Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Nottingham Communist Group

Controversy over China

First Published: Red Star, No. 3, February 1980
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Sam Richards and Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.

Letter from the Editor of “New Age”

Thank you for the copy of “Red Star” from the Nottingham Communist Group to which I must reply. The article on “Counter revolution in China” made the biggest impact –negative I must admit –and will attract all my attention.

As I remember the things that upset you most about the recent developments since the overthrow of the Gang of Four was the new educational policy which you feared – and now seem convinced – has restored educational elitism. By definition you must believe that up to this point it was being eliminated, particularly by the Cultural Revolution. Also you must believe that there was no such thing as ultra leftism in the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution since you obviously think that everything that emerged from it was good. Such culminations of ultra leftism as students handing in blank examination papers and millions of youth permanently moving into the rural areas you would applaud as wholeheartedly correct.

You, like me, had a very idealised picture of Chinese society, still made up predominantly of peasants – 80% of its population. As petty bourgeois intellectuals we are very prone to over-estimate achievements and under-estimate difficulties. The enormous problems faced by the C.P.C. in leading the Chinese people away from feudalism, imperialism and bureaucrat-capitalism, through the anti-imperialist wars and the national liberation struggles, the establishment of the people’s Republic and the consolidation and promotion of socialism (not just from 1966 but long, long before); these are all easily underrated by the petit bourgeois flush of enthusiasm for those aspects of the Cultural Revolution which were all-destructive (or anarchic). Destroy all authority, eliminate all bourgeois learning, reject all things foreign, cast aside all the past, denounce all technology, get rid of those who cut their teeth in the national democratic struggles as capitalist roaders, transform the world by shouting – nay screaming – slogans, deify Mao as utterly infallible, demand absolute conformity from all in all things, take on all enemies in every sphere in one go. The CPE (ML) adored these things, many Maoists of the day extolled these things to such an extent that it was possible to imagine that Cultural Revolution had replaced Armed Revolution, that in fact the revolution to wrest political power from the bourgeoisie by force of arms receded into a secondary role and intellectuals became workers at a stroke. Now only the youth were revolutionary and those “idiots” – Chou En Lai included – who had survived the arduous earlier struggles for national democracy -could be brushed aside by the “redder than red” new revolutionaries, and labelled capitalist-roaders. Glib, easy and blind –blind obedience of the type Hitler demanded of his followers, is what those of the Gang of Four-type ultra left demanded: blindness to reality, to the workers needs, to the need for unity, for the people’s material welfare, the country’s defences and the threat of war.

Was it not significant that Lin Piao, another grand ultra revolutionary, died while fleeing to the Soviet Union when his plot was uncovered? The Gang of Four too would have handed their country and peoples as a nice prize to the Russians. Hopefully they and their ilk will never get the chance again to pretend that People’s War means scoffing at modern weaponry. What, even Lenin knew very well that socialism has to outstrip capitalism and overtake it by demonstrating its superior productive capacity. Stalin certainly realised· that he had to match and out-match the Nazi aggressors’ weaponry if the Russian people were to win the war of resistance. Are you saying that People’s War precludes developing the best possible weapons? You seem to have forgotten that Mao said “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun” –and there is no virtue in sticking to peashoots when the enemy has ICBMs.

Yes the Gang of Four would have destroyed Socialist China. They would have established their fascist dictatorship, stifled the workers and peasants into automatons and pleased imperialism no end. I could go into detail about all your points but I doubt if it would be helpful. You see, now that you have decided that China is revisionist, you will very soon find yourself nodding with the isolated sectarian Albanians and in the arms of Russia. There is no way else for you to go – unless you are happy to remain in splendid isolation for the rest of your political life. And the problems and questions you are creating for yourself are enormous – and most pleasing to the superpowers.

You have been silent about the implications of your analysis. If China is revisionist then will you side with no-one when the Russians launch the next war? If China is virtually a superpower (give or take thirty years) then why aren’t you condemning her “aggression” against Vietnam? When the Cubans, Vietnamese and Russians attempt to split the non-aligned movement in Havana next month will you be pleased or just indifferent? When China normalises her relations with the USSR will you then claim she is also collaborating with them for world supremacy – or do you think she’s in too deeply with the Yanks? What about reminding yourself that Lenin introduced NEP and allowed foreign investment in the: Soviet state because of the great backwardness of the economy–or was he a revisionist too? Surely Stalin was a revisionist for trading with Nazi Germany and signing the Nazi-Soviet Pact.

There is a lot of trash that I have not replied to but will get round to sooner or later. You say China only supports movements opposing Soviet Imperialism. That is just bullshit. The half-truth contained in those turds of yours consists of the fact that it is the Soviet Union who intervenes and interferes in more and more parts of the world and is very rapidly replacing – nay – has replaced US imperialism as the more aggressive superpower. So where are there the most militant movements likely to develop? Where oppression is greatest surely? It seems to me you are just trying to say that it is unfair to be so obsessed with the Soviet threat. And it was the very Teng you so abhor who told the ASEAN countries that the support of the C.P.C. for the Communist Parties of Kampuchea, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Philippines would not cease and was a different question to the one of promoting better inter-state relations.

Revisionism may have surged in China but it is certainly nowhere in command. There is an absolute necessity to unite all the anti-superpower forces at this time and when united fronts are developing, right deviations become more common. That matter is being very well handled by all accounts and the dangers it poses are far outweighed by the advantages of strengthening Socialist China. The consternation of the Russians and the checking of their puppets in Indo-China, the emergence of China as a positive political force in a world on the brink of being dragged into a war, is only to be welcomed. Mao called for China to have the Atom Bomb in 1956 and he called for overtaking the industrial countries by twenty or so years. Modernisation is absolutely essential and is being achieved in the most revolutionary way possible by the present revolutionary government. It is very encouraging to see how self-critical they are and have corrected some of the over-ambitious initial plans. I have no doubt that the Chinese people will win great victories in the present struggles to promote production because in the main they have grasped revolution, something that very very few British Marxist-Leninists have done.

I’m surprised that you don’t see that you are moving towards a Trotskyist position. Any kind of alliance with non-proletarian classes is seen as reactionary, any kind of alliance with one imperialism to destroy another is seen as counter-revolutionary, any slogan which is exclusively for the Left is good (Trotsky was fond of calling on the inexperienced youth to throw out tempered cadres). The article is written with his kind of sophistry. Why didn’t you say outright that China is imperialist instead of counting on the next war to give you a way out. As a matter of fact, the upheavals you hope will restore revolution in China will also cause upheaval in the U.S.S.R. and U.S. – doesn’t that excite you too? Like a good Trotskyite you didn’t firmly state your position or work out the implications for Britain. Let me refer you to the R.C.P.B. (ML) successors to the C.P.E. (ML) – who take your view but much more consistently they only back Albania and have removed Mao’s head from their banners – for, alas it turns out that he too was a revisionist. Maybe you too will realise this when you read earlier works of his and see how he emphasised the need for production to be developed, for the past to be retained and developed when useful, for the need to learn from foreign technology and for order to be restored and the Cultural Revolution to come to an end. (This is as one-sided as your article and meant to restore the balance!). That quote at the end from Mao refers to class struggle within socialist society. If China is revisionist then there is a bourgeois dictatorship and the quote is thus very misplaced. Or could you be taking the view that China is a degenerated “socialist” state – run by the revisionists (who are not quite the bourgeoisie) –yet needing to be supported but its deformities attacked? The class struggle in a socialist country takes a very different form to the class struggle in capitalist – original or restored – society.

What Mao meant in this passage was that socialist society would last a long time–possibly “several centuries”. Looking at China on such a time scale can you honestly hold that she has gone revisionist and that counter-revolution is now in command? If you only recognised the seriousness of the threat of war from social-fascist Russia, I doubt if you would. But as I said before, you will soon find yourself lined up against the wall with the Albanians, at first playing down the Soviet imperialist threat and finally capitulating to it – to keep these Chinese “revisionists” at bay and fully exposed.

Oh yes – it was Lenin who admired American efficiency and wanted to introduce it to the Soviet Union. Added to electrification and Bolshevik leadership he said it equalled socialism! Don’t wear strait jackets. Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse Tung thought can liberate your mind. Apply it creatively – to Britain primarily. Attacking China the way you did was very opportunistic and destructive. I doubt whether you have tried to understand why there have been so many such developments or what, after all is socialism.

* * *

Reply from the Editor of “Red Star”

I have delayed replying to your letter of last August because in it you said you would be sending a fuller analysis of our alleged incorrect position at a later date. This we have now received and studied and now is a good time to reply to your criticisms.

Perhaps it would be relevant to say right at the beginning that we thought your whole letter was permeated with a hysterical viciousness which is in no way conducive to political debate and can easily encourage a tendency towards purely personal abusiveness, surely the last thing that is needed at the present moment. Great changes have taken place in China since the death of Mao Tse Tung: some Marxist-Leninists think these changes are for the good, some do not, but either way we must exchange our views, seek clarification, advance as Marxist-Leninist and conduct our debate in a comradely fashion. Clearly you are perfectly happy with what is happening in China and here you share a common position with many other ML organisations in Britain, though fortunately throughout the world. We consider your position to be fundamentally incorrect and a danger to the development of a revolutionary party in this country. We believe that until Marxist-Leninists here begin to practice Marxism-Leninism in a creative way and analyse in a correct way contemporary phenomena there is little chance we can build our own revolutionary party. The analysis of the present leadership in China is not therefore an abstract theoretical one but is of the greatest importance as the problems faced in China no doubt will occur here in the post revolutionary period and we thus wish to learn from errors made so we can try to prevent them in the future. We therefore reject your allegation that our noses are stuck in books and say that to us this is a practical exercise in understanding the problems faced by the proletariat and its allies in the post revolutionary period.

We accept that at the moment there is a great deal of confusion over China and that detailed analysis and critiques are necessary. Since the article in “Red Star” last June we have tried to deepen our understanding of how bourgeois restoration in the socialist period comes about. In carrying out this investigation we have been greatly indebted to the Revolutionary Communist Party of the United States who have provided a clear, comprehensive critique of the present Chinese leadership. This is mainly contained in their book “And Mao makes 5” (Banner Books, New York, 1979) which we would urge you to read and study. We do not accept that the “Red Star” article was either premature or divisive as contemporary events cannot be ignored because they may be embarrassing or difficult to understand and no form of knowledge is ever fixed, absolute and final.

It is clear to us that nowhere in your letter do you actually practice Marxism-Leninism in a constructive and creative way and that your entire position is predicated around the argument that China cannot be revisionist because you don’t want it to be and to hell with reality! This of course is the worst sort of bourgeois idealism and is directly comparable with “Communist” Party of Great Britain members who, by complex mental gyrations, can ignore the fact of Soviet social-imperialism because they wish so ardently to believe that the Soviet Union is still a socialist country. This position is wishful thinking and has nothing to do with Marxism-Leninism. I will give you a concrete example of this. Your hysterical diatribe against the “Gang of Four” is totally devoid of any political analysis, is simply abuse, is in fact just a repetition of the mouthings of the present regime in China. If the “Gang of Four” were in fact fascists who wanted to sell the Chinese people into slavery is it too much to ask that concrete manifestations of that fascism be given in some detail? We are surprised that you do not seem to require any evidence as certainly at one time you had every faith and confidence in the aims and gains of the Cultural Revolution.

In fact the present regime in China cannot, dare not, publish in any detail the political line of the “Gang of Four” as they know very well the line of the “Gang of Four” was Mao’s line and the line he fought for consistently for the last decades of his life. It was the line for mass class struggle and against revisionism and capitalist restoration within the C.P.C. It is of course very convenient for revisionists to have short memories and to “forget” the facts and experiences that are no longer useful to them. Let us therefore remind you what Mao said in 1976 about the capitalist roaders within the Party:

With the socialist revolution they themselves come under fire. At the time of the co-operative transformation of agriculture there were people in the Party who opposed it, and when it comes to criticising bourgeois right they resent it. You are making the socialist revolution and you don’t know where the bourgeoisie is. It is right in the Communist Party – those in power taking the capitalist road. The capitalist roaders are still on the capitalist road. (Quoted in People’s Daily editorial 10.3.15)

Can anything be stated more directly and unequivocally than this? Or is it just the senile ramblings of an old man past his prime? Of course Mao’s pronouncement that the bourgeoisie were in the C.P.C, have been ignored by’ the present clique – it was to them he was referring. The abuse and invective they hurl upon the “Gang of Four” is an attack on Mao as these four comrades were the closest to him from the period of the Cultural Revolution to his death. The groundless accusations against them have been repeated so often, that in the fashion of the big lie technique it is hoped that people will believe them without question. Sadly, in a lot of cases, this is true and many good people have not practised any proper analysis and have swallowed this rubbish hook, line and sinker. We are told that the “Gang of Four” paid no attention to productivity – where is the concrete evidence for this? Certainly not in big cities like Shanghai where production rose as major technical innovations were pioneered during the period of “anarchy”.

And the same sort of rubbish is repeated about the Cultural Revolution. Again it is conveniently “Forgotten” that the Cultural Revolution was launched by Mao and that its purpose was two-fold being both an ideological struggle against revisionism and an exercise in putting political power into the hands of the great mass of people, not in an abstract way at the level of Party leadership but in a concrete day-to-day way. And in passing you forget to mention that the students who handed in bank examination papers did so as a political protest aimed at the children of Party cadres having access to higher education through the back door. Let us not forget what Mao said about the Cultural Revolution:

Apparently we couldn’t do without the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution for our base was not solid. From my observations I am afraid that in a fairly large majority of factories – I don’t mean all or the overwhelming majority–leadership was not in the hands of real Marxists and the mass of workers. Not that there were no good people in the factories, there were... but they followed the line of Liu Shao-chi’s just resorting to material incentive, putting profit in command and instead of promoting proletarian politics handing out bonuses and so forth. (Quoted by Chang Chun-Chiao. “On exercising all-round dictatorship over the bourgeoisie”. FLP, Peking)

Again it must be asked is this not direct and unequivocal? You say that we will soon denounce Mao as a revisionist but we must put it to you that this is what you must do lf you wish to maintain a pro-Teng position. These people were Mao’s sworn enemies; he fought against them’ time and time again; this is the reality. The documentations of those struggles still exist here and if you study them you cannot deny it. You must either jettison Mao or the present clique: you cannot reconcile them. So it is up to you.

Apart from your denunciation of the “Gang of Four” and the Cultural Revolution there are two other major points in your letter that we would like to take up: these are the importance of modernisation for China and class struggle during the socialist period. On the question of modernisation in China you, in common with other apologists for the present regime, have been fooled into thinking that there is a fundamentally antagonistic contradiction between the struggle for modernisation and the struggle for socialism and that one must inevitably be at the expense of the other. “China must modernise” is the cry on some people’s lips when any criticism of the present regime is made. You give the excuse that Lenin allowed the New Economic Policy in Russia but it is a complete red herring in the context of present day China. NEP came in just after the Civil War in Russia that is in a time of great deprivation. Such a situation is not at all comparable with China now. In fact there is no antagonistic contradiction between socialism and modernisation and the latter is a logical and inevitable outcome of the former. Socialism liberates the forces of production in an unprecedented way and allows for rapid development. The truth of this is clearly seen when we look at the fantastic progress China has made since the Liberation and similarly the fantastic progress made by Russia in the twenties and thirties. So it’s not a question of a bit of class struggle here: and a bit of modernisation there and somehow things develop. To pretend this is the case is a revisionist distortion of Marxism-Leninism and this is exactly what the present regime are doing: they put it either socialism or modernisation and they make no bones about what they prefer. They are using the call for modernisation as an excuse to abandon class struggle. Thus it is no accident that one of their first internal policies was to introduce piece-rates. Piece rates as every good bourgeois knows is a form of payment that does not reduce inequalities but actually increases them and also divides and alienates the working class.

Classes still exist during the socialist period and class struggle is of paramount importance. One key way this struggle develops is in the struggle for the socialisation of the relations of production and the progressive abolition of inequalities present in the socialist period. This is the meaning of Mao’s famous slogan “Grasp revolution and promote production”. It does not mean work harder; it means practice class struggle and fight for the socialisation of the relations of production. This stance is of course totally abandoned by the present regime. They place all the emphasis on expertise and machinery while the only role they allow the working class is that of willing work horses. Machines and tools don’t make revolution but people do.

We must also refer you to a recent edition of “Peking Review” (No.46 November 16th 1979) and the article titled “Fundamental changes in China’s class situation”. Here again the alleged contradiction between modernisation and class struggle is given emphasis but more important than that it is stated quite firmly that the capitalist class no longer exist in China. If this preposterous statement was true it would of course mean that China is now no longer a socialist society but is a communist one. Obviously there are still people in China who are perturbed about what’s going on as the article tries to forestall any criticism that may be made:

Has the capitalists have recently been given back their bank deposits and have been allowed once again to draw high pay some people still think that the capitalists are still exploiting others and wonder why it is said that’ the capitalist class no longer exist. Such people lack an understanding of the Party’s policy of buying out the capitalist. (Peking Review 16.11.79)

We would comment that “some people’s” (sic) eyes are perhaps beginning of open and that the present regime seem to be facing some opposition. The whole article spouts the same sort of nonsense that Khrushchev was peddling around in the 50s, and is classic revisionism. The fact is that class struggle is vital during the socialist period and the bourgeoisie must be fought tooth and nail wherever they appear. That was the line of the “Gang of Four” and that was the line of Mao Tse Tung. The bourgeoisie re-emerged in China in the form of leading Party cadres taking the capitalist road. The reason for this is because of the inequalities of the socialist period and will be discussed at greater length else where in this edition of “Red Star”.

In conclusion we would like to say that with respect to the Chinese people they are in a very bad situation at present but on the other hand they have had the experience of literally decades of class struggle and they also have the guidance of Mao Tse Tung thought. We hope that the present reversal is only a temporary one and they will struggle to overthrow the present regime as they struggled so bravely in the past. As Mao said in 1966:

If the Rightists stage an anti-communist coup d’etat in China I am sure they will know no peace either and their rule will most probably be short lived because it will not be tolerated by the revolutionaries who represent the interests of the people making up more than 90% of the population.