Lessons of the Chinese Revolution
The Problem of Leadership and Program
[by Vincent Grey (Vince Copeland)
[First printed in Fourth International, Summer (northern hemisphere) 1954. Copied from
[Revolutionary Regroupment note: Many on the left would be suprised that the faction in the Socialist Workers Party associated with Sam Marcy (of which Vine Copeland was an important leader) initially sided with James P. Cannon against Michel Pablo’s tailing after the Stalinists. Important criticisms of Marcy’s factions earlier years (before the turn towards an almost uncritical adaptation towards the Stalinists) aside, this document, critiquing Pabloism and Maoism, stand in very stark contrast to the current politics of the Workers World Party and it’s split, the Party for Liberation and Socialism (both of which claim the heritage if Marcy’s Global Class War tendency.]
IF WE may regard the Chinese revolution as the deformed child of the 1917 Russian revolution, then we may also regard Pabloism, in the field of theory, as an even more deformed offshoot of the Chinese revolution. The fact that Pabloism can thus trace its lineage back to the great Russian revolution is not very important here, because Pabloism’s main proposition is that its classical grandparent has been superseded. By what? Pabloism itself does not clearly and distinctly say; but it senses with a somewhat legitimate filial instinct, and half-mumbles with a tongue-tied persistency, that the Chinese revolution – or at least its concept of the Chinese revolution – is to be the matrix and fountainhead of the future.
The task of answering this false theory is the more difficult because the Pabloites have not made a logical and consistent exposition of it. The reader will quickly see, however, that we are not imputing any ideas to the Pabloites that they do not possess. We are merely tracing the source of some of their newly discovered historical laws, and attempting to pose and, to some extent, answer certain questions raised by the Chinese revolution, questions which we would have to answer quite independently of Pabloism.
Consciously or not, Pabloism is superimposing the Chinese experience – and only half understood at that – on the whole world. With no special analysis of the history and development of China in the last few decades, either from a Marxist or a revisionist point of view, Pabloism has blithely concluded that there is a “new world reality.” Their “new world reality,” however, is to be found not nearly so much in the mighty dynamics of the Chinese revolution itself as in the policies of the Chinese Stalinists, and thence, by a kind of transubstantiation, in world Stalinism.
While it is true that Pablo himself (like Clarke) first began to discover the “new world reality” in the Titoist party of Yugoslavia, he did not announce it in its present more comprehensive revisionist form until some time later. Actually it was not Yugoslavia, but China, which had the greatest impact upon the Pabloites. Regardless of the date of Pablo’s own conversion, Pabloism itself could only gain a certain growth by virtue of the greater revolution in China which had more of a world effect.
Unlike the Russian revolution, which raised the theoretical level along with the fighting class-consciousness of the workers of nearly all countries of the world, the Chinese revolution has left its mark in a twisted, peculiar way. The Chinese was a truly great revolution. It really shook the world – but unfortunately it shook the Marxism out of some Marxists as well. It is the fate of all great revolutions to reveal the weak spots, the accumulated rust in theory, and consequently to increase the weaknesses of some of the theorists. But the Chinese revolution has had an effect more contradictory than usual in this respect.
As the Pabloists have so often informed us, they are not sectarians. By no means! They have been extremely sensitive to the developments in the real world, including the development of the Chinese revolution. Rut the trouble is that their sensitivity, like a harp that anyone can play upon, also responds sympathetically to false ideas. The brain, a most sensitive instrument, is often, by the same token, a weak instrument. How hard it is for a revolutionist con-slantlv to oppose the ruling ideas of the ruling class – no matter how banal or illogical these ideas are! How hard it is to resist the ideas of the ruling caste in the Soviet Union as well, especially at a time when Stalinism seems to have a new historic validity, when it is the ideology of the leadership of several large states, when it is the current ideological banner of millions of fighting class-conscious workers!
Naturally Pabloism is not a duplication of Stalinism. But it rationalizes the apparent validity of Stalinism, and projects a progressive historic evolution for it. How can such an inferior idea take possession of a superior mind, trained in Trotskyism? We have to look outside the realm of ideas to answer this question. Trotskyism, has the same validity today as it did formerly. Its logic is just as sound. Its critique of Stalinism is just as correct. But it is more isolated. It seems less important. History seems to threaten to pass it by! This can be very frightening to a revolutionist.
To stand up directly against the reaction, to fight capitalism and overthrow it, to make the revolution without complications, just the good against the bad – that is a very natural and understandable desire. But then to see a great revolution put into power those whom one did not expect to take power at all – that is hard, even on a mind trained in Marxism. But the mind is “resourceful.” It covers up its shaken confidence and resolution with new rationalizations and new “theory.” Thus a great revolution can have some reactionary results! And thus Pablo could find fertile ground for Pabloism.
New Role for Stalinism?
Now the leading party, which assumed state power in revolutionary China, was the Stalinist party. The question of the real dynamics of the revolution and the class nature of the new state did not trouble the Pabloites nearly ,so much as another intriguing, and in fact very important question: “Cannot the Stalinists then take power on a worldwide basis, lead the world revolution, be the ‘wave of the future,’ and eliminate the necessity for ourselves, the Trotskyists?” This is the way the Pabloite leaders, who were oh-so-objective in regard to their own revolutionary role, began to pose the question – at first to their most private looking-glasses, and later on to the party, in their mumbling ruminations and qualifications, sandwiched in the guise of confusion between points of their resolutions.
Had the leading Pabloites raised this question frankly and honestly from the beginning (as revisionists seldom do), it would have been much easier to answer them, and to answer on a thoroughly theoretical basis. They contented themselves, however, with half-raising the question of the historic role of the Trotskyist parties – as parties – while they reaffirmed their belief in the historic role of Trotskyism. This meant that the Stalinist parties (or Social Democratic parties, as the case might be) could eventually adopt the Trotskyist program without necessarily becoming Trotskyist parties – by a process of political osmosis, as it were, without sharp splits, fights, clashes between Stalinists and Trotskyists that would result in new Trotskyist parties combatting all other tendencies and contending for leadership of the workers of the world. Posing the question this way, without reviewing the relationship of Stalinism and Trotskyism to the world revolution, it appeared to the Pablo followers that it was a choice between trying to lead the revolution with a small “sectarian” party or with the much larger and “almost” revolutionary Stalinist party.
Considering the latter-day “objectivity” of those who have lost faith in their own program, and considering the necessity for a theoretical answer generally, we really ought to take up Pablo’s theory of Trotskyism without the Trotskyist party. This theory should not be considered by itself, “subjectively” (for we are surely too blinded by our own desire to lead the revolution to do this adequately!). It should be considered in the framework of the role and relationship of the party to the mass in general, of “spontaneity” in general, of revisionism in general, and of the Chinese revolution in particular.
What does the Chinese revolution, viewed through the lens of Marxism instead of the impressionist mirror of Pabloism, have to tell us about these things? Consider, for example, the newly discovered historical law that the proletarian masses “choose” their own instrument (party) and accomplish their revolution with it, more or less regardless of the content of the party’s program, even re-fashioning the program in the process and imposing a “revolutionary orientation” or the leading party. Is not China the source of this utterly false and fatally deceptive idea? It is not China, but its half-baked interpreters we have to blame! Actually, as we shall later demonstrate, the Stalinist program in China was not especially different in 1949 from what it was in 1929. The Chinese Revolution swept over its leadership and swept up its leadership far more than it shaped the leadership.
But this is only one of the subordinate parts of the revisionism the Pabloites have sucked out of their thumbs while staring at China. The question can be posed in a much more basic way. China, the Pabloites have finally concluded, however pragmatically, is a workers’ state. Now in the opinion of the present author, this is true. But if it is true, what then?
Why then, the Chinese masses’ quarter-century of struggle erupted into a workers’ state without the benefit of Trotskyist leadership! And if that is so, what then? “Why then,” formal logic triumphantly replies to the prostrate Pabloite, “either this is a pattern for world revolution or it is not. And since we are not Chinese exceptionalists, it is a pattern. This is the new world reality!”
True, the Pabloites do not put the matter so bluntly or so clearly as this. They only make the conclusions which flow from this.
Like Joseph with the forgetful Pharaoh’s dream, we are compelled to articulate their idea in clear daylight, as well as to show its meaning – and answer it. Such ruthless logic can’t be answered, of course, if we concern ourselves only with the rigid, formal premises of this kind of logic. The living logic of the revolution, however, has little trouble replying to such copybook sentences.
Must View in Context
To understand the Chinese revolution we not only have to acquaint ourselves thoroughly with the mighty upheaval of the Chinese millions, but we must view this upheaval in the context of the world revolution and the international situation, outside of which it is meaningless and, in fact, could not have taken place. More than that, the “workers’ state” is a more provisional, more transitional thing, in a smaller world, than it was in the 1917 period. In other words, China is, in my opinion, a workers’ state. But in the world of today, even such a great state as China cannot be regarded in as definitive a sense as the Soviet Union of 1917 – and of course not remotely as definitive as was the early American bourgeois republic among the world’s distant, almost unreachable feudal monarchies.
A workers’ state is a transitional regime – even a transitional society, if you will – between capitalism and socialism, a bridge from one to the other. (Needless to say, this regime is definitive enough for revolutionaries all over the world to defend intransigently.) Rut this transitional edifice, unlike a bridge between two solid shores, is a constantly changing, supremely sensitive, living thing, rooted in the past and only pointing to the future, subject to overthrow, degeneration and downfall, as well as to the fulfilment of its rational function. It is a provisional thing, even on the basis of its own national aims. On a world basis, this provisionalism is magnified and multiplied. The weight, the stability, the static importance, of any national revolution have decreased simultaneously with, and because of, the tremendously increased dynamism of the world revolution.
It is the worldwide class war, which Pablo thought he understood but will be compelled to reconsider if he continues to whitewash Moscow – it is this war which dictates that the inner Chinese struggle must become transformed and merged into the outer international struggle, and that state power can only be validated on a world basis. This cannot be done by simple “repetitions” of China, even if such repetitions were possible. The Pabloites generally say that the Kremlin’s worldwide dilemma forces it to keep encouraging the Stalinists to take power in each colonial revolution (and possibly the European too) in order to defend the Soviet Union – and itself – against imperialism. Pablo himself does not dare to say that this compulsion would finally drive Moscow into giving consistent leadership for world revolution itself. But since this is a logical outcome of his proposition, as well as a widely held belief of the bourgeoisie, we should take a good look at the proposition itself. It is necessary, among other things, to take a look at what the Stalinists are actually doing.
The Stalinists, as well as we, have noticed the imminence of the Third World War. And they justify their shameless betrayal in Iran, for example, which is admittedly a tinder-box, by the threat of the same world war whose logic is supposed to drive them to victory, not only in Iran, but in such countries as … France! Moscow and Peking are even now maneuvering Indo-China into a peace which, despite its immediate practical advantages, is a class peace, a restoration of some “stability” to the Far East, and to that extent to the world. This is an attempt to restore the status quo, an attempt which will not, of course, prevent the bigger war, but only prepare its outbreak under conditions more unfavorable for the workers. And in Italy and France, where the Stalinist policy alone prevents the drive to power and refuses to make even the most elementary military preparations, the threat of American intervention and atomic explosion is the chief rationalization the Stalinists give to themselves and their followers for their treacherous policies.
The Stalinists could not hold back the revolutionary tide in China. But they have proved again and again, and since China, that they are more than adequate in other places to turn victory into defeat. Pablo has failed to notice that – given the character of the Stalinists and the desperation of the Kremlin – the imminence of the war, class war though it is, also acts as a brake upon the revolution. Thus each succeeding “repetition” of China (if there are to be any at all) will not increase the contradictions of the ideology of Stalinism, as Pablo theorizes, but on the contrary will confront the various national Stalinist leaderships, each time the question of power is raised, with tasks which become more and more impossible without breaking with Stalinism – not obliquely or by implication, but openly and consciously breaking with the Kremlin (whose material assistance is fully as important to them as the bourgeoise say it is). This is not possible without ideological battles in the course of explaining the role of the Kremlin, even while the Kremlin is helping a given struggle, without splits, and the formation of Trotskvist parties. To any serious revolutionary, this means that trere must be a fighting organization of Trotskyism (the independent party).
The Real Question
Are we predicting that Indo-China, Burma, India or even, for that matter, France and Italy, could not possibly have revolutions under the leadership of the Stalinists? Some of the most important pre-conditions for the Stalinist success in China are missing in these countries, of course. But it is not necessarv to deal in absolute predictions of this sort. (If the possibility exists, it still does not relieve us from the duty of building a revolutionary party in those countries.) It is mere speculation whether the experience of China can somewhere, sometime, be “repeated.” The real question is: can it solve the world problem? Is the Chinese method sufficient for the success of the world revolution?
That is the way practical, professional revolutionaries who are serious about the world revolution must pose the question. “Revolutionary” pipe-dreamers and sideline “Marxist” commentators will not pose this question at all. They will accept the affirmative answer to the above question, partly because they don’t clearly formulate the question, partly because they are afraid to ask it, and partly because, after all, wouldn’t it be nice if it were true? But as long as this question is not clearly formulated, as long as wish-thinking and impressionism substitute for thinking on this question, then all their schoolboy-revolutionist talk about strategy and tactics with the Stalinists is only a discussion of the tempo of their own liquidation.
As we have already remarked, Pabloism was extremely impressed by China. But what impressed it most was the leadership. Pablo himself correctly claims the “credit” for having made new contributions on the nature of Stalinism. It is a common fault to be more impressed by the leadership than by the essence of historical movements. Pablo, with a tradition of Marxism, fairly well conceals this fault. But he has it. And he did not first display it in the recent struggle.
A few years ago, under the influence of the right turn of the Stalinists, a leading Pabloite wrote that it was false to say that the defense of the USSR was “dictated chiefly by its sociological and political characteristics: ‘workers’ state,’ ‘outpost of the revolution’ and the like.” He finished his article with the words:
“The Fourth International – already firm on many planks of its program – must bring up to date its position on the question of the USSR …”
(Fourth International, May 1945, pp.136, 138.)
Had the Stalinists not made their left turn in 1947, it is hard to say where this Pabloite would have wound up, with his quotation-marked “workers’ state” and his insistence on unity with the Shachtmanites at that time.
The point is this: With all his “contributions” on the bureaucracy and Stalinism, in general, what Pablo fails to concern himself with is the working class, the revolution, the revolutionary state. He cannot see this essence directly, dynamically, dialectically, but sees only a sort of romantic disfiguration through the gaudy prism of the actions of the leadership. And now he graduates from a more or less unnoticed failing to a theoretical elaboration of this fault. First, the state is nearly cursed because of its leadership (Soviet Union). Next, the leadership is glorified because of the revolution (China). And now, the revolutionary will of the masses becomes frozen into a revolutionary pattern in the brain-cells of the leaders.
This is not an isolated mistake, but a new world-theory. Now Bolshevism is no longer necessary! The independent party is passé. Pablo has made no guarantees, of course, that the leadership will keep this transmuted revolutionary program in their heads in the event that the masses go through a difficult period when conservatism and even reaction possess them. (However, he has somewhat provided for this by explaining that the “revolutionary wave is irreversible” … Can we then conclude that Stalinism’s regeneration is irreversible?)
Defense of China and USSR
We are the real defenders of China, as of the Soviet Union. And we do not base ourselves on the actions of the leadership, but on the actions of the masses and the nature of their social conquests. Mao’s murder of Trotskyists, for example, in no way determines our attitude on the historic importance of the mass struggle which Mao happened to lead. It is instructive to note that the impressionistic Pablo suppressed information about these murders, thus proving not only that he apologizes for Chinese Stalinism, but also that an impressionist may become so fond of one impression that he can inoculate himself against a contrary one!
Pablo’s trouble is not merely a small theoretical mistake in analyzing the nature of the Chinese state, not merely that he skipped a page or two while reading State and Revolution, not merely his incorrect understanding of the role of leadership in general. His trouble stems from the stubborn fact that, regardless of the chain of events which caused it, the Stalinists did find themselves at the head of the revolution, and finally in the administration of the state. Bemused and bedazzled by this fact, Pablo reminded himself that Trotskyism had not provided a place for the victory of the Stalinists in China, and proceeded – somewhat carefully for one bedazzled – to project the theory of a revolutionary orientation for Stalinism.
Now it would be terribly wrong to gloss over the events in China, or to rationalize the revolution out of existence, merely in order to prove the inadequacies of Stalinism. But it would be even worse, it would be a disarming of the world vanguard to say, as Pablo says in effect, that the Chinese revolution cuts out a new pattern for the world revolution, with the implication that the Stalinists, with a few lectures from us, can guide the world revolution to victory. We must agree with Pablo, of course, that it has proved possible for a party to take state power against the logic of its own program. But that was also proved by the Paris Comune in 1870. And trade union bureaucrats lead strikes every day in spite of their program of class collaboration. This encourages pragmatists to sneer at the validity of theory and the necessity for program. But does it prove them correct? Are the Marxist theory and program sideline commentaries on the class struggle, or are they the indispensable instrument in the hands of living people (a party) to the socialist conclusion of that struggle? Can a working-class party take power in the United States by the Chinese Stalinist method – that is, without a thorough understanding of the nature of the state, the nature of the liberal capitalist politicians, the nature of fascism, etc., etc., even with the most heroic cadre and the best will in the world?
Leadership and Program
The Pabloites slur over this question, partly because they half-believe that the blind revolution in China does set a new world pattern, partly because they half-believe that the world revolution is already won, or will be won by the addition of one or two more states to the workers’ bloc. A pernicious and fatal delusion! That is, it would be fatal if Pablo were to play any real strategic role in guiding the destinies of the world working class This is excluded, however, by the very nature of his political position. He does not really even regard himself as a leader of the Fourth International, but only as a sort of armchair Clausewitz writing admonitions for the generals of the Third. These gentlemen would manage to lose and/or betray the world revolution with or without the sideline comments of Pablo.
According to Trotsky, the question of leadership and program is the most important in our epoch. According to Pablo, this is no longer true (were not the Stalinists the leadership in China?). Now the masses “choose” a party to be their instrument to power, reshaping the instrument during the actual course of the revolution, somewhat as constant usage reshapes a handle better to the hand. With a peculiar logic, Pablo theorizes that it is the increased revolutionary drive of the masses that makes this possible and changes Trotsky’s thesis. But it is precisely the epic forces now going into battle that need, more urgently than ever before, a conscious, revolutionary Marxist leadership.
Basing ourselves always on the revolution itself in China, on the actions of the millions, let us reverse the method of Pablo and look briefly at the Chinese Communist Party’s history in the framework of the revolution. How did this party get catapulted to power without “projecting any revolutionary orientation” beyond their general orientation in 1931 or even earlier?
Is there anything in the past history of the Chinese CP, even previous to the taking of power and even previous to the “new world reality.” which might indicate a different future for it than for most other CPs of the world? And if there were such differences, what were they, how deep were they, and what caused them? Above all, what differences were there in the general Chinese situation?
To begin with, there was a revolutionary situation in China from 1925 to 1927. If there is anything to the proposition that the revolutionary drive of the masses becomes a revolutionary program in the heads of inadequate leaders, this was the time for it to be demonstrated. But the revolutionary masses at that time could not succeed in imposing the correct position and the drive for power on the minds of the CP leaders. (The few leaders who did finally understand the correct position got it from Trotsky, who was not in the Chinese mass movement at all.)
But Chiang’s success in 1927, his doublecross and defeat of the Chinese CP, proved to be incomplete; and the surviving cadres had a more correct line imposed upon them, insofar as Chiang’s intransigence prevented collaboration, and insofar as the general revolutionary situation in the countryside continued. It was precisely the subordination of the CP to Chiang and to the bourgeois Kuomintang that was the basic Stalinist error of 1925-27. The growth of independent class armies under the leadership of the Stalinists was in itself an objective correction of this error.
The great difference between the Chinese CP and other CPs of the world, even at this early time, lay in the fact that it was an independent armed body leading a civil war, as an aftermath of a revolution.
Furthermore, a larger and larger section of the oppressed peasant population armed itself under their banner. Still further, actual sections of territory came under the Stalinists’ armed rule. They had, so to speak. achieved power on a territorial basis long ago. The objective requirements and responsibilities of power were always a great factor, if not always the deciding factor, in their decisions. Finally, both their promises and their performances among the peasantry, in the whole long period of the civil wars and colonial war, were such as had to be transferred to the national field as soon as they achieved power; and these promises and performances, their program, and actions, were of the character of the bourgeois-democratic revolution.
In 1949 they fought for the same bourgeois-democratic demands they fought for in 1925-27. But this time they had to fight against the bourgeoisie instead of subordinating themselves to it. Chiang Kai-shek took care of that. But over and above everything was the torrential movement of hundreds of millions of human beings breaking through the rotting dams of feudalism, pouring out of the reaches of the ancient past, raging without let or hindrance into the present, still trying to cut a channel to the future.
It was not only the cataclysmic pressure of the revolutionary peasant masses in the concrete, who catapulted the Stalinists to power in China in a physical, mechanical sense; it was also the general bourgeois-democratic revolution in the abstract, that had to hurl a workers’ party into the breach since no bourgeois party would carry out the democratic tasks. (This explains why large sections of the left bourgeoisie could share power with the Stalinists, and, regardless of the mutual illusions of both parties, fail to put their class stamp on the state.) As Owen Lattimore commented several years before the revolution, if Chiang Kai-shek did not lead the democratic revolution, the Stalinists would have to do so. Lattimore correctly sense irrepressible nature of the Chinese revolution, and correctly called the turn on the Stalinist assumption of power, even if he did not understand the class nature of this power. But then, neither did the Stalinists.
Pablo might agree with this proposition. But this is not the same as saying that mass pressure converts itself into a revolutionary theory, or makes Stalinists become non-Stalinists. Nor does it permit us to generalize on the experience of China, since few places in the world duplicate the long history of armed struggle and the shifting boundaries of territorial civil war in China. (Nor is it now possible for the Stalinists to take state power in any other colonial country without being fully aware of what they have on their hands!)
It is worth noting also that Trotsky, in the 13 years he lived subsequent to the 1927 defeat, keenly observing the world situation, did not consider this unquestionably different situation of the Chinese CP so different as to raise any question as to whether it was really Stalinist or not. The fact is that the Chinese CP, through all the ups and downs of the long civil war, through the colonial war against Japan, through all the heroic and even epochal struggles, and through certain oblique differences with Moscow, followed the general turns of Kremlin policy.
It is true, however, and very important, that its flips and flops were somewhat less extreme than in other countries. But this was not for lack of trying. It was because of the basically different situation of the Chinese CP, and because of the specific history of the Chinese revolution. A man walks differently in water than on dry land!
Consider the famous Sian incident of 1937. The left-bourgeois “Young Marshall” Chang had kidnapped Chiang Kai-shek and called upon the Stalinists to join him in giving Chiang the mass trial before the people that they, the Stalinists, had so long been calling for. But the Stalinists double-crossed the “Young Marshall,” helped Chiang send him to prison, agreed to end land expropriations, gave up the civil war itself – all for a joint pact with Chiang to fight Japan. Subjectively, this was as much of a flip-flop as you could ask for; but objectively, it amounted to a “united front” with the colonial bourgeoisie (rather than a “popular front”) against imperialism, which as Trotsky said at the time was essentially a principled thing.
It was a “united front,” a joint action of worker-peasant armies and colonial nationalist armies against imperialism. The same Moscow-directed flip-flops in Europe at this period were “popular fronts”; that is, a subordination of the interest and ranks Of the workers to the liberal bourgeoisie of the imperialist countries. If the Chinese CP is qualitatively different from the other CPs, it was certainly different at that time as well. But was it?
Trotskyists, in the same situation, would also have made a united front agreement with Chiang in 1937, on the basis of the colonial struggle against imperialism, and on the basis of their program, and understanding of the permanent revolution. Did the Stalinists proceed from such a programmatic basis? No. The Soviet Union was being ground between the twin jaws of German and Japanese imperialism, and the Kremlin was conducting a cold war of maneuver between them and the so-called “democracies.” The Kremlin wanted to unite any and all forces it could, regardless of class, against Germany in the west and Japan in the east. The Kremlin ordered the Stalinists in France, England, etc., to unite with the liberal bourgeoisie against fascism (which meant Germany, as far as the Kremlin was concerned). And with exactly the same intent, they wanted the CP in China to unite with the Chinese colonial bourgeoisie against Japan. Due to objective circumstances (which also included the independent class armies under the Stalinists), what they wanted in the second case had a far different effect, and far-reaching results. And long before this, the Chinese Stalinists were conducting the most intense, hard-fought civil war, against monumental odds, even setting up soviets in the countryside. During these epic struggles from 1929 to 1937 had they ceased to be Stalinist? Did they entertain the notion of taking back the Trotskyist Oppositionists whom they had expelled, fingered, and harassed? No, they followed the Kremlin’s line most faithfully on this crucial question, and they committed themselves deeply. This was not a mere ritual on their part, for then, as well as now, they were extremely intolerant of any leftist criticism of their line, Trotskyist or otherwise.
But they had done one thing, more or less independently of strictly Stalinist considerations, which affected them inexorably for 25 years. They themselves had unwittingly raised the question of power by forming independent class armies after the defeat of 1927. (The whole essence of the tragedy of 1927 was the failure to have an independent party. Now, with the party taking the shape of an army, it was independent with a vengeance.) But it was not the mass pressure as such which forced the CP to break with Chiang. It was Chiang’s break with them and his drive to exterminate them. Their armies could only exist on the basis of revolutionary support from still other civilian armies of the poor. They had committed themselves to a civil war, which dictated by its own dynamics that they would have to end in utter annihilation or by taking power altogether.
Even at that, they might have actually ended in utter annihilation but for three other important considerations:
1) the logic of the permanent revolution, which prevented Chiang Kai-shek from carrying out his bourgeois-democratic program, and which enmeshed the Stalinists in its drive precisely because they were armed and subject to the above pressures;
2) the fact that Moscow’s politics, translated into Chinese conditions after 1927, could not have, as we have shown, the same effects they had in Germany, Spain, France, etc.;
3) the pre-condition of everything – that after 25 years of revolution, counter-revolution, famine, war and pestilence, the great masses still pushed forward, carrying the Stalinists upon their shoulders.
Having taken state power on the unprecedented wave of peasant revolt, the Stalinists were compelled to call upon the working class, whom they at first hamstrung, in order to carry out the demands of their revolutionary peasant base. Or to put it theoretically: The democratic dictatorship of the peasantry could only exist as the dictatorship of the proletariat, no matter how deformed. The Stalinists, by their inevitable and predictable response to the revolutionary demands of their peasant base (once they had the full field and full responsibility, i.e., state power), made clearer to the world, if not to themselves, the real historical class basis of their dictatorship.
Why Program Is Needed
So much for the revolution without a program. But can anyone seriously believe that this blind struggle can repeat its “success” on a world basis? True, the Chinese leadership arms Korea and Indo-China. But this flows from even the most conservative concepts of national defense. Do they, however, call upon the workers and peasants of India, for example – to say nothing of the United States – to prepare the socialist revolution? Do they, above all, explain to the workers and peasants of China that it is not possible to build socialism there without the aid of the world revolution? Certainly the Pabloites must know the answers to these questions. Certainly they must understand it is not “merely” the murder of the Trotskyists that prevents the Chinese Stalinist leaders from being genuine revolutionaries – that is, the kind of revolutionaries that history now requires.
It is not only Stalinist theory, such as it is, and Stalinist tradition that pull ideally upon the minds of the Chinese party. It is the material pull of 450 million hungry mouths which, under present conditions, the Chinese revolution alone cannot feed, which imperialist intervention makes still harder to feed, and which a summons to the world revolution and its consequently still greater sacrifices may make quite impossible to feed. Even the fortuitous conjunction of all the conditions for “success” of the Chinese revolution of 1949 could not remotely solve these problems or provide leadership for the coming titanic struggle.
For this, a program of world revolution is needed, and before that, a fight for this program. Why a fight? Because there is already a new bureaucracy, which has an interest in maintaining the status quo. If all the ties with Moscow were to be cut off tomorrow, the Chinese CP would still retain its own conservative incubus on top. Not only the Stalinist tradition in the abstract, but the concrete hold of the leadership on the rank and file must be fought, as it would have to be fought even in the least bureaucratized party we were trying to influence.
And when we consider that the demands of the world revolution not only conflict with the material interests of the bureaucracy, but require still greater sacrifices from the already bleeding Chinese workers and peasants themselves; when we consider this, in addition to all the rest, we must conclude that it is impossible for the Chinese leadership to fall accidentally into either the theory or the practice of world revolution; and we must conclude that it is fantastic even to dream of “fructifying” Mao’s party, just as it was to have any illusions about Tito. Revolutionary work in the Chinese CP must be the secret, underground work of Trotskyists who are determined to build their own party out of the indubitably excellent material in the rank and file of the CP. The leisurely “propaganda group” approach of Pabloism to the CP is not only inadequate but fatuous and suicidal – that is, if a hypothetical Chinese Pabloism would have any Trotskyist criticism of Mao at all.
The Chinese revolution itself raises the alternatives point-blank. Either we live in the age of separate distinct national socialist revolutions, step-by-step conquests of power, each conquest conservatively defending itself without regard to the needs of the rest of the world proletariat; or we live in the age of interconnected and interdependent revolutions and revolutionary movements. Either the Russian degeneration and the non-Bolshevik leadership in China are patterns of the future development over a long historical period; or the one is “a horrible relapse,” and the other a temporary conjuncture. Either there will be “centuries of degenerated workers’ states,” or there will be a new birth of mankind on the basis of revolution in the advanced countries, particularly the United States. Pablo sees this in a way, but in a wishy-washy way. He fails to see that each of these alternatives excludes the other.
The colonial revolutions, including the great Chinese revolution, though indecisive on a world basis (and that is the only real basis today), are not any less important because of these considerations. The genuine socialization of China, or India and China combined, for that matter, cannot be accomplished apart from the socialization of the United States. But on the other hand, the impact of the colonial revolutions on the struggle in the “advanced” countries is incalculable.
Sharpen The Crisis
The colonial revolutions, in depriving modern imperialism of its indispensable supports at the very time of crisis, still further sharpen the crisis and bring on still bigger explosions. The subjective aims of the colonial struggle, however – peaceful enjoyment of the land and the free development of industry – are impossible without the destruction of world imperialism, that is, without the world revolution. And the parties of the colonial revolution must be educated in this spirit of world revolution or they will sink inevitably into narrow Stalinist nationalism! or some variety of it. It is not by making a “mystique” of the coming world war, or by viewing it as a magic talisman, that the laws and strategy of the world revolution are to be learned. Anyone who, like Pablo, understimates the initial power of the US counter-revolution or fails to understand the absolute necessity of the American socialist revolution to the world revolution, is only playing at revolution, is unfit to speak of world strategy, and is falsely, even demagogically, invoking the name of internationalism to win our comrades in the colonial countries.
Pablo’s false theory of the colonial revolution, and his false appeal to it, go hand-in-hand with his false theory of the long-drawn-out nature of the revolutionary epoch. The long-drawn-out transition from feudalism to capitalism, which began in the fifteenth century, and in most countries is not even now complete, cannot be repeated in modern times by a similarly lengthy change-over from capitalism to socialism. The imposition of enforced Wail Street unity upon the world, the effects of uneven development and combined development, the proletarianization of even the most backward people and the penetration of modern material needs and aspirations among them, have all invested the modern revolution – that is, the socialist revolution – with a historic simultaneity that it had only partially achieved in the post-1917 world.
The world now resembles one great factory, whose different departments, making different parts of the common product, are manned by people of different nationalities – some of the departments being of a super-exploited, subterranean nature and for that reason all the more explosive, all the more likely to push the “upper,” more “advanced” sections into action. But it is the objective, absolute interconnection of all the departments, their common role of producers and consumers of the same product, which in the approaching crisis make the international strike-call ever more insistent, ever more appealing, even while it dictates that success depends upon the integration of the whole.
A romantic or impressionist understanding of this fact, this interrelationship, this imminence of world revolution, can lead to self-effacement, to illusions about Stalinism – in a word, to Pabloism. But a serious, professional, revolutionary understanding can lead only to the conviction that a world leadership, that is, a Trotskyist leadership, is the indispensable need of the working class.
The Chinese revolution, far from disproving this need, far from relieving us of the necessity of fighting for the hegemony of the Fourth International, has imposed upon us, in our forging of the world leadership, the additional, irrevocable duty of vindicating the heroic struggles of the Chinese masses, which otherwise would have been in vain.