Report on the Chinese Situation to the Third Congress of the Fourth International
The Causes of the Victory of the Chinese Communist Party over Chiang Kai-Shek, and the CCP’s Perspectives
From International Information Bulletin, Socialist Workers Party, February, 1952, from Tamiment Library microfilm archives
Transcribed & marked up by Andrew Pollack.
[Report given to the Third World Congress of the Fourth International, August-September 1951.]
The victory of the Chinese Communist Party over the reactionary power of Chiang Kai-shek, its occupation of the entire Chinese mainland, and the establishment of the “People’s Republic” (or the “People’s Democratic Dictatorship”) has marked a great and even a monumental change in modern Chinese history, and has also caused profound changes in the Far East and in international relations.
These events were unexpected both among bourgeois ruling circles and the petty-bourgeois politicians, the former being stunned and panic-stricken; the latter, perplexed or dazzled. But these events were likewise far from being anticipated by us Trotskyists (including Trotsky himself), owing to the fact that the CCP came to its current victory through its extremely reactionary Menshevik program of “revolution by stages,” coupled with the fact that the peasant armed forces were completely isolated from the urban working class.
As a result, a considerable amount of confusion has been raised in our ranks regarding Mao’s victory, and serious differences of opinion have occurred over its causes and significance, the nature of the new power and its perspectives. A few comrades have even begun to doubt the correctness of the theory of permanent revolution. If these differences are not clarified and resolved in time, the most serious consequences would ensue, especially in our Chinese section. Some of the comrades would proceed from doubting the permanent revolution to capitulating to Stalinism (some comrades in Shanghai have already shown signs of this tendency). Others would arrive at ultrasectarianism and complete demoralization in their revulsion against Mao Tse-tung’s opportunist victory, which is the result of a complete violation of the permanent revolution. (The Chinese minority has already clearly demonstrated this tendency.) We must, therefore, very prudently and seriously examine Mao’s victory and the extraordinary situation emerging from it.
First of all, we should not overlook the reactionary role of Stalinism independently of the CCP victory, and not reconcile ourselves or, even worse, surrender to it. We must still insist on the basic position of the permanent revolution, which is the only compass to guide China and all backward countries to genuine liberation; we must judge any further events from this position. But, in proceeding with the discussion, it is necessary not only to discard all subjective prejudices, desires, or mechanical analogies, but to free ourselves from traditional formulas (not, of course, principles). We must face the concrete living facts, whether desirable or undesirable, particularly the decisive influence of the situation created after the Second World War on the Chinese events. We must also take note of the specific function Stalinism played in these events, the distortion or deformation imposed by its rule on the events and their consequences. In a word, we should seriously and flexibly apply the dialectic method of Marxism to observe the facts, analyze the facts, and by analysis of the causes and effects of the realities, obtain a correct understanding, and thus form a correct appraisal of possible developments.
In other words, on the Chinese problem we must adopt the same spirit and method as our International has done in the study of the Yugoslav events and the question of Eastern Europe. Only in this way can we extricate ourselves from perplexity and extremely dangerous deviations to reach a decision on what the fundamental attitude and orientation of our party should be in respect to the CCP leadership. Thus this report is not aimed at supplying a great deal of data; it intends to provide necessary and essential facts in the course of the logical development of the events, and to explain certain opinions which have already caused serious disputes, as references for the International so that it can achieve a correct solution of the Chinese question.
The diverse causes of the CCP victory over the Kuomintang
One of the traditional concepts that Trotsky repeatedly put forward, and that the Chinese Trotskyists upheld for the past twenty years, was a strategy that ran counter to the Stalinist strategy of conquering the cities through the peasant armed forces alone. The Trotskyists maintained that the overthrow of the bourgeois Kuomintang regime was possible only if the urban working class stood up and led all the oppressed and exploited in the country, especially the peasant masses, carried forward a persistent struggle, and eventually brought about an armed insurrection. It was not possible to overthrow the bourgeois regime by relying exclusively on the peasant armed forces because, under the present conditions of society, the countryside is subordinated to the cities and the peasants can play a decisive role only under the leadership of the working class. But the fact now confronting us is exactly the contrary: it was a Stalinist party relying exclusively on the peasant armed forces that destroyed the old regime and seized power.
This extreme contradiction between the “facts” and the “traditional conception” first of all led to confusion and disputes among the Chinese comrades. Meanwhile, some comrades in the International, because of their inadequate understanding of Trotsky’s traditional conception of the Chinese question and the specific causes of Mao’s victory, emphasize the factor of “mass pressure” to account for this victory. So I think that an accurate and detailed explanation of the causes of this victory is necessary, not only in order to overcome the differences of opinion among the Chinese comrades, but also in order to correct the deviations of some comrades in the International. Moreover, the most important thing is this: Only from a correct answer to this question will we be able to go one step further and comprehend the objective significance of Mao’s victory, as well as the twists and turns of all the measures taken by his regime, and the regime’s possible perspectives. In order to best answer this question, I shall start from several aspects of the facts.
A. The complete rottenness and collapse of Chiang’s regime
It is known to everyone that Chiang Kai-shek’s regime was born amid the bloodshed of the defeat of the second Chinese revolution. Naturally it was extremely afraid of and hostile to the people. It oppressed the people and sustained itself on the exploitation of the masses (especially the peasant masses) by the most barbaric Asiatic methods. At the same time, since by its very nature this regime represented the bourgeoisie of the Orient (characterized in the saying that “the farther East the bourgeoisie goes, the more cowardly and the more incompetent it becomes”), Chiang’s regime could only support itself on the imperialist powers (one of them, at least).
It united all reactionary influences, including the feudal survivals, to resist the masses and to suppress them. It was consequently unable to fulfill any of the bourgeois-democratic tasks, not even such a slight reform as a 25 percent reduction in rents. It was mainly characterized by consummate Asiatic despotism, corruption, and inefficiency. These characteristics were completely disclosed during the Resistance War. On one hand, after its policy of “nondefensism” failed and the long period of concessions to the Japanese imperialists ended with the Chiang government forced to fight, it revealed its complete incompetence by losing one city after another. On the other hand, it clamped an iron grip over any spontaneous activity by the masses, while its bureaucrats and warlords, profiting from this rare opportunity, exploited and plundered the blood and flesh of the people by hoarding and smuggling goods and other extortions, and thus enriched themselves through the national disaster. These deeds stirred up great dissatisfaction and bitterness among the common people—which was reflected in the student demonstrations and the peasant unrest in certain regions during the closing period of the war.
After the surrender of Japanese imperialism, Chiang Kai-shek’s tyranny, corruption, and inefficiency reached a climax. First, in the name of taking over the “properties of the enemy and the traitors,” the militarists and bureaucrats stole almost all the public property to fill their own purses, and indulged themselves in extravagant luxury and dissipation. At the same time, using the pretext of proceeding with the civil war, they extracted food from the peasants and imposed conscription upon them, did their best to squeeze and to oppress. (As some enlisted peasants could be exempted from duty by subscribing a sum of money, this became another of the sources of extortion on the part of the bureaucrats.) This further inflamed the fury of the masses, and provoked the eruption of several large-scale protest demonstrations (in which the students played a central part). But the only answer from Chiang Kai-shek to these bitter feelings, protests, and demonstrations was suppression, massacres, and even assassinations and kidnappings by gendarmes, police, and secret agents.
The financial base of Chiang’s government had already been exhausted in the course of the war. Besides compulsory extortions, it could only resort to issuing paper currency to maintain itself. Consequently the rate of inflation climbed in geometric progression. After peace was announced, the pace of inflation advanced from geometric progression to lightning speed, terminating in the collapse of the “gold yuan” and the unprecedented economic chaos at the end of 1948.
All commerce and industry halted and disintegrated, and the living conditions of the various layers among the middle and lower classes (including all the middle and lower functionaries in the government institutions) cast them into the pit of despair. Driven by starvation, the workers rose up in a universal strike wave (there were 200,000 workers on strike in Shanghai alone). Plundering of rice took place everywhere. At that time, the United Press gave a brief description of the situation as follows: “The people below the middle class are not able to go on living; discontent and resentment against the status quo prevail. Everyone wants a change.” Chiang Kai-shek’s regime was tottering. If the CCP had called upon the workers and the masses in the big cities to rise in rebellion and overthrow the regime, it would have been as easy as knocking down rotten wood. But Mao’s party merely gave orders to the people to quietly wait for their “liberation” by the “People’s Liberation Army.”
Chiang’s sole prop was his military force and so he continued the fight to the end and would never compromise with Mao Tse-tung. He hoped to exterminate the CCP’s peasant armed forces through his superior military equipment and prevent his doomed regime from being swept away. In fact, Chiang Kai-shek’s army far surpassed the CCP’s, not only in numbers but also in equipment. A considerable part of his army (about six to seven hundred thousand soldiers) was armed with the most modern American weapons. But this army had two fatal defects: First, most of the soldiers were recruited from the countryside by compulsory conscription, some of them even by kidnapping, so they naturally more or less reflected the dissatisfaction and hatred of the peasants. Second, all the generals and officers of high rank were rotten to the core; they mistreated the soldiers and steadily reduced rations. This oppression inflicted much suffering upon the soldiers and deepened their discontent and hatred. Once this hatred found a suitable outlet, it would be transformed into a deluge of flight and surrender. Mao Tse-tung’s “general counteroffensive” furnished this outlet.
All the above-stated facts demonstrate that Chiang’s government was not only isolated from the people, who were hostile to it, but was also deserted by the majority of the bourgeoisie. Even those who formerly supported it turned bitter against it and were ready to sacrifice it in exchange for their own lives. This situation resulted in the appearance of various kinds of anti-Chiang factions and cliques within the Kuomintang itself, which was thus involved in complete decomposition. One of these factions crystallized into the so-called Kuomintang Revolutionary Committee (led by Li Chi-shen). In view of the inevitability of Chiang Kai-shek’s fall, it anxiously sought an “understanding and reconciliation” with Mao Tse-tung.
Another group prepared to respond to the CCP’s offensive by rebelling against Chiang (such as Ch’eng Ch’ien, the governor of Hunan province, and Lu Han, the governor of Yunnan), while still others were ready to capitulate, as in the case of Fu Tso-yi in Peiping and Liu Hsiang in Szechuan.
The third group—the Kwangsi clique, represented by Li Tsung-jen and Pai Ch’ung-hsi—attempted to replace Chiang Kai-shek. The bourgeois elements outside the Kuomintang gathered more and more around the “Democratic League,” trying to find their way out through this organization. In a word, the structures of the Kuomintang regime were corroded from top to bottom and it could no longer stand up. The only remaining hope for Chiang Kai-shek was imperative aid from Washington. (He had sent Soong Ch’ing-ling on this special mission to bid for a last favor.)
B. Chiang finally deserted by American imperialism
Prior to the Second World War, the most powerful and decisive influences in Chinese economy and politics were the Japanese, British, and American imperialists. With the end of the war, the influence of Japanese imperialism vanished. British imperialism, because of its extreme decline, although still maintaining its rule in Hong Kong, has since completely left the political stage in China. The last one to attempt to control the country was American imperialism. It intended at the beginning to uphold Chiang’s government with all its might in order to monopolize the Chinese market and use this country as a bastion against the Soviet Union. Acting from this motive, it had dispatched a tremendous amount of materiel and military equipment to Chiang’s government at the close of the war. But it soon opened its eyes to the extreme corruption of this government’s administrative and military apparatus and the crisis that created. (For example, most of the materiel given by the U.S. was swallowed by the bureaucrats, and American-made arms often found their way into the CCP’s hands through the lack of combativeness of the Kuomintang officers.)
On the one hand, Washington still tried to “prevail upon” Chiang Kai-shek to make some “reforms,” such as eliminating a few of the most corrupt and incompetent officials and generals, inviting some more able “democratic” figures into the administration, and curtailing some of the more excessive forms of despotic oppression and exploitation. On the other hand, the U.S. maneuvered for a temporary compromise between Chiang and Mao, in order to gain time to destroy Mao. This was the purpose of Gen. Marshall’s special mission in China.
But Chiang not only refused to make any “reforms”; he also obstinately balked at any compromise with Mao’s party. Ultimately, the Marshall mission was a complete failure. The only alternative left for American imperialism was to engage in a direct military offensive against the CCP in Chiang’s place (as one group of Republicans demanded at that time), and to extend its direct control over the administrative and military power of the government. It was very clear, however, that the situation emerging from the Second World War would never permit this headstrong action. Had American imperialism pursued such a course, not only would all of its resources and energy have been drawn into the vast China quagmire, but a new world war would have been precipitated. American imperialism was completely unprepared for such a course of action, and, in face of the expected vehement opposition from its own allies, was not bold enough to run the risk.
The result was that the U.S. was finally compelled to abandon its aid to Chiang’s government and adopt a wait-and-see attitude toward the CCP, pending a more favorable opportunity. This final decision by American imperialism came as a death blow to Chiang Kai-shek’s regime, which was fully expressed in the atmosphere of dejection and despair hovering around Chiang’s group when the news reached China of Truman’s victory in the 1948 election and his refusal of aid to Chiang.
C. The CCP’s subjective strength
The CCP’s basic strength lies in its peasant armed forces. These originated in the successive peasant revolts that exploded in China’s southern provinces after the defeat of the second revolution. While these revolts had no real hope of victory, the armed forces they assembled were able to maintain their existence, develop, and carry on a durable peasant war. This was possible because of the CCP’s deep involvement in organizing and training the peasants, as well as the economic backwardness and other specific geographic conditions (the vastness of the country and the extreme lack of means of communication). Other factors included the utter despair of the peasants and the incompetence of the bourgeois government.
Later, when Chiang Kai-shek obtained enormous quantities of military aid from imperialism, the CCP’s peasant army was forced to flee from South to North China, and even capitulated to Chiang’s government by canceling its agrarian policy and dissolving the “Red Army” and the Soviets.
However, as a result of the outbreak of the war against Japanese imperialism this armed force secured the opportunity for an unusual development. In particular, at the end of the war and right after it, the army made great progress in both numbers and in quality, becoming far stronger than in the Kiangsi period. This army thus grew into a strong military force.
Politically, the CCP always oscillated between adventurism and opportunism: it canceled its agrarian revolution and dissolved the “Red Army” and the Soviets on the eve of the Resistance War; it collaborated servilely with the Kuomintang and supported Chiang Kai-shek’s leadership during the war. But despite all these things, it also carried on a long period of resistance against Chiang’s government. It made certain criticisms of the political, economic, and military measures of the latter during the war, and had put forward a number of demands for democratic reform. It carried out agrarian reform, particularly in some regions of North China. Furthermore it was backed by the prestige of the tradition of the October revolution in the USSR, as well as by the amazing record of the Soviet Union in the recent world war and the powerful position it has held since the war’s end.
On the other hand, the common people had become desperate and deeply resentful under the intolerable oppression and exploitation of Chiang’s utterly despotic, rotten, and inefficient regime. The petty-bourgeois intellectuals and peasant masses in particular, in the absence of a powerful and really revolutionary party to lead them, lodged all their hopes in the CCP. This was the source of the CCP’s political capital. This political capital, plus the peasant armed forces, constituted the party’s subjective strength. But without aid from the Soviet Union, this victory would still not have been assured.
D. The aid from the Soviet Union
Despite the Soviet bureaucracy’s fear of the victory of a genuine revolution of the working class at the head of the peasant masses in China, and despite its foreign policy of seeking a compromise with American imperialism, in order to preserve its own privileges and resist the threat of American imperialism it would not refuse to give the CCP a certain amount of help, within the confines of its attempt to preserve control over the CCP. Therefore, in addition to its support in political agitation, the Soviet Union actually gave the CCP decisive material aid. The Soviet occupation of Manchuria (one of the greatest centers of heavy industry in China, built up during the several decades of Japanese occupation, and the area of the highest rural production), with its population of thirty million, objectively dealt a mortal blow to Chiang’s government.
Despite the fact that the Soviet Union had recognized Chiang’s regime as the official government, and had handed over to it the majority of the cities and mines in Manchuria, the Soviet bureaucracy had destroyed almost all the most important factories and mining machinery. (It also took away a part of them.) Thus industry was brought almost to a complete halt. Meanwhile, through its control over the two ports—Dairen and Port Arthur— it blocked the Chiang government’s main lines of sea communication with Manchuria and barred its trade and commerce, especially its transportation of supplies to the army stationed in Manchuria.
On the other hand, it armed the CCP’s troops with huge amounts of light and heavy weapons taken from the Japanese soldiers. (It is estimated that these weapons could be used to rearm a million soldiers.) This enabled the CCP to occupy the villages, smaller cities, and towns, and to besiege the great cities and mining districts where Chiang’s army was stationed. Thus the cities and mines restored to Chiang Kai-shek did not benefit him, but on the contrary, became an insupportable burden, and finally turned into a trap. To begin with, Chiang had to send a huge army (around a half-million soldiers) with the best equipment, i.e., armed with American weapons, to stand guard. At the same time, the KMT had to provide for the enormous expenditures in the big cities and in the mines. Consequently, this greatly limited and scattered Chiang Kai-shek’s military force and accelerated the financial bankruptcy of his regime.
The weapons taken from the Japanese captives by the Soviet Union served to build up the CCP’s army and produced a decisive effect upon Mao Tse-tung’s military apparatus and strategy. (For example, Lin Piao’s well-known and powerful Fourth Division was armed entirely with these weapons.) We must understand that the CCP’s original peasant army, despite its preponderant size, was not only very backward but also had extremely scanty equipment, especially in heavy weapons. Having obtained this gigantic quantity of light and heavy weapons through the medium of the Soviet Union (in addition to numerous Soviet and Japanese military technicians), part of the originally very backward peasant troops were modernized overnight.
The bravery of the peasants and the military adroitness of the Communist generals, together with these modern weapons, then enabled the Communist army to transform guerrilla warfare into positional warfare. This was fully manifested in the battles where the Communist troops gained complete victory in conquering the great cities and mines in Manchuria during the changing season between autumn and winter of 1948. (These included Changchun, Mukden, Chinchou, and the big mining districts, Tiehling, Fushun, Bencbi, and Anshan.) This victory won for the Communist army an ample economic base. Moreover, in the military field, since the best-equipped of Chiang’s troops (about 80 percent of those with American equipment) were destroyed, that meant that the greatest part of this American equipment was no longer effective.
Since the Communist army had taken possession of modern weapons and technicians, together with the Japanese arms handed over by the Soviet Union, that made it possible for the CCP to transform the former unfavorable relationship of forces toward Chiang’s troops in the sphere of military equipment and technique into an overwhelming superiority. Henceforth the strategic attitude of the Communist army fundamentally changed, shifting over from guerrilla warfare to positional warfare and an offensive toward the big cities. This change was undoubtedly a decisive factor in the victory of the CCP inasmuch as it depended on the peasant army alone to conquer the cities.
From the above facts we can draw a .clear picture as follows: Chiang Kai-shek’s bourgeois-landlord regime collapsed in toto, both on the economic and political planes and in its military organization. Its only supporter, American imperialism, deserted it in the end. The CCP’s peasant army, having won the support of the peasants and the petty bourgeoisie in general, and especially having obtained military aid from the Soviet Union, had become a colossal and more or less modernized army. The combination of all these objective and subjective factors paved the way for this extraordinary victory.
If we give a brief description of the development of this military victory, the truth of these factors as stated above can be made more explicit. Beginning with the “all-out counteroffensive” launched by the Communist army in the autumn of 1948, in the successive battles occurring in the Northeast, except for a violent fight in Chinchou, the other big cities, such as Changchun, Mukden, etc., were occupied without a fight as a result of the capitulation or disintegration of Chiang’s army in their defensive positions. As for the great cities and important military bases north of the Yangtze River, except for an encounter in Chuchao and Paotow, the others, such as Tsinan, Tientsin, Peiping, Kaifeng, Chengshou, Sian, etc., were handed over either because of the rebellion of the army stationed there (Tsinan), or surrender (Peiping), or desertion as in Tientsin, Kaifeng, Chengchou, and Sian. In the Northwest, in the provinces of Kansu and Sinkiang, there was only surrender. In the city of Taiyuan, there was a comparatively longer struggle, but this had no weight at all in the situation as a whole. As for the great cities south of the river, except for token resistance in Shanghai, the others were either given up in advance (Nanking, Hangchow, Hangkow, Nanchang, Fuchow, Kweilin, and Canton), or surrendered upon the arrival of the Communist army (as in the provinces of Hunan, Szechuan, and Yunnan).
Thereupon, after crossing the Yangtze River, Mao Tse-tung’s army marched headlong down to Canton as though through “no man’s land,” while the remnants of Chiang’s troops either surrendered or withdrew and fled. Hence the peculiar situation whereby the “Liberation Army” did not conquer but rather took over the cities. From this concrete military process, one can get a clearer view of the amazing extent of the Chiang Kai-shek regime’s disintegration and the exceptional conditions under which the victory of the CCP’s peasant army unfolded.
Now we can comprehend that it was under the specific conditions of a definite historical stage that the CCP, relying on a peasant army isolated from the urban working class, could win power from the bourgeois-landlord rule of Chiang Kai-shek. This was a combination of various intricate and exceptional conditions emerging from the Second World War. The essential features of this set of circumstances are as follows:
The whole capitalist world—of which China is the weakest link—tended to an unparalleled decline and decay. The internal disintegration of the bourgeois Chiang Kai-shek regime was only the most consummate manifestation of the deterioration of the whole capitalist system. On the other hand, the Soviet bureaucracy, resting on the socialized property relations of the October revolution and exploiting the contradictions among the imperialist powers, was able to achieve an unprecedented expansion of its influence during the Second World War. This expansion greatly attracted the masses, especially of the backward Asian countries, who were deprived of hope under the extreme decline and decomposition of the capitalist system. This facilitated the explosive growth of the Stalinist parties in these countries. The CCP is precisely a perfected model of these Stalinist parties.
Meanwhile, placed in an unfavorable position in the international situation created by the Second World War, American imperialism was obliged to abandon its aid to Chiang and its interference with Mao. At the same time, the Soviet Union, which had secured a superior position in Manchuria at the end of the war, inflicted serious damage to Chiang’s government and offered direct aid to the CCP. This enabled the latter to modernize its backward peasant army. Without this combination of circumstances, the victory of a party like the CCP, which relied purely on peasant forces, would be inconceivable.
For example, if Manchuria had not been occupied by the Soviet Union but had fallen entirely under Chiang’s control, Chiang Kai-shek would have utilized the economic resources and the Japanese arms in Manchuria to cut off direct connection between the CCP and the Soviet Union. This would have blocked the USSR’s armed support to the CCP. Similarly, the situation would have been quite different if direct intervention against the CCP by American imperialism had been possible. Under either of these two circumstances the victory of Mao Tse-tung would have been very doubtful.
To approach this from another direction, we could recall the defeat of the CCP’s peasant army in the Kiangsi period, 1930-35, when the bourgeois KMT’s power was considerably stabilized as a result of continual aid from imperialism, while the CCP was isolated from the Soviet Union. From this we can also derive sufficient reason to justify the conclusion that today’s victory of the CCP is entirely the result of the specific conditions created by the Second World War.
Trotsky and the Chinese Trotskyists insisted that the overturn of the Kuomintang regime could not be achieved by relying solely on the peasant armed forces, but could only be accomplished by the urban working class leading the peasant masses in a series of revolts. Even today, this conception is still entirely valid. It is derived from the fundamental Marxist theory that under the modern capitalist system—including that in the backward countries—it is the urban class that leads the rural masses. This is also the conclusion drawn from numerous experiences, especially that of the October revolution. This is precisely one of the fundamental conceptions of the permanent revolution, which we must firmly hold onto despite the present CCP victory.
Let us take India, for example. There we should insist on the perspective that the Indian working class lead the peasant masses in the overthrow of the bourgeois power dominated by the Congress Party. Only this process can guarantee that this backward country will take the direction of genuine emancipation and development, i.e., the permanent transformation from the democratic revolution to the socialist revolution.
We were unable to foresee the current victory of the CCP for the same reason that Trotsky and we Trotskyists were unable to predict in advance the unusual expansion that Stalinism underwent after the Second World War. In both cases our mistake was not one of principle. Rather, because we concentrated so much on principle, we more or less ignored the specific conditions involved in the unfolding of events and were unable to modify our tactics in time. Of course there is a lesson in this, a lesson we should assimilate and apply to the analysis of future developments in those Asian countries where the Stalinist parties maintain strong influence (such as Vietnam, Burma, etc.). That should help us to formulate a correct strategy in advance.
At the same time, we must understand that the victory gained by a party such as the CCP, which detached itself from the working class and relied entirely on the peasant armed forces, is not only abnormal in itself. It has also laid down many obstacles in the path of the future development of the Chinese revolutionary movement. To understand this is, in my opinion, of great importance in our judgment and estimation of the whole movement led by the CCP as well as in determining our strategy and tactics.
Is the CCP’s seizure of power the result of “mass pressure,” and in opposition to the Kremlin’s objectives?
Some comrades of the International, not being very familiar with the concrete process and specific conditions of the events in China, have particularly stressed the factor of “mass pressure,” or interpreted the victory of the CCP by making an analogy with the Yugoslav events. For example, Comrade Germain says:
Our movement has traditionally conceived the outstripping of Stalinism by the masses as involving profound splits inside the Communist parties. The Yugoslav and Chinese examples have demonstrated that, placed in certain exceptional conditions, entire Communist parties can modify their political line and lead the struggle of the masses up to the conquest of power, while passing beyond the objectives of the Kremlin. Under such conditions, these parties cease being Stalinist parties in the classical sense of the word.
The ideas contained in this passage are obviously as follows: The CCP succeeded in conquering power, like the Yugoslav CP, under pressure from the masses, and in conflict with the objectives of the Kremlin. Unfortunately, this “traditionally conceived” analogy can hardly be justified by the facts of the Chinese events. Let us first of all begin with these facts.
Regarding the relationship between the CCP and the masses—including its relationship to “mass pressure”—I am not going to trace the facts prior to and during the war against Japan. To do so would, however, also fully demonstrate how often the CCP violated the aspirations of the masses and ignored “mass pressure.” I shall start with the period at the end of the war.
The first period immediately after the war, from September 1945 to the end of 1946, marked a considerable revival and growth of the mass movement in China. In this period the working masses in all the great cities, with Shanghai in the forefront, first brought forward their demands for a sliding-scale increase in wages, for the right to organize trade unions, against freezing of wages, etc. They universally and continuously engaged in strikes and demonstrations. This struggle in the main did not pass beyond the economic framework, or reach a nationwide level. But it did at least prove that after the war the workers had raised their heads and were waging a resolute fight to improve their living conditions and general position against the bourgeoisie and its reactionary government. This movement actually won considerable successes. Undoubtedly this was the expression of a new awakening of the Chinese workers’ movement.
Meanwhile, among the peasant masses, under the unbearable weight of compulsory contributions, taxes in kind, conscription, and the threat of starvation, the ferment of resentment was boiling. Some disturbances had already occurred in the regions controlled by Chiang’s government.
The students played a notable role, representing the petty bourgeoisie in general, in large-scale protests, strikes, and demonstrations in the big cities. These took place in Chungking, Kunming, Nanking, Shanghai, Canton, Peiping, etc., under banners and slogans demanding democracy and peace, against the Kuomintang dictatorship, against mobilization for the civil war, and against the persecutions conducted by the KMT agents.
On the other hand, when Chiang’s government returned to the “recovered areas,” it revealed its own extreme corruption and inefficiency in administration and stirred up strong resentment among the people. It already appeared to be tottering. Its power did not extend into North China for a certain period of time, especially Manchuria. (It was not until the beginning of March 1946 that the Soviet Union began gradually to transfer such great cities as Mukden and Changchun and the important mines to Chiang’s government.)
During this same period the CCP’s military strength and its political influence among the masses were growing rapidly. The workers’ struggles, the ferment of resentment and rebellion among the peasants, and widespread demonstrations by the students, accompanied by the corruption and insecurity of Chiang’s regime and the strengthening of the CCP, plainly created a prerevolutionary situation.
If the CCP had then been able to stay in step with the situation, that is, to accept the “pressure of the masses,” it would have raised slogans for the overthrow of the Chiang Kai-shek government (i.e., the slogan for the seizure of power). It would have joined this slogan to other demands for democratic reforms, especially the demand for agrarian revolution. And it would have been able to swiftly transform this prerevolutionary situation, to carry through the insurrection, and thereby arrive at the conquest of power in the most propitious way.
Unfortunately, however, the fundamental political line adopted by the CCP in this period was quite different. Contrary to what it should have done—mobilize the masses in the struggle for power under the slogans of overthrowing Chiang’s government and agrarian reform—it kowtowed to Chiang Kai-shek and pleaded for the establishment of a “coalition government.” (For this purpose Mao flew to Chungking to negotiate directly with Chiang, and even openly expressed his support to the latter in mass meetings.) The CCP tried its best to pull together the politicians of the upper layers of the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie in order to proceed with peace talks under the sponsorship of American imperialism.
As for the workers’ economic struggles, not only did the CCP not offer any positive lead to transform them into political struggles, which was quite possible at that time, but on the contrary, in order to effect a “.united front” with the “national bourgeoisie,” it persuaded the working masses not to go to “extremes” in their conflicts. Moreover, it dealt obsequiously with the leaders of the “yellow trade unions” in order to check the “excessive” demands of the workers.
The CCP’s activities in the countryside were limited solely to organizing the guerrillas, while it avoided by all means broad mass movements which would have encouraged and unified the peasant masses. The great student movement in the cities was handled as a simple instrument for exerting pressure on the Kuomintang government to accept peace talks. It was never linked with the workers’ strikes in a common struggle against Chiang Kai-shek’s rule.
However, in May 1946, in response to the KMT’s continuing military offensive, the CCP announced that it had begun agrarian reform in certain areas under its control. This served to strengthen the CCP’s military position. Even then, this land reform was by no means thoroughgoing. It consisted largely of a compromise with the landlords and rich peasants, preserving all of their “industrial and commercial properties” and allowing them to get the best and most of the land. It was also quite limited in its scope. No land reform was allowed, for example, in the CCP-controlled areas of the provinces of Shantung, Kiangsu, Hopeh, and Honan.
Moreover, in its anxiety to accomplish its reconciliation with Chiang Kai-shek, the CCP dissolved the peasant army in Kwangtung and Shekiang, and removed only a part of it to North China. This caused great dissatisfaction among rank-and-file members within the party itself.
These facts should show that the CCP’s policy not only did not bow to “mass pressure,” but proceeded arbitrarily in direct opposition to the will and demands of the masses.
Chiang Kai-shek, for his part, made full use of the time during the peace conference to transport his army, with the aid of American planes and warships, from the interior to the great cities and the strategic bases in the “recovered areas.” He solidified his position and prepared for armed attack on the CCP. In the meantime, he suppressed all the newly arising mass movements, especially the student movement. At the end of 1946; when all preparations were completed, Chiang’s government openly barred all doors to compromise and peace talks by holding its own “national assembly” and organizing its own “constituent government,” which showed its determination to reject the establishment of any coalition government with the CCP.
Following these steps, the KMT mobilized a great military offensive—such as the seizure of Chang-chia-k’ou [in Hopeh] and some small cities and towns in north Kiangsu. Yet up to this moment the CCP had not given up its efforts at conciliation. Its delegates to the peace conference still lingered in Shanghai and Nanking, trying to reopen peace talks with the KMT through the mediation of the so-called third force—the Democratic League.
Not until later, when Chiang Kai-shek drove away the CCP’s peace delegation (March 1947) and succeeded in occupying Yenan, its capital and stronghold (April 1947), did the CCP begin to realize the hopelessness of this attempt and only then did it muster its forces to engage in a military defense. But even at that time, it still did not dare to raise the slogan of the overthrow of the Kuomintang government. Nor did it offer a program of agrarian reform to mobilize the masses.
Even when Chiang’s government published its “warrant” for Mao Tse-tung’s arrest (June 25, 1947) and promulgated its “mobilization decree for suppressing revolts” (July 4), the CCP responded with several months of hesitation (during which it seemed to be waiting for instructions from Moscow). Finally on October 10, it published its manifesto in the name of the “People’s Liberation Army” that openly called for Chiang Kai-shek’s overthrow and the building of a “New China.” It was also at this time that it once again revived its “agrarian law,” ordering the expropriation of the land of landlords and rich peasants and its redistribution to peasants with no land or whose land was inadequate. (“Industrial and commercial enterprises,” however, remained untouched.)
This was a remarkable change in the CCP’s policy from the whole period since it declared its support to Chiang’s regime and abandoned land reform in 1937. This policy shift marked a fundamental change in the CCP’s relations with Chiang’s government.
Was this change, then, the result of mass pressure? No, obviously not. The mass movement had already been brutally trampled by Chiang’s regime and was actually at a very low ebb. With KMT agents active everywhere, thousands of young students were arrested, tortured, and even assassinated, and worker militants were constantly being arrested or hunted. The indisputable facts indicate that the CCP was compelled to make this change solely because Chiang had burned all bridges leading toward compromise and because it was confronted with the mortal threat of a violent attack designed to annihilate its influence once and for all. So we might rather say that this shift was the result of Chiang’s pressure than of mass pressure.
In order to arm itself for a counteroffensive; the CCP began to make a “left turn” on the political plane. Only then did it begin to make concessions to the demands of the masses, or to bend before “mass pressure.” In particular it gave in to the demands of the peasant masses in areas it controlled, with the aim of regaining and strengthening its military power.
Hence, from November 1947 to the next spring, it initiated a universal struggle to “correct the Right deviation” in areas where land reform was set into motion. In the course of this struggle, the CCP liquidated all the privileges previously granted to the landlords and kulaks, and reexpropriated and distributed the land among the poor peasants. It also deprived the landlords and kulaks of the posts they held in the local administration, the party, and the army. (As a result of the previous compromising policy, a great number of landlords and kulaks had joined the party and its army, and even occupied certain important positions.)
“Poor Peasants’ Committees” were created and given a few democratic rights, to allow them to directly fight the landlords and kulaks. They were even permitted to criticize lower-ranking party cadres, some of whom were removed from their posts and punished. These actions as a whole were quite successful in winning considerable support from the peasant masses and greatly strengthened the CCP’s anti-Chiang military forces. But we should not forget that all these “leftward” policies were taken in reaction to pressure from Chiang.
As regards the CCP’s relations with the Kremlin, I can only offer as illustrations some important historical turns. After the disastrous defeat of the second Chinese revolution, when the Kremlin switched its policy from ultraright opportunism to ultraleft adventurism (the so-called third period in its general international line), the CCP leadership followed at the Kremlin’s heels without hesitation. Closing their eyes to the most grave injuries the party suffered because of this turn, and deaf to the unremitting and sharp criticisms from Trotsky and the Chinese Left Opposition, the leading bodies carried out these adventurist policies and engaged in a desperate struggle to “build up Soviets and the Red Army” in the desolate and isolated villages. This was done without any connection with the urban workers’ movement, and in the general counterrevolutionary climate of bourgeois victory and relative stability.
At the time the “Red Army” in China was driven out of the South and fled to Yenan in the North, the Kremlin, threatened by Hitler’s triumph, turned away from the “third period” and back toward ultraright opportunism. This opened the period of building up the so-called Democratic Front and the Peace Front. Just as before, adjusting itself to this turn of the Kremlin, the CCP likewise unreservedly advocated the People’s Front or the Front of National Defense, and renewed its appeal to the Kuomintang for collaboration.
A case in point was the CCP’s reaction when Chang Hsueh-liang, commander in chief of the Kuomintang expedition at the time, detained Chiang Kai-shek in Sian under “pressure of the masses,” particularly pressure from his own soldiers and lower officers, all of whom were Manchurians who nourished a bitter hatred against Chiang because his “nondefensism” during the Japanese attack on Manchuria had rendered them homeless.7 This incident aroused delight and hope in the whole country, especially among the members of the CCP. As the news spread the whole nation was at a peak of excitement and passion, thinking that this counterrevolutionary butcher was doomed at last and that a new era was dawning.
But to everyone’s astonishment, without resistance the CCP complied with the Kremlin’s directives, calling on and compelling Chang Hsueh-liang to release Chiang Kai-shek, the chief butcher of the second revolution and Mao’s mortal enemy during eight years of civil war. This was the price paid to get from Chiang his agreement for a new collaboration in order to “fight together against Japan”! (And this was on the condition that the CCP cancel the agrarian reform and dissolve the “soviets” and the “Red Army.”)
This amazing servile obedience of the Communist leadership toward the Kremlin not only stirred up discontent among the people in general, but also caused great disappointment and disturbances among its own members and followers. After the war, the CCP’s desperate efforts to submissively follow the policy of compromise and peace with Chiang, in complete disregard of the aspirations of the masses, was the latest fact to show that it was entirely under the direction of the Kremlin. Its policy was completely subordinated to Moscow’s foreign policy, which was aimed at seeking compromise with American imperialism.
Later, the “big turn” in the CCP’s policy, from compromise with Chiang to urging his overthrow, was also in line with the turn in the Kremlin’s foreign policy. Having failed in its attempt to achieve a compromise with American imperialism, Moscow turned to a defensive strategy as a result of the cold war. The timing of the CCP’s “big turn” in October 1947 followed immediately the formation of the Cominform at the Kremlin’s orders in September of that year. This was not merely a coincidence and should suffice to prove that the CCP’s turn, far from violating the Kremlin’s objectives, was completed precisely under Moscow’s direction.
Some comrades of the International have cited certain facts regarding the isolation of the CCP from Moscow during the Resistance War, in order to justify the theory that the latest turn in CCP policy was a result of violating the Kremlin’s objectives. But these “facts” are just the opposite of the real facts. Before the war, the Kremlin’s agents stayed permanently at Yenan (not openly), and there was regular radio communication between Yenan and Moscow. After the war, the Soviet Union sent its ambassador to Chungking, accompanied by its secret agents, so that it could openly and legally establish regular contact with the Chinese Communist delegation and its special agents in Chung-king, to dispatch news and instructions. Therefore we have sufficient reason to say that during the war the relations between the CCP and the Kremlin not only were not cut off, but on the contrary became closer than ever. This fact is clearly revealed in all CCP newspapers and documents of that period, which quickly echoed all of Moscow’s propaganda and strategic positions. As for the postwar period, since the Soviet occupation of Manchuria, and with so many Soviet representatives working in the CCP and the army, the intimacy between Moscow and the CCP has been too evident to need further clarification.
In view of the above-mentioned facts, it is perfectly clear that to place the Chinese and Yugoslav parties on the same plane and to consider the former’s conquest of power as the result of similar “mass pressure” and as overstepping the Kremlin’s objectives is both mechanical and misleading. If we make a comparison of the policies and measures adopted by the YCP and those of the CCP in the course of the events, the distance between them would be even more apparent.
In the course of the anti-imperialist national liberation movement during 1941-45, the YCP already destroyed the bourgeois-landlord regime, step by step, and consummated its proletarian dictatorship in the first period after the war (October 1945), despite its somewhat abnormal character. Simultaneous with or a little later than the creation of the proletarian dictatorship (1945-46), it succeeded in carrying out agrarian reform and the statization of industry and banking, and expropriated private property by law. Meanwhile, on many important problems, the YCP had already formulated its own views, which were different from and independent of the Kremlin. It pursued its course according to its own experiences, that is, it submitted empirically to mass pressure against the Kremlin’s objectives.
But the CCP not only closely followed the Kremlin’s foreign policy during the national liberation movement against Japanese imperialism, and devoted itself to seeking a compromise with the bourgeois-landlord regime regardless of mass pressure; but even after it conquered full power, it persisted in forming a “coalition government” with the national bourgeoisie and guaranteed them protection of their properties. It even tried to postpone carrying out the land reform to the latest possible date. Here we must note that the differences in attitude expressed by the YCP and the CCP in the course of the events are not quantitative, but qualitative. To assume therefore that the CCP has completed the same process of development as the YCP and ceased to be a Stalinist party in the classical sense of the word is to go entirely beyond the facts.
But what explanation should be given for these differences? First, since the CCP withdrew from the cities to the countryside in 1928, it established a quite solid apparatus and army (the peasant army). For these twenty years it used this army and power to rule over the peasant masses—as we know, the backward and scattered peasants are the easiest to control—and hence a stubborn and self-willed bureaucracy took shape, especially in its manner of treating the masses. Even toward the workers and students in the KMT areas, it employed either ultimatistic or deceitful methods instead of persuasion.
Second, in ideology the CCP has further fortified and deepened the theory of Stalinism through its treatment of a series of important events: the defeat of the second revolution, the peasant wars, and the Resistance War against Japan, etc. This was especially true in its rejection of the criticism of its concepts and policies by Trotsky and the Chinese Trotskyists. (I should call the comrades’ attention to the fact that Trotsky’s critique of Stalinism was more extensive on the Chinese question than for any other country except the Soviet Union.)
Mao Tse-tung’s “systematic” and dogmatic “New Democracy” is nothing but an ideologically and politically deepened and crystallized expression of Stalinism; i.e., it is the expression of obstinately holding onto the “revolution by stages” in direct challenge to the permanent revolution.
Third, over these two decades the CCP has received special attention from the Kremlin, and it follows that its relations with the latter are particularly intimate. After the Soviet Union occupied Manchuria and rearmed the CCP with weapons taken from the Japanese captives, the Kremlin’s control over the CCP became more rigorous than ever.
Because of these three characteristics, the CCP has neither been able to yield to mass pressure and modify its own political line, nor has it been easy for this party to overstep the Kremlin’s objectives and go its own way. The YCP on the other hand has traversed an entirely different course. This party was almost created out of the national anti-imperialist mass movement, and in a comparatively short span of time. It was not able to form a bureaucracy and Stalinist ideology as tenacious as that of the CCP. Since it was actually quite isolated from the Kremlin during its resistance war, it was more disposed to empirically bend to mass pressure. It gradually modified its own political line in accord with the development of events until it finally went against the Kremlin’s objectives. Therefore, we must say that the conquest of power in these two cases has only an apparent resemblance. In respect to the motivating causes (in terms of “pressure”), the manner adopted in taking power, and in the content of the power, the differences are quite great.
From this judgment and explanation, should we deduce a further inference, that the CCP will at all times and under any conditions resist mass pressure and never come into conflict with the Kremlin? No. What we have demonstrated above is that the most important turns the CCP underwent in the past were entirely the result of pressure from the Kremlin, and in violation of the will of the masses. Even the present “turn” toward the seizure of power was not a product of its yielding to mass pressure and going against the Kremlin’s objectives, but, on the contrary, resulted from the mortal pressure of Chiang Kai-shek, and was taken in complete agreement with the Kremlin. However, .in ordinary circumstances, in order to maintain its own existence and continue its development, the CCP is obliged to seek support from certain layers of the masses and to establish a base among them. Accordingly, it would more or less concede to demands of the masses within certain limits and within the possibilities permitted by its own control; i.e., bend to mass pressure.
In the past, the CCP’s policy passed through not a few “leftward” oscillations, such as the limited agrarian reform policy offered in May 1947, the “liquidation of the Right deviation in the land reform” in the period from the end of 1947 to the spring of 1948, and some comparatively leftward measures taken after its conquest of power. These are the solid facts of its yielding to mass pressure. It is possible that this kind of leftward turn will appear more often and to a greater extent in the future. Also, for the same reasons we can believe that in the past certain differences or conflicts must have occurred between the CCP and the Kremlin. But these conflicts have not yet burst to the surface. For example, the dispute between Mao and Li discussed above may be a significant reflection of this existing conflict, which is not only unavoidable in the period ahead but will be further intensified. So I must say that the error made by Comrade Germain, taken up earlier, is not one of principle, but of fact.
Yet I must also point out that the mistake made on such an important question may not only give rise to a series of other mistakes—such as underestimation of the bureaucratism of the CCP, its Stalinist ideology and methods, and overoptimism on perspectives concerning the CCP, etc.—but may also lead to errors in principle. For example, some comrades in our International have already asserted that the CCP regime is a “proletarian dictatorship,” because they consider that events in China are in the same category as the Yugoslav events, and because the YCP regime has already become a proletarian dictatorship. Proceeding by abstract deduction according to formal logic, the CCP regime is doubtlessly also a “proletarian dictatorship.” (There will be further discussion of this question later in this report.)
Because this way of transposing facts to suit certain formulas carries with it the danger of committing mistakes in principle, we should be very cautious in applying “principles,” and especially formulas deduced from principles. We cannot group events which are similar only in appearance under the same principle or the same formula, or force events into accommodation with a given principle or formula.
First of all, we must examine and analyze the concrete facts of the events themselves, particularly taking account of whatever exceptional circumstances have played a decisive role in the events, and judge whether this event conforms to a certain principle or formula, whether it actually is the true expression of this principle or formula. As Lenin said, the facts are forever alive, while formulas often tend to become rigid.
Our movement has assumed and stressed that it is possible for the masses to pass beyond the boundaries of Stalinism, and that hidden, profound contradictions exist between various Communist parties and the Kremlin. Under certain specific conditions an entire Communist party may modify its political line, go beyond the Kremlin’s objectives, and lead the masses to the seizure of power. This principle and this formula is correct in its basic theoretical premise, and has already been justified by the Yugoslav events (or to be more exact, it is rather derived from them). But here we must particularly note one thing, and that is precisely the “certain specific conditions.” Although under certain specific conditions a Communist party could be pushed by mass pressure to seize power in violation of the Kremlin’s aims (as in the case of the, YCP), under certain other specific conditions a Communist party could come to power not necessarily through mass pressure, meanwhile receiving instructions from the Kremlin (or at least not violating its objectives). This is exactly what has happened in China.
We believe that similar events may possibly be repeated in other Asian countries (Vietnam, Burma, etc.). What the Kremlin fears is the victory of a genuine revolutionary movement of the workers, especially in the advanced countries, simply because it will not be able to control this victorious revolution, which will in turn threaten its very existence. If it does not face this kind of threat, and if its action will not involve immediate direct intervention by imperialism, the Kremlin would not give up an opportunity to extend its sphere of influence and would naturally permit a Communist party under its control to take power. This is the lesson that can be drawn from the Chinese events and that we must accept. While this still falls under the heading of the conquest of power by a Communist party, we should at least see it as something supplementary to the lesson of the Yugoslav events. Only in this manner can we avoid falling into the mistake of transforming a principle into a rigid formula, of imposing this formula on every apparently similar event, and thereby producing a series of erroneous conclusions.
We Marxists react toward events by analyzing the concrete facts of their development with our methods and principles, testing and enriching our principles through this analysis, or if necessary, modifying our principles and formulas, for the truth is always concrete.
Is the CCP’s victory the beginning of the third Chinese revolution?
The resolution on the Chinese question of the Seventh Plenum of the International Executive Committee stated, “The victory of Mao Tse-tung over Chiang Kai-shek is the beginning of the third Chinese revolution.” When this resolution first arrived in China (autumn 1949), the leading body of our party—the Political Bureau—agreed with it in general. But because of the Political Bureau’s urgent need to move, it was not able to discuss the resolution in detail and express its opinions in written form. Then doubts arose among some comrades regarding the International’s resolution, and the most acute controversy of recent years began.
Some of the responsible comrades are in complete agreement with the views of the International (comrades Chiao and Ma, who formerly expressed their disagreement are now becoming the major supporters of the International’s position), while other responsible comrades are in strong opposition. We have selected four of the most representative articles in this controversy and translated them into English for reference. So in this report it is not necessary to recount in detail the points of divergence in their discussion. I am simply going to give my personal criticism and explanation of the essential arguments, particularly those of the comrades with oppositional views.
On the question of the revolutionary situation
The major argument of the comrades in opposition is that the CCP’s ascent to power is not based on the revolutionary actions^ of the masses, especially the workers (i.e., from general strikes to armed insurrection), but has relied entirely on the peasant armed forces and purely military actions. On the basis of our traditional conception of revolution and the experiences of revolutions in modern times—especially the Russian October revolution—they conceive of the revolution only in the sense that huge masses, especially the working class, are mobilized from bottom to top, go beyond the domain of the general democratic struggle to armed rebellion, directly destroy the state apparatus of the ruling class, and proceed to build up a new regime. That we can call the beginning of the victory of a real revolution.
Now, this movement under the CCP’s leadership not only did not at all mobilize the working masses, but even refrained from appealing to the peasant masses to organize, to rise for action, and engage in a revolutionary struggle (ousting the landlords, distributing the land, etc.). As the facts stand, the CCP relied solely on the military action of the peasant army instead of the revolutionary action of the worker and peasant masses. From this, these comrades asserted that this victory is only the victory of a peasant war, and not the beginning of the third Chinese revolution.
We must admit that the traditional conception of revolution held by these comrades is completely correct, and the facts they enumerate are irrefutable. But they have forgotten a small matter. That is, that the epoch in which we live is not that of the victory of the October revolution, the time of Lenin and Trotsky. It is the epoch in which the heritage of the October revolution— the Soviet socialist workers’ state—has been usurped by the bureaucracy of Stalin and has reached the point of extreme degeneration. These are the main features of this epoch:
On the one hand, the capitalist world, having experienced two world wars, is in utter decay, while the objective revolutionary conditions have gone from ripe to overripe. On the other hand, the Stalin bureaucracy, by dint of the prestige inherited from the October revolution and the material resources of the Soviet Union, has done everything it can to retain its grip on the Communist parties of the world, and through them it attempts to subordinate the revolutionary movements of different countries to its own diplomatic interests. These exceptional circumstances have not led universally to the frustration and defeat of revolutionary movements in various countries; in some countries the revolutionary movements have only been deformed. The victory of the movement led by the CCP is a prominent example of this deformation of its revolution.
As we have said, viewed from the aspect of the CCP’s attempt to avoid the mobilization of the masses, particularly the worker masses, and its conquering of power on the basis of peasant armed forces, this event is indeed far from conforming to a classic or normal revolution. But considered from the standpoint of its overthrow of the bourgeois-landlord regime of Chiang Kai-shek, its widespread practice of land reform, and its political resistance against imperialism and its struggle for national independence, it is undeniably not only “progressive,” but revolutionary. Further, it marks a great dividing line in modern Chinese history. The destruction of the bloody twenty-year rule of Chiang Kai-shek and the blow dealt to the imperialist powers who have trodden on the Chinese people for centuries are quite sufficient to prove that this event can stack up with the first Chinese revolution (1911). Inasmuch as a sizable general land reform has been carried out (no matter how incomplete), the feudal remnants that have persisted for thousands of years are for the first time being shoveled away on a wide scale. And since this work is still being carried on, should we still insist that it is not an epoch-making revolutionary movement?
The comrades in opposition contend that they have completely acknowledged the progressive aspects of this movement, but nevertheless, they are by no means identical with the initial triumph of a real revolution, or the beginning of the third revolution, since they have been achieved by military and bureaucratic means.
Though we admit this fact, our conclusion cannot simply be a condemnation of the process and its outcome as “not revolutionary.” The only correct view is to say that this is not a typical or normal revolution, but a distorted, damaged, and hence a deformed revolutionary movement. In order to obtain a more precise understanding of this question of deformed revolution, let us recall the discussions on the nature of the states in the buffer countries of Eastern Europe.
In these buffer countries, with the exception of Yugoslavia, the dispossession of the bourgeoisie from power, the land reform procedures, and the nationalizations of industry, banks, and means of transport and exchange were either not at all or only to a small degree carried out through the revolutionary action of the worker and peasant masses. The statized properties and enterprises of the new regime have never been placed under the supervision and control of the masses, but are, under occupation by the Soviet army, operated and monopolized by the Communist bureaucrats of the Kremlin order. Concentrating on this fact, various minorities among the sections of the International— which are in fact elements already outside of or on the way to quitting our movement if they insist on their views—dogmatize about the nature of these states as “state capitalist” or “bureaucratic collectivist.”
However, the International Secretariat of our International, using the traditional method employed by Trotsky in studying and characterizing the nature of the Soviet state under the rule of the Stalin bureaucracy as a degenerated workers’ state, has held that these buffer states have already become deformed workers’ states assimilated into the Soviet Union. As the property relations in these countries have been fundamentally changed, i.e., statized, and since this statization is an indispensable material premise for the transformation from capitalism to socialism, on the basis of this fundamental change in property relations we can then assert the change in the nature of the state.
But while maintaining this assertion, the International has not overlooked the detestable way the bureaucrats of the Soviet Union and the Communist parties of these countries are monopolizing all economic and administrative power and the way the police and the GPU are strangling the freedom and initiative of the masses. It is precisely in view of these facts that our International calls these states deformed or abnormal workers’ states. This is the only correct way to dialectically comprehend the events, the only way to “call things by their right names.” If our oppositional Chinese comrades would adopt the method used by the International in deciding the character of the state in the buffer countries—the traditional method of Trotskyism—to evaluate the victory of the CCP, it would be very plain that no matter how the CCP succeeded in seizing power, even though it was by purely military or bureaucratic means, the things it has accomplished are revolutionary. The overthrow of Chiang’s regime, the land reform, and the relative political independence now won are goals that have to be achieved in the permanent process going from the democratic revolution to the socialist revolution.
But the CCP has not mobilized the worker masses. It has not pushed the revolution forward through the agency of the working class leading the peasant masses. In other words, because it substituted the military-bureaucratic methods of Stalinism for the Bolshevik revolutionary methods of mobilizing the masses, this revolution has been gravely distorted and injured, and its features are misshapen to such an extent that they are hardly recognizable. However, we Marxists judge all things and events not by their appearance, but by the essence concealed under the appearance. Therefore, no matter how ugly and abhorrent the appearance of the Soviet Union is under the rule of Stalin’s bureaucracy, since it preserves the nationalized property created by the October revolution we still recognize it as a workers’ state—a degenerated workers’ state. And although from their very birth the buffer states in Eastern Europe were already seriously disfigured by Stalin’s bureaucratism, and have revealed such monstrous deformity, we must nevertheless call them workers’ states, although deformed workers’ states.
In the same way, no matter how the movement led by the CCP is distorted and damaged by its bureaucratic methods, because it has overthrown Chiang’s regime, has secured considerable independence, and carried out a certain degree of land reform, we must recognize it as a revolution, although an abnormal revolution.
We must understand that our epoch is a transitional one, lying between capitalism and socialism, the most consequential and complex epoch in the history of humanity. Hence, many of the events and movements, under the influence of diverse factors, develop out of accord with the normal procedures of our logical thinking that are derived from historical experience or principles. Moreover, the extraordinary expansion and interference of Stalinism following the degeneration of the first workers’ state— which in the last analysis is also one of the products of this complex and convulsive epoch—has further pulled these events and movements out of their normal orbit and served to distort them. In this epoch, anyone who demands that all events and movements conform to one’s own ideal or norm, and who would only recognize and participate in those that are considered normal and that conform to one’s ideals, is a perfect Utopian, who either hurls meaningless curses—or “criticisms”—at events and movements, or wages a desperate fight against history. These people have nothing in common with Marxists.
We Trotskyists must bear the responsibility for the coming revolution. We should not only maintain “our own ideal” and understand the “normal development of the movement,” but should particularly understand the abnormal events and imperfect movements produced under exceptional conditions. In other words, we must recognize the situation already coming into existence, acknowledge its reality even though it may be inconsistent with our “norm” or unpleasant. And we must carry on an untiring fight in face of this situation to alter it in the course of the struggle and turn it toward our goal.
The entire Chinese mainland has now fallen into the CCP’s hands. The whole movement has been placed under its .control or leadership. This is an absolute reality, although distorted and contrary to our ideals. But unless we accept the reality of this movement, penetrate it, and actively join in all mass struggles, all our criticisms will be futile as well as harmful. We must seek to influence the masses with our Trotskyist revolutionary program, try patiently to convince and to win the confidence of the masses in the course of the struggle, help them step by step to disentangle themselves, through their own experiences, from the illusions and control of Mao Tse-tung’s opportunism and bureaucratism, and eventually change the orientation of this movement. This task is, of course, extremely difficult and it will not necessarily proceed in tune with our efforts. But at least by participating in this movement we can lay down a basis for future work. Then, when we are faced with a more favorable situation, we shall be able to intervene and even to lead the movement.
If we refuse to recognize the CCP’s victory as the beginning of a deformed revolution, if we do not participate in the movement positively in order to rescue it from deformation, or if we only express some passive criticisms of the CCP, we shall surely fall into the bog of sectarianism—as our Chinese minority has done. We would then quit the movement and the masses and finally, inevitably withdraw from all practical political struggles and be swept away by the historical current.
I must also point out that our oppositional comrades have committed another mechanical error by maintaining that the CCP-led movement was purely a peasant war and for that reason denying the significance of its mass character. The CCP’s peasant army is itself a mass movement—the peasant in uniform—embracing the most active sectors of the rural toilers. But even more, behind it stands the great mass of the peasantry.
Historical experience has shown us that once the peasant movement erupts, it is often involved in armed struggle. In the second Chinese revolution, when the peasant masses in Kwangtung and Hunan were organized into peasants’ associations, their armed forces appeared almost immediately, since it was quite impossible for them to fight the landlords and the country gentry without a substantial force. This has become almost a law of the peasant movement. We must also note that the present army differs greatly from any former peasant army. It has been systematically organized and trained by the Stalinist party, . which is more or less equipped with modern knowledge and techniques. It has been endowed with a nationwide and up-to-date program of democratic reform as the general direction of the struggle, no matter how opportunist this program has been. It is for this reason that we cannot call this movement simply a peasant war but an abnormal revolutionary movement, and only this designation is true to the facts and to dialectic logic.
On the other hand, the Chinese comrades who support the International’s resolution have gone to the opposite extreme in their attempt to demonstrate that the CCP’s victory is the beginning of the third Chinese revolution, that the movement led by the CCP is a mass movement, and that the change in its policy is the result of mass pressure. They exaggerate or even misinterpret the facts. This is just as harmful. For example, Comrade Chiao and Comrade Ma arrive at the conclusion that the CCP’s change in policy was the result of mass pressure and represented a mass movement by means of misdating the “beginning of the third Chinese revolution” from October 1947, when the CCP formally called for the overthrow of Chiang’s regime. This is not only mechanical, but is entirely contradictory to the actual facts, as I have indicated above. Moreover, Comrade Ma says:
From the point of view of the number of masses mobilized, the present revolution is even more normal than the second revolution, because the masses organized in the latter numbered only about ten millions, while even before the “Liberation Army” crossed the Yangtze River, there were already more than one hundred million farmers rising to distribute the land.
This kind of exposition is exaggerated and also fundamentally wrong in its conception of the mass movement. Comrade Chung Yuan has refuted and criticized it fully in his article “The Problem of the So-called ’Revolutionary Situation.’” I think that his refutation is correct and consistent with the historical facts. Here I would like to emphasize one point. In the second Chinese revolution, the majority of the working class was organized in such groups as the Canton-Hong Kong Strike Committee and the Shanghai General Labor Union (which were then functioning practically as Soviets). The workers were mobilized, and occupied the leading position in the nationwide movement, launching a number of general strikes and giant demonstrations. In addition, the working class engaged in several victorious armed revolts, such as the case of the worker masses in Hangkow and Chiuchiang, who seized the British settlements, and in Shanghai where they occupied the entire city with the exception of the foreign concessions.
But in this movement of the CCP, from its beginning to the conquest of power, there has neither been the rising of the working masses in any city to the point of general strikes or insurrections, nor even a small-scale strike or demonstration. Most of the workers were passive and inert, or at most showed a certain hopeful, attitude toward this movement. This is an indisputable fact. How can we compare this present movement with the revolutionary movement of the second Chinese revolution? The International’s resolution has clearly asserted: “The victory of Mao Tse-tung over Chiang Kai-shek is the military victory of a peasant revolt over a thoroughly collapsed regime.” That is to say, this victory of the CCP is not the political victory of a real revolutionary movement of the worker and peasant masses over the bourgeois power. So this only helps to prove that Comrade Ma, who ardently supports the International’s resolution, has gone too far, has idealized the Communist-led movement. This idealization of events will not only foster illusions but will objectively lead to wrong judgments. Both will be dangerous, because illusions are always the origin of disappointment or discouragement, while wrong judgments will inevitably become the root of erroneous policies.
We should never overlook the extremely serious dangers implicit in the deformation of the third Chinese revolution fostered by the CCP: the tenacious opportunism, the imperious bureaucracy, the severe control over the masses, the hostility toward revolutionary ideas, and the brutal persecution of the revolutionary elements, especially the Trotskyists. (Our organization has been disrupted in many places on/the mainland; many comrades have been arrested, imprisoned, forced to “repent,” and a few of our most responsible comrades have already been executed.)
All these dangerous factors combined preclude any overoptimism in regard to the development and perspective of the third Chinese revolution that is now underway. They will make it extremely difficult for Trotskyists to work in this movement.
Despite all these circumstances we should never adopt a sectarian or pessimistic attitude, nor give up our efforts and our revolutionary responsibility to try to push this movement forward or transform it.
At the same time we must also reject all naive ultraoptimism, which always tends to disregard the difficulties in the movement and the hardships in our work. At the beginning, ultraoptimists might throw themselves into the movement with great zeal. But when they encounter the severe difficulties in the course of their work, they will become disheartened and shrink back. However, with the entire perspective of our movement in sight, we Trotskyists always hold firm to our unbending faith and revolutionary optimism. In other words, we profoundly believe that the victory of the proletarian revolution in the whole world and the reconstruction of human society can be accomplished only under the banner and the program of Trotskyism, the most enriched and deepened Marxism-Leninism of modern times. Yet we should not overlook the formidable roadblocks on the way from the present period to the eventual victory, particularly the obstacles laid down by Stalinism.
We must first of all bring to light these obstacles, then overcome them with the most precise program, correct methods, and utmost patience and perseverance.
The sectarians find their excuses in the fact that the movement does not conform to their preconceived norms and they attempt to flee from it in advance. The naive optimists idealize the movement. But as soon as they discover that the movement does not follow the track of their idealization, they leave it. Revolutionary optimists have nothing in common with these two sorts of people. Since we have the strongest faith in the victory of the revolution, since we understand the enormous difficulties lying on the road to this victory, we cut our path through the thorniest thickets only with revolutionary methods and absolute persistence to reach the ultimate goal.
Confronted with Mao’s victory, serious controversies have been raised in the Chinese organization through the discussion of the party’s past policy. These controversies have produced certain unhealthy effects on the party. Though it is not possible for me to dwell in detail on a description and criticism of these controversial opinions, I should express my fundamental attitude toward this discussion (especially since many Chinese comrades have asked me to do so).
It is altogether reasonable that a political organization, on the morrow of a great event, should examine and discuss its past policy carefully in order to readjust its political line. Therefore I do not agree with some comrades who object to this discussion. But I should also insist that we must proceed with the discussion in a fully responsible way, both for the revolutionary tasks and for our party, and in a circumspect, exact, and precise manner. It is absolutely wrong to criticize at will the party’s past policy with giddy and bombastic gestures which create confusion and centrifugal tendencies in the party. The experience of history has already taught us that a political party is most susceptible to centrifugal tendencies under the pressure of a great event, especially in face of growing difficulties in its conditions of work.
If at this moment criticism of the party’s past policy assumes an indiscreet, exaggerated, or unjust attitude, it will be most apt to cause the rank and file of the party to falter in their convictions, encourage the development of centrifugal tendencies, and finally lead to a terrible split.
Unfortunately, some of our comrades are not prudent enough in their criticisms of the policy we adopted in the past period. The article written by Comrade Chiao, “Thesis on the Ideological Rearmament,” is a notable example. Though this article is aimed at correcting the “sectarian tendency,” its criticism of the party’s past policy is not only exaggerated but misleading. In his view, or at least according to his way of writing, it seems that the party’s whole past political line was fundamentally wrong and therefore, following the example of Lenin in posing the April Theses, “the party must be ideologically rearmed.”
However, as a result, this attitude only stimulated strong protests and criticisms from another group of comrades. These criticisms found their first expression in “Rearmament or Revisionism?” written by Comrade Ming.
In reality, our party has maintained and struggled over long years for the traditional line of Trotskyism, the line of the permanent revolution. The great events—the Sino-Japanese War and China’s involvement in the Second World War, as well as the party’s internal struggles during the critical periods of these two events, first the struggle against Ch’en Tu-hsiu’s right opportunism and then the fight against the ultraleft sectarianism of the minority group led by Cheng Chao-lin—have justified the political line we upheld in the past.
During the civil war between the Kuomintang and the CCP, our basic line and our position toward the CCP have also been correct and coincide with the fundamental attitude of the International’s resolution on the Chinese civil war.
After the CCP set out toward the seizure of power, the program put forward by our party—contained in “An Open Letter to the Members of the CCP” adopted by the plenum of the Central Executive Committee of our party—corresponded almost entirely to the program adopted by the Seventh Plenum of the International. Comrade Chiao’s appeal for an “ideological rearmament of our party” is tantamount to saying that the party in the past, or at least in the course of the CCP’s conquest of power, “deserted Trotskyist ideology” and needs to be “rearmed” by returning to Trotskyist ideas. This presentation is not only exaggerated and a distortion of the facts, but it is actually an insult to the party. Therefore it naturally has stirred up vehement indignation, outrage, and protests, and even, to a certain extent, confusion and vacillations among the comrades. It was with the premonition of such consequences that I forewarned our comrades not to be too hasty in making a 180-degree turn.
Nevertheless, I do not mean to say that our party has never made any mistakes in the past, especially in the recent events of the CCP’s conquest of power. I have already pointed out that our party did not envisage the victorious conquest of power by the CCP. From this major error in estimating the whole event flows a series of mistakes on the evaluation of events in the course of their development, and certain tactical errors in our propaganda to the outside world. These errors in estimation have affected our attitude to the entire event, which more or less tended to passive criticism and an underestimation of its objective revolutionary significance. This is what we seriously admit and must correct. But, as I have said above, these are mistakes in estimating the events rather than mistakes of principles, and therefore can be easily redressed.
As we know, the best Marxists—Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, etc.—were able to maintain correctness in principle and in method, but could not guarantee accuracy in every estimate of the development of events. Marxism is the most effective scientific method of predicting social phenomena. But it has not yet reached such exactness as meteorology in foretelling the weather or astronomy in astral phenomena, since social phenomena are far more complicated than those of nature. So Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Trotsky also made mistakes in their evaluation of events. Examples of this sort include the estimation made by Marx and Engels on the development of the situation after the failure of the 1848 revolution; Lenin and Trotsky’s optimistic anticipation of revolutionary possibilities in Europe after the October revolution; and Trotsky’s appraisal of the prospects for Stalinism during the Second World War. What distinguished them was not infallibility in estimating any and all events, but their constant, cautious, and exact observation of the objective process of events. And once they realized that the development of events did not conform to their original estimates or that their estimates were wrong, they immediately readjusted or reestimated them. This is the attitude of a real Marxist, and is the example we should try to follow.
The class nature of the CCP and the new regime
Though there has not been much discussion among the Chinese comrades on this question, some opinions exist among the comrades of the International that tend to deviate from the Marxist line. I therefore consider it necessary to raise this question for serious discussion and to make a definite appraisal that can serve as the premise in determining our position in relation to the CCP and its new regime.
About the nature of the CCP, virtually all the Chinese comrades have declared it to be a petty-bourgeois party based on the peasantry. This has been a traditional conception of the Chinese Trotskyists for the past twenty years, and is one defined by Trotsky himself.
Beginning with 1930, Trotsky repeatedly pointed out that the CCP had gradually degenerated from a workers’ party into a peasant party. Once in a letter to the Chinese comrades he even said that the CCP was following the same path as the Social Revolutionary Party in Russia. The main reason for this judgment was as follows: After the defeat of the second revolution, the CCP gave up the urban workers’ movement, left the urban proletariat, and turned entirely toward the countryside. It threw its whole strength into village guerrilla fighting and therefore absorbed into the party a great number of peasants. As a result, the party’s composition became purely peasant. Despite the participation of some worker elements who retreated from the cities, the tiny number of these workers was not enough to determine the party’s composition. Furthermore during the prolonged period of living in the countryside they also assimilated the peasant outlook into their ideology, little by little.
As we know, Trotsky’s assessment of the nature of the CCP was never revised up to his death. The composition of the CCP and its nature as described in the last part of Isaacs’s The Tragedy of the Chinese Revolution clearly reflected this conception because his book was read and corrected by Trotsky himself before publication.
Has there been any alteration in the CCP’s composition in the direction of the working class since Trotsky’s death? Not only has there been no fundamental change, but the petty-bourgeois composition represented by peasants and intellectuals has, on the contrary, been strengthened. The unprecedented growth of the CCP during and after the Resistance War was almost completely due to an influx of peasants and petty-bourgeois intellectuals. Before its conquest of power, the party claimed about 3.5 million members. Of this total number, the worker element was very weak and at most was not more than 5 percent (including manual laborers). We can therefore confirm that up to the time it came to power the CCP still remained petty bourgeois in composition.
Despite all this, some of our International comrades consider that the CCP has already become a workers’ party. Comrade Germain, for example, is of this opinion. When we referred to Trotsky’s characterization of the CCP as a petty-bourgeois peasant party, he replied: “I know, I admit that was true before. But since the CCP seized power and came into the cities, it has become transformed into a workers’ party.”
This assertion is based on the argument that the nature of a party is not determined simply by the criterion of composition, but also by the role it plays. From the fact that the CCP has overthrown the Kuomintang bourgeois system and set up its own power, it is quite evident that the nature of the party has changed. Unfortunately, this kind of reasoning leads to only a superficial resemblance to the truth, because the CCP overthrew the Chiang Kai-shek regime not through the revolutionary action of the working class leading the peasant masses, but by relying exclusively on the peasant armed forces. Therefore the newly established regime still remains bourgeois. (We will return to the characterization of this regime.) So how can this fact be used as a criterion to judge the change in the nature of the party? On the contrary, we could say that the very fact that the CCP did not mobilize the working masses and depended solely on the peasant armed forces to conquer power reveals the petty-bourgeois nature of this party.
Has the nature of the party changed, then, after it came into the cities? The answer must again be in the negative. A political party can never change its composition in twenty-four hours, especially in the case of the CCP, which has an unusually large peasant base. We can be assured that up to now the CCP is still a party in which peasant members are predominant, and hence is still largely petty bourgeois in nature. But .this does not mean that the peasant character of the party is now fixed and invariable. In fact, since this party has seized power and occupied the great cities, in its eagerness to seek support among the working class it has empirically stressed recruiting its members from the workers. At the same time, it has temporarily ceased to recruit peasants into the party. Following this bent, it is possible in the future for the CCP to gradually change its composition from a petty-bourgeois peasant party into a more or less workers’ party. However, this is a future possibility and cannot replace the reality for today.
The resolution of the Seventh Plenum of the IS has pointed out: “Socially, the Chinese Communist Party is … a bi-partite party which even to this day has only an insignificant base in the urban proletariat.”
This is really a very cautious characterization of the nature of the party. If this appraisal is considered as a summary formula for this transitional period in which the CCP is attempting to transform itself from a peasant party into a workers’ party (purely from the viewpoint of social composition), it is quite acceptable. But we must not forget the serious lesson disclosed in Trotsky’s criticism of the “worker-peasant party”: Any attempt to organize a worker-peasant party under the conditions of present-day society (including in the backward countries) is reactionary, petty-bourgeois, and extremely dangerous to the proletarian revolution. Because in a “worker-peasant party” it is not the proletarian elements who assimilate the peasant but quite the reverse, the peasant members overwhelm the former. Therefore, from the revolutionary point of view, it is never possible for two classes to establish an equal weight in a common party. Accordingly, a so-called two-class “worker-peasant party” is always a reactionary tool of petty-bourgeois politicians to deceive the working class.
In the documents on China, the International has not yet specifically clarified the class nature of the new regime (the so-called People’s Democratic Dictatorship). Despite some differences in interpretation among the Chinese comrades, the general opinion is that this regime rests on a petty-bourgeois social foundation with the peasantry as its main element, and is a Bonapartist military dictatorship. (The Chinese minority is an exception, since it has already asserted that the CCP regime represents “state capitalism” or “bureaucratic collectivism.”)
In the last analysis, therefore, in view of its fundamental stand on property relations, it is a bourgeois regime. Here, however, some of our comrades hold a completely opposite view. I was told by one comrade that the CCP regime is a proletarian dictatorship. Though he did not offer any reasons, I surmise that he very likely deduced this conclusion from the formula given for the YCP regime in Yugoslavia. We can find another view in the formal document which regards the CCP regime as one characterized by “dual power.”
Since such diverse ideas prevail among our International comrades, especially among leading comrades, it is necessary, in my opinion, to undertake a thorough clarification. First of all, let us start with the notion of “proletarian dictatorship.”
To determine the nature of any regime, we Marxists must check on two essential conditions: the class relations and the property relations, the latter being more decisive. We call the regime established by the Bolsheviks after the October revolution in Russia a proletarian dictatorship because power was completely in the hands of the proletariat supported by the peasant masses even though there was not yet a fundamental change in the property relations at that time. The change in the class relations sufficed for us to call it a proletarian dictatorship. We can also call the YCP regime after 1947 a proletarian dictatorship mainly because the property relationships have been basically altered, i.e., from private ownership to statization of property. Despite the fact that the YCP’s power is not entirely controlled by the proletariat, and is still marked by certain bureaucratic deformations, the fundamental change in property ownership suffices to qualify this regime as a deformed proletarian dictatorship.
But what is the real situation with the regime established by the CCP? In class relations, this regime claims to be a coalition government of four classes (workers, peasants, the petty bourgeoisie, and the national bourgeoisie). It is therefore very clear that this regime is not controlled or “dictated” by the proletariat. In fact, the social basis of this regime is constituted by the petty bourgeoisie, of which the peasants form the major part. Though the bourgeoisie does not have a decisive role in the government, yet in comparison with the proletariat it is still prominent (at least in appearance). In property relations, this regime not only has not abolished the private-property system, but on the contrary has deliberately enacted laws and constitutions to protect private ownership; to develop the economy of so-called New Democracy, i.e., a nonsocialist economy. It must, therefore, be asked: on what ground can we characterize this regime as a “proletarian dictatorship”? The argument brought forth by Comrade Germain on the “dual character” of this new regime is in the following passage: “Whether it wished to or not, the government found itself compelled to institute a genuine dual power in Southern China. On the provincial and district level, the majority of the old cadres remain in place; on the local level, their class enemies, the poor peasants of the Peasants’ Associations bid fair to seize all the actual power in carrying out the agrarian reform.”
Despite the obscurity in this passage, it seems to mean that power at the provincial and county level is bourgeois in character, whereas in the countryside the power is in the hands of the poor peasants. Let us assume that this is true. But we cannot conclude from this that the CCP regime in the South has a dual character, because the power of the poor peasants is not identical with proletarian power. At most it can only be considered as the most thoroughgoing petty-bourgeois peasant power. The change in the petty-bourgeois character of poor peasant power is possible only when it is under the leadership of the urban proletariat. This is precisely the condition that is lacking in the present regime, so this idea of a dual character is too inadequate to stand criticism.
To enable our comrades to recognize more concretely and more precisely the nature of this new regime, I will point out several of its important characteristics:
a. The major support of this regime is the enormous peasant army, which is entirely under the control of the already Stalinized (or bureaucratized) CCP. Hence the CCP has absolute control and decision-making power over the regime.
b. Representatives of the bourgeoisie and the top layers of the petty bourgeoisie occupy honored positions in this regime, but they have no direct decisive function. They can only indirectly affect the regime through their economic and social influence.
c. Though a handful of individuals among the workers have been appointed to participate in the government (very few in important posts), the working class as a whole remains in a subordinate position. The working masses are deprived of the fundamental right to freely elect their own representatives—such as Soviets or other similar workers’ representative committees, etc.—to participate in and supervise this regime. General political rights—freedom of speech, assembly and association, publication, belief, etc.—are considerably limited, and even completely forbid den (such as strikes). Consequently, though the workers are hailed as the “master” by this regime, in reality they only have the right to petition within the “bounds of law” for an improvement of their living conditions.
d. On the social and economic plane, the regime has carried out land reform on a considerable scale, and is prepared to complete it and wipe out the feudal remnants “step by step”—in line with the CCP’s bureaucratic methods. This is an indeed unprecedented and great reform. But it is confined within the framework of preserving the “industrial and commercial properties” of the landlords and rich peasants, and free purchase of land, i.e., nonviolation of capitalist property relations.
e. In relation to the capitalist properties, with the exception of those properties nationalized at the outset (the so-called bureaucratic capital), which the new regime took over and transformed into nationalized properties, all other kinds of private property is being left untouched and offered protection by new laws. Despite this, through its regulations the new regime imposes relatively strict restrictions on the interests of private capital. As a result, the workers under this regime, though still remaining in the position of hired laborers, can at the same time avoid overly severe exploitation.
From these characteristics, we can clearly see that the nature of this regime is by no means very simple and normal. Since this regime is a product of the combination of exceptional historical conditions, its nature and the forms it takes are both complex and abnormal. It is scarcely possible to find another regime in modern history analogous to it. If we compare this regime to that of the Jacobins during the French Revolution, its features may be made more distinct.
The social base of the Jacobin Party was the then-urban toiling masses in general—the “sansculottes.” It carried out a thorough land reform and eliminated feudal influences. The CCP regime is founded on the petty-bourgeois social base of the rural population and it is also carrying out the land reform and eliminating the feudal remnants. Both of these regimes are consummate dictatorships. From these essential aspects, these two regimes bear great resemblances to one another. But the time of the Jacobins was a period when capitalism was still in its embryonic stage. Its land reform and uprooting of feudal influences fulfilled a great historical task for the bourgeoisie, and opened the broad highway for later capitalist development. This regime was thus thoroughly revolutionary, and only the regime established by the Russian Bolsheviks has been able to match it in significance. The epoch in which the CCP exists is entirely different: it is the period of the utter decline and approaching fall of capitalism.
In this epoch, genuine revolutionary power must be founded on the social base of the proletariat (the modern “sansculottes”), even in backward countries. The realization of land reform should not and cannot clear the way for capitalist development but must immediately open the prospects for socialism. Hence it must proceed in line with the expropriation of the landlords and the private properties of the bourgeoisie. This is just what was carried out by the regime of the Russian Bolshevik Party under the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky. Since the CCP regime is proceeding in the opposite way, in the last analysis it will eventually be a stumbling block in the course of historical development, and is in essence reactionary.
In conclusion, in class relations, this new regime bases itself on the petty-bourgeois peasants and attempts to “arbitrate” between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. In property relations, it has abolished feudal land ownership, built up the capitalist land system, and nationalized the greater part of the factories. On the other hand, it is conferring protection on capitalist private property, and seeks to “coordinate” the relationship between nationalized property and private property in order in the long run to construct a “New Democratic” economy. Therefore the regime is in itself fully charged with incompatible contradictions and high explosives. From the historical point of view, it can only be very short-lived and transitional. In the development of future events, it will be obliged to choose its social base between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, to decide its destiny between socialism and capitalism. Otherwise, it will either be overthrown by one of these two classes, or will be crushed by both, and become only an episode in history.
The evolution of the measures taken by the new regime
To give an adequate account and criticism of the measures taken by the new regime on all economic, social, and political planes over the past two years—beginning with October 1949 when this government was formally announced—would necessitate the writing of a special document for this purpose. This report, being limited in space, and lacking sufficient data on hand, can only offer a brief description of some essential features of these measures and the most important changes that have taken place in the regime’s orientation. On this count, we are prepared to supply further materials for supplementary reference.
In respect to the evolution of the regime’s measures, looking at its characteristic policies and their modification over time, we can take the outbreak of the Korean War as the line of demarcation and divide the whole into two periods. During the initial months of the first period (October 1949 to June 1950), under the slogan of “Military matters first!” i.e., clearing away the remaining military influence of the KMT on the mainland, the CCP threw its whole effort on the economic plane into extracting money and food from the people to support the front and to cover the expenses of administration. The noteworthy aspects of these measures are as follows:
They levied heavy taxes on all industry and commerce; forced the buying of bonds, such as “Victory Bonds,” “Front-support Bonds,” “Patriotic Bonds,” etc.; and appropriated foodstuffs from the countryside (the so-called voluntary contributions). The deficit in the budget was made up by issuing enormous quantities of paper currency. Land reform was suspended, and wages lowered, etc. On the political plane, the CCP assiduously conciliated the bourgeoisie, landlords, and rich peasants; and pulled toward itself all kinds of bourgeois and petty-bourgeois politicians and military men, including some of the Kuomintang bureaucrats and agents, in an attempt to disintegrate the enemy and strengthen its own; power. But the regime did its best to suppress the activities of the workers and peasants. Cases were often heard of workers being arrested or even killed on account of protests and strikes.
All of these measures resulted in inflation, the lowering of the standard of living, pauperization of the whole society, and the precipitation of industrial and commercial collapse. Most factories and shops were utterly unable to sustain themselves and asked for official permission to close down, or simply closed by themselves. Even those that remained in operation could not pay salaries and wages to. their employees. Consequently great anxiety and resentment were aroused among the bourgeoisie. With the lowering of wages—compared with the level during KMT rule—and the compulsory reduction of wages through buying bonds, the living conditions of the worker masses became more and more miserable. Yet they had no way to express their opinions or to demand improvements, and were universally discontented with the new regime, even complaining openly against it.
The most serious consequences, however, occurred in the countryside. As a result of the interruption of land reform, the broad peasant masses were not in the least benefitted but on the contrary were forced to contribute endless taxes and food. At the same time, the landlords and rich peasants transferred the greater part of their own burdens onto the shoulders of the peasant masses and even “contributed” the last handfuls of grain used for seed crop, required for their livelihood.
Robbed of their means of living, filled with fury, and further provoked by the landlords, rich peasants, and KMT agents, a segment of the peasants were driven to acts of open rebellion. These included refusal to “contribute,” forming groups to plunder “public” foodstuffs, and even rallying to the anticommunist guerrilla bands. This reaction objectively revived the influence of the Kuomintang anticommunist guerrillas.
In the spring of 1950 this situation reached a crisis point. At that time the CCP’s leading organ was compelled to admit:
At present the feudal system of the vast countryside has still not been eliminated, the wounds of war are not yet healed, and in addition to the unbalanced and unfair appropriation of state foodstuffs last year, the lawless landlords exploit this opportunity to transfer their own burdens. As a result the peasants in many regions are destitute of food and seeds, and can hardly proceed with the spring farming. In the regions ravaged by drought and flood, conditions are much more grave. At the same time there are a few special agents of the enemy, the bandits, who use threats to make people organize revolts, plunder state food, attack revolutionary groups and individuals, create social confusion, and sabotage the orders of production … to throw productive relations and the social order into a chaotic and dangerous state. 
The Yangtze (Ch’ang-chiang) Daily, the official paper published in Hangkow, summarized this critical situation in the following conclusion: “The essence of the immediate crisis lies in this: whether the peasants follow the Communist Party and the People’s Government, or the country autocrats and the Kuomintang agents.”
Faced with this crisis and pressure from all sides, especially from the peasant masses, the industrialists, and the merchants, the regime was obliged to make a turn in its policy. This turn first appeared with the announcement of the resumption of land reform, at the beginning of March 1950. This was the so-called land reform by stages. It was proposed to begin with the redistribution of land north of the Yangtze, while in the South (not including the Northwest and Southwest) to proceed first of all with the struggle “against the vicious autocrats” and with the “reduction of rents and interest.” The regime also revised the Food Appropriation Act. These measures served as palliatives to appease the peasants’ resistance. At about the same time, it proclaimed the Financial Coordination Act, which has more or less alleviated the weight of taxes while unifying and standardizing taxation on a national level. This has to a certain extent pacified the resentment of the tax contributors and comparatively stabilized finances. Inflation has also slackened.
The principal measure taken to maintain industry and commerce was the universal organizing of “Labor and Capital Consultative Conferences.” Under the government’s supervision and arbitration, the outcome of these “consultations” was always unfavorable to the workers. In order to maintain the factories and shops, the workers and employees were obliged to lower or even forfeit their wages, or else to resign “voluntarily” in order to take part in “farm labor in their native counties.” Sometimes they were called on to “voluntarily” prolong their worktime with the aim of reducing production costs. The industrialists and merchants, of course, were quite pleased with these results, while the workers became more and more resentful.
All of these urgent measures were then discussed, amended at the meeting of the Political Consultative Conference in May 1950, and concretized into various laws and acts—such as the Land Reform Law, the Trade Union Law, etc.—which were ratified by the government and became decrees. In addition, there was a Report on Financial and Economic Coordination also adopted by the conference, ratified by the government, and put into practice. The following points in the new acts deserve Our attention:
First the new Land Reform Law is generally in the same vein as the former Land Law, except that it emphasizes the “necessity of preserving landlords and rich peasants’ industrial and commercial properties” (according to Liu Shao-ch’i’s report), and strictly forbids all violence: beatings, killings, arrests, and the parading of criminals in high hats (contained in the Ministry of Public Affairs directives). This is obviously designed to prohibit the spontaneous organization by the masses to use their own revolutionary methods to punish the landlords, the country gentry, and the autocrats. It aims to submit all kinds of struggle to the procedure of law and appeal to law, this being termed by the regime “rational struggles.”
Second, in the economic field, it supported the industrialists by means of low-interest loans; or by allotting what is called extra works, whereby the administrators of the state enterprises offer raw materials, consign extra labor, and allocate a certain amount of profits to the private enterprises; or by buying the commodities of the private enterprises; or by giving extra facilities in buying raw materials, fuel, and transportation. With this aim it also reduced state commerce to oblige private business. In the Trade Union Act, it recognizes the workers’ right to demand improvements in their living conditions within the limits of the law. So the workers remain helpless if the “law does not consent.” In addition, the compulsory buying of bonds was stopped.
In brief we can say that this turn in the OOP’s policy springs from its feeling the danger of the pressure from the peasant masses and the bourgeoisie, who have become the main beneficiaries of the turn and gained certain concessions from the regime. The working class, especially the workers in private enterprises, have not only scarcely benefitted but in many respects have been its victims.
In the second period, from the outbreak of the Korean War up to the present, the regime’s measures have generally proceeded according to the orientation fixed in May by the Political Consultative Conference. However, during the “Aid Korea, Resist America” campaign, and particularly under compulsion to undertake a broad mass mobilization for participation in the Korean War, the CCP has once again had to modify its policy, or make another turn.
On the economic plane, following the blockade by American imperialism, the supply of certain industrial raw materials and machines has declined day by day. And since its own finances have faced greater and greater difficulties, aid to private enterprises has also been decreased and limited. Consequently, the relative revival of private enterprise has relapsed into stagnation and decline. The government attempts to concentrate its energy on the development of the state sector of industry and stresses the building up of a “self-sufficient heavy industry.” But owing to the extreme lack of capital and equipment, it has made very little progress. In the field of commerce, particularly in foreign trade, it has more or less resumed control over private business, and hence causes a stagnation of commerce.
Since the regime has won support from the huge peasant masses for the “Aid Korea” campaign, it has certainly accelerated the pace and enlarged the scope of agrarian reform. To a certain extent it has even relaxed its control over the peasants and strengthened its support among the poor peasants. The obvious examples in recent months have been its emphasis on the role of the peasants, especially the importance of the poor-peasant movement; its attempt to correct right-opportunist deviations in the land reform movement; and the penalties inflicted on some cadres who are directly responsible for the execution of land reform, when they violate the “will of the masses,” employ “bureaucratic methods,” or are corrupted. But this does not signify that the CCP has full confidence in the peasant masses and will permit them to freely exercise their revolutionary initiative, to spontaneously organize the distribution of the land and carry out the revolutionary struggle against the landlords and rich peasants. In fact, the fundamental line of “protecting the industrial and commercial properties of the landlords and rich peasants,” or “the gradual execution of land reform,” and of “rational struggle” still holds sway. It is only in the practical execution of these policies that control is less strict than before.
Because of its need for support in the Korean War, the regime has made some improvements in the workers’ living conditions. Recently it has gradually raised the wages of workers in the state enterprises and is more inclined than before to listen to the workers’ opinions about technical production. But the executive power of production is still in the hands of the manager or the committee appointed by the higher echelons. Under the slogan of competition to increase production, on the one hand the labor of the already overburdened average worker is further intensified, while on the other hand a group of labor aristocrats (the Stakhanovists) is created and weighs upon the general working masses, dividing the workers’ ranks.
The regime is much more tolerant than before in its attitude toward workers’ struggles in private enterprises. It permits the trade unions, “on the condition of not fundamentally hampering production,” to engage in a “legal struggle” with capital for improving living conditions. Henceforth, the lowering of wages and the firing of workers at will is more tightly controlled than in former times. Although the recently adopted Labor Assurance Law is still a half-measure, generally speaking it has indeed resulted in a considerable improvement in the position and life of the working masses. But the essential rights of the working class in politics and in production—namely the rights of participation and control in government and factory administration—are still denied.
Since the outbreak of the Korean War, the activities of all the reactionary elements have revived. This has forced the CCP to more or less modify its former political line of conciliation. This new turn is manifested in the tempestuous drive to “suppress the counterrevolutionaries.” In this campaign thousands of reactionary landlords and rich peasants (the “vicious local autocrats,” as they are labeled), labor traitors, and KMT bureaucrats and agents have been imprisoned, exiled, and executed. In addition a great number of “affiliated” elements and followers of Li Chi-shen and the “Democratic League” have suffered the same fate. This, however, marks a considerable’ progress within certain limits. But this drive has not touched a single hair of the real spokesmen of the bourgeoisie, such as the actual leaders of the Kuomintang Revolutionary Committee, represented by Li Chi-shen, and the heads of the Democratic League.
On the other hand, under the same pretext of suppressing “counterrevolutionaries,” the more advanced and discontented elements among the workers and peasants, especially the Trotskyists, are repressed, imprisoned, and killed. This only demonstrates that, even while carrying out certain limited progressive measures, this regime still drags behind it the reactionary specter of Stalinism.
In its international relations, the regime has really made important progress. After its establishment, it won a large measure of political independence from imperialism—such as taking back the customs houses and canceling the stationing of foreign armies in China. We must say that this has opened a new phase in modern Chinese diplomatic history. But in the economic sphere, it still assures “protection to the properties of all foreigners in China,” and attempts to engage in conciliation with imperialism by its implicit consent to the preservation of the concessions of Hong Kong, Kowloon, and Macao. With the outbreak of the Korean War the CCP’s foreign policy has shown certain further developments.
In retaliation against the economic blockade and freezing of Chinese property in the United States, the CCP regime has taken over American banks and enterprises, and seized all the schools, hospitals, and similar institutions formerly operated by foreigners. Moreover, as a countermeasure against the appropriation of a “rebellious” oil ship by the Hong Kong government, the People’s Government declared its “appropriation” of all the capital of the Asia Oil Company in China. Although these progressive measures have not altered the fundamental line of “protecting all foreign properties in China,” they have at least driven the regime to encroach more or less on the inviolable foreign properties.
Another result of the CCP’s direct intervention in the Korean War and the measures that flowed from that is a great decline in the possibility of compromise with American imperialism—the chieftain of the capitalist world. Mao’s regime, in fact, has become the government most hated by the American imperialists in Asia.
From the very beginning, because of its historical origins and its geographical and economic ties, this regime has tended to be dependent and submissive in its relations with the Soviet Union. This attitude was clearly reflected in the Sino-Soviet Mutual Aid Agreement signed in February 1950. This agreement was first of all aimed at pacifying the Chinese people’s indignation toward the Soviet Union. (There have been very strong and hostile reactions among broad layers of the Chinese people, especially among the workers of Manchuria, ever since the USSR seized Port Arthur and Dairen under the provisions of the Yalta Agreement, and after it acquired many other privileges, such as joint control of the Chungtung and Ch’ang-ch’un railways, and especially after it destroyed or moved away the majority of the industrial and mining installations in Manchuria.)
Also, made wiser by the bitter lessons of the Yugoslav events, the Soviet bureaucracy has learned to pay its “respects to the sovereignty and independence of the Chinese People’s Government,” and has promised to restore the two ports and control over the railroads in Manchuria no later than 1952. Whether this promise will be kept, or carried out by that date, is still an open question.
On the economic plane, the trade agreements and the so-called Sino-Soviet partnership mostly favor the Soviet Union. They are quite similar to the treaties signed with the Eastern European countries. Especially after the outbreak of the Korean War, the new regime’s dependence on the Soviet Union has become deeper and more unshakable. That is to say, the Soviet Union’s actual control over the Chinese government has become more solid and irremovable. Viewed simply from this angle, the Korean War is like a set of chains binding the CCP regime to the Soviet Union’s war chariot and dragging it along independent of its will.
It is true that the regime’s intervention in the Korean War has greatly increased its weight on the international arena, as well as raising its standing and prestige among the people in the country. But the grievous damage incurred in this war, in both men and material resources, has strewn more difficulties in the path of social and economic construction in China, even for the limited goals set by the CCP, inasmuch as such construction was already overwhelmed by difficulties. Meanwhile, these sacrifices have also stirred up discontent and complaints among the masses. If the war should continue, future evils can scarcely be calculated. From the standpoint of these considerations taken alone, the government would probably have to withdraw from the war or scale down its participation. But if the Kremlin should persist in its intention to use the war to weaken the CCP, the war might be further prolonged.
Over the past two years, pushed and pulled by powerful and complex influences at home and abroad, the new regime’s policies, both domestic and foreign, have been constantly and empirically changing. In general, it is moving in a “leftward” direction. But its fundamental opportunist orientation and bureaucratic administrative methods—the “revolution by stages” line, New Democracy, and class collaboration—and the systematic and well-planned control over all mass activities from above are still completely preserved. Therefore the basic contradictions and explosiveness contained in the regime—indicated in the previous section—are far from attenuated or diminished by the measures taken. They have even become more acute with the logical development of events.
The perspectives for China
With the CCP’s victory, a brand-new situation has unfolded in China—the beginning of a deformed third Chinese revolution. But having absorbed into itself all the profound and sharp contradictions in social and economic relations, class relations, and international relations, this situation can only be transitory. It will be channeled into one or the other of the following perspectives.
A. Relapse into the reactionary rule of the bourgeoisie
Given all the objective factors and conditions—the protection of capitalist property relations in the cities and countryside, maintenance of a certain political power and influence by the bourgeoisie, the frustration and repression of the proletariat in political and economic life, and the despotic state apparatus built on a petty-bourgeois social basis, inclining to corruption—we cannot exclude the possibility of retrogression to the reactionary rule of the bourgeoisie. But this could only be achieved through a most brutal counterrevolutionary bloodbath. However, as long as the GCP has full authority over a potent peasant armed force, this perspective is out of the question.
But in the event that both internal and international events were to develop unfavorably at the same time, the possible structural disintegration of the CCP regime would favor restoration of bourgeois rule. Particularly if a future world war were to break out and the proletarian revolution in other countries was unable to rise in time to intervene energetically in Chinese events, American imperialism, after striking a military death-blow to the Soviet Union, could turn around and lead the armies of Japan and Taiwan to attack the Chinese mainland. This would bring about the inevitable ruin or split of the CCP regime, with some of the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois elements surrendering to American imperialism. Then a reactionary bourgeois reign would reappear on the political stage of China.
Of course, this is the worst perspective and it is merely a possibility. But it is not wise to absolutely exclude this worst variant. Only by recognizing and comprehending this worst of perspectives, by our precaution and alertness, and through our subjective revolutionary efforts, can we prevent its appearance and development.
B. To the road of revolutionary proletarian dictatorship
The progressive measures already instituted have objectively laid a favorable basis for a revolutionary development. These include the gradual extension of the land reform; the widespread purge of feudal remnants; the nationalization of a great part of the enterprises and properties, such as the main industries and mines, means of transport, big banks, etc.; the liquidation of the reactionary forces represented by Chiang’s groups; the considerable rise of broad peasant masses; the regrouping of the urban working class, in the national trade union organization; and a gradual lifting of the general cultural level and political consciousness of the worker and peasant masses (indicated by the universal literacy campaign and the legalization of reading the works of Marx, Engels, and Lenin).
The chief obstacle on the revolutionary path is the tenacious opportunism and tyrannical bureaucratism of the CCP. But in the favorable unfolding of future events at home and abroad, the worker and peasant masses would be able by their own strength to push the CCP forward. They could deliver blows to the reactionary influences of the bourgeoisie, and by securing certain prerequisites for revolutionary development, such as certain democratic rights, proceed step by step on the road of revolution. Even in the event of the third world war, if there should be an upsurge of revolutionary movements in the world, the Chinese worker and peasant masses, stimulated by the strong impetus of revolutions abroad, could possibly assail the CCP’s opportunism and bureaucratism, bring about a split, and create a revolutionary left wing in this party. They would thus free themselves from the yoke of Stalinism, and then join the current of the Trotskyist movement. This would lead the revolution straight to proletarian dictatorship, which would complete the “third Chinese revolution and open a future of socialist construction.
Yet I must point out that this perspective would not be a reproduction of the Yugoslav events, but a more advanced and deeper revolutionary development. There is very little possibility for such a repetition, simply because China is a very different country from Yugoslavia, both in its internal and external conditions, particularly after the outbreak of the Korean War. (On this point, I could offer further explanations, if need be.)
C. Assimilation into the Soviet Union
The two perspectives set forth above deal with only the most fundamental outcomes of the possible developments in the Chinese situation. But, in view of the opportunist bureaucratic deformations of the CCP leadership and its present intimate relations with the Kremlin, these two perspectives will meet frantic resistance, since either one of them would be fatal for this leadership. Consequently, it will consciously or unconsciously choose a third road—the road of gradual assimilation into the Soviet Union. That is to say, under the ever-increasing menace from bourgeois reactionary forces allied with imperialism and the ever-growing dissatisfaction and pressure of the masses, the CCP would empirically by gradual steps exclude the bourgeois parties and cliques from the political field.
Through purges and fusions it would annihilate these factions, and with them, the coalition government. It would then form a one-party dictatorship in name and in content, which would conform to what they would call the “transformation from people’s democratic dictatorship to proletarian dictatorship.”
On the economic plane, it would carry out a gradual process of expropriation of bourgeois private property and the concomitant expansion of nationalized property, in keeping with the formula, “progression from the New Democratic economy toward the socialist economy.”
On the other hand, while carrying out these political and economic measures, the CCP would make certain concessions to mass pressure to gain a weapon in the suppression of reactionary influences, But it would never basically loosen its tight bureaucratic grip upon the revolutionary activities of the masses, especially of workers and poor peasants, lest they pass over the permitted boundaries or interfere with its basic line.
This line may be called that of “East Europeanization.” But an essential difference exists between the two processes. The “assimilation” of the buffer states of Eastern Europe was accomplished entirely under the Kremlin’s military control and through its directly designated Stalinist bureaucrats in those countries. In China, because of the vastness of the territory, the huge population, and the powerful influence of the CCP, and in the absence of the Soviet Army, and especially taking into account the experience in Yugoslavia, the Kremlin can rely only on its general economic and military superiority and its control over Manchuria and Sinkiang to threaten and pressure the CCP. However, in appearance, it would still pay certain respects to the “independence and sovereignty” of the CCP regime and allow it to proceed on its own “initiative.”
In the main, this assimilation depends exclusively on the CCP’s own subjective intentions. But we should not overlook the important role that can be played by the subjective will of a party already in power, which holds in its hands immense material forces—including a powerful peasant army—at least under particular circumstances and for a certain period of time. (The role of Stalin and his group in the Soviet Union is a conspicuous example.)
Prior to the outbreak of a new world war, and in the absence of other revolutionary upheavals in the world, the course of GCP assimilation into the Soviet Union is the most probable and realistic. To reject its likelihood would be unwise as well as harmful in the field of practical politics. But as soon as the third world war breaks out or a new revolutionary movement arises in other countries, this process of assimilation of the GCP will immediately be interrupted, and the whole situation in China will be forced to head in one of the two directions indicated above.
We should also point out that this process of assimilation will by no means have a smooth and even course. Parallel with the development of the situation, the profound and acute contradictions inherent in the new regime, and the conflicts between the interests of the Chinese revolution and the diplomatic interests of the Kremlin, would inevitably erupt and gather into fierce billowing disturbances or tragedies.
In general, the development of the Chinese situation will be slow-paced and drawn out, and will hardly undergo decisive change before the explosion of the coming great war. Therefore we may say that the destiny of China will only be ultimately solved in the course of the third world war and a gigantic upsurge of world revolution. There is therefore still time enough for us to prepare before the advent of such a solution.
Our fundamental attitude and orientation
Following the above analyses and appraisals, we must openly admit that a new revolutionary situation has not only begun, but has already attained certain achievements, and will possibly go forward. Hence we reject all sectarian and passive criticisms. We must integrate our organization in the main current of this movement, join in the mass struggles, and make the utmost effort to push this movement onto a really victorious road. At the same time, we must realize that, because the bureaucratic and opportunist leadership of the CCP is distorting this revolution, continuously imposing injuries and obstacles on its course, and leading it to the edge of a precipice, we must reject all naive and overoptimistic illusions.
Our fundamental attitude, confronted with this living reality, is that, with all the perils and hardships, we must point out to the masses the tremendous contradictions and crises imposed on this movement by the bureaucratic and opportunist line of the CCP. With patience and persistence, we shall convince the masses, encourage them, and help them to overcome these contradictions and crises through their own efforts and achieve a victorious outcome.
Our fundamental orientation in pushing this abnormal revolution on to a genuine victory is as follows:
a. Thoroughly carry out the land reform, exterminate all the feudal remnants, and nationalize the land. Meanwhile, expropriate all of the bourgeoisie’s private property, and complete the statization of these properties as a basis for socialist construction.
b. Do away with the class-collaborationist coalition government; end the Bonapartist military dictatorship; establish a dictatorship of the proletariat leading the poor peasants; and in this way achieve genuine national unity under democratic centralism.
c. Declare the abolition of all unequal treaties; take back all settlements and concessions (such as Hong Kong, Kowloon, Macao, etc.); confiscate all imperialist properties in China; and cancel all privileges held in China by the Soviet bureaucracy—in order to attain complete and genuine national independence.
To struggle for carrying out these fundamental points orientation, our party should formulate a concrete and inclusive program of action, in which we must emphasize that we support every progressive measure of the CCP, but criticize any reactionary measure. At all times and places we must wage the best fight we can to win basic democratic rights for workers and peasants— such as freedom of speech, publication, assembly, association, belief, strikes, etc.—and fight for the right of workers’ participation, supervision, and control in administration and production. We must also seek to establish representative committees (soviets) of workers, peasants, and soldiers.
As our organization is at present still very weak and suffering the most brutal persecutions from the new regime, it is far from able to intervene directly in this movement and affect events. But since we know that our Trotskyist line of the permanent revolution is the line most suited to the objective logic of revolutionary developments in China, if we stand resolutely and courageously within this movement, within the struggles of the masses, cautiously and patiently explaining to them in order to convince them, the evolution of events will help us step by step to win the confidence of the masses. With a new conjuncture, in a new rise of the revolutionary tide, we will be lifted to the leading position and direct the masses on the road to victory.
Finally, I should add that the events in China have wrought important effects in the Far East and even in the whole international situation that deserve our special attention—and not simply because of the vast territory and the enormous population. We should further understand that of all the backward countries, China is the most typical in its manifestation of the law of uneven and combined development.
In the past half century a series of great events have broken out in this country—two revolutions, several prolonged civil wars, and foreign wars, and the third revolution still at its beginning.
During these twenty-five years, Trotsky and the Chinese Trotskyists under his leadership have directly participated in the greater part of these events, and have therefore accumulated a rich experience. Therefore, a correct solution of the Chinese question will not only have decisive significance for the future of the Chinese Trotskyist movement, but will be a precious guide for our International in orienting and directing the movements in Asia and in all other backward countries, and even in advanced countries. That is why I repeat once more: I hope that our International comrades, in discussing the Chinese question, will not be constrained by any formalistic analogies and abstract concepts, but will seriously employ the Marxist method in analyzing the objective reality in order to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion.
November 8, 1951
Some Supplementary Remarks and Corrections to the ‘Report on the Chinese Situation’
Having analyzed the most recent facts relating to the development of the Chinese situation and after a study of the evolution of Yugoslavia and the Eastern European countries, I feel it is necessary to make some supplementary remarks and corrections to the analysis and appraisal of the character of the CCP and its regime in my previous “Report on the Chinese Situation.” This will provide the next IEC with more concrete material on this question so that it can arrive at correct conclusions.
On the problem of the character of the Chinese CP
On this question, in view of the fact that after the defeat of the second Chinese revolution the CCP completely abandoned the workers’ movement in the cities, turned toward the countryside, absorbed a great number of peasants into the party, and concentrated on the peasant guerrillas, Trotsky and the Chinese Trotskyists declared that this party had gradually degenerated and become a petty-bourgeois party based on the peasantry. But some comrades have their doubts on this point and say that even if Trotsky had expressed this opinion he was wrong. That is why I think it is necessary first to give some explanations in the context of certain facts.
In judging the character of a party, we Marxists base ourselves on two fundamental factors: the party’s composition and its political tendency. If workers comprise the majority of the party, and the party truthfully represents the fundamental interests of the working class, this party can be called a healthy or revolutionary workers’ party. If the workers comprise the majority of the party and its political leadership is of a petty-bourgeois or opportunist reformist type, we still call it a workers’ party, but it is a deformed or degenerated workers’ party. If the petty bourgeoisie predominates in its social composition and if the leadership is also opportunist, even if it pretends to be a workers’ party, we can only designate it a petty-bourgeois party.
Regarding the evolution and the composition of the CCP, in the last period of the second Chinese revolution it had approximately 60,000 members, according to the report to the party’s Fifth Congress, in April 1927 (not including the Communist Youth, which had a larger membership than the party). Industrial workers accounted for 58 percent of the membership. But after the disastrous defeats of this revolution and several adventuristic insurrections, particularly after the great defeat of the Canton uprising, most of the workers were sacrificed or left the party. Proletarian membership declined to 10 percent in 1928 and to 3 percent in 1929 (see “On the Organizational Question” by Chou En-lai). It fell to 2.5 percent in March 1930 (Red Flag, March 26, 1930), and to 1.6 percent in September of the same year (“Report to the Third Plenum of the CC of the Party” by Chou En-lai).
The October 10, 1931, issue of Bolshevik openly admitted that “the percentage of workers had already fallen to less than 1 percent.” After most of the workers’ branches of Shanghai were won over to the Left Opposition “Trotskyist Group,” Red Flag complained on October 23, 1933, that in Shanghai, the largest industrial city of the country, “There is not a single real workers’ branch.” But in the same period they said that the number of members had risen to over 300,000. This is adequate proof that the CCP had an almost exclusively peasant composition. Precisely because of that, Trotsky drew the conclusion:
“The Chinese Stalinists … in the years of the counterrevolution . . . passed over from the proletariat to the peasantry, i.e., they undertook that role which was fulfilled in our country by the SRs [Social Revolutionary Party] when they were still a revolutionary party. . . . The party actually tore itself away from its class. …”
the causes and grounds for conflicts between the army, which is peasant in composition and petty bourgeois in leadership, and the workers not only are not eliminated but, on the contrary, all the circumstances are such as to greatly increase the possibility and even the inevitability of such conflicts. . . .
Consequently our task consists not only in preventing the political-military command over the proletariat by the petty-bourgeois democracy that leans upon the armed peasant, but in preparing and ensuring the proletarian leadership of the peasant movement, its “Red armies” in particular. [Trotsky, in a letter to the Chinese Left Opposition and postscript to this letter, September 22 and 26, 1932.—Peng.”]
When the CCP was obliged to flee from the South to the North, to Yenan, the number of its worker members dropped still further because the conditions there were still more primitive. The only possible recruitment of worker elements came from village artisans. Consequently the petty-bourgeois peasant atmosphere enveloped the entire party and was formally crystallized in the “theory of the revolutionary peasantry.” Mao Tse-tung in the theses “On New Democracy” openly declared:
Stalin has said that “in essence, the national question is a peasant question.” This means that the Chinese revolution is essentially a peasant revolution. . . . Essentially, the politics of New Democracy means giving the peasants their rights. The new and genuine Three People’s Principles [Mao pretends that his New Democracy contains the “real” Three People’s Principles inherited from Sun Yat-sen so as to distinguish them from the “false” principles espoused by Chiang Kai-shek] are essentially the principles of a peasant revolution.
These words of Mao Tse-tung establish that the CCP was a petty-bourgeois party not only because of its peasant composition but also in its ideology. Consequently, during the entire Anti-Japanese War, the CCP, by supporting the KMT’s leadership, not only insisted on class collaboration in its propaganda but showed openly in its practice that “the workers should increase production to aid the government in the common resistance against Japan.” It rejected the “exorbitant demands” presented by the workers to the national bourgeoisie, charging that the Trotskyist policy of class struggle was a “policy of betrayal to aid the enemy,” thus slandering the Trotskyists as “traitors.” Naturally, in the workers’ real struggles the CCP was always on the side of the national bourgeoisie and against the workers’ reasonable demands, even sabotaging these struggles.
At the same time, the CCP did everything possible to encourage the most active elements of the working class to leave the struggle in the cities and join the peasants in the countryside. It was for precisely this reason that while the CCP considerably increased its armed peasant forces during the Resistance War, its influence remained extremely weak among the worker masses of the cities.
After the Anti-Japanese War it is true that the CCP once again joined the workers’ movement in the cities, recruiting cadres among the workers and building an organization. But its main aim was to obtain the workers’ support to pressure Chiang Kai-shek into accepting the CCP’s compromise with him in a “coalition government.” Therefore, in that period the CCP’s policy toward the workers was always to lead the mass of the workers into a compromise with the national bourgeoisie, hoping through the national bourgeoisie to put pressure on Chiang Kai-shek to successfully conclude its negotiations with him. As a result, the CCP’s influence among the workers was very feeble.
Finally, when the CCP was obliged to carry on a general counteroffensive against the Chiang government and to occupy the big cities, not only did it not make any appeal to the mass of the workers to carry on some form of struggle, but it did its best to curb their activities. Its only appeal was to call upon them to “protect production and watch Chiang Kai-shek’s bandits who are sabotaging it.” When the CCP occupied the cities it imposed severe restrictions on all activity or spontaneous organization of the working class.
When the workers went out on strike to demand wage increases or to resist oppressive conditions, it was brutal in its repressions, going to the point of massacres. For example, the strikers in several factories in Tientsin were arrested and executed. The workers of Shen Hsin factory number 9 (which employed 8,000 workers) were attacked with machine guns because they refused to leave the city with the factory; there were more than 300 casualties. At the Ching Hsing coal mines in Hopeh Province, when the workers revolted against the cruelty and arrogance of the Soviet advisers and specialists, the CCP sent a large number of troops to suppress the revolt. There were more than 200 dead or wounded workers and more than a thousand were expelled and exiled to Manchuria or Siberia (this happened in May 1950).
All of this demonstrates this petty-bourgeois party’s attitude toward the working class, an attitude of distrust, hostility, and even murderous rage. That partially confirms the prediction and the warning made by Trotsky nineteen years ago. If the worker masses of the cities had been more united under the leadership of another revolutionary force (the Trotskyists), it is very probable that the CCP would have had recourse to civil war to beat the workers down. As Trotsky said, “they will incite the armed peasants against the advanced workers.”
From these historic facts the question of whether Trotsky and the Chinese Trotskyists were right in their estimation of the nature of the CCP can be left to the reexamination of those comrades who have doubts on the matter. If the comrades have adequate facts and correct theoretical reasons to demonstrate that the estimation of the CCP made by Trotsky and the Chinese Trotskyists was incorrect, we are ready to abandon our estimation and adopt the new one.
* * *
There is one other aspect of this question. It is true that the CCP, through its change in composition, gradually degenerated into a petty-bourgeois party based on the peasantry. It adopted as its ideology Mao Tse-tung’s theory that “the Chinese revolution is essentially a peasant revolution. . . . the politics of New Democracy means giving the peasants their rights.” But I should stress that because of its historic origin as a section of the Communist International, because of some working-class traditions remaining from the second revolution, because of its close relations with the international Stalinist party (which, as degenerated as it is, still .remains a workers’ party), and because of its general support of Marxism-Leninism, of the dictatorship of the proletariat fn and of the perspective of communism, etc., we have to admit that even when it had degenerated into a peasant party there remained a certain inclination in the party toward the workers. But this tendency was curbed and repressed during the long years of peasant guerrilla war.
When this party entered the cities and came into contact with the mass of the workers, and especially when it had an urgent need of the support of the working class to resist the threats of the bourgeoisie and imperialism, the worker tendency, long hidden and repressed, had the opportunity to emerge and to place some pressure on the leadership of the party. It demanded the transfer of the party’s base from the peasantry to the working class and called for certain concessions to the demands of the worker masses. The events of the last two years, and particularly of the last six months, have clearly reflected this tendency.
The CCP decided to stop the recruitment of peasants into the party and emphasized the need for rapid recruitment of workers. The editorial in the July 1, 1950, People’s Daily, on the twenty-ninth anniversary of the founding of the CGP, stressed a reform in party composition, i.e., the absorption of workers into the party. It also said that in the recent period, among the 6,648 new members in Tientsin, 73 percent were workers, and out of 3,350 in Peking, more than 50 percent were workers.
To sum up, according to these concrete facts, there have been quite a considerable number of workers recruited by the CCP in the last two years in the large industrial cities and in the mines in the Northeast, in Shanghai, and in Wuhan. Of course, if consideration is given to the composition of the entire party (according to the same editorial in the People’s Daily, there are some 5 million members in the party), the number of workers is still very small. (Kao Kang, secretary for the Northeast District, admitted in a January 10 speech to party heads that “working-class elements are still not very numerous in our party.” This was given as the principal reason to explain the present crisis over the emergence of a right-wing tendency in the party and widespread party corruption.)
But the CCP’s turn toward insisting on working-class recruitment in order to change its composition has unquestionably had an important effect on the class nature of the party.
This turn is more or less reflected in the process of carrying out the agrarian reform. According to the plan for agrarian reform adopted by the Political Consultative Conference of the CCP and other organizations and parties in May 1950, special emphasis is placed on “the protection of the commercial and industrial property of the landlords and the rich peasants.” The decree of the minister of the interior severely prohibits “excessive actions” by the poor peasants toward the landed proprietors and rich peasants. Consequently, when this project was first implemented, not only were the industrial and commercial properties of the landlords and the rich peasants generally protected, but in numerous areas they obtained the best and the largest share of the land, and even preserved local power (such as head of the Peasants’ Association or of the village, etc.). But then, when the masses of the poor peasantry gradually awakened in the course of the movement, the lower cadres, under the demands and pressure of the poor peasants, considerably altered the agrarian reform project and even upset it. That is to say, a great number of industrial and commercial properties of the landlords and rich peasants were subjected to severe penalties from the poor peasantry. (Recent reports on the agrarian reform in Chinese newspapers often reveal these facts.)
In face of the “left” tendency of, the lower cadres to upset the party’s guidelines and take their places in defense of the interests of the masses, the CCP leadership not only has not retaliated for these expropriations but on the contrary it has in general acquiesced. Although the CCP has not fundamentally changed its policy of protecting the industrial and commercial properties of the landlords and rich peasants, there is nevertheless a tendency to defend the interests of the poor peasants, which manifests itself strongly :in the lower cadres and in the party ranks. This is particularly worthy of our attention.
In the campaign of recent months carried, on against corruption, waste, and bureaucratism, an antibourgeois, working-class tendency is clearly being revealed in the .CCP ranks, .The principal reason for this campaign is that an extremely serious phenomenon of corruption, waste, and bureaucracy, is manifesting itself among the CCP’s responsible cadres .in >,the state apparatus, the army, and mass organizations, and, in particular, in the industrial and commercial section and .the cooperatives dealing with finances and the economy.
These cadres not only fatten themselves by pilfering state funds under their control or wasting .public funds to assure a comfortable life, but in addition they associate with the bourgeois elements “to sell commercial information, state resources, and raw materials, to cut the working force and to raise [production— Tr.] costs in order to assure supplementary profits to the capitalists. The capitalists do not hesitate in providing necessary sums to corrupt these corrupted elements.” (See Kao Kang’s report cited above.)
On the one hand, this situation has caused enormous financial and economic losses to the various state institutions, and on the other hand it has aroused mass discontent, especially of the workers in the ranks of the party. (See Comrade Fang Hsing’s report on this campaign.)
In order to maintain itself, the CCP leadership is obliged to organize this campaign to expel certain rotten cadres and to attack certain bourgeois elements as a means of appeasing the discontent in the party ranks and especially of the mass of the workers.
The corruption and degeneration of the CCP cadres at various levels is due primarily to the opportunist policy of class collaboration and to bureaucratic practice in violation of workers’ democracy. This campaign against corruption, waste, and bureaucratism does not fundamentally alter the CCP’s opportunism and bureaucratism; it is carried out by bureaucratic methods. The tendency toward corruption in the party will of course not be eliminated in this way. Nevertheless, the antibourgeois, working-class tendency within the CCP is strongly fortified in this campaign.
Because of this movement, the main CCP leadership insists, although only verbally, on “the necessity of recognizing the corrosive influence of bourgeois ideology on the party and the harm caused by the right-wing tendency in the party.” They also say that “to base oneself on the bourgeoisie signifies only to abandon the working class, the popular masses, and the role of the party and the country” (see Kao Kang’s report cited above). In fact, they have more or less accepted the appeal and the demands of the working masses.
For example, they now publish in all the newspapers descriptions of the oppression and exploitation of workers in the state enterprises in recent years at the hands of CCP cadres. This is in addition to reports made now under the pretext of showing a “violation of decrees” which expose the various methods of exploitation and oppression used by private capitalists. Such things were rarely mentioned previously and it was prohibited to denounce them openly. CCP public opinion recognizes this and considers it necessary to make certain improvements.
From the facts cited above regarding the social composition of the CCP, we can say that although the peasants and other petty-bourgeois elements still predominate (more than 90 percent of the 5 million members), the worker elements have increased in number in the last two years. The working-class tendency has been strengthened during the agrarian reform and the campaign against corruption, etc. That is why up until now the CCP has had a dual character. From the point of view of the tendency of its composition, keeping in mind the systematic acceleration in the recruitment of workers and the halting of peasant recruitment, the party is in a transitional stage toward a workers’ party.
From the point of view of ideology, we can see three different tendencies in the CCP: the right tendency representing the upper strata of the petty bourgeoisie of the cities and the rich peasants; the left tendency representing the workers and the poor peasants; and the centrist tendency in the middle represented by the top leadership. Naturally, these three tendencies, and in particular the right and left, are still obscure and far from having been crystallized. But in the subsequent development of the class struggle, these tendencies toward the right and the left will gradually crystallize and will lead to an organizational differentiation. Finally, when the international and national situation reaches a serious, decisive stage, this party will tend inevitably toward a split.
On the character of the new regime
If we reevaluate the character of the party as being of a dual nature, this duality naturally affects the character of the new regime which is controlled by the party. In light of the importance of the nationalization of enterprises, the dual character of this regime is even more manifest.
Of course, the new regime under the control of the CGP is quite different from the dual power referred to by Lenin after the Russian February revolution, and the classic form of dual power. It is a special kind of dual power created by exceptional circumstances. This duality is analogous to that of the transition period in Yugoslavia and in the countries of Eastern Europe. Consequently, the new regime established by the CCP can only be a transitory form which will either move in the direction of the dictatorship of the proletariat—normal or not—or will move backward to the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. But in the view of the present tendency, it is moving in the direction of a deformed dictatorship of the proletariat. Therefore, so far as its perspectives are concerned, I retain my previous position.
May 10, 1952
1. Chou En-lai was the fully empowered representative sent to Sian by “the CCP to confer with Chang Shueh-liang about freeing Chiang Kai-shek, and to negotiate directly with Chiang on the terms for “collaboration between the Kuomintang and the CCP.”
2. See the “Resolution on the Yugoslav Revolution” adopted by the Ninth Plenum of the IEC, and “On the Class Nature of Yugoslavia” by Comrade Pablo.
3. During the Third Congress of the Fourth International, in my report I shared the position adopted by the leadership on the nature of the YCP. At that time, having just arrived in France, I did not have any recent information on the YCP and, having no time to study the question, I based my position on the information given at the congress. After the Korean War, where the YCP participated on the side of imperialism, I immediately started a serious study of the development of the YCP. My conclusion was that the YCP remained a Stalinist party and that the conflict between Tito and Stalin in 1949, a fight among bureaucrats, did not change the nature of that party.
4. In fact, this control was effected through internal strife. When the Soviet Union started to arm the troops of Lin Piao and other generals, it expressed skepticism regarding Mao Tse-tung and backed Li Li-san, Mao’s old adversary, to be the political leader of the Communist army in Manchuria and the spokesman of the party. Moscow thus calculated to take Mao Tse-tung in tow and tame him. However, this immediately aroused resistance on Mao’s part. On one hand, he ordered Liu Shao-ch’i to make a public statement declaring that Li Li-san was not authorized to speak on behalf of the CCP Central Committee (about the end of 1945). At the same time, he mobilized a big “ideological campaign” within the party against “Li Li-sanism” (or “sectarianism”).
In view of this situation, and apprehensive of untoward consequences, the Kremlin sent a special mission to negotiate with Mao Tse-tung, which consented to place its “full confidence in him” and “help,” provided he would be “loyal in executing the international line.” Of course, Mao agreed to these terms, and in turn won the Kremlin’s trust. Then Li Li-san was deprived of his post and replaced by someone else sent by Mao. Only after the feud between Mao and Li was finally settled did Mao become more cautious and assiduous in showing his obedience and support to the Soviet Union and in carrying out its directives.
5. The first disagreement to appear in writing was “The Significance and the Nature of the Victory of the Chinese Stalinist Movement,” an article written by Comrades Chiao and Ma, published in the Chinese edition of Fourth International, vol. 1, no. 2, April 1950.
6. See “Why Is This Civil War Called a Revolution and the Importance of This Recognition.”
7. See the “Resolution on the Chinese Civil War” adopted by our party in January 1947 and the International’s resolution “Struggles of the Colonial Peoples and the World Revolution,” adopted by the Second World Congress.
8. All these ideas can be found in several articles written by Trotsky on the Chinese question and in his letters to the Chinese comrades.
9. See Comrade Germain’s “The Third Chinese Revolution,” in the January-February 1951 issue of Fourth International.
10. See the announcement of the Military and Political Committee of the Central-South Area, published in the Hong Kong Wen-hui Pao, March 6, 1950.
11. Since this mine produces a better grade of coal which can be used in steel making, the Soviet Union had sent advisers and specialists to control the mine so as to appropriate its production for the USSR. This arrangement has probably been modified by the Sino-Soviet Mutual Aid and Assistance Agreement.