From Prague to Chenpao. An Editorial Statement On Soviet Aggression

First Published: The Marxist, No. 10, April 1969
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Sam Richards and Paul Saba
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EARLY IN MARCH of this year, just six months after the invasion of Czechoslovakia, Soviet armoured units crossed the frozen Ussuri River in Heilungkiang province and occupied the island of Chenpao, which belongs to China. Chinese frontier guards defending their own territory were accused by the Soviet revisionists of aggression.

In mid-March, Moscow's Chinese language broadcasts threatened People's China with nuclear war.

Thus we have another example of Soviet revisionist aggression, accompanied by lying propaganda, directed this time against a socialist country.


The occupation of Czechoslovakia, which on the surface looked like a powerful show of Soviet strength, in fact signified great weakness on the part of Soviet revisionism. It was undertaken as a last ditch attempt to prevent the Dubcek revisionists from pulling Czechoslovakia completely out of the revisionist controlled bloc. The defection of Czechoslovakia from the Soviet revisionist orbit would have completely upset the already wobbly East European apple-cart. The invasion was an act of aggression which had nothing whatsoever to do with the defence of socialism for the very simple reason that in neither Czechoslovakia nor the USSR does socialism exist. Socialism can only exist under the rule of the working class, and in neither country does the working class rule. In both countries there has been a bourgeois restoration; a peaceful transition from socialism to capitalism. The Soviet revisionists are no more capable of acting against their class interests - i.e., capitalist interests - than is the British "Labour" government is capable of acting against the interests of monopoly capitalism here. Just as British armed force, employed anywhere in the world is always reactionary and counter-revolutionary, so is the employment of armed force by the Soviet revisionists reactionary and counter-revolutionary.

The strategic interest of the Soviet revisionists is opposed to revolution all over the world. They have a common interest with the US imperialists in preserving the respective spheres of domination.

Thus they need to collude with US imperialism. Their strategic interest also demands that they protect their own spheres of domination - mainly their European neo-colonial empire - against encroachment from US and other imperialists. In pursuit of their strategic objectives the Soviet revisionists resort to deceit and demagogy in an attempt to disguise the fundamentally reactionary and aggressive nature of their actions. They try to cover up their occupation of Czechoslovakia by describing it as a defensive action in the interests of socialism. Thus, a blatant act of imperialist aggression is passed off as an anti-imperialist act.


The armed attacks by Soviet frontier units against Chinese territory on the Soviet Union's eastern borders, and the occupation of Chenpao island on the Chinese side of the Ussuri river, are part of a similar pattern of aggression, and can be seen as a continuation of Soviet strategy. By ignoring the facts concerning the eastern frontier demarcation lines and by distorting the facts about the armed clashes, Soviet propagandists turn the truth on its head, presenting their own aggression as 'defence of Soviet territory' and describing China's defence of its own territory as 'aggression'. The Soviet leaders employ the same methods that imperialists have always used to cover up their aggression. Their actions, first against Czechoslovakia and now against China, (whatever may be the differences in each case), are similar to those of Hitler against Czechoslovakia, and to those of US imperialism against Cuba, Dominica and Vietnam. The representatives of the new bourgeoisie in the Soviet Union have joined the ranks of world imperialism. They are the enemies of the peoples of the world.


The Soviet dominated East European bloc is in disarray. With each passing day the Soviet revisionists multiply their problems. They desperately need to hold together their European colonial empire, which is rent with irresolvable contradictions. Relations between the revisionist states are the relations between different and conflicting bourgeois national interests. Each tries to blackmail the other and they all try to blackmail the Soviet overlords. They all engage in double-talk and deceit like a bunch of gangsters and the whole sickly masquerade is conducted behind a smokescreen of 'Marxist' phrases.

What are the Soviet revisionists' motives in attacking Chinese territory at this time? Actually The Guardian came close to the answer in its editorial on March 20. 'If the rights and wrongs on the Ussuri do not justify or explain the dispute, there must be other motives behind the Russians' obvious desire to keep up the tension. It may be to reinforce unity in their own camp, or perhaps it is to try to convince the Americans that Moscow cannot afford to be other than peaceful in its intentions towards the West'. These factors are connected and they both figure in the revisionist scheme. The Soviet leaders' objective is to further their collusion with the US imperialists in order to oppose the world revolutionary movement and in particular, to oppose China, which is the main bulwark of world revolution, and which, needless to say, presents the biggest single obstacle to the development of Soviet/US 'friendly relations'. To this end they need to present a united revisionist front to the US. That is their major pre-occupation at the moment. In order to extend their cooperation with the US imperialists they have to demonstrate to the US that they both have the same enemy - People's China. If a 'peace zone' can be established in Europe on the basis of a mutual recognition of each other's 'spheres of influence' then the basis will be laid for a further extension of Soviet/US collaboration to oppose China and dominate the world. This aim was at the centre of the March meeting of Warsaw Pact parties in Buda- pest. It explains the revisionist overtures to Western Europe proposing a conference to discuss 'European Security', which would have as its aim the establishment of a phoney 'peace zone' in Europe.

Soviet attacks on Chinese territory must be seen in this context.


Concerning the Sino/Soviet frontier itself, the revisionists have not presented a shred of evidence in support of their claim to Chenpao island. Instead they have resorted to the propaganda methods employed by all aggressors - the stirring of chauvinistic and racist passions amongst the people. To this end they have enlisted the services of the anti-communist poet, Yevtuschenko, who has provided the appropriate verses warning of 'the yellow peril.' Further evidence they do not seek.

On March 12, the Information Department of the Chinese Foreign Ministry issued a press release which set out the facts concerning the Heilungkiang border with the Soviet Union. The following passage is key:

'Even according to the unequal "Sino-Russian Treaty of Peking" (1860), Chenpao island is indisputable Chinese territory. The "Sino-Russian Treaty of Peking" stipulated: "From the estuary of the Ussuri River southwards to the Hsingkai Lake, the boundary line runs along the Ussuri and Sungacha Rivers. The land lying east of these rivers belongs to Russia and the land west of these rivers belongs to China." According to established principles of international law, in the case of navigable boundary rivers, the central line of the main channel should form the boundary which determines the ownership of islands. Chenpao Island and the nearby Kapotzu and ChiIichin Islands are all situated on the Chinese side of the central line of the main channel of the Ussuri River and have always been under China's jurisdiction. Chinese frontier guards have always been patrolling these islands and Chinese inhabitants have always been carrying on production on these islands. During the Sino-Soviet boundary negotiations in 1964, the Soviet side itself could not but admit that these islands are Chinese territory.'

The Soviet revisionists have not attempted to deny these facts; they simply ignore them.

On March 11, an article appeared in People’s Daily entitled Soviet Revisionist Renegade Clique Can Only Be Digging Its Own Grave in Rabidly Opposing China. Dealing with the anti-Chinese demonstrations staged in Moscow, the People’s Daily commentator was at pains to stress that China made a distinction between the Soviet people and their rulers. 'A profound friendship exists between the Soviet people and the Chinese people. The Soviet Revisionist renegade clique can never succeed in trying to disrupt the revolutionary friendship between the Soviet and Chinese peoples by the shameless methods of spreading lies and deception. ...The Soviet revisionist renegade clique also raised a hue and cry branding as "anti-Soviet" the Chinese people's counter-attack against the clique's provocation and the Chinese people's exposure of its social-imperialist crimes. This is out-and-out the trick of a thief crying "stop thief'. It is precisely you yourselves, a pack of renegades, and nobody else, who are anti-Soviet.'

If the Soviet revisionists really believe that China will submit to nuclear blackmail, then they understand nothing at all. The Chinese people were never cowed by nuclear threats from US imperialism even before they had their own nuclear weapons, and now, with the all-round deepening of revolutionary consciousness in the proletarian cultural revolution, they are even less likely to be scared by nuclear menaces, whether from the US or the Soviet revisionists. The Chinese Foreign Ministry statement, quoted above, concludes with these words: 'It is absolutely impermissable for anyone to violate China's sovereignty and territorial integrity. We will not attack unless we are attacked; if we are attacked, we will certainly counter-attack. Should the Soviet revisionist renegade clique cling to its reckless course and continue to provoke armed conflicts on the border, the Chinese people, following the teaching of our great leader, Chairman Mao will certainly wipe out the invading enemy resolutely, thoroughly, wholly and completely.'

There is no longer any room for doubt about the character of Soviet revisionism. Within the revolutionary movement there were one or two communist parties who, while critical of Soviet revisionism, nevertheless supported the invasion of Czechoslovakia on the grounds that it was undertaken in the defence of socialism. Such a belief could only be sustained on the basis that the Soviet Union remains a socialist country. Such a view is wrong. Those who still cling to illusions about the Soviet Union will be unable to do so for very much longer. All revolutionaries must henceforth be judged by their attitude towards Soviet revisionism - and towards the People's Republic of China. Support for the former, whatever the intention, is support for counter-revolution. Support for the latter is support for revolution. It is impossible to support both.