Letters from China

Letter Number 4
The Great Debate

Dec. 30, 1962

Dear friends,

The Great Communist Debate which has smouldered some years became open worldwide discussion in December by four attacks on China in four European Party Congresses, climaxed by a fifth from Khrushchov in the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R. and followed by China's first public reply.

China's reply used a technique now familiar here in serious discussions but I think unknown elsewhere. On Dec. 14 the People's Daily gave a page and a half to 38 attacks on China from the Czech Congress, 19 by Czechs and 19 by fraternal delegates, all displayed effectively, even artistically, giving each attacker a separate paragraph or more under name and country as headline. No comment or reply was made, readers being supposed to think it over first without guidance from leaders. Discussion of course buzzed everywhere in streets, factories and homes.

For 24 hours hundreds of millions of Chinese, busy in jobs on farms or in factories and offices, faced the terms "adventurist", "sectarian", "splitter", "nationalist", "dogmatist", and saw their country's position on Cuba, Albania, the Indian border etc. attacked. They thought it over.

Then on Dec. 15 appeared the People's Daily editorial:


Thus it was clear that a worldwide discussion was on!

* * *

Twice in recent years international conferences of Communist Parties have discussed differences and reached agreements which all signed. The "1957 Moscow Declaration" by 12 Parties of the socialist nations, and the 1960 "Statement of 81 Parties" from all parts of the world, became authority, agreed by all. This unity was broken nine months later when Khrushchov attacked Albania in the 22nd Congress of the C.P.S.U., which had no jurisdiction over Albania and to which Albania was not invited. Chou En-lai, leading the Chinese delegation, criticized this procedure without naming either Khrushchov or Albania, but by noting the general principles for settling inter-Party differences which has been unanimously agreed.

Fifty Parties followed Khrushchov by attacking Albania; thirty did not. These 30 have more membership than the other 50, for China and Indonesia together have nearly half the Communist members in the world. In general, the Europeans followed Khrushchov, the Asians followed Chou, on the question of procedure between Parties. The discussion widened and drew in other differences, but was indirectly discussed, Khrushchov's attacks being at "Albania and her supporters", and China's against "modern revisionists like Tito". Neither side wished to start a split between the two giant nations.

Finally in late 1962 open attack began against China in tour European Party Congresses, in dramatic crescendo showing planning from the top. Bulgaria, Nov. 4, through Hungary, Italy to Czechoslovakia, Dec. 4-8 showed a steady rise in number, force and directness, up to the 38 attacks in Prague.

Each of these four congresses was attended, and presumably advised, by high Party leaders of the U.S.S.R. from Suslov through Kuusinen and Kozlov to Brezhnev, the Soviet chief of state. This includes all "top guys" of "the Kremlin except Khrushchov himself and Mikoyan, who had just spent the month in Cuba, presumably trying to get Castro to consent to "inspection on the spot", the "spot" belonging to Cuba.

The attack then escalated to Moscow where Khrushchov gave much of his long report to the Supreme Soviet to berating China indirectly but clearly while Tito--China's symbolic and actual opponent--sat as honored guest alongside. Nothing was omitted that might obliterate China's standing in the socialist camp of nations and the Communist world.

China's reply was the publication of the 38 attacks in Prague, and the editorial: "Workers of All Countries, Unite to Oppose Our Common Enemy". The editorial covers several subjects; we shall not have room for all. It is hard-hitting, sharply reasoned but without abusive epithets; it deals with principles not with personalities. Its main theme is the need of unity of the progressive forces, and how to get it. It should be read in its entirety in Peking Review, Dec. 21, 1962.

It calls for unity of the world's workers and especially of the Communists, to oppose imperialism, the common enemy of mankind. Maintenance of unity depends on observing the principles jointly agreed in international congresses, such as the "1957 Moscow Declaration" and the 1960 "Statement of 81 Parties". Unity cannot be had by dominance of a single Party setting up its own resolutions as an "international law" and denouncing in public, without a hearing, Parties that dare to disagree. The using of one Party's congress to attack another Party is "an erroneous method", first used in the 22nd Congress of the U.S.S.R., where the Chinese delegation opposed it at the time.

Differences of opinion, says the editorial, arise from different historical experiences and are not of themselves bad. They should be reconciled for the sake of unity, and the way to do this is laid down in the "81 Parties Statement". The principles unanimously adopted include "full equality ... uniting while retaining independence and sovereignty ... reaching common views through comradely consultation on an equal footing". If these principles are violated, if one Party attempts to impose its views as international law, and gives itself the right to attack a fraternal Party at will while denying the other the right to reply, if slander and attack are substituted for comradely consultation, "splitting and sectarianism" result.

The editorial calls the attack on Albania a "splitting action". To call China "splitter" because she disapproved of it is calling "black, white". And now it goes further. China was attacked for refusing to attack Albania. Now Korea is criticized for refusing to attack China. This is the breaking of the unity of the Communist world, which cannot be dominated by any one Party but only by decisions of international congresses. ... The editorial clearly sees in such congresses, not isolated acts for emergency, but the normal method for constantly bringing unity out of constantly occurring differences. The 1957 and 1960 conferences, which some people regard as attempts at unity that failed, are seen by China as useful routine for unity. It is time for another now.

China's position on Cuba is attacked; she is called "adventurist". It is even said she "tried to plunge the world into thermo-nuclear war". Is this true? No! China seeks peace; she stands for complete ban of nuclear weapons. It was "not China that requested the introduction of nuclear arms into Cuba", nor did China "object to taking them away". Where is the "adventurism" and "plunging the world into war" to be found?

China supports "the correct line of the Cuban Party" and the "five just demands of the Cuban people". She agrees with Fidel Castro that "the way to peace is not by sacrificing the people's rights"; she agrees that "the best form of settlement is by peaceful channels and discussion between governments", but that "this is not secured by capitulation but by the type of heroic defense of national sovereignty that Cuba made". She "supports Cuba's sovereignty". "Is it required that we try to force Cuba to give up her sovereignty ... to avoid being called adventurist?"

Then the editorial swings into counter-attack with the words: "We hold that socialist countries have no need to use nuclear weapons as a gambling counter or for frightening others. To do this would truly be to commit the error of adventurism. To have blind faith in nuclear weapons and fail to recognize ... the strength of the masses of the people ... would be likely to lead one to jump from one extreme to the other and commit the error of capitulationism."

China has been attacked on the question of the Indian border as "precipitating disaster" and "pushing the Nehru government towards the West". No, says the editorial, we have always stood for settling borders by peaceful negotiation but Nehru has always refused. For the past three years India steadily encroached by armed force into China's territory, while China's border guards withheld their fire. Finally, taking China's restraint for weakness, Nehru announced and launched on Oct. 20 a massive general offensive to which "any sovereign state would have been forced to reply". China "having repulsed the Indian attacks, at once proposed disengagement and negotiation, and took the initiative of a Cease-Fire and Withdrawal". As a result, the border tension has begun to ease, and "de facto" Cease-Fire is established.

Again the editorial counter-attacks, asking: "Where is the Marxism-Leninism of those who refuse to see the class nature of the Indian bourgeoisie? They "suppress with increasing brutality the Indian people", and therefore seek imperialist aid and "inflame border war as excuse". Their "persistent anti-China stand comes from their increasingly reactionary domestic and foreign policies". Those who blame China "mistake cause for effect". Where is the proletarian internationalism of those who call China "brother" but "actually take the Indian reactionaries as kinsmen"?

The sharpest comment is perhaps the statement that "the minimum demand of a Communist is that he makes clear distinction between the enemy and his own comrades". There are some who are "accommodating" to imperialists and who treat their comrades as "implacable enemies". This is not the stand for a Marxist-Leninist to take"....

I refer you to Peking Review Dec. 21, for the rest.