Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Harry Eastmarsh

Analyzing China Since Mao’s Death


First Published: Theoretical Review No. 16, May-June 1980.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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In Theoretical Review, Volume 1, Nos. 4-6, Harry Eastmarsh began to analyze the changes in China since Mao’s death. In those articles, written only a little over a year after Mao’s death, Eastmarsh reviewed some of the seemingly revisionist tendencies which were starting to appear in China and began to lay the theoretical basis for a fuller analysis of those tendencies. In laying the theoretical basis, he focused on three factors: First, the nature of the revolution’s “despotic inroads on the rights of property and on the conditions of production; . . . which appear economically insufficient and untenable, but, which, in the course of the movement, outstrip themselves, necessitate further inroads upon the old social order, and are unavoidable as a means of entirely revolutionizing the mode of production,” which the proletariat must use “to raise... [itself]... to the position of the ruling class [and] to wrest, by degrees, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralize all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e., the proletariat as a ruling class; and to increase the total of productive forces as rapidly as possible” (Communist Manifesto). Second, he focused on the degree to which the producers dominate both the process of social reproduction and the products of material production. And third, he focused on the degree to which the leadership understands that the relations of production dominate, that is, structure, the forces of production.

In those articles, Eastmarsh tentatively concluded that both the “Gang of Four” and the present Deng Xiaoping-Hua Guofeng leadership shared certain contradictory aspects of Mao’s understanding of the transition to communism. The “Four” erred predominantly in a dogmatic and ultra-left direction. The present leadership errs predominantly in an economist and rightist direction. But at that time, he argued that there was not yet sufficient information to draw any firm conclusions about the future of the Chinese revolution. Therefore, Eastmarsh concluded, it was crucial for the US party building movement to recognize the need to analyze the situation in China independent of the analyses of the contending forces themselves in order to better understand the nature of the transition to communism.

In the present article, written some three years after Mao’s death, Eastmarsh attempts to further develop the previous theoretical framework and to push the analysis much further.

The conclusion put forward here is that the economist, revisionist tendency in China, which, at the time of the previous articles, had appeared mainly in the political, ideological and theoretical spheres, has since that time penetrated further and further into the economic realm, into the base. And these further manifestations of this tendency have clearly revealed that the dominant aspect of the line of the present Chinese leadership is an economist-voluntarist form of revisionism.[1]

Yet there is still a tentative nature to this development. That is, although the present line is revisionist and is increasingly penetrating the economic realm, there has not yet been sufficient time for it to penetrate throughout the whole economic realm, nor for the various potential effects of the line, such as business cycles, unemployment, etc., to appear. Nor is it clear that class struggle will not prevent this line from qualitatively transforming China. But, the article concludes, the nature of the line, and its direction of development are clear.

* * *


Since Mao’s death and the removal of the so-called “Gang of Four” from leadership in China, the new policies of the present regime have been of great concern to many in the international communist movement. Although a number of the preliminary results of that policy were discussed in a series of earlier articles,[1a] in the past two years more and more practices which would have been condemned as revisionist under the previous regime, and which many in the international communist movement see as revisionist, have continued to appear. Many of those which seem the most blatant appear in the highly visible ideological and political spheres and are consequently picked up by the bourgeois media. Recent examples of such practices include the following:
1. the reintroduction and at least implicit emulation of the working style of China’s capitalist millionaires;[2]
2. the efforts to hire “good looking” stewardesses for Chinese air lines;[3]
3. the reintroduction of boxing, which had previously been banned as a barbaric practice;
4. the allocation of significant resources to the tourist trade and the various consequences of such increased tourism;[4]
5. the invitation of Milton Friedman, the leading right-wing economist of the “Chicago School,” to China to lecture at the Institute of World Economics;[5]
6. the rehabilitation of some of the most prominent enemies of the Cultural Revolution such as Peng Zhen (former Mayor of Beijing, strongly criticized by Mao, presently Vice-Chairman of the NPC Standing Committee and Director of the Commission for Legal Affairs); Zhou Yang (former Vice-Minister of Culture, strongly criticized by Mao, presently Chairman of the China Federation of Literary and Art Circles); Sun Yefang[6] (an economist criticized during the Cultural Revolution as China’s leading Liebermanist, that is, advocate of capitalist economic principles under the guise of socialism); and most recently, the rehabilitation of Liu Shaoqi by the Fifth Plenum of the Eleventh Central Committee;[7]
7. the denunciation of the Cultural Revolution as a whole.

Other significant but less frequently publicized changes concerning the economic level have also been coming to the front lately. For example, the growing emphasis on profits as the criteria for evaluating economic performance; the increasing stress on experts; the reintroduction and encouragement of foreign capitalist investment into China to the point of allowing 100% foreign ownership of certain factories under given conditions;[8] the establishment of a special tax district in Fujian province which specifically guarantees better tax benefits to foreign investors than are available in Taiwan, Hong Kong or South Korea;[9] the willingness to bargain down the price of labor power in negotiations with foreign capitalists;[10] the increasing restructuring of the wage and price scales;[11] and the hiring out of large quantities of laborers to foreign firms or governments.[12]

Reaction in the US Communist Movement

These events have led to various reactions within the world and US communist movements. On the one hand, there are the kneejerk reactions of the various dogmatist groups, e.g., the Communist Party (M-L) and the Revolutionary Workers Headquarters (RWH) fully defend the present policies while criticizing the policies of the “Four” without ever having made a self-criticism for their previous whole hearted support of them.[13] The Revolutionary Communist Party, on the other hand, rejects everything put forward by the present leadership and dogmatically defends Mao and the “Four” without making any analysis of the differences between them.[14] Occasionally more serious attempts at analyzing these phenomena are produced, for example, the reviews of Charles Bettelheim’s “China’s Great Leap Backward,” but such attempts are rare and usually accompanied by a frenzy of dogmatic and bourgeois abuse.[15]

The reaction to these events within the anti-dogmatist, anti-revisionist party building movement is also quite disturbing. Many recent commentaries, ranging from the statements of Clay Newlin and Irwin Silber at the April 19 East Coast Conference of the Organizing Committee for an Ideological Center (OCIC) on Point 18, through the statements of various other members of the National Network of Marxist-Leninist Clubs (NNMLC) and other party building organizations reveal a tendency to see the line of the present leadership as nothing more than a sensible reaction to the previous ultra-left line associated with Mao.[16] There is an increasing tendency within our movement to call into question the totality of the contribution which Mao made to Marxist-Leninist theory and to the world communist movement; to call into question his critique of many of Stalin’s errors; to call into question the basis of his anti-revisionism; and to call into question the crucial elements of his political framework, such as the existence of class struggle during socialism, the dominance of the relations of production over the ultimately determinant forces of production, etc.[17] But without these crucial elements which bind the whole together, Mao’s contribution is reduced to a meaningless mélange of phrases ripe for mindless quote mongering.

However, such an attack on Mao’s basic problematic,[18] and contributions is unfounded. Although it is clear that Mao made many errors of varying degrees in theory and in the implementation of policy, it is idealist to expect otherwise, to expect that he could stand outside class struggle in his theoretical and political development and roles. To reject Mao’s contribution as a whole because of its limitations or its errors is also incorrect. Rather it is necessary to probe his works to determine the problematic in which he worked. Once having found that problematic, it is necessary to determine whether it is correct, which I argue it is. Then having taken this second step, it is necessary to struggle to eliminate the deviations, whether new or old, within it and to extend it beyond its prior historical limits.

The purpose of this article is to demonstrate how events in China since Mao’s death and the defeat of the “Gang of Four”: (1) validate the existence of a two-line struggle in China[19] and (2) demonstrate that Mao’s problematic and that of the present leadership are qualitatively different. Consequently a critique of either the present leadership or past practices cannot be made solely in terms of specific policies but must also be made in terms of the theoretical problematics out of which those policies emerged.

In addition, this article will demonstrate that the dominant aspect of Mao’s problematic was revolutionary Marxism-Leninism while the dominant aspect of the problematic of the present leadership is an economist-revisionist outlook which is growing increasingly similar to that of the revisionist Soviet Communist Party.[20]

To accomplish this, I will rely not only on Mao’s works, the previous Theoretical Review articles, and readily available English sources from China, e.g., Beijing Review, but also on some of Bettelheim’s theoretical works[21] and on Jingji Yanjiu (Economic Research), a leading Chinese theoretical journal available only in Chinese.

I have chosen to employ Bettelheim’s contribution because he not only shares, but further develops Mao’s problematic for analyzing the transition to communism. I have chosen to employ Jingji Yanjiu for three reasons: (1) as a theoretical economic journal, it further elaborates many of the points set out in summary form in such journals as Beijing Review. Thus it presents a deeper, more complex presentation of those economic issues; (2) sources such as Jingji Yanjiu are not generally accessible to our movement; (3) Jingji Yanjiu, intended primarily for internal consumption is frequently “ahead” (more to the left in left periods, more to the right in right periods) of journals for international consumption such as Beijing Review.[22]

With this introduction we can now turn to analyzing developments in China itself.

The Two-Line Struggle on the Transition Period

The following section deals with six inter-related issues: (1) whether socialism constitutes a mode of production; (2) whether there exists a set of “objective economic laws,” including the law of value, which serve to regulate the socialist economy; (3) whether the relations of production are dominant over the forces of production; (4) whether contradiction is primary over unity[23]; (5) whether classes and intense class struggle continue to exist throughout socialism; and (6) whether the dictatorship of the proletariat needs to be extended under socialism.[24] The following chart lays out the dominant positions of Mao and the forces associated with him and the dominant positions of the present Deng-Hua leadership and the forces associated with it. This chart should make the basic differences starkly clear. The remainder of this section will provide documentation these differences and draw out their political consequences.

ISSUE..........................................................................................Mao et al..............Present Leadership[25]
1. Is socialism a mode of production?....................................................No......................................Yes
2. Do universal objective economic laws function as
regulators of all modes of social production, including socialism?........No......................................Yes
3. Are relations of production dominant over the forces of production?.Yes......................................No
4. Does Marxist-Leninist philosophy hold that contradiction is
dominant over unity?...............................................................................Yes.....................................No
5. Is class struggle the motor force in present-day Chinese society?.......Yes.....................................No
6. Must the dictatorship of the proletariat be extended?..........................Yes.....................................No

1. Is socialism a mode of production?

In the previous articles I argued that Mao did not see socialism as a mode of production. The vast bulk of his post-1949 works reveals that he saw the transition as an ensemble of contradictions. As the proletariat acted at the political level to strengthen and extend its political rule into the economic sphere, for example, as planning increasingly developed and undercut the law of value[26] as the regulator of social production, the nature of the social formation would change, first quantitatively, e.g., more elements of the communist mode of production would develop and then qualitatively, the communist mode of production would become dominant. Such continuing struggles would increasingly undercut the capitalist mode at all levels of the social formation and strengthen the communist mode since the two exist under socialism only as different aspects of an antagonistic contradiction from which only one could survive.[27]

Although the lack of clarity of the “Four’s” presentation of this issue seems to accurately reflect the lack of development and the confusion within their views, the evidence accumulated since the earlier series suggests that they and many of the forces associated with them perceived socialism as a period of struggle between the capitalist and communist modes of production, not as a mode of production itself.[28] For example, in 1976, one writer associated with the “Four,”(in line with Mao and Lenin’s views on the nature of the socialist transition)[29] put forward the position that despite all that had been accomplished in China since the revolution, the contradictions between capitalism and socialism were still strong and the capitalist mode of production still exerted an important influence throughout the social formation. Thus he said, in analyzing the state, that it was necessary to recognize that “what we have built is ... [merely]... a bourgeois state without capitalism,”[30] and not some new, pure and non-contradictory type of “socialist” state.

Perhaps the clearest picture of the positions associated with the “Four” comes from the textbook on political economy prepared under their sponsorship but never published.[31] Subsequent critiques of this text by supporters of the Deng-Hua group make the differences between the two leadership constellations quite clear.[32]

Although the “Four” are quoted as saying that “socialism is a relatively independent social formation ... of long duration ... like feudalism or capitalism,” they stop short of calling this “independent social formation” a mode of production per se. But here the critic, in line with the present leadership’s position on the dominance of unity over contradiction under socialism, pounces on them for allegedly negating the basic difference between capitalism and socialism by arguing that classes exist under both.

Elsewhere, the textbook lays out a position very similar to those of Mao and Bettelheim, stating specifically that socialism is a period of “antagonistic struggle” between capitalist “elements (and) relations of production” and communist “elements and relations of production.” And again, the critic, in line with the position that socialism is a mode of production in which the unity of these elements is dominant over the contradictions between them, criticizes this formulation. The text also comes under criticism for arguing that whereas, under capitalism class characteristics are manifest primarily in economic terms, during socialism they are manifest primarily in terms of ideological and political categories.[33]

In contrast to the “Four’s” position, the position of the present leadership forces is that socialism is a mode of production characterized by three factors: (1) public ownership of the means of production; (2) distribution according to work; and (3) the regulation of social production primarily by the law of value (as is also the case under capitalism).[34]

Most information coming out of China now clearly puts forward the position that socialism is a mode of production distinguished from capitalism primarily by its ownership relations but not necessarily by the way the process of production, exchange and circulation takes place.[35] One article in Jingji Yanjiu draws out these implications more clearly. On the one hand it explicitly compares the rate of return on investment under capitalism and socialism (lauding capitalism’s higher rate of return) and argues for the adoption of many capitalist forms in order to increase socialism’s financial rate of return. It specifically calls for increasing reliance on the law of value to regulate production, expanding commodity production even to the point of treating the means of production as commodities;[36] focusing commodity production on developing internationally competitive export products; and absorbing implicitly neutral or objective foreign organizational and management systems and forms of the division of labor that are applicable to making these products more competitive on the international capitalist market.[37]

Thus, the two groups hold diametrically different positions on the nature of the socialist transition. The position of Mao and the forces associated with him is based on the dominance of contradiction, the recognition of class struggle as the motor force of history and the understanding that, given the continuing existence of various elements of the capitalist mode of production, many capitalist practices continue to exist and are reproduced under socialism. The position of the present leadership forces that socialism is a mode of production, on the other hand, is based on a notion of the basic unity (not contradiction) of the various economic and social factors under socialism. It basically negates class struggle (as will be seen in greater detail below). It holds that the socialist “essence” or mode is so strongly established that various apparatuses of capitalist production can be used without threatening the socialist nature of society, although such measures decrease rather than increase “the despotic inroads on the rights of [capitalist] property and the conditions of production” which Marx and Engels called for in the Communist Manifesto. In line with Stalin’s incorrect position, this view argues that since the elements of the capitalist mode do not exist under socialism, the social formation itself will not generate capitalist elements or practices. Consequently, class struggle is reduced to the struggle against external class enemies and their internal “agents.” Concomitantly, (as argued in the previous series) without the regeneration of capitalist elements within the social formation, the possibility of a capitalist restoration during socialism, upon which the Chinese critique of the USSR is based, is negated. In short, the revisionist notion of a socialist mode of production sets a basis for a set of increasingly revisionist political and economic practices, as we shall see below.

We realize that the question of the nature of the transition period and the character of socialism is still an unsettled question, one which cannot be dealt with satisfactorily in this brief treatment. We hope to have an article on this question in the Theoretical Review later this year.[38]

2. Do “universal objective economic laws,” including the law of value, function as the primary regulators of all modes of social production including socialism?

To talk of “universal objective economic laws” is to make a farce of the concepts of the various modes of production dominated by different social classes, of class struggle within the realm of production and social reproduction and of the transformation of the objective world through class struggle.[39] To assert that social production under socialism must be governed primarily by “objective economic laws,” which are in fact the economic laws dominant under capitalism, is to argue for the continued and artificial separation of the economic and political levels of the social formation. It is to argue for the continued domination of the political level by the economic level, despite the fact that after the seizure of political power by the proletariat, it is in the very realm of the production process itself that the elements of the capitalist mode are the strongest.

“Objective” laws are only objective under particular material conditions. To say that the objective economic laws of socialism are basically identical with those of capitalism is to imply that the character and determination of production and exchange under the two systems is basically the same.

This ignores the fundamentally different roles of the political and ideological instances under the two systems. In a capitalist social formation, for example, prices are set fundamentally at the economic instance on the basis of economic criteria with only an indirect role remaining for extra-economic factors.[40] In the transition period, however, the role of the state, party and mass organizations in setting prices through the plan on the basis of non-economic as well as economic criteria is absolutely vital.

What is really at issue here is whether the objective laws which are a legacy of the capitalist mode of production are going to be treated as givens, to be accepted and worked with, or instead, treated as limits which must be transcended and replaced by new laws appropriate first to the transition period, and then, later, to communism.

Therefore, to assert that universal objective economic laws must govern social production is to confuse the objective limits imposed on political decisions by the level of development of the forces of production, the relations of production which dominate those forces, the levels of organization and consciousness of the masses, etc., with the possibility of the masses making these decisions themselves and intervening politically in the economic level. However, it is clear that the only way in which laws which “objectively” govern social production under one mode are transformed, is through the political intervention at all levels of that social formation.

Although it is clear that Mao spoke of respecting the law of value in economic work, it is also clear that his understanding of this economic law was in a problematic which did not have room for “objective” economic laws as understood by the present leadership forces.

Mao understood socialism as a unity of opposites, a contradiction between the capitalist and communist modes of production. He understood that class struggle operated at all levels of the social formation and that without class struggle to overcome spontaneous developing capitalist economic and ideological practices, such structures and practices could continue to provide a basis for a potential restoration of the capitalist mode of production. Therefore, conscious political action must be taken at all levels of the social formation, including all arenas in the economic sphere, to struggle against these bourgeois practices. Thus at the macro-economic level Mao argued that planning must increasingly restrict the law of value and become the dominant regulator of social production.[41] At the micro-economic level he argued that there must be constant transformations in the internal structure of production to increase the actual producers’ knowledge of, and direct control over, the means of production, e.g., the three-in-one combinations, the various management reforms of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. In short, he argued that the objective limits of China’s social formation had to be recognized. Otherwise an ultra-left voluntarism would undercut economic development and alienate the masses from the Party. But, he argued, this recognition of these limits must be dominated by a conscious struggle to transform this objective reality, and in the process to surpass it.

One clear example of Mao’s understanding of the dialectical relation between, on the one hand, economic conditions and limitations and their consequences, i.e., the economic and ideological consequences of the continued operation of the law of value,[42] and, on the other, the need for political intervention to transform these limits, can be found in his reaction to the ultra-left excesses of the Great Leap Forward in late 1958 and early 1959. In a series of speeches and written documents at the time,[43] Mao argued that although the communes were a good thing as a part of the struggle to transform the conditions of economic production and social reproduction, many cadres had ignored existing objective limits, including those imposed by the law of value. Consequently, they had confiscated material goods from individual peasants and collective units, i.e., production teams and even brigades, without adequate compensation. This had both disrupted the economy and led to distrust of the party on the part of the masses. Therefore, the correct policy was to return those incorrectly appropriated goods, to recognize the presently existing limits of communization, the limits of exchange according to planning and need, etc., while simultaneously laying the basis for transforming (by means of various political and economic policies) the economic and ideological conditions of existence of these limits.[44]

However, it is just such a dialectical relationship between recognition and transformation of objective limits which is missing in the problematic of the present leadership. Rather, the present leadership and the forces associated with it metaphysically separate both the economic and political levels of society and class struggle and economic production.[45]

This metaphysical separation is apparent in the leadership’s criticism of the “Four” for not recognizing the “economic nature” of the enterprises and for consequently attempting to introduce various elements of the dictatorship of the proletariat into the production units themselves![46] However, if the dictatorship of the proletariat–correctly understood as the practices and policies of the proletariat at all levels of the social formation–is not increasingly introduced into the production process, the bourgeois practices carried over from the old society will continue to be reproduced.[47]

The artificial separation of the political and economic levels and the absence of a dialectical relation between the two in the present leadership’s position is also apparent in another attack on the “Four’s” understanding of the “objective economic laws.” Seeing these laws as objective forces which operate “independent of men’s will,” the present leadership forces argue that such laws must be recognized and followed. Thus they criticize the “Four” for arguing^ that these objective laws are mere “tools,” which may or may not be used according to the will of those in the commanding heights of society. Although the implications of this dispute may not be immediately apparent to many readers, the logical conclusion of the present leadership’s position is drawn out by the author himself who argues that “planning must serve the law of value!”[48]

One of the major consequences of the present leadership’s position on “objective economic laws” is a set of policies which consciously encourage the reduction of the role of planning in regulating social production and encourage, and even exalt, the increasing separation of the various units of production into “independent commodity producers,” that is, into independent enterprises. The negative consequences of reinforcing and expanding the separation of the producers from the means of production are drawn out in Charles Bettelheim’s Economic Calculation and Forms of Property.[49] Bettelheim has as a central focus of his analysis the individual enterprise which he views as an important site of capitalist production relations. This is so, he argues, because it is in the enterprise that the dual aspects of the separation of the workers from the means of production are articulated and reproduced.[50] The first of these two separations is the more familiar–the separation of the workers from the means of production and their possession by the owners/managers of the enterprises.

The second of these is less well known and less well understood. It is the separation of the workers in the sense that they are separated from one another in enterprises which function as independent units of production. Bettelheim’s terminology here is merely the other side of the coin that Marx described as competition under capitalism. That is, there must be a multiplicity of independent units for competition to exist, it can not exist within a single unit. In other words, Bettelheim argues that the very existence of independent enterprises helps to reproduce certain of the conditions of existence of capitalism. That is, each unit must balance its expenditures and income (or even make a profit). This requires money, monetary relations and commodity exchange among the various enterprises. In addition, the separation into enterprises puts limits on the degree of the socialization of labor. Therefore he argues, the transition to communism requires not only the elimination of the bourgeoisie as the class owning the means of production, but also the elimination of individual enterprises in favor of units of production which function as part of a process of production planned by society as a whole. He presents considerable evidence to argue that policies which strengthen the autonomy of individual enterprises undermine the transition to communism, while policies which undercut the autonomy of individual enterprises in favor of increasing incorporation into a comprehensive social plan increase the probability of establishing a communist mode of production.

Although in practice Mao recognized planning as a method for dominating and reducing the autonomy of individual units of production,[51] and put forward various specific policies for reducing and overcoming the de facto separation of the workers from the means of production within the units of labor,[52] at the theoretical level he was not so precise as Bettelheim has been here.[53]

Bettelheim’s contribution–which was made as a conscious effort to elaborate on the breakthroughs made in the Chinese revolution–leads to the following conclusion. For all the elements and conditions of existence of the capitalist mode to be eliminated it is necessary to recognize and eliminate both aspects of the dual separation of the workers from the means of production. Only then can the communist mode–understood in terms of establishing a specific set of production relations which determine the volume of accumulation and the distribution of that accumulation between and within the various sectors of the social formation, the distribution of that surplus among individuals according to need, etc.–be established. Without an understanding of the dual separation, one of the major bases for a possible capitalist restoration would neither be seen nor combatted. Unless the dictatorship of the proletariat recognizes this dual separation as one of the targets of the “despotic inroads on the rights of [capitalist] property and the conditions of production,” and moves beyond the initial breakthroughs of the socialist transition, such as elimination of private ownership of the means of production, establishment of the bases for planning, the development of the bases for new mechanisms of the means of livelihood, etc., the road to communism will be blocked.[54] Having made this detour via Bettelheim, we can now return to the theory being advanced by the present Chinese leadership.

For example, noted economist Xue Muqiao called for a reduction in the scope of production planning and the planned management of the means of production, increased enterprise autonomy in all aspects of production and circulation, so that the “normal procedure in the planned management of the national economy ... should be to bring about an equilibrium between supply and demand by means of the law of value.”[55]

In another article summing up recent trends in Jingji Yanjiu, the authors argue that state ownership as it had existed prior to 1979 had incorrectly undermined both commodity production and the role of the law of value by supplying the means of production to various production units according to their needs, rather than selling them these units according to their abilities to pay. To remedy this, the authors put forward these policies: (1) enterprises must be given the rights necessary to become “independent commodity producers,” that is, they must be able to expand or contract the size of their labor force and must have more independence in handling financial matters, etc.; (2) firms must be able to establish more direct links with the market (rather than indirect links through government planning agencies) so that they will be subject to the supervision of the market; (3) enterprises must have their own funds for expanded reproduction; (4) enterprises, rather than the state, should have the right (within certain ranges) to determine wage levels. In order to carry out these policies, they argue, excessive upper level interference with the rights of enterprise management must be eliminated. Were these policies carried out, the authors argue, the following beneficial changes would occur: (1) Each enterprise would develop and modify its own production according to the needs of its consumers and the market and would have the right to refuse any “exorbitant taxes or levies” on their funds, labor power or equipment from any units or persons which undermine their rights. If such interference did occur, the enterprise would be compensated for the resulting losses. (2) Enterprises would have the right to rent out or sell surplus fixed assets and use the resultant income for new equipment or technological transformation. (3) In order to encourage savings, higher productivity, and improve the technical level, factory organization and discipline, the management would have the right, according to government regulations, to increase or reduce the size of the labor force and to reward or punish workers. (4) According to state regulations, firms could acquire foreign currency with which to buy needed supplies directly from foreign suppliers. In line with this, the authors argue, profit would be the prime indicator of the situation in any given enterprise and the state plan would be based on the sum of the various enterprise plans. The authors acknowledge that numerous enterprises will be put out of business by such a structure.[56] They also admit that they do not yet know where the jobs for such displaced workers would come from. And they acknowledge that such reliance on the law of value does present certain dangers. Nonetheless, they argue that, since the key elements of the socialist mode of production, i.e., public ownership of the means of production and planning (or what’s left of them), have already been established and basically consolidated, such measures will not threaten socialism. But nowhere in this list of policies to reform China’s economic system is there any discussion of the intervention of the political level, of the role of the workers in the enterprises, or of how these procedures will lead to increasing domination over the means of production by the workers rather than by the “law of value.”[57]

Within the context of “objective economic laws,” even rationing, one of the transitional forms of the communist mode of production in which goods are distributed according to need, is criticized because it “diversifies the measurement of value . . . [and] . . . can not economically boost production of those commodities which are in short supply and therefore cannot fundamentally solve the contradiction between supply and demand.”[58]

A corrollary to the assumption of “objective economic laws” is the notion that technology, not to mention management techniques, are “neutral,” that they cross class lines. Although Mao’s history makes it clear that he did not reject technology per se, but did reject the capitalist forms in which it might have come, the present leadership’s willingness to practice large scale importation of both technology and management techniques, and their constant references to the virtues of “expertise” as a pure phenomenon, demonstrate that they do adhere to the theory of the “universal objectivity” of such factors. Take, for example, a recent article in Jingji Yanjiu. The article is an ode to the virtues of science and mini-computers with virtually no mention of class struggle. The authors even go so far as to say that “Science [not class struggle–H.E.] has already become the major force in promoting the development of the forces of production. ... In sum, a change in one element in the forces of production will lead to a chain reaction in the other elements and . .. the demands [of such changes] can only be resolved by relying on science. Thus, science is the creator and resolver of contradictions.”[59]

Once again it is clear that the two different sets of forces have diametrically bpposed views here on the nature of “objective economic laws.” And it is also clear that the political consequences of these differences are of the greatest significance in determining policies on such crucial matters as the form, role and extent of planning, the reliance on mechanisms of the capitalist mode of production and the role of conscious political activity in transforming existing objective conditions and limits.

3. Are the relations of production dominant over the forces of production?

In many ways this question is a corollary of the previous question. If the same “objective economic laws” exist and function in similar ways under both capitalism and socialism, then basically similar production and distribution patterns will exist under both. If that is the case, then the claim that capitalism and socialism are different modes of production must be based simply on the measurement of the level of development of the forces of production and on the question of the nominal ownership of the means of production.

For Marx, this was obviously not the case. In his writings, it is clear that different sets of production relations, and therefore different economic laws, dominate the forces of production in different modes of production. As he wrote in Wage, Labor and Capital when analyzing the capitalist mode of production:

Are not the means of subsistence, the instruments of labor, the raw materials of which capital consists, produced and accumulated under given social conditions, in definite social relations? Are they not utilised for new production under given social conditions, in definite social relations? And is it not just this definite social character which turns the products serving the new production into capital?

In other words, the forces of production and the various commodities may take on various roles according to the social relations within which they are produced and exchanged. As Bettelheim has elaborated:

When new relations of production appear, they begin by exerting their action on the historically given forces of production. It is this action that transforms the productive forces, and imposes a determinate structure upon them. The productive forces that are transformed in this way are the productive forces specific to a new mode of production... . Thus capitalist relations of production took shape before the machine industry; the latter develops under the domination of capitalist relations of production, to form the specifically “capitalist” mode of production. In the same way, socialist relations of production begin by exerting their action on historically given productive forces; it is through the definite transformation of these forces that the specifically socialist mode of production [sic] can be constituted.[60]

It is clear that Mao also agreed with this line of reasoning:

From world history we can see that the bourgeoisie launched their revolution and founded their own countries not after the industrial revolution but before it. They also brought about a change in the superstructure and, having acquired the state apparatus, they then conducted propaganda and gained strength. Only then did they push forward a change in the relations of production in a big way. When the relations of production had been arranged to their satisfaction and were running smoothly, this paved the way for the development of productive forces. Of course, the revolution in the relations of production is brought about by a certain development of the productive forces, but the rapid development of the forces of production invariably takes place after the relations of production are changed.[61]

But the position put forth by the present leadership forces is clearly different. According to Bettelheim:

There is a particular mode of thought that mechanically relates the development of the productive forces to the transformation of relations of production and “thinks” the first term in a linear fashion (a superficial interpretation, which some of Marx’s polemical formulations can appear to authorize), imagining that it is this “development” that “produces” a transformation in the relations of production. Such a conception turns its back on the real movement of history and can even have a negative effect on the development of transitional social formations.[62]

The only difference between the position outlined by Bettelheim and that of the present regime is that the present leadership recognizes the need for a certain change in the relations of production to allow further development of the means of production. But for them this change is limited to a mere change of ownership of the means of production.[63] According to this position, once this basic change has occurred, the further development of the forces of production (in line with “universal economic laws”) will provide the necessary conditions for the development of the remainder of the new set of socialist relations of production.[64] Consequently, as has already been shown above, it is possible for the present leadership to import large amounts of foreign advertising, goods, factories and even management systems, in the vain and voluntarist belief that the degree of public ownership already established provides a sufficient basis on which to not only withstand the pressures of the additional capitalist relations of production being introduced into the Chinese social formation but also on which to build future communist relations of production.[65]

Thus although the present leadership forces do, to some extent, recognize the dominance of the relations of production, i.e., the dominance of the ownership system, by limiting the notion of this domination so narrowly, they fall back on an economist and mechanical ”theory of productive forces” approach to socialism which shares many of the assumptions, dangers and even policies of the revisionist Soviet attempt to achieve communism. By continuing to operate in the naive and incorrect belief that the development of the productive forces is an “objective” and “scientific” process, the leadership is prone to relying increasingly on forces of production structured to meet the needs of capitalist production, with the potential result that these forces may be produced, developed, allocated and structured in such a way as to reduce the previously established degree of producer control over these means of production, to an increasingly meaningless shell.

4. Is contradiction dominant over unity?

In contrast to the three issues analyzed to this point, and the two issues which will follow, the issue of the relation between contradiction and unity is a philosophical problem which deals with one’s class position on understanding, interpreting and transforming the world. The philosophy of the proletariat is dialectical materialism, in which contradiction is the process through which the objective world is transformed. Throughout all the basic works of Marxism-Leninism it is clear that contradiction is primary, dominant and relatively permanent, while unity and equilibrium are secondary, relative and transitory.[66]

Mao’s understanding of the dominance of contradiction and the principle that “one divides into two,” i.e., that socialism is made up of two contradictory modes of production, is so well known as not to require further elaboration.[67]

However, the positions and policies of the present leadership forces are based on a contradictory philosophical position, namely, that unity is dominant over contradiction. Numerous examples have been mentioned above, e.g., the direct appropriation of Stalin’s mechanical position that under socialism the relations of production are basically in harmony with the forces of production,[68] and that the socialist mode of production is a unity of, rather than contradiction between, a planned economy and a commodity economy.[69] Other manifestations will appear below, e.g., the elimination of the idea of a contradiction between the Party as the advanced vanguard of the proletariat and the proletariat itself, the absence of a recognition of the contradiction between the state and the dictatorship of the proletariat, etc.

The crucial factor resulting from these different positions relates directly to the recognition of contradictions, and hence class struggle, as the motor force of history. With the liquidation of this position, the basis for the revisionist theory of the dying out of class struggle and the various policies associated with it, e.g., the revisionist concept of the “state of the whole people,” has been laid.[70]

5. Is class struggle the motor force in the development of the present Chinese social formation?

Mao’s position on this question is again clear and so well known as not to require lengthy documentation here. His frequently articulated position, beginning in 1957, that classes continued to exist under socialism, that class struggle is the primary contradiction and the key link in China’s socialist transition, and his leadership role in the Cultural Revolution (despite its numerous errors and excesses) are all based on the understanding that class struggle is more than just the struggle between the individual members of various classes, but is also a struggle in all spheres of the social formation between the structures and practices of the capitalist and communist modes of production. Consequently, since the inception of class society, class struggle over the ways in which the forces of production would be developed, in which relations of production within and between units of production would be developed, in which political power and political structures would be developed, and in which art and other forms of culture would be developed, etc., has always continued. For Mao it was only by understanding the various forms that class struggle took in the various spheres of a social formation in the various periods of its development, that the bourgeois practices which constituted the continuing conditions of existence of both a bourgeoisie and the capitalist mode of production itself could be recognized, combatted, transformed and/or eliminated.

Although the “Four” and the forces associated with them frequently seem to have overemphasized an abstract notion of class struggle to the detriment of immediate production, much of the evidence still suggests that they shared the essentials of Mao’s understanding of the nature of class struggle during the socialist transition. For example, a reading of documents associated with the “Four,” i.e., Yao Wenyuan’s “On the Social Basis of the Lin Piao Anti-Party Clique,” Zhang Chunqiao’s “On Exercising the All Round Dictatorship Over the Bourgeoisie,” numerous articles in Xuexi yu Pipan, and excerpts from the draft text on Socialist Political Economy drawn up under the sponsorship of the “Four,”[71] reveals a problematic in which the existence of classes and the specifics of class struggle were linked to a number of specific capitalist practices and structures,[72] including: (1) the form of ownership, including the relationships between and among private ownership, collective ownership and unified ownership by the whole people;[73] (2) the existence of money and commodity production based on the existence of different ownership systems;[74] (3) the continuing division of labor, the division of mental and manual labor and the difference between town and countryside; (4) “bourgeois right” supported by a bourgeois state, even if it is a bourgeois state without capitalists;[75] (5) the freedom to trade; (6) bourgeois practices in interpersonal relations, art, culture, etc.; and (7) reliance on such “old bourgeois categories” as value, price, commodity, money, profit, interest, cost, wages, bonuses, etc.[76]

For the forces associated with the “Four” then, certain classes defined by their specific relations to the production process still existed, i.e., at a minimum, the workers and the peasants as defined by their differential role in the production process. Certain elements of the dominated capitalist mode of production still existed, and with this came the continued conditions of existence of other classes and class struggle. But although they did call for a new class analysis of China’s social formation to lay the basis for the further analysis of China’s socialist transition, neither the “Four” themselves, nor the forces associated with them, ever produced a clear definition of the new bourgeoisie of which they constantly spoke, at least not in terms of its relation to the production process.

On the other hand, the present leadership forces, despite their earlier opposition to the call for a class analysis,[77] have recently put forward a new class analysis of China.[78] This analysis argues that “the feudal and capitalist systems of exploitation have been abolished and the system of small scale production has been transformed ... and the socialist system, having undergone rigorous tests, has finally become firmly established.[79] Within this allegedly firmly established socialist system (characterized by such “socialist” relations of production as relying on the law of value to regulate social production, relying on short-term individual material incentives,[80] encouraging socialist competition and relying on categories such as value, price, profit, interest, etc., to analyze China’s socialist transition), the capitalist, landlord and rich peasant classes are said to no longer exist. Hence, the incorrect understanding of socialism as a mode of production characterized by objective economic laws leads these forces to argue that class struggle–presented as basically isolated from the struggle for production–is no longer the main contradiction in Chinese society.[81]

However, in reading these pieces, it is clear that class struggle is presented in terms of struggle between the individuals making up the classes, not in terms of the struggle between the practices and structures of two antagonistic modes of production. According to Hua, class struggle is linked with mere class remnants, e.g. “counterrevolutionaries . . . enemy agents, criminals and political degenerates . . . new exploiters such as grafters, embezzlers and speculators,... remnants of the Gang of Four and of the old exploiting classes including the few unreformed landlord and rich peasants . . . [and]. . . the class struggle abroad.” Thus, very much in line with Stalin’s understanding of classes and class struggle under socialism, the present leadership forces see the sources of class struggle as basically outside both the production process and the Chinese social formation itself.[82]

The present leadership forces do not, however, totally reject class struggle under socialism. Rather they rely on an analysis of stages to determine when class struggle exists in order to avoid “overgeneralizing” it.[83] According to this analysis, socialism has three stages: (1) The period following the victory of the democratic revolution which concludes with the socialist transformation of the ownership of the means of production. This period is characterized by the continuing existence of elements of various economic systems, various classes and sharp class struggle. Hence it requires the dictatorship of the proletariat. (2) The stage of undeveloped socialism, characterized by two types of ownership systems (collective and all people’s ownership), commodity production, the absence of a capitalist class but the existence of capitalist remnants, a goodly number of small scale producers, and class differences between workers and peasants. In this period, although large scale violent class struggle has already concluded, class struggle still exists on a lesser scale. Hence the dictatorship of the proletariat is still necessary. China is said to be in this stage at present.[84] (3) Full socialism, that is, what Marx referred to as the first stage of communism. This is characterized by unified socialist ownership of the means of production; the absence of commodity production and exchange; the absence of classes and the elimination of the repressive functions of the state,[85] that is, the reduction of the state’s role to such mere administration roles as safeguarding distribution according to work, transforms it into a “non-political state” which is no longer part of a dictatorship of the proletariat.

They conclude that class struggle does not exist throughout the whole historical period of socialism, but only during the first two stages,[86] and that the understanding that the revolution develops through stages must be used to prevent “the absolutization of class struggle.” Thus, while clearly putting forward the theory of “the dying out of class struggle” against which Mao, the “Four” and many others had struggled during the Cultural Revolution and after, the present leadership forces have attempted to dress the theory up by co-opting Mao’s theory that the socialist revolution is an “uninterrupted revolution which develops through stages.”[87]

In summary, where previously the denigration of class struggle was implicit, the recent articles dealing with the socialist transition of the present leadership forces have made their abandonment of class struggle as the motor force of history quite clear and specific. Although the “Four’s” practice included many errors and excesses, they did at least recognize the internal regeneration of class struggle in a socialist social formation. But the present leadership forces have relegated class struggle to the earlier stages of socialism, and even then, primarily as a function of foreign class enemies. Such a Stalinian position can only strengthen the basis for revisionism and thereby increase the possibility of even a capitalist restoration in China.

6. Must the dictatorship of the proletariat be extended as socialism develops?[88] If so, what must it encompass in each stage of that period?

The dictatorship of the proletariat is a set of policies and practices, both peaceful and violent, at all levels of the social formation, which are employed by the proletariat as the steps necessary to eliminate the conditions of existence of the capitalist mode of production and of classes at all levels of society.

Mao’s practice throughout his life, and particularly during the Great Leap Forward and the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, demonstrate his recognition of the critical need to extend the recognition of class struggle to all levels and areas of the social formation, in many of which it had not been recognized before.[89] Consequently, more fully understanding the scope of class struggle, Mao fought for the implementation of the dictatorship of the proletariat at all levels and in all spheres of the social formation, in order to combat the various bourgeois practices that continued to exist. Thus, he supported the struggles to transform the methods of internal management of production units and those to integrate the social, political, economic and military practices of society into more comprehensible units such as the communes.[90] And when it became necessary and possible to extend the dictatorship of the proletariat further into the realm of culture, Mao supported the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. By the mid-1950’s it had become clear to Mao that even the decisive victory in the economic base, the transformation in the main of the ownership of the means of production from the hands of the bourgeoisie into the various forms of socialist public ownership, was not enough to guarantee the success and continuation of the socialist revolution,[91] and so the dictatorship of the proletariat had to be strengthened and extended. Hence his support for the 1975-1976 campaign for strengthening the dictatorship of the proletariat.[92]

It is also clear that the “Four” supported and fought for the practice of strengthening the dictatorship of the proletariat in every realm of society. For example, Zhang Chunqiao quoted Marx’s statement in Class Struggles in France 1848-1850 that,

This socialism is the declaration of the permanence of the revolution, the class dictatorship of the proletariat as the necessary transit point to the abolition of (all) class distinctions generally, to the abolition of all the relations of production on which they rest, to the abolition of all the social relations that correspond to these relations of production, to the revolutionizing of all the ideas that result from these social relations, (emphasis in original)

Zhang went on to emphasize that “In all four cases, Marx meant all.”

The present leadership forces, however, have directly criticized this formulation and emphasis by arguing that it is too wide a concept. ’Who can get away from these “four alls”?’ What of democracy? Wouldn’t this mean that in the relationship between the working class and the peasantry one class would exercise dictatorship over the other or there could even develop a dictatorship over both?[93]

However, this criticism of the “Four’s” position is based on an incorrect and opportunistic characterization of the dictatorship of the proletariat.[94] It should be clear to Marxist-Leninists that in this usage, the term “dictatorship” is neither identified with nor contrasted with “democracy.” It is a qualitatively different theoretical usage of the term. It refers to the rule of a given class, not merely to the repressive forms and methods which may be relied on in varying conjunctures. Clearly, Marxist-Leninists should recognize that the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie encompasses both repressive and non-repressive practices; both democracy for the bourgeoisie and dictatorship (by means of direct repressive practices where necessary) for the proletariat. Similarly, it is clearly recognized that the dictatorship of the proletariat includes both repressive and non-repressive practices; it includes democracy for the proletariat and its allies, and various forms of dictatorship over the bourgeoisie and bourgeois practices.[95] Consequently, the present leadership’s criticism of the “Four,” inasmuch as they are based on this incorrect definition of the dictatorship of the proletariat as a set of repressive practices, are mere demagoguery;[96] where what is needed is a serious analysis of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the various policies proposed for implementing that dictatorship.

Although in putting into practice their policies the “Four” and those associated with them may have made many, and sometimes serious errors, the character of the Chinese propaganda system is such that everything they did prior to their fall was characterized as overwhelmingly positive while since then the same practices have been characterized as overwhelmingly negative. This makes an all-sided and accurate analysis difficult, if not impossible, if one is not inside China itself.

What is clear, however, is that the majority of those who claim to have been abused during the Cultural Revolution, and under the reign of the “Four,” are government and party officials, managerial personnel, intellectuals, etc., into whose “turf the dictatorship of the proletariat was experimentally, and perhaps simplistically and overzealously introduced. It is also clear that there do exist two different evaluations of the Chinese conjuncture in 1966 and in 1976, on the nature of the socialist transition and on the conditions necessary for developing and consolidating the revolution. It is also clear that there are fairly clearly established constellations of leadership and class forces which supported each of these sets of positions and policies, and that these two sets of class forces were struggling over these crucial problems.

In this struggle, the issue was not whether or not the rights of a large number of officials, managers, intellectuals and the like were infringed. Both sides would agree they were. Nor was the crucial issue the degree to which these rights were infringed. The issue was, and still is, in those specific conjunctures, which particular rights should have been consolidated and expanded and which particular rights should have been restricted. The view of the “Four” and the forces associated with them (and seemingly, of Mao, too) was that those rights and practices which constituted a potential base for capitalism, i.e., rights of managers, rather than workers, to make decisions affecting production, rights of intellectuals to treat their knowledge as a private resource for which they could demand higher salaries, etc., had to be restricted and undermined while being utilized.[97] The view of the present leadership forces, as outlined above, is clearly the opposite. That is, under their policies the rights of independent enterprises, and within these enterprises, of managers, to independently make decisions concerning social production, and the various rights of experts, intellectuals, religious personages, etc., would be expanded rather than restricted.

As mentioned in Section Five above, the present leadership forces argue that the dictatorship of the proletariat is only necessary during the transition to socialism and in the first stage of socialism, e.g. undeveloped socialism, but not in the higher stage of socialism, e.g., developed socialism or the first stage of communism.

Within this framework it is important to examine what the present leadership forces mean when they refer to the dictatorship of the proletariat which is required in China’s present conjuncture. It is clear that for them, with the abolition of antagonistic classes in China, the main function of the dictatorship of the proletariat is to handle the remaining contradictions among the people by democratic methods, to organize socialist economic construction and to safeguard socialist democracy.[98] But in laying out the specifics of these functions, the present leadership forces’ policies are dangerously vague and economist.

For example, as noted in the earlier series of articles, the present leadership forces have restored the former democratic parties–whose original social base had been the national bourgeoisie, the urban upper petty bourgeoisie and their intellectuals, and some patriotic personages, put their members into various government positions, and reinstituted the practice of consulting with these parties on major political decisions.[99] The rationale for this provides some crucial insights into the weaknesses of the present leadership forces’ theoretical analysis.

The present leadership forces argue that, with the founding of the People’s Republic of China, and the establishment of the people’s democratic dictatorship in 1949, the democratic parties joined the united front and played a progressive role. Then harking back to Mao’s 1956 call for “long term coexistence and mutual supervision” between the Chinese Communist Party and the democratic parties,[100] they argue that as part of a new united front of socialist workers and patriots, the members of the democratic parties can play a progressive role, as they did in the united front of the 1920’s.

What is crucial in this argument is not so much what is said, as what is not said. The social basis of these parties used to be the various strata of the national bourgeoisie. But if the bourgeoisie no longer exists as a class–as the present leadership forces assert–then what is the basis and need for such separate parties now? Even more crucial is the analogy of the progressive role which these parties can play now, to the role which they played in the 1920’s–prior to the seizure of power by the proletariat and its allies, and under the people’s democratic dictatorship. With the omission of any reference to the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, as opposed to the earlier and distinct forms of the people’s democratic dictatorship, we are left to wonder whether perhaps the dictatorship of the proletariat has not yet been established; or whether, in the eyes of the present leadership forces, it is no different than the people’s democratic dictatorship; or whether, in the eyes of the present leadership forces, the dictatorship of the proletariat has either been replaced by or takes the form of a “united front” of the “socialist working masses” and patriotic bourgeois parties!

In short, neither the forces associated with the “Four,” nor the present leadership forces have satisfactorily dealt with the crucial question of the forms which the dictatorship of the proletariat will take during the transition to communism, or of the forms it will take when the bourgeoisie has been eliminated and the proletariat has been transformed into a ruling class.[101]

In many ways, this approach, the implicit equation of the people’s democratic dictatorship of the early 1950’s with the dictatorship of the proletariat in the 1980’s, is indicative of a major underlying difference between the two lines. The present leadership sees the line of Mao and the “Four” as ultra-left in that it voluntaristically overestimated the degree of progress which had been made in China. Its policies were too advanced for the social formation. Consequently, the present leadership approvingly appropriates early quotes from Mao and applies them to the present conjuncture–as if the conjuncture had not changed since the 1950’s. But they studiously avoid not only post-Cultural Revolution, but even post-1957 quotes from Mao. At the same time the present leadership forces are implementing many policies that the prior leadership would characterize as appropriate only to the earlier bourgeois democratic stage of China’s revolution. Thus, it is possible to understand the “Four’s” charges that many cadre in China were mere bourgeois democrats, whose unwillingness or inability to recognize the nature of the new stage which China had entered, would inevitably lead them to advocate policies which would strengthen the conditions of existence of the capitalist mode of production and undermine those of the communist mode. The line of the present leadership stresses the various aspects of unity over the contradictory aspects of post-bourgeois socialist society; it stresses the “united front” during the period of the dictatorship of the proletariat, etc. As such, it is in line with the theory of the dying out of class struggle, as it lays the basis for such revisionist policies as “the state of the whole people,” and for the possible resurgence of capitalism in China. Neither of the two forces which have struggled for leadership of the Chinese revolution have resolved the issue of how to carry out the dictatorship of the proletariat. But in analyzing these shortcomings, one must remember that these positions are only part of greater sets of policies, class positions and problematics which distinguish the two. While Mao’s positions, and to a greater extent, those of the “Four,” were flawed in many respects, they developed within a rectifiable framework. Those of the present leadership forces, to the contrary, have been developed from a consolidated revisionist problematic which must be basically rejected, rather than merely rectified.


There has existed and continues to exist a two-line struggle in China. The two lines are linked to two qualitatively different problematics and sets of policies and practices. One problematic, employed by Mao and shared, to a significant degree, by the forces associated with him and by the “Four,” is a basically Marxist-Leninist problematic which understands socialism to be a transitional period of struggle between two classes and between two modes of production. The other problematic, that of the present leadership forces, is a consolidated revisionist problematic characterized by an economist understanding of socialism as a mode of production, in which class struggle has basically been superceded and the various theoretical corollaries which follow from this position.[102]

What are the consequences of this conclusion for China?

This conclusion forces us to realize that “Chinese socialism” will be a qualitatively different phenomenon under the present leadership from what it was under the previous leadership. As long as the present leadership forces continue to implement policies such as they have in the past three and one half years, e.g., policies such as the emphasis on profit as the measure of enterprise efficiency, the increasing separation of units of production, the increasing specialization of production, the increasing reliance on short-term individual or small group material incentives to motivate production, and the increasing expansion of the scope of commodity production at the expense of the production of rationed and supplied goods, the reliance on revisionist tendencies increasingly similar to those in the Soviet Union will continue to develop. In short, continuation of the present policies will lead to social production and the distribution of surplus increasingly being carried out according to bourgeois norms, and to the increasing separation of the workers from the means of production, particularly as foreign ownership of enterprises in China increases.[103] The scope of the changes, and the manner in which they will occur, is as yet unclear.

One or two examples of how these tendencies could affect the basic daily living situation of the working masses in China may help to clarify the importance of these seemingly theoretical issues. At present the emphasis on profit as the criteria of enterprise efficiency is rapidly increasing in China. However, many elements of the social overhead which historically have been provided by the production units, including housing as one example, are not profit producing investments. Thus, in the absence of other incentives to enterprises to construct workers’ housing, there could very likely be a decline in the rate of production of subsidized housing, in favor of increased construction of housing for profit. There is already evidence that this is beginning to occur.[104] Conversely, if workers in foreign owned enterprises will not be entitled to all the social overhead which workers in socialist enterprises will be entitled to, e.g., free medical care, access to enterprise supplied housing, this will mean that these products and services will have to increasingly be produced as commodities so that workers in foreign owned enterprises will be able to purchase them with their higher wages, wages that will be higher precisely because these workers have to purchase these services.

What effects will this increased demand have on the overall supply of such products? How will it combine with the changes in the price structure for non-staple food products such as pork, beef, mutton, fish, seaweed products, and eggs; with the increased income being given to mental workers[105] and with the increased linkage to the international capitalist market? The answer to these questions can not be known now, but they will significantly influence the future of China’s socialist tradition.

Does all of this mean that the domination of the present revisionist leadership forces ends the hope of communism in China? Does it mean that there has been a capitalist restoration?

No. Since socialism is a struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, and between the capitalist and communist modes of production, it means that the struggle will continue but on a terrain less favorable to the proletariat. Certain elements and conditions of existence of the communist mode of production still exist and continue to provide a basis for the struggle for communism, e.g., public ownership of the means of production (to the extent that it continues to exist); certain political-economic institutional forms, such as the communes and the three-in-one committees (to the degree they continue to exist); the break made with many aspects of the bourgeois world view during revolutionary China’s first 27 years of existence, particularly during the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution (despite their various errors and excesses), etc.

The struggle for communism will continue at all levels and will be influenced by many factors. In the short term, for example, many economic institutions are resisting the new policies regarding price formation, production, and exchange because these require changes in their long established standard operating procedures. Other institutional limits, such as the lack of skills necessary to carry out these new tasks, also impose short term restrictions on the ability of the present leadership to carry out these transformations as quickly as it would like.

In the longer term, many in China are not willing to support the present leadership because they do not believe it will endure for long. Many others, raised since Liberation and convinced that the presently revisionist leadership is composed mainly of an older generation that will soon die out, are consciously biding their time.[106]

And in the long term, the increasing polarization which the implementation of such policies will lead to, will also increase the resistance to the present revisionist trend.

But despite the various factors which the present leadership forces face in their efforts to transform China, it is important to understand that the tasks they have chosen are considerably easier than will be the tasks of those attempting to undo what the present leadership forces have done. In many of its policies, the present leadership forces are able to draw on continuing spontaneous capitalist tendencies at all levels of the Chinese social formation. However, those striving to build a new structure would have to break with many of these spontaneous, and frequently popular notions and practices. While it is relatively simple for the present leadership forces to reintegrate China into the international capitalist commodity and money market, it will be considerably more difficult for subsequent leadership forces to break these ties. That is, by giving foreign capitalists command over a certain sector of production in the Chinese economy, and by developing an increasing dependence on the international capitalist market–on international capitalist supplies and on international capitalist funding sources, the present leadership forces will have given imperialism at least a toehold or at least some say in the future of China’s development, a “right” which they will not likely give up easily.

In summation, the policies of the present leadership forces are a dangerous and consolidated revisionist tendency with numerous similarities to the errors committed during the Stalin era and to modern Soviet revisionism. This tendency can only serve to distort and block China’s road to communism. But whether this tendency will continue to grow and dominate China, whether it will be able to establish full hegemony over China, whether domination could lead to a restoration of capitalism, or whether this tendency can be overcome at certain costs, are questions that can not yet be answered.

What are the consequences of this conclusion for the US party building movement?

As stated in the previous set of articles, it is clear that the US party building movement must be able to make its own independent analysis of critical events at home and abroad. But by making an independent analysis, we mean not only an analysis independent of other communist parties, but also an analysis independent of the revisionist problematic which has dominated much of the world communist movement for decades. In this light it is necessary to realize that the struggle between the two lines, and between two problematics in China is not an isolated struggle, nor a unique struggle born of the unique distortions of a certain sector of the Chinese Communist Party. Rather these struggles are integrally linked to the continuing crisis of Marxist-Leninist theory, to the continuing struggle against the bourgeois deviations which have continued to penetrate and distort Marxist-Leninist theory, e.g., economism, voluntarism, empiricism, etc. This forces us to recognize that Marxist-Leninist theory is not a “pure” phenomenon, but one within which there exists class struggle. If we ignore the crisis in Marxism-Leninist theory, we will be doomed to relying on a Marxism-Leninism distorted by bourgeois deviations and, hence, one that will lead to a false understanding of the conjuncture, of society and of the policies necessary to transform the world.

But as a result of the specific analyses in this article, it is possible and necessary to go beyond these earlier conclusions.

This article indicates the importance of Mao’s pioneering efforts in the break with revisionism and with the Stalinian deviation. His recognition of the existence of class struggle during the socialist transition, of class struggle as the motor force of history, and the possibility of capitalist restoration, his re-emphasis of the dominance of contradiction over unity, and his many specific policies for overcoming the legacy of capitalism at all levels of the social formation, and for developing productive forces dominated by new relations of production, were all key elements in the break with the revisionism which had dominated much of the world communist movement for decades. They are also important for the re-establishment of a correct Marxist-Leninist problematic. Therefore, it is necessary for us to learn from and develop the elements of Mao’s break with revisionism and to reject the revisionist approach of the present leadership forces in China.

This does not mean that we should support the dogmatic concept of “Mao Zedong Thought” as the ultimate answer to every question. Nor does it mean that we should accept every word, action, policy or theoretical position of Mao.[107]

What it does mean is that we can not reject Mao’s contributions to the struggle against revisionism and to the analysis of the transition to communism because of errors within those contributions, or because some of those contributions were misunderstood or used incorrectly, as some in our movement would have us do.

Rather, what we must do is to recognize Mao’s many contributions, analyze them, rectify them and continue to develop them beyond where Mao took them, so that our understandings of revisionism, class struggle and the socialist transition itself can continue to grow and help to pave the path for communism.


Note to Abstract

[1] An economist deviation is characterized by an overemphasis on the economic level. That is, it is assumed that once the economic level has developed, once the forces of production have developed, the superstructure will more or less automatically follow along. Thus, economists look to the economic level as the dominant factor, regardless of the conjuncture.

A voluntarist deviation is one in which volition is seen as sufficient to overcome objective limitations. In this case the voluntarist tendency of the Hua-Deng leadership is revealed in the position that if the base, and in particular the forces of production, are rapidly developed, even using the techniques and methods of production and exchange appropriate to capitalism, the basic problem of socialism will have been solved, and the bases for the superstructure will have been laid. In other words, the present superstructure will have been laid. In other words, the present leadership believes that because of the changes in the ownership system, i.e., the socialist “essence” of the Chinese social formation, and because of the commitment of the leadership of the CCP to communism, it is possible to rely on capitalist techniques, etc., without bearing the consequence of having relied on these capitalist apparatuses and on foreign and national capitalists themselves.

The existence of a voluntarist tendency on the part of the present leadership is somewhat ironic since Mao and the “Gang of Four” have frequently been incorrectly characterized as voluntarist for allegedly relying on non-objective factors, e.g., the consciousness and will of the masses, to overcome so-called objective reality.

Notes to Text

[1a] See Theoretical Review, “Analyzing China Since Mao’s Death,” Vol. 1, No’s 4-6, and “China’s Great Leap Backward–a Review,” “Appendix–A Short Note on Deng Xiaoping and the Present Line of the CCP,” Theoretical Review, Vol. 1, No. 9.

[2] “Chinese millionaire tries to win West,” Boston Globe, Nov. 15, 1979: 38-39; “How a Chinese Factory Makes a Leap Forward into Capitalism,” Wall Street Journal, July 5, 1979.

[3] “China Wants Good Looking Stewardesses,” San Francisco Chronicle, Dec. 27, 1979: 1.

[4] These consequences include, among others, resentment against the special privileges being given to the increasing numbers of foreign travelers, such as access to an increasing number of building, stores, restaurants and special products (coke, American cigarettes and liquor) not available to the Chinese public (thus establishing an increasing base for a black market in these products); the changing nature of entertainment, i.e., the introduction of disco, be-jeweled singers in low cut dresses giving performances virtually indistinguishable from those in Hong Kong, Manila, Bangkok, etc. Such factors have combined with the enforcement of these privileges by the CCP and the Chinese government to lead to overt resentment against both the privileges and against those enforcing them. Such resentments have been expressed to recent visitors to China, including the author.

[5] “Bulletin of the Committee on Scholarly Communication with the PRC,” October, 1979.

[6] See Beijing Review (BR), 1979, No. 37: 29; 1980, No. 13: 25.

[7] The rehabilitation of Liu must be evaluated critically, as must the rejection of the Cultural Revolution. In both, there are positive and negative aspects. For example, in Liu’s case, the rebuttal of exaggerated and fabricated charges, and the recognition of his contribution in the pre-Liberation period and in the early years after Liberation, is progressive. Similarly, the new guarantees against arbitrary arrest, allegedly made in response to the “excesses” of the Cultural Revolution, also have progressive aspects. However, the dominant aspect of both Liu’s rehabilitation and the rejection of the Cultural Revolution is regressive. It represents the leadership’s attempt to legitimize the pre-Cultural Revolution policies associated with, and defended by Liu and Deng and attacked by Mao and his associates, and to assert that China is beyond the period when turbulent mass struggle such as the Cultural Revolution could play a progressive role in its development. See the most recent full rehabilitation of Liu’s line in BR (1980), 16: 19-23.

[8] See “Law on Joint Ventures,” BR, No. 29, 7/20/79.

[9] Beimei Ribao (NY), 1/7/80.

[10] One traveler reported that in negotiations between a foreign capitalist firm and the Chinese authorities, when the capitalist said he hoped to be able to produce in China at 10% below world costs, the Chinese side suggested that production could be carried out at 30% below world costs merely by reducing labor costs.

[11] BR (1979), 45: 4-5; Guardian (NY), 1/9/80: 10.

[12] Far Eastern Economic Review, 11/30/79: 68-69.

[13] Although recently the Call, the organ of the CP(ML), has printed one statement questioning the degree to which the Deng-Hua leadership has abandoned class struggle; see the Call, July 16, 1979.

[14] There are clear differences between the depth of Mao’s understanding of the transition to communism and that of the various members of the “Four,” as well as differences among the “Four.” Although it is clear that Mao supported many of the policies associated with the “Four,” it is also well known that Mao frequently had to rely on those forces which were the most closely aligned to his positions despite their various incorrect tendencies (see his letter on Lin Biao and various commentaries over the years in China Quarterly). Therefore, it is incorrect to fully identify Mao with any, or all of the “Four” as the RCP’s And Mao Makes 5 attempts to do; see also TR #5: 15.

[15] Bettelhiem’s piece appeared in Monthly Review 30: 3 (July-Aug., 1978), accompanied by a dogmatic defense of the regime by Neil Burton. Bettelheim’s article was reviewed in TR 9: 33-39. It was also attacked by the dogmatists in The Communist, the organ of Revolutionary Communist Party (see “China, the Dictatorship of the Proletariat and Professor Bettelheim (or How Not to Criticize Revisionism), No. 5, May, 1979: 171-238); and in Proletarian Unity, the organ of the Canadian M-L group In Struggle, Feb.- March, 1979: 43-47. Monthly Review, after publishing a supportive comment by the Editors, followed with a series of critiques, most of which were written from a non-Marxist-Leninist perspective, MR (31) May, 1979.

[16] Although recently many aspects of both the Cultural Revolution and the domestic policies under Mao have been criticized as ultra- left, the first aspect of Mao’s policies which was singled out for criticism was the “Three Worlds Theory” and the associated theory of capitalist restoration. Although it is clear that Mao supported the incorrect “Three Worlds Theory,” it is important to understand that rejection of the “Three Worlds Theory” does not necessarily imply rejection of the concept of capitalist restoration. In other words, even if there were a capitalist restoration in the Soviet Union, the “Three Worlds Theory” is not the only possible strategic conclusion to draw. In addition, it is also important to realize that there is considerable evidence to suggest that there are different understandings of the “Three Worlds Theory” and of the nature of the threat posed by the Soviet Union. According to this evidence, Mao, the “Four” and others, saw the threat mainly as ideological and theoretical, that is, presenting a false but alluring economist version of what socialism is, and thus undermining China’s chances of achieving communism. The forces associated with the present leadership, however, see the threat much more in traditional military and geopolitical terms. See Kenneth Lieberthal, “The Foreign Policy Debate in Peking as Seen Through Allegorical Articles,” China Quarterly (1977) 71: 528-554; also Jaap Van Ginnegan, The Rise and Fall of Lin Piao (NY: Discus, 1977).

[17] For example, The Myth of Capitalism Reborn, by Michael Goldfield and Melvin Rothenberg, published by the Soviet Union Study Project and associated with the NNMLC, relies on the economist theory of productive forces in its attempt to reject the theory of capitalist restoration.

[18] A problematic is a theoretical or ideological framework which puts into relation with one another its basic concepts, determining the nature of each by its place and function within that framework. Concepts can only be properly understood in the context of the problematic; fundamentally different problematics give what otherwise appear to be identical concepts fundamentally different meanings. Of particular concern is that a problematic is a specific field of vision which both sees that which falls within its scope, and cannot see that which falls outside of it. Consequently, a change of problematic is not a mere incremental change of vision, but a qualitative transformation of the entire process of seeing. From “Toward a Genuine Communist Party,” Ann Arbor Collective (ML).

[19] Here it is important to mention that although this article supports the basic notion of the two line struggle in China, it does not support the simplistic version in which one line is always correct and the other always incorrect. Rather, the two-line struggle interpretation put forward here includes the understanding that there are contradictory aspects within each of the overall lines. These contradictions result both from the continuity of the class struggle within both camps at the theoretical and practical levels, and from different policies put forward as a result of incomplete knowledge of objective reality. Thus the two- line struggle refers to the dominant aspect of each of the two lines, not to each as a monolithic unity. This is in contrast to the understanding of the dogmatists. Previously, at least, they saw one line as purely correct and the other as incorrect. Now this understanding must be re-evaluated, since organizations such as the CP(ML) now wholeheartedly support the Hua-Deng line, which only four years ago was characterized by both the CCP and the CP(ML), itself, as a totally bourgeois line.

[20] See footnote 1 to the Abstract of this article.

[21] In particular, his Economic Calculation and Forms of Property (hereafter Calculation).

[22] This is so for two main reasons. On the one hand, articles approved for international journals usually represent established consensus positions of the leadership. Articles for domestic consumption, on the other hand, present the setting in which new policy proposals, which have not yet been agreed on, are tentatively put forward and struggled over. Second, such journals are written by economic theoreticians who are responsible for developing the theoretical bases and implications of various lines. Thus, the formulations they present are frequently more “pure,” more clear and more comprehensible than the information we can gather about these policies once they are implemented by existing organizations dominated by pre-existing standard operating procedures, limited by pre-existing skills, etc. This is demonstrated by the fact that articles beginning the redefinition of revisionism appeared in Hongai (Red Flag), months before the articles redefining revisionism appeared in BR (1980): 16.

[23] Although the other five issues covered in this chapter are issues dealing with the science of Marxism-Leninism, that is, dealing with political lines and policies derived from analyses of the laws of social development, the one category dealing with the issue of contradiction and unity is a philosophical one, dealing with a basic understanding of how the world develops and how knowledge is gained. As such, it is qualitatively different from the other issues. Yet, because it underlies and influences the other positions to a large extent, and because it has a major effect on the overall problematics, it has been included in this section. The short discussion of this issue below will demonstrate both its linkage to the other issues and the political consequences of the two positions.

[24] By “extending” the dictatorship of the proletariat, we do not mean extending the repressive apparatus of the state. Rather, this formulation, and this paper as a whole recognize the contradiction between the state, as the repressive apparatus of a class, and the dictatorship of the proletariat. The latter, which is far greater in scope, is necessary not only to repress class enemies per se, but also to eliminate the capitalist mode of production and its conditions of existence, and to lay the basis for the direct domination of the producers over the means of production, that is, to lay the basis for the elimination (withering away) of the state. The section dealing with this issue will hopefully further clarify this distinction and contradiction.

[25] This constellation of positions is quite similar to that of Stalin and the forces associated with him. Much of this claim will be demonstrated in the text below. However, because of certain dissimilarities and because the focus of this paper is on China and not on the Soviet Union, the differences will not be laid out in full detail. Hence, the direct linkage between these positions and the Stalinian positions has not been made in the above chart.

[26] In a commodity economy, in an economy of scarcity (i.e., a non-communist society) commodities are exchanged according to their exchange values, that is, according to the amount of socially necessary labor time expended to produce them. When the law of value functions as the primary regulator of social production, efforts must be made to maximize exchange value rather than use value. This is associated with an emphasis on profit as a measure of economic efficiency and development, with increasing production of the most profitable items, which in turn, depends on the structure of purchasing power within the social formation, etc.

[27] This is one example of the consequences of the different understanding of the nature and role of contradiction. For documentation of Mao’s position, in addition, to his Critique of Soviet Economics, see his discussions on the role of the law of value at Chengjiu in 1959 in Miscellany of Mao Tse-tung Thought, Joint Publication Research Service, No. 61269-1, -2 (JPRS).

[28] See, for example, Chuang Lan, “Capitalist Roaders are Representatives of the Capitalist Relations of Production,” in Xuexi yu Pipan (Study and Criticism) (a journal under the sponsorship of the “Four”), 1976, 6: 29-33. Also available in And Mao Makes 5, Raymond Lotta (ed.), (Chicago: Banner, 1978).

[29] See Mao’s quotations of Lenin in Fang Kang, “Capitalist Roaders are the Bourgeoisie Inside the Party,” Beijing Review, No. 25 (June 18, 1976), available in And Mao Makes 5.

[30] Kang Li, “On the Bourgeoisie in the Socialist Period,” Xuexi yu Pipan, 1976, 7: 25.

[31] There is clear evidence that such a textbook was drawn up under the sponsorship of the “Four.” Various drafts of this book were circulated in a limited form prior to 1976. However, until a copy of these drafts is secured, the authenticity of the quotations can not be verified.

[32] See “Confusion in Socialist Political Economy Created by the Gang of Four’s Theory that Classes Exist Throughout the Socialist Stage,” Dong Furen, Jingji Yanjiu 1979, 9: 42-51.

[33] The “Four’s” position that class characteristics would be determined by different elements is in line with the position of Marx, Engels and many modern M-L theoreticians, such as Althusser, Bettelheim, et. al., that the economic level is dominant under capitalism while the political level is dominant during the transitional period. However, the practice of the “Four” revealed a strong tendency to incorrectly absolutize the political dominance. It must also be noted that the fragmentary quotes available from the “Four’s” text casts some serious doubts on the degree to which the authors actually understood socialism as a period of struggle between the two modes.

[34] On the Aim of Socialist Production,” BR (1979), 51:12. Since according to this and other articles, under both capitalism and socialism social production is primarily regulated by the law of value, it is not surprising that much of what the present leadership defines as “socialist” is quite similar to common capitalist practices. For example, in BR (1979) 47: 6, we are told that the markets in which peasants privately sell the products of their private holdings are not “free markets” because (1) the seller has to pay a tax depending upon how much s/he sells (in the US, this is a sales or business tax); (2) transactions take place at a location specified by the government (this is called licensing or getting a permit); (3) the commodities on sale are limited to farm and sideline products (so are farmer’s markets in the US; in addition, other articles in the Chinese press call for the commoditization of the means of production, thus bringing this factor into question); and (4) cheating and speculation and the selling of contaminated food are prohibited. These hardly seem serious criteria for distinguishing these markets from what capitalism calls a “free commodity market.” Ironically, the one factor which might distinguish these markets from capitalist markets, the fact that they are limited to products and do not include the commoditization of labor power, is not included in the article. For another article which uses common capitalist practices as the criteria for determining how to run a socialist economy see “The Role of the Average Rate of Profit in the Socialist Economy,” Xiao Shuoji, JJYJ (1979) 11:74-80. This issue will be discussed more below.

[35] For another example see the comments of Zhao Ziyang, First Secretary of the Sichuan Party Committee and recently elected member of the Political Bureau of the CCP. In mid-April, Deng Xiaoping revealed that this man is in charge of the day to day operations of the State Council.

[36] Through 1979 most of the means of production in China had not been seen as commodities. Rather they had been produced and exchanged according to the needs of the various units of production throughout the country. In 1959 Mao, in reviewing Stalin’s economic works had suggested that the question of whether the means of production should be treated as commodities or not was in fact worthy of further investigation; see Mao, Critique of Soviet Economics, 139.

[37] Liu Mingfu, “On the Question of Economic Forms in a Socialist Economy,” JJYJ (1979) 4: 52-57; see also, for example, Wang Ruisun, Song Yangyan, Qun Yanshi, “On the Nature and Characteristics of Socialism,” JJYJ (1979) 10: 20-26.

[38] For the break with the Stalinian notion of the socialist mode of production, see the writings of Louis Althusser, Etienne Balibar, Grahame Lock, Charles Bettelhiem, Nicos Poulantzas, Barry Hindess and Paul Q. Hirst. For Lenin’s view see his “Economics and Politics in the Era of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat.”

[39] See Bettelheim, Calculation, 15-16,33, 74-77, 86-87,99-110,130- 138; also “China: New Theories for Old,” Editors of MR, MR (May 1979) 31:1:1-20.

[40] Under monopoly capitalism, the political level intervenes more directly and visibly in the relations between actual prices and thereby “distorts” the direct determination of prices by the law of value although to many it still appears that the economic level is still determining prices directly.

[41] See, for example, his various statements in Critique, particularly on Stalin’s economic text.

[42] That is, the effects that workers and peasants under socialism, still strongly influenced by bourgeois ideology, tend to see the world in terms of individual or small group interests and are basically only willing to exchange the products of their labor with other individuals or groups for equal values. However, when a communist mode of production has been established, distribution according to need will necessarily have already come into conflict with and defeated this approach to production and exchange.

[43] See Mao’s speeches at the Chengjiu Conference in the spring of 1959 in Mao Zedong Sixiang Wansui (1967), Long Live the Thought of Mao Zedongi-49, 104-115; translated in JPRS61269, Miscellany.

[44] See TR No. 6,42-43; also Mao, Critique, Ch. 25: 58; also Zhang Chunqiao, “On Exercising All Round Dictatorship Over the Bourgeoisie.”

[45] See for example, Hua Guofeng’s Report on the work of the Government [BR(1979)27:5-32] in which he asserts–in direct contradiction to and, in fact, in falsification of Mao’s position– that the main contradiction in socialist society is not that between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, i.e., class struggle, but between the forces and relations of production, as if the two could be totally separated.

At the 1956 8th Party Congress, Mao had approved the Resolution, drawn up by Liu Shaoqi and Zhen Boda, which stated that the main contradiction in China was that between the forces and relations of production. However, by mid-1957, Mao had come to understand the incompleteness of that formulation and had corrected it with the formulation that the primary contradiction was that between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat; see his talks of April 1957 and October 7, 1957, in Miscellany, 63-72. This change was one of the crucial factors in his break with Liu and the forces associated with him and was one of the bases of Mao’s line from then on until his death.

This present leadership position is also apparent in numerous other publications, e.g., ”Fundamental Change in China’s Class Situation, BR (1979) Nos. 46-7.

[46] JJYJ (1979) 5: 68.

[47] This is not to imply that all the specific aspects of the dictatorship which the “Four” tried to introduce into the production units were correct. In fact, much evidence suggests that many of the specifics were in fact gross distortions of crucial elements of the dictatorship of the proletariat. However, this does not negate the fact that the proposal is a generally correct one within a basically correct problematic.

[48] Meng Lien, “Is the Law of Value Something that Can Be Used or Not Used?” JJYJ (1979) 5: 79,45. This position, that planning must serve the law of value, is in direct contradiction to the positions of Mao and the forces associated with him that planning must dominate the law of value and be used to restrict its scope and effects; see, in particular, Mao, Critique. It is important to note that the present leadership forces, however, are not completely consolidated around the position that certain of these “objective economic laws” can not be used as mere “tools” according to the will of the leadership. For example, an article in JJYJ(1979) 9: 62-71 argues that under socialism, the law of value can be completely controlled; that is, its better aspects employed and its negative aspects not employed. In many ways, this position seems to be the dominant one in the policies of the present leadership since they are based on the assumption that numerous capitalist practices can be used without having to bear the consequences of relying on them.

[49] Bettelheim’s contribution is tempered by the fact that, although he is clearly working within a problematic which recognizes socialism as a transitional form, he incorrectly relies on the term “socialist mode of production,” rather than “communist mode of production,” to represent the new mode of production which is struggling against the capitalist mode; see pp. xii, 12.

[50] Bettelheim, Calculation, 76-92, 130-138.

[50] See Mao, Critique, all.

[50] See for example, the many transformations introduced during the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution on such issues as accounting processes, worker participation in management, etc. Many of these are discussed in Stephen Andors, China’s Industrial Revolution (MR: NY, 1977).

[53] For a short analysis of some of the limits of Mao’s theoretical development in this sphere (and Bettelheim’s, too), see Grahame Lock, “Introduction” to Althusser’s Essays in Self-Criticism (NLB, 1976): 11-31.

[54] This article will only deal with the theory necessary for determining whether or not China, or any other social formation, has taken a revisionist path which can not possibly lead to communism. But it will not deal with the more difficult question of under what conditions quantitative increases in revisionist practices and policies can be qualitatively transformed into a capitalist restoration. Consequently, this article will not address such questions as whether or not a violent seizure of power would be necessary, whether a new capitalist class would operate openly as a capitalist class, etc. Although it has not frequently been recognized as such, the relation between such quantitative and qualitative changes is the critical issue in the restoration theory; see the conclusion of this article.

[55] “A Study in the Planned Management of the Socialist Economy,” BR (1979) 43: 12-20. Here we must of course ask: “Normal” in relation to what?

[56] Specifically those using older machinery and having higher production costs, i.e., many of the local industries. For an analysis of the similar trend in the Soviet Union during the 1930’s, see Bettelheim, Class Struggles II.

[57] See “More on the Automatic Regulation of the Law of Value and Socialist Enterprises,” Zhou Shulian, Wu Jinglian Wan Haipo, JJYJ (1979) 9: 62-73. One section of the article does state, however, that each enterprise will have only one primary management unit which will be responsible, not for daily economic activities, but for such matters as the direction of specialization, long range planning, improving management, production technology and scientific research.

[58] “Socialist Economic Planning and the Market,” Liu Guoguang and Zhao Renwei, BR (1979):31-9.

[59] “The Use of Science in the Development of Modern Forces of Production,” Wang Quncun, JJYJ (1979) 4:29-34. Neither class struggle nor politics is referred to in the entire article. But there is a seemingly mandatory paragraph in the conclusion which mentions in passing the different routes of development and uses of science under capitalism and socialism, and how imperialism and ”social imperialism” use science as weapons in a way that is directly in opposition to the interests of ”mankind and science itself, etc. ”But the article does not even bother to elaborate these problems beyond a condescending ”etc.”

[60] Bettelheim, Calculation, 79.

[61] Mao, Critique, Ch. 15; see also Chs. 1,4,28. Similarly in “On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People,” Mao also stated that “Our basic task has changed from unfettering the productive forces to protecting and expanding them in the context of the new relations of production”. For a similar position, see Zhang Chunqiao, “All Round Dictatorship,” 11.

[62] Bettelheim, Calculation, 80.

[63] This must of course take place by means of a conscious political intervention in the economic sphere and a transformation of existing “Objective laws,” e.g., the “Objective law” of private ownership. The point that the contradiction between the advanced forces of production and the backward relations of production leads to pressures to bring the former into correspondence with the latter raises the question of whether the level of development of the forces of production being evaluated refers only to this within a specific social formation or the level of development of the forces of production on a world wide scale. Inasmuch as it was the importation of many of the advanced productive forces from elsewhere in the world capitalist system that in fact exacerbated this contribution in China, it is important to give this question serious thought. Mao’s work suggests that he frequently saw the forces of production and the question of developing the forces of production in terms of the availability of advanced machinery, techniques and skills on a worldwide basis rather than merely within China. See TR 4:18.

[64] JJYJ (1919) 10: 29.

[65] Thus we see the phenomena listed in TR 9: 33-38. Conversations with forces associated with the present leadership have admitted, however, that they do not know what type of effects will result from having two “sets” (or classes–ed.) of workers, one of which works in publicly owned factories and is entitled to all the social benefits provided in Chinese society and the other which works in privately owned factories and will not be entitled to such benefits as free medicine, etc. Nor are they certain what wider effects it would have, i.e., would it require wider commoditization of many such socialized services to allow them to be purchased by the potentially higher salaried but less subsidized workers in foreign owned factories? Some of the theoretical implications of the import of the capitalist technology to allow socialist societies to develop faster is provided in Bettelheim, Calculation, 80-81. See also “How a Chinese Factory Leads a Leap Forward Into Capitalist Ways,” Wall Street Journal July 5, 1979.

[66] See, for example the body of Marx’s works and in particular the Theses on Feuerbach; Lenin’s Philosophical Notebooks and Materialism and Empirico-Criticism; Mao’s Critique, Questions of Philosophy, (Wansui, (1969), 548-561, Miscellany, 61269-2: 384-396, also in Stuart Schram, Mao Talks to the People: “Examples of Dialectics” (Wansui (1967), 123-151), Miscellany, 201-225; the writings of Althusser et. al.

[67] The struggle over whether “one divides into two” put forward by Mao or “Two combine into one” put forward by the Liu-Deng forces and associated directly with Yang Xianchen of the Higher Party School was one of the main issues of struggle during the Cultural Revolution. For a short summary of this, see James Peck and Victor Nee, China’s Uninterrupted Revolution, 297-8. Recently the present leadership has revitalized Mao’s “one divides into two” slogan but with a completely different and relativist meaning; see Brantly Womack, “Politics and Epistemology in China Since Mao,” in China Quarterly (Dec. 1979) 80: 768-792.

[68] See Xue Muqiao, BR (1979) 47: 20; JJYJ (1979) 4: 2.

[69] JJYJ (1979) 10: 19.

[70] Based on the notion that classes and class struggle did not exist under socialism, the CPSU under Khruschev put forward the notion of the “state of the whole people.” The concept was roundly criticized by the CCP during the sixties and seventies as “revisionist.” However, with the present leadership’s position that classes have been eliminated in China and with the re-evaluation of what constitutes revisionism, the basis seems to be being laid for a similar concept and practice to arise in China.

[71] The excerpts appear in “Confusion in Socialist Political Economics Created by the Gang of Four’s Theory that ’Classes Exist Throughout the Socialist Stage,” Dong Furen, JJYJ (1979) 9: 42-50.

[72] Referred to by Zhang Chunqiao as the “fortified villages” of the bourgeoisie.

[73] As pointed out in TR 5, Zhang was attacked by the present leadership forces for “Kick(ing) Up a Fuss Over the Question of Ownership,” BR 1: 16-19. That article criticized Zhang’s approach by a combination of undocumented innuendoes, metaphysical simplifications, i.e., since both collective ownership and ownership by the whole people are forms of socialist ownership, why bother to distinguish between them?; and by outright falsification, i.e., arguing that Mao never discussed the relation between the two kinds of socialist ownership. See Mao, Critique for a refutation of this accusation.

These critiques were a harbinger of a later effort to obscure the differences between the two ownership levels. Historically one of the characteristics of collective ownership was that such units could only borrow funds from the state whereas units owned by the whole people were eligible for direct grants from the state. However, in a recent article, the former criteria (borrowing funds and paying interest on the loan) was incorrectly used to define all people’s ownership, thus blurring the distinction between the two. The purpose of this was to argue that certain new practices which seemed to undermine the nature of ownership of the whole people did not undermine it since they were not different in nature from the previous practice of borrowing money from the state and paying interest on those loans. However, since this was not historically the way in which units under the ownership of the whole people acquired such funds, a distortion was required to defend the present practices. See ”On the System of Paying for Use of Fixed Assets,” Liang Wenlin, Tian Jianghai JJYJ (1979) 4: 16-25; for a lengthy discussion of the earlier set of criteria for these ownership systems, see the documents of the conference of economists at Chengjiu in November 1958, in JJYJ (1958) 12.

[74] The idea that commodity production is a function of two different ownership systems rather than a function of the level of development of the forces of production and various continually regenerated aspects of the capitalist mode of production under socialism was shared to differing extents by Stalin, Mao, and the “Four” and the forces associated with them. See Grahame Lock, Introduction to Althusser’s Essays in Self-Criticism; Yao Wenyuan, “Social Basis,” 6; and Zhang Chunqiao, “All Round,” 13.

[75] See TR 6 for a discussion of this.

[76] These particular categories were also singled out by Stalin as worthy of reconsideration; see Economic Problems. The implications of the retention of such categories are explained throughout Bettelheim’s Calculation and Class Struggles II: 285- 329.

[77] See TR 9: 25.

[78] See Hua Guofeng’s June 18, 1979 “Report on the Work of the Government,” BR (1979) 27 and “Fundamental Change in China’s Class Situation,” BR (1979), 46-47.

[79] For my earlier comments on the degree of consolidation of the “socialist system” as seen by the present leadership forces, see TR 5: 13-19 and TR 6: 44-53.

[80] “Short-term individual material incentives” is used here to clarify what is usually referred to as ”material incentives.” Promoting emulation campaigns and the like while simultaneously keeping down short term consumption levels should also be seen as a form of material incentive. That is, so long as the resources accumulated from maintaining a relatively low rate of consumption are used to speed up the development of society as a whole rather than for the purposes of small classes which have expropriated this surplus from the working class, such policies should be characterized as long-term collective material incentives. This is of course in opposition to policies which emphasize short-term individual material incentives.

[81] This is stated quite clearly in Hua’s Report. It is made more specific in JJYJ (1979) 9: 48 which states that “as far as the law of socialist economic movement, some comrades still think that it is the law of class struggle, they see the law of the struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie as the basic economic law of the entire historical period of socialism.”

[82] See JJYJ (1979) 9: 42-50. By displacing the class contradictions within a social formation onto external class enemies, the internal contradictions within the base and superstructure, within and between the Party and the state are overlooked, allowing many capitalist elements to continue to be regenerated. The result is a theoretically incoherent analysis of the social formation in which errors are blamed on comrades acting as agents of foreign imperialism, etc. For elaboration of the consequences of the displacement of class struggle, see Locke, 12ff. and Balibar On the Dictatorship of the Proletariat (NLB, 1977).

[83] See “On the Stages of Social Development After the Proletariat Has Seized Power,” Su Shaozhi, Feng Lanrui, JJYJ (1979) 5: 14- 19; also JJYJ (1979): 9: 42-50.

[84] This article goes on to argue that, since in more developed capitalist countries the forces of production are more developed, once political power is seized by the proletariat in a period of intense class struggle, this second period will be tar shorter than in less advanced countries. That is, after a short period, these advanced societies will enter full socialism, which would be characterized by the absence of classes and class struggle. The starkness of this formulation which basically argues that the length of the transition is directly proportional to the level of development of the forces of production and totally ignores the structure of those forces and which argues that once political power were seized in a country like the US, class struggle at all levels of the social formation would promptly die out, can not fail to raise the eyebrows of serious Marxist-Leninists.

[85] The article puts forth the unique concept of a neutral, non-class function of the state, international defense! It argues that, strictly speaking, the function of resisting foreign interference is not included in the defining characteristics of the dictatorship of the proletariat and thus does not transform an organ with that function into a dictatorship of the proletariat. Such a revisionist stance provides a potential theoretical base for very nationalist policies, for the theoretical elimination of the understanding of class struggle as a world-wide struggle against the international capitalist system.

[86] For the fullest theoretical refutation of the revisionist separation of socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat, see Balibar, The Dictatorship of the Proletariat.

[87] Mao’s development of the theory of “uninterrupted revolution developing through stages” allowed him to analyze the various quantitaive and qualitative changes in the Chinese social formation in order to better understand the dominant contradiction in each stage and thus, the form and level of the dominant aspect of class struggle in each of these stages. But he did not use it to rationalize the dying out of class struggle.

[88] See note 36.

[89] Here it must be clear that Mao was not arguing that he was creating class struggle where none existed, but that he recognized class struggle where it already existed and where, if its existence were ignored and not combatted, it could weaken the dictatorship of the proletariat. This position is not criticized by the present leadership as the “absolutization” of class struggle.

[90] There are even hints that the present leadership is now moving toward breaking up the communes because of their integration; see Far Eastern Economic Review March 30, 1979: 9; July 6, 1979: 37.

[91] See Mao, Critique, Ch. 27; and “Talk at the Beitaihe Central Committee Work Conference,” Aug. 9, 1962, Wansui (1969): 424 in Miscellany.

[92] See Marx, Engels, Lenin “On the Dictatorship of the Proletariat” (Beijing FLP: 1975). This collection of quotations was the main theoretical document supporting this campaign.

[93] “How Did Chang Chun-chiao Tamper with the Theory of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat?” Wang Keuihsiu and Chang Hsienyang BR(1979) 3: 10-13.

[94] Opportunistic in that here the present leadership forces characterize the dictatorship of the proletariat as containing only repressive practices in order to criticize the “Four.” However, elsewhere they take the position that the dictatorship of the proletariat also includes democratic practices. See BR (1979), 46: 12; 47: 17 for examples.

[95] One of the clearest quotes to this effect comes from Lenin: “The dictatorship of the proletariat is a persistent struggle–bloody and bloodless, violent and peaceful, military and economic, educational and administrative–against forces and traditions of the old society.” Left Wing Communism, cited in BR (1979), 3-12. Many other writings of Lenin, e.g., Economics and Politics in the Era of the Dictatorhip of the Proletariat, Marx and Engels as well as of more recent Marxist-Leninist theorists, i.e., Balibar’s On the Dictatorship of the Proletariat; Lock’s Introduction to Althusser’s Essays in Self-Criticism, p. 28, etc., demonstrate that the theoretical usage of the term “dictatorship” in “dictatorship of the proletariat” is qualitatively different from the common ideological usage of “dictatorship” meaning a set of repressive Draconian practices.

[96] Similarly, the present leadership’s charge that under the “Four’s” reign there could have developed a dictatorship over both the working class and the peasantry is hollow demogoguery. That is, if, as the present leadership forces assert, there 4s no bourgeoisie in China, what class would be exercising this dictatorship?

[97] This policy is in line with the 1950’s policy of “utilizing, restricting and transforming” the capitalist enterprises during their transformation into socialist enterprises. That is, utilizing restricting and transforming the capitalists’ rights of ownership over these enterprises. In line with this, Mao and the “Four” did not argue–as charged by their opponents–that commodity production had to be immediately reduced or even eliminated, but that commodity production had to be expanded while simultaneously taking appropriate measures to restrict and transform it; see Mao, Critique, Zhang Chunqiao, “All Round,” 22-23.

[98] BR (1979) 46: 11-12; 47: 17.

[99] See BR (1979) 50: 19-27, 30.

[100] “On the Ten Great Relationships.”

[101] A proletariat is a working class which sells its labor power as a commodity. Hence it can only exist in opposition to a bourgeoisie. But there are numerous working classes which are not proletariats, e.g., the slave classes, the feudal serf class. Under communism, there will continue to be working masses. But with the final elimination of the bourgeoisie, of exploitation and of classes, there will be no working class, only a unified society of workers.

[102] One further example of this economism is instructive. In “On the Nature and Characteristics of Socialism” by Wang Ruisun, Song Yangyan and Zhang Zhaoyuan JJYJ (1979) 10: 20-27) the authors charge that in exaggerating the role of politics, the “Four” had argued that the dictatorship of the proletariat determines the nature of the social formation and that the economy must serve the dictatorship of the proletariat. To the contrary argue the authors. They argue that the relations of production determine the nature of the social formation and that consequently the dictatorship of the proletariat must serve these relations. No one would argue that the dictatorship of the proletariat must serve to consolidate and expand the communist (not socialist!) relations of production. However, by ignoring the distinction between the ultimately determinant factor, the economy, and the conjuncturally dominant factor, e.g., the political factor (which, by its intervention in the economic level allows the transformation of the relations of production), the authors assume that the already established socialist (sic) relations of production have determined, once and for all, the socialist nature of Chinese society. In other words, having established these relations (although the political means by which they were established is left unmentioned), the other levels of society, e.g., the political and ideological levels, do not play a crucial role in determining whether these sprouts of the communist mode will grow or be crushed. Rather these other levels are basically passive reflections of the always dominant economic level. This is in direct contradiction to Lenin’s position that “What class holds power determines everything.” “One of the Fundamental Questions of the Revolution,” SW II (Progress, 1967, 255.) The degree of consolidation of the revisionist problematic is blatantly clear in a recent article in BR (1980): 16 entitled “Marxism Should Not Be Confused with Revisionism.” The article strongly rejects all criticisms of the policies and theories associated with Liu Shaoqi as revisionist. Included in this list of non-revisionist theories and policies, are Liu’s policies and theories which were attacked as the dying out of class struggle; the theory of productive forces and the theory of peace within the Party among others. The article also specifically defends such policies as managing the economy by economic (as opposed to administrative) means, rural trade fairs, each unit taking responsibility for its own profits and losses; opposition to mass movements; and “relying on factory directors, engineers and technicians,” as ”the correct principles and methods for economic construction” in China. Logically enough, the article then goes on to argue that ”prior to 1966 no rightist danger had emerged within our Party at all. Quite the contrary, the main trend that had long been undermining our Party . . . was ’Leftism’.”!!!

[103] Whether or not the body of officials and supporters who support these policies constitutes a state bourgeoisie is not addressed in this paper. All this paper attempts to do is analyze the policies and the trend. But it stops short of this point. Bettelheim, on the other hand, in his various works, argues that if a body of functionaries and administrators effectively becomes the proprietors of the means of production and distributes the social surplus according to bourgeois norms, then this body has become a new bourgeoisie. Although it seems clear the present leadership is relying more on bourgeois norms to distribute surplus and to manage production, the degree to which they have become the proprietors of the means of production is not clear. Nor is the adequacy of this definition of a state bourgeoisie to mean that the present leadership is seen as a state bourgeoisie.

[104] Recent articles have noted the shifting of resources to the construction of housing for profit and even speculation at prices accessible only to foreigners or the highest paid elements in Chinese society; see BR (1980) 7: 31; FEER Feb. 5, 1980: 56-57; FEER Feb. 8, 1980: 79-80.

[105] An article in JJYJ (1979) 9: 56-60, in discussing why mental workers receive higher wages than manual workers, stated rather simplistically and circularly that mental workers simply make a greater contribution than manual workers and therefore should receive more.

[106] For more on the various forms of oppositions to the present leadership and contradictions within it, see China Quarterly 80 (Dec. 1979), 691-715, 740-767, 768-792, 793-800.

[107] For example, numerous errors stand out in Mao’s work. One example is the incorrect jump he made from the identification of revisionist tendencies and practices in the Soviet Union (a quantitative factor) to the restoration of capitalism (a qualitative factor) without analyzing how the transformation of quantitative to qualitative change took place. Another obvious error is his rather offhanded statement that laziness is a source of revisionism; see “Talk on the Third Five Year Plan,” June 6, 1964; Wansui (1969): 499.