First Published: October 1977 (by the Red Star Collective)
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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A major debate within the Marxist-Leninist movement is taking shape. The ’three worlds analysisí and the idea of a world-wide united front composed of all those who can be united including peoples, countries and, of course, the proletarian forces against the two superpowers are coming under attack from various sources. Much of the debate to date has centered on decisions taken by the government of The People’s Republic of China based on their analysis of the world. Many of the assertions about Chinese policy have been simply falsehoods – such as that they support unity with the United States against the Soviet Union.
Other positions suggest that their authors have failed to grasp the essence of what the Chinese are trying to accomplish. Honest people look at the situation in Angola and can’t see how the Chinese could aid forces that were also receiving aid from the US or South Africa. The fact that these people forget to abhor that the Chinese also gave aid to forces which were supported by the Soviet Union shows that they have not yet come to grips with the present world situation.
Naturally various opportunists such as the New York Guardian staff, the Trotskyists and the “Communist” Party of Canada (“Marxist-Leninist”) have reacted with glee and tried to take advantage of the differences within the movement. We have every confidence that the present struggle will strengthen the proletarian forces world-wide and the opportunists will be disappointed.
Our group shares much of its view of the international situation with the Communist Party of China. We consider that Mao Tse-tung has done much of the work of understanding the present period based on the sound principles of Marxism-Leninism. This does not mean that we always agree with the Chinese or that they are incapable of error. For instance, while we understand that the Chinese comrades assume that people are more aware of the danger of the American superpower than that of the Soviet, we think that their emphasis on attacking Soviet imperialism while giving much less space in their publications to American imperialism has assisted those who misrepresent their position.
The discussions on which this report is based were held in April/May 1976. Since that time, a number of developments have taken place. The US has expanded its program of rebuilding itself militarily. The Soviet Union has suffered some defeats, notably in the Middle East and Zaire. However, this has not altered the basic international situation. The invasion of Zaire has acted to confirm the view put forward by the Chinese of the Soviet role and intentions in their Angolan adventure, if such confirmation were needed.
The discussions reported on in this pamphlet were held in Peking by a member of our group, Jack Scott. It should be noted that the article is an attempt to report on Chinese foreign policy. It should not be taken as the position of the Red Star Collective on the international situation. For our position see our pamphlet (#2) “The International Situation: World United Front and Proletarian Revolution”. It should also be noted that, while this document is based on lengthy discussions and includes many quotes, the Communist Party of China should not be held responsible for it.
We hope that this pamphlet will help elevate the present debate and that it will help ensure that this debate is on the basis of actual positions and not on conjecture or assumption.
* * *
Making a report on views and impressions of China’s foreign policy necessitates touching upon a number of complex problems related to the international situation. These problems can be divided into two broad categories; those related to external relations, (foreign policy); and those related to internal problems, (domestic policy). However, in dividing the subject thus into two, it would be advisable to remember that the one reacts upon, and helps to shape, the other. At this time I will confine my remarks to the area of foreign policy.
In the preparation of this report I relied entirely on discussions that I was privileged to have with top-ranking representatives of the Communist Party of China, (International Liaison Department), who responded to questions that I had given them in writing, and who then engaged in an exchange of views with me. In the area of domestic policy I also enjoyed the advantage of lengthy discussion with friends long resident in China, who hold no official post whatever. These ’unofficial’ contacts I considered particularly useful in rounding out the ’official’ views on problems.
While my chief objective here is to convey the Chinese party’s position on problems of foreign policy, it cannot help but be coloured somewhat by my own views, which were also made known to my hosts in China. But I have made a serious effort to draw a clear line between what are personal views, and those that are official Chinese party views. I may not be always successful in making that distinction, but I hope that out of the discussion a clearer understanding of foreign relations, as China sees them, will be developed.
First let me make it clear that what I am reporting on is the official line of the Communist Party of China, not the views of any official department of the state. I am saying this because the Chinese Party conceive of relations as operating on three distinct levels; state to state; people to people; and party to party. Since the Communist Party is the leading centre in the Chinese state, the distinction may be a bit difficult for the foreigner to grasp. But for Communists in China the difference is very real indeed, and understanding this fact will go far in providing an understanding of some problems in foreign relations, and in the different manner of welcome accorded to visitors from abroad.
For example; when Nixon visited China he did so as a guest of the state, and he received from official representatives of the state the kind of reception they thought appropriate for a once-distinguished politician, who had endeavored to lay the basis for closer and more friendly relations between China and the United States. Viewed in this context, it is not at all surprising that the former president would be surrounded with the pomp and splendour of an important state occasion. And although members of the Communist Party were involved – in their capacity as state officials – the Party as such was not involved and, if pressed, would wash its hands of the whole affair. It was purely state and not party business.
During my stay in China, Lee Kwan-yu of Singapore was a distinguished and lavishly entertained guest of the state. On one occasion I enquired of one of my party hosts why she was not out joining in the welcome for the distinguished visitor. Her reply was that she had no particular interest in Lee, and that she was experiencing no uncontrollable desire to join in welcoming him to China. Indeed, Party cadres, who are easily recognizable in the semi-uniforms that they wear, are conspicuous by their non-attendance at such affairs – unless the visiting head of state happens to be simultaneously a leading member of a fraternal party.
People to people relations consist mainly, but not entirely, of firm and permanent contacts with the various friendship groups throughout the world. There is a constant flow of delegations from such organizations, as well as broader groups organized and led by them, travelling to China.
While these people are banqueted and entertained wherever they go in China, they are not so lavishly treated as are the official guests of the state, nor are they accepted in the same fashion, politically, as are guests of the party who are looked upon as close comrades in arms.
Also in the realm of people to people relations, there are groups and individuals who do not fit precisely into the category of ’friendship’ contacts. These consist of businessmen, scientists, others of the intelligentsia, ordinary tourists, and sports and cultural delegations. All alike are treated as ’friends of China’, although on a different level of friendship compared to the established friendship groups, and certainly on a much different basis than is the case with the party to party contacts. But there is an underlying common purpose; the development of the broadest possible base of friendship, amongst people representing a wide variety of social and political viewpoints.
Party to party relations are founded on a philosophical concept quite different from those which determine the relations with all other groups. Where contacts in most areas are based upon a wide area of mutual advantage, and a shared desire for friendship and understanding, party to party relations are based on political and social outlooks held in common between political parties with common objectives, i.e., the abolition of capitalist social relations and the building of a socialist society.
In view of past historical experience in this field of party to party relations, it must be pointed out that representatives of the Chinese party vigorously disclaim any desire on their part to dominate and direct a closely-knit communist movement such as existed during the period of the Communist International and, to some extent, under the Communist Information Bureau. Such a system of party relations still survives, though less effectively, within the Moscow orbit.
The Chinese Communists contend that it is quite possible for a variety of national party organizations to share a common goal – the achievement of a Communist society – yet entertain a variety of theories and practices in moving toward the realization of their common goal. This declared position is afforded a large degree of credibility when one views the great variety of national organizations which China recognizes as ’fraternal parties’.
When representatives of these fraternal parties visit China, they do so for the purpose of conducting political discussions on problems of mutual concern. They are invariably the guests of the Party’s International Liaison Department and seldom, if ever, experience any contact with state officials or representatives of the friendship association. While I cannot vouch for how others respond to the situation, personal experience leads me to believe that the Chinese make every effort to maintain a basis of full equality throughout all discussions, however numerically insignificant the visiting delegation may be, and are quick to respond to any suggestions for improvement.
My relations with China commenced at the time I was a leader of the now defunct Progressive Workers Movement and editor of this movement’s journal. My visits to China have been as a guest of the International Liaison Department of the Communist Party of China for the purpose of political discussions. On my last visit this was of particular advantage when the subject under discussion was foreign policy. Most of the experts in this area are members of the CPC’s International Liaison Department.
The various levels of relations that I have outlined above are somewhat arbitrarily separated into different compartments. However, the reality of the situation is that they are inter-related and impinge upon one another. Nowhere is this more true, or more obvious than in the field of party to party relations, and in the effect on state to state relations – a very important point which by no means escapes the attention of the Chinese Communists.
The Chinese Communist Party, by reason of its leading role in the state apparatus, can clearly be classed as a ruling political party, which makes of it a responsible body in the development of state to state relations. Those organizations abroad which the Chinese Communist Party accepts as fraternal parties, are universally revolutionary in theory and, in many instances, revolutionary in their immediate practice. Without exception they openly declare their ultimate aim to be the overthrow of the established ruling class in the various nations with whom China has, or seeks to have, state to state relations.
Some countries complain that support for these revolutionaries constitutes an unfriendly act. But China contends that state to state relations are separate, and distinct, from party to party relations. They declare that they will not interfere in the matter of how any government treats its local communists. That, they say, is a problem to be settled between the governments and peoples directly concerned, and Chinese intervention would constitute unwarranted interference in the internal affairs of another country. In fact, when Lee Kwan-yu visited China a massive round-up of Communist revolutionaries was in progress in Singapore. But this did not seem to diminish the cordiality expressed in his Chinese welcome, which was on a state to state basis. State representatives made a point of proclaiming that this was not their concern.
The Chinese Party openly declares that it intends to maintain and strengthen solidarity with all fraternal Marxist-Leninist organizations throughout the world. This is explained as an act of international solidarity, traditional with, and an obligation upon, all sections of the international communist movement. The Chinese Communist spokesmen insisted that, under no circumstances will policy be changed in this regard.
I was informed of the fact that the United States had inquired if China was prepared to sever relations with American revolutionaries in exchange for the establishment of diplomatic relations. The answer, I was told, was a categorical no. The Chinese would never agree to the severance of relations with Marxist-Leninists abroad. (This raises the question, which it did not occur to me to ask at the time: Would China condone, without protest, American support for foreign political groups, so long as such support stopped short of outright intervention and interference in the internal affairs of another country?)
It follows that China’s foreign policy must be shaped so as to expand and consolidate diplomatic relations on a state to state basis, simultaneously forging stronger links of friendship on a people to people level and, at the same time, serve the cause of revolutionary social change throughout the world. Comprehending this political position, and a clear understanding of how China views the world, are prime prerequisites to an understanding of Chinese foreign policy. Those who reject China’s analysis of world relations, will naturally reject Chinese foreign policy as a whole since they would thus be rejecting the basic concepts upon which the policy is based.
If one accepts China’s analysis, then the main contours of its foreign policy will prove to be acceptable. One might also reject the policy but understand the analysis upon which it is based, thus seeing and understanding the logic of the policy from China’s point of view. It is important that one should clearly recognize if it is one or another aspect of Chinese foreign policy, or its practical application in a specific instance, that is being criticized, or if the basic concept, therefore the policy as a whole is rejected.
The unresolved dilemma of the New York Guardian staff is that they want to keep one foot in the Moscow camp, while not severing relations with those who sympathize with China’s line in world affairs. The problem here is that China says capitalism has been fully restored in the Soviet Union, and that the Soviets have become outright imperialists in their relations with other countries. This, as we shall see, is fundamental to the construction of Chinese foreign policy. Because they reject this analysis the Guardian staff rejects Chinese foreign policy as a whole, and they only serve to confuse the situation and cloud their own position when they do not honestly declare this to be the case. While the facts are probably already well known to most, let us review briefly the Chinese analysis of the world.
Shortly after the conclusion of WWII Russia, and the Communist Information Bureau which it dominated, described the world as being divided into two contending blocs of nations – a socialist bloc and a capitalist bloc. Between these two there existed a host of ’non-capitalist’ countries which, by inference at least, must also have been ’non-socialist’. The objective of the socialist bloc was, first, to forge and maintain firm socialist unity between members of the bloc, with Moscow as the ideological centre. Secondly, to support the colonial and neo-colonial countries that were struggling to achieve national liberation, and to encourage them to choose the path of socialist development. Third, the bloc was to mobilize active resistance to imperialist expansion.
This concept of what was essentially a world divided into two opposing camps, was subscribed to by China, even for some time after the beginnings of the split with Moscow. But the maturing and deepening of the ideological dispute, its development into an antagonistic contradiction, resulting in the disintegration of the socialist bloc, caused China to offer a new analysis of world relations, in the light of what was viewed as an entirely new set of circumstances. In China’s view there is no longer a socialist bloc of nations.
China now advances the proposition that the world is divided into three main categories, as follows:
(a) A first world consisting of two superpowers, the Soviet Union and the United States.
(b) A second world which includes a number of capitalist, and even lesser imperialist nations, mainly Western Europe, Canada, Australasia and Japan.
(c) A third world composed of poor nations, mostly still oppressed and exploited by a variety of imperialist powers, but mostly by the Soviets and the US. China includes itself in this third world category.
This new concept of world relations is worlds apart from the concept that was universally accepted by left-wing movements for more than twenty years following WWII. The consequences of accepting it are very far reaching indeed.
In the first period following the war it was the general view of the world communist movement that a new conflict of international proportions would break out between the socialist world and its allies on the one hand, and the capitalist-imperialist world on the other. In this context the capitalist-imperialist bloc was branded the aggressor, seeking to destroy the socialist countries and dominate the whole world. The socialist camp, on the other hand, was hailed as the defender of freedom, peace and justice, and would surely emerge victorious from the struggle.
(Note: when I speak of war throughout this paper, I have reference to a war that involves the great world powers, and not to the never ending chain of relatively small wars, bloody enough and dangerous enough in their own right, but nowhere near the scale of death and destruction consequent upon the prosecution of a war that would find the major powers locked in combat.)
During the period when the general line of socialist bloc versus imperialism dominated thinking on the left, Washington was looked upon as the leading centre of the alliance of capitalist nations seeking to turn back the advancing tide of socialism. The Soviet Union was then recognized as the centre and mainstay of the bloc of socialism, and the supporter and defender of colonial and neo-colonial countries fighting for their independence.
This assessment of the international situation was accepted and acted upon by China for more than a decade, from 1949 until the mid 1960s, at which time China began to openly criticize the Soviet leaders for taking the road to capitalist restoration in the USSR, and for betraying the cause of international communism.
According to current thinking in China, capitalism is now fully restored in the Soviet Union, and that country has made a complete reversal in international roles – from a supporter of national liberation struggles it has turned into an exploiter of nations, an imperialist country. The extremely low opinion that China now holds of the Soviet Union is sharply expressed in such phrases as:
“Since the nature of political power in the Soviet Union has changed, the economic base has also changed into monopoly capitalism. This can be clearly seen in the ownership of the means of production and distribution. Politically the ruling clique have to exercise a fascist dictatorship which is vicious.”
“By fascist political power we mean having to resort to the use of terror for the purpose of undermining the political power of the working class. Through their domination of the party the Soviet rulers are able to impose their line in all fields. Those who disagree with the official line are arbitrarily dismissed from the party.”
”Internally the ruling class practices fascist dictatorship. Externally they are guilty of aggression and expansion. This new bourgeoisie has turned the Soviet Union into a prison of nations. They dominate over all of the non-Russian nationalities, and have today become the most, dangerous source of war”.
This analysis of class power and policy in the USSR clearly casts the Soviet Union in the role of superpower striving for hegemony over the entire world. So, in China’s view, a vast change has been effected in international relations – a fundamental change in relations, which has fully matured over the past ten years or so.
According to this Chinese viewpoint there is no longer a contest to prove the superiority of one social system over another. The degeneration of the Soviet Union has transformed that contest into a contention for world hegemony between two superpowers, with the Soviet Union, the former leader in the defence of socialism now one of the two superpowers. In place of advocating a policy of rallying around the Soviets, China now calls for unity of all the world’s peoples to oppose both the Soviet Union and the United States, whose contention for world domination is the source of a new world war.
This clearly represents a very sharp break with previous policy. And a crucial added factor is the Chinese view that the Soviet Union now represents the MAIN DANGER of war in this period. This conclusion is based upon an analysis and assessment of historical experience over the years since WWII.
According to this analysis the United States has suffered serious military and diplomatic defeats, which have left that country critically divided internally, and considerably weakened in comparison to its previous position as a dominant world power.
The US desperately needs time to allow for recovery from the trauma occasioned by defeat, to heal internal wounds, and to develop a new and effective policy to govern its international relations so as to allow for recovery of its former position of leadership and authority.
The Soviet Union, on the other hand, has not yet suffered any military defeats. Nor has it experienced any really devastating setbacks in the field of diplomatic relations. (It should be noted, however, that recent developments threaten to leave Soviet policy in the Middle East in total disarray.) Like all newcomers to the ranks of world conquerors, the Soviet Union possesses a gigantic ambition to rapidly expand its domination over far-flung areas of the world. It is this inordinate haste to expand, bringing it into open contention with the other superpower in many parts of the world, which casts the Soviets in the role of main danger of war at this time.
As I have noted above, this indicates a very sharp break with previous policy and former loyalties. For more than fifty years the Soviet Union was acclaimed as defender of the truth, upholder of justice and liberty, protector of the weak and downtrodden, and architect of a new world. Since 1947 the United States has been regarded as an arch-villain, exploiter and oppressor of the underprivileged, the poor and the destitute – an imperialist in the very camp of imperialism itself.
In the Vietnam affair the US earned the hatred and hostility of people around the world, and divided its own population into two warring camps that came to the very brink of civil war, a situation further aggravated by the manner in which the US administration viciously suppressed and oppressed its own minorities and its youth.A casual investigation of China’s position, and it is all too often casual and careless, might give one the impression that the Chinese are saying that the Soviet Union has degenerated to the point of producing a ruling class and a nation more repressive, and more viciously imperialist, than anything achieved by the US in its solo reign as chief of the capitalist world. Seen in this light, and even in the milder form of simple equality with the US as an imperialist exploiter, it is proving difficult for a great many people to understand and accept the Chinese position. They do not find it easy to adapt to Chinese thinking, for old habits and old loyalties are not so easily discarded.
There are many who reject the proposition that the Soviets have degenerated to the extent that China claims they have. These people concede that the Soviet Union has committed many serious errors, but in spite of that it has continued to be essentially a socialist country, and a supporter of just causes throughout the world. Anyone who holds to such an opinion must necessarily reject China’s foreign policy, because assessment of the depth of Soviet degeneration is crucial to the whole foundation of that policy. It is precisely on this point that the New York Guardian initiates its break with China and, despite its disclaimers to the contrary, is found in the camp of supporters of Soviet policies.
I am not suggesting that the Chinese position can be accepted without critical investigation. What I am suggesting is that it should not be arbitrarily dismissed because it is based on a view of the world that is radically different from that which we previously held. Proper attention should be given to China’s bill of indictment against the Soviet Union. Some of my own views on that critical problem were discussed in the pamphlet ’Two Roads’.
But it is not my intention, at this time, to argue for one side or the other in that particular debate. My purpose to this point has been to attempt a clarification of China’s attitude, so that the foundation of its foreign policy can be seen to make sense within the context of China’s view of the international situation.
There are also some problems connected with those people who single out certain aspects of Chinese policy to the point where they tend to convey a distorted image of what China is really saying. These are declared friends of China, often mistakenly accepted as ’experts’ on Chinese affairs. I hope that our discussion will aid in resolving some of those problems.
Chinese officials outline the general principles upon which their policy is based, in the following manner:
Our approach to foreign policy is based on the Leninist analysis: That we are in the monopoly stage of capitalism, the highest stage – imperialism – the point at which the capitalist system becomes moribund and enters into a period of permanent crisis. In this final stage of capitalism the contradictions within the system become sharper, only to be resolved by proletarian revolutions and wars of national liberation. In this era China’s foreign policy is guided by Leninism.
There is economic crisis and division in the imperialist camp. The two superpowers are confronted with increasing difficulties at home and abroad. The probabilities of war and revolution are ever increasing. The third world is awakening and conducting successful struggles for independence. Japan is demanding the return of the four northern islands, and all of Southeast Asia is resisting superpower hegemonism. Asian countries are rejecting the ’collective security’ schemes advanced by the Soviet Union. They have come to the realization that they must not let the Czars in by the back door while the Kings are being ejected by the front door. They do not relish superpower hegemony in any of its forms.
In Africa the people’s struggles are developing gradually in opposition to both colonialism and hegemonism. The colonial rule of Portugal survived in Africa for five hundred years, but it quickly disintegrated under attack. Africa generally has dealt counter-blows against Soviet intervention, has resisted Soviet revisionism, and has dared to defy the hegemonism of both superpowers. The Angolan people routed the Portuguese colonialists, but the Soviet Union has succeeded in sowing division amongst the people of Angola, and has provoked civil war in that country.
In Latin America the struggles of the peoples are surging forward and some countries have achieved their independence. The countries in the Caribbean area are now playing an active role in the international arena. The nations in the Latin American region are strengthening their bonds of unity and, while freeing themselves from one superpower, they are on guard against encroachments by the other.
Over the past year a number of countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America have broken the bonds of the two superpowers and are establishing a new order. The oil-producing countries have resisted superpower pressure, and have firmly insisted on the right of determining their own price for oil, and have taken their fate into their own hands. The countries of Africa and Latin America follow the example of the Middle East. One after another they organize the control and marketing of their natural resources. Latin America also wages struggle against the maritime hegemonism of the superpowers.
The defense of national sovereignty, independent economic development, and opposition to superpower domination, has now become the common objective of third world countries. However, the superpowers are not reconciled to this new world situation, and are resorting to all sorts of schemes and measures in an attempt to maintain the status quo. Last year (1975), the Soviet revisionists instigated civil war in Angola and have temporarily got the upper hand. Kissinger of the United States recently visited seven African states. These are significant moves in the contention between the superpowers. In this climate of contention and counter-contention, third world peoples are heightening their vigilance and closing their ranks. We are convinced the people will win.
Contention between the superpowers in Europe has been on the increase for more than a year. More and more governments, political parties, and people generally throughout Western Europe are beginning to realize that it is the aim of the Soviet Union to dominate all of Europe through a policy of divide and conquer. The Soviet revisionists are aiming at isolating the United States from Europe as a step in the direction of the goal of expansion into the region. We have pointed out that the Soviet-promoted conference on European security is a source of extreme peril for Europe. Our stand on this issue is correct.
Western Europe and North America are awakening to the dangers inherent in the fierce contention between the superpowers. The Marxist-Leninist movement in Western Europe is developing rapidly, and the struggles of the people are on the rise. They coordinate the struggle against monopoly capitalism with the struggle against the superpowers, and in unity with third world struggles. From these facts we observe that the contention between the superpowers is growing fiercer, and that the prospect for war is increasing. This contention between the superpowers will surely give rise to a new world war. In this regard the Soviet Union is the main danger.
Lenin was correct on the uneven development of imperialism. The superpowers are the greatest international oppressors, and the source of world war. As Lenin remarked: several imperialist powers contend for hegemony. The emergence of Soviet imperialism has intensified the contention for hegemony. There is both collusion and contention. Collusion is partial, relative and temporary. Contention is permanent and absolute. This is the condition that is determined by the nature of imperialism.
How to view contention is one of the problems that Lenin debated with Kautsky, who was of the opinion that super-imperialist countries would collude and put an end to the danger of world war. Lenin rejected this, and insisted that as long as imperialism existed war was inevitable. In no way do we believe in the myth of lasting peace propagated by the superpowers in order to confuse people and to disarm them.
Inherent in this general outline are several crucial points that call for closer examination. These are as follows:
The question of the inevitability of war
The Soviets as the main danger and united front speculations
Military preparedness in Japan, Western Europe and Asia
Foreign policy, revolution and the domestic programs of left political parties
Angola and the general problem of Africa
Anti-China propaganda, especially that part of it that originates in the Soviet Union, conveys the impression that China created the concept of the inevitability of wars under capitalism; that China accepts war as a sure path to successful proletarian revolutions. This same source also claims that the Chinese believe war to be imminent, not possible of postponement by any action of the people, and certain to be nuclear in character. Unfortunately some groups and individuals who declare their profound sympathy and solidarity with China, among them some who are widely quoted as correct interpreters of Chinese policy, help to fortify this impression by isolating, and placing undue emphasis upon, certain aspects of Chinese policy and opinion, thereby distorting the entire fabric of its foreign policy.
The theory of the inevitability of war was by no means a Chinese creation. This theory was formulated and advanced by Lenin more than fifty years ago, when he published his pamphlet on imperialism. The Chinese have simply continued to accept this Leninist concept as a correct evaluation of a fundamental characteristic of capitalist society. They have subtracted nothing from it, nor has anything been added.
Similarly in the matter of Chinese opinion regarding the capacity of the common people to end imperialist war through victorious revolution, and to build a better world on the ruins left by war. This belief is not peculiar to the Chinese, nor does it manifest any belief in the alleged ’beauties of war’. It is an optimistic outlook that has long sustained many peoples in their opposition to war. It was long since enshrined in the poem ’Solidarity Forever’, one verse of which ends with the words, On the ashes of the old we will build a better world for the union makes us strong. But with the maturing of the expansionist ambitions of the Soviets, there was a necessary parallel development of opposition to just wars for national liberation. The threat of imperialist war became a weapon of nuclear blackmail hanging over the heads of the people. Soviet leaders preached the doctrine that world war would assuredly become nuclear war and destroy the entire human race. And since any local war, i.e., wars of liberation, could precipitate world war, these should be avoided.
The Chinese, on the other hand, advised people to oppose imperialist war but not to fear it. They proclaimed the concept that war would surely end in a people’s victory, and the end of imperialism, and of the old there would be built a better world. In China’s view the point at issue is not whether or not one is in favour of war, the Chinese insist that they are not at all in favour of imperialist war. So far as they are concerned the real issue is; shall peoples and nations allow the big powers to blackmail them into submission with threats of nuclear war.
Regarding this question of the type of war that might be fought, China declares its optimism that it will not be nuclear in character. They say:
“Some say there will be nuclear war that will destroy mankind. We do not believe this. There are two possibilities: (1) convential war; (2) nuclear war. Nuclear missiles are weapons of mass slaughter. But the aim in war is to seize and occupy land, and to exploit people. If all of the people were destroyed in nuclear war, who is there to exploit.”
“Also, it is not only the superpowers that have nuclear weapons. If these weapons were to be used by them, others would retaliate, and past experience shows that countries armed with the same weapons will refrain from using them.” ”When we developed nuclear weapons it was done for the purpose of breaking the big power monopoly. Under no circumstances would we be the first to use them. We stand for their total destruction, and we are opposed to the farce of ’limitation’, which is advanced for the sole purpose of limiting other countries, while the superpowers exercise monopoly and engage in blackmail.” ”Both of the superpowers have produced enormous quantities of nuclear weapons, and have never declared that they would not be the first to use them. So the possibility of a nuclear conflict cannot be ruled out entirely. But nuclear or conventional, the people must be prepared for war. In China we dig tunnels deep and store grain everywhere.”
On the question of the imminence of war the Chinese say:
“Contention will surely breed war. But if the enemy should attack China will surely wipe them out. However, we do not think that world war is impending. The United States is confronted with difficulties at home and abroad. It is presently on the defensive and in no position to launch a war. Although the Soviet Union has been steadily-preparing for hostilities, it is not yet ready to engage in a war of world proportions.”
“We say that it is not possible to avoid war, but that it is possible to postpone the outbreak of hostilities. If it is possible for us to buy time so that the forces of the people can be mobilized, it would be a very good thing. But it may be difficult to buy time of as much as twenty to thirty years duration. Eventually war will come if it is not prevented by revolution. In any event, we are convinced that the people will be victorious.”
One of the important points related to China’s foreign policy that seems to be a source of conf¨sion to some people concerns the evaluation of which superpower represents the main danger of war in the world today. For many years following WWII the US was denounced as the chief international bandit and disturber of the peace, and people were constantly reminded of the need to unite in opposition to US aggression. Since the United States is still a relatively strong nation, militarily and economically, and is still an imperialist leopard that has by no means changed its spots, it is not easy to accept the argument that the crown of chief aggressor, which it held for so long, may now have passed into the custody of another contender. This fact, for some at least, is difficult to comprehend, and especially so when the new champion is said to be the Soviet Union, the country which was for years hailed as the defender of liberty.
But it is precisely this analysis, i.e., China’s assessment of Soviet degeneration into an imperialist power, that contains the key to understanding China’s foreign policy. Assuming that the Chinese analysis in this respect is correct, let us look at how they arrive at the conclusion that the Soviet Union is the main danger of world war today.
After the second world war US imperialism filled the power vacuum caused by the decline of the capitalist states in Europe. The US became the most powerful of the nations of the world, as well as being the chief practitioner of aggression and expansion, spreading its tentacles everywhere. The United States constructed military bases in all corners of the earth, to use as jumping off points for aggression against many countries. At that time the US constituted the main danger of war.
However, anti-imperialist resistance developed at every point where the US sought to penetrate and to enslave people. The American aggressors suffered three major defeats over a period of little more than two decades: (1) China, (2) Korea, (3) Vietnam. While the United States was heavily committed in Vietnam, the Soviet Union took advantage of the favourable situation that prevailed throughout the 1960s, expanding its territorial hegemony in every direction. The contention with US imperialism which resulted from the Soviet expansionist policy, grew in ferocity in the later sixties. Now contention has spread to every corner of the globe. It spreads from land to sea, and from the earth to outer space. It is both military and political in character. Europe is the focus of this contention. Why do we say that Europe is the focus of this contention?
Historical experience proves that every new power on the rise will seek to expand and, consequently come into contention with the old powers in decline. This is in order that it may replace the receding authority, and thus satisfy its own ambition to dominate. The Soviet Union now constitutes such a power, presently in the process of rising rapidly. In order to satisfy their enormous appetite for expansion the USSR must squeeze out the United States and seize control of Europe which was occupied by the Americans after WWII.
The United States has already got control of Europe as a heartland. They have invested heavily there and are holding a large stake in the region. The US is by no means reconciled to a retreat from Europe before Soviet pressure. Kissinger has said that the balance of forces is reaching the point of equilibrium, but that the United States is still able to guarantee that Europe will not fall into the hands of any other power. Underlining this area of contention Gromyko declares; Our destiny hinges on events in Europe.
The fact is that Europe has immense industrial development and a very strong economy. Whoever controls Europe possesses a firm base from which to dominate the world. That is why Europe stands at the centre of contention.
The Soviet revisionists have been advocating a world security conference in order to fool and confuse people. While they have been talking security and detente, they have deployed three-quarters of their troops in Europe, and have conducted military manoeuvres using modern weapons. At the same time Western Europe has become dependent upon the United States for its defence, and especially dependent upon the so-called nuclear umbrella. As a consequence Europe is divided and militarily weak. They also entertain some illusions about the possibility of permanent peace. Analyzing the threat to European security posed by Soviet expansion, some military analysts are saying that it would take only one month for the Soviets to over-run Europe. United States imperialism, beset by numerous difficulties at home and abroad, is becoming weaker and inclined to pursue a policy of appeasement.
The Middle East is an important area on the European flank, and as such constitutes a critical point of contention between the superpowers. The Americans and the Soviets maintain a no-war, no-peace: environment there which facilitates their exploitation of the region. The strategic and economic value of the Middle East makes of it an inevitable place for contention. Following the mid-east war, the Soviet Union suffered some disappointments. The renunciation of the Soviet-Egypt treaty of trade and friendship was a heavy blow for the Russians. Although they have suffered this major setback, the Soviets will not abandon their policy of contention and expansion in the Middle East. They will play for time and seek to recoup their losses. So the no-war, no-peace stalemate is virtually a new round of contention in this vital region.
The Mediterranean is still another flank of the European focal point, and contention there has recently taken a fiercer turn. The Russian sixth fleet has taken to roaming the Mediterranean Sea, and has taken advantage of the Cyprus affair in an effort to sow discord and so defeat US imperialist policy. The Soviet effort to penetrate Portugal and Spain, and to seize an advantage in those countries, was the manifestation of a desire to control an outlet to the Atlantic. Both superpowers are keenly aware of the fact that whoever dominates the Mediterranean will be in a favourable position to dominate Europe.
Large-scale naval manoeuvres in Northern European waters, underline the intensity of contention between the superpowers over the question of European domination, and are an indication of Soviet intentions to attack Europe from the north as well as from the south. This contention will surely lead to war, and we are constantly reminding our friends in Western Europe that they should unite and strengthen their defences against the two superpowers, but especially against the Soviet Union.
During the past several years summit meetings have been convened to discuss the topics of peace and detente. These meetings are invariably concluded with the signing of treaties, which turn out to be nothing more than scraps of paper. This has always been the case. After a talk between the superpowers there follows disorder and instability. Following the first summit meeting Nixon visited Poland, while Gromyko went to west Germany, each trying to infiltrate the others domain. War erupted in the Middle East soon after the second summit was adjourned, and the Cyprus incident marked the conclusion of a third effort at superpower diplomacy. The last summit meeting, the fourth in the series, was followed by still more examples of superpower contention. For example, the Soviet Union is held wholly responsible for the civil war in Angola, where both the USSR and Cuba are guilty of military intervention, resulting in victory for the MPLA. But the problem of Angola is still unresolved.
During their fourth summit meeting the Soviets and the US discussed plans for the limitation of nuclear weapons. But there has been no actual progress in the implementation of these plans. On the contrary, they have both significantly increased their military expenditures, and have further expanded the production of nuclear weapons. In 1974, the US allotted 80% billion dollars for military purposes, and in 1975 increased the allotment to 92.8 billion. And still another projected increase for 1976, will bring American military spending to a record high of 100 billion dollars.
Official Soviet figures are not so reliable, and the state budget contains many hidden items that properly belong in the column of military estimates. The most dependable figures available indicate that between 1974 and 1976, the Soviet Union will spend at an annual rate ranging from 80 billion dollars to 100 billion dollars.
Each of the superpowers possesses enormous quantities of both nuclear and conventional weapons. The US has 1054 ICBMs, 656 submarine missiles, 10,530 tanks, 497 warships, 5500 tactical planes, 498 bombers and 2.1 million troops. These are very impressive figures indeed, but the Soviets surpass them in every department with the sole exception of tactical planes. The Soviet Union has 1575 ICBMs, 729 submarine missiles, 47,000 tanks, 647 warships, 5150 tactical planes, 521 bombers and 4.27 million troops.
Imperialist war is the continuation of imperialist politics. Since the superpowers are locked in fierce contention, and well advanced in an armaments race, it is inevitable that war will eventually break out.
Who is it that is presently in a position and most likely to initiate a world war? In terms of strategic position it is currently Russia that is on the attack, while the US has fallen back on the defensive, following its series of critical defeats. The Americans are over-expanded, with bases and commitments scattered over a very wide front, and initiative is accordingly most difficult and complex. They are hard pressed to defend effectively their widely separated outposts of empire.
The Soviet Union on the other hand, has until now possessed the advantage of having a base much more concentrated, and they are seized with a greater ambition to expand. They have not yet suffered many diplomatic or military defeats, and still enjoy a certain advantage in being able to masquerade as the heralds of the wave of the future, advocates and bearers of revolutionary social change, while the US has long been reviled as the outstanding representative of a reactionary and decadent way of life. In the third world especially, these contrasting reputations have been of considerable advantage to the Soviets.
Encouraged by these many advantages, the Soviet Union is proceeding at a much faster pace of expansion than is presently the case with the United States. All over the world it is the Soviet Union that is more adventurous and taking the initiative in attacking at many points. Consequently it is the Soviet Union that is the more dangerous of the two superpowers. This point is clearly evident in the Brezhnev report to the 26th Congress of the CPSU, when he declared that the Soviet Union has taken into consideration the situation, and Soviet interests in every corner of the world. Those few words thoroughly expose the ambition of the Russians to dominate the whole world.
It is not by accident that the Soviet Union occupies the position of most dangerous in terms of initiating world war. That is determined by the social system that has emerged in the Soviet Union, and not because of some theoretical category created by us.
According to Lenin, monopoly is the most profound root of war. It is bound to lead to reaction in all fields, to international expansion and, ultimately, to a war of imperialist conquest. The Russian economic base is definitely state monopoly capitalism. A monopoly capitalist class, represented in the political sphere by the Brezhnev clique, now controls the economic lifeline and social wealth of the nation. It is a most barbarous fascist dictatorship. Compared to other capitalist nations the Soviet economy is the more highly monopolized. Compared even to the US, the Soviets have the greater degree of monopolization. The more extensive the monopoly, the stronger is the economic and political control wielded by the monopolists. This internal condition of total monopoly is utilized to the maximum in the contention with the US. With little internal dissension to act as a deterrent, the Soviet rulers press on with there plans for the conquest of the world.
The Soviets still lag behind the US economically, but they are on the offensive in contending for world domination. They discuss seriously the possibility of a pre-emptive strike, thus exposing their adventurous nature, and affording conclusive proof of the fact that they constitute the main danger in a climate of superpower contention.
Imperialism relies upon economic and military might to achieve its purpose, and war waged for the domination of other nations is related to uneven development in these spheres. As the late-comers to the imperialist banquet gain strength they seize the initiative, and so constitute the most dangerous source of war at a particular time. This is the historical experience gained in two world wars. Today Soviet social imperialism is the late arrival to the division of the world. It is not content with its present extensive possessions and attempts to expand into US areas of domination. To accomplish this the Soviet Union must ultimately rely on war.
It is clear that the Soviets have started on the path pioneered by the older imperialist powers and, like them, conspires to seize the whole world by force of arms. Harbouring ambitions even greater than those entertained by the old and declining imperialist nations, the Soviets dream of an empire stretching through Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America. In their drive to make this dream of world conquest come true they sharpen their contention with the US, not hesitating before the risk involved in taking adventurous steps on the way to their objective. So it is that they constitute the main danger of war in the world today.
The foregoing general outline is an accurate representation of the main contours of China’s foreign policy, as conveyed by representatives of the party, and is based on extensive notes taken during lengthy discussions with them. But there are obviously remaining doubts, numerous questions, and more than a little confusion, regarding some aspects of this complex problem. Some of the interested, even friendly, circles find it difficult, if not impossible, to accept the Chinese characterization of the Soviet Union as a monopoly capitalist and reactionary, even outright fascist power, having pronounced ambitions to become an imperialist overlord, rather than a socialist and progressive force that extends unselfish assistance and support to the many struggles for national liberation. The designation of superpower, in the imperialist sense of the term, is accepted without question when applied to the United States, but not as a description of the character of the Soviets. Thirty years of intense propaganda on the imperialist character of the US, on the one hand, and the Soviet devotion to socialist goals on the other, is not so easily overcome. Many people are not too ready to accept a new analysis of international relations that casts the Soviet Union in the role of leading villain in the piece. The New York Guardian, and its foreign editor Wilfred Burchett, are outstanding representatives of those who take issue with this suggestion. And in doing so they wind up with some unexplained ambiguities in their own position.
The Guardian people have maintained that they lend support to some aspects of China’s policy, but not that part of it which characterizes the Soviet Union as a capitalist-imperialist power. However, as should be obvious from what has been said above, accepting the characterization of the Soviets as a power based upon monopoly-capitalist relations, is crucial to an understanding of Chinese foreign policy. Take away that critical aspect and the entire policy necessarily falls apart. And there are still other strange and unexplained twists and turns in the Guardian position.
Up until now the Guardian has appeared to accept the Chinese analysis of ’three worlds’, and they do not seem to have openly rejected it. Does this mean that the Guardian staff sees only one superpower, the United States, contending with itself in lonely isolation, the remaining sectors of the world being divided into unequally oppressed parts? Logic would seem to dictate’ that the Guardian return to the discarded category of two worlds, and the existence of a ’socialist bloc’ of nations, an analysis which does not correspond to world reality today. And on that score, the Guardian will have to review its past criticism of the ’socialist bloc’s’ invasion of Czechoslovakia. The plain fact is that the Guardian position is not based on any independent analysis of world power relations, which seeks to set out a new view or to challenge the Chinese analysis. They simply move from one ’crisis of conscience’ to another, the latest related to Angola, which will be discussed further on.
It is not being suggested that people accept the Chinese world analysis, and the characterization of the Soviets as monopoly-capitalist, without question. But it is not proposed to conduct a full discussion on that subject at this time – that can be done later if it should be thought necessary. What we are examining is China’s view of world power relations, as the basis for its foreign policy.
Some of those people who express sympathy for China’s position contribute to the general confusion – especially in regard to their lack of understanding of China’s attitude towards the US, which is sometimes represented as favouring some form of accommodation with the United States, in a common effort directed at restricting Soviet ambitions. An example of this is contained in a speech by William Hinton to a New York audience. Explaining China’s policy, Hinton says:
“Since 1972 the situation developed further into all-out struggle between the Soviet Union and China. There is no area of agreement. On all questions there is all-out struggle. Relations with the US have gone just the opposite way. There has developed a situation, also of unity and struggle, of which struggle is primary. On most issues China and the US are in conflict. Examples; China strongly opposes the use of South African troops in Angola and is against America’s continued presence in Taiwan. There are hundreds of issues where Chinese and American policies are in conflict. But in certain questions they have a common interest: (1) Defence of Japan, which is weak vis-a-vis the Soviet Union, and therefore should maintain its ties with the US and the mutual defence treaty, keeping that aid pending the strengthening of Japan’s own defences. China has never said that it is a good idea for Japan to remain dependent on America for its defence. But in the situation today, when the threat from the Soviet Union is outstanding and immediate, it is impractical for the Japanese to force America out and then fall prey to Russian aggression. This is a big reversal from 1971, at which time China feared the rearmament of Japan.
“Now when the Soviet Union is a threat on a world scale, they regard Japan as a victim of that, rather than as an aggressor against China. Whereas they used to see the development of Japanese defense as a threat, they now see it as a necessity to maintain independence.
“The same thing holds for Europe. They in fact do support a continued American role in NATO, temporarily, because Europe is so weak and could easily be overrun by Russia. Pending the development of Europe’s own defences they think that it is important for the US to continue its role in NATO, to provide some military backing that would deter Russian aggression. Again, they don’t think that is a good thing – they don’t think that Europe should be in this situation and they are encouraging Europe to unite, and to develop its own defence. They supported the Common Market and European unity. But pending that they believe that it would be disastrous at this point to break the American connection. This is a reversal of long-held positions on China’s part.
“It’s only in certain situations where the American link is vital to the immediate situation that this reversal applies. That is not the case in Taiwan. China is making conditions for withdrawal from Taiwan. It is the US that is confronting the more serious threat, and it is the US that cannot afford to have Taiwan stand in the way of better relations with China” This manner of outlining the problem makes it appear that China is advocating, or at the very least seriously considering, an alliance with the US against the Soviets. True, Hinton hastens to add; ”Some people think that by saying that the Russians are the main danger means that the Americans are immediately friends, and of course the Chinese are not saying that at all.”
In my view the Hinton disclaimer only serves to emphasize the implied element of China-US unity to oppose Soviet hegemonic ambitions. As a kind of casual off-hand apology for China’s foreign policy it only presents groups, such as the Guardian staff, with the opportunity to claim that even people as friendly to China as Hinton is known to be recognize a clear element of unity with one superpower against the other. China’s response to any suggestion along these lines is that they have no interest whatever in any policy of that kind.
Hinton adds weight to an implied alliance by the manner in which he discusses what can only be described as a proposition for the sharing of spheres of influence, in agreement with the US. It seems that Europe and Japan are to be conceded to the US sphere, while China takes on the responsibility for almost all of the Asiatic world. My clear understanding is that anything even approaching this plan would be considered to be preposterous by the Chinese.
One major error in the Hinton approach is the way in which he views Chinese policy as a big reversal from previous practice. One might well choose to argue the point from the angle of ’reversal’, and there are elements of that in the situation. But the way in which the Chinese view it is that their policy is the logical response to a changing world – to changing international relations. A simple reversal would suggest voluntary – perhaps unnecessary change, but a fundamental change in the structure of world power relations thrusts upon one the necessity for a new appreciation of the situation, and a consequent change of policy. The difference is more than semantic in character.
In Hinton’s elaboration there is a suggestion that China sees but one superpower that is actively aggressive, and another that is busy licking its wounds, relatively inactive, and a potential ally in opposition to that one which is active. But China argues that there are TWO superpowers constantly in contention for world domination, regardless of relative strengths and weaknesses. There is, in China’s view, no time at which one superpower ceases its contention while the other carries on with an active policy of aggression. There exists only changes in tactical positions between the two.
Looked at in that light, fortifying the position of one superpower (the weakest) against the other (the strongest), would be self-defeating, resulting in a never-ending circle of support for first the one and then the other superpower. It is possible that Hinton’s conclusion comes from seeing only the two superpowers, and China’s relation to them. But the Chinese see world relations far beyond those that exist between China on the one hand and the superpowers on the other. When I conferred with the Chinese in May, they were still adhering firmly to their ’three worlds’ theory, which is quite different from the view advanced by Hinton.
The Chinese said that the development of their three worlds theory took the following facts into consideration: The uneven development of the capitalist countries; the contradictions existing between the imperialist powers; the once existing socialist camp, no longer in being; the former colonies that have gained their independence. Taking note of these developments they have arrived at their theory of three worlds. According to them, this way of classifying international relations expresses the further development and sharpening of contradictions in the world, and it reflects the new division and realignment of forces that has taken place since WWII. The thesis contributes to, and indicates the direction of, the struggle against the two superpowers. The superpowers – especially the Soviet Union – fear the three worlds classification, and the Soviets and their lackies attack it, claiming that it is not developed on class lines. But, like Lenin’s theory of imperialism, it is based on an analysis of the real situation in the world.
China classifies the Soviet Union and the United States in the first world because they are the greatest exploiters and represent decaying capitalism, as well as being the source of war. Europe, Japan, Canada and Australia are in the second world category because of their dual character. On the one hand, some of them are still imperialist in character, and they exploit countries in the third world classification. On the other hand, they are subject to the domination and exploitation of the superpowers in varying degrees. The third world consists of the developing countries, which for a considerable period had been subject to exploitation and oppression by the imperialist powers. They still suffer from oppression by imperialism, from old and new colonialism and hegemonism. But they are gaining strength through struggle and presently constitute the main force opposing the superpowers. China declares that it belongs to the third world, but this is done in order to unite against the superpowers, and is not done with a view towards limiting or reducing the socialist state. As China says:
“Contradictions are sharp in Western Europe, which confronts the menace of Soviet expansionism and aggression. Although there are contradictions between Europe and the United States, the Europeans realize that they need to close ranks and strengthen their national defences against the Soviet Union in the first place. This is seen to be a pressing problem, and the necessary measures are being instituted.
“The great potential for initiative in the third world must be brought into full play. Some still fear the superpowers so much that ideological work is required in order to expose superpower weakness. Chairman Mao says that since we are communists it is our duty to help people. We must unite with the third world against both superpowers, making use of existing contradictions, isolating the minority, and wiping out the enemy one by one. Lenin has pointed out that in order to triumph we must seize advantage of every division. The enemy is by no means as united and as solid as iron. The contradictions within the enemy camp can be used to advance the people’s struggles. The contradictions that exist between the Soviet Union and the United States are an objective fact, In our international activities we will put emphasis on the Soviet Union and at the same time weaken the United States. When we do so we have in mind both principles and contradictions, stand firmly on proletarian positions, and hold to a revolutionary line. This is our view.”
Based on this brief outline it would seem that China is not relying mainly on divisions and conflict within the imperialist camp, siding with one superpower against the other, and making ’big reversals’ in policy.
China declares that it is relying first of all on the millions of oppressed and exploited people in the third world, and secondarily on the people in second world countries. The objective is to unite all of these forces, in so far as they can be united, in opposition to BOTH superpowers, making full use of the contradictions in the imperialist camp, but not relying on them to resolve the problem.
Before leaving this point it should be stated that placing the emphasis on the adventurous policies being pursued by one of the superpowers in the contention for world hegemony, and seizing advantage of contradictions, does not lend itself to the kind of distortions one finds in the Hinton approach discussed above. It is also true that extreme care is called for in putting the policy into practice so that it does not emerge as a policy based on the pursuit of unity with one superpower against the other. The emphasis placed on the role of one particular superpower must not continue beyond the point of usefulness in the struggle.
So far as speculation about possible alignments in the event of war is concerned; if it is not attacked China will stay out of any war between the imperialist powers. But if attacked China will fight back. Where that might place China in relation to one or another of the superpowers can only be determined in the actual condition of war itself.
How foreign organizations might respond to the foreign policy of China was one of the items dealt with in our discussions. The subject was pursued mainly with political parties in mind.
My personal concern in this question dates from my long experience with the Communist Party of Canada, which invariably took into consideration Soviet foreign policy before finalizing its internal program for Canada. This process resulted in more than one embarrassing and damaging reaction from the Canadian public which perceived of the party as the representative of the Soviets in Canada. A classical example of response to Soviet foreign policy came in the early days of WWII, when the Soviet Union signed a non-aggression pact with Germany and the Communist Party leaders immediately reacted to the situation as though they too had affixed their signatures to the treaty. But once Hitler had launched his attack on Russia the pact was forthwith nullified – for the party as well as for the Soviet Union.
Of course, the main burden of responsibility in a similar situation could not be charged against China. It is the privilege and the duty of any national party organization to determine its own domestic program, without reference to the foreign policy of another country. But I was interested in hearing China’s views on the matter.
The Chinese say that their foreign policy has been laid down according to the strategy elaborated by Chairman Mao, and no possible change of leaders could alter the fundamental basis of that policy. They emphatically declare:
“We will not seek hegemony of any sort, and we will educate the young generation in the same spirit. Further, China’s foreign policy, as the policy of a socialist state, is based on proletarian internationalism. It is founded on opposition to imperialism, old and new colonialism, Zionism, oppression, and especially in opposition to the two superpowers and hegemonism. China’s policy promotes the principle of unity with all who agree on these things and, guided by this policy, China supports the five principles of peaceful coexistence and friendly relations with all countries.” In practice China adheres to proletarian internationalism and its international obligations. It is the Chinese view that state relations and party relations are different.
“We cannot, and will not, cease supporting struggle because of the establishment of diplomatic relations with one or another country. Diplomacy works for the revolution not vice versa. If communists fail to support communists they betray the revolution.”
“China does not request of all Marxist-Leninists that they take action in line with our foreign policy. To do so would run counter to the advice given by Chairman Mao in his April 1946 article, ’Some Points in Appraisal of the Present Situation’, where he stated: ’The forces of world reaction are definitely preparing a third world. But the democratic forces of the people of the world have surpassed the reactionary forces and are forging ahead; they must and certainly can overcome the danger of war...” After elaborating on the possibility of compromise between certain nations, Chairman Mao continues:
“The kind of compromise mentioned above does not mean compromise on all international issues. That is impossible so long as the United States, Britain and France continue to be ruled by reactionaries. This kind of compromise means compromise on some issues ... Such compromise ... can be the outcome only of resolute, effective struggles by all the democratic forces of the world against the reactionary forces... Such compromise does not require the people in the countries of the capitalist world to follow suit and make compromises at home. The people in those countries will continue to wage different struggles in accordance with their different conditions.” This opinion is solidly based on the viewpoint that revolution cannot be exported and that what happens to revolutionaries in different countries, how the state apparatus treats or mistreats them, is a purely internal affair lying squarely within the jurisdiction of the local population.
China will not intervene in internal matters of this sort. But it must be understood that the scientific theory of Marxism-Leninism is not restricted by any boundary, and it is perfectly normal procedure for Marxist-Leninists in different countries to have contact with one another.
It was suggested by the representatives of one country (the US), that the only thing needed in order to effect full diplomatic relations, was for the Chinese to declare that they would have no contact with revolutionaries in that country. The Chinese declared they would never agree to such a proposition, and would continue to have relations with communists in all countries.
The suggestion that Western Europe should unite and strengthen its defences in the face of Soviet expansion, appears to be distasteful to some people. Viewed from one particular angle this appears to be simply a proposal for the arming of certain reactionary powers, some of them still imperialist in character.
Of course the suggestion is capable of that interpretation. But the Chinese will point out that in state to state relations they must see the world as it really is, and accept the full consequences of that reality. It is not China’s responsibility to change the government of any country to one more acceptable in its view. A change of state administration, and how it will be effected, is the sole responsibility of the people directly concerned. But whatever the type of local government, domination by the Soviet Union cannot possibly make the struggle for progress easier. On the contrary, it would undoubtedly become much more difficult.
Therefore, the actual situation demands that each country take whatever steps are deemed necessary to oppose superpower hegemonism, regardless of the government currently in power and without letting up on the struggle for local advance. Local conditions may dictate that the thrust of the struggle should be aimed against local reactionaries, against one or the other of the superpowers, or against both simultaneously. Only those who are immediately on the scene are qualified to decide on these issues.
It is not inconceivable of course that some local geniuses will arrive at the conclusion that, since unity and military preparedness are essential for effective resistance to the superpowers, it will be necessary for them to forego any effort at social transformation so that unity may be achieved. But that is not China’s responsibility.
The general line on the establishment of diplomatic relations is based on the policy of recognizing the government that is in control of the nation’s affairs. This general policy can be modified in certain circumstances. For example; China has recognized revolutionary centres long before they had established their authority over all the important centres of the country. This happened in Cambodia, Guinea-Bissau and South Vietnam. On the other hand, there are some countries with which China has never established diplomatic relations. This has been the case with South Africa, Rhodesia and Israel.
The withdrawal of diplomatic relations for the express purpose of indicating disapproval of a governments internal policies signifies that the internal policies of those countries with which relations are maintained, have previously received approval. That is no satisfactory basis for the establishment of relations, and would only result in little in the way of state relations going on in the world. In the case of South Africa and Rhodesia, failure to exchange ambassadors is a clear case of such disapproval, but it is one that is sanctioned by the United Nations and agreed to by most countries. Israel is a special case because China has relations with the Palestinians, who are in a virtual state of war with Israel.
A few short years ago there was almost no one around who knew anything at all about Angola, but in little more than a year a veritable flood of experts on the subject have cane to the fore. It is most surprising that a problem so complex is capable of such simple solutions as are offered us today. And the subject of Angola is high on almost everyone’s agenda.
The amount of time allotted to a discussion of China’s relationship to Angola is a bit astonishing, and it seems to be growing in volume and invective. This is all the more remarkable in view of the fact that there is not a single Chinese soldier on Angolan soil, nor is any Chinese national being shipped there. In fact, the full extent of Chinese involvement in the Angolan situation for more than a year past is to hold and to express some strong opinions on the matter. True, these opinions are sharply at odds with the position of some ’left’ journalists who imagine themselves to be experts on almost everything. But that scarcely provides sufficient reason for the floodtide of articles that is being devoted to the subject. Is there not more here than immediately meets the eye?
It seems to be perfectly clear that one must understand the real role of Russia in the world today in order to properly appreciate China’s foreign policy, and it is precisely this point that is being so sharply underlined in attitudes towards the Angola affair. For example, it was not until the outbreak of the civil war in Angola that the Guardian editors took issue with China’s foreign policy, and the editors of Monthly Review, who have been doing a series of flip-flops ever since the 20th congress; of the CPSU, made haste to join them.
The Guardian, especially since the defection of some of its staff members to the October League, has adopted a more and more open anti-China position. The editors of Monthly Review, in view of their past record, must choose more carefully when stating a position, so they have come to a decision to virtually ignore Russian involvement in Angola, (a difficult proposition indeed), and concentrate on defending the integrity of Cuba and the MPLA against implied Chinese criticism.
It is not conceivable that China’s opinion, however sharp and critical, could by itself turn the tide of battle in Angola – and holding a critical opinion is the only real ’crime’ that China is charged with. Obviously there has to be some other reason, and that reason is now beginning to emanate from the smoke of battle.
The Guardian staff has clearly emerged as the staunch defender of the Soviet Union, and is receiving the compliments of the Communist Party’s ’Daily World’ on their conversion. The Guardian rejects the proposition that capitalism has been restored in the Soviet Union and denies the imperialist content of Russia’s intervention in Africa. This journal defends the Russian-Cuban involvement as an act of ’proletarian internationalism’ in defence of Angola’s independence against US imperialism and South African racism.
The Monthly Review people are compelled to be a little more discreet. Having thundered denunciations at Brezhnev and company for some time past it is not possible for them to accomplish an overnight switch to their support in Angola. They make their contribution by climbing on the Cuban bandwagon and hurrahing Castro on to victory in his Angolan conquest. The Review goes through some amazing acrobatics in pursuit of its goal. The editors regale us with information that Cuban dependence on the Soviets is a danger in the long run, but for the moment Cuba acts independently of Russia and ’military aid to the MPLA was at least as much a Cuban as a Soviet idea’. The fact that, they can detect a mite of independence in the Cuban action makes the invasion OK in the eyes of the Monthly Review. By this means the editors try to avoid coming to grips with the very real Soviet presence in Angola, but they proceed to undermine their own case when they say that Cuban debts to Russia have been repaid ’in large part by supporting the Soviet position in world affairs’. Now all that they have to do is convince themselves, and their readers, that Cuban involvement in Angola is not in support of ’the Soviet position in world affairs1, and constitutes one more installment on their debt to the Russians. A very difficult proposition indeed.
To pursue a little further this idea of Cuban independence of action in Angola: It is universally acknowledged – even Castro admits it – that the Cuban army is equipped and supplied by the Russians. Without Soviet acquiesence in the venture the Cuban army could not even embark from the island of Cuba. Remember what happened to Sadat when he balked at Soviet demands. Most assuredly Castro had to have Soviet consent before going forth to conquer, and the most likely thing is that he is merely complying with Soviet requests in the matter. And in this case a Soviet ’request’ is tantamount to a royal command.
The real point at issue here is not Chinese criticism, but whether or not one is prepared to accept the proposition that; (1) Cuba could act in opposition to, or even independently of, Russian wishes in undertaking such a venture; (2) That the Russians have acted in revolutionary solidarity with the people of Angola fighting for independence; Russian-Cuban intervention was the only and acceptable alternative to the success of a US imperialist conspiracy against Angola. If we are to accept these propositions we will first have to believe that Russia is a socialist country, acting without a single thought of self-interest. That is the real crux of the matter.
The Chinese are disturbed about Russian intervention in Africa. They view this in the context of world relations, and place upon the event the emphasis that it seems to deserve. But there appears to be some problems in the way in which China’s position is being explained and understood abroad.
Africa is torn with complex internal problems. There remains a residue of imperialist influence and control in all parts of the continent, and there are some African leaders only too willing to become the tools of American and European interests. There is the added factor of disunity, rivalry and conflict, within and between the newly emerging nations. These are contradictions that are natural and understandable in a region just coming to nationhood and independence.
The imperialist powers, and especially the two superpowers, are able to take advantage of these internal contradictions so long as they remain unresolved and tend to become antagonistic. The situation is particularly favourable for the Soviet Union which, until now, has not been seen as an imperialist exploiter among the nations of Africa, whereas the United States and the European powers have long been identified as imperialists in search of plunder. The Soviets are experiencing some success in posing as opponents of imperialism and friends of African liberation movements. Behind this mask of friendship they have been able to pursue a policy of economic penetration, and are now engaged in open intervention in the guise of disinterested support for the cause of African liberation.
There is clearly an account that the Africans must settle with the old imperialist powers, and with the white racist regimes in their midst, those who practice bloody suppression against the black population. But all of these, however serious they may be, are problems of an internal character, on a continental level and they must be resolved by the African people themselves, intervention can only complicate the situation.
The Russian-Cuban intervention only serves to raise the problem to the level of global politics, and introduces, in the most direct way, the superpower contention for world hegemony into the African continent. Surely if the Russians and Cubans can intervene militarily in order to ensure the ascendancy of a political group satisfactory to their purpose, whatever that purpose, then others can justify their own intervention for a like purpose. It is vitally necessary that all foreign troops be withdrawn forthwith, and that would appear to have to start with a pull-out of the Russian and Cuban troops. In this way the problem would be returned to its proper level of continental proportions.
The main points and highlights of China’s foreign policy might be summed up as follows:
(1) It can be understood only within the context of China’s analysis of the Soviet Union as a once socialist and progressive force in the world, the centre of a ’socialist camp’ of nations, which has now restored capitalism internally, and degenerated into an aggressive imperialist power in its external relations – a real source of danger in terms of potential, world conflict.
(2) China sees the existence of two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, contending for the domination of the world. These two superpowers are the ones that represent a real threat of war in the world and, in the Chinese view, the main danger of war in the present period has passed from US keeping into the hands of the Soviets. The Soviet Union is the most likely one to precipitate world war.
(3) The rest of the world is seen as divided into two general categories; a second world consisting of a variety of capitalist countries, themselves imperialist in some instances, but each dominated to a greater or lesser degree by one or the other of the two superpowers. They are simultaneously in collusion and conflict with the superpowers, and in some cases are engaged in exploitation of the countries of the third world, which includes former colonies, neo-colonies and underprivileged countries. China, a socialist nation, considers itself a part of the third world.
(4) In the resistance to the hegemonic ambitions of the superpowers the third world, by reason of its desire and revolutionary struggles for economic and political independence, is considered to be the most reliable and consistent opponent of the big powers. The second world is considerably less reliable, but has contradictions with the superpowers that make of it a potential, if unreliable, ally of the third world.
(5) There are contradictions between the two superpowers of which advantage must be taken, as a means of advancing the struggle. The present world relationship, and the state of the existing contradictions calls for emphasis to be put upon the belligerent and adventurous role of the Soviet Union, and its classification as the main danger of war in the world today. But under no circumstances must this be taken to mean a proposition for a united front with one superpower against the other.
(6) There exists real hope for the postponement of world war for a period of up to thirty years, but not beyond that point, and China is prepared to exert every possible effort in order to gain such a postponement, to give the people time to mobilize their forces against the superpowers.
(7) In the final analysis war will be prevented or ended only through successful proletarian revolutions. Based on the concept that the foreign policy of a socialist country must serve revolution, not vice versa, the Chinese declare it to be their intention to expand and consolidate their ties with revolutionary movements around the world, and to extend to them fraternal support in their struggles.
I believe that I have here reliably and adequately outlined the basic aspects of China’s foreign policy, as explained to me in extended discussions with Chinese leaders in Peking. In elaborating on these discussions I have depended on impressions in some areas, and in others may have let some of my own opinions creep in. It would be difficult to avoid this entirely, since the report is based on notes rather than official documents. But I believe the final result to be a reliable statement of China’s views on the subject.
As a final note, the Chinese representatives indicated that they were fully cognizant of the fact that some ’comrades and friends’ did not fully acquiesce in the sharpness of China’s criticism of the Soviet Union. Their response to this is; ’Even if it lasts three thousand years, we will not cease criticizing the Soviet Union for a single day’. And, on the theory that the fall of the centre will witness the downfall of the perimeter, China intends to concentrate its criticism against Moscow, paying little or no attention to the lesser lights. That is why the Soviets receive the full weight of the attack over the Angola situation while Cuba, which sent nearly fifteen-thousand troops into Africa, is mentioned only in a secondary role.
Following delivery of the report on China’s foreign policy there was a second session held for the purpose of airing questions and discussions a-rising out of the first session. This appendix is designed as a reconstruction of the proceedings at that session, with perhaps an elaboration of some of the points made at the time. Discussion ranged over several topics, but most of the time was taken up with a discussion of two main points: Diplomatic relations, especially as they concern relations with Chile, and the more recent, but equally heated debate on Angola.
First on the question of diplomatic relations, and let us begin with the laying to rest of a ghost in connection with the Chilean situation. Because there is presently no Soviet embassy in Chile some of those who criticize China’s policy on foreign relations claim that the Russians set an example to others by not recognizing the military junta. (The same people studiously avoid discussing other embarrassing situations, such as the Russian haste to recognize the Lon Nol regime in Cambodia, when that administration was already about to fall.) On the Chilean situation they stand facts on their head.
It is not the Russians who are refusing to maintain relations with Chile. The direct opposite is the case. Under the Allende administration, in which the Chilean Communist Party was a very influential factor, the Soviets deployed several hundred ’diplomatic’ personnel in Chile, all of whom ran about the country diligently interfering in Chile’s internal affairs, and using the country as a base for the organization of interference into the internal affairs of other Latin American countries. When the military junta seized power illegally one of its first acts was to order the closure of the Soviet embassy, and its personnel to leave the country. There may be some question as to the tactical advantage of such an act, but there can be no disputing the fact that the junta had good and sufficient reasons for this particular act at least. In any event, it was Chile, not the Soviet Union that took the initiative in breaking off relations. Had the decision been left up to the Russians to make, there would still be a Soviet embassy in the country.
It must be clearly understood that diplomatic relations are wholly within the realm of state to state relations. The general line governing such relations is to recognize the administration that is unquestionably in control of the nation’s affairs. The basis upon which these relations are established have nothing whatever to do with the approval or disapproval of a government’s internal policies. The question of which and what kind of regime shall rule over a country’s affairs is a matter to be decided by the local people, and the decision cannot be appreciably aided by a mere show of disapproval. This is a universal criteria and not one that applies to just China alone. If one were to accept approval of a country’s internal affairs as the basis for diplomatic relations, there would be very little in the way of diplomatic activity going on in a divided world.
There are instances where this general line appears to be modified to take care of very special cases. China has no diplomatic contacts with South Africa, Rhodesia, Israel, and the United States. There have also been several cases where China extended diplomatic recognition to a revolutionary contender for local power, before it was in control of the economic and political centres.
China never did have diplomatic relations with South Africa and Rhodesia and, where the severing of relations may signal disapproval, the establishing of relations where they did not previously exist could be construed as indicating approval of internal policies. In any event, the vast majority of the nations of the world, through the agency of the United Nations, have united together in imposing sanctions on these two countries in retaliation for their particularly bloody oppression of the majority black population. In the case of Israel, China recognizes the Palestinian Organization with which Israel is virtually in a state of war. In the last instance it is the United States which bears the full responsibility by recognizing the rump administration on Taiwan as the government of all China, and by occupying a part of Chinese territory.
Amongst others, China recognized the Khmer Rouge-Cambodia, the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam, and the Guinea-Bissau revolutionaries, before any of them had yet consolidated their authority. But it was China’s position that it was the revolutionaries in each of these instances that represented the true interests and real majority of the people. Such an assessment is acceptable, and not in violation of the general line on diplomatic relations, when the situation is fluid, and the question of who will rule the country by no means settled. History proved China’s assessment to be correct in each one of these cases.
Returning for a moment to the question of Chile; the agitators for a severing of relations claim, quite correctly, that the military junta represents a particularly vicious regime that seized power illegally in Chile. But in that respect, is it any different from most of the other regimes in Latin America? In fact, countries like Bolivia, Brazil, Columbia, and Santo Domingo, to name just a few, are reputed to be even more vicious than the Chilean junta. Why not sever relations with all of these, or shall we signal our approval of all of them by continuing to maintain relations with them? The failure to raise this question is just one of the many proofs of the inconsistency in the policy of breaking off of relations as a sign of disapproval.
The inconsistency does not stop here. It is claimed, and it has been proven, that the CIA and the American State Department – with an assist from the American Federation of Labour – played a leading, perhaps decisive, role in the overthrow of Allende and the installation of the military junta. A United States Senate investigation established the fact that International Telephone and Telegraph were deeply implicated in the affair. But the advocates of severing diplomatic relations have never suggested that we should break off contacts with the US as an indication that we disapprove of such actions. This is another proof of the inconsistency in this policy.
Likewise in the case of the Soviet Union. The Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia never brought forth any suggestions for the severing of diplomatic relations with that country. Nor did the long invasion of Vietnam by the United States result in any proposal of this kind.
Clearly the proposition that diplomatic relations should be used in a manner calculated to indicate disapproval of a particular regime because of its internal policies, is both wrong and inconsistent. The only consistent policy is that of the general line on diplomatic relations as outlined above.
The Angolan situation was the other question that took up most of the time at the second session. It was in connection with this particular problem that the subject of the Soviet Union loomed large indeed. Where previously the suggestion that capitalism had been restored in the Soviet Union and that Russia had degenerated into an imperialist power appeared almost academic, now in the case of Angola, it had to be related to in a very practical way and decisions made in respect to attitudes towards the Angolan developments.
Confusion in connection with this issue was aggravated and reinforced by the difficulty experienced in grasping the historical fact that the United States, while still retaining the status of an imperialist power economically and militarily strong, had declined in world affairs in the absolute sense, and even more so relative to the growing strength of the Soviets. Also to be contended with was the influence wielded by the New York Guardian and Monthly Review, both of which pose as ’progressive’ publications operated by skilled journalists and political writers who possess very convincing styles. Then, too, there is the matter of sharp questioning and criticism from people who are quite friendly to China and in sympathy with its socialist objectives.
The sole reason for the wordy battle being waged against China is the Chinese critical assessment of the Angolan situation, and their sharp attack on Soviet intervention in Africa. Everyone agrees that China’s ’involvement’ does not extend beyond the point of criticism and counter-proposals designed to achieve African unity to oppose superpower intervention on the continent. Now it is obvious that criticism alone, however sharply it is worded, cannot turn the tide of battle or determine the ultimate outcome. So why the furious and unrelenting attack on the Chinese position? The answer to that question is already beginning to emerge. The real objective of the all-out journalistic assault is in order to ward off any possibility of the emergence of an international protest movement against Russian-Cuban intervention, such as greeted American involvement in Vietnam. Russian intervention is being defended as a demonstration of ’proletarian internationalism’ in support of Africa’s struggle against imperialism. If that point can be established amongst a decisive number of people, then it is axiomatic that anyone opposing the Russia-Cuba venture is automatically in the camp of imperialist reaction – western imperialist reaction, that is, which is really the only brand of imperialism that exists so far as the editors of the Guardian and Monthly Review are concerned.
It seems clear that any serious effort to contest this viewpoint must be solidly based on an examination of the situation from a historical perspective. But before proceeding with the undertaking it will be necessary, first of all, to deal with the Monthly Review’s contention that Cuba is acting independently of the Soviet Union in the affair.
In the May 1976 edition, page 16, the Review-editors state; ”extensive Soviet economic and military aid ... undoubtedly meant a high degree of Cuban dependence on the USSR, which the Cubans have paid back in large part by supporting the Soviet position in world affairs.” And in the same place, immediately after offering this evidence of Cuban dependence on Moscow, the editors have the effrontery to say; ” ... at the same time the Cubans have conducted a distinctive foreign policy of their own, cultivating close relations with the Vietnamese and North Koreans and lending active support to revolutionary movements in Latin America and Africa.” In the light of the factual record, it would be entirely logical to suppose that military aid to the MPLA was at least as much a Cuban as a Soviet idea. One may believe, as indeed we do, that the relationship of dependence on the USSR creates long-range dangers to Cuba – the same could be said of the dependent relationship between western Europe and the United States in the post-Second World War period – but this is an entirely different thing from saying that Cuba is a colony of the Soviet Union.
Such glib formulas belong to the realm of cheap politics, not of serious analysis and debate.
Well, let us accommodate the editors of Monthly Review by subjecting their statement to some serious analysis, and in the process see how serious is their own analysis. In the first place, what do they mean by ’long-range’ dangers? Is not nearly two decades of Cuban dependence on Moscow already the ’long-run’? Is it not appropriate to accuse the Review editors of evasion by talking about the long-run so as to avoid the crucial question of present dependence, which reflects itself in Cuba’s ready acquiesence in Russian plans?
Indeed the editors discover that they are not really able to deny the fact of Cuban dependence and are compelled to agree that Cuba has consistently supported Russia in world affairs in repayment of debts owed. How, then, can it be said that the “Cubans have conducted a distinctive foreign policy of their own”? Can we so quickly forget that Cuba was amongst the first to climb on Moscow’s anti-China bandwagon, that Castro voluntarily participated in Khruschev’s nuclear diplomacy, that Cuba made haste to be first in line with approval of the Russian invasion and occupation of Czechoslovakia? Are these moves to be taken as evidence of independence in foreign affairs? And citing American pressure as the reason for Cuba’s dependency, as the Review does, is not relevant to the issue, but constitutes just another attempt to evade the real point.
Wherein has Cuban policy towards Vietnam and Korea differed from that of the Soviet Union? In superficial detail of application perhaps, but in fundamental principle not at all. And so far as support to ’revolutionary movements in Latin America’ is concerned, that form of independence died in Bolivia with Che Guevara, perhaps the last independent voice in Cuba. From then on Cuba has turned its attention to supporting the orthodox Communist parties acceptable to Moscow. And the Review’s own standard for measuring Cuban independence, a comparison with post-war Europe’s dependence on the United States, is a measure of the editor’s confusion. Is the Review staff totally unaware of just how dependent war-torn Europe was on United States support, and exactly how far Europe went in support of American objectives during that period? If the Cubans are no more than equally dependent upon the Soviet Union, then it is a small matter indeed if one insults Cuba by interpreting the relationship as colonial in character.
Stating that “it would be logical to suppose that military aid to the MPLA was at least as much a Cuban as a Soviet idea”, is something like asking the old question; “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”, it is simply aimed at distracting the attention of the audience while the magician performs his tricks. It is quite obvious that neither Cuba nor the MPLA, nor both together, could act without the guaranteed support of the Soviets. It is Russia that has control of the arms, supplies and finances. Both the Cuban armed forces and the MPLA are trained and equipped by Moscow and everyone knows what happened to Egypt which was in a like relationship to Moscow. Cuba and the MPLA could not have lasted a single week had they not been proceeding with Russia’s prior consent. It necessarily follows, therefore, that no matter how much formal equality may have appeared to exist in the planning stage, it was Russia, and only Russia, that held the power to sanction or veto the operation. Just how much real equality is there in that kind of relationship?
The truth is that the MPLA, driven by a desire to monopolize power in Angola, had grown fully dependent upon the Soviets for support in achieving its goal, and Cuba was still paying its mounting debt to Moscow by supporting the foreign ventures of the Soviets, this time in Africa. While there is presently no solid evidence to support the theory, it is altogether likely that there were joint conferences between the three interested parties to discuss a plan of campaign to be put into operation AFTER the withdrawal by Portugal, which had appeared imminent for some months prior to the actual event taking place. These conferences would also have planned the particular role of each of the participants, including Cuba’s responsibility for supplying troops that amounted to more than half of the total MPLA armed forces – and this is not yet counting more than one-thousand Russians and over six thousand refugees from Katanga, now a part of Zaire, who were dependent on the Russians. It would also be interesting to know exactly what part was played by pro-Russian Portuguese officers, who were in a position to know when the Portuguese troops would evacuate Angola in a virtual rout. That kind of knowledge would be crucial to Moscow’s plans, and the extent of their preparedness at the time suggests that they had prior knowledge of the event. Any amateur military strategist knows the enormity of the logistics involved in the movement of armies and material from Russia and Cuba to Angola, and the speed with which this critical task was accomplished is clear evidence that the conspirators were well prepared long ahead of time, and that they must have had knowledgeable informants inside the Portuguese army in Africa.
The argument advanced by pro-Moscow journalists and debaters is that the Russians and the Cubans are discharging their internationalist obligations in the struggle against imperialism, and that they are contributing to the fight for the independence of Angola, which is represented by the forces of the MPLA alone. In this way they hope to be successful in bending the undoubted anti-imperialist sentiments of their audience into acceptance – passive or active – of Russia’s policy of intervention. Resolving the problem of whether Angola’s struggle for independence is being aided or sabotaged by the Russian action, can only be determined by an examination of the question from an historical perspective.
Angola was occupied, exploited and oppressed by Portugal for more than five hundred years. During the last dozen or so years, the Angolan people developed a movement against imperialist exploitation, and began their long march to national independence. And in this connection, there arises a very important question: Since the Russians and Cubans are such ardent and militant anti-imperialists, why were they not present on the scene when it was a matter of Angolans fighting Portuguese imperialists? How is it that they were only aware of the problem when it arrived at the point of Africans fighting Africans?
In the long struggle to end Portugal’s imperialist domination over Angola, THREE groups, not just ONE, as is now claimed by the New York Guardian and. Monthly Review, made important contributions. This is an item of historical fact which the Guardian reported at the time, it is a matter of record in all sympathetic journals of the time. But, in the light of present political needs the Guardian rewrites history, claiming that it was only one group, the MPLA, that did the real fighting and truly represented the interests of the Angolan people. The two other groups, now conveniently labeled ’pawns of imperialism’ – western imperialism, that is, since the Guardian editors do not believe that there is such an animal as Russian imperialism – only sabotaged the fight put up by the sincere anti-imperialists in the MPLA. The Guardian fails to offer any explanation for the one hundred and eighty degree turn represented in its present denigration of two of the three Angolan groups.
The undeniable fact is that all three groups fought against the imperialists and, all too often, also fought each other. Regrettable as that fact is, it is quite understandable in light of the historical situation. This constitutes a side of the long and successful rule of imperialism that goes unrecognized, or is completely misunderstood. It concerns the internal contradictions which, when, left unresolved become antagonistic, and prove advantageous to the imperialists, who have become extremely adept at making use of them.
Recognizing the existence of these contradictions is part of the key to understanding why the Soviets chose to concentrate their support on one group, the MPLA, and attack the other two, even resorting to the use of mercenaries in order to impose the rule of their elected MPLA disciples over Angola.
Internal contradictions are particularly sharp in the conditions of the African continent. To a large extent this is due to the fact that the existing social order is not a natural development in Africa, but was imported into the country on the bayonets of imperial armies. Tribal conflicts, not resolved in an orderly way as a result of normal development from tribal society to nationhood, and intensified and perpetuated by imperialists in their own interests, linger on throughout Africa. The condition of unity and conflict that was prevalent in Angola during the years of struggle against Portugal, was a manifestation of those particular contradictions.
It appeared obvious, not just in retrospect but at the time, that if the struggle in Angola was to end in success for the people and the two superpowers kept out of the developing new situation, there would have to be unity between the three participating groups and a serious effort made to grapple with and resolve the internal contradictions. Recognizing the fact that the climate of contradiction and division in the camp of the liberation movement created a very tempting situation, and an invitation for superpower intervention, the Organization for African Unity, before the Portuguese withdrawal, worked for the coalition of the three groups in a government of national unity that would undertake to circumvent superpower efforts to move in, and would also work to prevent civil war. This effort was endorsed by the Chinese, who said: “(We) repeatedly expressed the hope that the leading members of each liberation organization would solve their differences through peaceful consultation by holding high the banner of independence, unity and progress so that they could achieve their independence at an earliest possible date”. (Peking Review 9 April 1976) This proposal is now declared to be ’unrealistic’ and downright reactionary by the pro-Moscow editors of the Guardian.
The United States, which had consistently backed Portugal against the liberation movement, (as had South Africa), had already sustained a serious defeat in the rout of the Portuguese militarists. But the US still entertained some hope of retaining a certain measure of influence in Angola. In the expectation that a coalition government was likely to emerge the Americans undertook to funnel assistance to all three groups.
In spite of Guardian and Wilfred Burchett claims to the contrary, this included aid to the MPLA, channeled through the Gulf Oil Corporation. The CIA handled the connection with the other groups. The Soviets made a decision to oppose the proposal for a coalition and to decline the opportunity of vying for a degree of influence within it. They craved monopoly control, to be obtained through the MPLA, which they supported exclusively, thus not only maintaining but sharpening the internal contradictions.
While being slaughtered by mercenaries in the pay of Moscow, Angolans were to kill Angolans, all for Russian interests pursued under the guise of revolutionary international solidarity. In order to cover their tracks the Soviet Union and Cuba began a massive campaign of calumny against African leaders and nations. All of those who dared to oppose the Russian-Cuban intervention were labeled ’lackeys of imperialism’, a tag that was for a time affixed to the majority of the countries affiliated to the Organization of African Unity, until they ceased their opposition and resolved to recognize the MPLA as the ’government of Angola’. Then they became ’progressives’. That is the reason the Guardian rewrites history to fit present needs.
Already by January, 1975, the Soviet Union had provided the MPLA with arms and supplies to the value of $500 million, which was approximately five times the amount assigned to Angola by the United States. At the same time over 100 Russian advisers and several hundred Cuban troops arrived in the country. (Hsinhua News 26 January, 1976). Unable to intervene itself directly, the United States had its erstwhile ally, South Africa, attempt to counter the Russian move with the deployment of several hundred troops across Angola’s southern border with Namibia, (Southwest Africa). With regard to the current propaganda that the Russia-Cuba activities were in response to an invasion by South Africa, this chronology of events can be easily verified by a reading of all sections of the press, left and right, which reported the events as they happened.
Between 25 September and 23 October 1975, the Russians sent five shiploads of arms and supplies, and deployed over 2400 mercenaries, to the Angolan front. In the week ending 18 October 1975, about 750 Cuban troops were transported to the scene on Russian vessels. Taking its cue from these flagrant interventionist tactics, South Africa directed several thousand army personnel into Angolan territory, a move which China denounced as open aggression.
Since this is the clear record, since the Russians and Cubans clearly could not have been resisting ’South African aggression’ before October 23, then they and their apologists must disclose just exactly whom these two countries were fighting and killing in Angola before that date. Was it not Angolans? And now that South Africa has withdrawn, what reason is there for the Russians and the Cubans to linger on in Angola? Is it not to ensure the stability of a regime that has little popular support amongst its own people?
What is the current military situation in Angola? South Africa is out and has its hands full with a fast-growing crisis at home; the American strategy is in a shambles, and a handful of woeful and demoralized mercenaries, who were of no military significance whatever except to provide grist for the Russian propaganda mill, have been routed from the scene. That is not to say that one should condone the kind of activity represented in these forces, however ineffective they were. In the absence of a more massive and more effective intervention, they would have been the central target of worldwide protests. But the whole affair must be viewed in the proper perspective, and relative to what else has been developing, these efforts are relatively insignificant. Pro-Russian apologists inflate them in a desperate effort at screening Soviet-Cuban aggression in Angola.
Behind the MPLA stands 15,000 Cuban troops – providing more than fifty percent of the MPIA’s military forces. In addition there are 6,000 Katangan refugees, equipped and supplied by Moscow, and more than 1000 Russians, propping up the MPLA. Does that look at all like a government that enjoys the support and respect of the people it claims to rule over? Is it necessary, at this point in time, to point out that a government installed and supported by the armed forces of a foreign power cannot possibly be independent of the source which installed it, and keeps it, in power.
With the rout of the Portuguese, the repulsion of South Africa, and the defeat of US plans for intervention, the principal contradiction in Angola now is between the Angolan people on the one hand, and Russian imperialism and its allies masquerading as revolutionaries on the other hand. In this situation, the MPLA stands as a neo-colonial creation of the imperialist Soviet Union. When it is claimed that the Russians and the Cubans are in Angola on invitation from the MPLA, let us remember that the MPLA was not the chosen government of the people, it had no mandate, revolutionary or otherwise, from the Angolan people, it was only one member of a tripartite resistance to Portuguese imperialism. With overwhelming support from the military forces of a foreign power it usurped the authority to rule, and it stands only by virtue of continuing military intervention from abroad. It can only rule by the application of armed terror, which must surely intensify as the resistance of the people increases. Remember how a foreign-created regime in Saigon once ’invited’ its creator to intervene, and remember the fate of both the creator and the creation. There is an example of the fate in store for both the Russians and the MPLA unless they beat a hasty retreat, for as long as the foreign forces remain in occupation, internal contradictions, and contradictions with the aggressor, will intensify and struggle will increase.
Hard pressed for propaganda items to serve as a cover for imperialist aggression, Castro, seconded by the Guardian, advances the ludicrous claim that the Cuban intervention is nothing more than a return of descendents of African slaves to their Angolan homeland. That kind of argument could be handy as justification for changing the face of the entire world. The Zionists use it as justification for driving Palestinians from the soil that they and their ancestors occupied for several thousand years. Does Castro support Zionism? The United States could employ it in justification of wholesale intervention in several scores of countries from whence the Ancestors of Americans fled to live in exile. Will the Guardian support the United States in such a venture? Even Castro’s Cuba is not exempt, for it belonged to Amerindians long before the arrival of Spanish conquistadors and African slaves, and therefore constitutes a fair target for repossession by North American Indians. Will the Cubans on Castro’s island cheer that suggestion? And what about the return to Spain by Cuban descendents of Spanish ancestors? Why not let us all move around as on a giant chessboard in an effort to revive long-dead tribal divisions located in their original tribal grounds? It should be a lot of fun.
For the present, one last point in this affair which is far from ended. It has been asserted that the Russians and Cubans have made a massive deployment of military forces in order to liberate the Angolans from the grip of imperialist oppression. But why Angola, and why ONLY Angola? There are at least a half-score of countries, much closer than Angola is to Cuba, that are in the grip of military juntas ruling on behalf of imperialist exploiters – Bolivia, Brazil and Chile, to name but three. Why not liberate one – or all – of these oppressed nations? Is it that only the Angolans are worthy of liberation? Or could it be that the strategic situation favoured Russian intervention in Africa but not in Latin America, where the Americans would surely resist and retaliate, a point that they have made abundantly clear ever since the proclamation of the Monroe Doctrine in 1823. The latter would seem to be the case. The Russians will only ’liberate’ where it is presently safe to do so, and when there is every hope for immediate profit.
If one were to accept at face value the Russian, Cuban, Guardian and Monthly Review claims of ’proletarian internationalism’, they would make sense only within the context of a holy war against capitalism. Do our American journalists seriously believe that this is about to happen? If not, they would be well advised to change their arguments to something more believable, or else abandon them altogether. Or, alternatively, they might argue that Russian imperialism is a more acceptable variety than the American brand, which is the crux of their argument anyhow. We await the next episode in the Russian imperialist drama with breathless expectancy, while we speculate on just how the apologists for Soviet aggression will justify new acts of imperialist brigandage carried out in the name of socialism.