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Fourth International, July-August 1952


The Third Chinese Revolution

A Resolution of the Fourth International


From Fourth International, Vol.13 No.4, Jul-August 1952, pp.113-118.
Transcription & mark-up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Editor’s Note: The following resolution was adopted by the International Executive Committee of the Fourth International in May 1952. It has been translated from Quatrième Internationale and is published herewith for the information of our readers.

* * *

I. The Significance of Mao Tse-tung’s Victory

1. After 40 years of convulsions, the political power of the landed proprietors and the compradores, which served as the instrument of imperialism, has been destroyed in China by the military victory of the People’s Army of Liberation. The establishment of the People’s Republic of China signifies the end of the historical epoch during which imperialism, in league with the Chinese ruling classes, blocked the realization of the bourgeois revolution in China. It represents the beginning of the victory of the Third Chinese Revolution, i.e., the beginning of the realization of the historical tasks of this revolution: liberating the country from the grip of imperialism; national unification; solution of the agrarian problem; liquidation of all feudal and pre-feudal survivals in the domain of the state, the economy, customs, culture, etc.

The dynamics of this revolution proceeds along the line of its growing over into socialist revolution. The fulfilment of the bourgeois democratic tasks themselves impose such a growing over under the regime of the proletarian dictatorship.

2. The destruction of the power of Chiang Kai-shek and the Kuomintang was the necessary condition for beginning the solution of the historical tasks of the Third Chinese Revolution. Thus the fundamental thesis of the Menshevik theory of revolution “by stages,” put forward (in 1925-27) by Martynov-Bukharin-Stalin, has been invalidated just as it was in the course of the Second Chinese Revolution. The tasks of the bourgeois revolution have begun to be resolved, not in alliance with the Kuomintang and the Chinese bourgeoisie, but as the outcome of a bloody struggle against them. The Third Chinese Revolution has begun, not through the alliance with Chiang Kai-shek, but through the breaking of this alliance. Thus the Trotskyist theory of the permanent revolution, implacably defended for 25 years by the Chinese Trotskyists and the world Trotskyist movement, has found confirmation for one of its fundamental theses.

3. The establishment of the People’s Republic of China is only the beginning of the Third Chinese Revolution. It represents the beginning of a process of permanent revolution which is unfolding before our eyes. None of the tasks of the Chinese Revolution has yet been definitively resolved. If the liberation of the country from the grip of imperialism has by and large been ended, all foreign capital has not yet been expropriated. The imperialist menace to the People’s Republic continues through the presence of the armies of imperialism or of armies in the pay of imperialism, in Korea, Formosa, Vietnam and Burma, through the presence of the 7th American fleet in Formosan waters, and by the presence of American bases and troops in Japan. The unification of continental China has been largely achieved; the unification of the national market for food products and products of industrial consumption has realized great progress. Nevertheless, Hong Kong, Formosa, and the Russian enclaves in Chinese territories, (especially in Inner Mongolia and Sinkiang) actually remain outside the jurisdiction of the central government, thus indicating the limits to the total realization of national unity.

The agrarian reform has culminated in the destruction of the old possessing class of landed proprietors; nevertheless this reform has not been completely achieved. In the newly liberated regions, the property of the rich peasants subsists; in the previously liberated regions it has experienced a strong rebirth on the basis of the process of primitive accumulation. Private ownership of the soil; the right to buy and sell land is resulting in a new concentration of property in the hands of kulaks and subjecting the poor peasants, as in the past, to usury and to commercial exploitation by the bourgeoisie. Feudal and pre-feudal survivals have been effectively liquidated in the economic and legal fields; in the reality of social life, particularly in the domain of customs and culture, their liquidation represents a protracted process, in which only the first steps have been taken. In the domain of the state the symbiosis between bourgeois property and the bureaucratic tendencies of the CP apparatus represents a powerful obstacle to a genuine democratic upheaval.

4. Thus another essential thesis of the theory of the permanent revolution is likewise being confirmed: the tasks of the bourgeois revolution in a backward country like China cannot be resolved without the growing over of this revolution into the socialist revolution. For the historical tasks of the Chinese Revolution to be fundamentally resolved, big bourgeois property will have to be destroyed, the revolution will have to pass beyond the present frontiers of continental China, and the working masses in the cities will have to be mobilized. The consolidation of the proletarian dictatorship demands that the state apparatus be solidly based upon genuinely democratic committees of workers and poor peasants. The opposite side of the historical alternative (would be the consolidation of capitalist property relations in the cities and the rural regions; the infiltration of the class enemy into the state apparatus and the CP, its fusion with imperialism and its agency in Formosa, Korea and Burma, and the renewal of civil war at the opportune moment by the old ruling classes to reconquer state power.

5. Mao’s victory represents the most important revolutionary event since the socialist revolution of October 1917. It has overturned the relationship of forces between the classes in Asia, and powerfully stimulated the anti-imperialist movement in Vietnam, Burma, Malaya, the Philippines, Indonesia, and even in India, Japan and Ceylon. It has delivered a terrible blow to the world domination of imperialism, and thus indirectly facilitated the anti-imperialist movements in the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. It has altered the relationship of class forces on a world scale, compelling imperialism to revise its military, political and economic plans, and has brought about a development of the international relationship of forces which is fundamentally unfavorable to imperialism. At the same time it has begun to reduce the degree of control exercised by the Kremlin over the Communist movement and the revolutionary movement of the masses in Asia, wherein the Soviet bureaucracy has been obliged to acknowledge for the time being a Peking-Moscow co-leadership, as partners with equal rights in the Sino-Soviet alliance.

II. The Causes of Mao’s Victory

6. The old ruling classes governed China as agents of the various imperialists, essentially Japanese, English, American and French imperialists. The total defeat of Japanese imperialism in the Second World War and the extreme weakening of English and French imperialism delivered a mortal blow to the domination of the landed proprietors and compradores over China. American imperialism became the sole support of their power. But at the same time it became the sole support of the bourgeois order in the entire world. Unable to disperse its military and economic potential over all continents at one and the same time, American imperialism was compelled in 1947-48 to concentrate its efforts upon the consolidation of capitalism in Western Europe. Its withdrawal from China gave Chiang his coup de grace.

7. The withdrawal of Yankee imperialism from China is, however, explained in its turn by the collapse of the Kuomintang regime, isolated from all classes of the nation, impotent to halt the runaway inflation, blindly dragged towards economic and military catastrophe, and capable only of organizing a monstrous corruption which rendered all American aid inadequate in advance. The internal dissolution of the power of the Kuomintang, resulting from the disintegration of a Chinese society which had survived for more than a quarter of a century and which showed itself powerless to resolve a single one of the vital problems of the Chinese people, produced the objective conditions for Mao’s victory.

8. But these objective conditions alone, did not suffice for the actual achievement of this victory. There was required in addition a modification in the attitude of the Chinese CP on the question of conquering power in all China. The Chinese CP, which after August 1945, as in 1925-27, and in 1937, engaged in a policy of class collaboration with the bourgeoisie and its principal instrument the Kuomintang, was led to modify this orientation under the combined pressure of the main antagonistic social forces: the bourgeoisie, which refused a compromise and launched a military campaign to conquer the territories occupied by the CP; and the poor peasantry, which spontaneously began to divide the land in the territories of northern China.

The modification of the orientation of the Chinese CP, passing over from a policy of collaboration with Chiang to a policy of liquidating the Kuomintang power, was progressively effected through the following stages:

  1. The directives of May 1946 authorizing a limited agrarian reform in the regions of China occupied by CP.
  2. The law on the agrarian reform of October 1947 proclaimed for the whole of China.
  3. The proclamation of December 1947 calling for an overturn of the Kuomintang government.

This modification of the orientation of the Chinese CP was facilitated by the fact that its leadership filled the old theory of the “revolution by stages” with a new content, insisting far more than in the past upon the leading role of the proletariat from the first stage of the revolution and upon the integration of this revolution, despite its bourgeois democratic character, into the world proletarian revolution.

9. The policy of the Soviet bureaucracy, far from promoting this transformation of the practical orientation of the Chinese CP, did everything to perpetuate the old position:

  1. By the conclusion of the 1945 agreement with Chiang Kai-shek;
  2. By the seizure and dismantling of industry in Manchuria, which paralyzed the workers’ struggle there during the decisive stage of the civil war;
  3. By the technical aid accorded Chiang, (the departure of the Russian troops from the vital centers of Manchuria was delayed until the arrival of the Kuomintang troops);
  4. By the pressure exerted upon the Chinese CP to maintain the tactic of guerilla warfare, and not to attack the big cities;
  5. By the efforts undertaken by Soviet diplomacy for the constitution of a Chiang-Mao coalition government.

If it is true that the existence of the USSR and of the buffer countries in Eastern Europe objectively facilitated Mao’s victory, and the abandonment of a part of the materiel of the Japanese Army captured by the Russian Army to the Communist troops created more favorable military conditions for this victory, the above-mentioned factors weighed more heavily in the balance. They meant that Mao’s victory was finally attained because the orientation of the Chinese CP led it to act, in fact, outside the leadership given by the Kremlin.

III. Character of Mao’s Power

10. The Chinese CP cannot be defined as a peasant party either by its program, by its traditions, or by the dynamics of its policy. By putting itself in matters of doctrine on the plane of Marxism-Leninism, by affirming that its historical aim is the creation of the classless communist society, by educating its cadres in this spirit, as well as in the spirit of devotion to the USSR, the Chinese CP presents by and large the same characteristics as the other mass Stalinist parties of the colonial and semi-colonial countries. Its opportunist and Menshevik conceptions of strategy on the “bloc of the four classes,” the “construction of a democratic capitalism,” the “equality of rights of Capital and Labor,” etc., were certainly reinforced during an entire period by its predominantly peasant social composition. They thwarted the junction of the revolutionary upsurge in the cities with the agrarian revolution of 1945-46, thus determining the peculiar form taken by the first phase of the revolution. The penetration of kulak elements into the CP has even made possible the temporary transference of the class struggle in its ranks. But it was definitively demonstrated that, subjected to the pressure of antagonistic social forces, the Chinese CP, although in an empirical, hesitating, contradictory, opportunist manner, entered upon the road of revolution, and not upon that of counter-revolution. This is the surest test to determine the class nature of the CP as that of an opportunist workers’ party. The suspension of peasant recruitment and the campaign to recruit workers since 1950 have still further accentuated the class character of the Chinese CP, as the whole of the international policy of this party has also done. In the imperialist epoch, it is not a peasant war, that is to say, the uprising of the peasantry under a peasant leadership, which can overthrow the power of the feudal-bourgeoisie in a backward country. Only the peasant insurrection, centralized, utilised and directed by a workers’ party, can begin to resolve the problems of the revolution.

11. The destruction of the old regime in the rural areas was in part accomplished by the direct action of the toiling peasant masses, in partly the action of the new power basing itself upon a partial mobilization of the masses. This transformation, varying from region to region, associated with the enormous differences in social conditions in the diverse parts of the country, has produced an extremely variegated map of social relations in China. But the dominant features of these relations on a national scale are the following:

  1. The power of the old possessing classes in the countryside (semi-feudal landed proprietors in the north; “gentry” in the center and the south) has been completely destroyed.
  2. The relations of bourgeois property are generally extant; the right to buy and sell land, unrestricted primitive accumulation, transference of the major part of the capital accumulated in the countryside for commercial and speculative purposes.
  3. The property of the rich peasants remains in certain regions and has been destroyed in others.
  4. In northern and central China, the new social conditions have been stabilized, and are resulting in a new social differentiation through the formation of a class of kulaks siphoning the profits of the agrarian reform more and more for its own exclusive benefit.
  5. In southern China the social conditions are still in the midst of their overturn; the conclusion of agrarian reform is combined with the tasks of the anti-capitalist struggle since landed property there is above all concentrated in the hands of the bourgeoisie.
  6. In southwest China the agrarian reform is still in process.

12. There has not been a fundamental modification of property relations in the cities. The new power took over the sector already nationalized by the Kuomintang (former Japanese property) and has further nationalized the property of the four monopolist families (”bureaucratic capitalism”). That represents the major portion of heavy-industry and foreign trade (where the state monopoly exists in fact). This nationalized sector has an important weight above all in Manchuria. In the rest of China, where light industry and commercial capital predominates, capitalist private property remains decisive. After a transitional period, dominated by the requirements for reviving the economy, the central government has encouraged the accumulation and development of private capital in numerous ways. With this in view, it has imposed considerable restrictions upon action for working class demands. Nevertheless, the development of the trade union and cooperative

movement of the working class, the introduction of social security, the progressive check upon inflation, the fixing of salaries on the basis of the sliding scale represent considerable gains already obtained by the working class. These gains facilitate a progressive development in the self-confidence, the combative spirit and the politicalization of the proletariat, a development that the coming course of the Chinese CP will be compelled to facilitate more and more.

13. On the whole, the political, economic, and social relations now prevailing between the classes in China, represent a special situation of dual power, the central political power in the hands of the CP being obliged to base itself more and more upon the workers and the poor peasants. This situation corresponds to the initial stage of solving the problem of the permanent revolution. It is expressed in practice by the symbiosis between the central political power, controlled on the national scale by the CP and its armies, and the economic power which is still predominantly in the hands of the bourgeoisie. The participation of the representatives of the bourgeoisie in the central government is not a mere fiction. If these representatives do not exercise any real executive power within it, their function is not that of hostages, but of observers whose presence in the government, required by the present policy of the CP, reflects the real power that the bourgeoisie still exercises in numerous domains. They could likewise, under certain favorable conditions, become the instrument for beginning the destruction of the new regime. The economic power still possessed by the bourgeoisie serves as a constant menace of corruption and disintegration in the state and the CP apparatus. The more one descends toward the lower echelons of the state apparatus, the less is the dual power purely formal and the more does it become effective.

14. The situation of dual power is highly transitory. The trend of its evolution is determined by the relations of forces between the classes on the national and international plane. Today the decisive factor in this sense is the role played by the central government. This government does not reflect parallel and equal pressures of the antagonistic classes, but acts, despite its centrist hesitation, fundamentally along the line of the destruction of what yet remains of the power of the bourgeoisie. What is decisive on this plane are not the petty-bourgeois governmental theories of conciliation between Capital and Labor, but the historical meaning of action of the government when confronted with explosive conflicts between the classes on the national and international scale. We characterize this government as a workers’ and peasants’ government because, on the one hand, it has broken in practice with the historical interests of the bourgeoisie to enter upon the road of revolution, and because on the other hand it has not yet completed the’ destruction of the power of the bourgeoisie, nor liquidated the dual power from top to bottom of the state apparatus. This workers’ and peasants’ government will only be a short, transitory stage along the road to a dictatorship of the proletariat, toward which the dynamics of the national and international situation is more and more propelling it.

IV. Perspectives of the Chinese Revolution

15. The characteristic nature of the CP as an opportunist workers’ party, operating in a semi-colonial country, has a dual significance which reflects the two fundamental aspects in the contradictory policy of this party. Each forward step that the CP takes along the road of revolution, it takes with a thousand hesitations and in a completely empirical manner. In truth, these steps are taken in contradiction with the whole of its programmatic and ideological tradition, and with its official doctrine of the moment, the “New Democracy.” But the very fact that, propelled by the immense explosive social forces that the outburst of the Third Chinese Revolution has liberated, the CP is obliged and will be more and more obliged to enter upon the road of the permanent revolution, determines the class nature and the objective role played by this party. All the Menshevik programmatic baggage and all the opportunism that the Chinese CP drags along with it, have already done enormous harm to the revolution. They have caused the absence of synchronization between the workers upsurge in 1945-47, and the peasant upsurge which was deliberately halted by the CP during this period. They have contributed to the recession of the mass movement in the cities during. 1945-50, provoked by the disintegration of the economy. They have piled up difficulties in the economic domain by the incomplete way in which agrarian reform is being realized. Undoubtedly, they will provoke many crises in the future. Empiricism is the most inadequate instrument to realize historical tasks as great as those of the Chinese revolution. But the fact that it has begun to realise them in practice remains the decisive criterion for determining the future evolution of the policy of the CP, which will more and more run up against the limits imposed by its empiricism, opportunism, and false programmatic conceptions.

16. This evolution will above all be determined by the pressure of the international situation, and of the world polarization of the class forces in both camps as they collide with each other. The closer war approaches, the more American imperialism perfects its bases of aggression against the Chinese People’s Republic in Asia, the more the maintenance of private property in big and medium industry will come into conflict with the elementary conditions of the security of the state. They serve as a springboard for the counter-revolutionary enterprises of the Chinese bourgeoisie. The latter must look upon a military victory for American imperialism as the only chance of returning to power. Its obvious course would be to employ all means to sabotage the conduct of the war of the Chinese People’s Republic against imperialism. The outbreak of the Korean war, stirring up civil war in the country, has already driven Mao’s regime to accentuate its struggle against the bourgeoisie as well as its turn to the left which started with the extension of the agrarian reform in 1950. The outbreak of world war will probably be the beginning of a fundamental turn of the CP away from capitalism, resulting in the liquidation of the dual power in all echelons of the state apparatus. The carrying through of such a turn and the completion of the expropriation of the urban bourgeoisie would then mark the transformation of the workers’ and peasants’ government into the dictatorship of of the proletariat. The failure of this transformation would probably signify the reopening of civil war in China with the revolutionary government and the counter-revolutionary government confronting each other on the territory of the country itself with their armed forces, thus placing in question all the conquests of the revolution. The relationship of forces between the classes which are very unfavorable to imperialism on the international scale, and the perspectives of an ever-growing expansion of revolutionary struggles in the world, render this second alternative very improbable.

17. The more the class forces are polarized on a world scale, the more the CP finds itself compelled to stiffen its attitude toward the bourgeoisie, the more it will be obliged to call upon the proletarian masses to support this policy, if bnly through a limited and controlled mobilization (witness the recent campaign against waste and bureaucratism), and the more it risks being propelled forward in its turn by the pressure of the masses. That will turn out to be the case, especially when the fundamental social contradictions inherent in the present state of China, and in the present policy of the CP break out violently; conflicts between the poor peasants and the exploiting elements in the rural regions on the one hand; conflicts between workers and “democratic” capitalists in the cities on the other hand. The very economic successes that the new regime registers facilitate the ripening of these conflicts in the last analysis, even if they defer the showdown somewhat. The stage ahead is a stage of intensified class struggles in which the CP will be compelled to act against the urban and rural bourgeoisie. The immensity of the country, the difficulties of bureaucratic control from the center, the rapid rebirth of capitalism and of the exploitation in the countryside, the uneveness of the rhythm of the revolutionary awakening of tens of millions of exploited – all these factors will reduce the possibilities of prolonging the present conciliatory tactic of the CP and will precipitate a final settlement of accounts between the classes.

18. The CP entered upon the Third Chinese Revolution as a Stalinist party empirically freeing itself from the direction of the Kremlin. The international and national social forces which act upon it will determine its transformation from a highly opportunist workers’ party into a centrist party going forward along the road of the completion of the revolution. But these same forces will modify the composition and, even in a certain measure, the very structure of the Chinese CP. The realization of the agrarian reform has already broken up the organization of the CP in numerous villages where it was based on rich or kulak elements. The unfolding of the class struggle in the village will promote a constant purge along the same lines. The awakening of the masses will more and more accelerate the penetration of the proletariat into the CP. The break with the bourgeosie will actually give the hegemony to the proletarian element from the viewpoint of the social composition of the party. This constant unsettle-ment of the CP, which is itself as much an object as a subject of the permanent revolution will inevitably loosen, at least during a transitory period, the monolithism and the degree of organizational control of the apparatus. It is not excluded that this unsettlement can result in a differentiation within the leadership of the party itself. It is more likely that this leadership, constituted over a long period, will maintain its outward unity throughout the entire ascending course of the revolution, and will preside in its great majority over the transformation of the Chinese CP into a left centrist party. This transformation, while reinforcing the bases of the power of the CP and its support in the laboring population, will also reinforce its independence and its critical spirit toward the Kremlin. The policy of plunder of the Soviet bureaucracy in its economic relations with China will have similar effects. Before a decisive defeat of imperialism occurs in the world, or at least before there is a radical modification in the world situation, an open break of the Chinese CP with Stalinism is very unlikely.

V. The Fourth International and the Chinese Revolution

19. Having fully assimilated the decisive historical importance of the outbreak of the Third Chinese Revolution, the Fourth International defends it unconditionally against all its class enemies. It denounces the maneuvers and the economic, political and military pressures of imperialism aiming to prevent the stabilization of Mao’s power and in fact preparing the counter-revolutionary war of intervention in China. It fully supports the demand of Mao’s government for the withdrawal of the troops of imperialism or troops in the pay of imperialism, from Formosa and the regions bordering on China: Korea, Vietnam, Burma. It demands the abolition of the last unequal treaties binding China to Great Britain, Portugal and the USSR, which means returning to China the last foreign enclaves on its territory: Hong Kong, Macao, the Russian zones of influence in Sinkiang and Outer Mongolia, etc. It supports the campaign of Mao’s government for its recognition de jure and de facto by all the states in the world, and for its immediate admission as representative of the Chinese people in the Unted Nations. It demands the lifting of the actual blockade against China and the establishment of commercial relations on an equal footing between all countries and China. It calls upon all the governments of the Asian countries and the trade union and working class organizations of the whole world to elaborate a broad joint plan for the economic development and industrialization of Asia without special tribute to the imperialists, and on the basis of reciprocal aid among countries which have broken from the control of imperialism. It especially calls upon the working class organizations of Western Europe to insert in their program the principle of aid without strings in the form of industrial equipment to revolutionary China, and to realize this through the establishment of workers’ (or workers’ and peasants’) governments in their countries. It goes without saying that the Chinese members of the’ Fourth International will be in the vanguard of the defense of the Chinese Revolution against all counter-revolutionary attacks, and that they will likewise participate in the vanguard of the struggle for every revolutionary demand put forward by the new regime or by the masses.

20. The Fourth International and the Chinese Trotskyists will give critical support to Mao Tse-tung’s government. This involves a vigorous criticism of the orientation of this government on the following points:

  1. On the structure of the state and the regime of the party. The Chinese state does not have a Soviet structure; the government does not base itself, essentially on committees of workers and peasants; wherever these exist in embryonic state, they are not democratically elected; wherever these committees have been sporadically set up by the masses, their democratic development in general has been impeded by the government. The bureaucratic structure of the party has influenced that of the state apparatus. The repression of elements belonging to the revolutionary opposition must be especially condemned.
  2. On the identification of the function of the trade unions, the party and the state in the industrial domain. Even if the maintenance of a capitalist sector in the economy is considered indispensable, the role of the party and the trade unions cannot consist in proclaiming the “equality of rights of Capital and Labor.” It is their duty to defend the class interests of the workers against the capitalists.
  3. On the incompleteness of the agrarian reform, notably the maintenance of the property of the rich peasants and the absence of state institutes furnishing cheap credit to the peasantry.
  4. On the false theoretical conceptions of the revolution “by stages,” of “democratic capitalism,” etc.

This criticism should be put forward as a rule in a constructive manner and with a clear understanding of the economic and social reality of the country. In any case, the dictatorship of the proletariat in China would have to be accompanied by a period of NEP, considerably broader and more protracted than in Russia, without complete suppression of private property in the domain of small urban and village industry, commerce, of the artisans, etc. The pace of industrial accumulation per capita will be relatively low for a long transitional period, and essentially dependent upon the rate of the development of the productive forces in the countryside and of foreign aid.

21. In order to realize the orientation of unconditional defense of the Chinese People’s Republic, and critical support to the Mao government, the Chinese militants of the Fourth International should integrate themselves completely in the mass movement of their country, as has been decided by the Third World Congress of the Fourth International. This integration is for the purpose of binding them to the most combative and conscious sections of the CP and the other mass organizations in order to move them forward toward a completion of the permanent revolution in China and to struggle for the democratization of these organizations, and of the state as a whole.

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