Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Cynthia Lai

Historic Lessons of China’s Cultural Revolution

Political Manifestations: 1949 to 1965

The sharpness of the two-line struggle from 1949 to 1965 between Mao and the revisionists headed by Liu on China’s direction illustrates the persistent danger of revisionism in China, the weakness of the cadre core, and the resulting necessity for the Cultural Revolution to preserve China’s socialist direction. To understand the occurrence of many of the line struggles, we must remember that the 1949 revolution in China was not a socialist revolution even though it was led by communists. The 1949 revolution, also called the New Democratic revolution, was a national liberation struggle against imperialism and feudalism, because of its anti-imperialist character, the revolution gained the support of all patriotic people, including the national bourgeoisie whose political and economic development was stifled by both imperialism and feudalism. People from all classes joined the revolution and the party (the only group capable of leading the process) though many were not necessarily conscious or convinced of the CPC’s socialist convictions. In fact, many from non-proletarian background such as the national bourgeoisie and the peasantry would favor capitalism as a spontaneous class response. So even though every class united on the target in the anti-imperialist struggle, the different class interests collided sharply after the victory of the New Democratic revolution. These differences later crystallized in a struggle over whether capitalism or socialism was more suitable to China’s conditions, and would best develop China into a new independent country. This was the crux of the two-line struggle.


The immediate question after the seizure of state power in 1949 was: Which way for China? The thrust of the question was this: Since socialism’s inevitability lies in its ability to resolve the basic contradiction of capitalism, the contradiction between private ownership of the means of production and socialized production, could socialism be established where capitalism, and therefore the productive forces, were not that developed, and to that extent the basic contradiction of capitalism was not sharp? Liu Shaoqi’s line was that China could not embark on socialism until it had reached a point where it had overproduction. His view was not new among Chinese communists. Chen Ko Piao, one of the original founders of the CPC who later became a traitor for the Japanese imperialists, had said in the early ’20s that you cannot communalize when you have nothing to begin with. As “to get something” was the main task, Liu held that the CPC should just let the national bourgeoisie develop the productive forces. Politically, that would mean the consolidation of new democracy, a permanent coalition government, rather than moving on to socialism when the conditions ripened. Liu’s line was a revisionist “theory of productive forces” since it ignored the dynamic role of the subjective factor in the transition to a more advantageous, higher form of ownership. State ownership must be forged from national bourgeois ownership, and lower forms of tool-sharing cooperative farms forged from individual proprietor/peasant ownership.

Revisionists’ Overstretched Conclusions

Seeing the anti-imperialist revolution as an end-point, Liu said in 1951, “At the present time, we must strive for the consolidation of New Democracy.”[1] He considered the land reform movement to confiscate land from rich landlords and distribute it to the peasants as the ”most thorough reform in the several thousands years history in China.”[2] In 1957, after the Korean War when nationalization of the main industries was already an established fact, he declared, “Class struggle has in the main ended, counter-revolutionaries have become fewer.... so the state apparatus of the dictatorship can be reduced in size.” He even envisioned a “state of the whole people in which all classes lived together in peace” each “respecting one another and getting what he wants.”[3]

The “state of the whole people” was first mentioned by Khrushchev in 1956 after he incorrectly concluded from 40 years of continuous and rapid growth in the Soviet Union that the country had already reached communism and the state had lost its class character.

Though his conclusion was clearly overstretched, at least it was based on materialism. Liu’s applying that line to China so soon after its liberation, however, had no basis but appeasement of other classes. The burden of defense spending at the level of 40% of the GNP, and the exhaustion caused by the Korean War were understandable conditions. But it was very dangerous to downplay the role of the state apparatus, when China was still under international blockade and the nationalization of the main means of production just completed but not consolidated. While we don’t doubt Liu’s sincere desire to build up China, his line was a rightist underestimation of the vicious imperialists abroad and the overthrown classes at home.

Mao disagreed with Liu. Convinced that socialist revolution must follow the democratic revolution, he criticized Liu’s view that “the forever consolidation of new democracy means create capitalism. New democracy is bourgeois democratic revolution under the leadership of the proletariat. It only touched the landlords, comprador bourgeoisie, but not the national bourgeoisie. Distributing land to the peasants is to change the feudal landlord ownership into peasant individual ownership. This is still within the framework of bourgeois revolution. There is nothing strange about distribution of land. MacArthur did it in Japan. Even Napoleon did that. Land reform cannot eliminate capitalism. It cannot teach socialism.”[4] On class struggle, in 1957 he said, “Although the large scale and turbulent class struggle of the mass character of the previous revolutionary periods has in the main come to an end, the class struggle is by no means over. . . .”[5]

We disagree with the restoration thesis advanced in the latter ’60s and early ’70s that revisionists in power means bourgeoisie in power and that capitalism can be easily rigged up under socialism. But in the ’50s line struggle over China’s direction, there were definitely two roads represented – one the socialist road and the other the capitalist road. Given the lines propagated by Liu and others, it was not incorrect to label them “capitalist roaders.” They were, in that they thought capitalism, the spontaneous development of the productive forces, was better suited for Chinese condition. They were capitalist-roaders because they thought the work of economic construction should be carried out and led by the national bourgeoisie, who were expert in doing business. This kind of struggle would not occur in an advanced capitalist country like the United States but is common in China and third world countries not so developed and fighting for national liberation. The struggle quieted in the last decade in China but has again surfaced and the debate over whether socialism or capitalism is better for China goes on.


The struggle over the collectivization of agriculture crystallized the two roads. Liu said in 1949, “In the future, when China has industrial overproduction, and there are more factories and more products, that will bę the time to embark upon socialism.” He thought that it was impossible to build socialism in a backward country with a semi-feudal economic base. Thus he advocated spontaneous development of the economy, and that the mechanization must precede collectivization in agriculture. He opposed any attempt to collectivize agriculture in the early ’50s. In 1950, he said, “At present, exploitation saves people and it is dogmatic to forbid it. . . .Hiring of farmhands in industrial farming should be left to take their own course.... It is good if some rich peasants should emerge as a result.”[6] “Our policy to preserve the rich peasant economy is not a temporary measure, it is a long-term measure.”[7] He condemned the July 1951 attempt to transform the agriculture mutual aid teams to advanced peasant cooperatives as “erroneous dangerous Utopian agricultural socialism.” So in 1955, he moved to oppose that movement by dissolving over 500,000 cooperatives in the countryside regardless of their success or failure.

No doubt the problems of leadership, the inability to lead big peasant organizations, were severe in China, and many cooperatives were poorly organized. However, there were also outstanding examples which developed very well under proper leadership and those should be promoted and consolidated. But instead of proceeding from concretes, case by case, Liu was convinced that China could not build socialism and went about abolishing all the cooperatives. Mao and others did not disagree with Liu on the importance of machinery for collectivization, nor on the primacy for socialism of the productive forces. They differed with Liu on how China could achieve those conditions. In the era of imperialism when imperialist powers dominated the world’s economy, to expect China to go through primitive accumulation amounts to turning China back into a semi-colonial country. It is almost impossible for any country to embark on capitalism 300 years late and compete with the advanced capitalist countries, without being dominated economically and eventually politically. Liu’s line was a mechanical materialist line for the spontaneous development of the productive forces, and negated the positive effect of the relations of production and the subjective factor (consciousness) in developing the productive forces.

Dictated by Conditions

Liu’s view was also right dogmatist, for it ignored the concrete conditions of China, and why collectivization was necessary before developing its productive forces was possible. The Fundamentals of Political Economy, published in Shanghai in 1975, gave an account of the concrete conditions in China’s countryside that dictated collectivization in order to increase the productive forces. One was the increasing polarization among the peasants in the few years after land reform. Due to the spontaneous development of capitalism, many rich peasants emerged and many middle peasants tried every means to become rich peasants. But insufficient means of production left the majority of the peasants still in poverty. Many had debts; some had sold their land or leased it out. If the polarization continued the rich and middle peasants would move further and further from the proletariat, and the poor peasants who had again lost their land would blame the proletariat for abandoning them. This would threaten the peasant-worker alliance, which was based on land reform, and endanger the economic base of the dictatorship of the proletariat and socialism.

Secondly, a small peasant economy is very backward production relations. It is operated by individual households. The small size of the individual plots of land and individual ownership make it impossible to utilize advanced technology and new farm implements. Such an economy is also helpless in the face of natural calamities and cannot realize continuous expanded reproduction. Therefore, it cannot satisfy the socialist economy’s increasing demand for commercial grain, raw materials and manpower and cannot provide a broad domestic market for the development of industry. An economy of individual farming is in contradiction to socialized industrialization. To resolve this contradiction, the proletariat must lead the scattered, backward small peasant economy along the socialist road, and collectivize agriculture. Reality invalidated Liu’s argument.

Foundation of Feudal Rule

Criticizing Liu’s mechanical materialist view, Mao wrote in 1953, “Among the peasant masses a system of individual economy has prevailed for thousands of years, with each family or household farming a productive unit. This scattered, individual form of production is the economic foundation of feudal rule and keeps the peasants in perpetual poverty. The only way to change it is gradual collectivization, and the only way to bring about collectivization according to Lenin is through cooperatives.”[8] Given the extreme low level of productive forces in the countryside, there is no way they can on their own develop a rich peasant economy. “Once a rich peasant economy prevailed in the rural areas, more than 70% of the peasants would inevitably be forced down once again into the utter destitution and suffering under the oppression of the landlords, rich peasants, counter-revolutionaries, bad elements.... ”[9] Only collectivization, said Mao, with concentration of land, manpower, farm implements, resources and thus a change in the production relations, could bring prosperity to China’s peasantry. Collectivization of agriculture was accomplished amidst this fierce line struggle, and because of Mao’s correct line, China was the first third world country to achieve self-sufficiency in grain production.

Mao’s victory in the struggle for collectivization was just one of the many struggles on the economic front. The Great Leap Forward represented a fiercer struggle of greater significance. The failure of the Great Leap to achieve its immediate economic result not only weakened Mao’s authority in the party, it also renewed all previous struggle including the one over collectivization. The revisionist Peng Teh Hai’s denunciation, and Liu’s silent endorsement of this denunciation, only showed the depth of their revisionism. The great controversy over the Great Leap Forward makes us look at its problems in detail and have the correct communist outlook on the sum-up.


In 1958, Mao called for a great leap in China’s economic development. The movement in the next three years came to be called the Great Leap Forward. Untrue to its name, the Great Leap Forward was an economic disaster rather than an advance in production. The facts of the failure are undeniable. While all Chinese analysts and leaders agree on the mistakes of the Great Leap, not all agree on the causes, how to look at the mistakes, and overall appraisal of the movement and primary leader, Mao. We will try to shed some light on these questions, and conclude with the understanding that despite the mistakes, Mao made the greatest contribution to China’s economic development, and to the theory of economic development in socialist countries in general and those with a backward economic base in particular.

Philosophically, the Great Leap Forward was based on the dialectical idea of the superiority of qualitative and sudden changes over quantitative and gradual changes. According to Mao, “Sudden change is the most fundamental law of the universe. We communists want changes in things. The great is so-called because it is different from the past.... Sudden change is better than quantitative change.... The destruction of equilibrium is leap. The destruction of equilibrium is better than equilibrium.”[10] Politically, the Great Leap was a reaction to the theoretical differences between the CPC and the CPSU. It was conceived as preparation for China to develop without Soviet aid in the event of a Sino-Soviet break. Mao’s words in early 1958: “In the winter of 1956, two things happened in the world. They were the international opposition to Stalin, the Poland and Hungarian incidents. ... and the wave of anti-Soviet and anti-communism in the world. It affects the world, and it affects our party. . . .There will probably be more twists and turns in the future. . .there is the possibility of war, a possibility of a split. If we can anticipate it, then there is nothing to worry (about).”[11] The struggle between China and the Soviet Union was escalating. A split seemed inevitable and China had to be ready. It was then that Mao formulated the general line for economic construction, the Great Leap Forward, and the people’s commune – the Three Red Banners– to spur China’s independent economic development. Last but not least, with or without a Sino-Soviet split, the Great Leap movement was an economic necessity. The first Five-Year Plan (1953-57) modelled after the Soviet Union and using mainly Soviet aid, was simply inadequate for the concrete conditions of China’s development. The Soviet model emphasized development of heavy industry and neglected light industry and especially agriculture. The Soviet Union being the only country offering help and the only socialist country with a spectacular record of economic development, China had little choice but to follow the Soviet model. By the end of the first Five-Year Plan, however, the consequences of building heavy industry and sacrificing agricultural development were showing. This one-sided stress on heavy industry economically threatened the possibility of proportionate development essential for future growth. Politically, the squeezing of peasants created contradiction between workers and peasants and thus jeopardized the worker-peasant alliance, the social foundation of the dictatorship of the proletariat in China.

Agricultural Decline

After the 1949 victory, the Chinese concentrated for three years on stabilizing the economy and recovering it from ruin. Real economic construction started in 1953 with the launching of the first Five-Year Plan. The plan was devised with the assistance of the Soviets, who also extended a loan of $3 billion with the promise of helping China construct 300 modern industrial projects over the next 15 years. The stress of the first Five-Year Plan was production of means of production. Thus, 94% of total capital investment was allocated to industry, and 87% of that went to capital construction. Only 7.6% of the total investment was allocated to agriculture.[12] This lopsided rate of investment made for spectacular growth in the industrial sector, but agriculture did not fare so well. Economist Chou Ming Li estimated in his writing that 1957 industrial growth was 141% over that of 1952.[13] But the average increase in agriculture from 1953 to 1956 was only 3.7%, slightly above the population increase of 2.2%. The slow growth in agriculture caused a chain reaction in the economic development of the country as a whole. Even the Soviet Union, which tended to claim all credit for the achievements of the period, recognized the seriousness of the problem of disproportionate development. Summing up the problem of China’s first Five-Year Plan, the Soviets said, “Distribution of the output of heavy industry between industry and farming ran on a typical pattern: 86% of all rolled metals went into industry, and 0.1% into farming; the figures for electric power were 85% and 0.7%, respectively; for machine tools, 70% and 8%, respectively, and cement, 30% and 10%, respectively. The horse-drawn ploughs and harvesters produced for agriculture often lay idle for lack draught animals. Without chemical fertilizers and modern machinery, farming was utterly dependent on the weather, so that during crop failure the state had not only to supply food to the towns, but disaster areas. Bad harvests tended to reduce the tax revenues from farming, and the rural population’s purchasing power in respect to industrial goods, the main source of accumulation for the state budget.... The development of synthetic materials being embryonic, the raw materials basis of the light industry was totally dependent on agriculture. During the first Five-Year period, 86-92% of all the consumer goods were made of farm produce. But since farming itself was very weak, productive capacities in footwear in 1956 were underloaded by 67%, fabrics (by) 47%, paper (by) 29% and cigarettes (by) 80%. The dependence of the light industry on the state of farming was particularly pronounced in the cotton industry. Agriculture’s inability to ensure steady raw material supplies for the light industry resulted in sharp annual fluctuations in growth rates, which most clearly brought out the weakness of the country’s economic basis. Thus, in 1953 and 1956 (years following good harvest), industrial production increased by 30.3% and 24.8%, whereas in 1955 and 1957 (years following upon crop failures) it was up by only 5.3% and 11% respectively. . . .Declining growth rates in the light industry also had an effect on the heavy industry, which depended on revenues from the former and supplied it with part of its products.”[14] The problems of disproportionate growth went on and on.

Chart an Independent Path

Mao’s first attempt to resolve the problems resulting from the first Five-Year Plan was in “On the Ten Major Relationships,” published in April 1956. He addressed the question of the correct relationship between heavy, light industries and agriculture and other aspects of economic devlopment. In that article, the importance of more investment in agriculture was clearly recognized, but only after the Great Leap Forward was this rationally formulated – thus, the many disasters during the Great Leap. In that article, Mao wrote, “The problem facing us is that of continuing to adjust properly the ratio between investment in heavy industry on the one hand and in agriculture and light industry on the other in order to bring about a great development of the latter. . . . Does this mean that heavy industry is no longer primary? No, it still is (our emphasis), it still claims the emphasis in our investments. But the proportion for agriculture and light industry must be somewhat increased.... Hence the question arises, is your desire to develop heavy industry genuine or feigned, strong or weak? If your desire is feigned or weak, then you will hit agriculture and light industry and invest less in them. If your desire is genuine or strong, then you will attach more importance to agriculture and light industry so that there will be more grain and more raw materials for light industry and a greater accumulation of capital. And there will be more funds in the future and invest in heavy industry.”[15] This article was the first shot in the search for an independent road to China’s development. As Mao said, “The basic viewpoint of the Ten Major Relationships is to compare with the Soviet Union. Besides that Soviet method, can we find another method that could achieve faster and better results than those of the Soviet Onion and European countries?”[16]

However, despite Mao’s article, nothing much really changed. The Soviet Union, with more than 10,000 technical personnel working in over 300 projects in China and the relative success of the first Five-Year Plan, still had the dominant influence in charting China’s economic development. Secondly, though Mao’s article contained elements of the correct line, it was still far from rational, and thus he could not translate it into a real alternative to the Soviet-devised plan. Thirdly, those in charge of operation of the state and economic work, Liu Shaoqi, Deng Xiaoping and Chen Yun, were all highly in favor of the Soviet model. As a result, China’s second Five-Year Plan was not much different from the first in terms of allocation of capital to various sectors. Investment in agriculture was only about 10% of the total investment. And changes made later in the course of the Great Leap Forward were spontaneous and experimental, so they drew fire from all quarters, especially when the Great Leap failed.

“Going All-Out”

Facing a general lack of capital, particularly in agriculture, Mao developed the general line in economic construction as a way to step up production in China. Appearing in late 1957 and officially formulated in spring of 1958, the general line called for “going all out to achieve more, faster, better and economic results in socialist construction.” It was a general line of maximizing the subjective factor. The immediate aim was a great advance in economic construction on all fronts.

Concrete implementation was the establishment of people’s communes in the country, all-out mobilization for steel production, and reform in the method of leadership by having leaders participate in production and masses participate in decision-making in order to unleash the masses’ enthusiasm for socialist construction. It was a policy of “walk on two legs” – meaning simultaneous development of agriculture and industry, utilizing foreign technology and domestic methods, and simultaneous development of big and small industries. The general line, the people’s commune and the Great Leap Forward were the Three Red Banners guiding economic work from 1958 to 1961. The call was made in late 1957, and the mass mobilization was in mid-1958. For the next three years, hundreds of millions of people exhibited energy and enthusiasm not seen anywhere else in the world.[17]

In the countryside, over 100 million peasants engaged in water conservation work by building dams, reservoirs and other irrigation systems, and in fighting against disease-causing insects. Others used domestic methods to build small machines and farm implements needed in agriculture. All this was essentially without either additional allocation of capital or technical help from the state. In the immediate harvest the work paid off. Summing up the achievement of 1958, Chou En Lai said that steel production increased from 5.35 million tons in 1957 to 11.8 million tons in 1958. Grain and cotton output doubled that of 1957 and over 480 million acres of arable land were added. Altogether, there was a total 90% increase in irrigated land.[18] For those critical of the CPC leaders’ statistics, Siet Fung Shuan, an economist teaching in Hong Kong University, put the 1958 grain output at 200 million tons as compared to 183 million tons in 1957. Choh Ming Li estimated the increase to be 35%, most of that in potatoes. While we do not know the actual extent of exaggeration, there was an undeniable increase compared with the first Five-Year Plan.

Encouraged by the success of the movement in agriculture, Mao called for “steel as key link and all out for steel” in the autumn of 1958. His call was timed to tap the peasantry’s idle time after the busy autumn harvest. His conception was to compensate for China’s lack of capital with manpower. All able-bodied people plunged into steel production. Industrial plants transformed into steel plants and many backyard furnaces were set up to use domestic methods. In 1958 alone, over 700,000 tiny industrial units were set up to produce steel. With this frantic drive, steel production in 1958 reached 11 million tons, over 5.35 million tons in 1957. In 1959, it reached 13.4 million tons, and went as high as 18.7 million tons in I960.[19]

Chain Reaction Consequences

However, the prosperity in both agriculture and industry was short-lived. As a whole, the Great Leap failed to effect a qualitative change in China’s economy. By 1959, grain production dropped to 165 million tons, and kept falling to 160 million tons for the next two years. It was not until 1962 that production reached the pre-Great Leap level. By 1961, the chain reaction had reached industry where production declined drastically. Steel production sank to only 8 million tons in 1960 from a previous high of 18.7 million tons and continued its fall for two more years. It was not until 1979 that production reached its highest point of the pre-Great Leap period.[20]

And the consequences were more than just declines in production. Mass hunger swept the land. Not seeing any concrete improvement in their standard of living after working so hard, the people felt great demoralization at the economic collapse. CPC leaders were divided on how to sum up the Great Leap, and Mao’s personal prestige was seriously eroded by constant attacks from the right. They charged him with rashness, and condemned the masses’ enthusiasm as petty bourgeois fanaticism. The anti-Great Leap Forward forces took the lead in calling for a plan for economic readjustment.

Shortcomings and Mistakes

Many factors contributed to the failure. In 1959 and 1960, China weathered the worst natural disasters in decades. The 1959 drought affected one third of the arable land, and the 1960 disaster affected half of it.[21] It set back agricultural production terribly. The second factor was Khrushchev’s 1960 withdrawal of all aid and technical personnel from China and breaking of all contracts for industrial projects. These acts of sabotage turned more than 200 unfinished industrial projects into scrap. Without blueprints, China could do nothing with the half-built monsters. The two factors, both out of the CPC’s subjective control, cannot be blamed on Mao or anyone else. But we must still sum up the mistakes for which China was directly responsible.

Main cause of the Great Leap failure was in the shortcomings of the subjective factor, namely the lack of correct line and leadership guiding the whole movement. As a result of this lack of subjective factor, the spontaneous drive of the masses’ enthusiasm was not guided. The lack of a concrete correct line guiding the economic development in terms of priority among heavy and light industries and agriculture reflected this weakness first and foremost. The lack of overall planning before the movement unfolded was another indication of that weakness. Third, there was inadequate grasp of the law that transformation of the production relations is fundamentally based on the level of development of the productive forces. In the absence of all these aspects of conscious leadership, the masses went wild with enthusiasm and made many blunders. But these mistakes were manifestations of a larger problem, not the cause of the problems.

Before explaining those problems in detail, we should explain subjective factor and consciousness. Marxist understanding of conscious subjective factor is man’s understanding of the objective laws guiding the development of things, both in science and in society. This ability to know the objective laws in order to use them and to harness them is what differentiates people from animals and enables men to obtain freedom from the constraints of the unknown. The Great Leap Forward was unfolded with the idealist interpretation of the subjective factor, thus mistakes were inevitable.

“Walk on Two Legs”

We mentioned that Mao in 1956 already had some instinctive feeling of the inadequacies of the first Five-Year Plan, but had no conscious line on the correct priority. At the time of the Great Leap, industry was still the emphasis and the key link. The “walking on two legs” strategy, meaning simultaneous development of industry and agriculture, was based not on any concrete re-allocation of investments, but on the masses’ sheer subjective wishes. A country as poor as China, with minimal capital and technical knowledge, just could not afford to walk on both legs at the same time. On the other hand, if one front were absolutized, the other automatically suffered. The situation demanded a conscious prioritizing, and a correct mutual relationship established among the three fronts. For China, a country of extreme poverty with 80% of the population engaged in agricultural production, the only correct order of priority was agriculture, light industry and then heavy industry – not the other way around as in the Soviet model. Thus, Mao’s later formulation of agriculture as the foundation and industry as the leading factor was correct.

The Fundamentals of Political Economy explained in clear detail why agriculture has to be the foundation: “To live, to produce, and to engage in culture and social activities, people must first solve the problem of eating. Agriculture production is the precondition for the survival of the human race and all production activities. . . .The higher the labor productivity was in agriculture, the more developed were the sectors outside of agriculture that were concerned with material and spiritual production. Marx observed, ’The shorter the time required by society to produce wheat and livestock, the longer is the time available for other production – material and social production.’ He continued, ’Agricultural labor productivity beyond what is required for the personal needs of the laborer is the basis of all societies.’[22] “Agriculture as the foundation in economic development is as basic as “being determines consciousness” is to Marxist theory of knowledge.

In concrete terms, the primary reason that the development of the socialist national economy must rely on agriculture as the foundation is that the development of the various departments of the socialist economy depends on agriculture to provide the means of subsistence .... Another reason... is that it is the source of industrial materials. . . .Raw materials for light industry in particular are essentially provided by agriculture.” The third reason is that “the rural areas constitute a vast market for industrial products. The rural population, accounting for approximately 80% of the total, forms a major market for industrial products. The more developed agricultural production is, the more commodity grains and industrial raw materials will be produced, and the higher the peasants’ purchasing power will be. The peasants’ need for both light and heavy industrial products continuously grows. This will stimulate industrial production. The fourth reason why agriculture must be the foundation is that “agriculture is the reservoir of labor power for industry and other sectors of the national economy.... How much of the rural population can be transferred as labor force to support the development needs of other sectors of the national economy is not determined by these developmental needs, but by the level of development of agricultural production and by how much agricultural labor productivity can be increased.” The fifth reason is that “agriculture is an important source of state capital accumulation. In addition to directly providing the state with capital accumulation through agricultural taxes, it indirectly provides capital accumulation to the state by supplying agricultural products to light industry as raw materials.[23]

This is the correct line for China’s conditions. In the absence of a correct line, there was no adjustment in investment for agriculture. Contrary to the criticisms of Mao, it was not masses’ fanaticism that caused problems. If the investment ratio between the various fronts had been proportionate, the masses’ enthusiasm would have done miracles in China’s economic development. Nor was the disaster due to abandonment of the Soviet model due to Mao’s voluntarism. Following the Soviet model would only have led to another disaster. The major weakness was the absence of a conscious correct line on economic development in China.

Poor Planning for Communes

The second mistake was the lack of overall planning. Mao himself had admitted that he didn’t know much about political economy. So, many things happened spontaneously. First of all, the establishment of the commune was not planned. Xien Mu quiao, a noted economic and CPC leader, wrote that according to the original plan in 1953, the cooperativization movement was meant to take 15 years, in light of the low level of productive forces and consciousness in the countryside. In 1954, only 2% of the farmlands were in cooperatives. But because of the cadres’ overzealousness, by 1955, 14.2% were in cooperatives, and by 1956, 19% were collectivized, with 88% of these in Advanced Cooperatives. The total process was completed by 1957. Then, by 1958 advanced cooperatives were transformed into communes.[24] (In coops, peasants share plants and implements and farm together, but retain private ownership of the land and equipment. In communes, the collective rather than the individual has ownership.) How did such rapid motion come about? Mao said at a meeting in Lushang that a reporter once asked him about people’s communes. “It is fine,” his response, was printed in the newspaper, and overnight, communes sprang up across the countryside. Many were built by coercion rather than persuasion and education. Mao made a self-criticism for his “careless talk” and some degree of petty bourgeois fanaticism.”[25]

Another manifestation of lack of planning was that the steel production target was set arbitrarily and without any scientific basis. Mao also made a self-criticism on this point. He said he proposed steel production of 10.7 million tons in 1958, almost double the production of 5.35 million tons in 1957. His mistake was not to “combine revolutionary enthusiasm with practical spirit. . . .At that time, all he thought about was what was needed, but not whether it was possible to accomplish.” This enthusiasm led to 900 million people’s giving up everything to engage in steel production. The result was, in Mao’s own words, “waste in labor power, tightness in consumer goods and lack of resolution of supplies for light industries, dislocation in transportation and too much capital construction.” Furthermore, the proportion of consumption to accumulation was way off, and it squeezed the masses badly. During the three years, average accumulation was 39%. Even Mao said it was too high. It was a result of the tendency “to only grasp production, and not grasp livelihood.”[26]

There were more dislocations due to the lack of planning. Kang Chao, an economist teaching in the United States, listed some in his article, “Economic Aftermath of the Great Leap in China.”[27] One result was that even though the production of steel in 1959 was high, much was of such poor quality that it had little value in the development of Chinese industry. The lack of quality control wasted much precious manpower. Then, though many dams were constructed in 1958 and some did provide some temporary services, most systems were defective due to lack of advanced survey and proper design. Realkanization of the land later seriously damaged agricultural production. On the industrial front, the rush for production rapidly depreciated machines not maintained for the sake for immediate expediency. After the Great Leap, many machines were broken. Repairs were impossible for lack of spare parts, and many repair departments themselves were converted to production. Actual production stopped. Thus, the lack of food, the lack of raw materials, and the lack of spare parts for repairs caused massive shutdowns of factories and abandonment of backyard furnaces. Plants that were still open operated only at minimum capacity.

Productive Forces Outstripped

Besides the communes’ spontaneous development, there were many mistakes in their operation. Everything outstripped the level of productive forces and the level of consciousness. The ability of the cadres to provide correct leadership was outstripped. Commune size was a problem, some being too big, like Teh Hsien with a population of half a million. Not only did the communes present problems in management, but objectively, some had turned into state farms with equal distribution. Mao himself wrote extensively on the mistakes in this sphere. In the second Chengchou meeting to sum up the Great Leap, Mao said, “After the autumn harvest of 1958, the communes blew a wind of communalization. Its content has three main aspects. One is the equalization between rich and poor. Two is the accumulation was too high and too much voluntary labor. Three is the confiscation of all kinds of ’properties’ including personally-owned ’chickens’ and ’ducks’ without compensation.” This happened because, he added, “Cadres at the front rank blurred the three level differences between commune, production teams and production brigades.” In reality, this denied the tremendous importance of the ownership of the production brigade (or production team which in general equals the size of the original advanced coops) that still exists in communes. “This inevitably led to the firm resistance of the broad masses of peasants. . . .The nationwide insufficient supply in grain, oil, pork, vegetables after the 1958 autumn harvest is the concentrated expression of this mistake.”[28]

Mao added in another meeting, “Many people still don’t understand that there must be a process of development of ownership of the communes. They incorrectly think that once a commune is established, all the productive forces, manpower, and products of the production brigades will be directly controlled by the leading organs of the communes. They incorrectly think that socialism is already communism, and that distribution according to work is distribution according to need, and that collective ownership is public ownership. In many cases, they negate the laws of value, and equal exchange. Therefore, within the communes, they practice egalitarianism between the rich and the poor, equal distribution and appropriation of properties without compensation. The banks withdrew all loans from most of the villages. This caused panic among the peasants.”[29] In practice, mess halls were set up in the commune where people could eat to their heart’s content regardless of whether or not they worked, and regardless of whether or not there was enough grain for everybody. The wage system was almost completely abolished and replaced with the allocation system. The items of allocation included household items such as soap and clothing.

However, all these were manifestations of the problem, not the cause. The fact is, it was not that the masses did not understand the need for a process of development in transformation of the commune ownership system. First and foremost, the leadership didn’t understand it. Mao himself did self-criticism on this question: “The resolution of the Plenary of the Central Committee of the Sixth Congress had stated that the transition from collective ownership to public ownership, from socialism to communism must go through a process of development. But it did not say that collective ownership in communes also takes a process of development. This was a weakness, because we also did not understand that question then. Therefore, the cadres below confuse the distinction between communes, production teams and production brigades.”[30] If even the Central Committee of the CPC couldn’t understand it, how could anyone expect the broad masses not to make mistakes in the course of practice?

Again, in the absence of a correct concrete line, the incorrect line was practiced.

The present Chinese leaders have denounced the Great Leap as a total failure. Peng Dehuai, who spearheaded the criticisms of the Great Leap in 1959, condemned it as petty-bourgeois fanaticism, and claimed the “gain not worth the loss.” However, many economists differ with his assessment. Kang Chao also summed up, and while ruthlessly criticizing all the mistakes, he said, “However, one should not describe the Great Leap as a total failure. It is undeniable that output increased markedly in that period even after official claims have been subject to an intensive and skeptical scrutiny. More important from a long-term point of view, perhaps, is the fact that the Great Leap movement, like most blunders made by men, has had its educational effect. Chinese leaders must have learned lessons from it, and presumably they will try to avoid the same mistakes in the future.”[31] That was exactly what Mao did.

Successful Comprehensive Line

Based on the mistakes of the Great Leap, inevitable due to lack of knowledge and lack of experience, Mao was able to formulate a comprehensive line of “agriculture the foundation” and “industry the leading factor” for China’s economic development. As a result of that line, investment in agriculture and light industry subsequently increased, and development of industries was to serve the development of agriculture as the starting point. From 1965 to 1974, the annual in crease in electricity supply to agriculture was 17.6%, tractors 12.1% and plows 16.6%. Chemical fertilizer production increased at an annual rate of 12.1%. As a result of this correct line, the agricultural development from 1965 to 1974 increased at an annual rate of 4.3% while other socialist countries all experienced drops in agricultural development. Yugoslavia’s agriculture, for instance, dropped in 1956, 1958, 1960, and 1961 at rates of 13%, 18%, 12%, and 6%, respectively. Industries also benefited from the growth in agriculture.

As a result, China’s GNP after the Great Leap increased at a constant speed. From 1963 it was 12.8%; from 1966 to 1970, 5.9%; from 1971 to 1975, 5.7%.[32] The revisionist criticisms of the mistakes of the Great Leap, that it was not as rational as the Soviet-devised plan, were clearly short-sighted and ahistorical, and ignored the concrete conditions in China.

Second, despite all the problems, China was able to collectivize its agriculture, which has not been accomplished in all socialist countries. A gigantic development for a country with a population of 80% peasantry, it laid the basis for the rapid and steady development in agriculture. Furthermore, from the mistakes of the Great Leap, Mao was able to systematically develop a sub-system of collective ownership that corresponds to China’s socio-economic conditions. In commune organization, the basic accounting unit is the production brigade comprising a natural village, normally about 200 people. Since people in the village are descendants of the same ancestors, the members are more willing to share their properties and fruits of labor than total strangers would be. This system changes the nature of private ownership in the countryside without altogether breaking down its traditional social structure. Rather the positive aspect of this social structure serves the socialist end. This solution reflected Mao’s deep grasp of the concrete conditions of China in his application of the general law of Marxism. The three levels of ownership within the commune were standardized as lessons from the Great Leap.

Developing Science of Economic Construction

In short, the Great Leap was an attempt to find an independent road to develop China’s economy. After all the blunders, Mao did find that road, and it propels China to relative prosperity. That was the significance of the Great Leap – and the price we pay to gain experience and knowledge. Like a great scientist who burns a laboratory but finally succeeds in his experiment, Mao developed the social science of economic construction. In this historical context we basically unite with Mao’s own sum-up of the Great Leap and disagree with the revisionists’ slanders. We cherish the noble attempt. We cherish even more the ability to sum up and learn from mistakes.

After purging the “gang of four,” the present leadership has also thrown out all Mao’s lines and policies, including the lessons from the Great Leap. Denouncing the Great Leap, they embarked on a different course of economic development, with one-sided emphasis on heavy industry and worse, importation of whole plants and foreign technology. Between 1978 and 1980, China weathered another economic failure, the worst since the Great Leap. Two years of summing up and soul-searching have made many Chinese realize the correctness of Mao’s line and the importance of self-reliance in developing their economy.

So burnt by the mistakes, though, they have turned timid. Today, under the pretext of struggling against the ’left’ line in economic work (actually the mistakes of 1978-1980 were rightist mistakes on the question of self-reliance), they now promote a remedy of “better right than left” and “better conservative than rash.” This justifies inertia, bureaucracy, reformism and inaction. This cuts the very soul out of what makes a communist – daringness to try, to challenge nature, and daringness to make mistakes.

All people make mistakes. The difference between Mao and the present leaders is not that Mao made no mistakes and they will, or vice versa. Mao’s mistakes are the mistakes of a giant, and theirs are the mistakes of cowards. The difference lies in whether they admit the mistakes, make a correct sum-up, learn from and continue to engage in new battles with the ammunition of the new lessons, or justify the mistakes and get gun-shy from defeat. The hallmark of a genuine Marxist is the ability to apply the general truth of Marxism to the concrete conditions of particular countries. This was Mao’s great strength. Typical of dogmatic idealists, and totally ignorant of the concrete conditions of China, Line of March implicitly charged that China is not socialist because “emphasizing agriculture over industry.. .jeopardizes the long-term future of socialism.... The production of the means of production . . . must be the foundation of a socialist economy.” Perhaps to these armchair intellectuals, the experience of the first Five-Year Plan was just nonsense, the suffering caused by the inevitable mistakes of the Great Leap, and the lessons learned from it, mere fantasies. What is real is Line of March’s dogma of what should be, rather than what can be, given the concrete conditions of building socialism in an economically backward country.[33]


As with all sciences, the science of management, though it is most developed in capitalist countries, is not inherently capitalist. The class content of a science derives from the class that science serves. Management is a science. However, unlike physical sciences, the science of management deals with organization, people, machines and their interrelationships. Changes in the ownership of the means of production and the social status of the people to be managed will inevitably force changes in the science of management. Under capitalism, everything is profit-oriented. The manager who can get the greatest profit for the enterprise is a good manager. The capitalist is not concerned whether the manager's methods are repressive or relatively liberal, as long as they bring results, that is, profits. Under socialism, workers are the masters of society and the owners of the means of production. The system of management is to unleash the maximum potential of both the managers and workers to rapidly develop the productive forces. Though profit is one way to judge the success of an enterprise, it cannot be the only criterion.

After the 1949 liberation, the severe lack of management and technical personnel in the party sur¨faced as a problem. The new proletariat relied heavily on the bourgeois managers from old China to continue running many enterprises even after nationalization. These people, used to treating workers as slaves, kept up their usual work methods and attitudes, which caused intense contradictions with the workers, formal masters of the enterprises.

It is absolutely essential to retain these bourgeois experts, even if it requires giving them privileges, so they will use their skills for the new society. But solving the contradiction between them and the workers, so that both the managers’ and the workers’ initiative can be tapped, is an extremely difficult task and it demands a great deal of maturity from communists.

Favoring Bourgeois Experts

Liu Shaoqi’s view of management, while correctly outlining the need for division of labor and organization, favors the bourgeois experts. Dazzled by Western countries’ technological development, he declared after the liberation that technical work was the central task and that the level of technology would determine success. While we uphold the importance of technology in socialist construction, the objective effect of Liu’s line is to condone the emergence of an elite stratum of technocrats who dominate the masses. Liu justified this unequal relationship, not with a sense of historical necessity, but with the line that everyone is born different. He said, “People are different and have different qualities. Some are clever and some are stupid, some are tall and some are short, some strong and some weak, some are men and some are women, men are born different (our emphasis) .... There is a division of labor and differences in work and career. For instance, in an army there are the high-level commanders and the lower-level commanders .... Within the party, there are those who are the responsible persons and those who are not, those who are leaders and those who are led.”[34]

True, people differ from one another in many ways, and there is division of labor in all organizations, institutions, and societies. However, contrary to Liu’s ideas, these differences result from many factors – political, economic, social, and historical factors – as well as different life experiences. Heredity is only one of the many factors. No one is born to be either revolutionary or counter-revolutionary. No one is born to be a doctor; a person must have a chance to go to medical school. No one is born a slave, without the oppression of the slave masters. Liu’s line justified existing inequalities as inevitable rather than factors to be gradually eliminated. In practice, his line is bureaucratization in management.

One example of this was Tsitsihar Locomotive and Carriage Works, an enterprise that had almost 1,000 different forms to keep track of various material resources and human activities. Workers at the bottom had to follow every rule made by those at the top, who kept busy creating new rules and control procedures regardless of applicability. To illustrate its bureaucracy: in order to get fuel and electric power, the equipment section of the workshop had to fill out over 170 forms per month, and send them to the planning section, which then dealt with the representative from the power section at an appropriate cadre meeting. As a result, there were “three too manys and two too seldoms” for workshop directors, many of whom were workers previously. That is, too many meetings to attend, too many documents, too many papers to tear up, too seldom going back to the work group to take part in labor and too seldom being concerned with human relations instead of rule-bound formality. At Shih Chingshan Steel Works in Peking, 100 job analysts went to do 100,000 detailed job analyses in order to step up labor productivity. Stephen Andors wrote in China’s Industrial Revolution that it was this kind of bureaucracy and harassment that made the workers bitter and motivated them to participate in the Cultural Revolution, rather than the wage differences which were never too great.[35]

Managers as Representatives of Workers

Mao disagreed with Liu on this question. He repeatedly stated, in various writings, that man is the decisive factor in everything and the most precious valuable aspect of the productive forces. He was very aware of the social inequalities caused by class societies between mental and manual labor, between city and countryside, and between workers and peasants. He repeatedly urged the gradual narrowing of these differences. He saw me stratification in management as an aspect of this social inequality. It was historically unavoidable, but something to abhor. Mao always advocated “simple administration” and hated bureaucracy. In struggle against Liu’s line, a major theoretical article on management echoing Mao’s line on management appeared in Economic Research in 1965. It states, “The problem of enterprise management is primarily one of relations between managers and productive workers. A socialist enterprise is different in essence from a capitalist enterprise. The important aspect of this difference lies in the relationship between managers and productive workers. . . . The existence of the difference between physical labor and mental labor does not owe its birth to the foundation of the socialist society. ... Its existence within the working class is both a manifestation of the lack of development in the forces of production and also a kind of manifestation of the class differences left behind from the old society. It is a remnant of capitalism in the socialist society. We must realize that if it is not overcome, or if it is allowed to develop further, it is possible that the difference will expand and even be transformed into antagonism anew.” As a positive program, the article went on to say, “In a socialist enterprise, the managers are representatives of the working class. They should take part not only in mental labor. . . but also in physical labor.”[36]

Clearly, Mao’s positive program did not make any major breakthrough in scientific management under socialism, because the problem is larger than managers’ willingness to integrate or participate in physical labor. As the article pointed out, the problem is a result of both the low level of productive forces and capitalist ideology. Thus, the fundamental remedy, beyond the ideological remolding of old managers, is still raising the level of productive forces and training more workers to be managers. Despite this one-sided-ness, Mao at least recognized the problem and attempted to find answers, rather than justifying every remnant of the old society as inevitable, which was Liu’s method. Though Mao did not have all the solutions, he pointed the direction for future generations.

Party to Lead or Follow?

Denying the existence of class contradiction under socialism, Liu Shaoqi wanted an “open door” policy for party members, to turn the party of the proletariat into a ”party of the masses.” In terms of the relationship between the party and mass organizations, Liu took the position that mass organizations should come first. “Be it the party, the government, the army, or any popular organization, when it carries out mass work, it should accept the leadership of the mass organizations. . . . The Party could only assist, but not exercise leadership over mass organizations.”[37]

There were definitely real problems of arbitrary leadership by many party members who led by decree and directive rather than by persuasion and moral influence. This problem plagues many young communists who are just learning how to lead, and the problem was intensified by the CPC having state power. However, it is one thing to struggle for a correct method of leadership, and something else to advocate abdicating leadership altogether. As 80% of the party members were workers and peasants with very little education or technical skill, Liu’s line amounted to turning everything (including the state) over to the bourgeois experts and the old ruling class, who were already leaders of many mass organizations and enterprises.

Mao differed from Liu again on this crucial question. He maintained that the CPC was “the political party of the proletariat, the vanguard of the proletariat, and not a party of the masses in general.”[38] He maintained the need for centralized leadership under one guiding center, and also that of the “seven sectors – industry, agriculture, commerce, cultural and education, the army, the government and the party – it is the party that exercises overall leadership.” This is so, because “without the party’s leadership – the dictatorship of the proletariat would be impossible. It would be enough to shake the party, to weaken, for the dictatorship of the proletariat to be shaken and weakened in an instant.”[39] Though this line had negative effects when put into practice – namely, too much interference by non-experts in the experts’ work, the party substituting for the masses, and leadership by declaration – again Mao was correct in principle on the leading role of the party.

Non-partisan vs. Marxist Media

Two different views affecting China’s direction were also apparent on the role of the ideological superstructure after the 1949 revolution. As early as the ’30s, Mao had stated very sharply that art and literature must serve the oppressed class. After 1949, a struggle occurred around the role of the media. Maintaining that all public opinion-making media have a class character, Mao specified the following tasks for the press under socialism: one, “to mobilize and organize all people into a powerful force to realize the various great tasks prescribed by the party;” two, “to integrate the creativeness of the masses with their emotions and energy;” three, and most important, “to present convincing arguments to attack the various shades of opportunism, conservatism, and destructive capitalism.”[40]

We now see that during the Cultural Revolution, especially when the “gang of four” dominated the propaganda apparatus of the party and state, Mao’s line, in the main correct, was mechanically applied to the point of becoming metaphysical. During that period, not only counter-revolutionary views were suppressed, but all views different from the official party line. The intellectual atmosphere was very repressive. However, these are mistakes of implementation. It does not affect the principle and the orientation guiding Mao’s line, which is consistent with Lenin’s words: “We do not intend to make our publication a mere storehouse of various views. On the contrary, we should conduct it in the spirit of strictly defined tendency. This tendency can be expressed by the word ’Marxism.’ ”[41]

Liu and his supporters’ view on the role of the media once again revealed their admiration for foreign things. While correctly criticizing the one-sidedness in the party press’ news coverage, Liu went too far when he called for the New China News Agency to become an independent “worldwide news agency” on the model of Reuters or UPI. His reasoning was that journalism in other countries was “objective” and “truthful.” Contradicting Mao’s view that “what to publish in the press depends on whether or not it benefits the people,” Liu supported publishing indiscriminately all views from all classes. He wanted “news for the whole people.” Lu Ting Yi, former head of the Central Committee propaganda department, made it even more explicit by saying, “Our party papers and journals should adapt themselves to the needs of all classes, including the bourgeoisie.”[42]

While we deplore one-sided coverage by the CPC press, we condemn even more vigorously the view that the press has to serve all classes, which indicates a prejudiced illusion on the nature of the press in capitalist countries. It is clear that as a public opinion-making tool, all media serve the interest of one class or another. The superiority of Western journalism is not its “objectivity,” but its sophisticated method of serving the bourgeoisie without appearing to. This reflects the strength of bourgeois democracy’s ability to deceive, and the relative maturity of the bourgeois class as compared to the proletariat. The proletariat should learn all these sophisticated methods, not in order to deceive, but to make its propaganda easier to assimilate and more readily accepted. But to adopt wholesale the Western orientation is wrong. It represents Liu and supporters’ “consolidate New Democracy and appease all classes” line rather than building for socialism and consolidating the dictatorship of the proletariat.

The result of Liu’s line would not be “non-partisan” as he pretended. In 1957, Teng To, a non-party intellectual, refused to publish Mao’s report on the Conference on Propaganda Work, the Supreme State Conference and other party policies. Liu’s non-partisan line was just a cover for his own partisanism, a cover-up for his opposition to Mao’s lines and policies which at that time still had the support of the majority of the party.

Academics Pitted Against Politics

The struggle over the line on education, since it involves the training of future leaders, perhaps best crystallized the two views on China’s direction. Denied opportunity for education and consequent upward mobility in the old society, the workers and peasants pinned their hopes on the new society to provide their children the longed-for opportunity. It was slow in coming. Prior to the Cultural Revolution, the people raised many complaints about the educational system. Complaints focused on the high tuition cost in the universities and the concentration of schools of higher learning in cities far from the villages and costly in board fees. The strongest criticism was of the admission policy which absolutized academic credentials, especially the students’ ability to memorize. The people considered this discriminatory against students from worker-peasant backgrounds, who were deprived of the proper learning environment since birth and were occupied in helping with household chores.

The controversy over Chang Tieh-sheng a few years after the Cultural Revolution best demonstrated the two-line struggle on the last criticism. A youth in China’s northeastern Liaoning province, Chang failed his college entrance examination. His letter condemning the examination system appeared on the front page of the People’s Daily on August 10, 1973. It stated the reason for his failure. He “had finished junior middle school in 1966, gone to the countryside to work in a commune in 1968 and became a leader of a production team there. He spent some 18 hours every day at his work since his rustification. The heavy work load left him with no time to review his middle school lessons, and he was therefore unable to answer the questions in geometry, physics, and chemistry on the college entrance examination.”[43] He claimed that he would have passed the exam if he had taken two days for preparation, but he didn’t because it came during the busy summer season. In supporting Chang’s indictment against those “bookworms who had done no productive work in the past except studying,” Liaoning posed the following questions in an editorial: “Should the cultural tests be chiefly aimed at understanding the applicant’s ability in analysis and solving problems, or at checking how well he remembers his middle school lessons; should the main (our emphasis) criterion for enrollment be based on an applicant’s constant behavior on the three great revolutionary movements (class struggle, production struggle, and scientific experiment), or on the marks of the cultural tests he takes?”[44]

Reforms and Upgrading

In China, the fundamental way to give peasants and workers more equal opportunity in education is not simply to make the main criterion political rather than academic, as the Liaoning Daily mechanically posed the question. One needs both political clarity and academic ability to excel in learning. The fundamental way to change the situation is to raise the productive forces so that no one, even peasant children who used to work 18 hours a day, are denied education. But until that condition is achieved, it is clearly wrong to withhold support for any moves that expand opportunity to the workers and peasants.

Along with pushing for changes in the admission policy, Mao criticized the examination system, pushed to make full-time institutions more closely related to production, and tried to upgrade workers to technicians by establishing part-time institutions. Mao wanted the “educational policy to enable everyone who receives an education to develop morally, intellectually and physically and become a worker with both socialist consciousness and culture.”[45] Liu on the other hand promoted an elite attitude among students. He looked down on the part-time institutions, remarking that “those who can’t afford the full-time system must make do with the part-time system.” He told students in 1948 that “you have to concentrate on your studies. You may inquire about things happening outside the window, but you should not be distracted from your studies thereby.” He criticized the revolutionary schools set up in Yenan during the period of resistance against Japan as “unorthodox” and advocated that universities should “run according to the experience of western Europe countries, Britain, the United States, France, and Japan.”[46] While we do not deny some of the positive aspects of the western education system, Liu’s bias blinded him to the defects of these schools in terms of curriculum and methods of teaching.

Effect of Retrenchment

Given his responsibility for implementation of party lines and policies, his outlook had very bad consequences. They were worse during the retrenchment period after the Great Leap failure, when his line was the most dominant influence. Reporting on this, John Wilson Lewis wrote, “One of the major consequences of the re-emphasis on professionalism was a reduction in the number of university students from worker and-peasant families, and a corresponding increase in those from the families of senior cadres and ’the exploiting class.’ Thus at Peking University the number of students from worker and peasant families fell from nearly 67% in 1958 to only 38% in 1962, while the number of students of ’exploiting class’ background was more than double. Many of the university’s professors were contemptuous of proletarian students, referring to them as ’coarse tea cups not amenable to fancy carving’ and resenting the fact that such students had obtained university places by means of (political) ladders. Of 237 students admitted to the eight departments of natural science in 1958, only 45 graduated with their original class, the others having been expelled or held back.... At Peking Technical College, more than 800 of the 919 cadres and military men sent there as students were ’weeded out’ as were 200 at Tsinghua. Of 108 students expelled from Peking Commercial College, some 94% were of working class origin, a well informed and favored visitor to China had written in 1967. ’Investigation into the universities and senior middle schools in the cities provided a shock, after 17 years of socialist China, over 40% of the students are from bourgeois background and capitalist families, even if these were only 5% of the population.’”[47] At the peak of influence of the revisionist lines, the period of retrenchment after the Great Leap, many of the educational institutions in the communes were slashed. The number of institutions of higher learning decreased from 841 in 1960 to 400 two years later. The number of commune schools dropped from 22,715 with 2.3 million pupils during the Great Leap to 3,715 with only 266,000 students in 1962.[48] In the same manner, many skilled workers trained in the part-time technical schools and promoted to managers and technicians during the Great Leap were returned to the shop floor and their positions taken by graduates from full-time institutions. This kind of discrimination against workers and peasants led to their ready response to Mao’s call to seize power from bureaucrats during the Cultural Revolution.

Health Care for Whom?

Similar struggle occurred over whom medical workers should serve. Liu’s emphasis was on “low-risk research in urban hospitals that are well-staffed and well-equipped rather than high-risk operations to take medical facilities to the peasants.”[49] Mao responded, “Tell the ministers of public health that the ministry works only for 15% of the nation’s population, and that of this 15% only the lords are served. The broad masses of peasants do not get medical treatment, and they are provided with neither doctors nor with medicine.”[50] As a result of Liu’s line, the number of hospital beds in the cities rose from 50,000 in 1954 to 340,000 in 1966 without corresponding increase in the villages. Instead, the number of health centers in the communes during the post-Great Leap retrenchment was cut from 290,000 to 70,000, while the number of urban clinics increased from 43,000 to 84,000.[51] Jan Myrdal reported that in LiuLing, in 1967 one worker with a minor pain in the small of his back had to spend $200 (almost a half year’s pay) and lost 30 working days to wait in line in the doctor’s office in the city.[52]

Sino-Soviet Relations: From Good to Bad

The two-line struggles prior to the Cultural Revolution were not restricted to domestic issues. They extended to military and foreign policy issues as well. The struggle over foreign policy was tightly interwoven with the Sino-Soviet relationship after China’s liberation in 1949. To give historical perspective to the two-line struggle among the CPC leadership, we will trace how the relationship turned from good to bad.

In its first Five-Year Plan after liberation, China followed the Soviet model of economic development. The Soviet Union was the only country willing to provide aid, and the only socialist model in the world. Its rapid development captured the admiration and mirrored the aspirations of many Chinese leaders, even to the point of absurdity. In 1958, Mao talked about the slavish attitude and warned of the dangers: “No matter whether the Soviet Union’s articles were accurate or not, Chinese people obeyed them, implemented them. In everything, the Soviet Union is number one. ... In studying, we must combine a sense of independence and creativity, while to adopt the system and regulations of the Soviet Union rigidly is to contravene the spirit of independence and creativity. . .”[53] While the Soviet Union was genuinely revolutionary, slavishness towards it was wrong, but not catastrophic. With the series of events after 1956, however, such slavishness could mean the CPC’s selling out socialist revolution in China and other revolutionary struggles around the world.

Stalin died in 1953. He was succeeded by Khrushchev, proven by history to be a coward, a loyal descendant of Bernstein and Kautsky, and an unworthy leader of the party founded by Lenin’. Threatened by the seeming might of U.S. nuclear weapons and motivated by careerism, he convened the infamous 20th Congress of the CPSU. There Khrushchev denounced Stalin as a dictator and dismissed all Stalin’s contributions to socialist construction in the Soviet Union and his leadership both in the international communist movement and in the struggle against fascism. Khrushchev’s denunciation was to serve his own sinister aim – to push out the revisionist program of the “three peacefuls,” that is, peaceful transition td socialism, peaceful competition, and peaceful coexistence between socialism and capitalism. Alleging that the international situation had developed favorably for the socialist countries, and that U.S. imperialism had been tamed by the socialist camp’s strength, the thrust of Khrushchev’s program was unconditional support for world peace. The price for this unconditional support was heavy: give up struggle for national liberation by third world countries, because a single spark in any region could provoke the imperialists into an all-destructive nuclear war; and give up political struggles under socialism in order to engage in production to compete with capitalism. The logical conclusion of this program: a communist party should stop supporting national liberation struggles and other revolutionary struggles, supposedly because they increase the possibility of world war.

A Sad Turn

The revisionist program opposed every Leninist doctrine on war and peace, on proletarian internationalism, and on the nature of both imperialism and class struggle. Khrushchev completed his revisionist program in the 22nd Congress of the CPSU with the additional concepts of “the party of the whole people” and “the state of the whole people.” The renegade claimed that the Soviet Union had developed to the point where all aspects of class contradictions had disappeared. Thus, he saw no need for the dictatorship of the proletariat, nor for the instrument to exercise it, namely, the party of the proletariat. He said that the Soviet Union was approaching communism, so the party and the state should be for everybody. This program was contrary to the reality of the Soviet Union, as well as to Marxist-Leninist theory about the nature of socialist society and the character and tasks of the state and party during the transition from socialism to communism. It was, in short, a line of class capitulation giving the overthrown classes a new lease on life and invalidating any ideological and political struggles against the remnants of capitalism.

It was a sad turn – the party that made the first socialist revolution in the world becoming revisionist. Worse still was that Khrushchev tried to use the CPSU’s prestige to force other communist parties to adopt the revisionist program as the general line for the international communist movement. When the CPC, and particularly Mao, resisted this corrupt program and Khrushchev’s high-handedness, the latter initiated the ugliest and most chauvinist policies toward China.

On November 17, 1957, in order to gain China’s support for his program, Khrushchev made the friendly gesture of signing an agreement to help China develop her own nuclear weapon system. But the two parties’ differences were hardly resolved. During that year, when representatives from socialist bloc nations and other communist parties met in Moscow, China had to fight hard to ensure that the conference’s Moscow Declaration reflected more than just the Soviet program. Though some elements of the Soviet line were included, China was able to win approval of theses that upheld the necessity for armed struggle and that “U.S. imperialism is the center of world reaction.” The Moscow Declaration also established the principles of equality between fraternal parties, and resolution of differences through mutual consultation. There was also agreement that socialist countries should provide mutual support for one another.

Then came the Quemoy incident in 1958. With U.S. support, Chang Kai Shek transferred approximately 200,000 troops to Quemoy Island, a stone’s throw from the Chinese mainland. China appealed to the Soviet Union for support against this threat. Khrushchev arrived in Peking in July, and laid out the condition for support: allow the Soviet Union to establish naval and air bases at the principal Chinese port cities. Mao flatly rejected this blackmail as infringement on China’s territorial sovereignty by the Soviet Union. But Khrushchev did not subdue his attack on China. In November 1958, Khrushchev told Hubert Humphrey in a public interview that the Chinese commune system was “old-fashioned and reactionary.” His comments were open violation of the Moscow Declaration, and open interference in China’s domestic affairs. They confirmed that Khrushchev would do anything to appease the U.S. imperialists he considered his partners in world peace.

Pushed to Open Polemics

In September 1959, egged on by the U.S. imperialists, India attacked China’s border. In support of Nehru, the Soviet news agency TASS openly condemned China. The following month, during the 10th anniversary of China’s liberation, Khrushchev openly attacked China on China’s platform, and in his private meeting with Peng Teh Huai, praised Peng as a most courageous person. Peng had already been purged from CPC leadership because of his opposition to the Great Leap Forward. Khrushchev publicly lashed out again in the 1960 Bucharest meeting of representatives from fraternal communist parties, calling the Chinese delegates “madmen” who wanted to unleash a new world war. He labelled the Chinese nationalists in the Sino-lndian dispute and characterized the Chinese Communist leaders as “left-adventurists, pseudo-revolutionaries and sectarian.” During the same year Khrushchev elevated the party-to-party conflict over ideological questions to the state-to-state level. He abruptly withdrew 10,000 Soviet scientific personnel, destroyed the contracts for over 200 industrial projects, and terminated all economic trade, and military and nuclear assistance. These actions caused the Chinese tremendous economic difficulties.

Throughout these incidents China was quiet, mainly negotiating privately with the Soviet Union to resolve the problems. The open Nine Polemics started only when Khrushchev began circulating to CPSU party organizations and members on July 14, 1963 a letter openly attacking China. Khrushchev’s hostility towards socialist China continued after the Sino-lndian clash in 1962 when he supplied military aid to India along with the United States. Last but not least, the Soviet Union signed a treaty with the United States to develop its own nuclear weapons to defend herself. The Nine Polemics, published between summer of 1963 and summer of 1964, were thus an inevitable response to Khrushchev’s revisionism.

The Proposal Concerning the General Line in the International Communist Movement is one of the most important anti-revisionist theoretical works. The General Line and the Nine Polemics affirmed the Marxist-Leninist doctrine on proletarian internationalism, and the correct outlook towards war and peace, towards imperialism, and the dictatorship of the proletariat. The General Line calls for “Workers of all countries unite, workers of the world, unite with the oppressed peoples and oppressed nations; oppose imperialism and reaction in all countries, strive for world peace, national liberation, people’s democracy and socialism; consolidate and expand the socialist camp; bring the proletarian world revolution step-by-step to complete victory; and establish a new world without imperialism, without capitalism and without the exploitation of man by man.” It is considered by all genuine revolutionaries as the watchwords of a proletarian internationalist program.[54]

China in 1964 was a country surrounded by hostile forces on all sides. Describing the intense situation, David Milton and Nancy Dall Milton wrote, “China in the fall of 1964 was a nation under the gun. The American Seventh Fleet lay in wait off the coast as the United States actively engaged in the aerial and naval bombardment of China’s neighbor and socialist ally, North Vietnam. To the southwest, India was once again building up her shattered forces with the help of the United States and the Soviet Union.”[55]

But because of China’s correct foreign policy of relying on the “small friends” who were fighting imperialism, China won many allies. These friends proved to be real supporters who helped China regain its legitimate seat in the United Nations in 1971. The extent of China’s friendship with third world countries and friends in capitalist countries was described by the Miltons on the occasion of China’s 1964 national day.

They wrote of the 2,600 guests representing countries all over the world, “China was welcoming to her revolutionary celebrations a heterogeneous group of nations and individuals, allied in no formal way, sharing, however, the elusive but compelling interest in standing up to one of the two superpowers. There came together in Peking the fraternal parties of Vietnam, Korea, Japan, and Indonesia, drawn together in their varying degrees of anti-revisionism by the American superpower’s Southeast Asian war; Rumania and Albania, the small resistors of the Eastern European policies of the other superpower, and the tiny pro-Chinese splinter parties which had appeared in Ceylon, Belgium, Australia, and New Zealand. . . . Prince Sihanouk, still successful in his long struggle to maintain Cambodia’s tenuous neutrality, turned comfortably and confidently towards his giant neighbor. . . . His presence was a triumphant component of China’s policy of uniting all those threatened by U.S. imperialism. So, too, was the presence of the brilliantly-robed representatives from the hopeful nations of Africa. Chou Enlai’s trip to 14 African nations earlier in the year had carried with it the hope for a second Bandung Conference, and increasing Sino-African solidarity seemed a not unreasonable expectation.”[56] So it was not coincidence that China became the true center of support for national liberation struggles and other people’s struggles, and that many parties, especially in Southeast Asia, called themselves Maoist parties. It was not just what the CPC said, but what it did in support of their struggles, that earned the Chinese great respect. Only the revisionists, trying to cover up their increasing isolation in the world because of their chauvinism, would shamelessly slander China’s policies as nationalist.

Line of March’s Blatant Opportunism

In this regard, the Line of March’s opportunism has been blatantly revealed. In their article, “The Trial of the Gang of Four and the Crisis of Marxism” (May-June 1981) they tried to substantiate their idealist scheme that China from Mao to Deng had always been reactionary nationalist. Line of March paid lip service to support for the General Line and first eight polemics, but without once addressing the correct lines in these documents, or any of Khrushchev’s chauvinist actions towards China during that period. Line of March even tried to credit the first eight polemics to Liu Shaoqi and his followers, even though Line of March couldn’t explain how these authors are today practicing exactly the policies for which they had previously criticized the Soviet Union. (Line of March is probably surprised to hear of an informal agreement among present CPC leaders to reverse the verdict on the line in the nine polemics.)

Line of March’s opportunism is again evident in the totally different methods of analysis applied to the Cultural Revolution and China’s foreign policies. On the Cultural Revolution, they ignored all Mao’s real struggles against the revisionists, as well as the concrete problems of stratification, polarization, and bureaucracy which prompted the Cultural Revolution. Instead they repudiate that movement based solely on Mao’s incorrect “restoration of capitalism” thesis, which actually was systematically developed only after the Cultural Revolution. On the other hand, analyzing foreign policies, they could not find any incorrect line advocated by China, so they ignored all the correct lines and the countless examples of support to national liberation struggles, picking out a few isolated instances to prove their points. The validity of their facts is questionable. Given their possible validity, they are not basis to generalize that Mao’s policies were nationalistic. At worst, the particular instances were mistaken responses of a basically proletarian internationalist under pressure from obvious chauvinist policies of the powerful Soviet Union.

Similarly, Stalin is not at the same low level as Khrushchev even though Stalin made chauvinist mistakes trying to force the CPC to unite with Chiang Kai Shek instead of risking civil war prior to China’s victory. Line of March’s flip-flop, changing their methodology 180 degrees within one article, only exposes their opportunism. Trapped in their preconceived idealist conceptions of the CPC and Mao (ideas originally Khrushchev’s) they resort to any method, isolated fact or partial argument to prove their points.

We will have more polemics on Line of March, but here we should return to the two-line struggles within the CPC on its foreign policies, struggles which were interwoven with the different views towards the Soviet Union.

People’s Army or Soviet Model

One serious struggle was on how to build up China’s military strength. Peng Teh Hai and others, such as Jo Jui Hsing, then head of the People’s Liberation Army, put the most emphasis on modern technology to build up the army along the Soviet model. In the military report to the Eighth Party Congress on September 18, 1956, Peng said, “Modern military science is the concentrated expression of all sciences. Officers of the modernized revolutionary troops must possess all kinds of knowledge in science, culture, technology, and laws of the modern warfare. But we lack the knowledge in this respect. Therefore, learning becomes the central task that surpasses everything.” From whom could the Chinese military learn? The Soviet Union, of course. “In the beginning of our modernization, the demand to learn every advanced experience from the Soviet Union was a correct one. Our record of learning in the last few years was tremendous. It is no doubt that learning from the advanced experience of the Soviet military will still be the main direction of our future learning, because the Soviet military is the most advanced modernized revolutionary troops. Its military science is superior, its military technology is of first-rate quality, and it has tremendous experience in directing warfare.” He repeated the same theme in the speech delivered during the 30th anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army in the fall of 1957, saying, “We must learn from all advanced countries. The first one we must learn from is the great Soviet military.”[57]

True, the Soviet military was at that time the most modernized revolutionary army. However, it was one thing to heap praise on the Soviet military, and totally another to adopt it as the model for China, especially under the conditions at that time. Given the prevailing economic conditions in China, there were two implications of China’s military developing along the Soviet line. One was heavy reliance on military supplies from that country. The Chinese troops, main pillar of the socialist state, would be vulnerable to chauvinist blackmail by the Soviets. Khrushchev’s revisionist program and the CPC’s official difference with it were immaterial to the Chinese revisionists. Secondly, to build a modern Soviet-type military would mean that China’s economy had to follow the Soviet model, giving priority to the production of the means of production, particularly military hardware. This had already proven unworkable in China’s condition of an extremely weak economic base.

Mao rejected this line and hoped to guarantee China’s independence by concentrating on the development of atomic weapons, either with or without Russian aid, and of building a mass, rather than a Western style, professional army. Mao outlined his concept of the road to follow as early as 1956: “Do you want atomic weapons? If you do, you must decrease the proportion of military expenditure and increase economic construction. Or do you only pretend to want them? In that case, you will not decrease the proportion of military expenditure, but decrease economic construction.”[58]

Along this line of building a mass army of the Yenan type, Mao wanted the army to engage in production to strive for self-sufficiency in grain and other daily necessities so as not to impose a burden on the strained economy; in contrast, military leaders wanted the army to concentrate on military exercise, because to them participation in production, was a distraction from military training. They charged that Mao’s type of army was unprofessional. The revisionists proved once again to be right dogmatist, proceeding from ideas of a Westernized modern army, and not from China’s concrete conditions and capabilities. Mao’s concept of relying on the people rather than just technology was not only strategically correct but also the only affordable option.

A serious dispute erupted on how to deal with the U.S. imperialist war of aggression against Vietnam when the United States escalated its war effort in 1965. Consistent with their revisionist stand, Liu Shaoqi and company called for the “three reconciliations and one reduction” – reconciliation with Chinese capitalists, U.S. imperialists, and Soviet revisionists, and reduction of foreign aid to national liberation struggles, particularly the Vietnamese. Lo Jui Hing, then commander of the PLA, and Peng Teh Hai called for rapprochement with the Soviet Union in order to obtain military equipment to wage an offensive war. They planned to send troops to Vietnam as a deterrent to imperialist attack. Mao criticized Liu’s view as absolutizing the united front from above, a class capitulationist line, and Peng’s view as adventurist with illusions about the Soviet Union.

Blind to reality, Line of March lied that “in 1965, China refused to join a united front (with the Soviet Union – the author) in defense of Vietnam.” Line of March hoped that this would again prove Mao’s reactionary nationalism; and afraid that people wouldn’t believe them, they even used Edgar Snow’s writing to support their claim. But what did Edgar Snow really say in the book Line of March mentioned? He said, ”By 1965 the United States’ bombing attacks on Vietnam, close upon China’s border, threatened China with invasion. Liu wanted to send a Chinese delegation to the Soviet 23rd Congress to reactivate the Sino-Soviet alliance. Mao resolutely refused to be drawn into a position of dependence, as in Korea, and a possible double-cross. Instead he insisted upon a posture of complete self-reliance on a people’s war of defense – while continuing to build the Bomb – and heavy support for, but not intervention in Vietnam.”[59] Did this quote prove Mao’s nationalism? Only the revisionists would think so. And China gave a total of 200 million Chinese dollars to aid Vietnam during the Vietnamese struggle, not a small sum for such a poor country.

While we may criticize Mao for his tactical inflexibility in not wanting to make any united front with the Soviet Union, his criticism of the Soviet Union was valid. The Soviets had already sold out the national liberation movements in the world. And Khrushchev had pressured Vietnam to conciliate to U.S. imperialism; the objective of the little aid the Soviets gave, hardly commensurate with their strength, was to gain influence in directing the Vietnamese struggle. If anyone should be criticized for lack of proletarian internationalism, it was the Soviet Union, not China. And proletarian internationalism did not equal an absolute united front with the Soviet Union.

Parrots of Soviet Revisionism...

Obviously Line of March knew that using China’s refusal to form a united front as proof of her abandoning internationalism for nationalism was a shaky argument. Reality speaks louder than words. While they slander and lie about China’s posture towards Vietnam during the Vietnam War, they are also forced to admit, “Whatever the theoretical positions being articulated in CPC leadership, and despite some serious political errors, China did not break the ranks of those combatting imperialism during the height of the Vietnam War. Instead the fierceness of the confrontation in Vietnam served to highlight the vacillating character of the modern revisionists, as the Soviets were constantly cautioning the Vietnamese and stress moderation and compromise. . . ”[60] Then why make such a big fuss about China’s refusal to unite with the Soviet Union if the latter played such a destructive role in relation to anti-imperialist struggles? To the Line of March, keeping a formal united front in word is more important than actual support for liberation. They defend the Soviet Union at the end of the above paragraph with the claim that “though the Soviet Union did not abandon the anti-imperialist forces defending Vietnam.”[61] Another typical example of Line of March’s methodology – looking for any shred just to prove their point that China is nationalist, regardless of whether the facts and words are correct or consistent.

In fact there is nothing new in Line of March’s lie that “China refused to join a united front in defense of Vietnam, and there were a number of incidents over the next few years of interference with arms being shipped across China to Vietnam.”[62] Soviet revisionists said the same thing in 1972 in a book called Critique of Mao Zedong’s Theoretical Conception. They charged that “the Maoists have not only failed to give the fighting Vietnamese people adequate military and economic assistance but also in every way hampered the other , socialist countries in their efforts to do so.”[63] If this is where Line of March’s line came from, it should be cited as their reference. Maybe they hoped to get over with their creativity. In charging that China collaborated with the U.S. imperialists against the Soviet Union, Line of March is objectively echoing the CPSU, which accused China of being responsible for the U.S. attack on Vietnam. The CPSU said, “The U.S.A. would never have dared to launch its aggression had the CPC leadership not pursued its anti-Soviet line and not attacked the unity of the socialist countries. When escalating their aggression in Vietnam, the U.S. imperialists undoubtedly reckon with the Great Han chauvinism of the Chinese leaders and (their) stubborn refusal to accept any proposals on concerted action by China, the U.S.S.R. and the other socialist countries in helping the Vietnamese people beat back the U.S. aggression.”[64] If the Soviet Union sounds shameless, draw your own conclusion on the Line of March, which adopted and defended wholesale this revisionist line, but won’t admit it openly.

...and Soviet Chauvinism

To Line of March, no national contradictions exist, and we should be a big, happy family. Thus the international division of labor among the socialist camp countries is correct. Why should any one country worry about building machines if the Soviet Union will give them to it? Because all socialist countries are one happy family without antagonistic contradictions in their fundamental interests, the Soviet army has the right to go into any country to straighten it out. The invasion of Czechoslovakia was revolutionary, because it was to preserve that country’s socialist course. Likewise, the invasion of Afghanistan was a victory for the Red Army, and Soviet tanks should roll into Poland, or into China because of China’s reactionary policies. According to Line of March, the powerful Soviet Union should be the socialist countries’ police. The same thread underlies their liquidation of all national questions and national oppression under the beautiful call of class struggle. But they fail to see that those chauvinist moves not only have nothing to do with class struggle, they actually hinder class struggle. The 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia, the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan and the possibility of invasion of Poland not only antagonized people in those countries and alarmed all people struggling against foreign domination, but also they gave the imperialists their greatest ammunition against communism and socialism. With their support of the Soviet Union’s chauvinist policies the Line of March stands on the same side as the imperialists.

Reflecting the Chinese revisionists’ strong support for their Soviet counterparts, many CPC leaders and intellectuals disagreed with Mao’s assessment of the international situation that “the East wind prevails over the West wind.” First explained to Chinese students in Moscow in 1957, this phrase symbolized the decline of western imperialism, the growing strength of the socialist camp and the surging revolutionary movements for national liberation in the East. Khrushchev’s denunciation of Mao’s line was echoed by Teng To, a non-party intellectual, who ridiculed it as “big empty talk” in his daily newspaper column.

Danger in Slavishness

The two-line struggle on international affairs was actually a concentrated expression of the CPC leaders’ disagreements on the nature of Soviet revisionism. Differences linked to the Soviet Union had led before, and led again, to purges among the leadership. From Li Li San in the ’20s to Wang Ming in the ’30s, the question was whether- or not to listen to Moscow’s directives (most of which had little to do with China’s reality). The struggle which unfolded prior to the Cultural Revolution was a result of the continued slavish attitude. Khrushchev’s revisionism had qualitatively increased the dangerous impact of that slavishness. It was clear that the two-line struggles on the nature of Khrushchev’s revisionism permeated all spheres. Advocates of his line, the core of the Long Marchers, were entrenched in all departments. The lack of unity on this question was clearly not restricted to those who were purged during the Cultural Revolution, because many who emerged from the movement intact also differed with Mao. It is evident from a speech made by Yeh Chien-ying, a Politburo member who was never purged, on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China. He said, “The motive for starting the Cultural Revolution was to oppose and prevent revisionism. As a political party, we certainly have to con stantly raise vigilance to prevent us from taking the revisionist path of oppressing people at home and seeking hegemony abroad. The problem was when the Cultural Revolution was unleashed, there was an incorrect assessment of the reality in the party and in the country. A correct explanation of revisionism was also lacking.”[65]

With the party so divided over questions of direction and principles a split had objectively occurred even though superficially there was formal unity. The inherent conflict made an open split almost inevitable. It was a question of which line would prevail, Mao’s or Liu’s. Each side worked very hard to defeat the other’s lines and influence. Liu tried to suppress Mao’s line by non-implementation or distortion of his lines, through the state machinery directly under his control. As president of the government, Mao, when all other means failed, resorted to waging mass movements to eradicate Liu’s lines and influence. That was the basis for unleashing the Socialist Education Movement from 1962 to 1965. When it failed, the later Cultural Revolution resulted in temporary victory of Mao’s line.

The masses, however, participated in the various movements unconscious of the two-line struggles and their implications. The people were drawn into motion mainly by the widespread bureaucracy and incorrect leadership of many party members. This, among other factors, contributed to the many mistakes in the course of the two movements.


Liu’s advocacy of spontaneous development of capitalism was most influential among peasants who as a semi-propertied class incline toward private ownership of the means of production. Mao’s personal prestige and influence managed to contain the devastating influence of Liu’s line in the first stage after 1949. However, the Great Leap Forward mistakes gave Liu’s lines a new lease on life as a period of economic retrenchment began. New proposals by Liu (the freedom to trade, to have private plots, to have free markets, and to make farm contracts based on individual households) were adopted and implemented. Mao himself endorsed these measures as short-term tactical moves. Though these measures did help to revitalize the Chinese economy, there were also unpleasant consequences. One was that polarization in the countryside, which Mao had warned in the early ’50s was inevitable under conditions of private farming, increased at an alarming rate. Also, Liu pushed these measures not to supplement the collective form of agriculture, but to reject the general line on socialist construction formulated by Mao, and to implement the line of consolidating New Democracy.

Referring to the problems during the economic retrenchment period, Mao told party leaders at a May 1963 meeting that as a result of ideological degeneration, there was widespread extravagance, waste, and cadres’ appropriating extra shares of food. In the same meeting, a participant told him that in Heilungkiang, the northern part of China, a rich landlord killed 38 people.[66] In another speech, Mao made reference to the fact that rich landlords, encouraged by the liberal atmosphere, resorted to old practices of embezzlement, speculation, and buying up lands from poor peasants (who lost out in the free competition game promoted by Liu’s line). He said there were also incidents of poor peasants selling their daughters to become concubines of rich peasants.[67] These were most discouraging signs for a supposedly socialist country. In spite of the improving economic situation, the political situation was bad. Mao’s sum-up was probably correct.

A Truly Mass Education movement

He gave three reasons for the phenomena. One was that opposing classes still existed in China. Second was a historical factor that land reforms were not sufficiently thorough, particularly in areas that were liberated relatively late. Mao said that in those areas, even the democratic revolution had not been completed and the feudal landlords were not defeated. These areas had more problems than others and needed another revolution. The third reason, he said, was the lack of consciousness among party cadres of the need for socialist education. Of all 11 provinces, only in one province did the leader carry out socialist education.[68]

These factors motivated Mao to launch the Socialist Education Movement in 1963. From the way he presented the Socialist Education Movement in various documents, Mao’s intention was clearly not to eliminate the economic measures operating at the time. As part of the concentric attack under socialism, that is, to simultaneously build the material and spiritual conditions in society, he merely wanted to eliminate the bad political consequences that were evident. Thus, there were not specific targets or lines for the Socialist Education Movement to defeat. Mao saw it as “the most revolutionary struggle since 1949 that will touch on those within and without the party, and from upper levels to lower levels.”[69] His method was to start training and educating cadres above the Hsien level, then above the production brigade level, then cadres of production teams and eventually the active elements among the poor and middle peasants. He asked for leniency towards people who had made mistakes, and no punishment as long as they returned illegally amassed property.

It was intended to be a truly mass education movement to instill people with socialist consciousness. If Mao had succeeded in implementing the Socialist Education Movement, the Cultural Revolution might have been avoided. But the inability to put the Socialist Education Movement into practice showed that the problem was more serious than the lack of socialist consciousness among the masses. The degeneration in political consciousness was backed up and defended by definite lines and powerful leaders in the party and state – particularly Liu Shaoqi. The targets of the Socialist Education Movement became more and more refined as it moved through different stages.

Convinced there was a better course for China, Liu as head of state refused to implement the Socialist Education Movement agreed upon at the Peitaiho Conference in August 1962. Mao made another call for the campaign in May 1963, and the second time, stated its purpose more explicitly. “The struggle was one for the reeducation of men, for the reorganization of revolutionary class forces to wage sharp and effective struggle against the forces of capitalism and feudalism which are launching an audacious attack upon us. It is a great movement to suppress their counter-revolutionary activities and to remould the majority of these elements into new men; it is also a campaign for the joint participation of cadres and the masses in productive labor and scientific experiment, with a view to bringing our party a step further in becoming a more glorious, greater and correct party, and making our cadres well-versed in politics and in business operations, both red and expert, well integrated with and supported by the masses, instead of being divorced from the masses and considering themselves officials and overlords.”[70]

The Real Sabotage

Worried that the Socialist Education Movement might disrupt production, Deng Xiao-ping, then vice-premier, General Secretary of the CPC and a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau, published the Second Ten Points, also entitled Some Concrete Policy Formulation of the Central Committee of the CPC in the Rural Socialist Education Movement. The Second Ten Points greatly modified the tone of Mao’s First Ten Points. Parris Chang wrote, “The new directive set limits by spelling out detailed, concrete guidelines on all aspects of the struggle” which demanded that “at no stage of the movement should production be affected.”[71] The content of Deng’s program might not be wrong by itself. However, the problem was not excesses but lack of momentum altogether, so calling for restriction amounted to putting another lid on the movement. Measuring production as the only criterion for the campaign was also onesided. Nine months later, Mao openly rejected Deng’s line by putting forth six criteria. Production rated last in priority.

The real sabotage of the Socialist Education Movement was Liu’s Revised Second Ten Points, which turned the mass education movement into a police supervision movement. Instead of relying on the masses, Liu sent in work teams of outside cadres to spy on the peasants. The original intention of the Socialist Education Movement was to struggle against the influence of feudalism and capitalism, but Liu presented the struggle as one of resolving the “contradiction between the four cleans and the four uncleans (in politics, ideology, organization and economy), because he saw the problem not as a class problem, but “the overlapping of contradiction within the party and contradiction among the people.”[72] In reality, Liu’s line led to seeing the masses’ and cadres’ mistakes as antagonistic. Many lower level leadership were purged or demoted.

The experience of the model commune Dazhai, which was only recently denounced, provides a good example. In a May 1972 article in Monthly Review, Neale and Deirdre Hunter reported on their interview with Chen Yuen Quia, the former head of the commune, on the work team sent by Liu Shaoqi to the commune. He said that in 1964 the grain output of the commune was 800 catties per mou (a Chinese acre). But the Socialist Education Movement leaders sent by Liu did not believe that report. They said even flat land with water conservation projects couldn’t have that kind of output. So the report from Dazhai (which had few water conservation projects and hilly land) had to be lies. The work team demanded to re-survey the land, and it turned out that the acreage was actually less than had been reported. Then the work team charged that the commune had moistened the grain and inflated the weight. Nothing of that sort had happened. Going through the commune’s books, the work team discovered that one work point was give to a cadre attending public affairs. They seized on that incident to accuse the commune of falsifying records. Chen said the work team “regarded things as questionable which our people felt were quite all right.... To our people it seemed as if we were blamed for spending the bitter cold winters building new fields.” Liu sent 3,800 cadres to Dazhai and removed 80% of the existing leadership.[73]

Targeting Capitalist-Roaders

In the Central Work Conference held in January 1965, Mao condemned Liu’s method as left in form and right in essence. For the first time since the beginning of the movement three years before, Mao clearly stated the target of the Socialist Education Movement: “to rectify those in positions of authority within the party who take a capitalist road.”[74] He used the same formulation as the target of the Cultural Revolution. Launched a few months later in the Central Committee Plenum, the Cultural Revolution was like a continuation of the Socialist Education Movement – only more intense, more focused and with a more mass character.

The Socialist Education Movement proves that the Cultural Revolution was not spontaneous as far as Mao’s motive is concerned. It was an inevitable continuation of previous unsuccessful attempts to guide the country in the proper direction, to change the orientation of those leaders advocating a capitalist road for China, and to defeat their lines and influence when all else failed. Liu’s line had become so strong that a few months prior to the Cultural Revolution Mao was unable to get his writing published in Peking, a Liu stronghold under Mayor Peng Chen. Supporting the need for concentric attack under socialism, and supporting the socialist path as correct for China’s development, we support the Socialist Education Movement and Cultural Revolution as necessary moves, though we recognize the tremendous price and criticize the mistakes and shortcomings of both movements.


[1] Liu Shaoqi, “Speech at a session of the National Conference of the Chinese Peoples’ Political Consultative Conference,” November 4, 1951 quoted in The Struggle Between the Two Roads in China’s Countryside, (Peking: Foreign Language Press, 1968) p.7.

[2] Liu Shaoqi, “Report Concerning the Question of Land Reform,” June 1, 1950, Selected Works, (Japan: Chinese Culture Service Publishers, 1967) in Chinese, p.275.

[3] Lowell Dittmer, “Proletarian Dictatorship and the Renegade China’s Khrushchev,” Peoples Daily, Aug. 26, 1967, quoted in Liu Shaoqi and the Chinese Cultural Revolution, The Politics of Mass Criticism, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974) p.222.

[4] Mao Zedong, “Talk Concerning Question of Philosophy,” August 18, 1967, Mao Zedong Si Xiang Wan Xiu (Long Live Mao Zedong Thought), (Hong Kong: 1969) in Chinese, p.55l.

[5] Mao Zedong, “On Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People,” Selected Readings, (Peking: Foreign Language Press, 1971) p.446.

[6] Liu Shaoqi, “Instruction to An Tzu-wen and others,” January 23. 1950, quoted in The Struggle Between the Two Roads in Chinas Countryside, (Peking: Foreign Language Press, 1968,) p.4.

[7] Lui Shaoqi, “Report Concerning the Question of Land Reform,” Selected Readings, (Japan: Chinese Culture Service Publishers, 1967) p.283.

[8] Mao Zedong, Selected Works, Vol. III, (Peking: Foreign Language Press, 1965) p. 156.

[9] The Struggle Between the Two Roads in Chinas Countryside, op. cit., p.7.

[10] Mao Zedong, Mao Zedong Si Xiang Wan Xiu, (Hong Kong: 1969) in Chinese, p.213.

[11] Ibid., p.217.

[12] Siet Fung Shuan, “Mao Zedong and China’s Economy Since 1949,” Ming Pao Monthly Magazine, (Hong Kong, in Chinese, Vol. 15, No. 11, November 1980) p.37.

[13] Chou Ming Li, “Economic Development of Communist China,” China Quarterly I, January-March 1960, p.35-50, excerpted by Franz Shurman and Orville Schell in Communist China: Revolution and Reconstruction and International Confrontation, (New York: Vantage Books, 1967) p.195-212.

[14] G.V. Astafyen, “The PRC’s Industrial Development Problems in the First Five-Year Period,” Present-Day China, (USSR: Progress Publishers, 1975) p. 119-121.

[15] Mao Zedong, “On the Ten Major Relationships,” Selected Works, Vol. V, (Peking: Foreign Language Press, 1977) p.286.

[16] Mao Zedong, “Talk at the 2nd Conference of the Heads of Delegates of the 8th Party Congress,” May 18, 1958, Mao Zedong Si Xiang Wan Xiu, (Hong Kong: 1969) in Chinese, p.222.

[17] Mao Zedong, From various talks he made during 1958-1961, Mao Zedong Si Xiang Wan Xiu, op. cit., p. 145-316.

[18] Chou En-Lai, “Government’s Work Report,” April 18, 1959, Selected Works, Vol. 1, (Hong Kong: 1-San Books Ltd., August 1976,) in Chinese, p.155-160.

[19] Siet Fung Shuan, op. cit., p.39.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Fundamentals of Political Economy, (New York: M.E. Sharpe Inc., 1977,) p.366.

[23] Ibid., p.366-370.

[24] Xuo Mugia, China’s Socialist Economy, (Peking: People’s Publishers, 1979) in Chinese.

[25] Mao Zedong Si Xiang Wan Xiu, (Hong Kong: 1969,) p.304.

[26] Siet Fung Shuan, op. cit., p.41.

[27] Kang Chao, “Economic Aftermath of the Great Leap in China,” Asian Survey, May 1964, excerpted in Franz Schurman and Orville Schell, Communist China 1949-Present, (New York: Vintage Books, 1967,) p.409.

[28] Mao Zedong Si Xiang Wan Xiu, p.285.

[29] Ibid., p.281-282.

[30] Ibid., p.283.

[31] Kang Chao, op. cit.

[32] Siet Fung Shuan, op. cit., p.36.

[33] “The Trial of the Gang of Four and the Crisis of Maoism,” Line of March: A Marxist-Leninist Journal of Rectification, Vol. 1, No. 6, May/June 1981, (U.S.A.), p.37.

[34] Liu Shaoqi, “Democratic Spirit and Bureaucracy,” Collected Works, Vol. 1, p.81, quoted in Lowell Dittmer, op. cit., p. 191.

[35] Stephen Andors, China’s Industrial Revolution–Politics, Planning and Management, 1949 to the Present, (New York: Pantheon Books, 1977,) p. 190.

[36] Ibid., p. 140.

[37] Lowell Dittmer, op. cit., p.227.

[38] “Constitution of the CPC Tenth National Congress,” The Tenth National Congress of the Communist Party of China, Documents, (Peking: Foreign Language Press, 1973,) p.61.

[39] Basic Understanding of the Communist Party of China, (Shanghai: Peoples’ Publishers, 1974,) Translated and Published by Canada’s Norman Bethune Institute, 1976, p.76.

[40] Mao Zedong, “Letter to Journalist Comrades,” Jan. 12, 1958, quoted in Lowell Dittmer, op. cit., p.278.

[41] Lenin, “Declaration of the Editorial Board of Iskra,” Sept. 1900, quoted in Carry the Great Revolution on the Journalist Front Through to the End, (Peking: Foreign Language Press, 1969,) p.21.

[42] Ibid., p.ll.

[43] Peoples’ Daily, Aug. 10, 1973, quoted in Parris H. Chang, Power and Policy in China, 2nd and enlarged edition, (U.S.A.: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1978,) p.107-108.

[44] Liaoning Daily, July 19, 1973, quoted in Parris H. Chang, op. cit.

[45] Mao Zedong, “On the Correct Handling of Contradiction Among the People,” Selected Readings, (Peking: Foreign Language Press,) p.459.

[46] Lowell Dittmer, op. cit, p.268-271.

[47] John Wilson Lewis, The City in Communist China, (California: Stanford University Press, 1971) p.266, 267.

[48] Donald J. Murrio, “Egalitarian Ideal and Education Fact in Communist China,” quoted in Lowell Dittmer, op. cit., p.276.

[49] Lowell Dittmer, op. cit.,p.273.

[50] Ibid.

[51] Ibid., p.280.

[52] Jan Myrdal and Gun Kessle, China: The Revolution Continued, (New York: Vintage Books, 1972) p.l 14.

[53] Mao Zedong, “Speech at the Cheng-tu Conference,” March 1958, Mao Zedong Si Xiang Wan Xiu, p. 161.

[54] A Proposal Concerning the General Line of the International Communist Movement, (Peking: Foreign Language Press, 1963,) p.4.

[55] David and Nancy Dall Milton: The Wind Will Not Subside, Years in Revolutionary China – 1964-1969, (New York: Pantheon Books, 1976,) p.4, 5.

[56] Ibid., p.6.

[57] Peng Dehuai, Materials of Peng Dehuai, (Hong Kong, in Chinese,) p.37.

[58] Mao Zedong, “On the Ten Major Relationships,” Selected Works, Vol. V, (Peking: Foreign Language Press, 1977,) p.289.

[59] Edgar Snow, op. cit., p. 19.

[60] “The Trial of the Gang of Four. . .”, Line of March, op. cit., p.44.

[61] Ibid., p.44.

[62] Ibid., p.32.

[63] Critique of Mao Tse Tung’s Theoretical Conceptions, (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1972), p.75.,

[64] Ibid.

[65] Yeh Chien-yirig, “Talk at the Celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the Peoples Republic of China,” Red Flag, Oct. 2, 1979, p.2, In Chinese.

[66] Mao Zedong, “Directive on the Socialist Education Movement,” May 1963, Mao Zedong Si Xiang Wan Xui, op. cit., p.439.

[67] Mao Zedong, “Talk at the Pei Tai Ho Central Work Conference,” ibid., p.423.

[68] Mao Zedong, “Talk at the Hangchow Conference,” May 1963, ibid., p.441.

[69] Mao Zedong, “Directive on the Socialist Education Movement,” ibid., p.437.

[70] “Draft Resolution of the Central Committee of the CPC on Some Problems in Current Rural Work,” commonly known as the First Ten Points, quoted in Parris H. Chang, op. cit., p. 149.

[71] Deng Xiaoping, “Second Ten Points,” quoted in Parris H. Chang, p.151.

[72] Liu Shaoqi, quoted in Parris H. Chang, p. 154.

[73] Neal and Deirdre Hunter, “Our Man in Tachai: Chen Yung-kuei and the Two-Line Struggle in Agriculture,” Monthly Reuiew, (U.S.A.: May 1972), p.21-24.

[74] Mao Zedong, “Problems Currently Arising in the Course of the Rural SEM,” commonly known as the 23 Points, quoted in Parris H. Chang, op. cit., p. 156.