Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Revolutionary Communist League of Britain

China’s New Long March

A continuation of Mao’s revolutionary line

First Published: Revolution, Vol. 4, No. 2, January 1980
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Sam Richards and Paul Saba
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The present developments in China are stirring events for communists throughout the world. They also impose some strict demands. The period of ascendency of Lin Biao and the “gang of four” caused great havoc inside China, but this also had implications abroad. The campaign inside China to expose and criticise Lin Biao and the “gang of four” has therefore also had effects outside China, to the effect that it has shown the need to combat left opportunism.

One result of the ultra left line is that many in the Marxist-Leninist movement who were drawn into politics at the time of the Cultural Revolution came to understand socialism as being exclusively class struggle and never-ending political upheavals. So it has taken some time to adjust and begin to understand recent developments. This has meant going back to basic Marxist-Leninist principles, re-reading many of Mao’s works and studying closely the documents coming from the Peoples’ Republic of China (PRC). As a result, while the RCL does not claim to understand everything, we wholeheartedly support the present policies of the CPC, and particularly the policy to modernise socialist China by the year 2000.

Like revolutionaries throughout the world, we are proud to re-affirm our confidence in the Communist Party of China and its leaders (some may be new to us, but they have a long history in the Chinese revolution). In this 30th anniversary year, we study with interest the exciting developments and achievements in socialist construction, and remember that China belongs to all oppressed peoples and workers throughout the world. Our interest is not academic, it is a class interest, the victory or defeat of socialism in China has tremendous significance for the world revolution. That is why, if we are serious about wanting to understand the recent developments in China we must avoid making rash judgements and really try and study the situation scientifically.

After the many recent political struggles inside China the present shift in emphasis quite naturally raises questions about what is right and what is wrong. However over the years Marxist-Leninists have been tempered and matured, we have been educated to analyse things from a proletarian standpoint and reach our own informed conclusions. The fact that many people were taken in by the “gang of four”, shouldn’t make us cynical, it should make us want to understand questions more deeply, so we don’t lose our bearings in the future. There are however many forces at play encouraging cynicism, that distort and attack China’s leadership and policies and have confused many people. Firstly the bourgeoisie here, through their press, are for their own selfish reasons lauding China to the skies. This quite naturally makes us suspicious. We have dogmatically learnt to always oppose what the enemy supports, but we shouldn’t be dogmatic. The fact that China has forced the West to tear down the “bamboo curtain” they erected around her and welcome her as a respected and influential member of the international community is a sign of China’s strength. The bourgeoisie hate China’s revolution as much as they ever did, but opportunistically they have found in China a strong support against threats of Soviet expansionism and an enormous new market which they greedily hope to capture! China will quite naturally exploit this situation to her own advantage, both for expanding her own trade and winning over second world countries in the united front to defend world peace. As long as there is not compromise on basic principles it is certainly to the advantage of the international proletariat and oppressed people that China is no longer isolated and has many friends.

Secondly, we have the professional “China-watchers” and the ultra-lefts here. They have now come off the fence and declared that with the ending of the Cultural Revolution went the ending of socialism in China. They say the current plan of building China into a powerful modern socialist state by the year 2000 is in direct opposition to Mao’s line and that the “re-introduction” of bonuses and the import of foreign technology and loans is evidence of revisionism. All this they say, echoing the “gang of four”, proves that a right wing coup has taken place in China. (Incidentally, if things are now “bad”, what the hell were all these “revolutionaries” doing when they were good. They only seemed to have realised the change in retrospect, as most of these fairweather friends have never done much to promote support and friendship with China!)

However, the criteria Marxist-Leninists apply to ascertain whether the present policies represent a capitalist restoration, is not whether it upsets us that China’s socialist construction refuses to fit into our petty bourgeois idealist conception of socialism, but whether the dictatorship of the proletariat has been overthrown or not. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that this is so, on the contrary the dictatorship of the proletariat appears stronger than ever. Far from being weakened, the dictatorship of the proletariat is strengthened by a more stable and developed economic base. Our confidence in the recent consolidation of this dictatorship means that we support the socialist modernisation. We believe it is overwhelmingly positive, a continuation of all that is best in the long revolutionary traditions of the Chinese communist party. Of course there will be mistakes and retreats in the course of advancing, there will continue to be ideological struggle and we certainly won’t always like or understand everything that is happening. But, China’s new long march is travelling further towards communism than has ever been reached before. That is a tremendous inspiration to revolutionaries everywhere.

This article can’t hope to deal with all the many and varied developments in China, such as the welcome extension of democracy inside and outside the party, the new socialist legal system, the expansion of culture, all designed to release and protect the initiative and creativeness of the masses of people in China. We will concentrate on showing how the long march to socialist modernisation is a direct continuation of that charted by Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai and others. And how in fact this is the first time for many years that these same economic policies for developing socialism can be fully implemented without sabotage.


At the 11th national congress of the Chinese Communist Party and the first session of the Fifth National People’s Congress, a general task for the new period was set, thus heralding a shift of emphasis in the work of the whole party and the whole nation to socialist modernisation., Now, thanks to the unity and concerted efforts of the entire people, the time for this historic change has come. Once the proletariat and the other working people have seized state power and established their political rule, economic construction must be given top priority. In the early years of the Peoples’ Republic of China and especially after the basic completion of the socialist transformation of the ship of the means of production, comrade Mao Zedong pointed out and again that economic work and technical revolution should become our central task… In the present period and for a considerably long time to come systematic and planned socialist modernisation will be our task. Whether we succeed or fail in our endeavour to modernise China by the end of the century will decide the future of our country and people. (Hua Guofeng. Report on the work of the Government 1979 June).

To understand China’s socialist modernisation programme, we should look at it in the context of the overall process of socialist construction since liberation. The experience of both the Soviet Union and China has shown us that the road to communism is not a smooth one. Although communist strategy is clear, it must apply flexible tactics and be prepared for set backs as well as successes. This has certainly been the experience of China’s 30 years of socialism.

In 1949, the victory of the democratic revolution found China extremely poor and backward country. It had been devastated by more than 20 years war, over the years the imperialists had sucked the country dry, leaving primitive unproductive agriculture and very little industry. It was a semi-feudal, semi-colonial country. The question then was would it be possible to move from the stage of democratic revolution to socialism under such difficult conditions.

The success of the democratic revolution and the establishment of the Peoples’ Democratic Dictatorship in 1949 were both carried out under the strong leadership of the proletariat and the communist party. This provided the key to making the future uninterrupted change. Right from the start the democratic revolution had expropriated bureaucrat capital and established a basis for socialist transformation of ownership.

Even though more than 80% of the people were peasants, they were able to move from one stage of the revolution to the other only under the leadership of the working class. In all third world countries such as China, this will be the case. To ensure the success of the socialist revolution the relationship between the peasants and the workers must be handled correctly and the dictatorship of the proletariat must be based on the worker-peasant alliance.

The proletariat in China is small in number, some ten million only, and it must rely on the several hundred million poor peasants, lower middle peasants, city poor, poor handicraftmen and revolutionary intellectuals in order to exercise dictatorship – otherwise it cannot. Mao.

In 1949 and before the Communist Party mobilised the masses to carry out the movement for land reform (distributing the land to the individual peasants). This was a continuation of the process already successfully carried out in the liberated base areas. In cases where land reform had already been completed, steps were taken to organise various forms of mutual aid and co-operation. These measures reflected both the subjective desires of the peasants (i.e., their level of political consciousness) and the objective conditions (the level of productive forces). The millions of peasants in China therefore enthusiastically supported the party and government. Right from the start the foreign and comprador-owned industry were confiscated and measures were taken to introduce state capitalist industry and commerce. The small national bourgeoisie that did exist were encouraged to put their expertise to the benefit of the new Peoples’ Republic. This was in line with Mao’s mobilising all the positive factors. In recognition of their contribution to the economy and in order not to alienate them, these capitalists were paid high wages as managers or allowed a proportion of the profits if they continued to invest in their firms.

The successes of this period proved that socialism cannot be built by decrees or out of text books. It must recognise and work within the objective laws of economic development. In order to develop smoothly the relations of production should reflect the development of the productive forces which in turn affect man’s consciousness, “consciousness is determined by being”. In China in 1949 the peasants’ consciousness was “China for the Chinese” and “land for the tiller”. This consciousness was correctly reflected in the movement for land reform. Shortly after millions of poor and lower middle peasants, having learned through their own experience the advantage of large scale farming, enthusiastically implemented the party’s policies on collectivisation. In the fifties, at the time of socialist transformation the rightists put up fierce resistance saying China wasn’t yet ready for socialism and needed to develop its productive forces first, i.e., develop capitalism. They aimed at undermining the dictatorship of the proletariat. On the other hand, the leftists using anything but the mass line and concrete investigation, went rushing ahead demagogically calling for the abolition of private plots as capitalists. In practice, private plots, alongside communes as the basic unit, accurately reflect the level of productive forces. They substantially add to the peasants’ income and are enthusiastically supported by the people. To either rush too far ahead, or to lag behind the objective and subjective conditions results in undermining the dictatorship of the proletariat and therefore leads to the danger of capitalist restoration.

The socialist transformation was in the main completed as early as 1956. This was only possible on the basis of the dictatorship of the proletariat which succeeded in consolidating the worker-peasant alliance, pushing forward with state-owned industry, gradually making the socialist sector of industry predominant, and arousing the enthusiasm of the masses for collectivisation in agriculture. Summing up in 1958, Mao said:

...1955 was the year in which the basic victory was won as regards the aspect of ownership in the relations of production, while in other aspects of the relations of production as well as in some aspects of the superstructure, namely, on the ideological and political fronts, either a basic victory was not won or, if won, the victory was not complete, and further efforts were required. (Mao. Selected Works Vol.5. p245).

Once, socialist transformation was basically complete the scene was set for the all round expansion of production, mechanisation of agriculture and industrialisation.

We have entered a period, a new period in our history in which we have set ourselves to do, think about and dig into socialist industrialisation, socialist transformation and the modernisation of our national defence, and we are beginning to do the same thing with atomic energy. I hope that all secretaries of provincial, municipal and prefectural party committees and the comrades in charge of the central department will strive to become expert in political and economic work, for which the prerequisite is a higher level of Marxism-Leninism. We must do well both in political and ideological work and in economic construction. As for the latter we must really get to know how to do it. Mao Zedong. 1955.

In the next few years tremendous advances were made in China. Only socialism could have solved the terrible poverty, starvation, illiteracy and decadence that existed at the time of liberation and still exists in many third world countries today. This is because once state power is in hands of the working class the productive forces can be continually expanded and adjusted in the direct service of the people. The contradiction between the productive forces and the relations of production and between the economic base and the superstructure are not abolished, they continue to exist under socialism. But for the first time the conditions are created for resolving them, this is precisely the superiority of socialism over capitalism.

Socialist revolution aims at liberating the productive forces. The change over from the individual to socialist, collective ownership in agriculture and handicrafts and from capitalist to socialist ownership in private industry and commerce is bound to bring about a tremendous liberating of the productive forces. Thus the socialist conditions are being created for a tremendous expansion of industrial and agricultural production. (Mao. Supreme State Conference, 1956)

In capitalist countries high productivity and advanced technology mean inflation and unemployment. Development of the productive forces intensifies exploitation of the working class and the economic and political crisis of capitalism. As Marx said, “abundance brings scarcity”. It is precisely the intensification of all these contradictions under capitalism that make proletarian revolution a necessity. But revolution in the advanced industrial countries wouldn’t mean going back to a more primitive economy, it would mean utilising these advances to improve the lives of the people. It is precisely such an increase in industrialisation and. technology that China’s modernisation programme seeks to establish, showing conclusively the superiority of socialism over capitalism.

You have such a big population, such a vast territory and such rich resources and what is more, it has been said that you are building socialism which is supposed to be superior, if after much ado for 50 or 60 years you are still unable to overtake the US, what a sorry figure you will cut. You should be read off the face of the earth. Therefore to overtake the US is not only possible, but absolutely necessary and obligatory. If we don’t, we the Chinese nation will be letting the nations of the world down and we will not be making much of a contribution to mankind. (Mao. Strengthen Party Unity and Carry Forward Party Traditions, 1956).

Socialist transformation at the time was the central issue in resolving the contradiction between the socialist and the capitalist road.

In On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People Mao analysed the political and economic situation and put forward the view that the two types of contradiction in society should be correctly handled:

The contradiction between the national bourgeoisie and the working class is one between exploiter and exploited, and is by nature antagonistic, but in the concrete conditions of China, this antagonistic contradiction between the two classes, if properly handled, can be transformed into a non-antagonistic one and be resolved by peaceful methods. However the contradiction between the working class and the national bourgeoisie will change into a contradiction between ourselves and the enemy if we do not handle it properly and do not follow the policy of uniting with, criticizing and educating the national bourgeoisie, or if the national bourgeoisie does not accept this policy of ours. (Selected Works. Vol.5 p.386.)

Summing up the situation in China at that time, Mao said:

Today, matters stand as follows. The large scale, turbulent class struggles of the masses characteristic of times of revolution have in the main come to an end, but class struggle is by no means entirely over. (ibid p 395).

In the years immediately following this the general line was formulated of “going all out, aiming high and achieving greater, faster, better and more economical results in building socialism”. This was a period of the peoples enthusiasm for socialism when new ways of carrying out socialist construction were explored, new ground was broken, including the movement in the countryside for the setting up of the peoples’ communes.


The decade or so from socialist transformation up to the outbreak of the Cultural Revolution were exciting but difficult years for the Chinese people. They coincided with the biggest ever betrayal of the international proletariat – the first socialist state, the Soviet Union of Lenin and Stalin was overturned from a dictatorship of the proletariat into a fascist state. Mao and the Communist Party of China led the struggle to defend Marxism-Leninism from revisionism in the international communist movement. Their heroic struggle in face of many difficulties, served as an inspiration to the workers and oppressed peop1es of the whole world and from that day to this China has stood as the beacon of the world revolution.

The fraternal aid previously given by the socialist Soviet Union was without warning, arrogantly withdrawn by the new tsars. This sabotage came at a time when China was isolated and suffering continuous provocation from the imperialists. Despite these difficulties the Chinese people, basing themselves on their long revolutionary traditions of self-reliance and hard work, overcame difficulties and applied themselves to the difficult job of building socialism. They learnt many lessons from the Soviet Union, both positive and negative, and after much trial and error formulated the revolutionary line in running a socialist enterprise. This was formulated in the famous Charter of the Anshan Iron and Steel workers which had taken account of the errors of bureaucracy in leadership and management in the Soviet Union.

Keep politics firmly in command, strengthen party leadership, launch vigorous mass movements, institute the system of cadre participation in productive labour and worker participation in management, reform outdated and irrational rules and regulations, maintain close cooperation among workers, cadres and technicians, go full steam ahead with technical innovations and technical revolution.

Mao personally approved this charter and popularised it as a model for advanced units to be emulated. Later the Daqing oil workers were to use the charter as their guide. Both Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai recognised the significance of Daqing as far back as the Sixties. Daqing crystallised the most politically advanced experience to date in building socialism. In 1964 Mao issued the call to the whole country, “In industry learn from Taching. While engaging in industrial activity, workers should also study military affairs and politics and raise their educational level. They too should carry out the socialist education movement and criticise and repudiate the bourgeoisie. Where conditions permit, they should also engage in agriculture and side occupations, just as people in the Taching oil field”. (Mao) (Taching = Daqing)

Alongside Daqing as the model for industry stood Dazhai the advanced model for agricu1ture. Both Daqing and Dazhai thrived in face of the massive opposition and sabotage by the “gang of four” which raised them even higher in the people’s estimation. Dazhai shares many of the political and ideological qualities of Daqing; of putting politics in command, of hard work and sacrifice, of technical innovation and productivity. One other important quality they share is their pioneering work in beginning to break down the differences between agriculture and industry. By diversifying their production, they have overcome the complete reliance of one on the other. Taking agriculture as the foundation and industry as the leading factor, means that although they support one another, agriculture provides the material base on which industry can develop. Obviously the stronger, the more productive a material base, the more surplus capital for investment. Not only that, the general standard of living in China is still low, it considers itself a developing third world country and lays great stress on catching up with the West, the living standards are even lower in the countryside than the cities, which is where the vast majority of China’s millions live and work. Mao said, “the contradiction between the working class and peasantry is resolved by the method of collectivisation and mechanisation in agriculture”. Collectivisation has now reached the stage of the Peoples’ Communes, but China’s agriculture has a long way to go before being substantially mechanised. Without such mechanisation, there cannot be the necessary expansion of production to satisfy the peoples’ needs. This is where the Government’s policy on agriculture is concentrating, it is the main way to ensure the steady increase in the peasants’ income. The Government has also recently increased the amount of investment it gives to agriculture raised the price it pays for grain, and by publicising the national family planning policy, contributed to raising the peasants’ income more in line with the workers who themselves directly benefit from the resulting increase in the amount and variety of food.

Dazhai showed that not only does mechanisation add directly to the increase in funds, but indirectly as well by releasing the peasants for what are called side-line occupations, i.e. forestry, fishing, animal husbandry etc. They set up repair and light industrial work-shops to make them more self-reliant and to raise funds. Like Daqing, Dazhai put politics in command in a concrete way by revolutionising leadership. The communes leadership comes directly from the party committee, with cadres taking part in production and the poor and lower middle peasants firmly establishing their political dominance. It is through these methods that China aims to raise the present 3 level system of ownership of the peoples’ commune (collective, brigade, team) to fully collective ownership by the peoples’ communes and eventually ownership of the whole people. The “gang of four” pretended to support Dazhai. They “popularised” it in such a way as to make the lessons of Dazhai inapplicable. Firstly they dogmatically called on all communes, whatever their conditions, to copy Dazhai. This resulted in demoralisation because often, where conditions were poor, this process would take longer. Secondly the “gang of four” called for the basic accounting unit in communes to be the production brigade and not the production team when the basic form of ownership in communes is still the production team. This might sound very revolutionary to us, but if it does not reflect the concrete relations or forces of production, or the consciousness and needs of the masses, it is objectively counter-revolutionary.

Throughout the transitional period of socialism, the aim is to gradually abolish classes. One stage of this is to transform the peasantry into agricultural proletarians, this can only be accomplished by high productivity and industrialisation. Marxism teaches that “of all the classes that stand face to face with the bourgeoisie today, the proletariat alone is a really revolutionary class”. (Communist Manifesto). That is because all other classes are transitional. The trotskyists still stubbornly interpret this as meaning that as long as the third world are mainly peasants they will be incapable of carrying out a revolution without either firstly going through a process of capitalism to create workers, or to rely on the strength and support of their “white” brothers and sisters in the industrial west! All revolutions to date have shown this to be rubbish, that – if the proletariat (however small) and their party take the lead, the peasants can be mobilised to enthusiastically support the revolution and build a lasting alliance with the working class. Classes and class forces represent a particular historical stage, communists can’t jump stages. Engels foresaw that “division of classes is invariably connected with a specific mode of production, it will be swept away by the full development of the modern productive forces”.


Mao’s great theory of continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat was developed after summing up the experience of both China and the Soviet Union, particularly the capitalist restoration inside the Soviet Union. The Cultural Revolution was the culmination of that theory that classes and class struggle continue to exist under socialism and that having seized power the masses of the people must be mobilised to consolidate their dictatorship. The Cultural Revolution started off as a struggle to defend and strengthen the dictatorship of the proletariat from the attacks of the right and ended with the final overthrow of the “left” “gang of four”. Having prevented the restoration of capitalism and consolidated state power, in 1978 after twelve long years the Cultural Revolution was brought to a conclusion.

At the inception of the Cultural Revolution in 1966, Mao led the Central Committee in drawing up the “16 Points” which were to be the guidelines.

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

It is clear now in retrospect, that this line was not carried out and that increasingly production was counter-posed to revolution and Lin Biao and the “gang of four” were able to cause an enormous amount of disruption to the economy as well as political confusion before they were finally exposed and defeated. How much the ultra left excesses outweigh the positive is still being assessed and a final summing up may take some time as the concrete manifestations of ultra leftism are still coming to light. At the time Mao’s assessment was that it had been 70% positive and 30% negative, that assessment will obviously have to be looked at again with the benefit of hindsight. However the Daily Telegraph and others who would have us believe that the Chinese are just emerging from a period of total anarchy and fascism are going to be disappointed. The Cultural Revolution successfully prevented the restoration of capitalism, it mobilised the masses to defend socialism from the attacks of both the left and the right and that should never be underestimated or forgotten: Obviously our past idealism that it was all marvellous, is increasingly being shown to be facile, but rash judgement of either all positive or all negative won’t really do much to help anyone understand anything.

How is it that both the “left” and the right lines if followed would have resulted in capitalist restoration? Mao and the Communist Party of China have always emphasised waging ideological struggle on two fronts. “Our party has consolidated itself and grown strong through the struggle on two fronts”. (The role of the CPC in the national war 1938).

The bourgeois rightists’ line said that with the elimination of the bourgeoisie, with the socialist transformation of the means of production, the question of whether socialism or capitalism would win out had already been decided in favour of socialism. Class struggle was therefore wasteful and redundant and all efforts should be concentrated on developing production. This became known as the “theory of productive forces”. In practice it would have resulted in overturning the dictatorship of the proletariat. The socialist state is democracy for the people but dictatorship over the bourgeoisie. The revolution must be carried out on all fronts to assert the dominance of proletarian ideology over all aspects of society.

With the victory over the bourgeois line, Mao called for the ending of the Cultural Revolution and a return to order: “8 years have passed since the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution started. It is preferable to have stability now. The whole party and the whole army should get united, it’s better to have stability and unity.”

But the Cultural Revolution was in fact to last for a further five years. Mao’s call for unity and stability went unheeded by Lin Biao and the “gang of four” who escalated their counter-revolutionary activities. They had emerged during the Cultural Revolution posing as the great defenders of Mao’s revolutionary line against the rightists. They used this cover to exploit the peoples’ revolutionary aspirations. They purposely distorted the theory of continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat, by turning the people into enemies and waging all out war against anyone who got in their way. In complete disregard for Mao’s line of having faith in the masses, uniting the many against the few, and the correct handling of contradictions, they labelled veteran party members and outstanding workers as capital1st and stifled all opposition to their line. They portrayed the history of the CPC as nothing but a history of fierce two line struggle, forgetting the tremendous achievements and the high level of unity that had directly resulted from these struggles. Their plan was to foment anarchy in the name of revolution and then in the heat of the confusion step into the vacuum as saviours. By mixing up all sorts of contradictions, hitting out in all directions, they were able to spread a lot of political confusion and caused many to lose their bearings. They relied on the fact that the people had just emerged from an intense struggle against the rightists and would not easily see through their left demagogy, and identify them as counter-revolutionaries. To some extent this is what happened. The masses were not well prepared for a struggle against left opportunism. The initiative was temporarily taken out of their hands and the people’s confidence was undermined. However in time the “gang of four” were exposed and defeated but not before a long and complex struggle to get to know them had occurred. The extent of the damage both to the economy and to the class struggle is still not easy to assess. The Chinese have characterised them as carrying out a fascist type rule. Certainly they were directly responsible for many years of economic stagnation with their line of counter-posing economics to politics leading to a big run down of production. It is precisely to redress the balance that there is the present shift at emphasis. There is a lot of time to be made up for which is why there is a definite sense of urgency.

...It is necessary to make a scientific analysis – one which conforms to reality of the internal class situation and class struggle after the establishment of the socialist system and adopt correct policies and measures accordingly. Class struggle still exists to a certain extent after the exploiters in our country no longer exist as classes. While rejecting the view that class struggle no longer exists. We must oppose the view that magnifies it to say nothing of creating so-called class struggles out of the void. We must strictly distinguish between the two different types of contradictions and never mistake contradictions among the people for those with the enemy, still less conduct inner-Party struggle the way we fight the enemy. This is the only way to maintain a social and political situation characterised by stability and unity. (Comrade Ye Jianying’s Speech at the Meeting in Celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the Founding of the Peoples’ Republic of China. Beijing Review 40. 1979 p 21).


There is a common belief that it is better to be left than to be right. Practice has shown, in the Soviet Union with Trotsky, in China with the “gang of four”, and even in the RCLB with our pathetic little faction, that leftists can cause as much disruption, sabotage and confusion as the rightist. In fact left opportunism is generally more dangerous precisely because it hides behind revolutionary sounding phrase mongering. That is why in the struggle to expose the “gang of four” in China a lot of emphasis was placed on practice being the sole criterion of truth.

The essence of many of these ideological struggles against both left and right in China have centred on getting a correct balance in the dialectical relationship between economics and politics.

There is absolutely no doubt about the unity of political and economics, the unity of politics and technique. This is true now and will always be true, Ideological work and political work are the guarantee for accomplishing economic work and technical work and they serve the economic base.

Mao then goes on to say, “moreover” ideology and politics are the commander – the soul”, In other words of the two, politics and economics, politics is primary. This concept of the primacy of politics is again crystallised in the slogan formulated during the Cultural Revolution “Grasp revolution; promote production”.

Why is it that generally speaking politics is primary? Revolutionary political power must first be established for economic production to be in the interests of the people, le the fundamental economic contradictions in capitalist society are impossible to resolve without first defeating the political rule of the bourgeoisie. Throughout the transitional period of socialism, there are different emphases and different levels of class struggle until the final abolition of classes. Hua Guofeng dealing with the precise relationship between production and class struggle, in China today stated;

... the fundamental aim has been to liberate the forces of production from the shackles of imperialism, feudalism, so as to turn and bring about a steady improvement in the material and cultural life of the whole nation…Almost 30 years have passed since the founding of the PRC, yet to this day the superiority of socialism has not been consistently and effectively brought into play and we have achieved far less than we should have... First we recognise both that class struggle has not yet come to an end and that at the same time there, is no longer any need for large scale and turbulent class struggle waged by the masses…Both the view that class struggle has died out and the view that it should be magnified are at variance with objective reality at the present stage.,. class struggle is no longer the principal contradiction in our society; in waging it we must centre around and serve the central task of socialist modernisation. (Report on Work of Government, National Peoples’ Congress 1979).

At a certain stage, i.e., when the proletarian dictatorship has been firmly established the principal contradiction in society can and does change. Political power rests on economic strength. It will be impossible for communism to win final victory over capitalism without a large degree of industrialisation. It will be impossible to move from the socialist principle of “each according to his abi1ity, to each according to his work” to the communist principle of “each according to ability, to each according to his need” without an enormous increase in production creating a society of plenty. Therefore at a certain stage it is correct that having resolved the principal political contradiction that the secondary economic contradiction becomes principal. Lenin said, “Productivity of labour is the most important, the principal thing for the victory of the new system”. This can of course only be the case once political power is firmly established. That is why we have to keep coming back to the question of who holds state power? This is the one determining factor in assessing whether China’s modernisation is socialist or not.

Once the proletariat and the other working people have seized state power and established their political rule, economic construction must be given top priority. (Hua Guofung. Report on Work of the Government. 1979).

This relationship between revolution and production, politics and economics is a complex one, and it is at the root of much of the current confusion about China’s modernisation. The slogan “Grasp revolution, promote production” has been under study and discussion recently in China. This may be because they feel it no longer reflects the emphasis needed now. Clearly the recent emphasis has been on redressing the balance and stressing economics. Whether this is right or wrong depends on a scientific analysis of the actual situation in China to see which is the principal contradiction. “The study on various states of unevenness in contradiction….of the principal aspect of a contradiction constitutes an essential method by which a revolutionary political party correctly determines its strategic and tactical policies…” (Mao, On Contradiction).

Mao goes on to say how the principal aspect and the principal contradiction can change in different circumstances, usually with the resolution of one. Today the principal contradiction is that which is holding back the all-round development of socialism in China, clearly it is the relatively backward economy that is putting the brakes on the all round development of socialism in China now (certainly not for ever more). It is a big, rather than a gradual shift because of the urgency to repair the damaged economy and quickly catch up and then surpass the advanced technological levels of the capitalist world to demonstrate the superiority of socialism by substantially raising the living standards of the people. There is also the overall urgency of the world situation, the frantic war preparations of Soviet social imperialism demand that China modernises and strengthens national defence, not only in defence of socialism but as a strong support for the workers, oppressed peoples and countries of the world. Technology needs to be developed for this, that requires a raising of educational standards as well as the importing of foreign “know-how ”. Far from deviating from the policy of putting politics in command this is the correct implementation of that policy in the actual conditions.

On Chairman’s Mao’s instruction, it was suggested in the report of the work of the Government to the third National Peoples’ Congress that we might envisage the development of our national economy in two stages beginning from the third five year plan. The first stage is to build an independent and relatively comprehensive industrial and economic system in fifteen years, that is before 1980, the second stage is to accomplish – the comprehensive modernisation of agriculture, industry, national defence and science and technology before the end of the century, so that our national economy will be advancing in the front ranks of the world. (Zhou Enlai, Report on the work of the Government, 1975. 4th National Peoples’ Congress).

Only dogmatists, whose policies come out of the top of their heads rather than from an analysis of the conditions in the real world, can fail to recognise that an economically, technically and militarily strong China is essential to further consolidate the dictatorship of the proletariat and prevent capitalist restoration.

Within this new emphasis is the danger that it will go too far. Constant struggle will be necessary to keep the balance right. There will be many things that we don’t understand, but we have confidence that the Chinese people and party are as aware of these dangers as we are. They have been tempered over many years of bitter struggle and will not easily forget the result of relaxing their vigilance. There will of course be bourgeois elements who jump on the bandwagon for their own ends, but that must surely have already been anticipated. Even when implementing the correct line, mistakes will be made, there will have to be adjustments and re-assessments. These are inevitable. Even with the greatest of leaders and the purest of line setting out on a previously untrodden path will largely be a process of trial and error. Errors will be minimised by good preparation and careful analysis, but they can never be eliminated unless we refuse to move down the path altogether for fear of making mistakes.


With all the blare of publicity that the socialist modernisation programmes has got in the West we shouldn’t forget that the emphasis has only basically shifted since 1978. Before that the overwhelming emphasis of the Party’s work has been the political exposure of the gang. This meant concentrating on consolidating and revitalising the Party ideologically, politically and organisationally on the basis of Marxism-Leninism, uniting the working class and people around the Party strengthening the united front, and unfolding genuine proletarian democracy in society as a whole. This was absolutely essential for consolidating the proletarian state power before launching the massive plan for modernisation. Only a correct revolutionary line which has been discussed and approved by the masses can be enthusiastically implemented by them. The masses of people, through the Party, the Congress, the reconstituted women’s federation, Trade Unions, Youth League, etc. have held extensive discussions and passed resolutions in strong support. Only once there had been the most widespread debate was the plan launched. This is the surest guarantee that China’s modernisation will be in the interests of the people and the revolution.

The stage of socialist construction in China is the most advanced ever. This modernisation plan is both ambitious and unique and the pace of progress rapid. It is natural with all these factors, people will get carried away with enthusiasm and have to be pulled back to a more realistic and correct approach. “Generally speaking, whether in the practice of changing nature or of changing society men’s original ideas, theories, plans or programmes are seldom realised without any alteration”. (Mao, On Practice).

The correct line is always achieved in the course of struggle. There will have to be continuous ideological and political struggle to get the plan right, then further struggle on the implementation. Only a democratic centralist party, practising criticism and self-criticism, is able to apply the mass line, sum up the situation, make adjustments and alterations to the line before much damage is done. In particular there will be a lot of adjustments to harmonise the relations of production and the productive forces, and the economic base and the superstructure.

Already the original plan has had to be readjusted. The next three years are being devoted to “readjusting, restructuring, consolidating and improving the national economy in order to lay the foundations for well-proportioned and high speed development”. Many of the adjustments are in line with points raised by Mao in 1956 in his article “On Ten Major Relationships”. Summing up the experience both of China and Soviet Union this important document puts forward the basic policy for achieving the correct relationship between socialist revolution and socialist construction. Mao deals frankly with many of the contradictions within socialist society and points to the way forward in resolving them step by step. Mao’s method throughout this work is to isolate the principal contradiction and then set about to resolve it in the most effective way possible. For example a principal contradiction both in 1956 and in 1979 is the need to develop heavy industry. However Mao shows that “If you really want heavy industries badly you should invest more in light industries...” because “light industries and agriculture can accumulate more capital and faster... ”

Recent adjustments to the national plan have meant an increased investment in agriculture and light industry and a cutting down in the number of capital construction projects, concentrating on those which produce items urgently needed by the state and that need less investment, yield quick returns and are profitable. These profits can then go to accumulate fun1s for the state to expand production and raise the general standard of living. The re-appraisal has called for much better and more economical use of already existing industry and a concentration on expanding transport and fuel production to service industry. Also the overall expansion of agriculture is essential to keep up with the need of the rapid industrial development. Their expansion must be mutually supportive and not put unnecessary strains on one section of the economy. Therefore the mechanisation and modernisation of agriculture is the key.

In “On Ten Major Relationships” Mao re-emphasises the party’s line of “while relying mainly on our own efforts, making external assistance subsidiary ”.

The question of “external assistance”, foreign trade and loans is probably the most controversial of all China’s current policies. Having spent the last few years boasting about how China owes nobody anything and based exclusively on self-reliance, it leaves a nasty taste in the mouth to’ hear of foreign investment and loans. But China’s modernisation needs funds, it can’t be built on our idealism. The important factor is how dependent is China on others, what is the basis of her growth. China’s modernisation is primarily financed by domestic accumulation. By self-reliantly carrying out strict economies, increasing production, raising the quality and variety, by concentrating on raising the level of productivity, the people’s income is raised and so is their consumption. The Chinese state cannot be dependent on foreign loans, however favourable and it has proved that it is not prepared to increase the burden of the people, by getting into enormous debt. This means that foreign loans are still a considerably small proportion of the overall funds. As long as the working class have state power firmly in their hands they can decide how best to use these funds.

Some problems are also raised by the question of use of foreign technology -especially the question of joint enterprises with foreign capitalists. The policy of the CPC is, and always has been, to learn from the strong points of all nations and countries. China does not copy indiscriminately. The study and introduction of advanced experience and advanced techniques of the West is now very much geared to increasing self-reliance. The emphasis after recent adjustments is that the modernisation of China cannot be bought or borrowed, it will be achieved by the hard work and concentrated efforts of the Chinese people. For example, the import of technology and equipment is being combined with improving the existing engineering skills and the standardisation and serialisation of products to improve efficiency. It is a fact in the present world situation that the advanced capitalist economies possess the most advanced means of production in many fields. These advanced means are regarded as the private property of the capitalists themselves. If China is to obtain them, to put them in the service of socialist construction they must be bought. One way of doing this, and of obtaining capital to supplement China’s needs, is to encourage joint enterprises just as Lenin and Stalin did in the ’920’s and 1930’s. Of course this means that a portion of the Chinese market will be open to imperialism. But this is the price that must be paid. This compromise is necessary to obtain advanced technology, which is the foundation of China’s modernisation policy.

China still relies mainly on her natural resources to develop production and the industry and wisdom of the Chinese people to carry out technical innovations. The policy is to combine creation with assimilation. China imports only the techniques and industrial equipment that will reinforce the country’s potential of self-reliance and accelerate socialist construction. In foreign trade the policy is for a balance between imports and exports, by increasing exports in order to pay for importing advanced equipment and technology. The adjusted policy of reinforcing self-reliance has been graphically summed up as:

The former practice of buying eggs instead of chickens should be changed into buying chickens instead of eggs, of buying fewer eggs. The buying of chickens, if necessary, must not be duplicated.

The struggle over learning from the advanced experience of capitalist countries is not a new question for socialism, the same struggle took place in the early days of the Soviet Union. After the October Revolution Lenin pointed out the importance of obtaining as quickly as possible from the capitalist countries the means of production. Trotsky attacked this on the grounds that, “the economy of the Soviet state would always be under the control of world economy”. Stalin in reply to this type of pure isolationism said, “to depict a socialist economy as something absolutely self-contained and absolutely independent of the surrounding national economies is to talk nonsense”.

Our ultra lefts of today are in good company! Along with Trotsky and the “gang of four” they want the socialist state to stand aloof from the rest of the world for fear of corruption. This fine idealism about the purity of socialism in practice means depriving the proletariat of the most advanced techniques and keeping the country economically backward.

In 1920 Lenin showed the emptiness of such idealism. “Our main policy must be to develop the state economically... there must be less fine words for you cannot satisfy the people with fine words”.

In 1956 Mao said, “In technology I think at first we have to follow others in most cases, and it is better for us to do so, since at present we are lacking in technology and know little about it. However in those cases where we already have clear knowledge we must not follow others in every detail”.

The recently adjusted policy puts a lot of emphasis on the self reliant training of specialists as an important method of raising the scientific and technical 1evel of the nation. Owing to the serious disruption of the educational system over the last few years, there is now an enormous expansion in the educational opportunities to overcome the serious shortage of qualified young people. Post graduate studies have been restored, using not only Chinese expertise but inviting foreign specialists to lecture and increasing the number of Chinese students studying abroad. There has been an expansion of the July 21st workers’ colleges run by factories. Open door schooling is being reapplied in a non-dogmatic way by combining theory and practice in mare specific ways. This means students directly teaching a needed skill or learning a practical skill which enriches their education, just getting your hands dirty is no longer considered enough on its own. There has been a reintroduction of the examination system. Millions of young people have shown their enthusiasm to undertake these exams to contribute fully to socialist modernisation. The overspill is catered for by the TV Open University which is literally subscribed to by millions. Apart from this spare time education is greatly increased with evening classes, day release etc. supplementing the schools which have now increased the system by one year to a unified ten year system. In this way the scientific, technical and cultural level of the whole country will be raised, and not just that of an elite.

The recent adjustments have been summed up as “taking one step backwards in order to take two steps forwards”. However a big. step forwards has been taken in raising the living standards of the people. Recently the lowest paid workers received a substantial pay rise. There has also been substantial increase in the income of the peasants. The Government has raised the price it pays for farm and side-line products, while reducing or exempting the communes from taxes. “... our agricultural tax has always been low ... our purchase prices are gradually being raised ... we follow a policy of larger sales at a small profit and of stabilising or appropriately reducing their prices ... we must take greater care and handle the relationship between the state and peasants well”. (Ten Major Relationships.)

In Hua Guofeng’s Report on the work of the Government, he sums up , what is meant by readjusting, restructuring and consolidating and improving the economy: “By readjusting we mean making conscientious efforts to rectify the serious disproportions in our economy caused by the long years of interference and sabotage by Lin Biao and the “gang of four”, to bring about a relatively good co-ordination in the growth of agriculture and light and heavy industries and of the various industrial branches, and to maintain a proper ratio between accumulation and consumption ... By restructuring we mean an overall reform of the structure of economic management carried out firmly and step by step the trouble with the present structure is that in many areas and in varying degrees it violates objective laws ... By consolidation we mean a resolute and effective shake up in the existing enterprises and especially those in which management is in confusion. To realise the 4 modernisations new enterprises must certainly be built. But we must rely mainly on tapping the potential of the large numbers of existing enterprises, renovating and transforming them and enabling them to teach or approach modern standards”.

The whole report is a sober dialectical materialist approach to summing up questions. It proceeds from the reality of the situation in thing listing the economic achievements over the last two years and setting the new targets. The policies of the Government which are reflected in the Report are a most definite continuation of the policies outlined by Mao in “Ten Major Relationships” and other works. Throughout, the Report adopts Mao’s Marxist method of having faith in the people and of giving play to their enthusiasm and initiative in building China into a powerful modern state.

China’s enemies – the revisionists of right and left – all try to represent these policies as a “return to capitalism”. The imperialist bourgeoisies call the four modernisations a process of ”de-Maoification”. In fact as this article has shown the present policies are a direct continuation of those put forward by Mao and Zhou. This fact was made very clear by the recent major speech by Ye Jianying on the occasion of the 30th Anniversary Celebrations of the PRC. In particular Ye stressed that all the victories of the Chinese revolution were achieved under the guidance of Mao Zedong Thought. But following Mao Zedong Thought should not be done dogmatically, stressing the leading role of Mao should not become deification. The essence of Mao Zedong Thought is to oppose these things and to oppose idealism while upholding materialism.

We must proceed from China’s realities, make a careful study of the laws of economics and the laws of nature, and open up a path to modernisation suited to China’s specific conditions and features. (Ye Jianying. Beijing Review 40, p23).

In following this path the CPC will win further victories, and will further develop Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought.