towards socialism has now been interrupted for an indefinite period of time. As China has little industry and the mandarins who have usurped power have immense ambitions, the Chinese people find themselves in the same situation as any other people under the domination of the capitalist class at a time when contention and rivalry are sharpening and bringing with them a deterioration in the living conditions of the masses and the restriction, if not outright abolition, of rights and freedoms.
The fall of the Chinese Communist Party into revisionism is certainly a major setback for the proletarian revolution in China and throughout the world. From now on, besides the counter-revolutionary action of the social democrats of the Socialist international, of the Trotskyists, and of the Khrushchevite and Eurocommunist revisionists, we must add that of the pro-Peking revisionists and even some of the opportunist sects which claim to follow the Party of Labour of Albania (PLA) and its First Secretary Enver Hoxha. In Canada these sects include the CPC(M-L) and Bolshevik Union, both of which are hoping to profit from the basic role the PLA played in the denunciation of the new Chinese leaders’ revisionism.
The rapid degeneration of the Chinese Communist Party teaches a lesson that all Marxist-Leninists should learn from. It teaches us that modern revisionism has not been defeated and that the struggle for the triumph of Marxism-Leninism must be intensified and deepened. This task is all the more important for communists around the world at a time when the international situation and the situation in certain countries indicates the possibility of a significant development of revolutionary struggles at the some time as inter-imperialist rivalries continue to sharpen.
Important steps have already been made against Chinese revisionism. The most notable is that the so-called “three-worlds-theory-as-a-strategic-concept” has been so unmasked by Marxist-Leninists around the world that even its creators no longer dare to defend it, leaving this task to the opportunists who, in various countries, have traded their past formal adherence to Marxism-Leninism for the dubious privilege of being recognized and received by the Chinese mandarins. How could the Chinese continue to advance a “theory” which made both the USSR and the U.S. the greatest enemies of the peoples?
Chinese revisionism, however, is not limited to the “three worlds theory”. Chinese revisionism brings up once again the entire question of revisionism, i.e. the question of the contamination of the revolutionary proletariat’s ideology with essentially bourgeois ideas. Revisionism is the defence of bourgeois ideology, under the cover of Marxism, in the working-class movement by the corrupted strata of the working people made up of the labour aristocracy and certain sections of the petty bourgeoisie.
We should not be surprised that revisionism regularly results in one form or another of nationalism, which is essentially a bourgeois ideology. Revisionism buries the interests of the proletariat behind those of the nation or the “entire people”. What is unique to revisionism is not the recognition of nations or even the defence of the interests of oppressed nations against oppressor nations, it is making the national interests more important then the interests of the proletariat.
We could review all the forms of revisionism since the beginning of the century and we would always find that national interests, which are the interests of the bourgeoisie in all societies where it has not been completely overthrown, have won out. We need only recall the slogans of the revisionists, from the “defence of the homeland” during the first World War, to the “construction of a modern and powerful China”; to verify this conclusion.
It must be realized that the anti-fascist struggle of the 40’s and the struggles of national liberation which followed have been fertile ground for the development of nationalist deviations in the past 40 years. It must also be seen that these ideas were at the origin of many deviations from Marxism-Leninism. There was, for example, the capitulation of many communist parties to the bourgeoisie in imperialist countries even before the end of World War II, the capitulation of the communists of Eastern Europe to bourgeois elements after the victory over fascism when “people’s democracy” was presented as an alternative to the dictatorship of the proletariat, and the very recent degeneration of the Chinese Communist Party.
At a time when Marxist-Leninists around the world are engaged in a new phase of the struggle against revisionism, it is essential that the lessons of the past not be forgotten. It is essential that the debate not be sidetracked by quarrels over which communist was better than which other. The masses make history: class struggle is the motor force of history.
The struggle against revisionism will only be successful if it results in charting the road that the working class, the fundamentally revolutionary class, must take to triumph. In other words, any struggle against revisionism which remains isolated from the practical objective of determining the path for the revolutionary struggle today in different countries and in the world is doomed to be nothing but an academic exercise.
This means that the main concern in the struggle against revisionism is not to give out diplomas in Marxism-Leninism or in revisionism, but to offer the proletariat and masses of different countries of the world a line totally rid of all traces of revisionism, a genuine communist program whose supreme criterion will be the victory of the revolution.
The Khrushchevite revisionist split of the 50’s was a major setback for the international working class and communist movement. The one provoked by the new mandarins in China could be used for a more profound break with modern revisionism and lead the reunited communist forces to great victories. After all, was it not shortly after a clear demarcation with social-democratic revisionism – a demarcation for which they were accused of isolating and dividing the working-class forces, – that the Bolsheviks led the first proletarian revolution in history?