Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Jerry Tung

The Socialist Road

Character of Revolution in the U.S. and Problems of Socialism in the Soviet Union and China

4. Superstructure Problems Of Socialism and a Critique of Revisionism

In 1, I addressed the basic difference between capitalism and socialism. I pointed out that the fallacies of the most advanced theses on “capitalist restoration” centered around the argument on the appearance and essence of ownership question.

In 2 and 3, I tried to show that, in the long-term, socialist superiority is dependent on as well as limited by the level of productive forces. From there I tried to show that capitalism cannot be easily rigged up especially after the state sector has been enlarged and the transformation of small producers has been started and is well on its way. The consolidation of socialism (the dictatorship of the proletariat) has a material foundation, and a reversal to capitalism must fundamentally alter that foundation and thus attack the basic economic interest of the working class. This is shown in 2, where I addressed the question of whether labor power is a commodity in the U.S.S.R. and China, and how we see that economically socialism is basically the dictatorship of the proletariat, despite problems of bureaucracy and revisionism.

Here I wish to touch on the problem of revisionism. From the new perspective in 1 and 2: What is revisionism under socialism and what are the effects of revisionism on socialism? In the concluding parts, I wish to go into what are some of the lessons we must draw from the problems of today’s socialism. Also, what paths are socialist countries likely to take (particularly in relation to each other, and in relation to imperialism), based on material necessities?

There is a crisis of Marxism worldwide based oh new problems which require new solutions. There are infinite forms to embark upon a socialist road in various countries based on their different historical backgrounds, and the heart of Marxism is its application to concrete conditions. For that reason, there is not one form that is universal, or one form that can be looked to as a replica model. In that case, can we then say that there is such a thing as revisionism and that certain parties practice revisionism?

The answer is yes. Whether we appreciate the problems and unique conditions in each country or not is the limit of our subjective grasp. But in practice, there is right and wrong, Marxism and revisionism. There is correct practice of the law of Marxism which invigorates socialism and there are incorrect applications which slow it down or even endanger it.

Revisionism, as a pattern of thinking, spontaneous or conscious, is essentially a set of ideology. But as all ideological elements that are human reflection of reality, there is a material basis for revisionism. The development of revisionism and its effects conform to a general relation between the material basis and ideology, superstructure and base, productive forces and the various aspects of production relations. As a part of that general relationship, revisionism as an ideology also has its own relative independence.

Material Basis for Revisionism

Under socialism, the material basis for revisionism are underdeveloped productive forces, non-state owned sectors of the economy, commodity production, the principle of “to each according to work,” grades of wage-scale, exchange through money and bourgeois right. These are the internal factors. There are external factors as well – imperialist military encirclement and economic/ideological penetration. The relative independence of ideology also perpetuates bureaucracy and remnants of bourgeois or even feudal ideologies, which distort a correct working class and internationalist orientation. This kind of distortion often takes nationally specific forms such as Confucianism in China. But again, while it is important to engage in communist education, ideological and cultural campaigns, we must stress that the relative independence of revisionist ideology is secondary in importance to the role of material necessities and constraints. It is the lower production relations, such as bureaucracy due to underdeveloped productive forces, which constantly reinforce ideological deviations.

So the task of preventing revisionism has to be two-fold. One aspect is the long-term development of socialist production relations through raising the level of productive forces. Second is the immediate and constant task of socialist education.

For us here, we must first differentiate revisionism of parties which have not yet seized state power from that of parties in power. There are different material and ideological bases for revisionism in different countries, and whether the parties are in or out of power. But the fundamental connection of all forms of revisionism among all parties is the question of spontaneity versus consciousness.

In countries where the seizure of state power was accomplished based on relatively one-sided preparation by the revolutionaries, the leadership are most susceptible to spontaneity and revisionism in spheres where they have little experience (e.g., economic development). In advanced capitalist countries where preparation needs to stretch out in all spheres due to the more thoroughgoing and sophisticated nature of capitalist rule, the preparation for seizure of state power has to be more comprehensive. And that requires a set of leaders, a kind of cadre core with a set of experiences much more all-rounded than the Bolsheviks and the Chinese communists before their revolution. Communists have seized power in many third world countries. But no communists have seized power in an advanced capitalist country. That is an essential perspective for us in order to solve the problems of making revolution in the United States. The advanced character of U.S. society makes party-building much more difficult. Parties here can easily fall into revisionism, reformism or into oblivion in a heterogeneous, “over-communicated,” pluralistic society. In order to seize state power here, we need a set of leaders; a cadre core comparable in size, comprehensiveness, experience, know-how and resoluteness to those which are now undertaking the monumental task of making the transition from socialism to communism in socialist countries today. The task of consolidating socialism will be relatively simpler here than in the Soviet Union and China. The reason is that the material basis is much more developed here, so the many problems they have over there (like the chronic agricultural problem) have already been solved.

Whether or not a line works out is, in the final analysis, the test of its correctness or incorrectness. Therefore the practical meaning of revisionism for parties without state power is simple. It is a set of theoretical, political, organizational and ideological lines that will prevent them from seizing state power. This logic also applies to parties which have power. The issues are whether they are able to hold on to power or allow restoration at the beginning; and whether their line speeds up or retards the consolidation of socialism.

The parliamentary road to socialism or the general line of peaceful transition to socialism is revisionist. Practical work flowing from this perspective will disarm the masses. It is a refusal to effect the kind of preparation which requires sharp political orientation, a state of mind, organization, divisions of labor and training in the sphere of armed and violent struggle. When the bourgeoisie is backed up against the wall and attempts to unleash its armed state apparatus against the people in a revolutionary situation, revisionism spells bloody defeat.

Revisionists “Disbelieve” Sharp Turns

Revisionists justify this in an infinite variety of forms. They adopt this revisionist line in all phases of struggle. These revisionist lines and policies generally get molded and jump out under rapidly changing political scenery and the zigzags of bourgeois tactics. Revisionists’ disbelief in sharp turns disable them from responding with flexible tactics. Because under different circumstances, i.e., from an ebb-to-flow or from a flow-to-ebb period, the method to deepen and broaden communist influence varies drastically.

For example, there was a whole generation of genuine revolutionary Marxists who grew up in struggle against the revisionists of the Second International. The chief feature of the Second International revisionists in European countries was adherence to the parliamentary road to socialism. Lenin, in leading the struggle against the Russian as well as the European variety of revisionism, said that, because of their fixation on the parliamentary road, the parties of the Second International were totally unprepared to deal with abrupt changes, and in particular, with violent repression (such as the German anti-socialist laws passed around the turn of the century). He summed them up as being afraid of sharp turns, and when those sharp turns occurred, “disbelieving” in them. Such was the philistine state of mind of these revisionists. He further synthesized the lessons that, in fact, these revisionists were dogmatists. It was doctrinairism or dogmatism-of-the-right, molded in a unique time and with definite characteristics. They were dogmatists because they had a fixed conception of how they would make revolution at all times. This conception was empirical, based on the experience of the working class in a period of peaceful development of capitalism. It was the period of laissez-faire capitalism, when certain democratic procedures were newly won from struggles against feudal autocracy, and the bourgeoisie was a new, rising class which still retained some degree of progressiveness in its struggle against feudal remnants.

Revisionists like Bernstein and Kautsky piously hoped that those practices could be repeated and stubbornly refused to see the bloody reality of bourgeois dictatorship. The new feature of capitalism – imperialism, the highest and last stage of capitalism – is reaction all along the line. They preferred to hold dearly onto their “classical” and what, unfortunately, has become a comfortable conception of how socialist revolution and society would move. They were insulated from the suffering of the masses. Their careerism manifested itself as wanting a safe nest, wanting to carve a place for themselves in history just by lecturing on their obsolete views. The relative stabilization of capitalism throughout most of their upbringing numbed them to the possibility of a massive war like World War I. The readiness of the wretched masses to take up arms or any means necessary to change the situation never penetrated the revisionists’ isolation. This was the external environment that nurtured revisionism. But the superprofits wrested from the colonies by newly grown imperialism and the bribery of a small section of the working class (particularly craft and unionized workers) were and still are the material bases for revisionism in these advanced capitalist countries. World War I was an abrupt change in political scenery. The chauvinist reaction to rally to “defend the fatherland,” and engage in mutual slaughter of the “socialists” even to the point of dissolving their International, brought out the ugly face of revisionism. The parties of the Second International were social-imperialist because even though they mouthed socialism in words, they actually served their own imperialist bourgeoisie.

The willingness of these parties to be appendages of their own bourgeoisie was there all along but was only brought out sharply under war conditions. This combination of factors led them to become traitors and renegades of the working class. They could not possibly lead the working class towards the seizure of state power.

So the thread that runs through revisionist parties, both in advanced capitalist countries before seizure of power and in agrarian societies after seizure of state power, is an unwillingness (whatever the rationale) to engage in a revolutionary, thoroughgoing and all-rounded preparation, in all spheres of social activity without exception. They were not competent to seize state power in advanced capitalist countries or to lead the millions to build a new society. During World War I and II, the proletariat seized state power in those countries which were the weakest links of imperialism. In Russia, the Bolsheviks were concentrated in a few big cities. In the vastness of China, it was possible to maintain red base areas held by Chinese communists remote from the power centers of the Kuomintang and feudal war lords. The conditions were so particular that both CPSU’s and CPC’s preparation and forms of transition of power were unique and one-sided.

Prejudices, fear of sacrifices, taking the path of least resistance and all forms of spontaneity are the ideological basis for revisionism. One can never predict the exact form of revisionism. The class effect, however, is clear. It either destroys a whole generation of leadership or inflicts unnecessary damage on the masses (physically or in their fighting morale) by giving up a chance for the working class to seize state power.

Left Danger: Overstress Ideology

The parliamentary work by the parties of the Second International was perfected under specific circumstances. It was a strength of those parties who were particularly skillful at it. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, a whole new generation of Marxists who developed in struggle against Second International revisionists tend to reject parliamentarism as revisionism. An analogy can be drawn to the struggle by the Communist Party of China against Soviet and E. European “goulash communism.” This tendency was amplified into a line by the Four in China to reject wholesale the technology and skills needed to push forward productive forces.

This generation of ’left’ communists which developed in struggle against parliamentary tactics included anarcho-syndicalists like the Industrial Workers of the World, who were invited to join the Third International. Lenin devoted most of his attention to combat that tendency in his book Left-Wing Communism, An Infantile Disorder and most of his speeches to the Third International. In a similar way the CPC’s and Mao’s lines were clearly a reaction to the CPSU and Khrushchev’s revisionism. As in all historical reactions, they were one-sided. The Four in China have, in so many words, elevated the reverse effect of ideology on the material conditions to the first order of importance. It got to a point where you get a distinct impression from their writings that ideology and ideology alone could, in a straight-line fashion, act as the locomotive to propel history forward. The role of masses in creating and strengthening the socialist material basis disappeared. The masses only appeared in political and criticism campaigns. In that sense and under that false interpretation, “correctness or incorrectness of line decides everything” took on an elitist, metaphysical meaning of its own.

Of the three revolutionary struggles, struggle for production, scientific experiment and social revolution, the productive forces are the most fundamental and the fruit of the masses’ sweat and blood. Mao correctly criticized Stalin for his vulgar materialism by viewing productive forces only as instruments of production and not seeing people, the working and toiling masses, as the most decisive part of productive forces. But in fighting against this point of view Mao, and particularly, the Four, belittled the role of technology in amplifying human’s role in productive forces, which is the only durable basis to sustain and elevate all aspects of production relations, including the relation among people and advanced ideology. In belittling the instruments of production this view ultimately belittles the masses and human’s role in sustaining and elevating all aspects of production relations, which give social revolution its only durable basis.

Proper Role of Ideology

In the following essay, I would like to outline the role of the superstructure and ideology on the development of the material and spiritual conditions of socialism, particularly the impact of advanced or backward ideology, codified policies, plan, tradition and organization. Without seeing and understanding the reverse impact of the superstructure and the relations of production on the base and the productive forces respectively, it will be impossible to understand the need to struggle against revisionism in the Party, or the devastating effect this can have on the transition from socialism to communism. At times, it could lead to bloody counter-revolution, such as in Chile, where Allende won the election but did not understand the role of the state and therefore did not consolidate the armed forces.

For that reason, any one of the three aspects of the subjective factor (spontaneous consciousness, organization and leadership of the masses) can be key under pivotal conditions. But all three are indispensable. As materialists, we respect not only the role of communist leadership and advanced elements, but also the spontaneous material organization (such as trade unions, peasant cooperatives, etc.) and spontaneous consciousness of the masses. We must understand their interdependence as well as the struggle between them, and lead the whole thing forward by grasping the key link. For example, after lines and policies are formulated through study and sum-up, implementation becomes the key – the propagation of the line to mobilize and organize the masses in millions, which depends on a most concrete understanding of their spontaneous consciousness and organization. And line ceases to be the key. That’s why the approach that always tries to grasp the key link but does not understand the problem on a materialist basis, nor see problems comprehensively and all-sidedly, and most important of all, proceed concretely, case by case, situation by situation, can be and, in most cases, is metaphysical.

To say that “correctness or incorrectness of line decides everything” must include a materialist line that the masses make history while the vanguard can only make them conscious through constantly learning from them and from history. And “correct line” must also include the know-how to unleash the spontaneous consciousness and organization of the masses as well as all productive forces by using science, all the last words in civilization on organization of people, and their spiritual culture to focus and invigorate the masses. This is distinctively different from an idealist understanding of how “correctness or incorrectness of line,” leadership, and ideology decide everything. The idealist line of the Four on this question makes the world rest on hot air, devoid of a material background and the constant reinforcement of ideology by material advancement. This kind of system cannot last and will collapse. It turns communism into a Utopian dream and tries to make it stay there, rather than turning it into a lasting civilization that will truly emancipate the working class and all mankind.

The limitations of the Russian and Chinese revolutions were determined by the special circumstances (as Lenin put it) under which they were made. We can understand the problems Mao faced and the errors he made only if we understand these circumstances.

Lack of “Red Experts”

The problem Mao faced is what Lenin described as a “lack of people.” This does not refer to the millions of people with precious commitment and dedication, which China does not lack. Lenin was referring to people with diverse educational backgrounds, equipped with organizational and professional know-how and specialized training. In the final analysis, Mao lacked what he called “red experts” to interpret as well as implement the correct broad outline which he developed. This broad outline, dealing with concrete economic conditions of China, is exemplary. Mao addressed the relationship between agriculture and industry, between foreign technology and native skills, and the need to develop mass democracy in China as well as the models in developing industry and agriculture (Daqing, Dazhai, and the Anshan Constitution, and the many dialectical methods he pioneered to dissect problems. The lack of a cadre core to interpret it and lead in carrying it out was a problem not only because of a shortage of engineers, scientists, and experienced administrators, but also because Mao compounded the problem by his incorrect egalitarian attempt to transform them.

It’s one thing to point a correct direction. It’s quite another to resolve the dynamics of implementation. The gap and wide discrepancy between line and implementation, between theory and practice which has developed was mainly caused by the political purges of almost a whole generation of the best-trained and most experienced cadres. The struggle against them was necessitated by their religious and right-dogmatist copying of the Soviet example.

Mao succeeded in transcending Soviet economic models and provided leadership based on Chinese conditions. The Liu Shaoqi trend, on the other hand, tried very hard, in one way or another, to copy the Soviet model, which is itself very much restricted and lacked the same things that the Chinese economic base lacked. In this tug of war, a whole generation of the most experienced cadres was demoted. An irreparable wound was inflicted upon them such that not only were they not able to be used, but some of them, including many of the present CPC leadership, have in fact, turned against Mao.

These rightists succeeded in overthrowing the Four shortly after Mao’s death in 1976. This was partly due to the Four’s lack of mass and organizational roots, and partly due to the old guards’ independent kingdoms in the military, government and Party apparatus, and the loyalty they commanded.

The problem of leadership transition is obvious in most third world and socialist countries. Rarely are there normal and voluntary changes of leadership, without either a coup or Purges. The result is that strong tradition cannot be inherited and weaknesses discarded. This is also related to the problem of mass democracy in both the Soviet Union and China, where their feudal absolutist past is barely half a century away, thus few democratic procedures and forms are practiced and forged. Although both the Soviet and Chinese governments represent the economic interests of workers and peasants in essence, for the first time in the history of those countries as well as the world, direct mass participation is still very weak and problems of bureaucracy and monolithic (in the bad sense, not the highly developed and centralized line) party rule are rampant.

This is why Mao promoted rebellion by the rank and file, and unleashed campaigns against the ideology of Confucianism (which advocates a rigid hierarchy) and struggled to guarantee the right to strike, for the first time in a socialist constitution, at the Fourth People’s Congress in the early 70’s. But these can’t be achieved overnight. Nor could they be expected to be accomplished in Mao’s lifetime, which was his schedule. They have to be done by creating long-term socialist material basis and production relations, constant education and healthy inner party struggles. Certainly an absence of a competent core of Marxists to interpret and lead the implementation of Mao’s program aggravated the existing disorganization and discontinuity in the party and the state caused by the Cultural Revolution. That’s where Mao and the CPC failed in their noble attempt to chart an uncharted road for socialism in China and in economically underdeveloped countries.

Effects of Superstructure

In a previous essay, I have touched upon why capitalism cannot be easily restored. The strength of socialism is more than its naked military power. Its strength is inherent in its manifold economic and political organizations which “lock in” the interests of the working class.

I have gone through an outline of why, in any given society, the productive forces determine the nature of production relations and that skillful organization under socialism can give the public sector full play to reorganize private sector so that it is complementary and serves the planned economy rather than being antagonistic to it.

Here I would consider the organization of the private ownership in the agriculture sector into collective ownership and its positive effect on the growth of national economy as an outstanding example of the effect of the political and organizational superstructure on the economic base. This is an example of how policy, plan and human consciousness generally can overcome the forces of tradition and spontaneity in pushing forward the productive forces. Despite the fact that productive forces in the main determine production relations, advanced production relations can also speed up and promote the spontaneous development of productive forces under the law of value, when properly constructed and carried out. They must be based on a set of concrete conditions without fundamentally violating the law of development which is itself based on a definite state of economic reality.

Besides advanced organization and administration, other aspects of the superstructure (which include all political lines, foreign policy, the legal system, social morals and ethics, education and culture) can have reverse effect, either positive or negative, on the economic base (including the effect of a more focused consumption sector on the production sector). It is common sense, for example, to see that a solid education system will have tremendous impact on accelerating the rate of development of productive forces by producing a corps of workers, technicians and scientists with advanced know-how, even though immediately, it drains funds from the production sector.

A well-grounded set of socialist laws, be they in the field of civic or commercial relations, can facilitate long-range planning and the resolution of contradictions among the people, industries, and in relations between the party, the state and the people. Of course, the correctness or incorrectness of these laws and codified Policies (such as the right of workers to strike) is essentially the correctness or incorrectness of the communist party’s program of the dictatorship of the proletariat – a comprehensive economic, Political, organizational, cultural and ideological program to make the transition to communism. But whether advanced or backward, correct or incorrect, they are all indispensable to build up in the speediest possible way, a strong socialist foundation – the economic base – which is the only thing that can further consolidate the dictatorship of the proletariat.

A shortcoming of the CPC’s Cultural Revolution, which revealed itself especially after the Ninth Congress, was its inability to codify and consolidate this revolution in the legal, moral, ethical and other superstructure fields. It is one thing to throw out the existing laws and culture, but quite another to formulate and establish new ones that promote the socialist economic base. Revolutionary committees (the model of the new political structure) were formally launched in every province, city, factory, commune and school. But in the absence of a solidified new Central Committee, new laws to guide the resolution of the contradiction between red and expert, and without a cadre core of the vanguard party to establish and follow a set of objective criteria to resolve contradictions between the party and the state sectors, between party members and the majority of workers, most of the revolutionary committees floundered and eventually became empty forms in most places.

In foreign policy, Mao, in the late 50’s, faced a very difficult situation of all-sided containment – the Soviet Union from the north and west, U.S. imperialism and Japan from the south and northeast, India from the southwest – especially after the withdrawal of all Soviet aid and the incorrect animosity of Soviet leaders. But China was able to win friends and broke through the imposed isolation by persevering in a revolutionary foreign policy and sacrifice. This policy yielded fruit in the late 60’s and early 70’s. China regained her seat in the United Nations with the help of her friends in the third world and Albania. With U.S. imperialism’s devastating defeat in Vietnam, Kampuchea, and Laos – the turning point of U.S. domino theory – it was obligated to re-establish relations with China as a way to deal with a stronger Soviet Union.

How is Superstructure Key?

We have established that in the historical period of socialism the level of productive forces is decisive in upgrading the non-state sector, i.e., cooperative and private sectors. These are the “capitalist” elements, the material basis that generates bourgeois ideology and where the law of value is mostly operative. While the tailist revisionist line can hold back this socialist development, the most decisive part of the production relations, the ownership system, cannot be upgraded according to wishes. It is fundamentally dependent upon the qualitatively higher productive forces, for example, to transform well over 80% of the Chinese countryside to public or socialist ownership.

But does that mean that throughout the socialist period, the productive forces are primary? I think we have to divide this question into two integral parts. One, what are the absolute material prerequisites for communism? And two, what is the limit of the subjective factor, to bring about this historical transformation?

In terms of party leadership, I want to say that the “correctness and incorrectness of ideological and political line” does “decide everything.” This cannot be misinterpreted subjectively, i.e., you will communism into being without creating step-by-step, firm material basis to enlarge the state sector and that way to propagate and sustain higher spiritual conditions for socialism. In other words, leadership cannot replace material conditions. But it does depend on the dynamic role of the subjective factor, which includes the profound grasp of the economic reality and its laws of development, to tackle it step-by-step. That is, under socialism, communists cannot “will” higher society into being by class struggle in the political sphere alone. This does not mean a communist is helpless in the face of the low level of productive forces and the material reality of today’s socialism. As part of the dynamic role of the subjective factor, they can create material conditions to transform all aspects of the production relations along with their living links with the masses.

The revisionists believe that the creation of these material conditions have to be accomplished spontaneously, i.e. by letting the private property ownership, spontaneous market regulations, competition, greed, and the “forces of the old world” operate blindly by themselves. This is a reflection of a path of least resistance, or as the Chinese put it, “worship all things foreign” (i.e. capitalist west), in the face of the unprecedented new challenges of socialism. That’s why revisionists like Kautsky and Trotsky all stand helpless in the face of this mystical and almighty capitalism. Politically it turns into a justification for not seizing state power first; or after that’s an accomplished fact, they set the same idea to work by advocating staying in the coalition government stage of New or People’s Democracy, or even returning to capitalism.

The working class has to smash the old state machinery, a most crucial aspect of the old superstructure in order to change the economic system and the production relations. But after the working class has state power, we have to upgrade socialist production relations through increasing productive forces. This becomes particularly crucial for socialism in countries like China today and the early Soviet Union.

In the course of transforming the material conditions of socialism, the working class must maintain and constantly revolutionize the superstructure and, the bottom line is that the working class must control state power through the armed forces, courts, and its laws. But the subjective factor of the working class in the realm of consciousness, organization and leadership cannot stay on the same level. In fact it has to undergo a quantum leap after the seizure of state power!

So the role of consciousness versus spontaneity in Lenin’s What Is To Be Done? applies not only to parties fighting to seize state power, but also to the socialist stage as well. In that sense, the dynamic role of the subjective factor, the grasping of class struggle through mass line, the creation of the conditions for transformation, must include a grasp of the laws of economic development. Or to put it another way, communists should not only be good at smashing the old world, (“dictatorship over the bourgeoisie” as Chang Chun-chiao put it) but must also be good at building a new world. They must act as the vanguard in grasping all sciences and lead in positive activity governing “all spheres of social activity – without exception” as Lenin advocated in no uncertain terms.

The Eurocommunists criticize Lenin’s teaching on the dictatorship of the proletariat, the state, as one-sided saying that he only stressed the coercive aspects of the dictatorship over the bourgeoisie. The Eurocommunists’ criticism of Leninism only indicates their distaste for the working class and the working class’ need and willingness, in a revolutionary situation, to overthrow the bourgeoisie by any means necessary. It further shows their faith in the bourgeoisie’s “reasonableness” rather than grasping the capitalist class’ criminal nature of exploitation, plunder, and aggression. Thus, they not only preferred but pinned their hope on the peaceful transition to socialism. A wretched and philistine hope.

We stand by Lenin in his teaching on the fundamental partisan and class nature of the state and the need for the working class to seize state power first. Without state power the working class has nothing. But we must also elaborate on Lenin’s teaching, and its subsequent development based on the historical experiences of the Soviet Union, China, and all socialist countries. We must go into what the tasks of socialism under workers’ rule entail all-roundedly and comprehensively. Communists in advanced capitalist countries have to put these critical lessons to work in carrying out immediate, universal, and all-rounded preparation for the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Marx said that the totality of the production relations forms the economic base of a society.[1] It is upon this economic base that a political, legal, and social/ideological superstructure arises, and it is that superstructure which molds our consciousness.

The superstructure includes the state and its corresponding political, legal, and cultural forms (philosophy, arts, tradition). The economic base is the production relations. Production relations include not only the ownership system, but also the distribution of products and production relations among people.

Since the productive forces determine the production relations or the economic base, and since the economic base determines the superstructure, then to grasp the bull by the horns, communists have to grasp the development of the productive forces. Since our grasp is always subjective, and only the transformation of material conditions turns it into an objective fact, communist leadership should always be the leading factor under socialism.

So to put things in the perspective of the classical formulation, the development of the contradiction between the productive forces and production relations, and between the base and superstructure – spontaneously and the long-term durable basis – the productive force is most fundamental and decisive in upgrading the production relations. But socialist superstructure, including the vanguard role of the advanced proletariat and its party can be the leading factor. The advanced ideology based on the historical and worldwide advanced production relationship and superstructure which is within our subjective control is key to change the material reality. Only in that sense is the superstructure key.

Two-Line Straggle on “National Nihilism”

There has been a great deal of struggle in China over the relationship of native products to imports from foreign countries. Immediately after the Revolution in the 1950’s and 6CCs, the importing of foreign technology was not even a problem because the Soviet Union and all imperialist countries had an economic blockade against China. The Indochinese people’s victory, and the resulting Nixon visit to China which symbolized the failure of the embargo policy, turned around the situation. Only then were the United States and other western countries allowed to sell industrial goods to China. Thus the possibility of foreign imports spurring China’s self-reliant economy is interwoven with the larger international situation. After the United States’ defeat in Vietnam became an accomplished fact, Mao personally saw to it that the embargo was broken by skillfully utilizing the famous “ping-pong diplomacy” in restoring U.S.-China diplomatic relations. This move must be connected to Mao’s original proposal for the “four modernizations” drive which was first made public in the Fourth People’s Congress, right before Mao’s death in 1976.

The contradiction between the Soviet Union and the United States is very sharp. Mao rightfully utilized this contradiction to develop a relationship with the United States after attacks by the Soviet Union in the 60’s. The legitimate purpose of this relationship was and is to facilitate China’s construction through reducing its defense budget. There’s nothing wrong with this as long as it is only a tactical move to buy time and build up China’s economic base, without turning the Sino-U.S. relationship into a strategic alliance and betraying other workers’ and national liberation movements. We must support the right of third world countries to utilize for their own survival whatever contradictions that exist between two chauvinist “superpowers.” Whatever economic strength and political independence third world countries gain hurts imperialism and in the long term benefits socialism. It gives socialism strong allies as well as forces socialist countries not to impose any nationally specific doctrines on third world countries, and puts the lessons of successes and failures of their revolutions in the world-historical perspective.

Foreign Trade

This is the political background of the question of foreign technology. We must view the problem divided into two periods, the period during the embargo and after. In China there were and still are two sharp lines on how to view imports during each period. In the 1950s and 60’s the revisionist faction headed by Liu Shaoqi held the view that short-sighted financial considerations were primary. For example, he advocated that China should lease ships for commerce rather than establish its own ship-building industry because leasing is cheaper. By the same reasoning it is more economical for China to rent or lease space on ships with foreign flags than it is for China to have her own merchant marine fleet. This kind of reasoning goes on and on, and can be applied to all industrial sectors. Mao correctly criticized it as a revisionist “slavish mentality” bound to prevent China from developing a comprehensive economic foundation of its own. It is an approach quite similar to the pattern of industrialization process of most neo-colonial countries. Mao criticized this approach, which would have led China into a perpetually dependent status. He instead advocated “self-reliance,” saying that even though at first these industrial undertakings are not financially profitable, in the long term it is critical for China to develop its own industrial base to be an equal among the nations of the world.

Mao’s approach obviously has been proven by history. China’s unique economic development as the first third world country to break loose from dependency on foreign powers, capitalist or socialist, is a historical verdict. This not only gives pride and confidence to billions in the third world, but also provides a solid foundation for socialism in the third world. China has become one of the few, if not the only third world country able to feed its own population and to develop an impressive, self-reliant economic base. In the Cultural Revolution campaign to “combat, prevent, and criticize” bourgeois ideology, however, Mao’s stated line to use the past and foreign to serve China in the present was perverted.

For example, an incorrect line appeared in the Shanghai journal Study and Criticism. This was the theoretical organ of the Four in Shanghai. It was a simplistic view which regarded all trade, all buying of imports from foreign countries as capitulating to imperialism. This very dangerous line is itself capitulatory because it would create the conditions for defeat and capitulation to the imperialists.

There’s nothing wrong even in contracting with imperialist countries for work such as exploring for petroleum because China does not yet have widely available technology to explore for it or exploit it to the maximum advantage. Contracting, concessions, and equal trade can and does serve native economic development.

The communist view on this question is that energy sources are infinite, the limit being human knowledge and our present ability to tap them. If the export of oil is rationally based on planning for 100-200 years and doesn’t deplete a country’s natural resources such as petroleum, then there is no major problem. Within a century or two new energy sources will be discovered or invented and technology will be oriented accordingly. Export is not national betrayal, because within that time all countries will be able to develop synthetic energy sources.

Both the Soviet Union and China have an abundance of petroleum. The problem is how to get it out. China now, for example, has a severe oil shortage situation. About 20% of her total industrial capacity is laying idle because there is no petro-fuel. This is related to the move made in the early 1970s by the Four who opposed foreign oil exploration as an act of national betrayal. This line had a wide currency in China because the question of national betrayal is a very sensitive issue for the Chinese people. Their memories of the humiliation of the colonial days are still fresh.

There’s nothing inherently wrong even with joining something like the World Bank. For communists it can be an opportunity to take advantage of the imperialists’ economic vulnerability. The excess dollars printed in the last 30-40 years of Keynesian spending, is causing tremendous inflation and a need to “recycle” the dollar to postpone the collapse. Socialist countries acting from a position of strength should definitely try to make full use of the pressure within the western imperialist economies.

It is wrong to view things too nationalistically. Technology and science are fruits of class struggle, scientific experiment and the struggle for production, even though they presently serve the bourgeoisie in imperialist countries. They are the historical products of child labor, black slavery, of Triangle trade, of immigrant indentured slaves, and of peasants squeezed off the land. Their blood, sweat, and ingenuity created the material basis and the raw data for scientific and technological advances. Thus it is incorrect to equate foreign imports with betrayal. Modern technology is international wealth which in one way or another derived from the world’s people and belongs to the world’s people. To use it to serve socialism, in fact, is to stand on the shoulders of giants, of our working class brothers and sisters worldwide. Communists are duty-bound to use this body of knowledge.

Good, Close Fight

Another question is whether to join the International Monetary Fund. Just on the philosophical level, it is appealing: in any real fight, any real struggle, there has to be close body contact. If one keeps the enemy away with a ten-foot pole, it is not a fight. All trials of strength, all tit-for-tat fights, are close calls. They are all-out struggles. In that situation there is mutual penetration of both the good and bad aspects. There is nothing wrong in and of itself with the Soviet Union or the COMECON countries borrowing money from the western imperialist countries. Those countries understand that western imperialist countries have to export capital. They know imperialists have to “recycle” the excess dollars outside their economic system to alleviate their critical inflationary problems. Knowing the weakness of the enemy, those countries borrow money to import plants, raw material, technology, and whatever else they can get. Yes, it is true that they will be influenced economically as well as ideologically by the imperialists.

But the fact that they suddenly become dependent and problems abound such as the situation in Poland does not mean that it is not a good fight. A good fight is one in which both sides fight to the point of near collapse from exhaustion, and then the winner really triumphs. And in the Polish situation, besides the crucial strength of the working class represented by the growth of Solidarity union, the verdict on foreign debts is not yet in. Both sides are tied down, and both are affected. To have it otherwise is puritanism and has nothing to do with a materialist trial of strength between two systems. Even from a philosophical point of view, joining the World Bank, or borrowing money, is not a problem as far as we’re concerned. The problem is how to use that relationship, and how to prevent it from turning into its opposite. Strategically, it is the continuation of “war” by other means. Like the struggle on the diplomatic front, it is not a question of whether to engage the imperialists, but the question of how to win. In fact the Untied States is now fighting tooth and nail to block western bank consortiums from lending money to the Soviet Union. They are caught between a rock and a hard place on whether to export grain to the Soviet Union. This shows that some U.S. imperialists, especially people like Kissinger, actually have a better sense of the larger forces at work than some of us who saw that as the Soviet Union’s betrayal of socialism. We fail to appreciate the larger trial of strength going on – the feebleness of imperialism and the inner strength of socialism, despite socialism’s tremendous problems at this point.

Cultural Penetration

On the question of cultural and political interpenetration, the refusal to get “contaminated” is a sign of weakness, not a hallmark of strength. Refusal to engage in a fight shows a lack of confidence. There cannot be a “monotone,” one-dimensional line of culture. Socialist society must use all cultures historically represented by and concentrated in the hands of past exploiting classes. Bourgeois culture must be allowed to contend with proletarian culture so that proletarian culture can ultimately become the strongest culture – the grand synthesis of the cultures of the laboring masses of all countries, of all societies, of all past periods and modes of production. Synthesizing the progressive kernels of past cultures will make proletarian culture superior and help it to withstand the onslaught of imperialist ideology and culture. Even though relationships with imperialist countries will have a bad effect, this should also provide the motivation to strengthen socialist education and culture, to develop socialist models, and thus, to triumph in the trial of strength.

One momentous ideological struggle in China during the late 1950’s and 60’s was over what was known as the line of “national nihilism.” There are two incorrect interpretations to “national nihilism” as well. And often those criticizing Liu Shaoqi for national nihilism are really nihilist themselves: they act like ostriches, trying to ignore the body of knowledge in “foreign” technology.

In this era of imperialism, nationalistic tendencies in the dependent or colonial countries are mainly revolutionary. They are for national independence and liberation and opposed to imperialist aggression. The fervor of nationalism is revolutionary. It is necessary to organize and mobilize the vast majority of people around the world today against injustice and plunder. But at times this nationalist fervor can also blind the oppressed. Internally it can be narrowing and restrict its own historical sweep. The Chinese hesitancy to utilize foreign technology has both an intelligent aspect and drawbacks. But the success of Mao’s “walking on two legs” policy is an established historical verdict.

Because the Chinese bourgeoisie and capitalism were never that well developed due to the impact of domineering imperialist ideology and also because of strong feudal influences, there is a big vacuum in the ideological field in China. For that reason there is a strong tendency for Chinese intellectuals to swing, either worship all things western or all things feudal Chinese, particularly Confucianism. Mao once joked about his physician’s advice that eggs were not good for his health. Asked for proof, his physician said that he read it in a Soviet journal. This was an example of a new form of superstition (a characteristic of feudalism) “everything socialist is correct.” It is also evident in the 50’s Chinese architecture, which was more Russian carbon copies than anything else. Instead of using the national culture as a basis to popularize (the only effective basis to popularize to 800 million Chinese peasants like the use of the Peking Opera form, etc.), there is a strong comprador tendency to view everything foreign as intrinsically superior. It reflected an identity problem of Chinese intellectuals – a sense of inferiority ever since the imperialists’ domination in the 1800’s. Some criticism of national nihilism in China is necessary. But in light of the worldwide nature of science and technology, as well as the working class culture which must be synthesized based on the struggle of all national cultures, some criticism of national nihilism can be just plain narrow.

I think that in practice what prevailed throughout the Cultural Revolution followed the line of “one flower bloom” (the revolutionary Peking Opera) rather than the line of “a hundred flowers blossom.” These “single flowers” (mainly early 1970 novels and late 60’s Peking operas) were certainly beautiful and superb propaganda weapons and set standards for Peking operas even in terms of technique. But in the long term, working class leadership over literature and art cannot be established in this way. To do so creates a mode of revolutionary culture that is one-dimensional. For not handling the intellectuals and petty bourgeois artists correctly has in effect suppressed the varied native provincial forms and international experiences. That, and not national nihilism, was the main deviation. One-dimensional art stifles the creativity and liveliness of the Chinese workers and peasants and their struggle for a truly confident and independent socialist motherland.

Concentric Attack Needs Organizational System

But besides general ideological and political education in this concentric attack, organizational measures are needed to encourage and develop professional attitudes.

A problem similar to that facing socialist countries springs up within our Party. When we existed as a Marxist-Leninist circle, there was no organizational problem as we know it. The danger of bureaucracy develops as a more sophisticated organizational machinery develops. Due to our backgrounds amateurishness exists as the dominant form – a lack of professional standards and a meticulous attitude towards ideological and organizational work. Those problems were relatively easy to correct as long as we were living in circle days and every comrade as well as our friends could get a lot of meticulous attention and guidance. As the Party grows in size, activities become more varied, and leadership is stretched thin, the problem of comrades taking things for granted, lacking professionalism and vigor, becomes harder to solve. There are a lot of things which cannot be planned, such as the quality of one’s relationship with the masses, the character of one’s work, one’s grasp of the line in how one explains it, etc., and the “instinct to recruit.” Even though comrades have great commitment and work long hours, the professional stand and attitude often are not there or get lost. While sharpening of political line is generally the leading factor, professionalism in class struggle cannot be accomplished by ideological struggles alone. We must have organizational measures and forces of tradition. And the tradition has to be forged through organizational measures and reinforced by material and organizational forces.

Lack of political focus and lack of organizational measures within the Party lead to sluggishness and bureaucratic attitudes. The lack of professionalism results in part from not taking organizational measures on things and lack of a party system (policies, codified rules and regulations). We need such measures to supervise and check up – measures such as hearings by peers and leadership – to enforce that kind of supervision and professional demand.

Why? The block that prevented us from taking organizational measures was similar to what happened in the Soviet Union, especially early in their revolution. It was the fear that we would reinforce the “capitalist tendencies,” the capitalist ideology among comrades. We almost equated organization and the science of management with capitalist methods. Organization and management methods are not inherently capitalist, but are sciences which the proletariat must use.

Another hidden fear in the Party to enforce organizational measures is that the petty bourgeoisie and comrades with professional background and training would prevail because they generally have greater abilities in getting things done. We feared that if we took organizational measures according to guideposts, after a while the petty bourgeois elements would be in leadership and the proletarian elements would be squeezed out of leadership. And that would change the class composition of the Party’s leadership and adversely affect the direction of the Party. That fear, to some extent, is legitimate, but incorrect when liberalism prevails and organization, guideposts, and accountability are not enforced.

Lenin said in Left-Wing Communism, An Infantile Disorder, that true, there’s a danger of parliamentarians becoming careerists and not following the Party’s line; on the other hand, there are “left,” communists who build a whole trend around anti-parliamentarism and make a career of that.[2] That is just careerism in another form based on the principle of repudiating any parliamentary work whatsoever. He was obviously right and I think that our experience with the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers Organization (PRRWO) and other opportunists verified that. They pursued a career based on a “left” facade, a “left” feint, and staunch rhetoric. After a while, without organizational measures on those things, the Party will be relying on comrades’ so-called “stand,” ideology, staunchness, and class background to ensure the proletarian cause. If relying on these is sufficient, why is the U.S. working class still enslaved?

Without professionalism, the Party would be unable to take up higher political tasks, to engage the bourgeoisie. With the increasing division of labor, the lack of organizational measures and accountability will lower the quality of the Party’s work among the masses. Political momentum and sweep will disappear. A “twin” to this phenomenon is the danger of arbitrary individual leadership. People with “stand” would actually become bureaucrats sitting on their laurels not doing anything, pursuing careerism of the “proletarian” kind. Then certainly the proletariat would not be rallied and mobilized, let alone unleashed. It would be the working class which would suffer, because of our inability to organize and mobilize them on a broad scale.

Political System Based on “Ideological Transformation”

A manifestation of the two-line struggle in China is the question of “red and expert.” One social basis of revisionism in the CPC is the patriotic national bourgeoisie who fought imperialism and joined the Party during that period. They became targets of the Cultural Revolution. Previously, I thought that the accusation by some people in China that “the target of the attack during the Cultural Revolution was too broad” was a straight-up lie. They charged that the campaign didn’t just single out the main “representatives in the Party,” but was indiscriminate and targeted all or most people from that background. We pointed to the Red Flag and People’s Daily editorials from that period (1973-1976) explicitly appealing to the people to “narrow the target” of attack to the main capitalist roaders in the Party.

I didn’t believe that such a gap between “theory and practice” could actually exist until I examined the dynamics of our own Party’s practice towards the petty bourgeoisie and intellectuals. It became clear that a line fixated on ideological transformation as the hidden agenda would lead to a situation where the petty bourgeoisie and intelligentsia begin to be treated as targets of the ideological struggle (and even targets of the revolution), independent of our intent. When the political representative is not named and the goal of the political campaign is not clearly guided, this campaign will spontaneously focus on experts and a majority of those from national-bourgeois and intellectual backgrounds. Under the heat of polemics and pressure it is extremely difficult to carry out a correct, farsighted policy towards these people with abilities. The bourgeois experts who have made many sacrifices over the years become targets, even though this practice is correctly criticized and officially discouraged.

Lenin had this to say from his experiences:

To compel a whole section of the population to work under coercion is impossible – that we know very well from experience. We can compel them not to take an active part in counter-revolution, we can intimidate them so as to make them dread to respond to the appeals of the White Guards. In this respect the Bolsheviks act energetically. This can be done, and this we are doing adequately. This we have all learned to do. But it is impossible in this way to compel a whole section to work. These people are accustomed to do cultural work, they advanced it within the framework of the bourgeois system, that is, they enriched the bourgeoisie with tremendous material acquisitions, but gave them to the proletariat in infinitesimal doses – nevertheless they did advance culture, that was their job. As they see the working class promoting organized and advanced sections, which not only value culture but also help to convey it to the people, they are changing their attitude towards us. When a doctor sees that the proletariat is arousing the working people to independent activity in fighting epidemics, his attitude towards us completely changes. We have a large section of such bourgeois doctors, engineers, agronomists and co-operators, and when they see in practice that the proletariat is enlisting more and more people to this cause, they will be conquered morally, and not merely be cut off from the bourgeoisie politically. Our task will then become easier. They will then of themselves be drawn into our apparatus and become part of it. To achieve this, sacrifices are necessary. To pay even two thousand million for this is a trifle. To fear this sacrifice would be childish, for it would mean that we do not comprehend the tasks before us.

We must not practice a policy of petty pinpricks with regard to the experts. These experts are not the servitors of the exploiters, they are active cultural workers, who in bourgeois society served the bourgeoisie, and of whom all socialists all over the world said that in a proletarian society they would serve us. In this transition period we must accord them the best possible conditions of life. That will be the best policy. That will be the most economical management. Otherwise, while saving a few hundred millions, we may lose so much that no sum will be sufficient to restore what we have lost.[3]

Not understanding the dynamics of the “combat, prevent and restrict” ideological system, and lacking a large core of trained, mature Marxists to interpret and implement political line correctly, there is no question that the CPC under Mao’s leadership practiced a policy of “petty pinpricks with regard to the experts.” Broad-minded and far-sighted leadership often got abandoned due to instances of abuses and negative effects of privileges in the society. There were over-reactions to privileges and a misplaced concern for egalitarian ideals and relations. All of this weakened the effort to strengthen the material basis of socialism, i.e., to move steadily towards enlarging the sphere of socialist ownership, distribution, superstructure while at the same time waging communist education and spiritual encouragement for advanced models.

Within the whole question of red/expert, the need to eliminate bourgeois right was understood incorrectly. As Lenin said strongly on the same topic, “To pay even two thousand million for this is a trifle. To fear this. . .would mean that we do not comprehend the task before us.” Exactly. As Lenin drove this point home in addressing a comparable situation, “the chief problem of the proletarian revolution is that of organization (his emphasis.” In this case, the inability to organize, utilize and in that process, transform bourgeois experts must be overcome. It becomes clear that a simplistic ideological-negation approach is actually the path of least resistance – a way to justify organizational primitiveness and political immaturity.

A similar dynamic applies to the question of private farming plots, and to the relation between public and individual, foreign and native, old and new and, in general, to all spheres of the superstructure in China. Where local leadership had maturity and independent bearings, areas were able to carry out production and ideological education correctly. They “grasped revolution to promote production,” despite the adverse system of “combat and prevent bourgeois ideology and restrict bourgeois right.” For example, Marxist-Leninist leadership in Dazhai and Daqing actually ignored and bypassed ideological campaigns such as those against Confucianism, “Water Margin,” and against the “right-deviation wind,” in order to maintain an all-rounded correct relation between ideological and economic/practical fronts. At most they treated these campaigns cosmetically. In areas where this was not done these struggles paralyzed and inactivated the core of rare and experienced leaders. At the same time, after the Ninth Congress, pragmatic, real revisionists in some military and provincial regions were also allowed to maintain their mountain strongholds and co-exist with the left without disciplinary measures being taken against them for years. Lin Biao’s attempt to assassinate Mao had a devastating effect on the already precarious political situation. Mao needed rightist military leaders to support him because of the unstable situation created after a powerful coup attempt. But despite the necessity of circumstances, the ideological system of “combat, prevent and restrict” was there all along in various degrees, and served as a brake on both economic construction and healthy political life in the Party. It prevented the norms of democratic centralism from operating and lively and disciplined inner Party struggles from taking place.

Instead of finding new ways to use the law of value to aid the socialist planned economy, this system blocked them. Instead of proposing ways to get more experts involved, this system attacked and paralyzed them. And instead of confronting the real problems of how to lead these elements, to link them up with the working masses, and to unify China in the face of imperialist threats, this linear, idealist approach towards eliminating bourgeois right and law of value actually bred disorganization and division. It sidestepped the real challenge of class struggle in the spheres of production and scientific experiment. In particular, it sidestepped the art of party leadership in carrying out the concentric attack – a simultaneous three-pronged attack on the practical-economic, ideological and political fronts which is an indispensable element in consolidating the dictatorship of the proletariat and moving towards communism.

Political Repression from Metaphysical Line

Any metaphysical, one-sided line can lead to political repression under socialism. The existence of this repression does not necessarily mean that a capitalist economic foundation has been restored. This is especially true in third world countries which have barely shaken off the yoke of feudalism, where workers’ organization and democratic traditions are weak and the masses do not yet have certain expectations of democratic procedures and know-how of participation through elections and parliamentary debate. However, such regimes would not last long.

Let me give an example of repression under socialism. Given the present character of the working class parties and socialism around the world, one of the exceptionally weak areas of leadership is in the realm of art, culture and religion. This is also an area where the resistance to socialism is greatest, because of the individualistic mode of artists and musicians in making their livelihood. In struggle with some bourgeois and petty bourgeois artists, Mao put forth some very developed political lines on art and culture in the famous “Yenan Forum on Art and Literature.” He said there’s no such thing as art for art’s sake, or journalism for journalism’s stake. In the final analysis, all art has class content and serves a definite class, and journalism serves a definite point of view even though it seems like simple creativity or neutral reportage. These are very accurate and sharp conclusions which cut through a lot of confusion characterizing this field. But with a core of inexperienced cadres not trained in art or journalism to implement this line, it can be overly simplistic and even repressive.

Socialism and communists need different forms of expression (given we have the basis to disseminate it) for working class and socialist culture to flourish. We are for more variety in art and journalism rather than less in order to serve the working class more effectively and more richly. We have to absorb all the fruits of labor from the historical struggle of the masses even if the results were crystallized by the feudal or bourgeois artists. A simplistic line that says everything has to directly serve the working class could be too restricting or even lead to social-fascistic practice. That’s an example of cultural repression.

We have to face up to the problems of socialism today soberly. It is a sign of confidence to face them rather than avoid them. Lenin compared socialism to an eagle: sometimes it soars high, sometimes it flies lower than a hen. That’s how we should look at the mistakes under socialism. When the eagle soars, the sky is the limit. In exposing socialism’s shortcomings, we don’t want to feed anti-communism. To compare, political repression in China after the Ninth Congress was nowhere nearly as heavy as in the United States today. There is not a whole generation of people living, and dying, in jail as in the United States. There is not a separate culture in prisons and mental hospitals as in the United States. The extent of political class and national repression in the United States is historically unprecedented.

Capitalist countries grind people down daily. Capitalism is a man-eating machine. “Social fascism” is an expression describing incorrect repressive lines which coexist with the superiority of socialism. In no way does it parallel the substance of fascist terror that exists under capitalism. Fascism grows out of a capitalist system such as in Germany, Italy, and Japan during World War II. Capitalist fascism unleashed not only unprecedented pogroms at home, but also wars of aggression on a scale surpassing any ancient dictator, and inflicted unprecedented damage to humanity. This should be made clear because there’s a great deal of anti-communist propaganda (like Solzhenitzyn’s writings and lies about the Soviet police drugging and kidnapping people in the middle of the night) promoted by the bourgeoisie in this country. Even if in individual cases such did occur, it was on a far, far smaller scale than under “democracy” in this country. Socialist countries, no matter what political spectrum they may be, and no matter what mistake they made, are far more humane than the most democratic capitalist country, not only in the historical sense, but also in the individual and family sense.

Problems of Democracy and Socialist Legality

Earlier I discussed the superiority of the planned socialist economy and showed why unlike the dead end of capitalism, socialist economic potential is, by nature, unlimited. The superiority of the socialist system goes beyond that. Because of its economic essence, under socialism the vast majority of people should become their own masters. But in practice, there are severe limitations to that. Why? Is that inherent in socialism due to some material basis or is it limited because of present development? We have talked about the limitations of contemporary socialism’s internal basis. But this also has a profound effect on the political superstructure–particularly the problem of democracy. In Marxist dialectics, the question of democracy is not posed abstractly as “all men are born equal,” to cover real inequality under bourgeois democracy. Marxism presents the question of democracy as an identity of contradictions. It has a centralism part and a democracy part at a given concrete level of freedom and necessity. Real democracy requires that the masses’ knowledge be at a high level so that there are scientific criteria and agreement as to what’s right and what’s wrong. At the same time it must be possible to express and communicate differences and opinions to affect the activity of a society.

Because agrarian societies such as China, Zimbabwe, and even the Soviet Union have not gone through a period of laissez-faire capitalism with the tradition and necessary organization of bourgeois democracy which accompany the development of an industrial society, there is a lack of know-how to centralize public opinion and at least some lower forms of participatory democracy. The low level of productive forces also gives rise to a relatively low educational level as in China, parts of Russia and Zimbabwe today where they can only support universal education up to elementary school level and not even into junior high or high school. The masses’ low literacy level affects their ability to study Marxism and other sciences. This is a real hindrance to and a limiting factor for democracy and centralism under socialism. So the genuine mass democracy that has no structural material basis under socialism is limited.

Another hindrance to socialist democracy is the problem of leadership transition, a problem that has still not been worked out under socialism. That is why leaders either hold the leadership position until they die, or there must be purges to change leaders. The change is usually resolved through coups or purges which inevitably negate many positive lessons and traditions of socialism–e.g., the Cultural Revolution and Stalin’s contributions. In advanced capitalist countries this question is solved. That’s why the most vicious imperialist bourgeoisie also has the most perfected minority ruling state apparatus that has ever been developed in human history. One example is the U.S. presidential election and transition. Comparatively speaking there is a minimal of upheaval, disruption, and discontinuity as it moves from one leader to another, from one party to another, all the while guaranteeing the interests of the capitalist class as a whole. As a class, the bourgeoisie is definitely a far more trained and experienced class than the working class today.

In China and the Soviet Union, the fact that the parliamentary tradition was not strongly established, is at the root of the problems of socialist legality. There is no tradition to correctly handle and resolve these types of contradictions. That’s why Mao had to put this point in his formulation of the CPC’s basic line. But in retrospect, Mao too had only a perceptual understanding of the problem. It is one thing to formulate the basic line and quite another to establish socialist legal codes and institutions to resolve contradictions in practice. There is very little skill in resolving differences systematically, without major disruptions. And that is one of the obstacles for socialist democracy today and, therefore, one of the problems to tackle in order to consolidate the dictatorship of the proletariat.

No Structural Guarantee for Socialism

There is no structural guarantee, no organizational guarantee per se to the cause of socialism. Our own Party’s experience shows that there needs to be ideological/political line as well as organization. Both are indispensable. Political line without organization to implement it, to propagate it, to consolidate it, to clothe it, cannot be turned into a material force. On the other hand, organization without political line is useless and bureaucratic. In fact, it will serve reactionary ends. Organizational structure on its own cannot guarantee democracy and maintain the dictatorship of the proletariat.

However, organizational structure is a necessary condition for the implementation of the line. That particular structure was correctly overthrown during the Cultural Revolution. But after the Ninth Congress, this overthrowing of the old was abused. Basically a whole generation of cadres who held opposing views, or had differences of opinion, were purged. There was no way to engage in debate with the opposition. That’s the result of the obsession with and subjectivity on the ideological line–that any shade of difference in line will lead to the restoration of capitalism. They totally overlooked the material enforcement of socialism–the workers’ interest in building the organization to protect it. Not seeing the positive independent momentum of socialism, of the socialist state, will lead to abnormal internal life in the Party. That’s how democracy can be abused and was abused in China after the Ninth Congress. And that’s why struggle has to be on a line basis.

Organizational guarantees such as the ability to go to the grass roots, to vote somebody out of their position, to have regular congresses, in other words, the norm of democratic centralism, have to be there. If there is no Party Congress, no Central Committee plenary scheduled on a regular basis, then questions drag on and there’s no chance to vote on them. Part of the organizational guarantee is to make sure that socialist legality is established. There must be set policies and procedures. All will be judged as equals before that socialist legality. One of the strengths of the Cultural Revolution was mass democracy. It turned into its opposite at the Ninth Congress with their inability to formulate new laws, new policies with a different set of values. It was correct for them to abolish the old set of laws which had a lot of revisionist lines. But it’s one thing to overthrow, to drag down, demote and purge; it’s quite another to establish positive organizational policies, socialist legality and positive leadership. Without that, it will inevitably lead to an arbitrary style of decision-making. That’s another essential element in safeguarding democracy under socialism.

People should not be persecuted for holding a different line, a different opinion, a different belief under socialism unless they engage in active sabotage, carry out the other line in practice and violate democratic centralism. Line has to be debated on a line basis and everybody has the right to hold a different line under socialism. That’s the only way you can have genuine socialist democracy. That’s why we oppose the prosecution of the Four, because objectively it was on the basis of their line and not as arbitrary individual acts (even though the present leadership tries to present it as such). They are accused of executing different people but those acts were based on the prevailing line of the Central Committee at the time. The problem was that the majority of revisionists who are in power today and were in the Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth Central Committees did not dare raise differences. So it was the nominal majority view. Even though some lines did cause damage, people should not be prosecuted because those were the lines they were operating under. Those who are prosecuting are equally responsible. That’s where the organizational/structural guarantee comes in, even though that does not guarantee the change in line itself. The only way a party can truly maintain itself as the vanguard party is if it can successfully combat the incorrect line. It has to be able to exercise its influence without having to shut people up. It must actually win the masses over to its line instead of allowing them to be influenced by the incorrect line, and then punishing them for it.

The ideological/political guarantee is to have a true vanguard – the most advanced, most far-sighted in the party – particularly in the Central Committee and in top leadership positions. To raise the political level of the people as a whole, you have to constantly raise the masses’ theoretical and cultural level. That’s what the campaign to study the dictatorship of the proletariat was all about. The study classes on the job while getting paid are necessary. These theoretical, ideological, and political components of the masses’ lives are absent now in China and in the Soviet Union where there is no concentric attack. There is excessive and one-sided concern for economic construction. I see some signs of correction recently in China. And in the Soviet Union the socialist material basis is more extensive than in China. The public ownership of the means of production reaches out to larger realms and is more thoroughgoing than in China.

Lack of Able Core Key

In the years following the October Revolution, Lenin returned again and again to one particular theme: the question of organization and, in relation to this, the seemingly mundane problem of personnel, their selection, supervision, training and evaluation. Lenin stressed to the Eighth Congress of the R.C.P. (B.):

Organisational activity was never a strong point with the Russians in general, nor with the Bolsheviks in particular; nevertheless, the chief problem of the proletarian revolution is that of organisation. It is not without reason that the question of organisation is here assigned a most prominent place. This is a thing we must fight for, and fight for with firmness and determination, using every means at our disposal. We can do nothing here except by prolonged education and re-education. This is a field in which revolutionary violence and dictatorship can be applied only by way of abuse and I make bold to warn you against such abuse. Revolutionary violence and dictatorship are excellent things when applied in the right way and against the right people. But they cannot be applied in the field of organisation. We have by no means solved this problem of education, re-education and prolonged organisational work, and we must tackle it systematically....

But in this matter laws alone are not enough. A vast amount of educational, organisational and cultural work is required; this cannot be done rapidly by legislation but demands a vast amount of work over a long period. This question of the bourgeois experts must be settled quite definitely at this Congress. The settlement of the question will enable the comrades, who are undoubtedly following this Congress attentively, to lean on its authority and to realise what difficulties we are up against. It will help those comrades who come up against this question at every step to take part at least in propaganda work....

At any rate, here we have one of the chief obstacles to further progress. We must immediately, without waiting for the support of other countries, immediately, at this very moment develop our productive forces. We cannot do this without the bourgeois experts. That must be said once and for all. Of course, the majority of these experts have a thoroughly bourgeois outlook. They must be placed in an environment of comradely collaboration, of worker commissars and of communist nuclei; they must be so placed that they cannot break out; but they must be given the opportunity of working in better conditions than they did under capitalism, since this group of people, which has been trained by the bourgeoisie, will not work otherwise....[4]

Three years later, Lenin was still hammering away at the same point:

We Communists shall be able to direct our economy if we succeed in utilising the hands of the bourgeoisie in building up this economy of ours and in the meantime learn from these bourgeoisie and guide them along the road we want them to travel. But when a Communist imagines that he knows everything, when he says: ’I am a responsible Communist, I have beaten enemies far more formidable than any salesman. We have fought at the front and have beaten far more formidable enemies’ – it is this prevailing mood that is doing us great harm.[5]

Problems of organization and personnel are directly linked to the question of class differences in capitalist society, and therefore in nascent socialist society.

Though class struggle objectively takes place and is reflected in all spheres, class is fundamentally an economic category. In a statistical sense, it is a social category as well. When we look at classes as a whole strata, on a societal scale, and examine their interests in these terms, we see that their outlooks are molded by the economic relations and the economic foundation. When we put people in categories, we are saying that as a whole, their being determines their consciousness. But individually, the dynamic role of the subjective factor can be effective. This means that subjective factors can bring bourgeois and petty bourgeois persons over to the side of the proletariat. Because they belong to a leisure class, they have time to study, reflect, and pursue culture and science. That is why Engels was able to become a Marxist.

In this period, when the proletariat is relatively young and immature worldwide, we have to use the people who have the leisure time, the intellectuals in particular. And they come from all different classes. This does not mean we should focus most of the Party’s work on the progressive petty bourgeoisie and the bourgeoisie. It does mean we have to recruit people with abilities. We need to have broadmindedness and historical scope on this question. As Lenin said in his speech to the Eighth Congress of the Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik):

. . . The idea that we can build communism with the aid of pure Communists, without the assistance of bourgeois experts, is childish. We have been steeled in the struggle, we have the forces, and we are united; and we must proceed with our organisational work, making use of the knowledge and experience of those experts. This is an indispensable condition, without which socialism cannot be built. Socialism cannot be built unless we utilise the heritage of capitalist culture. The only material we have to build communism with is what has been left us by capitalism.[6]

The working class, being the exploited, underdog class, the class that is being ruled, inherits only unspoken traditions and class stand. We do not inherit most of the fruits of our own labor, the knowledge. Our own immediate culture is dispersed and partial, even though it is infinitely richer because it is original culture. The bourgeoisie, on the other hand, produce very little culture of their own. They just copy from previous cultures all the wealth created by the laboring masses. All the paintings, sculpture, music and artistic expressions exhibited in museums, concert halls, and all cultural institutions come from the sweat and blood of the laboring masses. But how much do our parents inherit? They inherit at most a house and perhaps some pictures of our grandparents in the drawers. Our forefathers were the motive force behind class struggle, struggle for production and scientific experiment. But the fruits of these struggles, the knowledge and wealth, were all concentrated by the bourgeoisie, as the ruling and exploiting class. The transmitters of this knowledge are mainly the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie. The petty bourgeoisie, the managerial class, use this knowledge with the endorsement of the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie do not rule directly, but rule through others. So the petty bourgeoisie have the facilities and the know-how and we have to put that to good use.

There are two lines on this in China. Youth who want to vandalize the Forbidden City are wrong, although their action is understandable. But to justify such actions theoretically compounds the mistake. We have to liberate our minds on this question. Our model of proletarian art used to be limited to Chinese poster art. That is too straitjacketed. It is dogmatism and doctrinairism and comes out in a dry, rightist form. Egyptian art, French cubism, and even Picasso’s techniques are all ours and we have to use them to serve the proletariat.

Previously there were criticisms in China about score music having inherent class content. Yes, there is class substance to it. But that is not the key difference. The key difference is what use you make of it. Do you use it or reject it? You have to use it, though most of it may be too boring for us. So, of course, you have to critically extract those parts that are useful. This is the only way to open our minds to all the wealth created by the laboring masses and use it to serve the proletariat.

When we speak of culture we are also speaking of science, technique, managerial skills, research skills and all of the forms of specialized knowledge without which our complex society can not function. As I have said before, one of the distinctive features of socialist revolution in an advanced capitalist country is that the acquisition of this competence and leadership over these diversified strata by the workers’ party cannot be deferred until after the seizure of state power. The proletariat must master the particular laws and functions of all spheres of life and constitute its vanguard party as the executive authority in exile.

We must be prepared not only for the violent tasks of seizing and holding state power but also for the organizational and educational tasks which go along with building socialism in a modern industrial country. In this sense our problem is analagous to the problem faced by Lenin, Stalin and Mao and, at the same time, is diametrically opposite.

Recruit Progressive Petty Bourgeoisie

One implication of this is that we have to recruit the progressive bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie. This is the key to unlock the knowledge. We have to make up our minds to boldly recruit progressive petty bourgeois class elements. Rejecting them reflects lack of confidence and is definitely a sign of the immaturity of our class.

In this period, when the proletariat is a young class, a new class, we have to use the progressive bourgeoisie. Many of them will consciously, with all their heart and mind come and serve the proletariat. Like the CWP 5 – Blackbeard, Bill, Cesar, Mike and Sandi – whatever their class origins, they all had a lot of training. That is why they were able to lead the areas and recruit workers, sustain them and grow; it was not just because they “transformed” themselves, but because they had those abilities. As outstanding intellectuals, they were picked by the bourgeoisie to serve the bourgeoisie. But they did not follow that track. Instead, they returned the knowledge to the proletariat and sacrificed for them. So there are petty bourgeois comrades who will give their body and soul, their whole being to the working class, and there are comrades with working class backgrounds and professional training as well. Incidentally, this is one of the effects of imperialism from the 50’s to the 70’s. The capitalists provided a relatively inexpensive higher education to an entire generation of people to delay unemployment. Many students did not have to worry about food and shelter and could concentrate on studying and learning. But where did those things come from? From the blood and sweat of workers and people around the world. That is why the knowledge acquired has to be returned to them. The way to do that is to make revolution; and to do that we must tap bourgeois and professionals’ skills and abilities.

The other implication concerns work among students. One of the problems we could not resolve historically was whether to work in city colleges which are attended by working class youth or work in schools like Harvard. There is no question that the working class is the motive force. But we also need all intellectuals who have leisure time and take the stand with the working class and want to return the wealth. They can rally the proletariat by coming out with newspapers (e.g., Inner City Voice helped to rally the Detroit Revolutionary Union Movement). Many intellectuals may have hangups, but they can be struggled with and transformed in the thick of class struggle. We have to make a leap in our work among students and the intellectual strata. Otherwise, we are negating some of our own history, and the historical experience of proletarian revolution.

In his speech to the Eleventh Party Congress, Lenin addressed the “all-rounded character” question, which is identical to the problem the CPC and all young revolutionary movements face now, except he and Mao faced it after the seizure of state power:

And what is the key feature now? The key feature now – and I would like to sum up my report with this – is not that we have changed our line of policy. . . .In the present situation the key feature is people, the proper choice of people. A revolutionary who is accustomed to struggle against petty reformists and uplift educators finds it hard to understand this.[7]

Why is it that revolutionaries who are “accustomed to struggle against petty reformists. . .find it hard to understand this”?

When Lenin shifted from war-time communism to the New Economic Policy (NEP) out of necessity, he basically shifted the emphasis of class struggle from the military and political fronts to the economic, organizational and cultural fronts. He shifted the focus of communist leadership from war and violence, developed through learning how to organize coercive force to put down imperialist intervention and reactionary sabotage, to reorganizing the social and economic life of the masses.

This is a whole different kind of leadership, requiring a kind of training and skills which the victorious Bolsheviks did not have. This is why Lenin stressed the point so strongly, and repeated it so often in the post-civil war years. Lenin told the Eleventh Congress that,

We must see to it that the numerous elements with whom we are co-operating, and who far exceed us in number, work in such a way as to enable us to supervise them; we must learn to understand this work, and direct their hands so that they do something useful for communism. This is the key point of the present situation; for although individual Communists have understood and realised that it is necessary to enlist the non-Party people for this work, the rank-and-file of our Party have not. Many circulars have been written, much has been said about this, but has anything been accomplished during the past year? Nothing. Not five Party committees out of a hundred can show practical results. This shows how much we lag behind the requirements of the present time; how much we are still living in the traditions of 1918 and 1919. Those were great years; a great historical task was then accomplished. But if we only look back on those years and do not see the task that now confronts us, we shall be doomed, certainly and absolutely. And the whole point is that we refuse to admit it....

In the sea of people we are after all but a drop in the ocean, and we can administer only when we express correctly what the people are conscious of. Unless we do this the Communist Party will not lead the proletariat, the proletariat will not lead the masses, and the whole machine will collapse....

It must be admitted, and we must not be afraid to admit, that in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred the responsible Communists are not in the jobs they are now fit for; that they are unable to perform their duties, and that they must sit down to learn. If this is admitted, and since we have the opportunity to learn – judging by the general international situation we shall have time to do so – we must do it, come what may.[8]

A similar situation arose in China when the Eighth Route Army marched into the cities. Mao warned in the Seventh Party Congress that his comrades should beware of the “sugar-coated bullets” in working in the cities. It was an entirely new experience for most of the CPC leadership. Almost without exception, the known and prestigious CPC leaders had military backgrounds – from Mao, Chu Teh, and Lin Biao to Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping. The cadre core was the “Long Marchers,” those who had survived what seemed like an impossible task. Like Lenin’s Bolsheviks, they had to master a vastly different kind of work, requiring different skills and methods of leadership.

Except for the experience in economic and organizational administration in Red Base Areas, the CPC only had the Soviet model to follow. In practice, this experience turned out to be a great advantage for the CPC compared with Lenin’s Bolshevik’s immediately after their seizure of power. It was the only basis from which the CPC correctly challenged even some of Stalin’s assumptions in political economy. And, of course, the Soviet Union had no one to follow. Given the historical limitations of the Soviet Union and the CPC’s additional disadvantage of being a mainly peasant-based working class party, it was all a very trying experience. They made blunder after blunder. There is virtually no mistake that the CPSU and the CPC have not made. These mistakes were committed not only in economic management and planning, but also in foreign policy and even in natural sciences. But is there any other way to fight and build for humankind, for the new frontier of socialism or even to develop the frontier of natural sciences except by trial and error?

This is the same trial and error cycle of struggle from one level of freedom and necessity to a higher realm of freedom and necessity. The only difference is that we, the working class, are on the rise; and what is on the rise, according to dialectical materialism, is invincible. From this historical perspective every one of our mistakes is worth thousands of successes of the doomed class – the bourgeoisie.

Mao’s Setback in Party-Building

With the critical exception of his view that capitalism has been restored in the Soviet Union, Mao has made great contributions to the understanding of how to develop socialism in an economically backward country.

The discrepancy between many of the advanced conceptions and practical policies he devised and the lines which were actually implemented must be studied. In some cases the effects were the opposite of what Mao intended.

In addition to the incorrect conclusion that the Soviet Union is capitalist, and the “combat, prevent, and restrict” ideological system (which in practice distorts even correct lines beyond recognition), there are some classical problems which affect all parties historically, and which all parties and revolutionaries have to solve in practice.

There are two such basic problems of leadership. The first is the necessity of using slogans to mobilize the masses, while recognizing the inherent one-sidedness of using political agitation and slogans to lead. Lenin said that using agitation and slogans to lead entails a danger of degenerating into demagogy. But without sharp and clear slogans of agitation, it would be hard, if not impossible, to mobilize the masses.

The masses, who are not politically trained, are not motivated by historical visions even though in the long term their actions are of such substance. The masses must be organized initially by issues and events that affect them and flow from their perceptions. Such perceptions are always spontaneous and thus often lack a clear focus. The purpose of revolutionary slogans and agitation is precisely to rally and focus these spontaneous perceptions. Slogans coined sharply and in a forward-looking manner can help to define the issue itself and rouse the masses to action. Slogans and agitation are indispensable to mobilizing the masses in millions. But because such slogans and agitation around these issues are transient, unfolding around the turning points of events, and generally focus on one issue at a time, they inherently lack the scope and comprehensiveness of putting the present into historical perspective.

This can only be done through propaganda, comparison, synthesis and analysis. Propaganda, while orienting people and putting particular issues and immediate events into historical perspective, does not have the agitational or mobilizing value of single slogans. A working class’ or any political party’s degree of success in organizing depends heavily on its ability to use both forms in skillful combination, appropriately and in a timely fashion.

One-sided emphasis on agitation and slogans has the danger of degenerating into demagogy. When an opportunist is betraying the working class and cannot possibly give reasons and perspective for his actions, he can just agitate or use inappropriate slogans to appeal to the masses’ emotions and spontaneous associations. Then this slogan turns into demagogy. If a slogan is used correctly under one set of circumstances, and still being used after a sharp turn of events, then the slogan itself would turn into a kind of demagogy for a different reason. The latter happens often even to the most honest revolutionaries. To minimize deviations, communists must do constant size-up and lead by propaganda, and only then should lively and invigorating slogans be coined to mobilize the masses. The politics must be in command.

In the case of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, there was a lack of rich and varied propaganda though all that time they had slogans. The problem of Mao’s leadership after the 50’s was that he rarely wrote. Those things he did write were notes taken during meetings as “talks” or quotes. It is a serious fault in political leadership in that this approach, though lively, necessarily lacks scientific vigor and theoretical precision. How could a serious position such as the claim that capitalism has been restored in the Soviet Union be propagated without serious theoretical work? This seems to have resulted from a loose and informal style of leadership after the Party Secretariat was dissolved during the Cultural Revolution. By comparison, Lenin and Stalin wrote much more.

Metaphysical practice skips the process of development and materialist comprehensiveness. Generally it does not proceed from concretes to solve the problem. Let me give a couple of examples of Mao’s correct slogans getting misused and turned into the opposite in practice. One is the statement that in the final analysis art is not above class and has to serve the working class. Another is the statement to the effect that “as with all things reactionary, if you don’t hit it, it won’t fall.”

The first slogan, “there is. .. no such thing as art for art’s sake, art that stands above classes or art that is detached from or independent of politics” is a sharp and correct slogan cutting through all the muddle on this complicated matter. But it led to simplifying art forms by reducing their variety and cutting China’s art off from international experience. The second slogan, while again very sharp and advocating a philosophy of struggle applied to the ideological sphere, often meant that the only method of leadership is to “hit” or combat incorrect ideas. Ideas may be incorrect and even reactionary, but we must see who (what class) holds such ideas, under what circumstances they appear, and whether they are being carried out in practice. Under some circumstances some of those reactionary ideas held among young workers, for instance, can be most effectively defeated by leadership through positive examples and actions rather than solely through ideological struggle. Before a young revolutionary has gained an all-sided grasp of material reality or any problem, his application of the formulation “correctness or incorrectness of ideological and political line decides everything” can be downright academic, reducing class struggle to either pedagogics or harmful internal motions.

No communists have done better than the Chinese comrades in mobilizing and organizing millions of peasants in rural areas, the most difficult section of the population to organize. But the forces of habit of CPC’s leadership on one-sidedly stressing slogans and campaigns rather than integrating them with propaganda has unquestionably created conditions for the CPC to make some grave errors. Perhaps the only exception to this approach are the “Nine Polemics”[9] waged during the early 60s and the campaign to study the dictatorship of the proletariat in the early 70’s. The latter was a model of pedagogics and campaign on the theoretical front. However, the three ideological campaigns around Confucianism, “Water Margin” and “against the right deviationist wind” were perverted into an insinuation campaign which ultimately led to the downfall of Jiang Qing, Yao Wen-yuan, Chang Chun-chiao and Wang Hung-wen.

Inability to Train Successors

The second and related problem of the CFC’s leadership is their inability to foster a whole generation of new and young Marxists capable of finding independent bearings. The problem faced by the CPC in developing this new core of leadership was and is a monumental task. Moreover, incorrect purging of the CPC during the Cultural Revolution (though the Cultural Revolution itself was overall correct and necessary) devastated the already weak cadre core and compounded the problem.

To put the CPC’s problems into historical perspective remember that at the time of liberation, the Chinese population was largely peasantry with around 85-99% of the population working on the land. Most were illiterate. Despite big leaps in literacy after liberation, an estimated 100 million out of a billion are still completely illiterate. The lack of a developed communications system due to the low level of productive forces also hinders raising the cultural level of the people. Audio-visual communication is almost non-existent in the countryside. A commune (averaging 50,000 or more people) with one color TV is considered prosperous. A radio is one of the most desired items for a household.

The main form of communication in China today is the medium of print. Yet even that is rare in a country with severe material scarcity. An 18-year-old member of the Communist Youth League told one western writer that he had never seen a copy of the Red Flag, the theoretical journal of the CPC’s Central Committee. Circulation of the most widely read newspaper, the People’s Daily, which carries the Party’s official views, is only slightly over one million in the entire country, even though there were over 37 million CPC members in 1973.

Because of the character of the revolution in an agrarian society, where the military sphere is especially important, the strength of the cadre core in other spheres of activity was lacking at the time of the seizure of state power in China. This was the case, for example, in the study of the theory of Marxism. The intensity of the protracted armed struggle, over 20 years in China, left the Party little time to study theory deeply or comprehensively. The grasp of Marxist theory among the CPC’s cadre core was so weak that Mao once remarked that if China had only 200 Marxists who could apply the theory of Marxism to the concrete conditions of China, the revolution would be assured. In an upcoming study of the Cultural Revolution, we will go into some effects of this. But let it suffice for now to say that this lack of Marxism led to a number of splits and purges in the CPC and reflected the weakness of party-building in general and the cadre core in particular.

Even in 1973, after years of study campaigns and conscious training of theoreticians for a membership of 37 million and a population of one billion people. Trying to rectify this situation, Mao repeatedly urged cadres to study his writings, in articles such as “Reform Our Study” and “Rectify the Party’s Style of Work.” He repeated this point in countless speeches, talks and at Party Congresses. But this task was not systematically formulated until the five criteria for party membership first appeared. This was in the course of the Socialist Education Movement which preceded the Cultural Revolution. The institution of “study Marxism, criticize revisionism” as the first criterion for party membership attempted to resolve the problem of revolutionary successors in a mass way. This shows that Mao at least recognized the problem and tried to solve it by codifying a policy.

The CPSU’s line and practice on this front is inferior to that of the CPC’s under Mao. Though the Soviet leaders have been talking about the problems of socialist morality and ideological education for many years (including in Brezhnev’s speech to the 26th Congress this year), the problem is far from solved. A main reason is that the CPSU leadership refuses to call for mass pedagogic or theoretical campaigns (as the CPC did in the early 70’s with the campaign to study the dictatorship of the proletariat). In fact, they even have a theoretical justification for opposing the method of using campaigns. This is called the critique of the “Maoist” theory of wave-like development.[10] The CPSU also counterposes mass line with democratic centralism. This has paved the way for the development of a thick layer of privileged bureaucrats in the Party.

The lack of unity on major political lines among the CPC leadership meant lack of unity on plan, command and action. It affected the training problems and was compounded by the rapid expansion of the party. From a core of 30,000 survivors of the Long March, the party grew rapidly to 1.2 million in 1945, then to 6.5 million in 1954. Two years later, the number jumped to 10.7 million. By 1961, the membership was up to 17 million. Talking about this membership, Mao said, “Among them, 80% joined the party after the founding of the country.. . Those that joined the party prior to the founding of the state amounted to only 20%. Of these 20%, those that joined in the 30’s and 20’s, according to the calculation eight years ago, were about 800. Some have died within these two years. Now there probably are only 700.”[11]

These 700 members may have been old, but they formed the cadre core of officials running the state and the party. They were also in positions to train the 92% of the party’s members below the age of 45 and the 25% under the age of 25.

The task of training cadres, however, was liquidated. The unspoken but real and nagging factional disunity among the 700 veterans, the low cultural level of the majority of the members, the tremendous task of building up the socialist economy (in the face of a U.S. blockade and later the Soviet Union’s hostile acts) all contributed to this. Moreover, at that time the cadre core were themselves learning to work in various new spheres and taking up the demanding task of running China’s economy and society. Besides the lack of theoreticians, the lack of experts trained in management and science was also acute.

Worried about the future of China, Mao repeatedly stressed the need to train “revolutionary successors” as a strategic task. In the later stage of the Socialist Education Movement this was institutionalized in the form of the five criteria of membership in the Ninth and Tenth Party Congresses. The revolutionary committee encompassing “three-in-one” age combinations was a good but unsuccessful attempt to give this solution an organizational form. Wang Hung-wen, a young textile worker was promoted to the Political Bureau largely for this reason, but later proved unequal to the task of directing the nation’s work. After the Cultural Revolution, membership doubled again. But in the process the weak cadre core was even further diluted. The majority of experienced cadres basically boycotted the leadership due to incorrect methods of struggle which affected most of them adversely.

Cultural Revolution: Pro’s and Con’s

The Cultural Revolution destroyed a whole generation of rare, experienced cadres. Some of them were hopeless revisionists, but many of them were genuine revolutionaries wronged by simplistic perceptions of the problems.

The Cultural Revolution was necessary. That is beyond doubt, especially given the stratification which was developing in China and Liu Shaoqi’s line to protect it. Without the Cultural Revolution, a situation like Poland would eventually have happened in China, independent of the CPC. Mao tried to tackle the problem before it tackled them.

But the “correct handling of contradictions among the people” which distinguished antagonistic from non-antagonistic contradictions (and which Mao even wrote into his formulation of the basic line) was violated. Deep wounds, which have never healed, were inflicted on an entire generation of party cadres, particularly those who were experienced and competent administrators – the very people the Soviet Union and China historically had such need for and shortage of.

The Cultural Revolution literally destroyed the old party apparatus, and many members from the cadre core were purged. In the Ninth Congress held after the Cultural Revolution, only 52 of the 170 full Central Committee members from the Eighth Congress remained in leadership. Of the more than 270 members of the new Central Committee, 43% were from the military. Thirty-one were peasants or workers, and only two were former Red Guard leaders. Out of the 26 Political Bureau members from the Eighth Congress, 11 were purged, three demoted and three had died. At least half of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau was gone. In the Party Secretariat, an administrative body taking care of the day-to-day business of the Political Bureau, nine out of 13 members were purged. Of the 10 known members in the Central Committee Department, only the leader of the women’s department survived the storm. Of the Party Control Commission, 54 out of 60 members were disgraced. Only one leader of the six Regional Bureaus of the Central Committee was still in charge. Over half of all the Party secretaries at the regional or provincial levels were demoted or at least disappeared from the news after 1966. And it was not until the fall of 1971 that all these leading posts were filled, mainly with military personnel. The search for personnel to fill country posts continued even after 1971.

Mao had to bring Deng Xiaoping and other purged members back to the Center precisely because of this dislocation. Wang Hung-wen was promoted to the Vice Chairmanship. But according to Mao, he was not able to assume national responsibilities due to lack of training. Mao’s move to rehabilitate many experienced cadres shows that not only was he aware of the problem but that he took a correct approach towards it. That’s a basic programmatic difference he had with Jiang Qing and Chang Chun-chiao.

That was the key reason why the gains of the Cultural Revolution were not consolidated and there was a backlash immediately after Mao’s death. Addressing a historically quite similar situation, Lenin said that the key problem was “people,” “competent revolutionaries with political and organizational skills...” The Bolshevik Revolution was dislocated due to the internal, subjective factor.

The weakness in the subjective factor in the CPC, particularly with regard to party-building and especially because of the casualties of the Cultural Revolution led to the across-the-board reversals after Mao’s death. The key reason why many correct slogans on art and literature, trade and commerce, ’red and expert,” plan and law of value got turned around and turned into metaphysical practices was the absence of this cadre core to do propaganda and interpret the Party’s line. That’s at the root of the discrepancy between CPC’s theory and its practice since the Ninth Congress and the reason it was not able to implement the “three directives” or “concentric attack” on all fronts and not able “to unite to win still greater victories.”


Mao’s grasp of the need to mobilize through campaigns was a lesson learned from his success in the “red base areas” before liberation. That was reflected in his writings prior to 1949 and has become a political tradition after liberation. Most of the campaigns in the early 50’s against corruption – “three anti-” (anti-corruption, anti-waste, anti-bureaucracy in 1952) and “five anti-” (struggle against bribery, tax theft and evasion, theft of state property, shoddy workmanship and inferior materials, and theft of state economic secrets in 1952), even “greenification,” mass clean-up and disease prevention campaigns – were world-renowned successes. But the Great Leap Forward campaign caused great dislocations, most severe in the economy. The “backyard furnace” movement hurt the other industrial sectors and agriculture. It even resulted in some mass famines in some parts of the country. The original character of the Socialist Education Movement was to be “education-oriented.” But in the course of the campaign, it drifted and actually changed its stated objective to broadening out the targets of attack. While most campaigns, including the “people’s cooperative” movement, were necessary and successful, some dislocated sectors of the economy.

There are some signs today that after the rightists in the CPC went through their own experiences and made a mess out of China’s economy and caused tremendous disorientation among the Chinese masses, they are inching back to restore at least some of Mao’s lines and policies on the national economy. But the casualties of the Cultural Revolution and the backlash afterwards, the wholesale swing to extreme rightist dogmatist deviations by the CPC leadership, has left the Chinese people in a state of disorientation – once again lacking self-respect, and the economy suffering dislocation. Most disturbing of all is the cynicism of many towards socialism and a widespread attitude of disrespect for the CPC. This is a classical empiricist kind of flip, a reaction to metaphysical practice.


[1] Karl Marx, “Preface To A Contribution To The Critique of Political Economy,” Selected Works, Vol. 1, K. Marx and F. Engels (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1969), p.503.

[2] V.I. Lenin, “Left-Wing” Communism, An Infantile Disorder (Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1975), pp.121-122.

[3] V.I. Lenin, “Eighth Congress of the R.C.P. (B.), Speech Opening the Congress, March 18,” Lenin Collected Works, Vol. 29 (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1974), pp.180-181.

[4] V.I. Lenin, “Eighth Congress of the R.C.P. (B.),” Speeches At Party Congresses (1918-1922) (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1971), pp.78, 96-97.

[5] Lenin, “Eleventh Congress of the R.C.P. (B.), March 27-April 2, 1922,” op. cit., p.319.

[6] “Eighth Congress,” op. cit., p.72.

[7] “Eleventh Congress,” op. cit., p.332.

[8] Ibid., pp.320, 333, 338.

[9] The Nine Polemics are: “The Origin and Development of the Differences Between the Leadership of the CPSU and Ourselves,” “On the Question of Stalin,” “Is Yugoslavia a Socialist Country?,” “Apologists of Neo-Colonialism,” “Two Different Lines on the Question of War and Peace,” “Peaceful Coexistence – Two Diametrically Opposed Policies,” “The Leaders of the CPSU are the Greatest Splitters of Our Times,” “The Proletarian Revolution and Khrushchov’s Revisionism,” and “On Khrushchov’s Phoney Communism and Its Historical Lessons For the World.” These can be found in The Polemic on the General Line of the International Communist Movement, a collection of reprints published by Red Star Press, Ltd. (London, 1976).

[10] Korbush, op. cit., pp. 61-83. For their pitting of mass line against democratic centralism see pp.49-59.

[11] Mao Zedong Si Xiang Wan Xui (Hong Kong: 1969), p.417.