Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Revolutionary Workers’ Headquarters

Red Papers 8: China Advances on the Socialist Road: The Gang of Four, Revolution in the US, and the Split in the Revolutionary Communist Party

Avakian Thought: Socialism Failed Because... It’s Socialism!

Part III of the new CC report written by Avakian and enthusiastically endorsed by the current CC, is a particularly disgusting and counter-revolutionary piece of bourgeois propaganda in the guise of a “Marxist” analysis. In this section, Avakian has literally pulled the ice pick out of Trotsky’s head, making it crystal clear to most how seriously is his repudiation of Marxism-Leninism, Mao Tsetung Thought and the line of the RCP.

In part III, Avakian and his sidekicks set for themselves an impossible task: explaining the reasons for an event which never took place.

Avakian thinks that revisionism has triumphed in China and that capitalist restoration is near. But when it comes time to lay down the proof and stop picking at this and that, his fine idea and the development of actual events in the real world pass like ships in the night.

Setting aside for one second the question of what these opportunist armchair correct-liners do know, we would have to agree with a part of Avakian’s statement. That is, he sets the task of determining why the revisionists triumphed as a future task requiring a “great deal of attention and study.” Certainly there is not a word in the first 69 pages of the mimeographed paper (where this quote appears) on the question of why and as we will see, none after. To any honest Marxist this fact would be a real cause for pause and alarm. But not for our opportunists. The key question of the objective situation and an analysis of the political lines that were developed and put forward that led to the triumph of revisionism are not essential to determining why socialism failed. Again, the reason for this is simple, there are none because it never happened. But to be sure, this will be no obstacle for Avakian. All he has to do is to depart from Marxism and the Marxist method and say the “reason” for the triumph of revisionism is because:

On the one hand, the victories of the proletariat in those struggles led to great advances in socialist revolution and socialist construction. On the other hand, the more there were advances, the deeper the socialist revolution went, the more it dug away at the soil engendering the bourgeoisie, and the more it called forth desperate resistance from the bourgeoisie. Along with this, as noted before, at each stage in this process, some people get ’stuck,’ including especially, as Mao pointed out, those who have become high officials and want to protect the interests of high officials, as against the interests of the masses. (see page 152)

So in this particular spiral in the development of socialism, the proletariat fought hard (on the one hand), but the bourgeoisie fought harder–the people get tired and despite the correct lines of the Gang and Mao, the revisionists win out.

To our correct-liners, their guys went down, and this and not line is decisive. As to why their guys lost, since they were 100% Marxists and can’t be blamed, then the reason must lie somewhere else. Avakian says, “...certain things which contributed to this (why the ’revisionists’ triumphed–ed.) can be indicated now.”

The things that can be indicated now are covered in the CC report under four general points: the general reasons why the revisionists triumphed, the particular reasons why they triumphed, some thoughts on the last great line struggles, and finally an exhortation to the cadre not to lose faith, because socialism will triumph somewhere, some day.

General Reasons Why Revisionism Is Alleged To Have Won

According to Avakian, there are 5 general reasons that indicate why the revisionists triumphed in China:

1) “the persistence of commodity relations, the three major differences (mental/manual, town/countryside, worker/peasant), of bourgeois right as well as other powerful remnants left over from previous society in the material and ideological sphere.”
2) “...in a country like China, a backward country economically, where it is first necessary to go through the democratic stage and then make the immediate transition to socialism, the problems of making that transition and continuing to overcome spontaneous tendencies are enormous...”
3) “...there is a whole deep rooted Confucian tradition in China, which along with the still backward conditions economically means that many people are still strongly weighed down by the old spiritual fetters–superstition, etc., as well as the tendency to meekly follow those in authority.”
4) “and there is still the legacy of colonialism and the colonial mentality...which promote the idea that what is foreign is better...”
5) “At the same time there is a tendency to nationalism, which has a strong material base in the still largely peasant character of the country...” (see page 150)

There are two points that must be made about Avakian’s “general reasons.” The first reason that socialism failed is that socialism is socialism, and not communism. All he has done is list some features of socialism. And the second reason, points 2 thru 5, is that China and its people are backward. They get the full brunt of blame for the failure.

Socialism is a transitional social system. It has many birthmarks of the old society, and is not yet a communist, classless society. All the problems the Avakian paper puts forward have existed since the day of liberation. In fact, all of them were stronger then than they are now. They are problems that every socialist country faces to one degree or another, certainly every backward country that advances to socialism. To list them without any discussion of how socialism dealt with them, and what turned them around is to say that the conditions of socialism and “human nature” together give rise to the fall of socialism.

The rest of the points are used to slander the Chinese people. Here we have a masterpiece of true eclecticism. “Legacy of colonial mentality,” “spiritual fetters,” “nationalism,” “spontaneous tendencies.” This is not Marxism. How much? To what degree did these things take hold of the Chinese people? What was their motion, were they increasing or decreasing over the past 28 years? What turned them around? How did these things come out? Why–or what–were the lines that turned them loose? There is nothing of this in the section.

Once more Avakian tries to play us for fools. Perhaps after 70 pages he thought our guard would be down. Point 4 says the Chinese have the idea that “foreign is better.” And Point 5 says that the Chinese are nationalist, which is bound to make them think “Chinese is better.” Just throwing out a list of factors cannot substitute for even an initial analysis.

Mao addressed all of these points many times in the course of the Chinese Revolution. He said that we live in ”the historic epoch in which world capitalism and imperialism are going to their doom and world socialism and peoples democracy are marching to victory.”[1] He further pointed out that “imperialism as pushed the great masses of people throughout the world into the historical epoch of the great struggle to abolish imperialism.”[2]

The line of communists until now has been that the revolutionary storm center of the world resided in the “weakest links” in the imperialist world system, which has meant the kind of countries characterized by the points in Avakian’s list. The history of the international communist movement in this century offers proof after proof of this thesis. But to rationalize the Gang of Four’s failure to size power from the working class, Avakian is forced to follow Progressive Labor’s Trotskyite footsteps. As is well known, they wound up denying that revolutionary anti-imperialist struggles were a part of the worldwide revolutionary movement of the proletariat, and this is where the current CC’s defeatist line leads.

And together with this, the 5 points are together a strong repudiation of Mao’s line on building socialism in a backward country; a country with a large peasantry, poor economy, superstitions, nationalism (even Mao gets hit with this one)–these are the general characteristics of the vast majority of the world’s peoples and countries. And this is what Mao said about it:

In addition to the leadership of the Party, a decisive factor is our population of 600 million. More people mean a greater ferment of ideas, more enthusiasm and more energy. Never before have the masses of the people been so inspired, so militant and soaring as at the present. The former exploiting classes have been completely swamped in the boundless ocean of the working people, and must change, even if unwillingly. Undoubtedly there are people who will never change, who would prefer to keep their thinking ossified down to the Day of Judgment, but that does not matter very much. All decadent ideology and other incongruous parts of the superstructure are crumbling as the days go by. To clear away the rubbish completely will still take some time, but there is no doubt of their inevitable and total collapse. Apart from their other characteristics, the outstanding thing about China’s 600 million people is that they are ’poor and blank.’ This may seem a bad thing, but in reality it is a good thing. Poverty gives rise to the desire for change, the desire for action and the desire for revolution. On a blank sheet of paper free from any mark, the freshest and most beautiful characters can be written, the freshest and most beautiful pictures can be painted.”[3] Poor, backward, even blank. Are these conditions good or bad for revolution and socialism? Mao said they provided a good basis to advance to socialism and communism if there was a Party that integrated the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism to the concrete conditions of the Chinese revolution. There were and still are two roads ahead for China and all poor countries like it. The capitalist road of spontaneity and smash and grabbism, of short cuts and neo-colonial bondage, and, the socialist road of consciously transforming these backward conditions through the three great struggles–the class struggle, the struggle for production, and scientific experiment–with revolutionary drive and the initiative increasingly in the hands of the proletariat and its allies.

Avakian does not agree. For him the conditions in China could not help but lead to the capitalist road, could not help but subvert the Party and swamp the correct line in a tidal wave of revisionism.

Particular Reasons Why Revisionism Is Alleged to Have Triumphed

Avakian follows the general attack on Mao and socialism with a list of particular reasons for the supposed triumph of revisionism. In this case his method can only be described as going from the general to the peculiar.

1) “Mao’s death an event long awaited by the reactionary forces as the signal to make their big move.”
2) “Another is the devestating earthquakes.”
3) “the death of several long-time Chinese leaders beside Mao, all in the space of a couple of years, and several within one year (which role these different people played in the most recent struggle is not the point here– the point is that such deaths were bound to cause uncertainty and anxiety among the Chinese people about the situation in the country and this is magnified by the superstitions, traditions referred to above, one of which links earthquakes with the end of an Emperor’s reign, etc.)”
4) “...there was undoubtedly a section of the Chinese masses, and a larger percentage of cadres, intellectuals, etc.– through certainly not all and not the most class conscious–who were tired of it all and wanted to end it.”
5) “...the fact that to a certain degree ’the revolutionary enthusiasm of the masses, which sustained them in their state of tension...’ was weakened in recent years. In short, some of them tired of the struggle.”
6) “In addition there is a very real threat of imperialist, especially Soviet aggression against China and the international situation as a whole... And in recent years, with the growing danger of an attack on China by the Soviets in particular, and with the necessity to make certain agreements and compromises with reactionary and imperialist governments, with the whole ’opening to the West,’ and all the bourgeois influences that inevitably accompany this, there was bound to be a powerful ’pull away’ from taking the socialist road...and the cultural and ideological corrosion that is bound to accompany increased contact with bourgeois countries had no small effect on the Chinese masses.” (see p.150-151)

The striking thing about these particular reasons is that they are the same as the general reasons with slightly more detail. Again, no line is offered as to how these factors played their negative roles. What we learn over and over is that people get tired of the struggle for socialism. But how is it that the Chinese people did not get tired in the darkest days of the anti-Japanese War, or in the Civil War? Or the Great Leap, or the Cultural Revolution? How is it that they were full of enthusiasm just a short while ago? What changed? Not a word is offered to answer this question. The eclecticism of the previous section is redoubled. How many got tired? How much were people corroded? How big was the loss of enthusiasm? And how did these continuing secondary aspects become primary? Again, not a word. All the particular reasons boil down to Avakian’s view that only Mao could keep China red. When he died, the floodgates opened. Heroes make history, pure and simple.

The particulars are more slanders and more exposures of the Gang. The earthquakes caused more than “tremendous damage and dislocation.” They caused a sharp two-line struggle between Hua and the Gang. The Gang did not cause the earthquakes, but they sure used them to smash and grab. In the wake of the devastation and havoc, they sabotaged rescue, relief and reconstruction work, called on the surviving victims to “study earnestly Chairman Mao’s important directives, to deepen and broaden, with class struggle as the link, the criticism of Teng Hsiao-ping’s counter-revolutionary revisionist line, and the great struggle of the counter-attack against the rightist storm of verdict reversal,”[4] and attacked leaders like Hua who went into the affected area and guided the work. Yet the current CC upholds them and blames the Chinese masses. But the record shows who the real peddlers of superstition were–in an article entitled “When The Earth Turns, It Signifies the Advent of a New Earth,” the Gang did their best to breathe new life into the old beliefs about earthquakes signalling changes in dynasties. Perhaps Avakian will justify this advocacy of backwardness as he did their perversion of historical materialism in the criticize Lin Piao and Confucius campaign–as necessary “to indicate, especially to their followers...how the forces were then lining up in the struggle.”(see p.131) Perhaps he will try some new defense of the indefensible–it can only expose him further.

Point 6 in particular re-writes the line of our Party. It is a wholesale reversal of verdicts in a short space. China’s foreign policy is portrayed as a necessary but tragic compromise with the imperialists and reactionary governments. The “opening to the West” is presented as coming out of weakness. This is not the line of Mao or of our Party. The generally correct foreign policy of China in the 1970’s has won real victories, not only for China but for the entire working class worldwide and for all oppressed peoples. Would the current CC throw away the International United Front Against Imperialism aimed at the rulers of the 2 Superpowers in order to support the Gang? It appears so. This foreign policy put China more firmly at the core of this front by breaking the imperialists’ encirclement and blockade. This came from strength, not weakness and has enabled China to make use of contradictions between the two superpowers and between the superpowers and other nations, both lesser imperialists and the Third World countries, to advance the cause of socialism and revolution.

In Point 6 the slander on the people of China continues; who the hell is supposed to believe that the pull of the good life in the West was a “powerful force” and “had no small effect” on the Chinese masses? How big was the effect? How corroded were the people? As many as 90% of the Chinese masses have never even seen a Westerner. The reports of every single visitor to China right through today go directly against the idealism and wishful thinking of the Avakian clique. They all report on the high class consciousness of the people they meet. Far from lusting after our appliances and blue jeans, The Chinese have sincere and deep feelings of class solidarity, grasping the misery of living under capitalist exploitation and oppression, even in an advanced capitalist country with a higher standard of living than China’s, and supporting our struggles against that exploitation and oppression. Compare this to reports from Cuba or the USSR, including those in Red Papers 7. Working class rule makes a difference.

Avakian has finally discovered that China is a poor country. After 70 pages of downplaying the big need for economic development, mechanization and modernization, he puts economic backwardness as a big reason for why revisionism triumphed! In particular it makes the Chinese masses easy prey for revisionist and bourgeois Western lures.

On page 106, he hits the other side with the same idealism and arrogance. “I remember that after an acquaintance returned from a trip to China he was asked by a worker how it was, and he replied, ’It was like going through a time machine.’ The worker, on the basis of bourgeois spontaneity and prejudices said, ’Yeah, they’re still a long ways behind us, so it’s really like going back in time,’ ’No,’ the acquaintance replied, ’it’s like going forward.’”

Avakian here proves once again his inability to grasp the relationship between the existence of economic backwardness and the task of building socialism. Instead he thinks American workers are backward for noticing China is poor, and that Chinese workers are backward for wanting to change it! So wanting a better life is not an impetus to fight for and build socialism but the ideological basis for capitalist restoration – with a line like this, no wonder the current CC thinks socialism failed!

Avakian sets out to show how revisionism has triumphed, and as we said before this is a very difficult task, especially if your method is seeking truth from facts. What we have seen from his presentation of the general and particular reasons why the Gang lost is that even though the Gang had a correct line, the forces of capitalism were just too strong for them.

In Red Papers 7, when the RCP analyzed the restoration of capitalism, it was decisive to go into the line errors Stalin made that contributed to the rise of revisionism and the bourgeoisie. Without this, people would not be fully armed to understand how this reversal happened. But this is not possible here. Avakian himself says: “But with the Four it cannot be shown that their stand deviated from Marxism, Leninism, Mao Tse-tung Thought and that they created public opinion for an opportunist line that they were attempting to carry out. The public opinion they created was for a correct line.” (see page 101)

This is the big contradiction the current CC finds itself caught in. The Gang was correct, they were the revolutionaries, but they lost. They were defeated by Hua, so Hua must be a counter-revolutionary revisionist. So how then could Hua get on top–how could he and the rest of the revisionists triumph?

The only way, if you subscribe to Avakian’s opportunism, is because of the conditions of socialism. Socialism is a transition between capitalism and communism, the masses have backward aspects to their consciousness, imperialism still exists as a worldwide system, under socialism some leaders turn color and betray the revolution. It is not enough just to put these aspects forward, to support this line you have to distort them, to raise them from the secondary role (and often relatively small secondary role at that) they play when the working class is in power into problems far bigger than they really are. This is why the CC report treats such questions as “getting tired,” superstition, and nationalism totally out of context and with no discussion of the struggle and the effect of Mao and other revolutionaries striving to root them out in the course of continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat.

To support the Gang, who were counter-revolutionaries, you have to turn reality on its head. You have to turn the advance of the working class In fighting the class enemy and building socialism into its opposite. You have to take the leadership that Mao gave to the revolutionary struggle and say when asked if he failed, “yes–and no” (see page 153) and really mean “yes” but be afraid to say it. All this is a despicable insult to our class and to the science of our class.

Avakian’s Ray Of Hope

And when Avakian has laid out his reasons, after he has been ruthless in his metaphysics, then he lays a heavy rap on all the comrades to tell them not to lose heart and to understand that socialism will win out in the end! What is this enthusiasm based on? Mao says that the masses of people have a “potentially inexhaustible enthusiasm for socialism.” But the bulletin reminds us that this was before they got too superstitious and tired. Mao says “the correctness or incorrectness of the ideological and political line decides everything.” And that if you have a correct line, you will win soldiers.[5] But now we learn from Avakian that even if you have a 100% correct line not only will you not win soldiers, but you will lose them.

Avakian does have one ray of hope to add to his ten paragraphs of reassurances to the cadre that somehow, someday, somewhere, socialism will win. It is not in Section 3, or in the CC’s China Bulletin at all, appearing instead at the end of the rectification bulletin, but its counter-revolutionary line is of a piece with this section, so it will be dealt with here. What he offers is the possibility that before capitalism is fully restored, the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party will be overthrown from below, preserving socialism. (Shades of PL and the Spartacist League!) But Avakian goes one step further and gets a little more particular: “If China in the near future were to be attacked by the Soviets...it might even develop in a way favorable to revolutionaries in China.” (see page 98) This is what the current CC’s policy of “upholding China as a socialist country” comes down to –rooting for a Soviet invasion! What words of ours could serve to condemn the Avakian clique half so well as despicable flights of opportunist fancy like this?

Trotskyism Is Still Counter-Revolution

While Avakian is caught up in the contradictions of his position, and therefore can’t identify any line errors giving rise to revisionism, he nonetheless puts forward a line as to why revisionism did triumph.

The message is clear. The objective conditions were not ripe for socialism, but they were ripe for capitalism and revisionism. Poor backward countries have too many strikes against them. The material and cultural base for socialism is too low. The forces for capitalism are too strong. The working class is too small and weak, and the peasantry too large. The surrounding world is too hostile, and every effort to deal with them contaminates you. The leadership is too corruptible, and the Party cannot deal with these contradictions. Nationalism sooner or later drives out internationalism in peasant countries. And there is nothing that the subjective forces, the revolutionary communists, can do about it. Not even Mao could stem the tide of capitalism, and when he died, it was all over.

This analysis is not new. It is simple and classical Trotskyism applied to China. Listen to what Trotsky said in his Permanent Revolution: “The world division of labor, the dependence of Soviet industry upon foreign technology, the dependence of the productive forces of the advanced countries of Europe upon Asiatic raw materials, etc., etc., make the construction of an independent socialist society in any single country of the world impossible.”[6] And in “Preface to The Year 1905” he observed, “The contradictions in the position of a workers’ government in a backward country with an overwhelmingly peasant population could be solved only on an international scale, in the arena of the world proletarian revolution.”[7]

Trotsky never finished one of these analyses without telling all his followers not to feel bad. He always said that there would be revolution and socialism some day, even as he attacked it each and every day.

Our Party has always stood with Comrade Stalin in his battle against Trotsky and Trotskyism. We have always waged a determined battle against its followers in the US. We said of them in the Program of the RCP, and we must uphold today that:

Historically these Trotskyites have alternated between ’left’ and right opportunism –between ’revolutionary’ slogan-shouting to oppose the actual stage of struggle, and outright tailing after the bourgeoisie. But in essence they have always been right-wing servants of the reactionary classes. They attach themselves as parasites to the revolutionary movement to promote their organizations at the expense of the masses. They act all-wise and try to lord it over the workers, but the working class in every country has learned to deal with them in the same manner it deals with their imperialist masters.[8]

Trotskyism says that you can’t build socialism in a backward country. It says the masses, especially the peasants, will not go along. And that the workers are too few and will tire quickly. It says the Party cannot lead, that the ideological and political line do not decide everything. In short, it says the same damn thing that Avakian and his CC are now saying about China.

The current CC paper opens with the statement that “The attitude and approach every Party takes in understanding and evaluating the events in China will have much to do with determining whether or not that Party remains a Marxist-Leninist Party or degenerates into one kind of opportunism or another.” (see page 91)

The line of the Central Committee of the RCP on China is a counter-revolutionary, Trotskyite line. This must serve as an alarm, a call to drive this line out of our ranks before it takes hold and leads us down the path of counter-revolution and betrayal of the working class.


[1] Mao Tsetung, quoted by Shi Chun, “Again on Studying World History,” Peking Review, vol.15, no.24, June 16, 1972

[2] Mao Tsetung, quoted by Chang Chien, “Imperialism in the Eve of the Social Revolution– Notes on Studying Lenin’s Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism,” Peking Review, vol.16, no.39, 1973

[3] Mao Tsetung, “Introducing a Cooperative,” (April 15, 1958) Selected Readings, Foreign Languages Press, Peking, p.499-500

[4] Peoples Daily, July 30, 1976, cited in Jurgen Domes, “The ’Gang of Four’ and Hua Kuo-feng,” China Quarterly, no.71, fall 1977, p.485

[5] Quoted by Chou En-lai, “Report to the Tenth National Congress of the CPC,” The Tenth National Congress of the Communist Party of China (Documents), Foreign Languages Press, Peking, 1973, p.17

[6] Leon Trotsky, Permanent Revolution, Pathfinder Press, New York, 1969, p.280

[7] Leon Trotsky, “Preface to The Year 1905,” quoted by J. Stalin, “The October Revolution and the Tactics of Russian Communism,” Problems of Leninism, Foreign Languages Press, Peking, p.125-126

[8] Programme and Constitution of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, p.92