24. Mao’s Early Years 25. Mao’s Fight against Right and ”Left” Lines and Victory of the Chinese Revolution 26. The Path of Revolution for the Colonies and Semi-Colonies 27. Mao on Philosophy 28. Mao on the Party 29. Socialist Construction – the Chinese Experience 30. The Great Debate – Mao’s Fight Against Kruschev’s Modern Revisionism 31. The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution 32. After the Death of Mao
Chapter 24: Mao’s Early Years
Mao Tse-tung was born on 26th December 1893, in the village of Shaoshan Chung in the fertile valley of Shaoshan in the Hunan province of China. The district where Mao was born was a wealthy agricultural area. It was also a strategic area with all major routes by road or river passing through the Hunan province. Being at the crossroads of commerce the Hunan people were known for their peasant traders. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century Hunan also became an intellectual centre and a centre of dissidence and revolt, producing many of China’s best scholars. It produced both the military generals who helped the Chinese Emperors, as well as the revolutionaries who overthrew their rule. It was also a major centre of the biggest peasant revolt of the nineteenth century – the great Taiping peasant uprising. Hunan provided lakhs of fighters for the rebellion, which lasted for 14 years from 1850 to 1864. Th is vast support for the peasant revolt was because of the severe poverty of the peasantry due to exploitation by the landlords and excessive taxation. Though the uprising had been brutally crushed, the memory of the revolt remained strong in the villages around where Mao spent his childhood and youth.
Mao’s father, Mao Jen-shen, was born a poor peasant and was forced to become a soldier for seven years in order to pay off his father’s debts. Later through hard work and careful saving he was able to buy back his land. He grew to become a middle peasant and petty trader. Th e standard of living of the family however remained very poor. Even at the age of sixteen, Mao only ate one egg a month and meat about three or four times a month. Mao’s father put his children to work as soon as possible. Thus Mao started work in the fields at the age of six. Mao’s mother, Wen Chi-mei, was from Xiangxiang district just sixteen miles from Shaoshan. Mao was the eldest son. He had two younger brothers and an adopted sister. All three were among the members of the first peasant Communist party branch that Mao formed. All became martyrs in the Revolution.
Mao was a rebel from a very young age. He called his father the Ruling Power. He often united with his mother, brother and the labourer against the authority of his father. This was the opposition. At school too he opposed the old customs. Once in protest against his schoolteacher he, at the age of seven, ran away for three days and stayed in the mountains surrounding his village. After this protest – which Mao calls his first successful strike – he was not beaten in school.
Mao’s first school was the village primary school, which he joined at the age of seven. As soon as he learnt to read sufficiently, he developed a passion for reading. He preferred romantic books of rebellion and adventure. Very often he would read the whole night by the light of an oil lamp. Mao’s father, who himself had very little schooling, was not interested in Mao continuing his education for too long. He needed somebody to work in the fields and to maintain his accounts. So in 1906, he removed Mao from the village school.
Mao however continued his interest in reading and constantly demanded to be sent for further education. His father could not understand this interest of his son and thought the solution was in marriage. At the age of fourteen, Mao was married to a girl from the same area. Mao however refused to complete the marriage.
Meanwhile the revolutionary atmosphere was rapidly growing in the surrounding areas. Two rebellions took place in this period, which had a lasting impact on Mao. One was the revolt in Hunan in 1906 led by the revolutionaries of the party of the nationalist Sun Yat-sen. Th e other was a rebellion against a landlord by a group of peasants of Shaoshan itself. Both were crushed and the leaders were beheaded. Mao was very much affected by the injustice and longed to do something radical for the country and its people. He also longed to continue his education. Finally in 1910, he was sent to a Higher Primary School, in his mother’s home district, Xiangxiang.
Th e students in this school were all from landlord and rich background who initially looked down upon Mao. Mao however had soon outshone all the other students by his superior intellect and hard work and study. He would sit reading for long hours in the classroom after everyone had left. His teachers were highly impressed by his ability. Within a few months however he was restless to move on to a higher level. After a year he easily passed the exams for admission to Middle School which was situated in Changsha, the provincial capital of Hunan. In September 1911, Mao walked the forty miles to Changsha. Mao, who was almost eighteen, was seeing a city for the first time.
Changsha, a city of scholars, was in extreme turmoil at the time of Mao’s arrival there. Revolutionary associations under various names had been formed by teachers and students. Underground literature was being circulated and an explosion was expected at any moment. Mao, who had already developed some radical thinking, was eager to participate in the events. Within a month of Mao’s arrival the 1911 bourgeois revolution broke out under the leadership of Sun Yat-sen. Mao immediately decided to join the revolutionary army. Th e revolution however was soon betrayed and landed in the hands of counter revolutionaries. Mao, after five months, resigned from the army and landed back in Changsha.
On his return, Mao was in search of what to do and what direction to take in life. Looking up advertisements in newspapers, he registered for a number of courses in schools ranging from a soap-making school and a police school to a law school and a commercial school. He finally sat for the entrance examination for the First Provincial Middle School in Changsha and stood first. After six months however he left the school and arranged a schedule of education of his own, which consisted of reading every day at the Hunan Provincial Library. For six months, he would spend the whole day from morning to night at the library with just a small lunch of two rice cakes. Th is period of intensive reading covered a very wide range of social and scientific topics of Western as well as Chinese authors. It laid the foundation of Mao’s education. Six months of such study however left Mao totally penniless. His father, who could not understand his son’s desire to
just go on reading on his own, refused to support him unless he joined a real school.
Th us in 1913, Mao joined the Hunan First Normal College which was a Teachers’ College. He remained there for five years from 1913 to 1918. Th e collapse of the central Chinese government and the outbreak of World War I had created conditions of extreme upheaval throughout China and the world. In China wars between provincial armies of warlord generals became a common occurrence. It was also the period when Japan, making use of the involvement of the other imperialist powers in war, tried to achieve total domination over China. This led to strong opposition from Chinese intellectuals and revolutionary sections.
It was during these years that Mao’s political ideas took shape. In 1915 he became secretary of the Students’ Society at the Normal College, and created the Association for Student Self-Government. Th is organisation organised numerous agitations against the college authorities for student demands. Mao also led this organisation in street demonstrations against Japanese domination and their Chinese puppets. This organisation was later to become the nucleus for future student organisations in the Hunan province.
As the attacks of the warlord generals grew the students in many places formed self-defence corps. In 1917 Mao became the head of his college battalion. He obtained some arms from the local police and led the students in guerrilla attacks on warlord groups to collect more arms. Using his knowledge of guerrilla tactics used by earlier Hunanese fighters as well as study of military theory, Mao build up the college battalion into an efficient fighting force. Mao also took a keen interest in all the major military campaigns of the ongoing World War I. He lectured and wrote articles on strategy and tactics.
Mao also involved himself in various other activities. He fought against social evils like opium taking and prostitution. He fought against oppression of women and tried to ensure the maximum participation of women in the students’ movement. He wrote and encouraged swimming, sports and intensive physical training among the students and youth. He himself maintained extreme physical fitness – took cold baths throughout the year, swam in cold water, went barefoot and bare-chested for long walks in the hills, etc. In 1917 he started an evening school where he and other students and teachers taught the workers of Changsha’s factories free of charge.
In 1918, Mao inaugurated the New People’s Study Society, which he had been planning for about a year. It was one of many such student groups, but grew into something else, the core of a political party. From the start it insisted on action as well as debate. It would not only talk revolution, but practise it, first of all revolutionising its own members, turning them into ‘new men’. It had girl members and took up among other issues, the oppression of women in the traditional marriage system. Its activities went according to a programme of debate, study and social action. Social action included night schools for workers, visiting factories, demonstrating against Japanese imperialism, writing articles, fighting for new ideas and the use of the vernacular language. In later years all thirteen of the original members of the society joined the Communist Party of China (CPC), founded in 1921. By 1919 there were eighty members, of whom over forty were to join the Party.
Around the time of Mao’s graduation from the Normal College in 1918 he was joined in Changsha by his mother who came there for treatment. She however could not be cured and died in October 1918. After her death Mao moved to Peking, the capital of China, where he for six months took up a very low paying job as an assistant librarian in the Peking University. This job was obtained through Li Ta-chao the university librarian, who was the first Chinese intellectual to praise the Russian Revolution and one of the first to introduce Marxist thought to China. Under Li Ta-chao, Mao rapidly developed towards Marxism. He started reading those works of Lenin, which had been translated into Chinese. Towards the end of 1918 he joined the Marxist Study Group formed by Li. He also met many intellectuals and Marxists. One who had an impact then on him was Chen Tu-hsiu, who was later to become the first Secretary of the CPC. Chen at that time was editor of the radical magazine, New Youth, which Mao had already written for and which had had an influence on him.
Mao spent only six months in Peking. During this period however he fell in love with Yang Kai-hui, the daughter of one of his Changsha College lecturers, who was now a Professor at the Peking University. She was then a student, doing a course in journalism at the university. For both it was their first love. Th eir love was of the type that was then called ‘new’ love where the partners made their own choice going against the traditional system of arranged marriages. For some time their love remained secret. They were not sure whether there was time for love when the country needed them so much. They decided to wait some time before taking a final decision.
In April 1919 Mao returned to Changsha just before the outbreak of the historic May 4th movement of 1919. Th is anti-imperialist democratic movement shook the whole of China. Though initiated by the students, it rapidly covered vast sections of workers, merchants, shopkeepers, artisans and other sections. Mao immediately involved himself wholeheartedly in political agitation. On his arrival he had immediately taken up a low paying job as a primary school teacher. All his spare time however was spent in organising agitations and spreading Marxism. He encouraged the study of Marxism in the New People’s Study Society and other students’ societies that he was in contact with. At the same time he built up the United Students Association of Hunan which encompassed even young school students and girls students in a big way. Uniting all sections Mao organised a movement for the seizure and burning of Japanese goods. He brought out a weekly magazine the Xiang River Review, which quickly had a great influence on the students movement in South China. When the weekly was banned in October 1919, Mao continued to write in other journals. Soon he got a job as a journalist for various Hunan papers and set out for the big cities of Wuhan, Peking and Shanghai to win support for the Hunan movement.
However when he landed in Peking in February 1920, he soon got involved with the plans to build the Communist Party of China. He held discussions with his university librarian, Li Ta-chao and other intellectuals. He visited the factories and railway yards and discussed Marxism with the workers. He did further study of the works of Marx and Engels and other socialists. He also met Yang Kai-hui, who had been studying Marxism. They discussed their dedication to each other and to the revolution. They got engaged.
After Peking, Mao spent four months in Shanghai, China’s biggest city and its biggest industrial and commercial centre. Here he held discussions with Chen Tu-hsiu and other Shanghai Marxists. To support himself he took a job as a labourer, working twelve to fourteen hours in a laundry. It was during this period, in May 1920, that China’s fi rst Communist group was set up in Shanghai.
When Mao moved backed to Hunan in July 1920, he started working to set up a similar Communist group there. His father had died in the beginning of the year and Mao made his home in Shaoshan there initially. His two brothers and adopted sister were among his first recruits. He then moved back to Changsha where he continued recruiting. There he took up a job as the director of a primary school and also taught one class at the Normal College for which he received a comfortable salary for the first time.
Towards the end of 1920, Mao got married to Yang Kai-hui and they lived together for the one and a half years that Mao was in Changsha as primary school director. They were regarded as an ideal couple with Yang being also involved with the work of the Party of which she became a member in 1922. They had two sons, one of whom died in 1950 as a volunteer in the Korean War against US imperialism. Th e other became an accountant. Yang who performed secret work for the Party was arrested in 1930 and executed.
Though Mao participated in various agitations during this period, the main focus of his work was the formation and building up of the CPC. After forming a Communist group in Hunan, Mao went to Shanghai to attend the secretly held First National Congress of the CPC in July 1921. He was one of twelve delegates who represented only 57 party members at that time.
After the Congress, Mao became the Provincial Party Secretary of Hunan Province. From the very beginning he paid particular attention of building the party in Hunan on the basis of Leninist party principles. He recruited youth from the existing revolutionary organisations as well as advanced workers who were won by extending the workers’ movement. He started two monthly magazines to raise the ideological and political level of the Party members and Youth League members and to help them to carry on Communist education among the masses.
It was during this period up to 1923 that Mao concentrated a great deal on the organising of workers in Changsha, the Anyuan Colliery (in the neighbouring Kiangsi Province) and in the Shuikoushan Lead Mine. By August 1921 he set up the first Communist trade union. In 1922 he formed the Hunan branch of the All-China Labour Federation, of which he was made the chairman. Th e Anyuan Colliery movement and organisation in particular was an excellent example of Communist organising. Th e Party at first ran spare-time schools for the workers of the colliery to carry on Marxist education. It then organised a trade union. Meanwhile, a branch of the Socialist Youth League was formed among the workers, the best members of which were later absorbed into the Party. Th e Anyuan Colliery saw major strikes, which had country wide repercussions. It had a strong organisation, which survived even during the repression periods. Th e workers provided valuable support and participation at various stages in the revolutionary war. Anyuan was the liaison centre for the first Communist base area in the Chingkang Mountains.
Mao did not participate in the Second National Congress of the CPC, held in July 1922, as he missed his appointment. He participated in the Th ird National Congress of the CPC, held in June 1923, at which he was elected on the Central Committee. This Congress decided to promote an anti-imperialist, anti-feudal national front in cooperation with the Kuomintang Party led by Sun Yat-sen. It directed Communist Party members to join the Kuomintang Party as individuals. Mao did so and was elected as an alternate member of the Kuomintang Central Executive Committee at its First and Second National Congresses held in 1924 and 1926. He worked as Head of the Central Propaganda department of the Kuomintang, edited the Political Weekly and directed the Sixth class at the Peasant Movement Institute.
Chapter 25: Mao’s Fight Against Right and ‘Left’ Lines andVictory of the Chinese Revolution
Th e First Revolutionary Civil War : From 1924 till the beginning of 1926 the Chinese Revolution advanced rapidly with the proletariat and peasantry in great ferment. In 1925 the protest against the 30th May massacre of demonstrators by the British police in Shanghai turned into an anti-imperialist people’s movement involved all sections of the masses throughout the country. The country was on the verge of a decisive battle between revolution and counter-revolution.
However two deviations then plagued the CPC. The dominant Right opportunist clique was led by the then party General Secretary, Chen Tu-hsiu. He took the stand that the bourgeois-democratic revolution must be led by the bourgeoisie and the aim of the revolution should be to form a bourgeois republic. According to his line the bourgeoisie was the only democratic force with which the working class should unite. He did not consider any possibility of building an alliance with the peasantry. On the other hand, were the ‘Left’ opportunists who were represented by Chang Kuo-tao, the leader of the All-China Federation of Labour. He saw only the working-class movement. He argued that the working class is strong enough to make revolution alone. Thus his clique also ignored the peasantry.
While fighting these two deviations, Mao made his first major contributions to the development of Marxist theory. In March 1926, he brought out his famous Analysis of the Classes in Chinese Society and in March 1927, he presented his Report on an Investigation of the Peasant Movement in Hunan. In these works he tried to answer the most basic questions of the Chinese revolution. Who are the friends and enemies of the revolution, who is the leading force and who are the reliable and vacillating allies? He argued that it was the proletariat and not the bourgeoisie who would have to lead the revolution. However the proletariat would not be able to win by fighting alone. He stressed the role of the peasantry, which was the closest and most numerous ally of the proletariat. He also pointed out that the national bourgeoisie was a vacillating ally with the possibility of the Right wing becoming an enemy and the Left wing remaining a friend of the revolution. Mao also presented his ideas on how the masses were to be mobilised, a revolutionary government established and the peasant armed forces organised. Th is was Mao’s clear perspective for the direction the revolutionary forces should take.
This was the time of the Northern Expedition, which was a critical part of the first phase of the Chinese Revolution – the First Revolutionary Civil War. It was a march by the Revolutionary Army under the leadership of the revolutionary national united front (the Kuomintang-CPC united front). Starting in July 1926 from Kwantung in the south of China its aim was to smash the reactionary government of the imperialist-backed Northern warlords in a revolutionary war and achieve the independence and unity of China. Th e Northern Expedition was initially a major success with the whole of South China and many of the Southern warlords being defeated or won over. Under the influence of the Northern Expedition there was an upsurge among the peasantry. Th e proletariat staged many armed uprisings in cities to coincide with the advance of the Revolutionary Army. Even Shanghai the largest industrial and commercial city of China was liberated in March 1927 after three attempts at armed workers’ uprising.
After achieving major victories however the bourgeois clique represented by Chiang Kai-shek (the main Kuomintang leader after Sun Yat-sen’s death in 1925), broke the united front. In April 1927 massacres, backed by the imperialists, were launched on the Communist cadre in various parts of the country. Th e Right opportunist Chen Tu-hsiu leadership of the CPC however, instead of mobilising the workers and peasants against the Kuomintang reactionaries, submitted to them. In July 1927 another Kuomintang clique launched massacres against the Communists. Th is resulted in the breaking up of the united front and defeat of the First Revolutionary Civil War.
The Right line of Chen Tu-hsiu, which dominated throughout the period of the First Revolutionary Civil War was one the important reasons for the failure of the revolution during this period. Though Mao struggled against this Right Line, he could not win the support of the majority in the Party. In fact at the Fifth National Congress held during this period, in April 1927, Chen succeeded in removing Mao from the Central Committee.
The Second Revolutionary Civil War Period : In August 1927, at the start of the next period—the Second Revolutionary Civil War Period—Chen Tu-hsiu was removed as General Secretary after a firm criticism of his Right opportunism. Mao was brought back on the Central Committee and made an alternate member of the Provisional Polit Bureau that was set up. However the correct criticism of the Right line gave way in November 1927 to the domination of a ‘Left’ line in the Central Committee, under the leadership of Chu Chiu-pai, an intellectual comrade returned after training in Russia. Th is line made the wrong assessment that the Chinese revolution was on a ‘continuous upsurge’, and therefore called for armed uprisings in many cities. Th e leadership criticised Mao for advocating and leading a peasant uprising and opposing uprisings in big cities. He was again removed from his Central posts. He was also removed from membership of the Hunan Provincial Committee. Th e ‘Left’ Line led to heavy losses and the abandonment of this line by April 1928.
Th e Sixth Congress of the CPC held in Moscow in June 1928 rectified this first ‘Left’ line and adopted a basically correct understanding, repudiating both the Right and ‘Left’ positions. Though Mao did not attend the Congress it basically upheld his position on many points. In his absence he was again elected on to the Central Committee. It was while implementing this understanding, and while building up the Red Army after the failures of the Northern Expedition and the city uprisings, that Mao made his further contributions to the development of Marxist-Leninist theory. He wrote Why is it that Red Political Power can exist in China? in October 1928, and Th e Struggle in the Chingkang Mountains in November 1928. These historical works provided the theoretical basis for the historic process of building and developing the Red Army then under way. Mao, starting from a small group of worker and peasant fighters had after the failure of the peasant uprising in 1927 set up the first base in the Chingkang mountains in October 1927. Th rough the period from 1927 to the beginning of 1930 the area of armed peasant uprisings and rural revolutionary bases grew steadily. Many of the fighting sections under Communist leadership joined Mao’s forces. Th e Red Army grew to 60,000 soldiers and, a little later to 100,000 soldiers.
However ‘left’ ideas again started gaining ascendancy and from 1930 took over the leadership of the party. Two ‘Left’ lines led by Li Li-san in 1930 and Wang Ming in 1931-34 dominated the party and caused incalculable harm. Li Li-san in June 1930 drew up a plan for organising armed uprisings in the major cities throughout the country and for concentrating all the units of the Red Army for attacking these major cities. Th e attempt to implement this plan between June and September 1930 led to severe losses and a demand from cadres for its rectification. During this period Mao led an attack on Changsha but withdrew to prevent heavy losses in the face of superior imperialist and Kuomintang forces. After the withdrawal there was brutal repression in Changsha during which Yang Kaihui, Mao’s wife, who was doing underground work there, was executed. Li Li-san did self-criticism at a plenum held in September 1930 and stepped down from leadership positions. Mao and Chu Teh (Commander of the Red Army) were taken on to the newly formed PolitBureau.
This PolitBureau was however bypassed by a plenum called in January 1931 by Wang Ming one of the group of twenty-eight so-called ‘Bolsheviks’ who had returned after training in Russia. They did not call Mao and Chu Teh for the plenum but removed them and others from the Central Committee. In August 1932 Mao was also removed from his posts as secretary of the Front Committee and political commissar of the Red Army. With the Party and Red Army in their full control the Wang Ming clique committed numerous errors which led to severe losses. Throughout, their main attack was on Mao, who was the representative of what was according to them right opportunism and the main danger within the Party. Mao’s correct line was called a ‘rich peasant line’. Sectarian and factional methods were used by the ‘Left’ Line leadership to attack not only Mao but also the leaders of the earlier ‘Left’ Lines, Li Li-san and Chu Chiu-pai. While the Wang Ming clique was creating havoc in the Party, Chiang Kai-shek was organising repeated campaigns of encirclement and suppression against the Red base areas. Th e fi rst four campaigns were defeated because of Mao’s leadership and the influence of his strategic principles before the ‘Left’ leadership acquired full control over the Party and Red Army in the base areas. However when the ‘Left’ leadership actually moved into the base area their direct leadership led to serious errors and defeat of the Communist forces in the fifth campaign of the Kuomintang forces. In order to break through Chiang Kai-shek’s encirclement and win new victories it was decided from October 1934, to undertake the world-shaking strategic shift of the Red Army, known as the Long March. Mao was accompanied by his next wife, Ho Tzu-chen, a Party cadre from a local peasant family of the Kiangsi base area. They had married in 1931, after the death of Mao’s earlier wife, Yang Kai-hui. They had two children who were left behind with peasants in the Kiangsi base area at the start of the Long March.
It was during the Long March, at the Tsunyi Plenum of the CPC, in January 1935, that leadership of the party moved into the hands of Mao and his policies. Th is was a turning point for the Long March as well as for the Chinese Revolution. It was then decided to continue the Long March in the northward direction to be able to better co-ordinate the nation-wide anti-Japanese movement, which had been growing continuously since the Japanese attack and occupation of North-eastern China in 1931.
During the Long March, besides the repeated attacks of the Kuomintang troops, the Party had also to face the line of flightism and warlordism led by Chang Kuo-tao. Two conferences of the Central Committee held during the Long March defeated Chang Kuo-tao’s proposal to retreat to national minority areas of Sinkiang and Tibet. He however refused to follow the Party decision and tried to form a new Party Centre. He led a section of the Red Army in a different direction during which they were attacked and finished off by the Kuomintang forces. Chang himself became a traitor and joined the Kuomintang. Th e main force of the Red Army reached their destination in the Shensi province in Northern China in October 1935, one year after they had started the Long March. Th e Red Army which numbered around 3,00,000 just before the beginning of the fifth encirclement campaign had now been reduced to just over twenty thousand. It was this core that set up the Shensi-Kansu-Ninghshia (on the border areas of these three provinces of Northern China) base area. It became famously known as Yenan, the name of its capital. This was the base from which Mao led the Party and Red Army to victory by 1945 in the war against Japan.
It was during this period that Mao and Ho Tzuchen were divorced in 1938. In April 1939 he married Chiang Ching. Chiang Ching was the party name of Lan Ping, a theatre and film actress, who had joined the Party in 1933 and moved to Yenan in1937 to teach drama at the Art Academy there and participate in the propaganda teams who went among the peasantry. Mao who took a keen interest in art and literature met her in the course of this work and they fell in love and decided to get married.
Th e Period of the War of Resistance Against Japan: Immediately after the completion of the Long March, Mao concentrated on the adoption and implementation of a new tactical orientation in order to end the Civil War and unite the maximum forces for a War of Resistance against Japan. His presentation On Tactics Against Japanese Imperialism was a major development of Marxist-Leninist United Front tactics. Th is was later further developed in his May 1937 Report on Th e Tasks of the Chinese Communist Party in the Period of Resistance to Japan. Giving a brilliant exposition of the stage of development of China’s internal and external contradictions, Mao explained the change in the principal contradiction caused by Japan’s aggression and therefore the change in the United Front tactics necessary to face the new situation. He called for a united front with the Kuomintang in order to drive away the Japanese aggressors. Chiang Kaishek however did not agree to enter a united front until he was forced to do so by the CPC’s propaganda and by the pressure of certain factions in his own party. He finally agreed, when he was arrested in December 1936 by two of his own generals who insisted that a united front should be built with the CPC. Th e Anti-Japanese United Front was set up in August 1937.
During the period of the War of Resistance, Mao had again to fight wrong trends though these did not grow to capture leadership over the Party and the struggle. One was a pessimistic trend of national subjugation present in some Kuomintang sections of the United Front. These people after some defeats at the hands of the Japanese felt that the Chinese was bound to be suppressed and ruled by the Japanese and other imperialists. One faction even prepared for surrender. On the other hand there was the trend in some sections of the CPC, who felt that since the united front had been formed there would be quick victory over the Japanese. These comrades overestimated the strength of the United Front and did not see the reactionary side of the Chiang Kai-shek clique. In order to correct these mistaken theories and to point out the correct course of the war, Mao in May 1938 brought out his book On Protracted War which pointed out that the War would finally end in victory but the victory would not be quick. He also in this and other writings laid down the military principles of the war.
Mao also wrote various philosophical works to help educate the Party cadre and remove the damaging effects of the earlier Right and ‘Left’ Lines. Basing on these writings, between 1941 and 1944, a lengthy Rectification Campaign was held to fight the main errors in the Party. Th is was combined with in-depth discussions to review the history of the Party. Chou En-lai, who had been a leading comrade throughout the period, particularly participated in this process. Th is led finally to an open and complete repudiation of the earlier wrong Lines. This understanding was adopted in the Resolution on Certain Questions in the History of Our Party at Plenum of the CPC held in April 1945.
Armed with the correct line and correct tactics, the CPC led the Chinese people to victory, first in the War of Resistance against Japan and then against the reactionaries led by Chiang Kai-shek. From a fighting force of just over twenty thousand at the end of the Long March, the Red Army grew to a strength of one million towards the end of the anti-Japanese war in 1945. At that time, at the Seventh Congress of the CPC in April 1945, Mao in his Report On Coalition Government, presented a detailed summing up of the anti-Japanese war and an analysis of the current international and domestic situation. He gave a specific programme for the formation of a coalition government with the Kuomintang after the victory over the Japanese forces.
The Third Revolutionary Civil War Period: However after the victory over the Japanese, Chiang Kai-shek, because of the support of U.S. imperialism and the superior strength of his military forces, refused to agree to the formation of a coalition government on any reasonable terms. At that time even Stalin wanted the CPC to come to an agreement, saying that they should not have a civil war and should co-operate with Chiang Kai-shek, otherwise the Chinese nation would perish. Nevertheless the CPC under Mao went ahead and fought what came to be known as the Third Revolutionary Civil War. Relying on the full support of the masses and particularly the peasantry, the Red Army was able to change the military balance of forces and move in July 1947 from the strategic defensive to the strategic offensive. By October 1949 the CPC had, within a period of four years, won nation-wide victory over the U.S. backed Kuomintang.
As China gained victory, Marxist-Leninists and the proletariat throughout the world were filled with joy and pride at the formation of a seemingly invincible socialist camp encompassing one-third of humanity. Mao however gave an idea of the challenges ahead and dangers of the coming period. In 1949, on the occasion of the twenty-eighth anniversary of the founding of the CPC, in his speech ‘On the People’s Democratic Dictatorship’, he said, “Twenty- eight years of our Party are a long period, in which we have accomplished only one thing— we have won basic victory in the revolutionary war. Th is calls for celebration, because it is the people’s victory, because it is a victory in a country as large as China. But we still have much work to do; to use the analogy of a journey, our past work is only the first step in a long march of ten thousand li”.
Chapter 26: The Path of Revolution for the Colonies and Semi-Colonies
Immediately after the establishment of the Chinese Peoples’ Republic the international communist movement gave open recognition to the significance of the Chinese path of revolution, for the colonies and semi-colonies. In the 27 January, 1950, editorial of For a Lasting Peace, For a People’s Democracy, the organ of the Cominform, it was stated, “The path taken by the Chinese people… is the path that should be taken by the people of many colonial and dependent countries in their struggle for national independence and people’s democracy.
“The experience of the victorious national-liberation struggle of the Chinese people teaches that the working class must unite with all classes, parties, groups and organisations willing to fight the imperialists and their hirelings and to form a broad, nation-wide united front, headed by the working class and its vanguard—the communist party…
“A decisive condition for the victorious outcome of the national-liberation struggle is the formation, when the necessary internal conditions allow for it, of people’s liberation armies under the leadership of the communist party.”
Thus, the universal applicability of Marxist-Leninist theory developed by Mao—i.e. Mao Tse-tung Th ought—was recognised, and began to become the guideline for genuine revolutionaries throughout the world, particularly in the colonies and semi-colonies.
Mao’s formulation of the Chinese Path of Revolution had been developed in his numerous writings during the advance of the Revolution. Lenin had already pointed out that in the era of imperialism and proletarian revolution it was the proletariat and not the bourgeoisie that would lead the bourgeois democratic revolution. Mao in his work On New Democracy, carrying this understanding ahead, further pointed out that in this era, any revolution in a colony or semi-colony that is directed against imperialism, no longer comes within the old category of the bourgeois-democratic world revolution, but within a new category; it is no longer part of the old bourgeois, or capitalist, world revolution, but is part of the new world revolution, the proletariansocialist world revolution. Such revolutionary colonies and semi-colonies can no longer be regarded as allies of the counter-revolutionary front of world capitalism; they have become allies of the revolutionary front of world socialism. Thus, in order to differentiate from the old bourgeois democratic revolution, he called the revolution in the colonies and semi-colonies a New Democratic Revolution. On this basis he elaborated the politics, economy and culture of New Democracy.
Mao also developed on the understanding of the united front that Lenin and Stalin had given. He showed that the bourgeoisie in the colonies and semi-colonies was divided into two parts – the comprador bourgeoisie and the national bourgeoisie. The comprador bourgeoisie, who depended on imperialism for its existence and growth, was always an enemy of the revolution. Th e national bourgeoisie was a vacillating ally who would sometimes help the revolution and sometimes join the enemies. Th us the united front under the leadership of the proletariat would consist of a four class alliance – the proletariat, the peasantry, the urban petty bourgeoisie and the national bourgeoisie. The enemies of the revolution were imperialism, the comprador bourgeoisie and the landlords.
According to Mao the revolution in the colonies and semi-colonies would not follow the path of insurrection followed by the Russian Revolution where the main cities were captured first and then control taken over the countryside. He showed the Chinese path of protracted people’s war which involved the area wise seizure of power in the countryside, the building of guerrilla zones and base areas and the final encircling and capturing of the cities. To achieve this Mao laid down the military principles of revolutionary war. He taught how to build up the Red Army, which was an absolutely necessary weapon of the revolution. Starting from guerrilla warfare and then moving to mobile warfare and finally to positional warfare, Mao showed the way how a small force can rely on the vast masses to build up the forces needed to defeat a formidable enemy.
Finally, basing himself on the Marxist-Leninist understanding of the state and the dictatorship of the proletariat, Mao elaborated the theory regarding the form of the state in the revolutions in the colonial countries. On the basis of the theory of New Democracy, he formulated the understanding of the new- democratic republic.
This new-democratic republic he said would be different from the old European-American form of capitalist republic under bourgeois dictatorship which is the old democratic form and already out of date. On the other hand, it would also be different from the socialist republic of the Soviet type under the dictatorship of the proletariat. For a certain historical period, this form too was not suitable for the revolutions in the colonial and semi-colonial countries. During this period, therefore, a third form of state was necessary to be adopted in the revolutions of all colonial and semi-colonial countries, namely, the new-democratic republic under the joint dictatorship of several anti-imperialist classes. Since this form suits a certain historical period it is therefore transitional. Nevertheless, according to Mao, it is a form that is necessary and cannot be dispensed with.
This state was established after the victory of the Chinese Revolution in the form of the People’s Democratic Dictatorship. Mao explained the essence of the people’s democratic dictatorship as the combination of two aspects – democracy for the people and dictatorship over the reactionaries. The people are the working class, the peasantry, the urban petty bourgeoisie and the national bourgeoisie. These classes, led by the working class and the Communist Party, unite to form their own state and elect their own government; they enforce their dictatorship over the running dogs of imperialism— the landlord class and bureaucrat-bourgeoisie, as well as the representatives of those classes.
Mao further pointed out that the Communist Party had to lead the process of transformation of the People’s Democratic Dictatorship into a Socialist State. Th e people’s democratic dictatorship, led by the proletariat and based on the worker-peasant alliance, required that the Communist Party should unite the entire working class, the entire peasantry and the broad masses of revolutionary intellectuals; these are the leading and basic forces of the dictatorship. Without this unity, the dictatorship cannot be consolidated. It is also required that the Party unite with as many as possible of the representatives of the urban petty bourgeoisie and national bourgeoisie who were ready to co-operate and with their intellectuals and political groups. Th is was necessary to isolate the counter-revolutionary forces. If this were done it would be possible, after the victory of the revolution, to speedily restore and develop production, cope with foreign imperialism, steadily transform a backward semi-colonial agricultural economy into an industrial country and build up a socialist state.
Chapter 27: Mao on Philosophy
Mao’s writings on philosophy are directed to educating the Party cadre and masses in Marxism-Leninism so as to change the mode of thinking and practice. Mao himself was an ardent student of philosophy. When he got hold of books on philosophy he would consume them in intense concentrated reading. Because of the earlier influence of the dogmatists who had returned after study in Russia and could not relate their knowledge to reality, Mao was continuously eager to make the Party’s study and teaching linked to practice. He wanted to make Marxist philosophy and particularly the Marxist dialectical method of use to all Party cadre and activists and to the common masses.
Th e Theory of Knowledge: Of prime importance was Mao’s teaching on the theory of knowledge. An important work was his essay On Practice – On the Relation Between Knowledge and Practice, Between Knowing and Doing. Though it took only two hours of lectures, Mao said it had taken weeks to write. Th e central point, which Mao explains is that knowledge does not drop from the skies, it comes from social practice and from it alone. True knowledge, or correct ideas, come from three kinds of social practice – the struggle for production, the class struggle and scientific experiment.
Theory depends on practice. It is unthinkable, said Mao, that it should not be measured and checked by practice. In turn, theory changes practice, changes our method of work and thinking. Th rough this is brought about the transformation and gaining of more knowledge. No one is born wise, or born stupid. Knowledge cannot come before material experience; nobody can become an expert before practically doing a thing.
Mao explained the process of obtaining knowledge. It starts from perceptual knowledge, the stage of sense perceptions and impressions, where man at first sees only the separate aspects, the external relations of things. As social practice continues, things that give rise to man’s sense perceptions and impressions in the course of his practice are repeated many times; then a sudden change (leap) takes place in the brain in the process of understanding, and concepts are formed. Concepts are no longer the phenomena, the separate aspects and the external relations of things; they grasp the essence, the totality and the internal relations of things. Between concepts and sense perceptions there is not only a quantitative but also a qualitative difference. Conceptual or logical or rational knowledge is a higher stage than the stage of perceptual knowledge.
Th ere are two important aspects to this. One is that rational knowledge depends upon perceptual knowledge. It is foolish to think that rational knowledge can be developed without someone first experiencing and obtaining perceptual knowledge. Th e second important aspect is that perceptual knowledge remains to be developed into rational knowledge. Th is means that perceptual knowledge should be deepened and developed to the stage of rational knowledge.
The acquiring of rational knowledge is however not an end in itself. As Marxism has always held, the essential point of all knowledge is to bring it into practice. Th us as Mao says, “Discover the truth through practice, and again through practice verify and develop the truth. Start from perceptual knowledge and actively develop it into rational knowledge; then start from rational knowledge and actively guide revolutionary practice to change both the subjective and the objective world. Practice, knowledge, again practice, and again knowledge. Th is form repeats itself in endless cycles, and with each cycle the content of practice and knowledge rises to a higher level. Such is the whole of the dialectical-materialist theory of knowledge, and such is the dialectical-materialist theory of the unity of knowing and doing.”
On Contradictions: Th e other important contribution of Mao to Marxist philosophy was in dialectics and particularly relating to the understanding and application of contradictions. The understanding and use of contradictions appears at various points and almost throughout Mao’s analysis and writings. His main work is On Contradictions, which is an essay on philosophy written in August 1937 by Mao after his essay “On Practice” and with the same object of overcoming the serious error of dogmatist thinking to be found in the Party at the time. Originally this essay was presented as two lectures at the Anti-Japanese Military and Political College in Yenan.
Mao’s work was in a sense the continuation of work by Lenin who particularly made a deep study of contradictions. Lenin called contradiction ‘the salt of dialectics’ and stated that ‘the division of the One and the knowledge of its contradictory parts is the essence of dialectics.’ Lenin further in his Philosophical Notebooks asserted, “In brief, dialectics can be defined as the doctrine of the unity of opposites. This embodies the essence of dialectics, but it requires explanations and development.”
These ‘explanations and development’ was done some twenty years later by Mao. Mao work was a leap in the understanding of contradictions. He examined the question of contradictions in great detail and clarified them in such a manner as to make them easily understandable and easily useable by anybody.
Firstly he asserted that the law of the unity of opposites, is the fundamental law of nature and of society and therefore also the fundamental law of thought.
Following from this he explained the principle of the universality and absoluteness of contradiction. According to this principle, contradiction is present in all processes of every object and of every thought and exists in all these processes from beginning to end.
Next he gives the principle of the particularity and relativity of contradiction. According to this principle, each contradiction and each of its aspects have their respective characteristics.
A very important concept given by Mao in this respect is regarding the unity and struggle between the opposites in a contradiction. Mao points out the unity or identity of opposites is conditional; it is thus always temporary and relative. On the other hand the struggle of opposites is unending; it is universal and absolute.
Another important principle, which Mao gave and uses very often in his analysis, was the understanding of the principal contradiction and the principal aspect of a contradiction. According to this principle, there are many contradictions in the process of development of a complex thing, and one of them is necessarily the principal contradiction whose existence and development determines or influences the existence and development of the other contradictions. Hence, if in any process there are a number of contradictions, one of them must be the principal contradiction playing the leading and decisive role, while the rest occupy a secondary and subordinate position. Therefore, in studying any complex process in which there are two or more contradictions, we must devote every effort to finding its principal contradiction. Once this principal contradiction is grasped, all problems can be readily solved.
Similarly, in any contradiction the development of the contradictory aspects is uneven. Sometimes they seem to be in equilibrium, which is however only temporary and relative, while unevenness is basic. Of the two contradictory aspects, one must be principal and the other secondary. Th e principal aspect is the one playing the leading role in the contradiction. The nature of a thing is determined mainly by the principal aspect of a contradiction, the aspect that has gained the dominant position.
Mao always gave central importance to understanding the principal contradiction in his analysis. Th us in his analysis of Chinese society he always analysed the principal contradiction. Th is was an advance over earlier Marxist-Leninist analysis, which did not particularly go into an analysis of the principal contradiction in a country or revolution. Mao however asserted that unless we examine two aspects – the principal and the non-principal contradictions in a process, and the principal and the non-principal aspects of a contradiction – we shall get bogged down in abstractions, be unable to understand contradiction concretely and consequently be unable to find the correct method of resolving it. Th e importance of understanding the principal contradiction and the principal aspect of a contradiction was because they represented the unevenness of the forces that are in contradiction. Nothing in this world develops absolutely evenly and therefore it was necessary to understand the change in the position of the principal and non-principal contradictions and the principal and non-principal aspects of a contradiction. It is only by understanding the various stages of unevenness in the contradictions and the process of change in these contradictions that a revolutionary party can decide on its strategy and tactics, both in political and military affairs.
Lastly Mao clarified regarding the question of antagonism in a contradiction. According to Mao antagonism is one form, but not the only form, of the struggle of opposites; the formula of antagonism therefore cannot be arbitrarily applied everywhere. Some contradictions are characterised by open antagonism, others are not. In accordance with the concrete development of things, some contradictions, which were originally non-antagonistic, develop into antagonistic ones, while others which were originally antagonistic develop into non-antagonistic ones. Forms of struggle diff er according to the differences in the nature of the contradictions. Non-antagonistic contradictions can be solved by peaceful and friendly means. Antagonistic contradictions require non-peaceful means.
Mao came back to the question of antagonistic and non-antagonistic contradictions during the period of socialist construction and during the Cultural Revolution. He stressed that despite the victory of the revolution it was wrong to think that contradictions no longer existed in Chinese society. He showed that there were two different types of contradictions still existing – the contradictions with the enemy and the contradictions among the people. Th e contradictions with the enemy are antagonistic and had to be dealt with by suppression. On the other hand the contradictions among the people which are non-antagonistic had to be dealt with in such a way that they did not become antagonistic. Mao always stressed the need for the correct handling of contradictions. He pointed out that if contradictions were not understood and handled correctly there was always the danger of restoration of capitalism.
Chapter 28: Mao on The Party
From the time that Mao took over the leadership of the CPC he made all efforts to develop the Party on true Leninist lines. Due to the domination of the earlier incorrect lines, particularly the third ‘Left’ Line of Wang Ming there were many deviations in party functioning. Due to the sectarian understanding there were no proper norms of democratic centralist functioning and a totally wrong approach to the two line struggle. Decisions were taken without consultation and without involving the Party cadre and by manipulating the holding of plenums and other meetings. Two line struggle was not conducted openly and representatives of another point of view were harassed and punished. Also due to dogmatism there was no implementation of mass line. Mao made all attempts to rectify these deviations as well as build up proper forums and bodies. In the process Mao also clarified and developed many organisational concepts. He also tried to correct certain wrong understanding that had grown in the international communist movement and also in the CPSU under the leadership of Stalin.
Democratic Centralism: Mao’s attempt to correct sectarian and bureaucratic deviations is seen in his explanation regarding democratic centralism. Mao’s understanding of democratic centralism is clearly ‘first democracy, then centralism’. He explained this in many ways – ‘if there is no democracy there won’t be any centralism’, ‘centralism is centralism built on the foundation of democracy. Proletarian centralism with a broad democratic base’.
This view of Mao was based on his understanding that centralism meant first of all the centralisation of correct ideas. For this to take it was necessary for all comrades to express their views and opinions and not keep it bottled up inside them. This would only be possible if there was the fullest possible democracy where comrades would feel free to state what they want to say and even vent their anger. Therefore without democracy it would be impossible to sum up experience correctly. Without democracy, without ideas coming from the masses, it is impossible to formulate good lines, principles, policies or methods. However with proletarian democracy it was possible to achieve unity of understanding, of policy, plan, command and action on the basis of concentrating of correct ideas. Th is is unity through centralism.
Mao did not restrict the understanding of democratic centralism only to party functioning. He broadened the understanding to the question of running the proletarian state and building the socialist economy. Mao felt that, without democratic centralism, the dictatorship of the proletariat could not be consolidated. Without broad democracy for the people, it was impossible for the dictatorship of the proletariat to be consolidated or for political power to be stable. Without democracy, without arousing the masses and without supervision by the masses, it would be impossible to exercise effective dictatorship over the reactionaries and bad elements or to remould them effectively. Mao was making these observations after the rise of modern revisionism in the Soviet Union and saw that the masses had not been mobilised to exercise the dictatorship of the proletariat. He also saw the rise of revisionist tendencies within the CPC at the highest levels and recognised that the only safeguard against such trends was the initiative and vigilance of the lower level cadre and the masses.
Thus Mao said in his talk in January 1962, “Unless we fully promote people’s democracy and inner Party democracy and unless we fully implement proletarian democracy, it will be impossible for China to have true proletarian centralism. Without a high degree of democracy it is impossible to have a high degree of centralism and without a high degree of centralism it is impossible to establish a socialist economy. And what will happen to our country if we fail to establish a socialist economy? It will turn into a revisionist state, indeed a bourgeois state, and the dictatorship of the proletariat will turn into a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, and a reactionary, fascist dictatorship at that. This is a question, which very much deserves our vigilance, and I hope our comrades will give it a good deal of thought.”
The Two-Line Struggle is another aspect of party organisational principles, regarding which Mao developed Marxist understanding and theory. Mao’s approach, based on dialectical materialism was to see incorrect opinions within the Communist Party as the reflection of alien classes in society. Thus as long as the class struggle continued in society there was bound to be its refl ection in the ideological struggle within the Party. His approach towards these contradictions too was different. He saw them as non-antagonistic contradictions initially which through ‘serious struggle’ we should try to rectify. We should give ample opportunity to rectify and only if the people committing errors ‘persist’ or ‘aggravate them’, then there was the possibility of the contradiction becoming antagonistic.
This was a correction of Stalin’s understanding, which he had presented in Foundations of Leninism. Stalin was opposed to any attempt to rectify wrong trends through inner-party struggle. He called such attempts as a “theory of ‘defeating’ opportunist elements by ideological struggle within the Party”, which according to him was “a rotten and dangerous theory, which threatens to condemn the Party to paralysis and chronic infirmity”. Such a presentation refused to accept the possibility of a non-antagonistic contradiction and treated the struggle against opportunism as an antagonistic contradiction from the very beginning.
Drawing lessons from the same historical experience, Mao presented the methods of inner-Party struggle in the following manner. “All leading members of the Party must promote inner-Party democracy and let people speak out. What are the limits? One is that Party discipline must be observed, the minority being subordinate to the majority and the entire membership to the Central Committee. Another limit is that no secret faction must be organised. We are not afraid of open opponents, we are only afraid of secret opponents. Such people do not speak the truth to your face, what they say is only lies and deceit. Th ey don’t express their real intention. As long as a person doesn’t violate discipline and doesn’t engage in secret factional activities, we should allow him to speak out and shouldn’t punish him if he says wrong things. If people say wrong things, they can be criticised, but we should convince them with reason. What if they are still not convinced? As long as they abide by the resolutions and the decisions taken by the majority, the minority can reserve their opinions.”
Mao’s understanding thus was on the clear basis that as long as class struggle existed in society there was bound to be the class struggle in the Party—i.e., the two-line struggle. Therefore it was only correct that this struggle should be fought out openly according the principles of democratic centralism. Thus Mao, through his understanding and implementation of the concept of two-line struggle, attempted to bring about a correct dialectical approach to classes, class struggle and inner-party struggle.
Mass-Line: Another area where Mao advanced Marxism was regarding Mass-Line. Starting from the basic Marxist-Leninist understanding of the party maintaining the closest possible links with the masses, Mao developed the concept of mass line to a qualitatively new level. At the philosophical level he showed how it was an essential aspect of the Marxist theory of knowledge. At the political and organisational levels, he showed how it was the basis of a correct political line and also how it was the essential organisational line of inner-party relations.
Mao explains that in the practical work of the Party, all correct leadership is necessarily ‘from the masses, to the masses’. Th is means: take the ideas of the masses (scattered and unsystematic ideas) and concentrate them (through study turn them into concentrated and systematic ideas), then go to the masses and propagate and explain these ideas until the masses embrace them as their own, hold fast to them and translate them into action, and test the correctness of these ideas in such action. Th en once again concentrate ideas from the masses and once again go to the masses so that the ideas are persevered in carried through. And so on, over and over again in an endless spiral, with the ideas becoming more correct, more vital and richer each time. This, as Mao says, is the Marxist theory of knowledge.
In order to bring into practice the principle ‘from the masses, to the masses’, Mao explains that it is necessary to have a correct relationship between the leading group and the masses in an organisation or in a struggle. It is necessary that the party draws together the activists to form a nucleus of leadership and links this nucleus of leadership closely with the masses. If this is not done the leadership of the party becomes bureaucratic and divorced from the masses. It is also necessary that the leadership does not remain content with merely giving general calls. General calls must be followed up by particular and concrete guidance if they are to be properly implemented. “Take the ideas of the masses and concentrate them, then go to the masses, persevere in the ideas and carry them through, so as to form correct ideas of leadership—such is the basic method of leadership.” In this way Mao explains the mass-line as the basic method of leadership of the Party over the masses.
Lastly Mao says that the mass-line should not only be seen in the context of leadership of the Party over the masses. In fact Mao stresses on the application of the mass-line to inner-party relations also. He thus also saw it as an organisational line. Mao points out that to ensure that the line really comes from the masses and particular that it really goes back to the masses, there must be close ties not only between the Party and the masses outside the Party (between the class and the people), but above all between the Party’s leading bodies and the masses within the Party (between the cadres and the rank and the file). Th us Mao shows that it was of crucial importance that close ties be maintained between higher and lower levels of the Party. Any break up in inner-party ties would result in a gap in the relation between the party leadership and the masses. It would go against the implementation of the mass line.
Chapter 29: Socialist Construction – The Chinese Experience
Th e implementation of the new democratic economic programme started even before nation-wide victory of the revolution. Soon after the Red Army and the Chinese Revolution entered the strategic offensive in 1947, Mao announced and started implementing what was called the three major economic policies of the new-democratic revolution. These were 1) the confiscation of the land of the feudal class and its distribution among the peasantry, 2) the confiscation of the capital of the comprador bourgeoisie and 3) protection to the industry and commerce of the national bourgeoisie. These policies were immediately taken up for implementation in the vast areas of Northern China which were under revolutionary control and the agrarian reform was completed there by mid-1950. Subsequently the agrarian reform programme was completed in the remainder of the country.
General Line and Step-by-Step Collectivisation: In 1951, the party adopted what came to be known as the general line for socialist construction, for the period of transition from capitalism to socialism. Th e basic aim set for this period was to accomplish the industrialisation of China together with the socialist transformation of agriculture, handicrafts, and capitalist industry and commerce. Th e target set to complete this process was roughly eighteen years. Th is was divided into three years of rehabilitation for recovering from the damage and destruction of the civil war plus fifteen years covering three five-year plans for planned development of the economy.
In accordance with this general line, a ‘step-by-step’ plan was drawn up for the socialist transformation of agriculture. The first step was to call on the peasants to organise agricultural producers’ mutual-aid teams consisting of only a few to a dozen or so households each. These teams had only certain basic elements of socialism like help and co-operation among the members of the team. The second step was to call on the peasants to organise small agricultural producers co-operatives on the basis of these mutual-aid teams. These co-operatives were semi-socialist in nature and were characterised by the pooling of land as shares and by unified management. Then the third step was to call on the peasants to combine further on the basis of these small semi-socialist co-operatives and organise large fully socialist agricultural producers’ co-operatives. The basic principles underlying this step-by-step plan were voluntary participation and mutual benefit. Th e peasants were to be persuaded to voluntarily participate in this process of collectivisation.
The first step of mutual-aid teams had started in the revolutionary bases even before the nation-wide victory of the Revolution. Th e second step towards elementary co-operatives took place in the years 1953-55. Th e third step of transition to advanced co-operatives came about in 1956. Th ere was a literal upsurge of socialist transformation in the countryside. Simultaneously, in the early months of 1956, a related movement rapidly took ahead and completed the process of nationalisation of businesses. Thus China’s industry and commerce was transferred from private ownership to ownership by the whole people far ahead of schedule.
Mao’s Dialectical Approach to the Process of Socialist Construction: Th e general line was basically reliant on the Soviet model of socialist construction. Th e emphasis on industry and particularly on heavy industry was the central direction of the First Five Year Plan of 1953-57. Further there was a tendency to uncritically adopt all Soviet policies. With the rise of modern revisionism in the Soviet Union (and particularly after the revisionist 20th Congress of the CPSU in February 1956), the revisionist tendencies in the CPC were immediately strengthened. In 1956 a campaign was started from within the party to ‘oppose rash advances’—i.e., to stall the process of socialisation. At same time the revisionist theory of productive forces gained ascendancy within the party, with the prime representative being the party general secretary, Liu Shiao-chi. Th e representatives of this trend upheld the Kruschevites, negated the class struggle and concentrated attention towards building modern productive forces, primarily through heavy industry. Their argument was that the productive forces
are the main motor of change and it was the backward productive forces in China that were the main factor holding back the development of the country. Changes in production relations should wait till after the productive forces had been developed enough. The cooperativisation of agriculture should wait until industries had developed enough to provide machinery for the rural mechanisation. All these proposals negated the importance of production relations and the class struggle. It would lead to growth of revisionist and bureaucratic trends and the growth of a new exploiting class.
Seeing the Soviet experience and realising the revisionist danger Mao immediately launched a struggle to defeat these trends which at that time controlled the party. His first step in this struggle was his speech of April 1956, On the Ten Major Relationships. In this speech, Mao for the first time made a clear-cut critique of the Soviet pattern of socialist economic construction. While referring to the relationship between heavy industry on the one hand and light industry and agriculture on the other, Mao stressed that “We have done better than the Soviet Union and a number of East European countries. …Their lop-sided stress on heavy industry to the neglect of agriculture and light industry results in a shortage of goods on the market and an unstable currency.” Similarly he criticised the Soviet policy of “squeezing the peasants too hard”. He also attacked the dogmatists within the CPC who “copy everything indiscriminately and transplant mechanically” while learning from the experience of the Soviet Union and other socialist countries. He also criticised those who were following the example of Kruschev in indiscriminately criticising Stalin. He upheld Stalin as a great Marxist with 70% achievements. Thus through this extensive critique of the Soviet revisionists and the mistakes in Soviet socialist construction, Mao led the struggle against the then dominant revisionist line of productive forces within the CPC.
However the biggest contribution of Mao’s speech was its major advancement of the understanding of the process of socialist construction and socialist planning. By presenting the problems of socialist construction as ten major relationships, Mao brought dialectics and contradictions to the centre of the process of building socialist society. He showed how socialist construction involved not merely the mechanical implementation of targets of production and distribution, but a dialectical understanding of the main contradictions in the process, and the mobilising of all the positive forces to achieve socialism. Th us he said, “It is to focus on one basic policy that these ten problems are being raised, the basic policy of mobilising all positive factors, internal and external, to serve the cause of socialism… These ten relationships are all contradictions. Th e world consists of contradictions. Without contradictions the world would cease to exist. Our task is to handle these contradictions correctly.”
Mao followed it up the next year with his work On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People. In it he continued the development of the dialectical understanding of the process of socialist construction. Primarily he also placed the class struggle at the very core of the process. He asserted that the “class struggle is by no means over… the question of which will win out, socialism or capitalism, is not really settled yet.” With this he began the struggle against the revisionist sections in the Party who were saying that class struggle no longer existed under socialism. Th is marked the beginning of a country-wide Rectification Movement, the Anti-Rightist Movement. During this period many high-level cadre had to present their self-criticism before the masses, millions of students involved themselves in manual labour to integrate with the workers and peasants, all party cadres in the factories and agricultural co-operatives had to participate in manual labour, workers began to participate in decision making in their factories, a socialist education campaign started among the peasantry. Th rough this process the Party was brought closer to the people and rightist trends that were growing, both within the Party and outside were checked.
Great Leap Forward and the Birth of People’s Communes: With the progress of the rectification movement, the rightists in the party were thrown on the defensive. Th is led, in 1958, to a rectification of the erroneous productive forces theory which had dominated the Eighth Party Congress in 1956. The prime mover of this theory, Liu Shiao-chi, was forced to admit before the Second Session of the Eighth Party Congress in May 1958, that, throughout the period before completion of the building of a socialist society, the principal contradiction was between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, between the socialist road and the capitalist road. His report also mentioned the Great Leap Forward, which had then begun. Th ere had been major advances on every front in socialist construction. Industry, agriculture and all other fields of activity had registered greater and more rapid growth.
Aside from rapid growth however, the Great Leap Forward was a major change in the priorities of the earlier plans and general line. Th e general line of the Great Leap Forward had been formulated at a Central Committee meeting held at the end of November 1957. It changed the emphasis on heavy industry and aimed at the simultaneous development of agriculture, heavy and light industry. It aimed at reducing the gap between town and countryside, between worker and peasant, and between worker and peasant on the one hand and the intellectual and manager on the other hand. It aimed at not merely an economic revolution but a technological, political, social and cultural revolution to transform the city and countryside.
In 1958 started the building of the people’s communes. The process first started spontaneously when neighbouring peasant associations in a drought affected area made a plan to merge together their labour and other resources to implement an irrigation project. Their merger was given the name commune by Mao. Mao encouraged such formation and this immediately led to a rapid spread of communes throughout the country. They were formed by the merger of neighbouring co-operatives in order to undertake large-scale projects such as flood control, water conservancy, afforestation, fisheries, and transport. In addition, many communes set up their own factories for making tractors, chemical fertilisers, and other means of production. Th e movement to set up people’s communes grew very rapidly. Th e CC of the CPC announced in its famous Wuhan Resolution of December, 1958 that “Within a few months starting in the summer of 1958, all of the more than 740,000 agricultural producers’ co-operatives in the country, in response to the enthusiastic demand of the mass of peasants, reorganised themselves into over 26,000 people’s communes. Over 120 million households, or more than 99 percent of all China’s peasant households of various nationalities, have joined the people’s communes.” Summing up the political essence, the CC went on to say:
“Th e people’s commune is the basic unit of the socialist social structure of our country, combining industry, agriculture, trade, education, and military affairs; at the same time it is the basic organisation of the socialist state power. Marxist-Leninist theory and the initial experience of the people’s communes in our country enable us to foresee now that the people’s communes will quicken the tempo of our socialist construction and constitute the best form for realising, in our country, the following two transitions.
“Firstly, the transition from collective ownership to ownership by the whole people in the countryside; and,
“Secondly, the transition from socialist to communist society. It can also be foreseen that in the future communist society, the people’s commune will remain the basic unit of our social structure.”
Thus the commune movement represented a tremendous advance which basically completed the process of collectivisation of agriculture. However the expectation of the commune taking ahead the process of the transition to full public ownership and communism could not be fulfilled to that extent. Also attempts at setting up urban communes could not be consolidated.
In the earliest period of the commune movement during the Great Leap, there were certain ‘left’ errors. Mao in his speech in February 1959 called it a ‘communist wind’. These ‘left’ errors, which Mao identified, were mainly of three types. The first was the levelling of the poor and the rich brigades within the commune by making the whole commune into one accounting unit. This meant that shares of the peasant members of richer brigades (the former advanced co-operative) would be smaller than the share they would receive soon after the commune was formed. They would thus resent the formation of the commune and their participation would not be voluntary. The second error was that capital accumulation by the commune was too great and the commune’s demand for labour without compensation was too great. When larger amounts are kept aside for capital accumulation the share that the peasant gets is lower. Similarly more labour without compensation can only come where the consciousness has been raised to that extent. Th e third error was the ‘communisation’ of all kinds ‘property’. In some areas attempts were made to even bring minor property of the peasant like hens and pigs under the commune. This too was opposed.
These errors were soon corrected. Th e production brigade (former advanced co-operative), was kept as the basic accounting unit, and in 1962, this was brought to an even lower level, that of the production team. However, though the perspective remained always of raising the level of ownership and accounting to higher levels, as a process of greater socialisation and transition towards communism, this did not achieve success. The basic accounting and ownership unit continued till 1976, to remain at the lowest level—the production team.
Struggle against the Capitalist Roaders: Though the ‘left’ errors were soon corrected, the hold of the capitalist roaders, led by Liu Shiao-chi, remained strong within the party’s higher levels. Th e two-line struggle was represented in direct and indirect ways. In July 1959, Peng The-huai, then Defence Minister, launched a direct attack on the Great Leap Forward, criticising what he called its “petty-bourgeois fanaticism” and desire “to enter into communism at one step” Mao repulsed these attacks and defended the politics of the Great Leap. However, though Peng was defeated, the other capitalist roaders continued their attacks through indirect means.
One method was through veiled defence of Peng and attacks on Mao in the media. This was through articles and also through plays and cultural performances intending to show how Peng was an upright comrade who had been victimised. Th e other method was to stall or divert the implementation of key policies decided at the highest levels. A principal example was sabotage of the programme of socialist education and the decision to launch a Cultural Revolution, taken by the Tenth Plenum of the CC in 1962. Though this was formally agreed to by the capitalist roaders, they ensured through their control within the party structure, to ensure that there was no mass mobilisation. They tried to turn the Cultural Revolution in the direction of academic and ideological debate rather than class struggle.
Mao, throughout this period (1959-65), fought the battle at various levels. He realised on the basis of the Russian experience, the very real danger of the restoration of capitalism. He, therefore, on the basis of a major study of the politics and economics of Kruschevite revisionism, drew the theoretical lessons of this experience for the education of the Chinese and the international proletariat. Th rough the struggle of the Great Debate against Kruschev’s modern revisionism Mao tried to rally around the revolutionaries around the world and in China. Th rough his works like Critique of Soviet Economics and the CPC’s analysis of Kruschev’s Phoney Communism and its Historical Lessons for the World, he tried to inculcate in the party cadre the theoretical foundations for a fight against revisionism and restoration.
However he mainly tried to draw the masses into the struggle to defend and develop socialism and prevent restoration of capitalism. Besides his earlier mentioned programme for socialist education, he also gave slogans for socialist emulation of the Tachai and Tach’ing experiences as model experiences in building socialism. But when all attempts to mobilise the masses were diverted by the party bureaucracy, Mao succeeded after tremendous efforts in unleashing the energies of the masses through the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. It was the culmination in practice of Mao’s development of the Marxist principles of socialist construction.
Chapter 30: The Great Debate – Mao’s Fight Against Kruschev’s Modern Revisionism
In 1953, after the death of Stalin, a revisionist clique led by Kruschev, performed a coup, and took over the controls of the CPSU, then the leading party of the international proletariat. They threw out or killed the revolutionaries in the party, started the process of restoration of capitalism in the first land of socialism and proceeded to develop ties with the imperialist camp, particularly U.S. imperialism. By 1956, after securing firm control over the CPSU, they, at the 20th Congress of the CPSU, started spreading their revisionist poison among other communist parties. They simultaneously attacked the so-called Stalin personality cult and introduced their revisionist theory of the three peacefuls— peaceful transition, peaceful coexistence and peaceful competition.
Peaceful transition meant peaceful transition to socialism by the parliamentary road. Kruschev proposed that in the present era it was possible to achieve socialism by peacefully winning a majority in parliament and then bringing about reforms to bring in socialism. He thus denied the need for revolution. Th is theory was thus a repetition of the revisionism of Bernstein and other social-democrats.
Peaceful co existence between states having different social systems was proposed by Kruschev as the general line of the foreign policy of the socialist state. He thus distorted Lenin’s policy of peaceful co existence with capitalist states, which was just one aspect of the socialist state’s foreign policy of proletarian internationalism. Kruschev subordinated all other things to his desire to maintain a peaceful existence with imperialism. He made relations with and aid to other socialist countries and the policy of help to the struggles of oppressed nations dependent upon the requirements of peaceful co existence with the imperialist powers. This was thus nothing but a policy of collaboration with imperialism.
Peaceful competition was the theory that the contradiction between imperialism and socialism would be resolved through economic competition between the capitalist and socialist systems. Th is theory thus refused to recognise the reactionary and war mongering character of imperialism. It created the illusion that the contradiction between the socialist and imperialist camp was a non-antagonistic contradiction, which would be resolved through peaceful forms of struggle.
Kruschev’s theory of the three peacefuls was thus a full-fledged revisionist theory, which he wanted to impose on the international communist movement. It was directed towards building up close relationship with imperialism. In order to implement his schemes and gain the acceptance of the imperialist powers, Kruschev simultaneously launched a vicious attack on Stalin in the name of personality cult. In order to demolish the revolutionary principles that Stalin had stood and fought for it was fi rst necessary to destroy the image of Stalin among the revolutionaries and the masses throughout the world. Th is was done through a campaign of lies and degenerate propaganda.
Many of the leaderships of the communist parties of the world backed the revisionist Kruschevite line. Many prominent leaders and parties had already started taking the revisionist line in their own countries. Browder in the USA had already put forward theories of collaboration between socialism and capitalism and moved out of the international communist movement; Thorez, the former Third International leader from France, who developed close relations with the bourgeoisie following the period in the anti-fascist front, had in the post-war years taken national chauvinist positions towards the peoples of the French colonies and become a servant of the French imperialist bourgeoisie; Togliatti of Italy, another major Third International leader, had wanted to ‘reform’ and ‘restructure’ capitalism into socialism through ‘structural reforms’ through the bourgeois parliament ; the Communist Party of India leadership had already changed their tactical line to recognise the peaceful path. Th us these revisionist forces, who had not been sufficiently criticised and defeated in the earlier period, quite happily collaborated with Kruschev.
Where however such parties tried in any serious manner to implement ‘peaceful transition’ through the electoral system and where such efforts sufficiently threatened the social order, they were eliminated through military coups and savage repression, as in Brazil (1964), Indonesia (1965), and Chile (1973).
Among the newly formed People’s Democracies, the League of Communists of Yugoslavia, led by Tito, had already, from 1948, started on the revisionist road and broken off from the socialist camp. Kruschev however soon started making friends with him. Most of the remaining leaderships also aligned with Kruschev. Within the socialist camp it was only the CPC and the Albanian Party of Labour who identified and recognised Kruschevite revisionism and made a valiant and determined defence of Marxism-Leninism.
Th e CPC, under Mao’s guidance was in the vanguard of this struggle. Within two months of the 20th CPSU Congress the CPC published an article On the Historical Experience of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, which upheld Stalin as an outstanding Marxist-Leninist. Th is was followed by another article in December 1956, More on the Historical Experience of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, which insisted that the socialist camp should clearly demarcate who are its friends and enemies. Th is was combined with a seven year long attempt to struggle with and defeat the Kruschevite revisionist line within party forums, particularly at the meetings of 60 fraternal parties in 1957 and of 81 fraternal parties in 1960, and at meetings with the CPSU leadership.
As the struggle sharpened the Soviet Revisionists in June 1959 withdrew technical assistance in the field of defence, and in July 1960 withdrew suddenly all the Soviet technical experts that were working in China. Th e same was done with Albania. In April 1960 the CPC published Long Live Leninism and two other articles upholding the basic principles of Leninism on imperialism, war and peace, proletarian revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat. These articles opposed the revisionist positions of the CPSU without mentioning it by name.
The revisionists however continued with their attempts to further systemise their revisionist positions. Thus in the 22nd Congress of the CPSU held in 1961, the Programme adopted there revised the essence of Marxism-Leninism, namely, the teachings on proletarian revolution, on the dictatorship of the proletariat and on the party of the proletariat. It declared that the dictatorship of the proletariat was no longer needed in the Soviet Union and that the nature of the CPSU as the vanguard of the proletariat had changed. Th e Congress advanced absurd theories of a “state of the whole people” and a “party of the entire people”. At the Congress Kruschev launched an open and public attack on the Albanian Party and even gave a call to overthrow its leader, Enver Hoxha. Th is was opposed by the CPC delegation led by Chou En-lai.
Kruschev also started encouraging other Communist Parties to launch public attacks on the CPC. Numerous articles in the Soviet also attacked the Chinese leadership. Th e CPC finally started replying to some of the attacks of Togliatti of the Italian Party, Thorez of the French Party, Gus Hall of the CPUSA and others in series of seven articles which came out at the end of 1962 and the beginning of 1963.
A summary of the main views of the CPC were put down in the famous June 14th Letter of 1963, which was titled as A Proposal Concerning the General Line of the International Communist Movement. This was replied to by an Open Letter to the CPC by the CPSU. Since the whole issue was now in the open, the CPC decided to conduct the debate through the open press. It brought out nine commentaries on the CPSU’s Open Letter and clarified all issues before the masses.
This struggle, which came out in the open in 1963 and continued through 1964, came to be known as the Great Debate. Th e Great Debate was of immense historic significance. It was a principled and comprehensive struggle against modern revisionism. It provided the rallying point for all proletarian revolutionary forces throughout the world. It was also a scientific development of Marxism-Leninism, which gave the international communist movement its revolutionary general line for that period. Mao was the driving force behind the struggle. It was through the Great Debate that Mao advanced the science of Marxism-Leninism by providing the answers to the most significant questions before the international proletariat—the fundamental contradictions in the world, who are friends and enemies, the aims of the movement, and the path for achieving the victory of World Socialist Revolution. These formulations were mainly contained in the June 14th Letter. Th e nine commentaries outlined and elaborated the revolutionary position on various crucial issues facing the international communist movement after the World War II—neo-colonialism, war and peace, peaceful existence, Yugoslavia, Kruschev’s revisionism and the historical lessons to be drawn therefrom. It was through the Great Debate that Mao Tse-tung Th ought gained further acceptance as the guiding ideology of the revolutionary sections of the international proletariat.
Chapter 31: The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR) was the answer of Marxism to the obstacles and sabotage of the process of socialist construction created by the Kruschevites and the capitalist roaders. Particularly after the rise of revisionism in the Soviet Union, Mao had realised that one of the biggest dangers of the restoration of capitalism came from within the Party itself. Throughout the Great Debate, Mao, while fighting revisionism, tried to find the answer to the question of how to prevent the restoration of capitalism. He was at the same time deeply involved in the fight with the Chinese Kruschevites, like Liu Shiao- chi and Deng Tsiaoping. Thus while concluding the Great Debate in the CPC’s last document, which was called On Kruschev’s Phoney Communism and its Historical lessons for the World, Mao stressed certain points on the question of prevention of the restoration of capitalism.
Mao firstly stressed the recognition of the need to continue the class struggle throughout the period of socialist society, right to the end. He explained that change in the ownership of the means of production, i.e. socialist revolution on the economic front is insufficient by itself. He insisted that we must have a thorough socialist revolution on the political and ideological fronts in order to consolidate the revolution. And this revolution must be continued under the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Another point that Mao repeatedly stressed was that in order to carry out this revolution it was necessary to stick to the mass line, and to boldly arouse the masses and to unfold mass movements on a large scale. For this the Party would have to rely on, win over and unite with the masses of the people, who constitute 95 per cent of the population, in a common struggle against the enemies of socialism. Mao also stressed the need “to conduct extensive socialist education movements repeatedly in the cities and the countryside.” In these continuous movements for educating the people Mao again stressed the need to organise the revolutionary class forces, and “to wage a sharp, tit-for-tat struggle against the anti-socialist, capitalist and feudal forces”. Thus Mao clearly saw that the extensive participation of the masses was an essential precondition to prevent the restoration of capitalism. This came from Mao’s experience of how it was the revisionists from within the leadership of the Party itself who were the main elements bringing about the restoration of capitalism.
However within the CPC itself there was strong resistance from the highest levels, led by Liu Shiaochi, to the implementation of these theories and the concrete programme being proposed by Mao. Th us though the ‘socialist cultural revolution’ was officially accepted at the Tenth Plenary Session of the Eighth Central Committee in 1962, the implementation was half-hearted and in a direction counter to the line given by Mao. In fact the Party bureaucracy, under Liu’s control, started criticising Mao for the actions he was trying to take and opposing the action taken on capitalist roaders like Peng Tehuai. Th is criticism they conducted through articles in the press and plays and other cultural forums which were in their full control. Th eir control was such that Mao could not even get an article defending himself printed in the press in Peking. Such an article defending Mao and his policies was fi nally published in November 1965 in the Shanghai press, which was a much more radical centre than Peking. Th is was what Mao later called ‘the signal’ for the GPCR which started a fl ow of criticism of the party bureaucracy an support of Mao’s Line in the media and the field of culture. Th ere also arose demands for self-criticism by the main culprits. The Party bureaucracy however did all they could to prevent this movement from taking on a mass character. The Cultural Revolution Group, which was supposed to initiate and direct it actually tried to control the dissent and channelise it along academic lines.
Finally the CC under the direction of Mao, issued a circular of 16th May, 1966, dissolved the ‘Group of Five’, under whose charge the Cultural Revolution was being sabotaged, and set up a new ‘Cultural Revolution Group’ directly under the Politburo Standing Committee. This May 16th Circular gave the call to criticise and break the resistance of the capitalist roaders, particularly those within the party. Th is action led to the actual initiation of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, and made it a mass phenomenon involving millions of people.
On May 25th the first big character poster was put up at the Peking University criticising its vice-chancellor and the education system. This was only the first of thousands of such massive posters put up by the students and masses throughout the country where they expressed their opinion and criticised what they felt was wrong in society. Demonstrations and mass criticisms were held criticising professors, party bureaucrats and others for their wrong policies. Soon there was a demand from a section of students for the abolition of entrance examinations. The Central Committee in June passed an order suspending new admissions to colleges and universities for six months so that the students and youth could more fully participate in the GPCR. However the six month period proved too short and the universities only opened again after four years.
Mao too started personally participating in the GPCR. On July 17th he participated along with ten thousand other swimmers in a mile long swim which across the river Yangtze. Th is was his symbolic act signifying that he was participating in the fl owing stream of the GPCR. Again on August 5th, during the Eleventh Plenum meeting of the CPC, Mao gave a much more straightforward signal. He put up his own big character poster. His main slogan was “Bombard the Headquarters!” Th is was a clear cut call to attack the capitalist headquarters of the capitalist roaders in the Party headed by Liu Shiao-chi. Mao’s call gave a further push to actions and militancy of the movement.
On August 18th Mao was present at the first rally of Red Guards in Peking – it was a million strong. Th e Red Guards were the members of the thousands of mass organisations that had sprung up throughout the country for participation in the GPCR. Th e first mass organisations were composed mainly of students and youth, but as the movement grew such organisations grew among the workers, peasants and office employees. The August 18th rally was the first of numerous such rallies. At some times there were over two million Red Guards from all over the country assembled in the capital.
Th e Eleventh Plenum defined the GPCR as “a new stage in the development of the socialist revolution in our country, a deeper and more extensive stage.” Mao, in his closing speech at the Plenum said, “The great proletarian Cultural Revolution is in essence a great political revolution under socialist conditions by the proletariat against the bourgeoisie and all other exploiting classes. It is the continuation of the long struggle against the Kuomintang reactionaries waged by the CPC and the broad revolutionary masses under its leadership. It is continuation of the struggle between the proletariat and bourgeoisie.”
The Eleventh Plenum adopted what came to be known as the Sixteen Articles of the Cultural Revolution. They repeated what had been said by the May 16th Circular that the present revolution is to touch people’s souls, to change man. Old ideas, culture, customs, habits of the exploiting classes still mould public opinion, offering fertile ground for the restoration of the past. The mental outlook must be transformed and new values created.
It identified the main target as “those within the party who are in authority and are taking the capitalist road.” It identified the main forces of the revolution as “the masses of the workers, peasants, soldiers, revolutionary intellectuals and revolutionary cadres”.
Th e objective of the revolution was “to struggle against and crush those persons in authority who are taking the capitalist road, to criticise and repudiate the reactionary bourgeois academic ‘authorities’ and the ideology of the bourgeoisie and all other exploiting classes and to transform education, art and literature and all other parts of the superstructure that do not correspond to the socialist economic base, so as to facilitate the consolidation and development of the socialist system.” The form of the revolution was to arouse the masses in their hundreds of millions to air their views freely, write big character posters, and hold great debates so that the capitalist roaders in power would be exposed and their plans to restore capitalism could by smashed.
Th e essential aspect of the Cultural Revolution was the advancement and practical implementation of Mao’s mass line. It was aimed, not merely at eliminating the elements hostile to socialism, but to enable the working class to ‘exercise leadership in everything’, to ‘place politics in command of administration’, and to ensure that everyone serving as an official should ‘remain one of the common people’. In order to achieve these aims it was necessary to launch an all-out offensive against bourgeois ideology in such a way that the masses would be actively involved.
Thus, the Eleventh Plenum resolution instructed
“In the great proletarian Cultural Revolution, the only method is for the masses to liberate themselves, and any method of doing things on their behalf must not be used.
“Trust the masses, rely on them and respect their initiative. Cast out fear. Don’t be afraid of disorder. … Let the masses educate themselves in this great revolutionary and learn to distinguish right and wrong and between correct and incorrect ways of doing things.”
As the masses entered in full strength in the revolution they even created a new organisational form— the revolutionary committee. It was based on the ‘three-in-one’ combination: that is, its members, who were elected, subject to recall, and directly responsible to the people, were drawn from the Party, the People’s Liberation Army, and the mass organisations (the Red Guards whose membership reached thirty million in number). They sprung up at all levels, from the factory or commune to the organs of provincial and regional government,
and their function was to provide the link through which the masses could participate directly in the running of the country.
This three-in-one organ of power enabled proletarian political power to strikes deep roots among the masses. Direct participation by the revolutionary masses in the running of the country and the enforcement of revolutionary supervision from below over the organs of political power at various levels played a very important role in ensuring that leading groups at all levels adhered to the mass line. Thus this strengthening of the dictatorship of the proletariat, was also the most extensive and deepest exercise in proletarian democracy yet achieved in the world.
Under the initial sweep of the Cultural Revolution in 1966-67, the bourgeois headquarters within the Party was effectively smashed, and most of the leading capitalist roaders like Liu Shiao-chi and Deng Hsiao-ping and their supporters were stripped off their party posts and forced to do self-criticism before the masses. It was a great victory, which not only inspired the Chinese masses, but also created a wave of revolutionary enthusiasm among communist revolutionaries throughout the world.
During the Great Debate many revolutionary forces had gathered around the revolutionary line of the CPC led by Mao, but it was mainly during the Cultural Revolution that these forces throughout the world came to accept that it was Mao Tsetung Th ought that could provide the answers to the problems of World Socialist Revolution. Th e Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution had shown that Marxism had an answer to the enemy of capitalist restoration. Th is advance in Marxism, led to the consolidation of numerous revolutionary groups and parties throughout the world on the basis of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse-tung Th ought, and the launching of revolutionary struggles under their leadership.
However Mao warned, “Th e present Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution is only the first; there will inevitably be many more in the future. Th e issue of who will win in the revolution can only be settled over a long historical period. If things are not properly handled, it is possible for a capitalist restoration to take place at any time in the future.”
Further he reminded the Ninth Party Congress in 1969, “We have won a great victory. But the defeated class will continue to struggle. Its members are still about and it still exists, therefore we cannot speak of the final victory, not for decades. We must not lose our vigilance. From the Leninist point of view, the final victory in one socialist country not only requires the efforts of the proletariat and the broad masses at home, but also depends on the victory of the world revolution and the abolition of the system of exploitation of man by man on this earth so that all mankind will be emancipated. Consequently, it is wrong to talk about the final victory of the revolution in our country light-heartedly; it runs counter to Leninism and does not conform to facts.”
Mao’s words proved true within a short time. First in 1971 Lin Piao, then vice-chairman, who in the Ninth Congress of the CPC had been appointed as a successor to Mao, conspired to seize power through assassinating Mao and staging a military coup. This was foiled through the alertness of the revolutionaries in the party.
After this however, arch revisionists like Deng were rehabilitated back to high positions within the party and state apparatus. During the last period of the Cultural Revolution, there was again a struggle against these capitalist roaders and Deng was again criticised and removed from all posts a few months before Mao’s death on 9th September 1976. He however had many of his agents in positions of power. It was these renegades who engineered the coup to take over the party and lead it on the path of capitalist restoration very soon after the death of Mao. It was they who sabotaged the Cultural Revolution and then formally announced its end in 1976.
This coup and capitalist restoration however cannot repudiate the validity of the truth of the Cultural Revolution. Rather it, in a way, confirms Mao’s teachings on the nature of socialist society and the need to continue the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat. Th e Cultural Revolution is a scientific tool developed in the struggle against capitalist restoration and in the theoretical struggle to develop Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse-tung Th ought. Its scientific validity has been established in the test of practice of the Chinese Revolution. Its eff ectiveness as a weapon to mobilise the vast masses in the struggle against the danger of capitalist restoration in a socialist country has also been proved. However, as Mao himself pointed out, no weapon can provide a guarantee of final victory. Th us, the fact that the capitalist roaders have achieved a temporary victory does not in any way diminish the objective truth of the necessity and effectiveness of this weapon in the fight for socialist construction and the defence of socialism.
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution is one of the foremost contributions of Marxism-Leninism Mao Tse-tung Th ought to the arsenal of the international proletariat. It represents the implementation in practice of Mao’s greatest contribution to Marxism—the theory of continuing revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat to consolidate socialism, combat modern revisionism and prevent the restoration of capitalism. Its significance for the international proletariat is immeasurable in today’s world where all the socialist bases have been lost due to the manipulative schemes of the bourgeoisie within the communist party itself. Therefore the time has come to revise Lenin’s definition of a Marxist.
Lenin while defining a Marxist had said that it was not enough to accept the class struggle to be called a Marxist. He said it that only those who recognise both the class struggle and the dictatorship of the proletariat can be called Marxists. Today it not sufficient to only recognise the class struggle and the dictatorship of the proletariat to be a Marxist. A Marxist has to accept the basic understanding of the GPCR. Thus, only he is a Marxist who extends the recognition of the class struggle and the dictatorship of the proletariat to the recognition of the continuous revolution in the super structure with the aim of the completion of the world revolution and building communist society as early as possible.
Chapter 32: After The Death of Mao
Th e late 60s – the period of the GPCR and the establishment of Mao Tse-tung Th ought as a new stage of Marxism-Leninism – was a period of revolutionary ferment in many parts of the world. Th e revolutionary war in Indo-China (the area covering Vietnam, Kampuchea and Laos) was dealing severe blows to the tremendous military might of the US imperialists. Simultaneously revolutionaries breaking away from the hold of the modern revisionists launched armed struggles under the guidance of Mao Tse-tung Th ought in many parts of the Third World during this period –the ongoing armed struggles in the Philippines and India are a continuation since then. National liberation struggles waging guerrilla war were also raging in various parts, as well as armed struggles under Guevarist ideology (ideology following the views and practice of Che Guevara, who played a leading role in the revolutionary struggles in Cuba and Bolivia) in parts of Latin America.
The Indo-China war, the sharpening struggles in the Third World, and the GPCR were among the major factors for the vast outbreak of students and anti-war movements throughout the capitalist world at the end of the sixties. The Paris student revolt of May 1968 was the most significant but only one of a wave of student revolt ranging from the USA to Italy and even to Poland, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. It also had its impact on student movements in various parts of the Third World. At the same time the anti-Vietnam war protests started picking up in the USA and other parts of the world with massive peace movements against war and the nuclear arms race in major cities of Europe. The US imperialists were effectively isolated as not even one of their allies agreed to send troops to fight in Vietnam. Following the students movement there was also a major growth of struggles of the industrial working class in the West European countries particularly Italy and France, though largely on economic demands. Huge waves of strikes with major wage demands often paralysed entire economies of the imperialist countries.
The mid-70s saw the final overthrow of many long standing colonial regimes after long guerrilla wars. Thus the US and their puppets were thrown out of Vietnam, Kampuchea and Laos in 1975. In Africa the republics of Mozambique, Angola, Ethiopia, Congo, and Benin were formed in this period. However most of these countries were taken over by puppets or satellites of the new imperialism – Soviet social imperialism. A prominent exception was Kampuchea, where genuine communist revolutionaries – the Khmer Rouge – remained independent until invaded in 1978 by Vietnam on the behest of the Soviet imperialists.
In the following period too there has continued to be an excellent revolutionary situation with the sharpening of all the fundamental contradictions and the further weakening of imperialism. In particular the colonies and semi-colonies have continued to be the storm centres of world revolution. At the beginning of this period guerrilla struggles continued in Zimbabwe, Nicaragua, Eritrea and other countries. The People’s War started in Peru in 1980 under communist revolutionary leadership. Th e Shah of Iran was overthrown and an anti-American Islamic Republic came into existence. National liberation war broke out in Afghanistan after the installation of a Soviet puppet regime in 1978 and occupation by the Soviet social imperialist army in 1979. Th e heroic struggle of the Afghan people dealt a serious deathblow to the Soviet regime and proved to be a major factor in the final collapse of the USSR.
Th e epochal significance of the struggles of the peoples of the colonies and semi-colonies has been that it has forever changed the nature of the relations between imperialism and the oppressed nations. Both the Vietnam and Afghan wars proved that even a superpower could not occupy even a small and weak country. Th is truth was brought out even more starkly in the 90s in the numerous spots where UN peacekeeping forces tried to intervene. Somaliland, which had been controlled for numerous years without major difficulty by British and Italian colonialists, had in the 90s become the Somalia where thousands of American and other troops were forced to retreat in disgrace, when attacked by the people. Even the large scale and continuous bombing of Iraq and Yugoslavia without the commitment of ground troops is the recognition by imperialism that no country, nation or people would in this period be prepared to accept an occupation army.
Ever since the collapse of the bureaucratic regimes in East Europe and the various republics of the former Soviet Union, there has been a continuous revolutionary crisis there too. Even in the Western imperialist countries the worsening of the crisis has led to the intensification of the contradiction between labour and capital and repeated waves of strike struggles by the industrial working class. Th e revolutionary forces however have not been organisationally strong enough to utilise the excellent world-wide revolutionary situation to advance the World Socialist Revolution.
After the death of Mao in1976, the capitalist roaders who had remained in the party staged a coup under the leadership of the arch revisionist Deng Tsiao-ping and took over the control of the party under the nominal leadership of Hua Kuo-feng, a so-called centrist. As Mao had often taught, with political control going over to the hands of the revisionists the socialist base had gone out of the hands of the proletariat. At the same time the leadership of the Albanian Party of Labour switched over to an opportunist line attacking Mao Tse-tung Th ought and projecting Mao as a petty bourgeois revolutionary. Though the Khmer Rouge continued to hold power in Kampuchea they were waging a constant struggle against the internal and external enemies of the Revolution and were yet to emerge from the economic ravages of war and consolidate their rule when they were defeated by the Soviet backed Vietnamese Army. Th us there was no country anywhere in the world where the proletariat had consolidated its hold on state power and could play the role of a socialist base for the international proletariat.
In the years immediately after the death of Mao, there was a considerable amount of ideological confusion in the international communist movement, with the Deng revisionists, through Hua Kuo-feng, attempting to project themselves as upholders of Mao Tse-tung Thought. In particular they falsely peddled the revisionist Three World Theory as Mao’s general line for the international proletariat. Many revolutionary sections accepted these positions and it was only after the very openly revisionist History Resolution of the CPC in 1981 and the Twelfth Congress in 1982 that most revolutionary forces throughout the world started coming out openly against Deng revisionism. However some sections continued to follow the Dengist revisionist line and abandoned Mao’s revolutionary teachings. Certain other sections allied themselves with the opportunist attack by the Albanian Party of Labour on Mao Tse-tung Th ought. However these parties later either disintegrated or openly revealed their revisionist nature.
Those that resolutely opposed Deng revisionism and upheld Mao Tse-tung Th ought in practice could however make considerable advances. Today these forces form the core of the revolutionary international proletariat. They are leading armed struggles in Peru, Philippines, Turkey, Nepal and India. Though these forces are organisationally yet very weak, they continue to grow in strength.
Th e principal source of their growth in strength is the correctness of the ideology of Marxism- Leninism-Mao Tse-tung Th ought. Th e chain of main historical events in the last twenty odd years has confirmed most of the assessments of Mao thought. In particular the collapse of the Soviet Union and its retreat from super power status in the face of people’s struggles and the serious weakening of the American super power in the face of the struggles of oppressed peoples of the world, have confirmed the assessment by Mao that these imperialists were only paper tigers who would be taught a lesson by the people.
Similarly Mao thought has remained the best tool in the hands of the international proletariat and oppressed peoples to formulate and implement the programme for revolution in their own respective countries. It has also had a major infl uence over the armed struggles for national liberation being waged in various corners of the globe. Though in this period there has not been any major or significant developments in Marxist science and theory, MLM Th ought continues to be adaptable to the changing conditions in the world. It yet provides the only scientifi c and correct theory for the international proletariat.
Th e international communist movement is going through the process of victory-defeat-victory on the road to ultimate victory in the World Socialist Revolution. For those who would get despondent due to the ups and downs of this process it would help to remember the understanding given by Mao during the Great Debate and also during the Cultural Revolution, “Even the bourgeois revolution, which replaced one exploiting class by another, had to undergo repeated reversals and witness many struggles—revolution, then restoration and then the overthrow of restoration. It took many European countries hundreds of years to complete their bourgeois revolutions from the start of the ideological preparations to the final conquest of state power. Since the proletarian revolution is a revolution aimed at completely ending all systems of exploitation, it is still less permissible to imagine that the exploiting classes will meekly allow the proletariat to deprive them of all their privileges without seeking to restore their rule.”
Temporary defeats are therefore but to be expected on the long and tortuous path of the World Socialist Revolution. The history of 150 years of the development of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse-tung Th ought has however conclusively proved that it is the historical destiny of this doctrine alone to lead and guide the international proletariat to final victory.