[This issue of Peking Review is from massline.org. Massline.org has kindly given us permission to to place these documents on the MIA. We made only some formatting changes to make them congruent with our style sheets.]

Grasp the General Trend of Historical Development

— Notes on studying ”On the Chungking Negotiations”

by Hung Yuan

[This article is reprinted from the English language version which appeared in Peking Review, #30, July 28, 1972, pp. 5-8.]

FOLLOWING the victory of the War of Resistance against Japan (1937-45), there were profound changes in the international and domestic scenes, and the Chinese revolution entered a new historical period. With a view to correctly analysing the revolutionary situation and its development during that period so as to work out the policy and tactics for the Party in its struggle, Chairman Mao wrote a series of important Marxist-Leninist works, On the Chungking Negotiations among them.

Having penetratingly analysed the basic situation in that period, Chairman Mao pointed out that China after defeating Japanese imperialism still faced two destinies, two futures—either to become a new China or to remain the old China. Fierce struggles over the two possible destinies and futures made up the important content of that historical period. And what would the prospects and road of that struggle be like? Based on the viewpoint of historical materialism, Chairman Mao pointed out most explicitly in On the Chungking Negotiations: “The general trend of China’s development is certainly for the better, not the worse. The world is progressing, the future is bright and no one can change this general trend of history. We should carry on constant propaganda among the people on the facts of world progress and the bright future ahead so that they will build their confidence in victory. At the same time, we must tell the people and tell our comrades that there will be twists and turns in our road.” His conclusion was: “In a word, while the prospects are bright, the road has twists and turns.”

Law of History Is Irresistible

The history of human society advances amid the struggle between contradictions in society itself. The contradictions between the relations of production and the forces of production and between the superstructure and the economic base are the basic contradictions in human society. In class society, such contradictions find expression in the struggle between revolutionary and reactionary classes. The development of these contradictions and struggle inevitably leads to social revolution which pushes forward the supersession of the old society by a new one, the development of human society from lower to higher stages, and the progress of history. The development of history, however, does not take place along a straight road but along a road with twists and turns. Its process as a whole is advancing and upward; its actual process is tortuous, moving ahead in waves. “While the prospects are bright, the road has twists and turns”—this scientific thesis was correctly reflected the nature of historical development, advancing as well as tortuous, which is a dialectical unity.

“The supersession of the old by the new is a general, eternal and inviolable I law of the universe.” (Mao Tsetung: On Contradiction.) In mankind’s class society, the revolutionary class is a new-born force: it represents the advanced forces of production which are crying for development; it is identical with the direction of historical progress; it has great vitality and a bright future. Though for a while looking very weak and small and, suffering disruption and suppression by the forces of the old as it grows, it, as far as the general trend is concerned, is sure to gradually grow up, gain strength and finally become the dominating force in the course of struggle. The reactionary class, on the contrary, represents what is decadent; it tries to preserve the backward relations of production and, though appearing to be powerful for a while and even occupying the dominant position, it is eventually destined to destruction.

The great teachers Marx and Engels were the first to scientifically bring to light the objective laws governing the development of mankind’s history, to analyse the basic contradictions in capitalist society and to define the historic mission of the proletariat. At a time when capitalism still ruled the whole world and real communists were few, they already foresaw the inevitability of capitalism’s doom and the pro1etariat’s victory. To the whole world they solemnly declared: “Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.” (Manifesto of the Communist Party.) The history of the international communist movement in the 100-odd years since has again and again borne out this irrefutable truth.

In leading the Chinese revolution, every time it met with difficulty or came to a big turning-point, Chairman Mao invariably adhered to the Marxist-Leninist stand, made a scientific analysis of the revolutionary situation and pointed to the bright future ahead so that the people would build up confidence in victory. After the failure of the great revolution in 1927, when the revolution in China was at a low ebb and there was a reign of white terror all over the country, he went beyond the appearance of things and looked into their essence, and, by making an analysis in the light of class relations, criticized both the mistakes of those suffering from ”Left” revolutionary impetuosity who “overestimate the subjective forces of the revolution and underestimate the forces of the counter-revolution” and the mistakes of those suffering from Right pessimism “underestimating the subjective forces of the revolution and overestimating the forces of the counter-revolution.”

Through his wise thesis “A single spark can start a prairie fire,” he scientifically foresaw the great promising future for the small surviving revolutionary force and noted that there would soon be a high tide of revolution, which “is like a ship far out at sea whose mast-head can already he seen from the shore; it is like the morning sun in the east whose shimmering rays are visible from a high mountain top; it is like a child about to be born moving restlessly in its mother’s womb.” (A Single Spark Can Start a Prairie Fire.) The development of the Chinese revolution entirely confirmed this scientific prediction, and the single spark on the Chingkang Mountains finally set the whole country aflame.

The Road Is Tortuous

The reason why the development of history and the revolutionary road are tortuous, never straight, is that each and every revolution is a life-and-death struggle in which one class tiies to overthrow the other. A reactionary class will certainly not easily withdraw from the stage of history and is bound to put up desperate resistance against the growth, development and victory of the forces of revolution, coupled with brutal suppression and frenzied counter-attacks. This is especially so in the case of a proletarian revolution whose aim is to wipe out the capitalist system and all other systems of exploitation. After the proletariat has seized political power, the struggle between it and the bourgeoisie, between the masses and class enemies both at home and abroad who vainly attempt to topple the socialist system, will last for quite a period of time. The toppled reactionary classes invariably try by various ways to stage a come-back, and every several years ghosts and monsters step out without fail to make a show of themselves. This is determined by their reactionary class nature.

In every phase of development in human society, the forces of revolution always have to go through a long-continued process of repeated contention to sweep clean the forces of counterrevolution. In the course of such a struggle two diametrically opposed logics take shape: “Make trouble, fail, make trouble again, fail again … till their doom; that is the logic of the imperialists and all reactionaries the world over in dealing with the people’s cause, and they will never go against this logic”; ”fight, fail, fight again, fail again, fight again … till their victory; that is the logic of the people, and they too will never go against this logic.” (Mao Tsetung: Cast Away Illusions, Prepare for Struggle.) Anyone who supposes that one fine morning the reactionary class will ”lay down their butcher knives and immediately become Buddhas” is not likely to become a true revolutionary.

Every suppression and sabotage of the revolution by the reactionary classes, however, further evokes the fighting will of the people and enables them to learn things from a negative example and draw useful experience and lessons from counter-revolutionary attacks so as to carry on their fight. In 1871, the Paris Commune, the first proletarian regime in the history of mankind, was suppressed by the bourgeoisie with its counter-revolutionary army of tens of thousands. But all they could do was to put down one uprising of the proletariat, they could never block the road of proletarian revolution pioneered by the Paris Commune. The glorious movement of March 18 was “the dawn of the great social revolution which will liberate Mankind from the regime of classes for ever.” (Marx: Resolutions of the Meeting in Honour of the First Anniversary of the Paris Commune.)

The experience and lessons of the Paris Commune, summed up by Karl Marx, have thus been turned into the scientific theory that the proletariat must destroy the bourgeois state machinery with revolutionary violence and set up a proletarian dictatorship; these, too, have prepared conditions for the still greater victories of the cause of world proletarian revolution. Representing China’s big landlord and big capitalist classes, Chiang Kai-shek, by means of foreign-made rifles and guns sent him by imperialism, had attacked and tried to suppress the Chinese revolution many times. During the world-renowned 25,000-li Long March of the Chinese Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army (1934-35), Chiang Kai-shek every day sent scores of planes to carry out reconnaissance and bomb the Red Army, and a huge force of several hundred thousand men to encircle, pursue, block and intercept it; but, under the guidance of Chairman Mao’s correct line and his direct command, the Long March ended with victory for us and defeat for the enemy. After the Long March, our Party and the armed forces under its leadership, though smaller in numerical strength, became stronger than ever qualitatively. After the victory of the War of Resistance Against Japan, Chiang Kai-shek, supported by U.S. imperialism, threw in more than 4 million fully armed troops in his wild attacks on the poorly equipped million-strong Liberation Army and the people in the fragmented Liberated Areas. However, instead of averting their doom, they were buried in the grave dug by themselves.

All reactionaries in history who acted counter to the historical current invariably thought they could change the direction of historical progress by their intrigues and conspiracies. But all of them ended up lifting a rock only to drop it on their own feet. Chiang Kai-shek is one of these old hands at intrigues and conspiracies. A year before the ”April 12” coup, he was saying: ”For anyone to wish to kill Communists, it is tantamount to killing himself.” How moving his words were! But only a year later he showed his counter-revolutionary colours in his unprecedented massacre of Communists and other revolutionary people, and built the Chiang Kai-shek dynasty, a dictatorship of the big landlord and big capitalist classes, on the corpses of revolutionaries. But what happened after that? His dynasty did not last very long; it managed to keep things going for only some 22 years before it was driven to a few islands of China by the revolutionary forces of the Chinese people led by Chairman Mao. This shows that the objective law governing historical development is independent of the will of any reactionary, that the destiny of history is certainly not decided by a handful of intriguers and careerists representing the reactionary classes and engaging in counter-revolutionary plots.

Throughout history there had been counter-revolutionary restorations and coups which temporarily put back the clock of history, but these were merely small counter-currents in the long river of mankind’s history as a whole. They could never change the general trend in the development of history.

Essence and Main Aspect

Chairman Mao teaches us: “When we look at a thing, we must examine its essence and treat its appearance merely as an usher at the threshold.” (A Single Spark Can Start a Prairie Fire.) Only when the various complex phenomena in the course of the revolution are analysed in an all-round and concrete way and the essence of things is grasped, can we correctly size up the revolutionary situation, always remain sober-niinded and maintain a vigorous revolutionary spirit, so as not to be misled by superficial phenomena. In appearance, the reactionary forces seem powerful at a certain time, but actually they are not. Looked at in essence and from a long-term point of view, it is not the reactionaries but the people who are really powerful.

All reactionaries are paper tigers. The situation in which the enemy is strong and we are weak in a certain period of time is bound to turn into its opposite after tortuous struggles. When the reactionary forces on the verge of extinction put up a last-ditch struggle against the revolutionary forces, some revolutionaries am apt to be deluded for a while by this phenomenon of outward strength but inner weakness, and so fail to grasp the essential fact that the enemy is nearing extinction while they themselves are approaching victory. They do not understand this principle of dialectical materialism: What runs counter to the demand of historical development is bound to come to naught, it is of no avail for anyone to try to prop it up; what conforms to the demand of historical development is bound to be victorious, and no one can succeed in destroying it.

Taking the reactionary stand of the landlord and capitalist classes, Liu Shao-chi and other political swindlers like him knew nothing about the objective laws governing the development of history; therefore, they could not possibly see the general trend of historical development. Their way of thinking being idealistic and metaphysical, they invariably confounded essence and phenomenon as well as the principal and secondary aspects. After the 1927 revolution failed, they were scared out of their wits by the enemy’s transient and outward strength and completely lost confidence in the future of the revolution. Basing themselves on a pessimistic appraisal of the existing situation, they wondered ”how long can we keep the Red Flag flying?” and opposed the establishment of rural revolutionary base areas; instead, they called for ”roving guerrilla actions,” which in essence meant roving rebel bands and turning tail. They saw only the appearance of the revolutionary forces being temporarily weak and small and did not or were unwilling to see the possible and inevitable growth of the revolutionary forces from weak to strong. They saw only the appearance of the enemy being strong for a time and did not or were unwilling to see the possible and inevitable development of the enemy from strong to weak. Seeing only the temporary ebb of the revolution, they did not or were unwilling to see the possible and inevitable advent of the revolutionary high tide. These swindlers were utterly ignorant of the objective laws governing the development of the revolution, i.e., from small to big, from weak to strong and from failure to victory. Agreeing with them at that time actually meant agreeing with the big landlords and capitalists. This was bound to lead the revolution to failure. Upholding the Marxist-Leninist line, Chairman Mao repudiated these erroneous ideas when he pointed out: “Their [the Chinese revolutionary forces] growth is not only possible but indeed inevitable” ”All China is littered with dry faggots which will soon be aflame.” (A Single Spark Can Start a Prairie Fire.)

“The people, and the people alone, are the motive force in the making of world history.” (Mao Tsetung: On Coalition Government.) We have full confidence in the victorious future of the revolution, because we believe the people are the makers of history and all causes they support are sure to win. Revolution means a great activity of the masses in their millions making history. Each era, whether past or future, has separate or local movements which sometimes move forward and sometimes backslide, as well as tendencies alienated from the general movement or its general tempo. Whatever the era, however, the revolutionary masses constitute its centre and determine its main content aiid its main direction of development. So long as we have firm faith in the inexhaustible creativeness of the masses and are at one with them and closely rely on them, we can surmount any difficulty instead of being held in check, we can vanquish any enemy instead of being vanquished. It is precisely because our Party represents the fundamental interests of the proletariat and other working people and the people support our Party that imperialism and reaction failed to defeat us, but were defeated by us. It is precisely because the Party members and the people want unity and oppose a split that the opportunist and revisionist chieftains in the Party failed to split our Party and were spurned by the revolution. Proceeding from the reactionary idealist concept of history, Liu Shao-chi and other political swindlers regarded the masses of the people as a ”mob” at the mercy of the exploiting classes and thought that a few ”special” figures like themselves could turn back the wheel of history at will. This was a pure dream and could never succeed. They could not escape punishment by history for their perverse actions and ended up in total ruin and self-destruction.

Marxist-Leninist Line Is Guarantee For Victory in Revolution

We Chinese people groped a long way before we won our emancipation through struggles. Take modern times, for instance. After the Opium War of 1840, the Chinese people, in an effort to find a way for national salvation, made attempts in different forms and waged heroic struggles. In the absence of a correct guiding thought, a thoroughgoing revolutionary programme and a correct revolutionary line, however, their efforts were of no avail and ended in one failure after another, including the 1911 Revolution, a nationwide movement. It was only after the 1917 October Revolution that the Chinese people found the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism and combined it with the concrete practice of the Chinese revolution to produce great Mao Tsetung Thought. Only then did the Chinese revolution take on a new look and the Chinese people enter a new period, that of consciously fighting for the advent of a bright future.

Integrating the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism with the concrete practice of the Chinese revolution, Chairman Mao, in leading the Chinese revolution, has formulated a Marxist-Leninist line for our Party at every historical stage of the revolution. This is a fundamental guarantee for seizing victories and advancing to the bright future. The history of our Party shows that ”Left” or Right opportunist lines invariably inflicted losses on the revolution. But when Chairman Mao’s proletarian revolutionary line became predominant in the Party, the losses caused by erroneous lines were kept down to the minimum. Each triumph of Chairman Mao’s proletarian revolutionary line over the opportunist line brought the Chinese revolution new advances.

Guided by Chairman Mao’s proletarian revolutionary line over the past 50 years, we have seized great victories in the new-democratic revolution and in socialist revolution and construction. As socialist revolution deepens, we have won great victory in the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and in the movement to criticize revisionism and rectify the style of work. Chairman Mao’s revolutionary line on foreign affairs has guided us to win one new victory after another in our struggles in the international arena. We have friends all over the world.

Chairman Mao has taught us: “We have won great victory. But the defeated class will still struggle. These people are still around and this class still exists.” The downfall of a few representatives of the bourgeoisie does not mean the extinction of the whole reactionary class; nor does one victory in the struggle between the two lines mean the end of that struggle. Ours is a developing country. We must work still harder to carry out the revolution well in the realm of the superstructure, consolidate and develop the socialist economic base and develop the forces of production, so as to build our country into a socialist state with a modern industry, modern agriculture and modern science and culture. There are still obstacles and difficulties along the road of revolution and we must redouble our efforts to fight on. Chairman Mao has formulated for our Party the basic line for the entire historical period of socialism. This basic line is: “Socialist society covers a considerably long historical period. In the historical period of socialism, there are still classes, class contradictions and class struggle, there is the struggle between the socialist road and the capitalist road, and there is the danger of capitalist restoration. We must recognize the protracted and complex nature of this struggle. We must heighten our vigilance. We must conduct socialist education. We must correctly understand and handle class contradictions and class struggle, distinguish the contradictions between ourselves and the enemy from those among the people and handle them correctly. Otherwise a socialist country like ours will turn into its opposite and degenerate, and a capitalist restoration will take place. From now on we must remind ourselves of this every year, every month and every day so that we can retain a rather sober understanding of this problem and have a Marxist-Leninist line.” Following this line and under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, the Chinese peple are firmly determined to take the socialist road and fight for carrying the continued revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat through to the end.

(Abridged translation of an article published in ”Hongqi” No. 7, 1972. Subheads are ours. [Peking Review’s])

Peking Review Index   |  Chinese Communism  |  Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung