TFrom Marx to Mao – and After, Capitalist Restoration in China
Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Ray Nunes, Workers’ Party of New Zealand

From Marx to Mao – and After


An introductory study course on working-class ideology,  for individuals and groups,  in a series of 7 easy-to-read pamphlets.

The Restoration of Capitalism in China

The restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union was the outcome of the growth of a new capitalist class within the country, commonly referred to as ’the new bourgeoisie’. The ideology of this class was capitalist, not socialist, although the restoration of capitalism was carried out under the phoney signboard of ’socialism’. This ended with the collapse of the Soviet state in 1991.

The question of how the new bourgeoisie seized power in the first place is examined and explained in our earlier pamphlet ’The Restoration of Capitalism in Russia and Eastern Europe’.

As we pointed out in that pamphlet, the ideological instrument by which the new bourgeoisie was able to capture power was revisionism, bourgeois ideology in socialist guise. From Khrushchev on it became the dominant ideology, resulting in the continual degeneration of Soviet socialism. The dictatorship of the proletariat was discarded, creating huge problems – economic, political and ideological – for the working people of the Soviet Union as its degeneration proceeded. The dictatorship of the proletariat was replaced by a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. The problem was, in essence, not only why the working class had lost political power, but also whether it was possible for them to regain it. Our Party concluded that to achieve this a new socialist revolution would be needed.

It should be remembered that the Chinese revolution differed from the directly socialist revolution in Russia in that it proceeded in two stages – the first, a New Democratic revolution, the second, a socialist revolution.

At the time of the revisionist usurpation of power in the Soviet Union in 1956, China had completed the first stage of its revolution with unexpected speed, and was beginning the second stage of creating socialist society.

The revisionist path being taken by the Communist Party leadership in the Soviet Union led to a great ideological dispute between that party and the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of China and other Marxist-Leninists, a dispute which would determine whether capitalism or socialism would win out, not only in China but in the world communist movement.

During the ideological dispute with the Soviet revisionists it became clear to Mao that the same tendencies which had enabled the new bourgeoisie to seize power in the Soviet Union were also operative in China. He found in practice that the line of moving from the stage of the democratic revolution into the stage of carrying out the socialist revolution was in fact being blocked by a group of leading Party figures who had actually built up a majority within the Central Committee and the Political Bureau. They were only a step away from seizing control of the Party as Khrushchev had done and installing a revisionist, back-to-capitalism programme.

The group was centred on the Peking Party Committee and included the chief of the Party organisation and head-of-state Liu Shao-chi, later to be named ’China’s Khrushchev’; Peng Chen, head of the Peking Party Committee and Mayor of Peking; and Deng Xiaoping, the Secretary-General of the Party.

Some years earlier Mao had relinquished his position as head of state and also the day-to-day direction of the Party organisation in order to concentrate on developing the ideological-political line and policies of the Party. This stood the Marxist-Leninists of the world in good stead when the battle against Soviet revisionism intensified, for Mao came to that battle fully armed, and gave better than he got. But it enabled the elements who wanted to stay at the new-democratic stage and reconcile with Soviet revisionism the opportunity to gain a solid grip on the leadership of the Party organisation and the direction of the state apparatus. A nationwide Socialist Education Movement launched by Mao in the early 1960s to lift the ideological level of the workers and peasants in order to further the struggle for socialist construction was making little headway in the cities, where it should have been advancing most rapidly. A student revolt was brewing (but being repressed) against the dominance of bourgeois and feudal ideas and methods in culture and education; and in particular an underhanded movement of criticism aimed at Mao’s leadership was coming forward in the press under the protection of the Peking Party Committee, which controlled the media.

The Bourgeoisie Attack

Matters came to a head when an article appeared in the Peking press entitled ’Hai Jui Dismissed from Office’. This was plainly an allegorical attack on Mao for the dismissal of the former Defense Minister, Peng Teh-huai, who had collaborated with the Soviet revisionists and attacked the CPC line on all fronts, ideological, military, economic and political.

All efforts by Mao to get a refutation published in the Peking press proved fruitless. Finally an article by Yao Wen-yuan, a Shanghai ideological worker, was able to be published in Shanghai. It refuted the original article and sharply criticised the author, Wu Han, for grave ideological errors, beginning the exposure of his protectors. ’This article exposed the fact that this was not just an ordinary play but an attack, in literary form, on the policies of the Chinese Communist Party, such as the Great Leap Forward and the people’s communes.’[1]

The struggle over this matter showed clearly to Mao that there was an entrenched group at Party headquarters, often acting in his name but without his knowledge. The group was bent on following the capitalist road and not the socialist road. Although the line for building socialism meant that the class struggle between the workers and the bourgeoisie was the main internal contradiction in China, the class struggle was being suppressed and stifled by top Party persons in authority.

We think it both necessary and useful at this point to cite some of Mao’s speeches of the early 1960s to show that the situation from which the Cultural Revolution developed was maturing fairly rapidly. Already it was clear from Soviet experience what would be the consequences if revisionism should gain the upper hand. In a speech in January 1962 to an Enlarged Work Conference, Mao emphasised the necessity of deepening and widening mass democracy. He said:

Unless we fully promote people’s democracy and inner-Party democracy in our country, and unless we fully implement the system of proletarian democracy it will be impossible to achieve a true proletarian centralism, it is impossible to establish a socialist economy. If our country does not establish a socialist economy, what kind of a situation will we be in? We shall become a country like Yugoslavia, which has actually become a bourgeois country; the dictatorship of the proletariat will be transformed into a bourgeois dictatorship, into a reactionary fascist type of dictatorship. This is a question which demands the utmost vigilance.[2]

(The Tien An Men incident of 1989 proved that Deng’s regime has indeed renounced socialist economy and become a reactionary fascist type of dictatorship).

In the same speech Mao said:

In acquiring an understanding of the objective world, in making a flying leap from the realm of necessity to the realm of freedom, man must pass through a process.[3]

Mao here is expressing a well-known Marxist idea taken from the philosopher Hegel, that ’freedom is the recognition of necessity’, which simply means that without knowledge of the laws of development of nature and society, man has to act blindly, from necessity; with an understanding of these laws, however, he can turn them to his advantage and achieve aims consciously that are otherwise unachievable. He makes a leap from necessity to freedom.

Mao goes on to say:

Speaking generally, it is we Chinese who have achieved understanding of the objective world of China, not the comrades concerned with Chinese questions in the Communist International. These comrades in the Communist International simply did not understand, or we could say they utterly failed to understand Chinese society, the Chinese nation, or the Chinese revolution. For a long time even we did not have a clear understanding of the objective world of China, let alone the foreign comrades![4]

But Mao goes on to point out that they did acquire such knowledge by the time of the period of the ’Resistance to Japan’, i.e., by 1936. We mention this here because in his book ’Imperialism and the Revolution’ the Albanian leader, Enver Hoxha, deliberately resorts to sophistry, attacking Mao as never understanding the Chinese Revolution. He of course, understood it much better!

Classes and Class Struggle Under Socialism

Still in 1962, in a speech to a plenum of the Central Committee, Mao generalised on the question of class struggle under socialism.

’Now then’, he said, ’do classes exist in socialist countries? Does class struggle exist? We can now affirm that classes do exist in socialist countries and that class struggle undoubtedly exists.’[5] Thus, the question of class struggle under socialism was vital. He went on to point out that there was a struggle of class against class in China and it had to be admitted there was a possibility of the restoration of reactionary classes. Vigilance must be raised and all levels of cadres educated.

Otherwise a country like ours can still move towards its opposite. Even to move towards its opposite would not matter too much because there would still be the negation of the negation, and afterwards we might move towards our opposite yet again. If our children’s generation go in for revisionism and move towards their opposite, so that although they still nominally have socialism it is in fact capitalism, then our grandsons will certainly rise up in revolt and overthrow their fathers, because the masses will not be satisfied.[6]

Thus, the question of possible capitalist restoration existed for China as indeed for all socialist countries. The Tien An Men square demonstrations of 1989 could not be said to be a second negation such as Mao spoke of, because they were under the leadership of pro-imperialist bourgeois elements. These were in essence no different from Deng Xiaoping in aim – but wanted a far more rapid transition to open-slather capitalism. (There were, nevertheless, many pro-Mao elements who did not get reported in the media). For the same reason Khrushchev and even Gorbachev couldn’t move too fast to this objective – the reason being fear of the workers’ reaction and possible restoration of socialism – so Deng had to choose between crushing the student revolt or risking overthrow by the working class, an alternative he dared not contemplate. The second negation – i.e., a negation of restored capitalism and a restoration of socialism, is still to be achieved.

Further on in the same speech Mao pointed out that between 1958 and 1962 the Party had difficulty in giving essential time to the correction of internal policy shortcomings because of the growing problem with Khrushchev’s revisionism. He writes:

Our attention was diverted to opposing Khrushchev. From the second half of 1958 he wanted to blockade the Chinese coastline. He wanted to set up a joint fleet so as to have control over our coastline and blockade us. It was because of this question that Khrushchev came to our country. After this, in September 1959 during the Sino-Indian border dispute, Khrushchev supported Nehru in attacking us ... Then Khrushchev came to China and at our Tenth Anniversary Celebration banquet, he attacked us on our own rostrum. At the Bucharest Conference in 1960 they tried to encircle and annihilate us. Then came the conference of the Two Communist Parties, the Twenty-six-Country Drafting Committee, the 81-country Moscow Conference, and there was also a Warsaw Conference, all of which were concerned with the dispute between Marxism-Leninism and revisionism. We spent the whole of 1960 fighting Khrushchev. So you see that among socialist countries and within Marxism-Leninism a question like this could emerge. But in fact its roots lie very deep in the past, in things which happened very long ago. They did not permit China to make revolution: that was in 1945. Stalin wanted to prevent China from making revolution, saying that we should not have a civil war and should cooperate with Chiang Kai-shek, otherwise the Chinese nation would perish. But we did not do what he said. The revolution was victorious. After the victory of the revolution, he next suspected China of being a Yugoslavia, and that I would become a second Tito. Later when I went to Moscow to sign the Sino-Soviet Treaty of Alliance and Mutual Assistance, we had to go through another struggle. He was not willing to sign a treaty. After two months of negotiations he at last signed. When did Stalin at last begin to have confidence in us? It was at the time of the Resist America, Aid Korea campaign, from the winter of 1950. He then came to believe that we were not Tito, not Yugoslavia.[7]

New Democracy is Not Socialism

In August 1964 Mao was already re-emphasising the danger of remaining at the new-democratic stage. He wrote:

To consolidate New Democracy, and to go on consolidating it for ever, is to engage in capitalism. New Democracy is a bourgeois-democratic revolution under the leadership of the proletariat. It touches only the landlords and the comprador bourgeoisie, it does not touch the national bourgeoisie at all ... To divide up the land is nothing remarkable – MacArthur did it in Japan. Napoleon divided up the land too. Land reform cannot abolish capitalism, nor can it lead to socialism.[8]

(We are seeing the correctness of these remarks in relation to events in Nicaragua. The Sandinistas carried out land reform but did not abolish capitalism. Now even the land reform is being cancelled).

Partial measures did not serve to improve the situation in the ideological and political superstructure in relation to pressing on with the socialist revolution.

Because of the reactionary trends shown to be current in the sphere of education and culture, Mao called for a cultural revolution to be carried out with the aim of removal of the top Party persons in authority taking the capitalist road. The Party Central Committee set up in October, 1965, a group of five, under Peng Chen, to begin carrying out this work. The group (with two exceptions) sought to suppress criticism of leading academics and writers such as Wu Han who were on the capitalist road. It was dissolved and a new Committee appointed which applied Mao’s line calling for mass participation in uncovering capitalist roaders in positions of authority in the ideological superstructure.

In his criticisms of Stalin, Mao made it clear that Stalin was not able to distinguish properly between contradictions among the people, which could be resolved without the use of force, and contradictions between the people and the enemy, which were antagonistic in character. As a consequence, Stalin often used wrong methods to solve differences within the Party and state, equating differences of opinion with counter-revolution instead of relying on the masses.

At the same time, Mao considered that Stalin had not given proper thought to the question of his succession as Party and state leader, so that Khrushchev was able to usurp power. By the time of the Cultural Revolution Mao had reached the conclusion that the only way to be sure of barring the door to a revisionist seizure of power was not just to rely on individuals but to raise a whole generation of successors, millions of them. This required that youth, the next generation, should learn by first-hand experience the meaning of class struggle to uphold socialism and defeat the bourgeoisie and their revisionist agents and supporters – all capitalist roaders – within the Party, particularly in the top echelon of leaders. This explains why youth were given such support by Mao throughout the Cultural Revolution.

Programme of the Cultural Revolution

Although a Cultural Revolution group was formed in 1965, and although at that time Mao saw the general outlines of what he aimed at and even defined the immediate target as the removal of the top Party persons in authority taking the capitalist road, the movement did not get into full swing until the first ’Group in Charge of the Cultural Revolution’ (previously mentioned) which sent work teams into many universities, institutes, schools and other centres of education and culture, directing these teams along a line of repressing revolutionary criticisms and actions, was exposed and ousted, and a new leading Group was formed. This was a matter of top-level inner-Party struggle.

Thus, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, as it now became known, although officially launched in April, really got under way by August, 1966, with the issuing of special 16-point programme. This was adopted by an expanded meeting (known as a plenum) of the Central Committee, which clarified the aims and the methods for achieving them. (For brevity’s sake we shall use the abbreviation CR from here on).

The programme declared the aim of the movement to be (Point 14):

To revolutionise people’s ideology and as a consequence to achieve greater, faster, better and more economical results in all fields of work. If the masses are fully aroused and proper arrangements are made, it is possible to carry on both the cultural revolution and production without one hampering the other, while guaranteeing high quality in all our work. The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution is a powerful motive force for the development of the social productive forces in our country. Any idea of counterposing the great cultural revolution against the development of production is incorrect.[9]

The programme called on persons in charge of Party organisations to boldly arouse the masses using big-character posters and ’great debates’ for this purpose. In the course of this, the masses should be encouraged to criticise mistakes and to assist those who recognised mistakes they had made to correct them. If people persisted in taking the capitalist road they were to be removed from leading posts. This method would assist the masses to educate themselves by taking part in the revolutionary movement and also to learn to distinguish between right and wrong and correct and incorrect ways of doing things.

The programme clearly opposed the use of force to compel submission to majority views because ’sometimes truth is with the minority’.[10] It urged persuasion through reasoning, not by force, when there is debate. It directed that ’The cultural and educational units and leading organs of the Party and government in the large and medium cities are the points of concentration of the present proletarian cultural revolution.’[11]

This programme was used as a guide through most of the subsequent period. However, it must be recognised that certain aspects of the CR got out of hand or were not adhered to as the CR developed, particularly avoidance of violence.

Originally, the CR was expected to last for about a year. However, its most intense phase lasted from 1966 to 1969. The Red Guard movement, begun in the universities in June, 1966, rapidly swelled to immense proportions after Mao openly declared his support for it. It developed after a big-character poster put up by a lecturer at Peking University, Nieh Yuan-tzu, was widely published and broadcast on the radio on Mao’s orders.

Turmoil and the Red Guards

This was a movement no-one had anticipated. Universities and middle schools were closed while teachers and students actively took part in promoting the CR. While a certain degree of order reigned at the beginning, different factions soon developed within the Red Guards, even though all were declaring support for Mao. Indeed, they tended to hold centre stage for much of the CR.

It is not possible here to chronicle the ebbs and flows of the Cultural Revolution, the whole sequence of events and forces at work were too complex; one can only deal with general tendencies and some of their consequences.

In a speech to a Central Work Conference on October 25, 1966, Mao is reported as saying:

The Great Cultural Revolution wreaked havoc after I approved Nieh Yuan-tzu’s big-character poster in Peking University and wrote a letter to Tsinghua University Middle School, as well as writing a big-character poster of my own entitled ’Bombard the Headquarters’ [directed at Liu Shao-chi]. It all happened within a very short period, less than five months in June, July, August, September and October. No wonder the comrades did not understand too much. The time was so short and the events so violent. I myself had not foreseen that as soon as the Peking University poster was broadcast, the whole country would be thrown into turmoil. Even before the letter to the Red Guards had gone out, Red Guards had mobilised throughout the country, and in one rush they swept you off your feet. Since it was I who caused the havoc, it is understandable if you have some bitter words for me. Last time we met I lacked confidence and I said that our decisions would not necessarily be carried out.[12]

Mao went on to point out that now that the central leadership had exchanged experiences things had gone a bit more smoothly and the ideas were better understood, adding:

It has only been five months. Perhaps the movement may last another 5 months, or even longer. Our democratic revolution went on for twenty-eight years, from 1921 to 1949. At first nobody knew how to conduct the revolution or how to carry on the struggle; only later did we acquire some experience. Our path gradually emerged in the course of practice. Did we not carry on for 28 years, summarising our experience [the meaning here is: ’summing-up’] as we went along? Have we not been carrying on the socialist revolution for seventeen years, whereas the Cultural Revolution has been going on for only five months? Hence we cannot ask comrades to understand so well now ...

My confidence in this meeting has increased. ... I think things can change and things can improve. Of course, we shouldn’t expect too much. We can’t be certain that the mass of central, provincial, regional and county cadres should all be so enlightened. There will always be some who fail to understand, and there will be a minority on the opposite side. But I think it will be possible to make the majority understand.[13]

Evidently, late in 1965 when work teams were being sent out by the Central Committee to universities and institutes, what Mao had in mind was a revolution from above which would stir up mass criticism of Party and state cadres who were reactionary or revisionist, or who were not doing their job. His determination to revamp and proletarianise the ideological and political superstructure was intensified when the group in charge of the CR, appointed by the Central Committee, acted in the opposite way, putting the lid on criticism and denouncing many of the critics as reactionaries. Mao’s aim of course, was to keep China red and prevent the restoration of capitalism as had happened in Russia.

With the mass eruption of Red Guards, however, the movement was difficult to keep under control, especially as the weight of evidence shows that Mao no longer had a majority on the Central Committee.

From the beginning Mao kept stating that 95 percent of the Party cadres were good, and enjoining the Red Guards and all CR activists to unite, and not to use force against each other.

It must be said however, that despite Mao’s immense prestige, his words often fell on deaf ears.

Red Guard detachments which had begun to relive the revolutionary experiences of the earlier generation by going on journeys along the route of the famous ’Long March’ from South to North-west China traversed from 1934-1936, gave way to a movement of all-out criticism and denunciation of almost all Party and state cadres, and often transgressed Mao’s guidelines about using force. Regrettably, a great deal of harassment of good cadres took place. Some of it was no doubt due to over-enthusiasm for unearthing and combating revisionists and counter-revolutionaries. Of course, in any revolution, and the CR was one, excesses are bound to take place.

Student Leadership – A Problem

The problem really arises over the degree to which the CR was student-led, not only university, but very largely middle school (i.e. secondary school) student-led. In the earlier stages the August programme called for the students not to spread revolution in factories or rural areas ’at present’. Workers and commune members were to carry on the revolution at their place of work. The programme also stated that ’In the armed forces, the Cultural Revolution and the Socialist Education movement should be carried out in accordance with the instructions of the Military Commission of the Central Committee and the General Political Department of the People’s Liberation Army’.[14] That is, it was not to be a target of Red Guard clean-up.

The programme was stated to have been drawn up under Mao’s direct supervision.

As matters developed, there were increasing signs of petty-bourgeois radicalism among the students. This was not surprising. A substantial proportion were from petty-bourgeois backgrounds, and in any case students lacked the firm class basis of the workers, their discipline, their concern for collective property and their unwillingness to use unnecessary violence. As well, behind the scenes, an ultra-left tendency was urging on Red Guards to ’drag out’ capitalist roaders in the army. Unknown to Mao and his supporters, this tendency urging the students to violence and factional fighting, was headed by Army chief Lin Piao, later unmasked as a traitor. Mao had anticipated that the Party upheaval would at first be limited to the cadres at middle and upper levels, and that mass criticism of the top levels would come from below. However, helped on by Lin Piao’s speeches at Red Guard rallies demanding that they criticise the Party and government at all levels, and drag out the capitalist roaders, a wholesale attack developed on all Party cadres down to the lowest levels. Violent clashes, instead of dying away, were increasing by the end of 1966 and early in 1967.

’The January Storm’

By then Mao had extended the CR to the industrial and agricultural sectors. A major struggle took place among workers in China’s biggest industrial city, Shanghai. Revolutionary committees were formed among rank and file factory workers to seize power from revisionist bureaucrats and managers. The Shanghai Municipal Party Committee, a stronghold of Liu Shao-chi’s organisation, resisted, defending the revisionist line. The seizure of power by revolutionary Shanghai workers became known as ’The January Storm’. It brought to the forefront of the CR three active ideological political leaders, Chang Chun-chiao, Yao Wen-yuan (who exposed Wu Han) and Wang Hung-wen, who received the fullest backing from Mao. Mao’s wife, Chiang Ching, was already leading the struggle for combating the dominance of feudal and bourgeois ideas and propaganda in the theatre arts and culture. After Mao’s death, these four, who were among the new leadership of the Party and state which had emerged from the CR, were arrested in a coup d’etat by other new bourgeois elements in the Party and state leadership, headed by the new Party Chairman, Hua Kuo-feng. They were denounced by Hua and his new ally, the reinstated Deng Xiaoping as ’The Gang of Four’.

What had happened in between?

Tripartite Power Develops

All over the country the workers and peasants had followed the example of Shanghai. Gradually, alliances were formed between the revolutionary committees, the revolutionary Party cadres actively leading the struggle for the Maoist line, and the cadres of the People’s Liberation Army (the PLA). This tripartite grouping was later to form the basis of the people’s state power, whose principal body was the National People’s Congress.

All along Mao’s aim had not been to destroy the Party, but to break the authority of the leading revisionist clique as a result of encouraging mass criticism from below, at the same time teaching the masses revolutionary politics through their own experience. Matters did not go according to plan, however, for all along, Lin Piao and his lieutenant Chen Po-ta, were organising behind the scenes for the destruction of the Party as an organisation in order to carry out a military seizure of power for Lin himself.

As to the PLA, its principal role throughout was as an educational force. At no time was it used (Hoxha makes this false accusation) as a weapon against Mao’s opponents. Because of its role in the long armed struggle to liberate China, it had immense prestige among the masses. Thanks to Mao’s long-time emphasis upon the army being a force to carry out political tasks determined by the class struggle, it was the most political army in the world, and the most democratic, having abolished ranks. Besides this, it had a big role in most spheres of the economy: building and construction, transportation, ship-building, hydro-electric building schemes and so on. It also worked in agriculture, in the communes, alongside the peasants. Thus, it was a true people’s army. Because of the high level of political consciousness in the PLA, the Red Guards accepted – certainly in the early stages – their advice and tuition. However, as a result of Lin Piao’s splitting activities and the growth of anarchistic tendencies among the students, splits and struggles developed among the Red Guards and between sections of Red Guards and the PLA.

While the Shanghai victory had brought the working class forward, correctly, as the leading force, it was by no means united.

Instructions were now issued for primary schools and lower classes of middle schools to open again. However, many were reluctant to go back. So were the teachers. "It’s dangerous to be a teacher,’ they said, recalling ill-treatment, and stayed at home.’[15]

Despite repeated calls by Mao to rehabilitate the majority of Party cadres as the true diehards were only a handful, many were still subjected to harassment and ill-treatment through 1967 and 1968. Divisions still existed among workers, commune members and students. In this situation:

After briefings by Mao personally to thirty thousand top activists, PLA personnel formed Mao Tse-tung Thought propaganda teams (unarmed), and once again descended upon each factory, each commune to stop the strife, to help form the alliances which in turn would give birth to the revolutionary committees.

The workers united swiftly, far more swiftly than the university students. They formed ’grand alliances’ .. and industry picked up remarkably. Agricultural communes were also tidied up ..

But while doing this major work, the PLA, like the Red Guards before it, was already being relegated to a secondary role. It was to monitor new constructs, but voluntarily to efface itself after these were in place. On this point Mao was adamant. Despite the militarisation which took place and the overwhelming PLA presence from 1968 to 1971, by 1973 the army was brought back under Party control. Civilian order was re-established. This demilitarisation vindicated ideological leadership. ’The Party commands the gun, and never the gun the Party’.[16]

Contradictions Among the People

During the period 1967-1971 a great deal took place. In 1967 there was a lot of faction fighting at all levels. In some areas Red Guards seized arms from the militia. Some of those concerned in the seizures were actually counter-revolutionary elements, criminals released from jails. This required intervention by the army to protect state property. There was widespread disorder which had to be ended. Weapons were also seized from supplies being transported to aid Vietnam.

In these cases, to recapture them, force had to be used by the PLA. Otherwise all their actions were unarmed. In many of the universities armed anarchist groups had seized control and had set up military-type defences, including trenches and barbed wire. By July 1968 masses of unarmed workers aided by PLA propaganda teams set out to take control of the universities and schools by reasoning. This they did, though many were killed and injured. According to both Han Suyin and Edgar Snow (who quoted Chou En-lai’s figures) each writing independently and both then supporters of Mao and new China, there were hundreds of thousands of casualties in the PLA during the many CR struggles. In the main, the contradictions between and among workers, students and soldiers were contradictions among the people and not contradictions between the people and their class enemies. The aim, therefore, was to resolve them without the use of force, and in general this was done. In cases where force had to be used it was usually the result of ultra-left forces gaining control of sections of student rebels.

In August, 1968, the press put forward the line for revolutionary youth. It stated that youth was the vanguard but it was the workers and peasants who were the basic strength of the Cultural Revolution.[17] One of the objectives of the CR was beginning to be achieved. The workers’ propaganda teams were to remain permanently at the universities and schools in a directing role, while in the countryside the poor and middle peasants were to play a similar role. All this, of course, was with the object of securing the dictatorship of the proletariat in the field of education, formerly a preserve of the bourgeois and feudal classes.

By 1969, although all was not quiescent, the cadre force of the Party was largely restored, the new tripartite state form was largely in being, and it became possible to hold a Party congress the Ninth (the 8th had been in 1956) in April, 1969. Party committees had not yet been properly rebuilt, but a good deal of the dissension had died away, although ultra-leftism remained a danger. The task now was to rebuild and consolidate the Party as the leading core of the Chinese Revolution, strengthening its base with new cadres drawn from the masses.

Role of Lin Piao

It was from this point that Lin Piao’s opposition and manipulation of the ultra left began to be exposed. This final chapter would still take some time, however.

As the Vice-Chairman, Lin was to deliver the main report, but the theses he advanced were repetitions of the erroneous ones of Liu Shao-chi which negated class struggle. The report had to be rewritten for him. This was done under Mao’s direction.

For a long time, Lin Piao, assisted by a leading propagandist, Chen Po-ta, had authored a pro-Lin campaign as someone who had never made a mistake and was absolutely loyal to Mao.

As was known, Mao was concerned, with advancing age, to ensure a strong Marxist-Leninist as successor. He felt that Stalin had given too little thought to this question, enabling Khrushchev to usurp power. Lin Piao had anticipated being chosen to succeed Mao, and had inspired great publicity about his own military genius to prepare the ground. Mao must have suspected that Lin was a wrong choice, but the Congress declared him Mao’s ’close comrade in arms’ and successor.

Why did Mao go along with this? At this stage Lin had not properly shown his hand as the prime mover in the ultra-left. Many mass organisations supported Lin as successor, taken in by his self-inspired publicity campaign. As well, the US was bombing Vietnam and an invasion of the North was a possibility. Also, there were large Soviet forces, a million strong, poised on China’s northern border, and many border clashes had taken place. Unity against a possible aggressor was the order of the day.

Mao No Warmonger

Mao made a most significant statement to the Ninth Central Committee soon after the Congress, on April 28th. He warned that the Soviet revisionists were still attacking China and that there should be preparedness against war, ’Others may come and attack us but we shall not fight outside our borders ... but if you should come and attack us we will deal with you.’[18]

The Soviet revisionists had repeatedly – and lyingly – denounced Mao as a warmonger. Mao’s statement is a direct rebuttal of their lies. Enver Hoxha also denounced Mao as a warmonger in 1979. He was but following in the revisionists’ footsteps.

The Lin Piao Danger

The Ninth Congress of the CPC took place in April, 1969. Formally, the Cultural Revolution appeared over. Liu Shao-chi and his revisionist clique appeared to have been substantially defeated. Liu was denounced and expelled in 1968. A new Party Constitution was adopted which stated that Lin Piao was Mao Tse-tung’s close comrade-in-arms and successor. Mao declared that it was a Congress of unity. Nevertheless, in the same month he declared that one cultural revolution was not enough, and said: ’In a few years we shall have to carry out another one.’ He added that more work remained to be done in the current one.

A growing conflict took place between Mao and Lin in the next two years as Mao struggled against the opposition of Lin to rebuild the Party as the leading core in the revolution and re-establish its authority over the army. Seeing his hopes of becoming Mao’s successor fading, Lin turned to plotting. During August, 1971 Mao made a tour of Central China where he discussed ’the Lin Piao problem’ with a widely representative group of military commanders. He stated what soon became known as the three principles of Party building: ’Practice Marxism and not revisionism; unite and don’t split; be open and above-board, and don’t intrigue and conspire’. He also gave a brief but profound guide to revolutionary development: ’The correctness or incorrectness of the ideological-political line is the key; it decides everything’.

On Mao’s way back to Peking, on September 11, Lin Piao organised an attempt to assassinate him. Due to the active intervention of Chou En-lai, the Prime Minister, it failed. The conspirators commandeered a Trident aircraft and set off for the Soviet Union, but the plane crashed in Inner Mongolia, killing all occupants. It was evident that the struggles to achieve the aim of the CR to consolidate the dictatorship of the proletariat were by no means over. Indeed, it was only in 1970 that the universities were able to reopen. Many lecturers were reluctant to return, feeling that teaching was dangerous and the future uncertain.

Tenth Party Congress

Still, by the time of the 10th Party Congress in August 1973, Chou En-lai in the main Congress Report was able to point to an all-round improvement in the socialist economy and in the political situation, both internally and externally. (It was about at this time that Nixon had begun making approaches in regard to recognition of China and its right to Taiwan, and also to indicate that, given reasonable conditions, he was prepared to withdraw US forces from Vietnam). At the same time the Report stressed the need to ’strengthen our unity with the proletariat and the oppressed people and nations of the whole world and with all countries subjected to imperialist aggression, subversion, interference, control or bullying and form the broadest united front against imperialism, colonialism and neo-colonialism, and in particular, against the hegemonism of the two superpowers – the USA and the USSR.’[19] The four who had come notably to the forefront during the CR , Chang Chun-chiao, Yao Wen-yuan, Wang Hung-wen and Chiang Ching were all now on the Party’s Political Bureau, and Wang delivered the Report on the Party Constitution.

Revisionists Return

However, big changes were soon to take place in the leadership of the Party and the state. Teng Hsaio-ping (known in the new spelling as Deng Xiaoping) had been closely linked with Liu Shao-chi from the beginning of the CR. In fact, the revisionist views they both held were called the Liu-Deng line. After having been removed from all leading positions as a capitalist-roader, in 1969 he was sent from Peking to a distant province for ideological re-education at a cadre school. However, in the wake of a reshuffle of leaders in 1973, following the death of Lin Piao, Deng was brought back into the leadership, having made a self-criticism that was accepted, and was soon back on the Politburo. No doubt Chou En-lai was the main influence in Deng’s restoration. One must assume, however, that Mao took some convincing. One of Deng’s famous remarks, made before the CR, indicated that he was more a follower of pragmatism, the philosophy of big business, than of Marxism. It was: ’I don’t care whether a cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice’. What’s wrong with that?, one may ask. Simple. At a time when the Soviet revisionists had substituted technocracy for Marxist-Leninist principles, and when the line of the Party was to place politics in command of technocracy, it was a defence of revisionism, of pragmatism. It was affirming that the politics of the working class didn’t matter. They could be bourgeois, fascist or anything else, so long as they produced well. Soon after Mao remarked: ’Black cat, white cat. This man knows nothing about Marxism!’

Chou himself, though most of the time a loyal supporter of Mao, showed in certain speeches that he held some similar views. However, Chou was hospitalised with cancer in May 1974, and in January 1975, Deng became – with Chou’s support, senior Vice-Premier, Party vice-Chairman, and PLA Chief of Staff.

Reporting to Karl Marx

Chou died in January, 1976. This meant that within about a year, four of Mao’s trusted supporters among the top leadership had all died: Chu-Teh, who had been Commander-in-Chief of the Chinese Red Army on the Long March; Kang Sheng, formerly Director of the Party School in Yenan, member of the 5-man Party Secretariat and a close associate of Mao’s; Tung Pi-wu, a founder of the Party and a General from the earliest days of the Red Army; and, of course, Chou En-lai himself.

Deng had not changed that much. His support still for the line of technocracy above politics soon alienated Mao and his principal supporters during the CR. He was attacked in the press as an ’unrepentant capitalist roader’.

He was recognised as being the prime mover in what became known as the Tien An Men Incident which took place on April 5, when demonstrations in memory of Chou En-lai turned into a riot which was suppressed by police. On Mao’s initiative the Politburo resolved to remove Deng from all positions of leadership, the riot being declared counter-revolutionary in character.

This brought Hua Kua-feng still more to the fore. At the time of the Tenth Congress he was Chairman of the Hunan Revolutionary Committee and First Secretary of the Provincial Party Committee. At the Congress he was elected to the Standing Committee of the Politburo. In February, 1976, he became Acting Premier, to succeed Chou En-lai, and Minister of Public Security. After Deng’s ouster, in April he became Prime Minister. Mao wrote to him on April 30: ’With you in charge, I’m at ease.’ He obviously took Hua to be a Maoist who would pursue the aims of the CR but would also seek to unify the growingly disparate elements in the Central Committee. Mao himself knew that his own end was not far off. He would say to visitors (New Zealand Party Secretary V.G. Wilcox was one): ’Soon I’ll be going to report to Karl Marx’. Various Western writers, including the generally truthful Edgar Snow, have reported him as referring to seeing God, not Karl Marx. It is possible. But to Communists – as Wilcox was then – he would certainly not refer to God. Mao was reported to have nominated Hua as vice-Chairman – i.e., his own successor – the same time as Hua became Prime Minister.

On September 9, 1976, Mao died, probably from Parkinson’s disease, at the age of 82. In spite of attempts since by both Chinese revisionists and Albanian dogmatists to downgrade his life and achievements, almost to obliterate him from history, he remains, next to Lenin, the greatest political leader, thinker and revolutionary of this century.

The Coup D’etat

However, his faith in Hua Kuo-feng turned out to be premature. Less than a month after his death, in conjunction with a group of so-called ’moderates’ Hua, who had become Party and State Chairman, and also Chairman of the Military Affairs Commission, organised a coup d’etat and arrested Mao’s lieutenants in the CR: his wife, Chiang Ching; Chang Chun-chiao; Wang Hung-wen; and Yao Wen-yuan, declaring them to be a ’gang of four’ who had plotted to overthrow Mao’s policies – even though they were the foremost advocates of them – and to seize power for themselves.

The Big Questions

How and why was such a coup possible?

The rebuilding of the Party organisation meant that many cadres at all levels who had been discredited during the CR, including many who had held office under Lui Shao-chi, had been restored to positions of authority. This, plus the death of the ’old guard’ of Mao supporters, meant that within the Party the balance of forces had changed. When alive, Mao, with his immense prestige and political skill, could win over or tactically neutralise opposition to his policies at both higher and lower levels. Those on the CR ’left’ who had, under Mao’s leadership, grown in influence and stature within the top echelon of leaders, lacked such prestige and skills. They also lacked experience at administration in the Party and state, nor were they given time to acquire it.

Before Mao’s death Hua had appeared to be a supporter of the revolutionising process in all spheres. Once he had succeeded to the three highest posts of Chairman, Prime Minister and Chairman of the Military Affairs Commission, he had a sufficient concentration of power in his hands to begin a change of course. Within the existing leadership he could not only reckon on a majority, but he could reckon on solid and decisive military backing from Defence Minister Yeh Chien-ying, the sole remaining vice-Chairman and head of the PLA, together with several other top generals, and including vice-Premier Li Hsien-nien, the country’s top economist. Having control of the main components of state power i.e., the armed forces and police, it was not difficult for Hua to issue denunciations of the so-called ’Gang of Four’, and to fabricate all sorts of charges against them which grew in extent as time went on. Arrests of other radicals who spoke out or put up posters denouncing the rightists’ actions quickly followed.

Consolidating the Coup

All this was done in the name of defending Mao Tse-tung’s policies. Hua delivered the memorial speech on September 18 to a crowd of one million in Tien An Men Square, eulogising Mao’s policies and the themes of the 10th Party Congress, but soon showed that these were empty words. Mass rallies in support of Hua and the post-coup Central Committee were held in most cities. But still, there were reported armed clashes between the radicals and the authorities in a number of cities. One report states that there were 30,000 armed militia in Shanghai prepared two days after the arrests to carry out an uprising against Peking, but the plan was abandoned when it became apparent that Hua and his supporters were firmly in control. There were armed clashes in a number of provinces including Fukien, Hopei, Honan, Shansi and Yunnan. By December 24, however, Hua was declaring that the central task for 1977 would be a drive against the arrested four and their supporters.

While Hua in his memorial speech in September had called for greater criticism of Deng Xiaoping, by January 1977 Deng’s supporters in the leadership had got him back in Peking and by July he was reinstated as deputy-Premier and the other posts he held prior to April 1976. Meantime attacks on the four radicals had increased in intensity. Their supporters in Party and state organisations at all levels were ousted – some executed, a large number arrested – from all positions, a movement intensified under the now re-instated Deng, who was now third in line in the leadership after Hua and Yeh Chien-ying.

Discrediting Mao – Basis for Capitalist Restoration

Under Deng’s influence, several connected campaigns began against Mao’s political and ideological views, and against the changes made during the CR. These amounted overall to completing the first stage of the restoration of capitalism in China. According to the ’Encyclopaedia of Asian History’ (1988) (Note: in this 4-volume work the names quoted are in the new spelling):

Following his return to a leadership position in the summer of 1977 and his struggle for ascendancy thereafter, Deng’s first and foremost task was to destroy the cult of Mao and to downgrade Mao’s ideological authority. The reasons for de-Maoisation were twofold: (1) to remove ideological constraints on a series of pragmatic (or revisionist) modernisation programmes that Deng sought to institute and (2) to undercut Deng’s chief rival, Hua Guofeng and other leaders who derived their political influence from association with Mao or invocation of the late Chairman.

In pursuing the goal of de-Maoisation, Deng and his associates took several well-concerted steps. First, they worked through the press and publications under their control to discredit Mao’s revolutionary precepts. In 1977 and 1978 numerous articles attacked and repudiated the regime’s excessive emphasis [we must remember that this is a bourgeois, not a Marxist publication] on politics, revolution, class struggle, egalitarianism, subjective human factors, the principle of self-reliance, and ’mass democracy’ – Maoist values that were closely identified with the Cultural Revolution. Instead, these articles propagated the need for political stability, discipline and economic growth; supported material incentives and expertise; and stressed an ’open door’ to foreign technology and capital.’[20]

One of the first attacks was in the field of ideology. In May, 1978, a 30,000-word article appeared in the Peking ’People’s Daily’ deceptively entitled ’Practice is the Sole Criterion of Truth’. This is a well-known Marxist philosophical viewpoint emphasised and reemphasised by Mao many times. This article, however, substituted pragmatism for Marxism. The latter holds that practice is the only method of testing the correctness of objective truth, and of bringing one’s ideas (cognition) into conformity with objective truth. Deng’s line of pragmatism, revisionism, however, holds that only that which works is true and good. It holds that what meets the subjective needs of individuals is what is really correct. Thus, capitalism, imperialism, fascism all ’work’. For the ruling classes, this is a very useful philosophy which suits their subjective interests. It has nothing in common with Marxism, and is directly opposed to it.

Most former ’capitalist roaders’ in the leadership and out of it were restored to office. This strengthened Deng’s hand vis-a-vis Hua, whom he aimed to replace by himself. This aim was furthered by putting on public trial the so-called ’Gang of Four’ beginning in Peking on November 20, 1978, for although Hua had ousted them from power, he had previously collaborated with them and as Minister of Public Security he was involved in suppressing the Tien An Men riots of April, 1976. Thus, Hua himself would be subject to condemnation. Undermined in this way, Hua agreed to resign, and Deng’s protégé Hu Yao-bang soon replaced him as chairman. (He too was ousted in the run-up to the Tien An Men massacre of 1989)

Of course, since their arrest, great pressure to recant had been brought on Chiang Ching and the three other defendants at the trial. Chiang Ching and Chun-chiao stood firm, Chiang at the trial defiantly denouncing the new power-holders as revisionists and new bourgeois renegades – which indeed they were and still are. However, Wang Hung-wen and Yao Wen-yuan wilted and recanted.

New Bourgeois Tactics

As in the Soviet Union at the time of the Twentieth Congress of the CPSU, the new bourgeoisie had managed to seize power. Though Mao had recognised the danger, had warned the nation against it, and had led the Cultural Revolution to prevent such a happening, still, the bourgeoisie had seized control in both the Party and the state, and were poised to carry out the transition back to capitalism. This they proceeded to do much faster and more openly than their counterparts in the USSR.

In most spheres, at the beginning they presented themselves as continuators of Mao’s policies.

In the economy, they first of all claimed that the ’gang of four’ had sabotaged and disrupted progress. However, in January 1975, reporting to the Fourth National People’s Congress, Chou En-lai had stated that the country had over-fulfilled the Third Five-Year Plan and would successfully fulfil the Fourth Five-Year Plan in 1975, and gave details both of agricultural advance and industrial advance. He stated that prices had remained stable, the people’s livelihood had steadily improved and socialist construction had flourished. All of this gave the lie to Hua and Co’s claims about the so-called ’gang of four’s’ sabotage of the economy when it held high offices under Mao.

In the same Congress, Chou referred to plans for future development. He said: ’On Chairman Mao’s instructions, it was suggested ... to the Third National People’s Congress that we might envisage the development of our national economy in two stages, beginning from the Third Five-Year Plan: The first stage is to build an independent and relatively comprehensive industrial and economic system in 15 years, that is, before 1990; the second stage is to accomplish the comprehensive modernisation of agriculture, industry, national defence and science and technology before the end of the century, so that our national economy will be advancing in the front ranks of the world.’[21] This ’second stage’ became known as the ’Four Modernisations’.

The carrying out of these ’four modernisations’ virtually became the banner of the new bourgeoisie – but their method of carrying them out was totally opposed to that of Mao Tse-tung. This method was quoted by Chou in the 4th Congress to be as follows: ’Rely mainly on our own efforts while making external assistance subsidiary, break down blind faith, go in for industry, agriculture and technical and cultural revolutions independently, do away with slavishness, bury dogmatism, learn from the good experience of other countries conscientiously and be sure to study their bad experience too, so as to draw lessons from it. This is our line.’[22]

The Return of Imperialism

Suddenly China began a policy of opening the doors to foreign capital. Representatives of many of the worlds’ biggest corporations flocked to China to conclude agreements for setting up enterprises in which they provided the capital and China provided cheap labour. This policy was highlighted by a US cartoon that appeared the world over. It came at a time when the Coca-Cola corporation announced that it was opening a plant in China and had obtained a monopoly agreement to supply the Chinese market. The cartoon pictured two Chinese workmen removing a large banner from a public square carrying the slogan – frequently used up to then: ’Smash Imperialism!’, while at the same time replacing it with another which said: ’Things Go Better With Coke’.

For a time the flood of foreign capital did enable certain sectors of the economy and certain areas - the coastal regions – to advance in production and in supply of some consumer goods. There was a price to pay, however. Corporation profits had to be guaranteed repatriation, and the government had to rapidly acquire a large foreign debt to ensure this. Under Mao there had been no foreign debt, no export of profits, no interest payments. Soon it was found that Hua and Deng, who pushed this policy, had totally miscalculated. Capital investment had taken place in an unplanned way without regard to the market and resources. Many foreign firms lost money and withdrew. Others demanded bigger concessions. The whole thing was a typical exercise in free-market capitalism and in complete contrast to Mao’s line of modernisation. Inflation and unemployment both unknown for decades, now became prominent features of the economy.

Overdoing Adulation

Of course, by this time a steadily growing anti-Mao campaign was under way, ostensibly to destroy the ’cult’ that had grown up which virtually accorded Mao divine status, in reality to prepare the ground for major policy reversals. Mao himself had led the way in dismantling what had become known as the cult of personality in 1970. Actually he had unwillingly acceded to it in 1966, as he says in a letter to Chiang Ching of July 6, 1966. He wrote:

The Central Committee is in a hurry to publicise the speech of my friend [i.e., Lin Piao]. I am ready to agree. ... Certain of his ideas greatly disturb me. I could never have believed that my little books could have such magical powers. But now that he has extolled them, the whole country will follow his example ... My friend and his partisans have forced me to act ... apparently I cannot do otherwise than approve them ... It is the first time in my life that I am in agreement with the others on the essence of a problem against my will.[23]

Apparently it worried Mao that a conscious campaign of adulation was to be promoted. While upholding Stalin’s role as a great Marxist-Leninist, in 1956 he had been critical – among other things – of the adulation around him. Edgar Snow, reporting a discussion with Mao in 1970, said: ’I asked the Chairman when I saw him: ’In the Soviet Union China has been criticised for fostering a cult of personality. Is there a basis for that?’ Mao replied that perhaps there was. It was said that Stalin had been the centre of a cult of personality, and that Khrushchev had none at all. The Chinese people, critics said, had some (feelings or practices of this kind). There might be good reason for some (more?) Probably Mr. Khrushchev, he concluded fell because he had no cult of personality at all.[24] In a further interview Snow says: ’Later on he reminded me that he had told me in 1965 that there was some worship of the individual but that there was need for some more. At that time the power of the Party had been out of his control.

But now [1970] things were different, he said. It (the cult) had been overdone, there was a lot of formalism. For example, the so-called ’four greats’: that is, Great Teacher, Great Leader, Great Supreme Commander, Great Helmsman. What a nuisance! They would all be dispensed with sooner or later.[25]

Indeed, Mao saw to it that this did take place. Earlier in the interview Snow reports: I had been criticised he [Mao] said, for some things I had written, but he had read excerpts and he did not see anything harmful in them. They did not expect everyone to agree with them on every subject and I was right to keep an independent point of view. As for what I had written about the so-called personality cult, there was such a thing, why not write about it.[26]

Deng and the ’Three Worlds Theory’

In regard to foreign policy, in the mid-1960s, when the ideological dispute was over and the Soviet armed forces were openly threatening China, it had become perfectly clear that the Soviet Union was now a country of imperialism, i.e., social-imperialism. It was a superpower contending and colluding with the other superpower, the USA, for world domination, referred to by China as ’hegemony’. Mao had formulated a policy of uniting all forces that could be united among both the advanced and the ’backward’ countries against both superpowers. Some years later, in an interview with a visiting Japanese delegation, he was reported as saying that he thought there were three worlds: the first world, which consisted of the two superpowers; the second world, consisting of developed countries which were lesser powers; and the third world of undeveloped and underdeveloped countries. China belonged to the third world. He favoured uniting the second and the third worlds against the first world, opposing their hegemonism.

In 1974, Deng Xiaoping – again in a leading post, represented China at a meeting of UN and elaborated on Mao’s remark. However, this was not regarded as ’theory’, nor was there any reference to Mao’s ’Three Worlds Theory’. Indeed, Mao had written nothing about such a ’theory’. As previously mentioned, Chou En-lai had spoken in the 10th Congress of the need to form ’the broadest united front against imperialism, colonialism and neo-colonialism, and, in particular against the hegemonism of the two superpowers – the US and the USSR.’[27] Again, in 1976, in the Report to the 4th National People’s Congress, Chou said: ’The contention for world hegemony between the two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, is becoming more and more intense. ... The two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, are the biggest international oppressors and exploiters today ... We should ally ourselves with all the forces in the world that can be allied with to combat colonialism, imperialism and above all, superpower hegemonism.’[28]

In neither report is there the least mention of any ’theory of the three worlds’ created by Mao. (In both reports by Chou En-lai his remarks on foreign policy are, almost verbatim, in Mao’s own words.)

There is need to spend a little time on this, because not only do the bourgeois ’China experts’ constantly refer to Mao’s Three Worlds Theory, but Enver Hoxha and the PLA make it a particular point of attack on Mao.

Actually, a long theoretical document was issued by the Hua-Deng clique in 1977 which referred to the ’Three Worlds Theory’ of Chairman Mao; it was almost certainly authored by Deng. The policy actually pursued first by Hua, then after his ouster by Deng, was to shift the emphasis from the struggle to unite those who could be united against both superpowers, to the policy of proclaiming the sole enemy to be the Soviet Union. The so-called ’Theory of Three Worlds’ was to lay the basis for the change to Deng’s line. The object of this change was to open China to US capital investment and provision of technology, culminating by 1978 in a de facto military alliance between China and the USA, when Deng visited the US for talks on new relations. China’s doors were thrown wide open to the monopoly capitalists of US imperialism who hastened to make the most of the offered investment opportunities. The US began to equip the Chinese armed forces with modern armaments and continued to do so up to what became known as the 1989 Tien An Men massacre. They were suspended then, but after a short time the US secretly restored at least part of its arms supplies. Needless to say, the Chinese Army of today is a far cry from that of Mao’s time, when it was above all things, a people’s army.

Imperialism and the New Bourgeoisie

At the time of the 1989 suppression of the anti-government demonstrations in Tien An Men, the capitalist world’s media went into a frenzy, denouncing China’s ’communist government’ as fascist, even though capitalism in China was by now well-recognised in the West as an established system. They were making use of China’s phoney revisionist, ’socialist’ front to propagandise against communism to give world imperialism more years of life.

Fundamentally, the new bourgeoisie had seized power in 1976, just as twenty years earlier they had seized power in the Soviet Union and, by extension, in almost all Soviet bloc countries. A marked difference existed between the two processes, however. Whereas no-one in the USSR foresaw or warned of the danger of a restoration of capitalism by a new bourgeoisie which had secured dominance in the Party, Mao foresaw precisely this development as early as 1962[29] and sought for a method of preventing a similar restoration in China. The Socialist Education Movement was launched with this in mind. When it became clear by 1965 that this was not achieving the desired results, Mao reached the conclusion that nothing short of a thorough cleansing of the Party, and particularly of revisionist elements in the Party leadership, at the hands of the masses, could do the job required. He felt that he had found this method in the Cultural Revolution.

Could the Rightist Coup Have Been Prevented?

Yet still, in 1976, only a month after his death, the right had seized power, as he feared would happen. So we have to consider, was the CR successful in its aim of consolidating the dictatorship of the proletariat, and if not, (a) what went wrong? and (b) could the ascendancy of the new bourgeoisie have been prevented by other means?

The answer to the first question has to be, of course, that it did not succeed. Considering the fact that the right was able to seize power so quickly, it is obvious that it was Mao’s leadership that was decisive in keeping the new bourgeois elements from power. Once he had gone, the revolutionary left represented by the four arrested radicals lacked the backing of the majority of the Party leadership. Some of those who played a decisive role in the coup such as Marshal Yeh Chien-ying and Vice-premier Li Hsien-Mien, had appeared to be Mao loyalists for a long time. Hua Kuo-feng was initially regarded as a Maoist. No doubt in all of them there was an opportunist streak. To what extent they were influenced behind the scenes by Deng Xiaoping is unknown. But the fact remains that the individuals concerned were representative of existing class forces. They were bureaucratic power-holders. Their aims were not those of the radical representatives of the Cultural Revolution. The right-wingers were all quickly committed to a fabricated campaign of lies and slander against the so-called ’Gang of Four’, stooping to disgusting depths such as vilifying Chiang Ching as a prostitute. The class interests of the bourgeoisie blocked the road to continuing the Cultural Revolution, and that meant blocking the road to continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat. All the authors of the coup must therefore have known that, even while paying lip-service to Mao and his revolutionary policies, they were now openly on the capitalist road, and with it the dismantling of socialism while keeping up a socialist signboard. After all, they had often enough discussed the Soviet betrayal to know that their seizure of power would put an end to proletarian dictatorship and continued revolution, and that they were now committed to establishing the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. True, there was resistance. They forcibly suppressed it. Once Deng was back in his old positions (July 1977) he provided the theoretical underpinnings for the new course: (1) the ideological-political downgrading of Mao, and hence of his line of ’politics in command’; (2) the primacy of technocracy and hence the necessity for foreign (mainly US) capital investment and loans; (3) the consequent abandonment of self-reliance; (4) the substitution of, and a need for, allies among the imperialists with technology and cash; and, of course, (5) the transformation of the state apparatus – mainly consisting of the armed forces – from a people’s army into a bourgeois army; from an army with a high level of class and socialist consciousness, trained to serve the people, into a bourgeois force, obedient to a bourgeois ruling class, ready and willing to shoot down the people when ordered to do so. Which, as we know, they did in 1989.

Late in his life Mao said: ’Our country at present practices a commodity system, the wage system is unequal, too, as in the eight-grade wage scale, and so forth. Under the dictatorship of the proletariat such things can only be restricted. Therefore if people like Lin Piao come to power, it will be quite easy for them to rig up the capitalist system.’[30] People like Lin Piao did come to power and found it quite easy to restore capitalism. How long for, remains to be seen. More will be said on this question further on.

The Question of Class Forces

We come to the question of ’what went wrong?’

It could be said – and some do say – that the bourgeois-aligned class forces were simply too strong. And it is true to say that in general, this was the case in China. But first of all, Lenin had previously pointed out that for a long time after a socialist revolution the bourgeoisie are still stronger than the proletariat. From the further experience of the class struggle and the dictatorship of the proletariat in China and the restoration of capitalism mainly in the USSR Mao expanded on this. He wrote in 1964 (before the CR):

Socialist society covers a very long historical period. Classes and class struggle continue to exist in this society, and the struggle still goes on between the road of socialism and the road of capitalism. The socialist revolution on the economic front (in the ownership of the means of production) is insufficient by itself and cannot be consolidated. There must also be a thorough socialist revolution on the political and ideological fronts. Here a very long period of time is needed to decide ’who will win’ in the struggle between socialism and capitalism. Several decades won’t do it; success requires anywhere from one to several centuries. On the question of duration, it is better to prepare for a longer rather than a shorter period of time ... During the historical period of socialism it is necessary to maintain the dictatorship of the proletariat and carry the socialist revolution through to the end if the restoration of capitalism is to be prevented, socialist construction carried forward and the conditions created for the transition to communism.[31] (Our emphasis)

This is a profound and correct assessment of the problem of preventing capitalist restoration. If one thinks it over, it means that a restoration of capitalism can take place at any time before the transition to communism. That in turn means that at any time throughout that entire period of from one to several centuries, the alignment of class forces may favour the bourgeoisie. But while the bourgeoisie may win power, it does not follow that they must or should. And in the same article, it is stated: ’But the restoration of capitalism in the socialist countries and their degeneration into capitalist countries are certainly not unavoidable. We can prevent the restoration of capitalism so long as there is a correct leadership and a correct understanding of the problem, so long as we adhere to the revolutionary Marxist-Leninist line, take the appropriate measures and wage a prolonged, unremitting struggle.’[32] There follows then a set of fifteen theories and policies advanced by Mao aimed at upholding the dictatorship of the proletariat and preventing a capitalist restoration.

The point here is that it is not enough to attribute the restoration to the adverse alignment of class forces, for such an adverse alignment may last for a very long time. The point is that with correct policies it should have been possible to prevent the bourgeois seizure of power.

In a sense, then, those who attribute the loss of proletarian power simply to an adverse balance of class forces are begging the real question, which is this: the loss of that power was not inevitable, why did it happen? The proletariat was strong enough to win power; it should have been, with correct policies, strong enough to hold it despite an adverse balance of class forces. If the set of policies advanced by Mao was correct, as we think, then something was wrong with their application.

Was the Cultural Revolution Itself Correct?

This raises, must raise, the related questions: (a) was the Cultural Revolution itself a correct policy or method of struggle? and (b) were mistakes made during the CR that led or could have led to the left’s inability to hold power?

We have already considered why Mao turned to the CR in order to get rid of capitalist roaders in the Party, particularly at top level.

The Party organisation was in the grip of a revisionist bloc headed by Liu Shao-chi and Deng Xiaoping. This situation had grown up partly because Mao had handed over day-to-day direction of the Party and his position as head of state to others, placing himself ’in the second line’, as he put it. Also, because in 1949 the Soviet Union being the only country with experience in building socialism, China had copied many of the CPSU’s policies, and thus acquired similar faults which threatened China with a similar fate. The Socialist Education Movement was achieving little in the cities, thanks to the blocking tactics of the leading revisionists; and consequently the revisionist danger within the country threatened to make China change colour unless it could be defeated through revolutionary class and ideological struggle.

Led by Mao, China had just gone through a period of cutting itself free from Soviet tutelage and standing on its own feet. Among the many policies of Stalin which Mao had subjected to critical analysis was that of his increasing reliance on the use of State security forces against critics within and without the Party, instead of relying on the masses and the mass line. It was quite clear that these methods had not prevented a revisionist coup, and that they were against the spirit of Marxism-Leninism which upheld the role of the masses as decisive in maintaining the dictatorship of the proletariat. From his writings in the ideological dispute and after, it is quite clear that Mao held this view.

With Mao’s immense prestige – he was even then by far the most eminent and revered figure in China – and his role as Chairman of the Military Commission, it would have been relatively easy to have used the PLA to carry out a purge of the revisionist headquarters. But this would not have solved the problem. That kind of ’palace coup’ had also been carried out by Khrushchev to seize power for his clique and had led to the restoration of capitalism.

Evidently what was needed was a great campaign to arouse the masses, one that would awaken the Party masses (there were about 17 million members at the time) to the dangers of revisionist degeneration, not only of the Party as an organisation but also of the individual cadres themselves. The ordinary means of rectification through criticism and self-criticism linked with ideological education were not overcoming the dangers. Besides the Party cadres, the state cadres and officials also had to be revolutionised in their outlook. And particularly, domination of the intellectual life of China, the education system and the output of people in literature art and all culture by traditional feudal and capitalist ideas and their representatives, had to be replaced by proletarian ideas and their representatives. All this was needed in order to train millions of successors of Mao himself and the revolutionary generation he had led, and by these means to bar the door to a revisionist takeover.

Mao reached the conclusion that this required a cultural revolution. According to Han Suyin, who had access to documents which have not been officially published:

In January, 1965 Mao would place before the Politburo a draft programme for the cultural revolution to come and a draft programme for China’s economic advance. Part of the first, concerning the socialist education movement in the rural areas, is known as the Twenty-three articles. The economic program would only become known ten years later ... The key point was to rectify those people in authority within the Party who took the capitalist road; there were such people at every level, even in the Central Committee. Some harboured among their own friends and in their own families people engaged in capitalist activities.[33]

Combating Tendencies towards Party Degeneration

In the beginning it was not called the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, but just the Socialist Cultural Revolution. But Mao expected it to widen into a political, anti-revisionist revolution. In the Twenty-three articles, as Han Suyin remarks, there were two new concepts introduced. ’First: where mistakes had been very serious, where leadership had been taken over by counter-revolutionaries or degenerate elements, there must be a seizure of power, to be achieved with the masses and by arousing them. This new concept of ’seizing authority’ from a degenerate Party leadership is the crux of the cultural revolution and the rebellion it taught. Second: where Party organs had become degenerate, and before a new leadership nucleus could be formed, the right was given to the poor and lower middle peasant associations to seize power temporarily, not to replace the Party but to wield authority on an interim basis until the Party could be reformed locally. This also was startling and new ... It was now clear to Mao that he could no longer use the Party organisation because the Party was being used organisationally against him.’[34]

So far it certainly seems that Mao was justified in seeking to accomplish a cultural revolution, both from above and below. Prior to this he had called the Communist Party ’the core of the Chinese revolution’, and so everyone had regarded it. Now he was calling for the masses to seize authority from the Party leadership where serious mistakes had been made. After the 1976 coup, the new bourgeois leadership called everything about the CR wrong, including Mao’s ideas, and denounced it publicly as fascism. Of course, as we have seen in practice, they were the real fascists.

Lenin’s Experiences in Fighting to Save the Revolution

Was there, then, a different route that could have been taken? It was certainly a great risk to place the Party and its leading role in danger of being defeated in a new struggle for power. It is also hard to find analogous situations and examples of other methods in Party history except for those we have mentioned in regard to Stalin. Yet Lenin had had to face critical situations in the Party at least twice during the revolution.

The first of these was the demand of a group of the Council of People’s Commissars, i.e., the Government, which included several members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, for abandonment of Central Committee decisions and policy. This took place on November 17, 1917, just after the revolutionary insurrection. The Bolsheviks who resigned from the Central Committee were Kamenev, Zinoviev, Rykov, Shlyapnikov, Milyutin and Nogin, who together issued a declaration that: ’We renounce our title as members of the Central Committee in order to be able to say openly our opinion to the masses of workers and soldiers.’[35] In a strongly-worded proclamation to the people, Lenin denounced the group as deserters from the revolution. John Reed writes: ’The response from the whole country was like a blast of hot storm. The insurgents never got a chance to ’say openly their opinion to the masses of workers and soldiers.’[36] There was ’fierce, popular condemnation of the "deserters" ’.[37] They were forced by revolutionary mass pressure to submit to the CC decisions.

Not strictly analogous, of course, because the revisionist headquarters in the CPC did not resign. But Mao, even though not sure of a majority in the CC, outweighed all the others in prestige. Had he publicly revealed the existence in the Party of a ’black gang’, as it was later known, before the appeal to the students launched them into a leading role, matters might have been different. Certainly there would have been immense, revolutionary mass pressure targeted on the revisionists from the outset. The fact that the target in the CR was only generally defined in the early stages led to much chaotic behaviour and pressure on all cadres, and as well a great deal of anarchic behaviour, with a corresponding, often lasting resentment by many good cadres of ill-treatment during the CR. This undoubtedly aided the seizure of power by the right in 1976. Still, the problem of cadre degeneration at lower levels would probably have remained.

The other critical situation faced by Lenin was in early 1918 when a complex struggle broke out in the Central Committee on the question of whether to accept peace terms laid down by Germany. Lenin had to wage a bitter fight against those who refused to accept the peace terms, including a group of ’left communists’ headed by Bukharin, whom Lenin called pseudo-lefts, and who went as far as calling for the sacrifice of Soviet power to aid the ’German revolution’, which was not yet a fact, and was still in the process of maturing. Almost up to the deadline for acceptance, Lenin was in a minority in demanding acceptance of the terms. He repeatedly denounced ’the revolutionary phrase’, which meant disregarding the facts, which was being done by those who called for revolutionary war at once rather than acceptance of a humiliating peace, even though the army was deserting the front wholesale. Lenin warned on January 7 that if peace were not concluded then, it would be concluded later on worse terms. The struggle continued through to the signing of the Treaty (Brest-Litovsk). With an article ’The Revolutionary Phrase’, published on February 21, Lenin began a public campaign for peace at once. On February 23 Lenin said at a CC meeting, the second on that day, that if the policy of revolutionary phrases was continued, he would resign both from the government and the Central Committee. At the beginning of the meeting only three were with Lenin. Stalin took the position that the peace terms did not have to be signed, but Lenin said: ’Stalin is wrong when he says we need not sign. If you don’t sign them, you will sign the Soviet power’s death warrant within three weeks.’[38] after Lenin’s ultimatum Stalin changed his position to support of Lenin, which gave acceptance a majority of 7 to 4, with 4 others abstaining.[39]

The point of Lenin’s position is that he finally had to use his prestige as Party leader to win a majority on the CC by means of an ultimatum. The fate of the revolution was at stake. By these means he preserved the unity of the Party as the leader of the working class, even though his opponents went on later to opposition on other questions.

Again, it is true that Mao could have used similar methods to oust the revisionist headquarters. He had the prestige. But then the question remained of bringing up millions of successors. One cannot say whether Mao considered these options. He was certainly not unacquainted with the history of the CPSU. But still, had he won the majority on the CC for the removal of Liu, Deng and Co. from the CC, it would not have solved the problem of restricting the growth of the new bourgeoisie. This task required transforming the entire cadre force of the Party through the removal of revisionists from its ranks, strengthening the practice of the mass line, continued class struggle, strengthening the study of Marxism-Leninism, and through all of these, strengthening the dictatorship of the proletariat.

One cannot quarrel, then, with Mao’s decision to call for a cultural revolution that he could hope would achieve this aim. That it did not, then, points to the answer lying in the mistakes made during the Cultural Revolution.


In our view the principal mistake lay in the working class not playing the leading role from the outset. To some extent this was a matter of chance, of how the class struggle unfolded from 1965 on. Already in December 1964, Chou En-lai in his Report on the work of the government to the 3rd National People’s Congress had pointed to the main tasks facing the Party and people. (The report, said Han Suyin, quotes Mao almost verbatim)[40] ’The way in which the socialist education movement was conducted, said Chou, was a question of world outlook, of basic class stand, and therefore of great ideological importance. ’Serious and acute class struggles exist in our urban and rural areas ... such are necessarily reflected inside the Party ... the crux of the movement is to purge the capitalist roaders within the Party ... These stay behind the scenes in some cases ... some of their supporters come from below and some from above.’ In a socialist society, new bourgeois elements were ceaselessly being generated in the Party, government organs, economic organisations, cultural and educational departments - they linked with the older bourgeoisie in trying to restore capitalism.’[41] Here the emphasis is general, not specifically concentrated on education and culture. A wide-ranging, intensive campaign of socialist education is nevertheless a basic theme.

The ’Twenty-three Articles’ placed by Mao before the Politburo in January, 1965, are in their first part, concerned also with the people in the Party in authority taking the capitalist road at every level, but did not concentrate particularly on education and culture. What particularly focussed attention on this side was the experience connected with Wu Han’s play ’Hai Jui Dismissed from Office’ in the latter part of 1965. This play, a barbed political attack on Mao for dismissing Defence Minister Peng Teh-huai (who had, it must be recalled, launched an all-out attack on the Party’s political line in 1959), revealed that there was a bourgeois headquarters in the Party leadership, having control over culture and education. This came to assume great prominence in the initial stages of the CR, with the appointment by the Politburo of work teams to go to the universities and higher schools in order to support the class struggle against bourgeois ideology. It being a practice of Mao’s to assist opposing elements to expose themselves in practice, one of the principal figures in the bourgeois headquarters, Peng Chen, was placed in charge of the Committee controlling this work. It has already been noted that his group (not all, for it included Kang Sheng) did the opposite to what it was instructed to do.

Thus, the role of revisionism in the sphere of education and culture came to the forefront as the result of the way events unfolded. This was the ’chance’ aspect of the matter.

However, the fact that the struggle as it developed was called a cultural revolution was also due to another factor: that Mao saw it as, in a sense, a new ’May 4th’ Movement. We must spend a moment explaining this.

May 4th Movement

At the end of World War I, the victorious Entente imperialist powers met at Paris in 1919 to allocate the spoils of victory. Both Japan and China were Entente allies. However, Japan had a secret treaty with Britain and France agreeing to allocate it the former German possessions in Shantung, in China. These they received. The news caused an explosion of protest in China. ’The students of Peking responded not only with words but with a gigantic demonstration on May 4th.’[42] Mao, in Hunan, organised a student’s strike. The movement spread rapidly throughout China. Several of the founders of the Communist Party of China including Mao, were prominent in it. It gave considerable impetus to the formation of the CPC in 1921.

The author of this study was told early in 1968 by Kang Sheng, then a member of the CPC Secretariat and for a long time close to Mao, that Mao saw the Cultural Revolution as a particular feature of the laws of development of the Chinese revolution, and that the May 4th movement was an initial example of this. In that movement, the student youth had played the leading, initiating role. This aspect was a specific characteristic of the Chinese revolution. This accounted for the leading role given to the students in the present Cultural Revolution.

The Dialectics of History

Was this a correct assessment by Mao? In the author’s opinion, it was not. Without disputing the importance of the May 4th movement in China’s modern history, the fact remains that a great transformation had taken place in China since then. China had moved from a semi-feudal, semi-colonial regime, to a New Democratic state, and from there to a dictatorship of the proletariat. The proletariat was now the leading class, and hence the leading force, in Chinese politics. In 1967 this was proved by the ’January storm’ in Shanghai. The working class should have been roused from the beginning to have taken the leading role in the CR. That would have avoided the petty-bourgeois, often anarchist character which attached to the activities of the students in 1967-68 and in the latter half of 1966. It would have developed among the working class a much greater consciousness of its role. The whole character of the struggle would have been altered. The role of the PLA and the consequent ultra-left moves of Lin Piao would have been obviated, if not wholly at least to a large extent.

All perhaps very true, the critic may say, but still it is only hindsight. Yet it is only possible to sum up experience with hindsight. As we hope we have already shown, if one accepts the obvious fact that the CR failed to achieve its purpose, one must accept that mistakes were made in the course of it.

A further consequence of the student role to which we have already pointed was the deep residue of resentment on the part of a great many quite good cadres who were brought under suspicion by indefinite early statements on the CR and who suffered ill-treatment by Red Guards as a result. Not until October, 1968 was Liu Shao-chi actually officially named as ’China’s Khrushchev’. The backlash from this indefiniteness played its part in the lack of the reconstituted Party’s support for the radicals arrested in the rightist coup.

A further consequence, in the author’s opinion, is that the Party never succeeded in re-establishing the great prestige among the masses which it had acquired during and since the days of the revolutionary wars against Chiang Kai-shek and Japanese and US imperialism - which had sided with Chiang. They no longer considered it to be altogether the great, glorious and correct party it had been hitherto.

The Question of Time

We must mention, in our opinion, two further related mistakes.

The first of these was in judging the length of time the CR would occupy. Originally estimated by Mao to last perhaps a few months or at most a year, it was officially brought to a close three years later at the reconstituted Party’s 9th Congress (we say reconstituted because as an organised controlling entity the Party virtually ceased to exist for most of the CR, the activists of which took their leadership from the CC group around Mao). But though officially brought to an end, the struggles on all fronts continued, continually stirred into life by Lin Piao and the ultra-lefts. According to Han Suyin, an editorial of June 30, 1974 in the Peking ’Kuangming Daily’ (which discussed mainly intellectual topics) called for all cadres to listen to the masses.. ’Throughout that year there were sporadic rashes of posters denouncing the misdeeds of Party members in all of China’s cities. There was also some turbulence both in the factories and in the universities ... In Wuhan the students of Wuhan University and the steel-workers once again united, as in 1967, and battled a local military commander of the garrison and another group of students from Hupeh University. In other cities there was hooliganism, and worker provosts and their militia patrolled the streets and the factories to prevent arson and other violence.’[43] There was delay in calling the 4th National Congress of People’s Deputies and Han was told: ’We want to have even better unity before opening it.’[44] Altogether, it would not be too much to say that the CR, and with it, unsettled conditions of living and relative instability, lasted for the better part of ten years.

All this certainly had its effect on preparing the ground for the coup d’etat. A large part of the population undoubtedly were dissatisfied with the constant turmoil, and – as the rightists were quite evidently aware – wanted relief from it, wanted settled conditions of life.

How much Mao himself realised this in the latter part of his life it is hard to say. He still stood for continued revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat. But he was also a military commander of great experience, who knew the value for troops of a respite from constant fighting. It is worthwhile noting that while in the earlier period of the CR he had said that another would probably be needed in a few years, and indeed at the outset considered a new CR would be needed every ten years or so, he made no mention of this in his later years. This point seems to have escaped various Maoist parties and groups today. After all if a cultural revolution lasts ten years, and one is needed every ten years or so, the obvious inference is that society will exist in a state of continual turmoil in which it will be impossible to build socialism – if indeed a rightist coup is not the result fairly quickly. Mao, of course, did not settle this point before death intervened.

The Role of the Masses

The other main error to which we must draw attention was the degree of worship of Mao that developed during the CR. As Mao acknowledged in his previously quoted letter to Chiang Ching, this was not his own creation but Lin Piao’s. Mao also gives the reason for his going along with it, that is, to strengthen his hand in the struggle with Liu and his clique of revisionists. Undoubtedly it did that, and Mao himself did not allow his head to be turned by adulation, as Stalin did, imagining that the masses and what they thought were not important. On the contrary, he continually emphasised the necessity for Party and other cadres to submit themselves to criticism by the masses and to apply the mass line in all their work.

Nevertheless, the effects of this adulation also alienated many. Bookshops stocked only Mao’s works. Repetition of quotations from the Little Red Book became a substitute for studying basic works of Marxism. People were told to place Mao Tse-tung Thought in absolute command, though no individual’s thought can be treated as absolute.

Mao had himself criticised excessive adulation in regard to Stalin as contrary to the organising principle of the Party, democratic centralism, and to the principle of collective leadership. As an expedient it had its uses, no doubt, but carried to excess as it was, it undermined people’s confidence in their own ability to solve problems. It thereby created bureaucracy, the referring of decisions to others, and so in the long run harmed the objective it was designed to attain.

Continued Revolution – A Correct Theory

All this being said, does this mean that Mao’s theory of continued revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat as a development of fundamental importance in Marxism-Leninism is wrong? Not at all. That remains a great achievement, even though the CR did not itself achieve its objectives.

We have set out to trace the background to the CR, and to analyse some of its main features. We have also judged that at the time in China, the CR was justified, but have concluded that its failure lay in certain errors being made. Here we have to note that, while being correct for China, it would be undialectical to make the necessity of a Cultural Revolution as part of a continued revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat into a dogma. Such a policy may be correct in other revolutions – but that can only be determined by the concrete circumstances in the country concerned. And it is necessary to recall that the CR did not finally succeed. The mistakes made led to this outcome.

A Few Words Concerning Enver Hoxha

It might be argued that the mistakes described above were also damned by Enver Hoxha, and that this makes his denunciation of Mao justified. But there are very big differences between what is said here and what is said by Enver Hoxha.

Hoxha declared – imitating Edward Gibbon’s remark on the Holy Roman Empire – that the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was not great, not proletarian, not cultural, and not a revolution; it was ’a factional putsch’. From what we have surveyed, it is plain that this statement is nonsense, a description invented to suit a preconceived purpose – namely, to denigrate Mao as a lifelong revisionist in order to establish Hoxha himself, a disciple of Stalin, (who made no mistakes – unlike Marx, Engels or Lenin) as the great Marxist, the theoretical and practical leader of the Marxist-Leninist world movement which he implies he and the Party of Labour of Albania created – quite contrary to the facts.

It is not possible or necessary here to make a proper analysis of Hoxha’s sophistries, distortions and outright falsehoods in his Khrushchev-type attack on Mao. That will be done in due course. It is sufficient to note here that while, trying to be clever, he declares that the CR was no revolution, elsewhere in his book, ’Imperialism and the Revolution’, he declares that it was actually a political revolution. On the one hand he declares that China had never had socialism, and yet he attacks Mao on the basis that capitalism in China had been restored by the Hua-Deng revisionists, who had only been continuing Mao’s policies. This reads more like the Eugen Duhring that Engels refuted than anything Marxist, and indeed Hoxha demonstrated that he was more a petty-bourgeois dogmatist than anything, his dogmatism in due course turning into revisionism as we see from the situation in Albania today.

To sum up our own criticisms, we may say that the long period of disorder basically stemmed from the error of initially placing the student youth, and not the working class, in the role of leadership. The fact that China had been building socialism for 10 years meant that in the class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie only the proletariat could lead. In Marx’s words, ’the emancipation of the working class must be the act of the working class itself.’ It is therefore surprising that Mao did not use this as his starting point. Dialectical thinking was normally second nature to him. Certainly, his theoretical works on Marxist-Leninist philosophy are masterly. It is all the more surprising then, that he lost sight of world experience in regard to the overthrow of capitalism, and also of the changed time and circumstances in China itself, which led him to view the CR as, in a sense, a new May 4th movement in which student youth should play the leading role.

It is true that there were disturbances and even armed clashes in various cities after the arrest of the so-called ’gang of four’, more particularly in Shanghai, their main base. But these actions in their support did not seriously threaten the power of the rightists established in their coup d’etat. There was no mighty upsurge in their support, as might have been expected had they achieved a truly mass following, and had the CR placed the proletariat firmly in power. This is in fact the strongest evidence that mistakes made during the CR had led to a relatively easy seizure of power by the right from which they could not be dislodged.

The right judged the situation better than the left. They were much more experienced than the left, and recognised that masses of Chinese were no longer enthusiastic for the CR, that they wanted an end to disorder and a return to order.

Indeed, in August, 1977, less than a year after Mao’s death, they were able to hold an 11th Congress of the CPC to confirm their coup d’etat as right and just, to affirm that counter-revolution was really revolution. The radicals had been purged, so the Congress was amenable.

It is noteworthy that Hua Kuo-feng said: ’The purge in 1976 of the Party’s radicals ’marks the triumphant conclusion of our first Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, which lasted 11 years’.[45] In summarising the chairman’s address, Hsinhua quoted him as saying ’Now ... we are able to achieve stability and unity and attain great order across the land in compliance with Chairman Mao’s instructions.’[46] This, of course, was a barefaced lie, as the delegates must have known, for Mao had issued no such instructions. But its ready acceptance indicates that there was strong support across the land for a return to order, a support that proved decisive. And so the restoration of capitalism was able to proceed.

The ’New China’ of Counter-Revolution

Without going too much into detail, it is worth quoting from an article by the US Maoist economist Raymond Lotta, giving a thumbnail sketch of China in August, 1989:

Deng Xiaoping and Co. have dragged China back into the clutches of the Western powers. When Mao was alive, China was a base area for world revolution. Today, China is a sweatshop for imperialism and an unofficial arms dealer for the CIA.

China has received large amounts of foreign capital over the last ten years. Since 1979 China has negotiated US$25 billion worth of foreign investment and signed $47 billion worth of loan agreements ... China must continually export more to meet its rising import bill. Failing this it must borrow, and its foreign debt now stands at US$40 billion ... In 1988 more than one million workers in Southern China depended on manufacturing arrangements with capital from Hong Kong. It is not uncommon to find employees, even children, working twelve hours a day, seven days a week, for piece-rates amounting to 30 cents an hour ...

The counter-revolution in China has affected every sphere of social life. While higher education has been reorganised along elitist Western lines, more than 30 million children have dropped out of primary and middle school. With the return of family farming in the countryside, brutal feudal traditions and practices have made a comeback ... along with private family plots, wife beating, the persecution of women giving birth to females, and the killing of female babies have reemerged as major social problems.[47]

This is a picture of a me-first grab-all society, a capitalism that lives up to Deng Xiaoping’s declaration: ’To get rich is glorious’.

As much as anything, the bribery and corruption that permeate Chinese capitalism were responsible for the vast demonstrations in Tien An Men preceding the June massacre. Hatred of this, not worship of US ’democracy’, motivated many students and nearly all workers who demonstrated.

The Class Struggle Sharpens

There are, of course, plenty of officials and so-called ’Party cadres’ under Deng who have made fortunes from the ’new order’. But the backlash from June has sent the economy on a toboggan slide and frightened the bourgeoisie into pretending to be Maoists again. According to a Guardian article reprinted in the Auckland Star of April 11, 1990:

The familiar slogans are revived: Learn from the model soldier Lei Feng [a self-effacing PLA hero of Mao’s time]: Without the Communist Party there would by no China’ And further: ’Although many students have sunk into dejection, the urban workers whose radicalisation so alarmed the regime last year have become a more threatening force. Many factory workers were laid off last winter, then recalled to work for a basic wage without bonus.

The authorities wanted to keep an eye on them,’ a Beijinger [i.e., Pekinger] explains. But now they sit around and discuss current affairs as well as play cards. The workshop has become a big political school.’ And the economic slowdown, begun before last summer with austerity and under-employment only worsens the sullen urban political climate.

In the countryside, per capita rural incomes have declined for the first time since 1978. Large numbers of seasonal construction workers have also been forced to return to their villages, and more than 50 million jobless are roaming the country.

Back in 1979, the then Communist Party Senior Deputy Chairman Yeh Chien-ying – one of the principals in the 1976 coup d’etat – described the Cultural Revolution of the late 1960s as ’an appalling catastrophe suffered by all our people.’[48] The real catastrophe, as many must now realise, was the restoration of capitalism in China.

No ’Peaceful’ Transition

Is it possible that somehow China can find a peaceful road back to socialism? No, that remains a pipe dream. The laws of social development still apply, as they do in the Soviet Union and its one-time satellite states. Capitalism cannot be changed by peaceful means. Only violent revolution can do the trick. A new workers’ revolutionary party must and will be developed – the class struggle will see to that. And it will very likely develop in China before it does in the Soviet Union. For despite all the bourgeois, revisionist and dogmatist propaganda denouncing Mao, there are still many who have not forgotten that it was Mao who led the Chinese people to stand up; it was under his leadership that imperialist domination was ended; and it was he who led the way in the struggle of the masses to eliminate oppression of every kind. That struggle goes on, nor will it end until not only is socialism re-established, but the long-term goal of communism is realised for all humankind.

Review questions for self-study

1. What do you consider to be the main, similar tendencies between the Soviet Union and China which led China to the restoration of capitalism?

2. Why is ’New Democracy’ not socialism?

3. What specifically distinguished contradictions among the people from, say, contradictions between the people and the enemy?

4. What is pragmatism, and how did it manifest itself in the USSR and China?

5. What is your view of Mao’s tactics against superpower hegemonism?

6. What do you understand by fascism’, and why is communism totally opposed to it?

7. Can you outline the ’Theory of Continued Revolution under the Dictatorship of the Proletariat’ and its connection with the coup d’etat in China?

8. What do you consider the main errors of the Cultural Revolution?

9. What role has the superstructure played in the restoration of capitalism both in Russia and China?

A few pointers on running group study

1. First, sound out 3 or 4 people you think might be interested and arrange suitable places and meeting times, meeting perhaps weekly or fortnightly for two to three hours.

2. Method. The most productive is ’Controlled Discussion’. One of the group needs to take on the role of discussion leader to keep discussion to the point, prepared by previous reading and avoiding the danger of letting individuals ’hog’ the discussion, while keeping it moving.

3. There are two ways of handling this. First, by each participant reading a page or two out loud. If points are not clear as the reading progresses, participants can ask for a halt in order to clarify a particular question. This is a good and helpful method, but it is time consuming.

The second way is to set the amount of reading to be done before the study and for the discussion leader to ask the self-study questions, adding in others where necessary for clarification. The self-study questions are designed to help in grasping the main ideas.

Group study is helpful in mastering a subject, but individual study can also do the job given the will and the time.

Those who study the whole course of 8 pamphlets will find their knowledge and understanding of working-class ideology greatly expanded.



[1] Chen, J, ’Inside the Cultural Revolution’, Sheldon Press, London, 1976, p.194.

[2] Schram, S, ’Mao Tse-tung Unrehearsed’, Penguin Books, England, p.167.

[3] Schram, S, ’Mao Tse-tung Unrehearsed’, Penguin Books, England, p.170.

[4] Schram, S, ’Mao Tse-tung Unrehearsed’, Penguin Books, England, p.172.

[5] Schram, S, ’Mao Tse-tung Unrehearsed’, Penguin Books, England, p.189.

[6] Schram, S, ’Mao Tse-tung Unrehearsed’, Penguin Books, England, pp189-190.

[7] Schram, S, ’Mao Tse-tung Unrehearsed’, Penguin Books, England, pp190-191.

[8] Schram, S, ’Mao Tse-tung Unrehearsed’, Penguin Books, England, p.216.

[9] Snow, E, ’The Long Revolution’, Huchinson, London. Quoted from an appendix: ’The Sixteen-point Program of the Cultural Revolution’ adopted at the 11th Plenum of the Central Committee, CPC., p.248.

[10] Snow, E, ’The Long Revolution’ p.243.

[11] Snow, E, ’The Long Revolution’ p. 247.

[12] Schram, S, op.cit., p.271.

[13] Schram, S, op.cit., pp.271-273.

[14] Snow, E, op.cit., p.248.

[15] Han Suyin, ’Wind in the Tower’, Jonathan Cape, 1976, p.306. This book is the second part of the author’s biography of Mao Tse-tung (the first was The Morning Deluge) for which she was given access to many records not hitherto made available outside of the leadership. Also, she had many conversations with people at all levels concerning the Cultural Revolution. Later she backslid to supporting Deng & Co., but her Mao biography is anti-revisionist.

[16] Han Suyin, ’Wind in the Tower’, pp.320-321.

[17] Han Suyin, ’Wind in the Tower’, p.331.

[18] Han Suyin, ’Wind in the Tower’, p. 338.

[19] ’The Tenth National Congress of the Communist Party of China’ (Documents), Foreign Languages Press, Peking, 1973.

[20] ’Encyclopedia of Asian History’, Collier, Macmillan, London, 1988, Entry: Deng Xiaoping.

[21] ’Documents of the First Session of the Fourth National Congress of the People’s Republic of China’, Foreign Languages Press, Peking, January, 1975, p.55.

[22] ’Documents of the First Session of the Fourth National Congress of the People’s Republic of China’, p. 57.

[23] Han Suyin, op. cit., pp.277-278.

[24] Snow, E, op.cit., pp.69-70.

[25] Snow, E, p.71.

[26] Snow, E, op.cit., p. 70.

[27] ’10th Congress (Documents)’, op.cit., p. 29.

[28] ’Documents of the 4th National Congress’, op.cit., p.59.

[29] Han Suyin, op. cit., pp.214-215.

[30] All quoted in an article by Chang Chun-chiao: ’On Exercising All-Round Dictatorship over the Bourgeoisie’, reprinted in the British quarterly A World to Win, November 1989.

[31] ’On Khrushchev’s Phoney Communism and its Historical Lessons for the World’. Included in: The Polemic on the General Line of the International Communist Movement, Peking, 1965. pp.471-472. The article attributes the formulation to Mao. It was actually published in 1964 i.e., before the Cultural Revolution, and was directed against Soviet revisionists.

[32] ’On Khrushchev’s Phoney Communism and its Historical Lessons for the World’, p. 470.

[33] Han Suyin, op. cit., p.225.

[34] Han Suyin, op. cit., pp.226-227.

[35] Reed, J, ’Ten Days That Shook the World’, International Publishers, New York. p.273.

[36] Reed, J, ’Ten Days That Shook the World’, p.274.

[37] Reed, J, ’Ten Days That Shook the World’, p. 274.

[38] Lenin, VI, Collected Works, vol.36, p. 479.

[39] Lenin, VI, Collected Works, vol.36, see note 562, p. 693.

[40] Han Suyin, op.cit., p. 225. (See footnote)

[41] ibid., pp.224-225.

[42] Ch’en, J, ’Mao and the Chinese Revolution’, Oxford University Press, London, p. 61.

[43] Han Suyin, op. cit., p. 381.

[44] Han Suyin, op. cit., p282

[45] ’China Since Mao’, ed. Kwan Hayim, Macmillan Press Ltd., London, 1980. p. 61.

[46] ibid., p. 61.

[47] Raymond Lotta, ’The Crisis of Revisionism, or Why Mao Tse-tung Was Right’, A World to Win quarterly, London, Nov.1989, pp.22-23.

[48] Kwan Hayim, op. cit., p.196.