Revolutionary Daily Thought
WHAT SHOULD THE LEFT DO NOW? STUDY
Everyone on the left is asking what we should be doing right now, but nobody wants to hear that we ought to be studying more. That’s tough, because strategic collective study is always one of the most valuable things we can do with our time — if it’s done right. It is a clear, concrete project that can generate real victories quicker than you might think.
Can we discern how and why capitalism is a bad thing, or are its wrongdoings random and mysterious? If it is a mystery, and we can’t understand it or change it — then we can’t be revolutionaries.
If, on the other hand, capitalism operates in understandable ways, then we could — in theory — disrupt it. In that case we need to know the system’s history, its predictable trajectories, and what has worked — and not worked — in stopping or slowing it down before. Blowing that off in the name of “pragmatism” would be like going to a dentist who thinks their high school shop class taught them everything they need to know about drilling your teeth.
To put it another way, we can either study theory or continue to be the victim of forces we choose not to understand.
WHEN SHOULD WE STUDY?
Check out this video about Naxalite guerillas in India. See what happens at 5:30 — these comrades from one of the poorest places on the planet, with very little formal education, find the time to read Marx, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao. We should fight back against any liberal notion that poor people aren’t smart enough to study theory — workers, peasants, prisoners, and the poor have done this study for centuries now.
One of the best guidelines revolutionaries have discovered over all those years: prioritize study following any significant defeat.
Mao developed the theories that led to China’s liberation during and after the Long March, Lenin cracked the code of proletarian revolution while in exile, Marx and Engels spent their lives exploring the failures of the 1848 revolutions and then the Paris Commune. The US left has not had a meaningful victory in decades, and huge swaths of us got hoodwinked by the Democratic Party — again. This is the time to dig in and see what we missed, and to make sure we stop making the same mistakes over and over.
HOW TO STUDY
First, study collectively. Communist study is not an academic exercise, it is a preparation for action. The group you study with is a ready-made nucleus for organizing. Also, studying by yourself makes it more likely that you will persist in error — the more minds you bring together, the less likely you are to end up thinking things that make organizing harder.
Second, make accountability your highest priority. Collective study makes it easier to get through tough material, but it only works if everyone does their part. The words “I didn’t finish the reading but…” should be anathema in your study group. Help people that start falling behind, but If you don’t have the discipline to read a book, how will you ever make it through a revolution?
Third, focus on the theorists whose ideas won. Yes, capitalism is back in power pretty much everywhere, but the Russan nobility and bourgeoisie Lenin and Stalin defeated or the Chinese comprador class destroyed by Mao did not come back — they don’t exist anymore. That’s more than any of their anti-communist critics can claim, and if we aim to defeat capitalism we should learn what’s worked and what hasn’t.
All of them were inspired by Engels, so try this. Message five trusted comrades right now and find a night you all have free three weeks from today. Send them this link and congratulations — you’ve organized a communist political project. If you need to break it up into a few sessions, that’s okay. Balancing capacity and the work that needs to be done is called strategy, and it’s how we’ll win.
Finally, remember that our study should never be aimless. Each session needs a facilitator to guide the discussion towards the most important questions of all: how does this help us understand our own conditions, and what does it suggest about possible ways to change them? Follow the study and the discussion into action, then consolidate what you learn in documents the rest of us can read. Repeat until we’ve smashed the state.
THIS IS HOW WE WIN
Bernie Sanders signed up one million volunteers. Imagine if 10 percent of them gave up on bourgeois politics and made revolution a real priority. 100,000 new communists could form 10,000 to 15,000 study circles, each of them sharpening their understanding of capitalism into real political weapons.
They could go into thousands of communities and use their knowledge to organize the disorganized, to help proletarian people fight for themselves. Imagine if they shared their discoveries with one another, and through collaboration and debate created a growing, thoughtful, strategic communist movement in the heart of imperialism. Imagine if the capitalist state deepens its current crisis at the same time.
The outcomes would be unpredictable, but one becomes a real possibility: revolution. Without study, that is impossible, which is all the reason we need to focus on organized, collective study right now. There’s nothing more pragmatic we could possibly do.
Revolutions and Revisions: An Interview with Charles Forsdick and Christian Høgsbjerg
In Toussaint Louverture: A Black Jacobin in the Age of Revolutions (Pluto) Charles Forsdick and Christian Høgsbjerg have produced what is arguably the most important biography of Louverture since CLR James’ magisterial Black Jacobins was first published in 1938. Kicking against the contemporary anti-Black and anti-radical revisionism that downplays the historical importance of the revolution while dismissing the significance of Louverture himself, Forsdick and Hogsbjerg’s short monograph is urgent, timely, and strikingly well-written. They have also created a sort of supplement to the book, editing The Black Jacobins Reader (Duke), an excellent collection of essays, commentaries, and primary source material that provides additional context and critique for the writing, production, and circulations of James’ classic history.
Charles Forsdick is James Barrow Professor of French at the University of Liverpool and the author Victor Segalen and the Aesthetics of Diversity (Oxford University Press, 2000), Travel in Twentieth-Century French and Francophone Cultures (Oxford University Press, 2005), among other works, and he has published widely on colonial history and postcolonial literature, travel writing, and Haiti, the Haitian Revolution, and the representations of Toussaint Louverture. Christian Hogsbjerg is a Lecturer in Critical History and Politics at the University of Brighton. He is the author of C.L.R. James in Imperial Britain (Duke, 2014) and Chris Braithwaite: Mariner, Renegade, and Castaway (On Our Own Authority!, 2017), as well as numerous essays and articles. Hogsbjerg’s research interests focus on Caribbean history, the black presence in imperial Britain, the black experience of the British Empire, and CLR James.
The Public Archive: Why Toussaint Louverture – and why now? And what led you both to historical projects on Black radicalism?
CH: When we are thinking of the origins or roots of contemporary movements like #BlackLivesMatter, the Haitian Revolution represents a foundational, inspirational moment but one of also wider world-historical impact and importance – “the only successful slave revolt in history,” as George Padmore first put it – and so as the most outstanding leader to emerge during that revolutionary upheaval Toussaint Louverture will always retain relevance and iconic significance. From 1793, when Toussaint dropped his name Breda and became “Louverture” and began calling for universal “general liberty” he began to define freedom in more radical terms than anyone else. As he put it at one point when critiquing liberal French republicans of the time –“we will obtain another freedom, different from the one you tyrants want to impose on us.” Fundamentally, Toussaint stressed that freedom was not a gift or something that could be bestowed from above, by tyrants – but it was something that had to be fought for and taken from below by the masses themselves.
There is a quote from James Baldwin in the superb 2016 film I Am Not Your Negro,directed by Haitian director Raoul Peck, “When any white man in the world says “Give me liberty or give me death,” the entire white world applauds. When a black man says exactlythe same thing, word for word, he is judged a criminal and treated like one and everything possible is done to make an example of this bad nigger so there won’t be any more like him.” History is a little bit more complex than that, but Baldwin has a point. For fighting for liberty in colonial Saint-Domingue, Toussaint Louverture was judged a criminal by Napoleon, captured, deported and left in an isolated prison in the Fort de Joux near the French Alps, where he died in 1803. We were privileged to be able to reproduce David Rudder’s calypso “Haiti” (1988) in The Black Jacobins Reader, and the opening of that speaks eloquently to Baldwin’s point:
Toussaint was a mighty man
And to make matters worse he was black
Black and back in the days when black men knew
Their place was in the back
Yet the intriguing complexities of Louverture – the sense he was a tragic hero who lost his way and before his capture by the French became in a sense the representative an emerging new black ruling class in Haiti, need teasing out and exploring as well – and this can also help us to better understand the wider revolutionary process underway historically – and also help illuminate some of the subsequent fates of anti-colonial leaders of nationalist revolutions in the twentieth century.
My interest in historical projects on Black radicalism in part came from the anti-racist and anti-fascist activism that I was involved with, campaigning against the fascist British National Party while an undergraduate and post-graduate student in Leeds in the late 1990s and 2000s, as well as anti-war and anti-imperialist activism around the Stop the War movement at the time of Bush and Blair’s neo-colonial “war on terror.” My reading of C.L.R. James and The Black Jacobinsopened up this rich hidden history of Caribbean revolt and black British resistance that seemed an immense and timely “resource of hope” amidst the horror of things like the Iraq war and occupation – and also James’s Marxist approach was a timely antidote to contemporary prevailing intellectual fashions then underway in cultural history. I then began my doctoral work on C.L.R. James’s time in 1930s Britain at the University of York in 2004, building on a MA dissertation on the same topic at the same institution back in 2002, and this only further reinforced my sense that there was still so much work to be done in the fields of resistance among the enslaved and colonized across the Caribbean as well with respect to the history of black British radicalism.
Having the honour of editing James’s play Toussaint Louverture: The story of the only successful slave revolt in historyfor its first ever publication in 2013 with Duke University Press as part of their C.L.R. James Archives series drew me into reading further about revolutionary history in Haiti. (The play is currently being adapted into a graphic novel by Nic Watts and Sakina Karimjee with Verso). When Pluto got in touch about writing a popular biography of Toussaint for their “Revolutionary Lives” series it seemed an obvious project for Charles and myself to undertake alongside our editing of The Black Jacobins Reader, not least because Charles and myself had already collaborated to co-write an essay together recovering the story of Sergei Eisenstein’s doomed attempt to make a film about the Haitian Revolution starring Paul Robeson. I think we both had a sense that there had not been a decent easily accessible political biography of Toussaint Louverture for a while, at least not in English, one that took him seriously as a great anti-imperialist fighter who could still inspire radicals today, and which could register and take account of the new research and writing in Haitian revolutionary studies that has emerged since James’s great work.
CF: Christian and I came to these projects from different perspectives – but serendipitously our trajectories converged and we were able to collaborate on the article about Eisenstein for History Workshop Journal, the Black Jacobins Readerand finally the biography of Louverture in Pluto’s “Revolutionary Lives” series. I had read C.L.R. James’s history of the Haitian Revolution long before I would develop a research interest in French colonial history and the so-called “French Caribbean.” I came back to the topic in 1998, in the year of the 150thanniversary of the abolition of slavery in the French colonial empire. I grew increasingly frustrated that the state-endorsed commemorative practices followed a predictable pattern (we would see the same in Britain in 2007, the year of the so-called “Wilberfest”), foregrounding abolition as a legislative, philanthropic process (embodied in French in figures such as Victor Scholecher) and downplaying, even denying the agency of the enslaved. James outlines the process in The Black Jacobins: :Sad though it may be, that is the way that humanity progresses. The anniversary orators and the historians supply the prose-poetry and the flowers.” Edouard Glissant described the 1998 celebrations in France along similar lines as a “Franco-French affair” – and this extended to the treatment of Toussaint Louverture, presented in that year’s events (when a plaque to him was unveiled in the Paris Pantheon) as a French Republican general and not as the Haitian freedom fighter who led a struggle against France, Britain and Spain that would lead to emancipation not only from the shackles of enslavement but also from those of colonial oppression. That process of domestication and gallicization fits into a longstanding assimilation of Louverture into more self-congratulatory narratives of French republicanism (there were even plans to Pantheonize him in 1989) – narratives that tend to deny the shortcomings of the French Revolution when it comes to questions of ethnicity (colleagues with whom I have collaborated in the ACHAC public history group call this “fracture colonial”) and also fail to acknowledge the singularity of the Haitian Revolution in its quest for universal emancipation.
In the late 1990s, when I was working on Edouard Glissant’s work in the context of ongoing research on exoticism and diversity (I’m currently editing a collection of translations of his later writings for Liverpool University Press), I knew he had written a little-studied radio play on the Haitian Revolution in the late 1950s, subsequently published as Monsieur Toussaint. It is a remarkable piece of theatre, in which the dying Louverture, imprisoned by Bonaparte at the Fort de Jouxin the Jura, relives his past with his cell haunted by figures from Haitian history. For Glissant, this was a key work, the first clear articulation of what he would call a ‘prophetic vision of the past’, and an attempt to reflect in terms of spatial performance (the initial radio play became a stage version) on pan-Caribbean solidarity – it’s important to note that the first version of Monsieur Toussaintwas written in 1959, the year that Glissant established, with Paul Niger, the Front Antillo-Guyanais pour l’Autonomie, as a result of which Charles de Gaulle prevented him from leaving France to return to the Caribbean until 1965. The play is a radical work in that it demonstrates how Louverture – even if, as its title suggests, he had been stripped by Napoleon of the trappings of his rank and returned to anonymity – transcended the confines of his prison cell to ensure that the incendiary nature of the Revolution continued. In a conference paper in 1998, I read Glissant’s work in relation to James’s 1936 drama – for which I then had to rely not on Christian’s 2013 edition with Duke University Press but on what is actually a version of the 1967 rewriting included in Errol Hill’s 1976 edition of eight Caribbean plays, A Times and a Season.
This initial work led me to focus on cross-cultural representations of Louverture more generally, a project that took on encyclopedic proportions as I realized how the revolutionary has been instrumentalized in so many different contexts in the two centuries following his death. The corpus I assembled included novels, poetry and plays; it extended to the visual arts and cinema; it now encompasses comics and video games – there is even now a Toussaint Louverture liqueur, and his image is emblazoned on barbecue aprons and mugs. This proliferation of representations suggested to me a translatability, even an acceptability to Louverture that we do not associated with Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the revolutionary leader and liberator whose standing has always been greater in Haiti itself than elsewhere – and it was that translatability that led me to ask a series of questions about Louverture’s revolutionary legacies. Does the reproducibility of his image suggest that, like that of Che, his incendiary impact will slowly be exhausted in a process of neo-liberal appropriation, or are there flashpoints – like James’s engagement with Haiti in the 1930s – when those revolutionary afterlives are aligned with contemporary struggles and reignited? The context of #BlackLivesMatter, Rhodes Must Fall and other international activist movements aimed at challenging Afriphobia whilst demanding reparations suggest that this might be a particular moment in which Louverture frees himself again from the chains of more limiting, conservative representations. Our collaboration needs, I think, to be read in that context.
Your biography of Louverture has two major points of historiographical engagement. The first is with James’ classic study; the second with what you call a “conservative revisionism” that has offered some serious critiques of not only James’ work, but also of certain interpretations of Toussaint Louverture and the project of the Haitian Revolution. Two questions emerge from these engagements. First, in what ways did The Black Jacobinsboth open up and delimit your own attempts to tackle Louverture’s life? Second, what is the nature and origins of this conservative revisionism and how have you responded to it?
CH: We felt it was important to defend and restate the main underlying thesis of The Black Jacobins, including the way in which the French and Haitian Revolutions were intrinsically intertwined throughout, and James’s analysis of Toussaint Louverture in particular as a “black Jacobin.” We had a sense that there would be few other scholars attempting to do such a thing, for doing so meant swimming against the stream of two dominant strands of thought in academia which not only reject such an approach theoretically but also in many ways felt emboldened by some of the new research that has come to light about the Haitian Revolution since James wrote his pathbreaking work back in 1938. Firstly, rightly, there has a growing attention to the African roots and dynamics of the Haitian Revolution among historians – but accompanying this has been a sense among many that we should avoid too much of an allegedly “Eurocentric” focus on the impact of the Enlightenment and the ideas of the French Revolution, which James is said to have overstated at the expense of a recognition of the “African” ideologies of both kingship and also that of vodou – the latter a strong theme in Madison Smartt Bell’s 2007 biography of Toussaint Louverture. Yet the very title of James’s work – BlackJacobins – shows James was arguably well aware of the importance of the “Africanness” of the revolution in terms of ideologies of kingship and so on, and also of vodou as a revolutionary ideology – “the medium of the conspiracy” he called it in his work. One strength of James’s work was his clear grasp that one of the most important processes during the revolution was that over the course of the struggle old ideas of “kingship” began to give way to a new discourse of “liberty and equality,” and these ideals became embodied as a powerful material force in the black revolutionary slave army under Toussaint’s leadership. The ideals of The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen in 1789 and the National Convention’s abolition decree of 1794 fired Louverture’s rhetoric when addressing his own fighters. On 18 May 1797, in an Address to soldiers for the universal destruction of slavery,” for example, Louverture declared: “Let the sacred flame of liberty that we have won lead all our acts … Let us go forth to plant the tree of liberty, breaking the chains of our brothers still held captive under the shameful yoke of slavery. Let us bring them under the compass of our rights, the imprescriptible and inalienable rights of free men. [Let us overcome] the barriers that separate nations, and unite the human species into a single brotherhood.”
Secondly, there have always been attempts to downplay Toussaint’s political radicalism – perhaps he was a ”black Girondin” rather than a “black Jacobin” for example – but there has been a more recent conservative revisionist turn in historiography, epitomized for us by the recent otherwise quite impressive biography of Toussaint Louverture by Philippe Girard. For Girard, it is time to drop the idea that “Louverture was the idealistic herald of slave emancipation” and “the forefather of an independent Haiti.” Rather, as Girard tells us, “above all, he was a pragmatist … [concerned above all with] personal ambition … his craving for social status was a constant. Educating himself, seeing to his children’s future, making money, gaining and retaining power, and achieving recognition as a great man: he never wavered from the pursuit of these ends. He was a social climber and a self-made man…”
Our work fundamentally challenges Girard’s argument here. Though new sources have come to light since James wrote, for example revealing Toussaint’s status as a slave-owner in pre-revolutionary Saint Domingue, he was not – and never claimed to be – a revolutionary until the revolution erupted in the last dozen years of his life. As a black person living in a non-revolutionary situation in a barbaric slave society most of his life, where black people could be killed on a whim by white people as a matter of course, with little (if any) chance of any legal or other repercussions, sheer survival and existencerepresented in itself a form of resistance. Girard himself relates one incident relating to Toussaint that happened while walking back from the Mass one day with his prayer book: “According to the story, which he shared ten years later, ‘a white man broke my head with a wooden stick while telling me ‘do you not know that a negro should not read?’” Louverture prudently begged for forgiveness and slipped away, a decision that likely saved his life. But he kept his blood-soaked vest as a reminder and neither forgot nor forgave. Running into the same man years later, after the outbreak of the slave revolt, he killed him on the spot.”
Moreover, once the Haitian Revolution began in 1791, as we argue it is surely a little odd to maintain that Louverture was “above all” a “pragmatist” concerned with “personal ambition,” “social status” and “making money.” Such a person, it might be suggested, would be an unlikely person repeatedly to risk life and limb by putting themselves on the frontline of a black slave army fighting under the banner of “Liberty or death” – and indeed, would be the least likely person to be able to inspire others to follow him into battle under such a slogan. If Louverture had wanted money and status above all, there were surely safer ways to try and secure them, even once the revolt had begun. Indeed, rather than seeing Louverture essentially as a “self-made man,” we would re-iterate the point made by James, who stressed that on a fundamental level “it was the revolution that made Toussaint.”
Incidentally, Philippe Girard in his review of our work in the New West Indian Guidefor some reason avoids engaging with the substantive critique of his work that we make, instead accusing us of “ideological bias,” arguing “historians normally comb archives and then follow the sources wherever they may take them. Forsdick and Høgsbjerg proceed the other way around, beginning with a wish ‘to reassert the incendiary political implication of [Louverture’s] life, actions, and revolutionary political thought’…” Quite how one is supposed to start historical work researching the leader of the greatest slave revolt in world history without having any pre-existing “ideological” preconceptions is unclear, and indeed James in The Black Jacobinsdismissed the kind of ultra-empiricist approach apparently favoured by Girard as a completely inappropriate method when writing revolutionary history. As James put it, historians who try to be “fair to both sides” in a revolution tend to miss not only “the creative actions and ideas of the revolutionary forces” but even “the clash of an irresistible conflict, of suddenly emergent forces pursuing unsuspected aims” which overtly reactionary historians can sometimes give a clearer sense of.
CF: Unlike Christian, who is a historian, I have always come to James as a student of France and as someone who has emerged from a British tradition of “French Studies.” According to a sort of methodological nationalism, my disciplinary background is one that has often had a mimetic relationship to intellectual traditions in France, often failing to question either the ethnolinguistic assumptions of much French thought or the ethnocentric emphases of revolutionary historiography. My more recent work – notably on Pierre Nora’s Lieux de mémoire– has attempted to reveal colonial blind spots and contribute to the decolonization of French intellectual histories. For me, the experience of reading James’s Black Jacobinswas inevitably central to this work – and I suspect his uneven reception in France, at least until recent years when scholars such as Matthieu Renaulthave made the importance of his work so much more accessible, reflects the highly disruptive nature of his thesis. It overturns so many assumptions in France, not least those that for many years reduced the Haitian Revolution to a poor tropical imitation of its more serious French counterpart, some exotic sideshow to the events in Paris. The visibility of Haiti and its Revolution still remains limited in France, and knowledge of the country – past and present – has until recent years been surprisingly partial. James reminds us that at certain points in the 1790s, the centre of gravity of revolutionary struggle was focused in Saint-Domingue; he demonstrates that the Haitian revolutionaries were able to imagine possible futures – not least relating to universal emancipation – that were, in the terms deployed by Michel-Rolph Trouillot – “unthinkable” for their French counterparts. Building on these reflections, we can suggest that the tensions between universalism and ethnic diversity with which France still grapples are rooted in the historic failure to acknowledge Haiti and its Revolution – a failure cemented by the massive debt imposed on the country in 1825 in return for recognition of its independence, a debt that was only paid off in 1946 and that led in part to the chronic underdevelopment of independent Haiti.
In relation to your specific question about conservative revisionism in the area of revolutionary historiography, this needs to be read in a much wider frame of re-figurings of Louverture. Historical characters associated with legend inevitably lend themselves to a greater malleability. This was as true in the interwar period, when James was researching The Black Jacobins, as it has been more recently. Let’s not forget that James’s version of the Haitian revolutionary is just one of a number that emerged in the 1930s. We tend to retain the more progressive ones of these – Césaire’s anti-racist rendering of Louverture in his Cahier d’un retour au pays natal; Jacob Lawrence’s pictorial interpretation, in the context of the Harlem Renaissance, in the 42 panels of his remarkable Life of Toussaint L’Ouverture, now at the Amistad Research Center in New Orleans – and then conveniently forget others, most notably the reading of Louverture as a ruthlessly ambitious dictator in Die Revolution von Saint Domingue(1930), by the Nazi historian Erwin Rusch. More recent readings of Louverture that deny his revolutionary ambition and claim that he was committed to protecting a status quo (and his own interests within that status quo) may be associated with a long-standing French historiographic tradition in this area. Pierre Pluchon’s Toussaint Louverture: Un révolutionnaire noir de l’Ancien Régime (1989) argued, for instance, as its subtitle suggests, that Louverture was an Old Regime revolutionary, seeking to replace white with black rule in an attempt to maintain colonial order.
In your introduction to The Black Jacobins Reader you argue that The Black Jacobinsis “much more than a book” and you describe it as part of a “text-network” made up of a series of “translations without an original.” What do you mean by this – and what are the texts (and contexts) that produced The Black Jacobins? How does this enhance our understandings or interpretation of The Black Jacobins?
CF: The idea of the “text-network” made up of a series of “translations without an original” is one we borrow from Susan Gillman’s highly suggestive study of The Black Jacobinsincluded in an excellent collection of essays edited by Peter Hulme and others, Surveying the American Tropics. Gilman in turn adopts the concept from the classicist Dan Selden. In a 2010 article in Ancient Narrative, Selden had challenged the ways in which studies of the “ancient novel” tend to privilege an understanding of single-authored texts to detriment of reading works as evidence of a “multiplicity of different versions, in a wide variety of different languages, retailored to fit a host of different cultural contexts.” A figure we might use to understand such forms of production and dissemination is that of the rhizome, central to Caribbean thought as a result of its adoption by Edouard Glissant in Poétique de la Relationand other writings. We suggest in the Readerthat to read The Black Jacobinsrhizomatically has major implications for the ways in which we understand the text and its impact. On the one hand, it allows us to undermine any cult of authorship: despite the distinctive nature of his writing, James’s writing of his work was openly dialogic, the result of conversations with a range of interlocutors including, for instance, Haitian diplomat Auguste Nemours and James’s compatriot Eric Williams; at the same time, the text includes fragments from a plethora of sources, published and manuscript – we still need a comprehensive critical edition of The Black Jacobins, identifying in detail the material on which James drew and the differences between editions.
The answer to your question is provided as a result in large part by Rachel Douglas’s The Making of the Black Jacobins(Duke University Press, 2019), a meticulous study of the ways in which James engaged with the history of the Haitian Revolution across six decades of his life. These rewritings stretch from the first mention of Toussaint Louverture in his 1931 article in The Beacon, written even before he had left Trinidad, critiquing the pseudoscientific racism of Sidney Harland, to a series of articles, lectures and other engagements in his later years. In a literal sense, The Black Jacobins– drama or history – is a profoundly unstable text, and this not only because of the multiple versions that exist, with, as David Scott has demonstrated, often very different emphases. Already, within James’s own writing practice, we see evidence of transgeneric translation, as a narrative that began life as a play is transformed into a history (in which traces of Shakespearean tragedy of course persist). But his engagement with Haiti spills beyond these works. Anyone who explores James’s wider oeuvreor who visits his archives at UWI St-Augustine, Columbia University or elsewhere will be struck by the recurrence of references to Haiti, in articles, lectures, book reviews, prefaces, correspondence. The Haitian Revolution was a result catalytic to James’s thought at the beginning of his career, during the initial six-year period in Europe that Christian studies so well in his C.L.R. James in Imperial Britain(2014), but continued to play an important role in his thinking for the rest of his life – a process within which there is a clear evolution in attitudes to the meanings of the Revolution and crucially to the agency of various actors within it.
Reading The Black Jacobinsas a “text-network” also means reflecting on the role of translation in its production and dissemination. There is the hidden work of translation by James himself as sources in languages other than English (primarily French) were processed and assimilated as a result of his original research; as we explain in the introduction to the Reader(and as Rachel Douglas explores in more detail in The Making of the Black Jacobins), the book itself has also been translated into multiple languages (we include translations back into English of the prefaces to the French, Italian and Cuban versions, written by Pierre Naville, John Bracey and Madison Smartt Bell respectively), all of which have contributed to the afterlives not only of The Black Jacobinsitself, but also of the Haitian Revolution more generally.
Also let’s not forget transmedial translations, a particularly good example of which is Lubaina Himid’s engagement with Haiti via her reading of C.L.R. James in 1980s Britain (this is studied in detail in the recent Liverpool University Press book, Inside the invisible: Memorialising Slavery and Freedom in the Life and Works of Lubaina Himid). In Himid’s work, I’m particularly interested in Toussaint L’Ouverture, a mixed media portrait of the revolutionary leader from 1987 recently acquired by the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art. It uses a collage of words from contemporary newspaper headlines – “RACIST”, “TORTURE”, “ABUSE” – to underline the contrast between the promise of universal emancipation won by the Haitian Revolution and the persistence of inequalities relating to race and ethnicity in the modern world. “The news wouldn’t be news,” Himid wrote in the piece, “if you had heard of Toussaint L’Ouverture.” In short, reading the book not as a static, single volume but as a “text-network” helps us understand how it functions and inspires as a classic of revolutionary historiography.
CH: Reflecting on the writing of The Black Jacobinsin 1980, C.L.R. James noted “my West Indian experiences and my study of Marxism had made me see what had eluded many previous writers, that it was the slaves who had made the revolution.”It is critically important to understand something of the interwar period – historically, politically, culturally – to make sense of the writing of The Black Jacobins, whether James’s experiences of the 1919 mass strike in colonial Trinidad and the subsequent growth of the Trinidad Workingmen’s Association as a mass nationalist organization, through to his campaigning for “West Indian Self-Government” and wider Pan-African liberation while in Britain in the 1930s, his reading of Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolutionin Nelson, Lancashire, while supporting a mass strike of cotton workers in 1932, through to his witnessing mass demonstrations and strikes against fascism while researching the Haitian Revolution in Paris in 1934, his building of solidarity with the Ethiopian people at the time of Mussolini’s war in 1935, and with the Spanish Revolution in 1936 and the Caribbean Labour Rebellions of the late 1930s – with much of the researchundertaken while Haiti itself was under US military occupation. Stuart Hall– to whom The Black Jacobins Reader is dedicated – once well described how “what is riveting … is the way in which the historical work and the foregrounded political events are part of a kind of seamless web … they reinforce one another.” It is important to recall that James was writing in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution – and like many black colonial subjects he was greatly inspired by that process – and the wider revolutionary movements that shook Europe in this period – outlined in James’s own work World Revolution, 1917-1936– meant that ideas of “revolution” and the importance of revolutionary history, questions of revolutionary theory, organization, strategy and tactics and so on had an urgency and relevance then that that they have not had subsequently. James as a “black Bolshevik” identified as strongly with the Russian Revolution as the “black Jacobin” Toussaint Louverture did with the French Revolution, and James’s sense of the degeneration that had accompanied the rise of Stalin by the 1930s gave him an insight into how the degeneration of the French Revolution with the rise of Napoleon in a fundamental sense had betrayed the hopes of Haitian revolutionaries. As Charles has already mentioned, the way the work then gets revised by James over the course of his life amid the changing contexts and the breakthrough of decolonization is something explored well by Rachel Douglas in her new work, The Making of The Black Jacobins.
You also make the point that although it sometimes feels as if The Black Jacobins has dominated the historiography of the Haitian Revolution since it was first published in 1938, the reality was and is somewhat more complicated. How so?
CH:The Black Jacobinsin the first edition was an expensive hardback, and so was either passed hand to hand by activists (there is a fantastic story of James trying to ensure Louis Armstrong’s copy of the work was passed on to Martin Luther King in 1957 for example) or perhaps read in a university library. In that sense, while figures such as the Jamaican Pan-Africanist Amy Ashwood Garvey could hail it in 1940 as “the most revolutionary book on Toussaint L’Ouverture,” it could be ignored by most of the wider Western historiography of the Haitian Revolution – just as the first edition of Eric Williams’s Capitalism and Slaveryin 1944 was more or less ignored by British historians. This said, it was read and did begin to make it into the footnotes of some of the more radical historians, including Eric Hobsbawm’s work The Age of Revolution, and including in Haiti itself thanks to the 1949 French translation by Pierre Naville. It was not really however until the rising Civil Rights Movement in the US meant there was a market suddenly for a Vintage paperback edition in 1963 that helped the work shape the thinking of a new generation of both activists and scholars during the 1960s and 1970s, just as Capitalism and Slaverybegan to be taken more seriously by the wider historical establishment in Britain with the 1964 edition of that work – slowly both books became more and more impossible for even bourgeois scholars to ignore any longer.
CF: This is an important question. The Black Jacobins now has all the trapping of a classic: a popular Penguin edition (prefaced by James Walvin, and recently selected by The Left Book Club as its choice in January 2020); the multiple translations I’ve referred to already; now an academic “reader” devoted to it… But let’s not forget that the first edition of the book risked disappearing from view and had a relatively limited impact. 1938 was, in retrospect, not the best moment for The Black Jacobinsto appear, in part because imminent global conflict would deflect (temporarily at least) from the pressing debates about anti-colonialism to which James was responding and contributing, in part because its publication coincided with James’s departure for the USA. It might also be argued also that the first edition was premature in terms of its contribution to debates about postcolonialism and neo-colonialism, phenomena with which Haiti engaged – as Nick Nesbitt has so eloquently suggested – 150 years before they would become hallmarks of the ideology and praxis of the second half of the twentieth century.
Until the second edition of The Black Jacobinsappeared in 1963, the book was an underground, more confidential form of intervention. It was a new generation of readers from the Caribbean – George Lamming in particular, Walter Rodney as well – who encouraged James to revisit and republish his work, which appeared in the new Vintage edition to which Christian has alluded, with the postface “From Toussaint Louverture to Fidel Castro” situating it in a new context of contemporary political struggle. Despite James’s own focus on the Caribbean at that time, The Black Jacobinsthen spoke to a range of movements, local and global, that transcended the Caribbean: Black Power, anti-apartheid, tricontentinentalism; but it also served as a point of reference for an emerging group of historians – David Geggus, for instance, whose PhD produced in York in the 1970s remains the definitive account of the largely disavowed place of British troops in the Haitian Revolution – committed to granting Haiti the place it merits in accounts of what Hobsbawn called the “age of revolution.” In a bibliography that is still expanding of lives of Louverture or histories of the Revolution (I eagerly await Sudhir Hazareesingh’s Black Spartacus: The Epic Life of Toussaint Louverture, for instance, due to appear in the Autumn, as well as the graphic novel of James’s play currently being drawn by Nic Watts and Sakina Karimjee), James’s account has retained its central role – it remains the initial text that I recommend to students wishing to understand the place of Haiti in world history. Additional archival sources have been uncovered, new theses explored, but no other account competes with James’s for its breadth and incisiveness of analysis and for the ways in which it captures the persistently incendiary meanings of the Revolution for those seeking to imagine what David Scott has called possible postcolonial futures.
Another question on circulation. How was The Black Jacobins taken up in the Caribbean and Africa?
CH: This is a fascinating question, and one that surely requires more research – I once came across a reference to “Toussaint Louverture clubs” in existence in colonial Trinidad in 1938, but my sense is that these were short-lived middle class literary societies and it seems unconnected to James or his work. George Padmore worked to ensure The Black Jacobins was known among anti-colonial activists in colonial Africa and the Caribbean, writing a widely republished review praising the work and aimed to send a few copies to Pan-Africanist contacts in West Africa – perhaps the most notable reader of the work to emerge out of this milieu would have been Kwame Nkrumah. Intriguingly there was a copy of the French edition in the library of Frantz Fanon. James himself testifies to the impact of the work in apartheid South Africa among students, while Thabo Mbeki once stated that after he read The Black Jacobins, he knew that apartheid would ultimately be defeated. Many radical intellectuals and writers of the 1960s and 1970s aside from Mbeki engaged with it deeply – whether one is talking about Walter Rodney, George Lamming, Stokely Carmichael, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o or the circle of young black Caribbean radicals in the C.L.R. James Study Circle in Montreal, Canada that David Austinhas written about. James’s 1967 revised playThe Black Jacobins was produced and staged in Nigeria of course, and the circumstances of this have been discussed extensively by Rachel Douglas.
CF: Yes, this is a question that interested us greatly while we were preparing The Black Jacobins Reader– and we both concluded that considerably more research is required. We were grateful to Matthew Smith for his chapter on Haiti in British West Indian thought before The Black Jacobinswas published. It is clear that afterits publication, James’s book has predominated. Christian mentions the presence of Les Jacobins noirsin Fanon’s library – and I’m particularly interested in this Francophone postcolonial engagement. Césaire clearly knew James’s work and cites it in passing in his Toussaint Louverture:La Révolution française et le problème colonial(just as James would cite the Cahier d’un retour au pays natalin the 1963 postface to The Black Jacobins). The two men met in Cuba at the Havana Cultural Congress of 1968 – Andrew Salkey memorably describes the encounter in his Havana Journaland James devotes a fragment to Césaire in his unpublished autobiography. Another dimension of this story is the reception of The Black Jacobinsin Haiti itself. We have tantalizing glimpses of James’s interactions with Haitian historians, notably Etienne Charlier, author of the classic Marxist history of the Revolution in Aperçu sur la formation historique de la nation haïtienne, and Jean Fouchard, for the English translation of whose Les Marrons de la Liberté (The Haitian Maroons: Liberty or Death) James wrote a preface in 1981, the year after Fouchard’s death. It is unclear whether James ever travelled to Haiti – it seems unlikely – but he definitely had plans for a visit in the 1950s when he also alluded to a possible Haitian translation of his work. I’m not one for counterfactual history, but it is striking to speculate on the impact that translation might have had had it appeared in Duvalier’s Haiti.
What is the theoretical, and perhaps methodological, importance of The Black Jacobinsto debates concerning the history of capitalism and slavery?
CH: Stuart Hall once wrote that James in The Black Jacobinswas the first to centre Atlantic slavery in world history – so in this sense the importance of James’s work to these debates is self-evident. Certainly, James’s short discussion on the economic roots of British parliamentary abolitionism formed the essential outline of Eric Williams’s more famous and lengthy contribution in this field – as Williams himself acknowledged, though in my opinion James’s grasp of the modernity of colonial slavery and the slave ships and plantations thanks to his underlying theoretical grasp of the uneven and combined nature of capitalist development meant his analysis of the exact relationship between capitalism and slavery is more sophisticated than that of Williams in many respects. Personally I have also been struck by James’s pioneering class analysis of the enslaved themselves – part proto-proletariat, part proto-peasantry while also recognizing that in many ways they were also part proto-consumers, long before slavery scholars coined these terms. More broadly, James was the first to stress the importance of the Haitian Revolution to the wider transition from feudalism to capitalism in terms of Marxist historiography, and so the work formed the central part of his wider lifelong intellectual contribution which was, as he saw it, to explain the relationship of black people to “Western Civilisation.”
CF: Yes, the genesis of The Black Jacobinsand Capitalism and Slavery(or at least the thesis on which it was based) are so closely intertwined that James once claimed he and Williams co-authored parts of each text. James was, however, one of the first to see the plantation as an early expression of the logic of capitalism, a testing ground for the nineteenth-century developments of the industrial revolution. Thanks to the work of the Legacies of British Slave-ownershipproject, we know have a much clearer evidence base to track how slavery and capitalism would be subsequently linked. But at a more fundamental level, James shows how the dehumanization of enslavement transformed the enslaved into capital. The first chapter of The Black Jacobinsremains one of the most searing statements of this historical reality, but the text also shows an interest in the economic underpinnings of the Revolution – in Louverture’s pragmatism (his re-imposition of the plantation can be seen as a form of state capitalism) but also in the alternatives of agrarian self-sufficiency and devolved ownership proposed by Louverture’s nephew Moïse. James’s growing interest in Moïse (and in Louverture’s decision to execute him) predominates in his later engagements with Haitian revolutionary historiography, as Rachel Douglas demonstrates in her analyses of the 1967 dramatic rendering of The Black Jacobins – and reflects his growing commitment to a history from below that moves away from over-privileging of the heroes, from what Maryse Condé dismissed as “conventional reactionary bric à brac.” There, for James, economic history meets Shakespearean tragedy as it is clear that the failure to grasp the implications of ignoring Moïse’s alternative model reveals Louverture’s fatal flaw.
You suggest that James was aware of the methodological and archival limitations of The Black Jacobins, especially concerning the focus on Louverture. Can you say more about this – about James’ own critiques, and about how other writers have extended or revised James biographical-historical method?
CH: James as a good historian was of course always aware that new sources would emerge in archives which would necessitate the revision of this or that specific aspect of his argument, but he also felt – rightly in my opinion – that the foundations of his argument would be in a sense “imperishable.” I would therefore not want to draw the kind of strict demarcation between the 1938 version and the 1963 revised version of the text that for example David Scott has done in his fascinating work, Conscripts of Modernity. My sense is that within The Black Jacobinsthere is of course the romantic focus on anticolonial revolt which gives it is epic quality as a work of historical literature – but Scott in Conscripts of Modernityis mistaken to place James’s focus on tragedy as only coming through in the later 1963 edition, with the additional paragraphs in the closing chapter. When James wrote his play Toussaint Louverturein 1934, he portrayed Toussaint as a tragic hero of colonial enlightenment, and there is an important sense in which James discusses the Haitian Revolution as a bourgeois revolution, though this line of argument is muted somewhat – no doubt James wanted to inspire those fighting for colonial liberation, not depress them. Some of James’s later critiques of The Black Jacobinsin some senses are about his own slight political move away from the classical Marxist framework which made it such an outstanding work of “total history,” towards the more popular “history from below” approaches which for example inspired James’s student Carolyn Fick in her own important work, The Making of Haiti: The Saint-Domingue Revolution from below. Yet though James once suggested that he might rewrite The Black Jacobinsas The Black Sans culottesif he was going to start all over again, the fact he did not ever re-write or re-title later editions of the work suggests to me he always retained at least some of his old Leninist instincts about the importance of revolutionary leadership for successful revolutionary struggles into his old age.
CF: Your question is central to the progressive rewriting in which James engaged. I agree with Christian that that process was both organic and dialogic, and does not include any of the sudden volte-faces that some accounts of this engagement sometimes imply. The Black Jacobinsis rooted in the intensive archival work that James conducted in Paris, often between cricket seasons when his work as a journalist was in abeyance. But he continued to rethink these sources and to reassess his interpretation of them. Already in the 1950s, in his correspondence with Etienne Charlier, the possibility of a history of the Revolution “from below” was clear, and this became particularly apparent in the later 1960s when James revisited his dramatic version of The Black Jacobins. He articulated these shifts in the series of 1971 lectures at the Institute of the Black World in Atlanta, in particular in the one entitled “How I would rewrite The Black Jacobins,” in which he states that Louverture might ultimately be granted little more than a walk-on part in a new version of the book. James was inspired here by the new historiography of the French Revolution – in particular the work of Lefevre and Soboul, the second of whom presented the sans-culottes as a social class, a proto-proletariat who played a key role– and stated that he would seek to focus more on the “2,000 leaders to be taken away” about whom Leclerc warned Napoleon following the arrest of Louverture. The IBW lectures were published for the first time in Small Axein 2000, and in an excellent afterword, Anthony Bogues suggests that they allow us to “think withand then beyondJames” – I take this as meaning that the lectures allow us not only to understand the organic development of James’s thought, but also to locate The Black Jacobinsin relation to a range of other interpreters of the Haitian Revolution – Carolyn Fick, John Thornton, Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Laurent Dubois, Matthew Smith, Johnhenry Gonzalez– who are in dialogue with James, who complement and on occasion challenge his work.
Can you say something about the editorial process behind The Black Jacobins Reader? What are the origins of the project and what guided your decisions about how to frame it, what to include and not include?
CH: The Black Jacobins Readeremerged out of a one day London Socialist Historians Groupconference I co-organised back in 2008, to mark the 70thanniversary of the work – the fact the book only appeared in late 2017, just before the 80thanniversary, tells you something about the lengthy gestation period and editorial process involved in putting this together. I think as editors we wanted a mix of classic original material relating to the book that had never been published in English before (the gem I think here being the transcript of James’s 1970 radio interview about the work with Studs Terkel, which we discovered relatively late on), a range of new scholarship relating to the book, some of which we had from the conference, some of which we solicitated afterwards, and then some more personal contributions by leading activists and scholars of the Haitian Revolution testifying to the works importance and impact. Selma James played a very helpful role here, soliciting the contributions from the two imprisoned Black Panthers, Mumia Abu-Jamal and Russell Maroon Shoatz on our behalf. We were constrained by length – it is some 400 pages – from including much more, though we remain thankful to the editors of Duke for giving us the space and length we needed to include everything we did.
CF: Christian knew of my work on the re-figurings of Toussaint Louverture and I was pleased when he invited me to collaborate on bringing together the Reader. The 2008 London conference was a lively, highly significant event, bringing together – as is customarily the case with workshops and conferences devoted to James – academics and activists. The reader captures some of its commitment to bridging the artificiality of that divide. We were keen to fill a gap in the existing literature by producing a volume entirely devoted to The Black Jacobins– previous volumes, such as C.L.R. James: His Intellectual Legacies edited by Selwyn Cudjoe and William Cain,had dedicated sections to the book, but we felt that more sustained attention was required. Christian has described the balance we sought between first-hand accounts of the influence of James’s work and more conventional academic studies; to these we added our detailed introduction, on the genesis and afterlives of The Black Jacobins, and various appendices (a section we might have expanded had we had more flexibility). Our aim was to bring together contributions into a book that could be used equally by students, scholars and activists. We wanted to show that The Black Jacobinsis a living document, one whose meanings continue to evolve. And we were profoundly aware of the company we were keeping in the C.L.R. James Archives series published by Duke University Press, a collection dedicated to presenting to a contemporary audience, in its breadth and diversity, the work of one of the great intellectual figures of the twentieth-century.
You dedicate Toussaint Louverture to Robert A. Hill and Janet Alder and Hill provides an introduction to The Black Jacobins Reader.What role has Hill played in the development of both projects? And Alder?
CH: Robert A. Hill has been a very important mentor to me personally in terms of C.L.R. James scholarship, and this together with his editorial expertise and outstanding record of scholarship on the African diaspora and Pan-Africanism in particular were absolutely invaluable when it came to all the editorial work I have done with the Duke University Press C.L.R. James Archives series, from theToussaint Louvertureplay through to World Revolution. ForThe Black Jacobins Reader, for example, originally Charles and myself had envisaged including as many as possible original reviews the 1938 edition received in full – it was Robert A. Hill who understood this would make the book too big in size – I think the phrase he used was “over-egging the cake” or something – and so we then decided to cut this section out and just include extracts from some of the reviews in our introduction – a decision that we came to see made very good sense. It was an honour for us to carry his foreword to The Black Jacobins Readergiven his profound understanding of the work – and the fact he gave us the honour of co-editing such a work as The Black Jacobins Readermade it only right that we acknowledged him when we came to write Toussaint Louverture: A Black Jacobin in the Age of Revolutions.
Janet Alder’s brother Christopher – a black former paratrooper – was killed while in police custody in Hull in 1998 – the same year I started University as an undergraduate and so I have seen Janettirelessly and courageously campaign for justice for her brother for over twenty yearsin the face of enormous pressures. Her indefatigability here as a campaigner for “Black Lives Matter” long before the hashtag was born for me stands as reminiscent of that shown by the Haitian revolutionaries, and so in that sense I felt the dedication to her was most appropriate. The fact that much of her campaigning has taken place in the city to which William Wilberforce was once the MP only further highlights some of the continuities between the racism born of colonial slavery and the racism which continues to kill in the present day.
CF: I echo Christian’s gratitude to Robert A. Hill, who provided patient, wise counsel throughout our preparation of the Readerand was a great supporter of our collaborative work. As literary executor of the C.L.R. James estate and eyewitness of much of the context to The Black Jacobinsthat interested us, he never let his personal investment in the project impede our own ambitions for the volume, and it seemed only natural that we would subsequently dedicate the Louverture biography to him. The parallel dedication to Janet Alder was a mark of our respect for her indefatigable commitment to uncovering the truth about her brother’s unlawful killing, despite the harassment to which she has been subject herself. Colonial slavery, for whose abolition Louverture fought, has clear contemporary afterlives, and we were keen to link historical and contemporary struggles in this way.
You invoke the Kreyòl saying tou moun se moun (“everyone is a human being”) in your discussion of the politics of race and citizenship in Haiti after 1804. What does this expression mean in the context of 1804 and what are the lessons that that phrase – and Haiti, in the immediate aftermath of independence – offer us now? Importantly, you also appear to suggest a sort of historical redemption of Jean-Jacques Dessalines.
CF:Tout moun se moun – “every person is a human being” – was a refrain common in Haiti from the moment of independence. A radically egalitarian principle suggesting that all lives matter and that everyone has the right to dignity, it was more recently adopted as the title of Aristide’s 1992 autobiography, written just before he was ousted from power for the first time the previous year. The idea of universal emancipation fed into the aspirations underpinning Haitian sovereignty and were enshrined in Dessalines’s 1804 constitution. In Haiti, Louverture is known as the “Precursor,” Dessalines as the “Liberator” – and it is Dessalines who was tasked with consolidating the gains of the Revolution and defending them against multiple threats. Post-independence, Haiti has struggled to defend this principle, often in the face of external interventions such as the US occupation of 1915-34 or the damaging impact of the UN stabilization mission (known as MINUSTAH) following Aristide’s second ousting, with the introduction of cholera and accusations of other human rights abuses. At the same time, the totalitarian, despotic excesses of the Duvalier regime reveal how the principle has been equally challenged by internal forces. The often-repeated observation that Haiti is the “poorest country in the Western hemisphere” perpetuates a sense of dependency. What we regularly ignore is what Haiti can teach the rest of the world, not least how we are dependent on it for the vision of a universal emancipation that the American and French Revolutions could not even imagine, of a radical equality that threatened the logic of slavery and colonialism as much as it now threatens that of neo-liberal capitalism.
One reservation I’ve always had in working on Toussaint Louverture is that focus on his life, achievements and afterlives is often to the detriment of the attention that Dessalines himself merits. Louverture is somehow acceptable and translatable in ways that his former lieutenant (and, as Gabriel Debien and subsequently Jacques de Cauna and Philippe Girard have suggested, someone who had been enslaved by Louverture’s son-in-law) still is not. In that sense, we may create analogies between the two Haitian Revolutionaries and other pairs of radicals, notably MLK and Malcolm X. I have often stated in my writing and teaching that there are over 200 biopics of Napoleon and none of Toussaint Louverture. We need to remember, however, that there are dozens of biographies of Louverture but as far as I’m aware none of Dessalines in English (and very few in French, with most of these published in Haiti, by authors including Timoléon C. Brutus and Gérard M. Laurent, meaning they have limited distribution). This despite the fact that in Haiti it is Dessalines who is a lwain the vodou pantheon, that the national anthem is known as the Dessalinienne… Dubroca produced a scurrilous biography of Dessalines in 1804, which was translated into English, German and Spanish (his equally defamatory life of Louverture was also popular at the time). Subsequent representations – even by African American authors – have tended to perpetuate the stereotype of Dessalines as a fierce and brutal figure. Julia Gaffield, who edited an excellent collection of essays on Dessalines’ 1804 constitution (a copy of which she uncovered while doing doctoral research in the National Archives in Kew) is currently working on a manuscript entitled Jean-Jacques Dessalines: Freedom or Death, due to appear with Yale University Press, and has also made available online as the “Dessalines Reader,”a valuable collection of archival materials relating to her subject. There is a pressing need also for a political biography of Dessalines, one that avoids the excesses of past hagiography or demonization, and can be seen as part of wider project of reparative history of race and resistance.
Header image: George Debaptiste, Toussaint L’Overture (c. 1870) Source: Library of Congress.
Revolutionary Daily Thought
“The revolution will not be quarantined!” -Susie Day
Revolutionary Daily Thought
“To take part in the African revolution it is not enough to write a revolutionary song: you must fashion the revolution with the people. And if you fashion it with the people, the songs will come by themselves.” – Ahmed Sekou Toure
Revolutionary Daily Thought
“After i’m locked up, and everybody’s locked up… you can jail the revolutionaries, but you can’t jail the revolution.” _ Fred Hampton
Revolutionary Daily Thought
“The revolution will be no re-run brothers, The revolution will be live.” -Gil Scott-Heron
Answering a Revisionist Analysis of Maoism and the Revolution in China
Book Review: Maoism and the Chinese Revolution by Elliot Liu
by Tom “Big Warrior” Watts and Kevin “Rashid” Johnson
Tom: When asked if I would like to collaborate with my dear friend and comrade, Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, in writing a review of a new book on Maoism, I agreed without giving it a second thought. I didn’t realize until I got a copy of the book that it was written from an Anarchist-Communist perspective. My first reaction was, “Shit! Now I have to read this trash and try to write something about it that will serve some constructive purpose.” So I began reading it expecting the worst. Grudgingly, I reminded myself of Mao’s instruction:
“If we have shortcomings, we are not afraid to have them pointed out and criticized, because we serve the people. Anyone, no matter who, may point out our shortcomings. If he is right, we will correct them. If what he proposes will benefit the people, we will act upon it.”
“Serve the People” (September 8, 1941), Selected Works, Vol. III, P. 227.
Rashid: I asked Tom “Big Warrior” Watts to join me in writing this book review because I saw a need to respond to a resurgence of misleading revisionist writings concerning Mao Tse-tung, the Chinese Revolution he led, and against communism in general. I choose him because we have a considerable history of shared political work and in the study and practice of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism (MLM). As Tom quotes from Mao, as Communists we have a duty to serve the people and base our work firmly on the truth. Therefore, we welcome honest criticisms of our errors in order to correct them and refine our work. But, we also stand prepared to expose false and incorrect claims that serve (whether intentionally or not) to misinform and misguide the people and undermine our work.
Anarchism and Marxism have common roots in the Young Hegelian Movement and the 1st International (Workingman’s Association), but quite different world views. As Lenin explained: “Anarchism is bourgeois individualism in reverse. Individualism is the basis of the entire anarchist world outlook.” Anarchists and Marxist share a common desire to advance society to a classless and stateless stage but have very different ideas on how to achieve this. Communists focus on the community and class struggle rather than individualism. Most particularly, they clash over the need for a transitional state, (socialism or the dictatorship of the proletariat,) to advance from capitalism, (the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie), to classless, stateless society, (or communism).
This becomes particularly critical when only a single country or a few countries are able to free themselves from bourgeois dictatorship and the tentacles of imperialism. To the Anarchists, smashing the state is an end in itself, as if with one blow the proletariat can abolish all of class society forever. To the Communists, smashing the bourgeois state creates the opportunity for the proletariat to create its own state to suppress the overthrown bourgeois and defend their liberated territory, while carrying out the process of socialist reconstruction, at least as far as they can under the conditions. When the Bolsheviks, under the leadership of Comrade Lenin, overthrew the bourgeois Provisional Government in the October Revolution in Russia, they fully expected it to be the spark that would ignite a world proletarian socialist revolution across the industrialized countries and then the world.
But the rot of modern revisionism and economism that caused the betrayal of the Second International during the World War was followed by social democratic betrayal of the revolution when it broke out in Germany and elsewhere in Europe. The proletariat was not prepared to seize the time. In no other country was there a vanguard party like the Bolsheviks or the mass revolutionary consciousness and organization to do so successfully. No one, least of all Lenin, had anticipated that the Russian workers and peasants would have to defeat the combined force of the imperialist powers and the various reactionary forces they supported on their own, and then hold them at bay while beginning the process of socialist reconstruction. As Stalin expressed in the first edition of ‘Problems of Leninism’ [a.k.a., ‘Foundations of Leninism,’ April 1924]:
“…the main task of socialism – the organization of socialist production – still remains ahead. Can this task be accomplished, can the final victory of socialism in one country be attained, without the joint efforts of the proletariat of several advanced countries? No, this is impossible … For the final victory of socialism, for the organization of socialist construction, the efforts of one country, particularly of such a peasant country as Russia, are insufficient. For this the efforts of the proletarians of several advanced countries are necessary.”
Being an impossible task, it was only accomplished in part with great sacrifice and shared hardships under the leadership of Comrade Lenin, and after his untimely demise, Comrade Stalin. Not only did they succeed in these tasks, but they gave leadership to the creation of a new International (the 3rd) which led in the formation of Marxist-Leninist parties around the world in opposition to the sell-out parties of the 2nd International and the various other opportunist formations vying for influence over the proletariat. Most notably, under Lenin and Stalin’s leadership, the Communist International (Comintern) championed the struggle of the colonial and semi-colonial countries striving for national liberation. Among these countries was China.
Did they make mistakes? Certainly! How many times did Edison not invent the lightbulb before he lit up the world? What is remarkable is how well they did, and the explanation is the basic correctness of their theory, their courage and determination, and application, however flawed, of historical and dialectical materialism. The Chinese Revolution was an even more impossible project. The Chinese empire was prostrate and being picked over by the vultures of western imperialism. If Russia was a backward peasant country, China was positively medieval. Aside from a few colonial and semi-colonial capitalist enclaves along the coast, the vast reaches of China were divided between local warlords and landlords with feudal power. The masses of peasants were poor, illiterate, and superstitious, barely eking out a living under the centuries old oppression of patriarchy and feudal obligations.
Still, the Comintern dispatched agents to go there, hook up with the nationalists led by Sun Yat-sen and initiate a communist party to organize and lead the proletariat, (such as there was), and advise the Chinese on how to make a revolution that would break the encirclement of the newly created Soviet Union. It was a real life “mission impossible.”
Chapter One: Prologue: The First Chinese Revolution
Elliott Liu begins with a rant characterizing the Comintern (the 3rd International) as a “state capitalist foreign policy.” Skipping over the cause of the defeat of the revolutionary wave that swept over Europe in the wake of the October Revolution, he chides the Russians for attempting to correct these problems while adjusting to the reality that they will have to rely upon themselves to defend soviet power and begin the task of socialist reconstruction in the territory they had liberated. Around the world, (and particularly in Europe), the socialist parties that had succumbed to modern revisionism and alliance with their own bourgeoisie in the World War and against socialist revolution in the war’s aftermath, split apart with their revolutionary factions aligning with Russia and the Comintern. Many Anarchists also hooked up with the growing Communist movement as did many revolutionary nationalists in the colonial and semi-colonial countries and oppressed nationalities within the imperialist countries.
As Comrade Stalin pointed out:
“Formerly, the national question was usually confined to a narrow circle of questions, concerning, primarily, “civilized” nationalities. The Irish, the Hungarians, the Poles, the Finns, the Serbs, and several other European nationalities — that was the circle of unequal peoples in whose destinies the leaders of the Second International were interested. The scores and hundreds of millions of Asiatic and African peoples who are suffering national oppression in its most savage and cruel form usually remained outside of their field of vision. They hesitated to put white and black, “civilized” and “uncivilized” on the same plane. Two or three meaningless, lukewarm resolutions, which carefully evaded the question of liberating the colonies — that was all the leaders of the Second International could boast of. Now we can say that this duplicity and half-heartedness in dealing with the national question has been brought to an end. Leninism laid bare this crying incongruity, broke down the wall between whites and blacks, between European and Asiatics, between the “civilized” and “uncivilized” slaves of imperialism, and thus linked the national question with the question of the colonies. The national question was thereby transformed from a particular and internal state problem into a general and international problem, into a world problem of emancipating the oppressed peoples in the dependent countries and colonies from the yoke of imperialism.”
Lenin himself noted that there are two stages to the national question:
“Developing capitalism,” says Lenin, “knows two historical tendencies in the national question. First: the awakening of national life and national movements, struggle against all national oppression, creation of national states. Second: development and acceleration of all kinds of intercourse between nations, breakdown of national barriers, creation of the international unity of capital, of economic life in general, of politics, science, etc.
“Both tendencies are a world-wide law of capitalism. The first predominates at the beginning of its development, the second characterizes mature capitalism that is moving towards its transformation into socialist society” (see Vol. XVII, pp. 139-40).
For the countries oppressed and exploited by Western imperialism, like China in the 1920’s, the newly emerged Soviet Union was both an inspiration and a source of material and technical support. The Third International intended to fight “by all available means, including armed force, for the overthrow of the international bourgeoisie and for the creation of an international Soviet republic as a transition stage to the complete abolition of the State.” The Comintern was founded at a congress held in Moscow on March 2–6, 1919, against the backdrop of the Russian Civil War. There were 52 delegates present from 34 parties. Among those represented were members of the Socialist Workers Party of China. The Socialist Workers’ Party was a political party, formed by Chinese workers in Russia in January 1919. Its founders were active in the Union of Chinese Workers.
The Comintern reached out to the nationalist Kuomintang (KMT), headed by Sun Yat-sen (Sun Yixian), as well as to radical intellectuals to form a Chinese Communist Party (CCP). In 1923, the KMT and its government accepted aid from the Soviet Union after being denied recognition by the western powers. Soviet advisers — the most prominent of whom was Mikhail Borodin, an agent of the Comintern – arrived in China in 1923 to aid in the reorganization and consolidation of the KMT along the lines of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, establishing a Leninist party structure that lasted into the 1990s.
The CCP began as a study circle of petty-bourgeois intellectuals. Its origins were in the May Fourth Movement of 1919, during which radical ideologies like Marxism and Anarchism gained traction among Chinese intellectuals. Li Ta-chao (Li Dazhao), the head librarian at Peking University, was the first leading Chinese intellectual who publicly supported Leninism and world revolution. In contrast to Ch’en Tu-hsiu (Chen Duxiu), Li did not renounce participation in the affairs of the Republic of China. Both of them regarded the October Revolution in Russia as groundbreaking, believing it to herald a new era for oppressed countries everywhere. The CCP was modeled on Vladimir Lenin‘s theory of a vanguard party. The founding National Congress of the CCP was held from the 23rd to the 31st of July, 1921. While it was originally planned to be held in the French Concession in Shanghai, police officers interrupted the meeting on July 3rd. Because of that, the congress was moved to a tourist boat on South Lake in Chia-hsing (Jiaxing), Chekiang (Zhejiang) province. Only 12 delegates attended the congress, with neither Li nor Chen being able to attend. Chen sent a personal representative to attend the congress. One of those attending was Li’s impoverished assistant librarian named Mao Tse-tung (Mao Zedong). The resolutions of the congress called for the establishment of a communist party (as a branch of the Communist International) and elected Ch’en as its leader.
The CCP was under Comintern instructions to cooperate with the KMT, and its members were encouraged to join the KMT while maintaining their separate party identities, forming the “First United Front” between the two parties. Mao Tse-tung and other early members of the CCP joined the KMT in 1923 as individuals. The fledgling CCP did not enjoy a great deal of respect in Moscow, whereas Sun Yat-sen’s prestige was high:
“The Communist International, or Comintern, centered in Moscow, had told China’s Communists that they should collaborate with Sun’s Guomindang [Kuomintang] party. The Comintern criticized China’s Communists for failing to associate with the masses and for studying Marx and Lenin as they had once studied Confucius – the Comintern believing in political activity and social action as in Marx’s statement about changing the world rather than contemplating it. Moscow saw Sun Yat-sen as China’s leading anti-imperialist and that anti-imperialism was the target that would attract the greatest support in China. China’s little Communist Party had its doubts about working with a non-communist group, but it went along with the Comintern and joined the Guomindang, agreeing to obey its rules and to act as individuals rather than as a block.
“Sun Yat-sen was impressed by the willingness of the Communists to cooperate, and in January 1923 he and Moscow signed an agreement. The Russians promised Sun arms and advisors, and the Russians agreed that Chinese conditions did not require a Soviet style solution. Despite Sun’s alliance with Communists he saw his goals for China as being attainable without class struggle. He continued to be feted by wealthy Chinese businessmen, who liked the idea of China regaining its sovereignty and not being at a disadvantage with foreign business concerns.”
Sun sent his lieutenant, Chiang Kai-shek (Jiang Jieshi), to Moscow for three months of military and political study, and he appointed him commandant of the Soviet-sponsored Whampoa Military Academy in Canton (Guangzhou). Chou En-lai (Zhao Enlai), a Communist, was placed in charge of political education at the Academy. The KMT and its military arm, (the National Revolutionary Army (NRA)), and the rapidly growing CCP integrated into the KMT, were being crafted by Comintern advisors on the soviet model, with Chiang Kai-shek, who for a time was called “The Red General,” in the driver’s seat, with the full confidence of the ailing Sun Yat-sen. Chiang Kai-shek even sent his son off to Moscow for extended military training. It looked like a perfect set up for the international Communist movement to stage manage the Chinese Revolution and provide the Soviet Union with an ally along some 2,700 miles of its Asian border. When Sun Yat-sen succumbed to cancer on March 12, 1925, a struggle for power broke out between the right and left wings of the KMT, but temporarily, the common struggle against foreign imperialists and the warlord Beiyang regime in Peking (Beijing) held the united front together.
From 1922 to the end of 1924, the CCP had grown from 200 to some 20,000 cadre. The masses were in motion with strikes and boycotts against the imperialists in the major cities. Peasants were rising up demanding land reform, and Mao Tse-tung was running the KMT’s Peasant Movement Training Institute in Canton. The left wing of the KMT was on the ascendency over the right wing with Chinese Communists being appointed to many key positions, when everything started to unravel in August of 1925 with the assassination of Liao Zhongkai, one of the most powerful leaders in the KMT, who had been the chief architect of the KMT-CCP united front. Liao was gunned down in Canton just before a Kuomintang Executive Committee meeting, as he stepped out of his limousine. Suspicion for the act fell upon Hu Hanmin, another powerful figure in the left-wing of the KMT, who was then arrested. This left only Wang Jing-Wei as a rival to Chiang Kai-shek for leadership of the Kuomintang.
Hu’s arrest led to Chiang’s promotion as head of the army. Then on March 20, 1926, Chiang declared martial law in Canton and had Whampoa cadets arrest various leading Communists including Chou En-lai and the Comintern representatives, claiming they were plotting against him. Two garrisons were removed and the Communist-led Workers’ Guard was disarmed. Chiang then negotiated a new deal with the Soviets (over Trotsky’s objections). Some Comintern representatives were recalled, Chou En-lai was reassigned to Shanghai, and Chiang secured a dominant position over the KMT. The United Front was secured, but the honeymoon was over.
The Communists prepared for the long-planned Northern Expedition under Chiang’s undisputed leadership, paving the way with mass strikes and worker’s uprisings in the industrial centers along the route, but meanwhile, a new wind was beginning to blow:
“In 1925, Chiang and his Guomindang army extended Guomindang authority north from around Guangzhou 400 miles or so into Jiangxi Province. Briefly that year a Communist Party organizer, Mao Zedong, now thirty-one, was in neighboring Hunan Province to the west. Mao saw peasants rising spontaneously against their landlords. Here conditions were conducive to peasant revolt. They were forced to pay their taxes years in advance, they were paying high rents and were often in debt to landlords, who charged exorbitant interest rates. The average peasant in Hunan Province was having a hard time surviving.
“A landlord army drove Mao out of Hunan. Back in Guangzhou, Mao spoke and wrote articles in support of peasant uprisings – contrary to Marxist orthodoxy. He pointed out that the proletariat in China was a small minority and that without the peasantry the proletariat would not win their revolution. Rather than having found peasants in need of guidance from an existing Communist Party vanguard, Mao found their passionate vigilantism as a model for revolution. The peasants, wrote Mao, were using “terror with fanfare,” bringing their community together in meetings in which community members accused individuals of wrong-doing and intimidated the accused into making confessions. Mao described communities of peasants as attacking “local bullies and bad gentry and the lawless landlords.” These community sessions, wrote Mao, are a force to which people either submit or perish. Mao recognized these vigilante groups as the “sole organ of authority” in their community. Even a quarrel between a man and his wife, he wrote, are settled at community meetings. As a result, he added, “the privileges which the feudal landlords have enjoyed for thousands of years are being shattered to pieces.” Mao wrote that the peasants had accomplished “in a few months” what Sun Yat-sen had failed to accomplished in his forty-year effort at revolution (Mao ignoring changing conditions and attitudes across those forty years). A revolution, wrote Mao, is not the same as inviting people to dinner, painting a picture or doing fancy needlework. The peasants, he claimed, must use their maximum strength or they could never overthrow the deeply rooted authority of the landlords.
“Communist Party leaders refused to publish his article in any Party literature. Contrary to Mao, Party leaders held to the position of the Communist international – the Comintern. The Communist Party was in a coalition within the larger more moderate Guomindang Party, and the Comintern’s position was that peasants should not be encouraged to try to make revolution, that what was needed instead was national unification and China’s Communists not aggravating moderates in the Guomindang Party.”
The Northern Expedition was a resounding success, Chiang had to defeat three separate warlords and two independent armies. Chiang, with Soviet supplies, conquered the southern half of China in nine months. Wang Jing-wei, who led the KMT leftists, took the city of Wuhan in January 1927. With the support of the Soviet agent Mikhail Borodin, Wang declared the National Government as having moved to Wuhan. Having taken Nanking (Nanjing) in March, Chiang halted his campaign and prepared a violent break with Wang and his Communist allies whom he believed to be plotting to arrest him. The split was temporarily patched over by Stalin, and the Northern Expedition continued.
As the National Revolutionary Army approached Shanghai, Chou En-lai and Ch’en Tu-hsiu (Chen Duxiu), the Trotskyist General Secretary of the CCP, organized an armed uprising of the CCP and KMT-led trade unions on March 21-22, 1927, defeating the warlord forces occupying the city. They took over all but the international settlements, which were defended by foreign imperialist militaries and police. As the KMT Nationalist Revolutionary Army took over, the Communists continued to hold daily student demonstrations and workers’ strikes demanding the international settlements be returned to Chinese control. On April 5th, Wang Jing-wei arrived in Shanghai and met with Ch’en Tu-hsiu. After their meeting they issued a joint declaration re-affirming the principle of cooperation between KMT and CCP, then Wang left for Wuhan.
Chiang then called on his old associates in the notorious Green Gang, Shanghai’s underworld bosses, to form a rival union to oppose the Communist-led union. On April 9th, he declared martial law in Shanghai. On April 11th, Chiang issued secret orders to all KMT commanders to purge the Communists throughout KMT-controlled China, and the following morning ordered the Army to disarm the worker’s militia in Shanghai, while the Green Gang went on the offensive attacking union headquarters and activists. More than 300 people were killed or wounded. The next day, workers held a mass meeting and marched to the Army headquarters. The NRA troops opened fire on them with machine guns, killing more than 100.
Chiang dissolved the provisional government in Shanghai and banned all Communist-led organizations. Tens of thousands were arrested and thousands were either officially executed or disappeared. In cities across China, more than 10,000 Communists were killed over the next 20 days. But the “Red General” was not done yet. 39 members of the Kuomintang Central Committee in Wuhan publicly denounced Chiang as a traitor to Sun Yat-sen, (including Sun’s widow Soong Ching-ling), immediately after the purge. The leadership dismissed Chiang, called him a counter revolutionary and offered a reward on him, dead or alive. But Chiang Kai-shek was defiant, forming a new “Nationalist Government” at Nanking (Nanjing) to rival the Communist-tolerant Nationalist Government in Wuhan controlled by Wang Jing-wei on April 18, 1927.
Meanwhile, Wang initiated a purge of his own, claiming to have discovered secret orders from Stalin to Borodin to have the CCP overthrow the left-KMT government in Wuhan. Then Wang fled the country for Europe. After that, the left-KMT government crumbled. Chiang captured Peking and won recognition by the Western powers, then officially moved the capital to Nanking. Ch’en Tu-hsiu and his Soviet advisors took the blame for the disaster that had befallen the CCP, and he was replaced by Ch’ü Ch’iu-pai (Qu Qiubai), another of the founding members of the CCP and one of Mao’s mentors, but he continued the folly of armed urban uprisings and wasting more cadre until he was recalled to Moscow.
“The Communist Party of China was losing membership by death and defection. Stalin, in power in Moscow, had believed that China’s Communists working with the Guomindang would be most effective and serve the Soviet Union’s interests, but now that Chiang and others in the Guomindang were slaughtering Communists, Leftists and labor union activists, Stalin declared that “the scoundrels” had to be punished. He blamed China’s Communist Party leaders for the Party’s failure in China. China’s Communist Party purged itself of its discredited top leadership, but it did not have the power to punish those Stalin thought of as scoundrels. The Communist Party in China tried to gain control of some Guomindang military units but failed, and the Communists were unable to reorganize the Guomindang.
“A war between those who supported the Communists and those who supported the Guomindang lasted throughout the [year] 1927. Mao was in Hunan and barely escaped execution at the hands of Guomindang forces. His wife, Yang Kaihui, was captured and beheaded. Soldiers were sent to dig up the graves of Mao’s parents.
“Mao found refuge along the border between Hunan and Jiangxi provinces – a hilly region covered with bamboo and pine, with pheasants, deer and tigers, and only a few remote villages in the valleys, where people grew rice and beans. Joining Mao there were about a thousand others who had fled the Guomindang’s crackdown. And in other remote locations in central China other Communist refugees were gathering. Mao now favored creating a Red Army as well as organizing the peasantry into a force to take power. And, drawing from recent experiences, he constructed what was to be one of his maxims: that power comes from the barrel of a gun. This was in defiance of Stalin’s views, but at this point the influence in China on which Stalin had spent millions of gold rubles had been reduced to nothing. Communists working within the Guomindang had come to an end.”
On September 7, 1927, Mao led an attack on the city of Hunan in what became known as the “Autumn Harvest Uprising.” It was another disaster, and he only managed to escape with a rag tag force of around a thousand poorly armed peasants. Retreating into the Chingkangshan mountains, they hooked up with a force of armed miners, and the remnants of another Red Army group under Chu Teh (Zhu De). Two rival gangs of bandits in the mountains were also convinced to join them. A second attempt to take Hunan also failed, after which Mao concentrated on creating a rural soviet with great success. Across the South, pockets of surviving CCP forces followed his example of creating rural base areas. With Mao and Chu Teh’s success at repulsing KMT attempts to drive them out of their rural base area came the surviving members of the Central Committee and their Comintern advisors to reestablish their authority.
We must bear in mind that everything that was happening, from the October Revolution to the founding of the Chinese Soviet Republic in November 1931 in the Jiangxi–Fujian base area, was unprecedented. Neither Marx and Engels nor Bakunin, (for that matter), anticipated these developments. Their experiences were with the bourgeois-democratic revolutions in the West and the short lived Paris Commune of 1871. The advent of capitalist-imperialism, the world war and the betrayal of the parties of the 2nd International had changed everything. Lenin, Stalin and Mao were struggling to apply revolutionary science to analyze these changes and adapt Marxism to the new conditions to advance the World Proletarian Socialist Revolution.
Anarchism had been proven ineffectual idealism in practice. It played little role, (and that mostly negative and counter-revolutionary), in the Russian and Chinese Revolutions. As Stalin pointed out: “Socialism is divided into three main trends: reformism, anarchism and Marxism.” Ironically, a century later and this is still true, for what is revisionism but reformism with a Marxist vocabulary? And what is ultra-leftism but anarchism waving a red flag? Ultra-leftism is rightism in essence, and Marxism, which has evolved into Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, zig-zags between right and left errors and tendencies, struggling to ascertain the correct line and apply it correctly to advance history from the Epoch of Exploitation to the Epoch of Communism – classless, stateless, egalitarian society.
Chapter Two: People’s War from the Countryside
The Kiangsi (Jiangxi) Soviet, also called the Chiang-hsi Soviet or Chinese Soviet Republic, (1931–34), was an independent government established by Mao and his comrade Chu Teh in southeastern China. It was from this small state within a state that Mao gained the experience in guerrilla warfare and peasant organization that he later used to accomplish the conquest of China in the late 1940s.
“Quite clearly, the experience of Chingkangshan was essentially one of failure, and in early 1929 it effectively ceased to exist as a revolutionary base area when Mao Tse-tung, Chu Teh, and their followers withdrew under Kuomintang [KMT] pressure to search for a more suitable location. Nevertheless, Mao concluded that his policies of creating an army, operating out of a rural base area, were fundamentally correct. Departure from Chingkangshan meant, not a return to the cities, but the establishment of a new soviet base, which proved to be a far more enduring and viable political entity than any of its forerunners. Chalmers Johnson has aptly described the idea of the territorial bases as a ‘rebel infrastructure,’ or ‘autonomous government,’… [providing] food, refuge, an area in which military equipment may be manufactured, and training bases; and they
weaken the status quo power by removing territory from the system’s productive substructure.” It is greatly to be doubted whether the Chingkangshan base met such requirements, but it was there that the foundation was laid for the future Chinese Soviet Republic.
“Breaking through the KMT blockade in January 1929, Chu and Mao, with P’eng Te-huai’s Fifth Army guarding their rear, began campaigning in Kiangsi. During 1929 they consolidated their base in the south Kiangsi and west Fukien area, with Juichin as its center. By the end of1930 nearly the whole of south Kiangsi had fallen to the Red Army, and the base of the central soviet regions had been established, an area of about seventeen hsien on the Kiangsi-Fukien border with a population of three million.
In line with the demands of the Ninth Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Comintern [ECCI], held in Moscow in February 1928, the CCP leadership attempted to create a single centralized Red Army from bands of roving guerrilla units in order to carry out the agrarian revolution. By 1930 therefore, the stage was set for the protracted struggle of the Party leadership to call the First National Soviet Congress, establish a formal soviet regime, and thereby extend their authority over the Red Army and the soviet bases. The struggle was to last almost two years.”
It was in Kiangsi that Mao and Chu Teh were able to transform their peasant militia into an effective fighting force:
“A voracious reader in his youth, Mao had studied the lives and victories of many great commanders, from Alexander the Great to George Washington – however it was the teachings of ancient Chinese general Sun Tzu that impressed him most. In his famous The Art of War, Sun Tzu emphasized the military value of speed, deception, concealment and morale; his credo “avoid what is strong, attack what is weak” formed the basis of what we know today as guerrilla warfare. Mao embraced these tactics and worked to incorporate them into the Red Army. Large divisions were organized into smaller guerrilla-based regiments, capable of operating autonomously. Mao also implemented a Leninist command structure and placed political commissars in army units to report on discipline, political attitudes and morale. A Red Army school was established in Jiangxi where CCP instructors, many of them veterans of the Huangpu [Whampoa] Military Academy, drilled officers on tactics, leadership and modern warfare techniques, such as communications and code-breaking. In just a few years the Red Army hardened from a rag-tag peasant militia into a well-trained and competent military force.”
The Kiangsi Soviet was also a laboratory for Mao to test his theories on “New Democratic Revolution”:
“The Jiangxi Soviet became a political entity as well as a military base. The formation of this ‘state within a state’ provided the CCP with valuable experience in running a government. The Soviet was officially formed in November 1931, when 15 CCP-controlled settlements around Ruijin were amalgamated into a new independent state called Zhonghua Suwei-ai Gongheguo, or the Chinese Soviet Republic. The government of this new republic was modelled on the soviet government formed in Russia after the October 1917 revolution. An executive committee was elected to oversee policy and appointments, while a smaller commissariat oversaw day to day government. Mao Zedong was elected chairman of both bodies, in addition to his duties as Jiangxi’s military commander. He would later be sidelined from power after the CCP hierarchy relocated from Shanghai to Jiangxi. The Chinese Soviet Republic also adopted its own flag, the Soviet Union hammer and sickle on a red background, and drafted its own constitution, which read in part:
“The Chinese soviet regime is a state based on the democratic dictatorship of the workers and peasants. All the power of the soviet shall belong to the workers, peasants and Red Army soldiers and the entire labouring population. Under the soviet regime the workers, peasants, Red Army soldiers and entire labouring population shall have the right to elect their own deputies to give effect to their power. Only militarists, bureaucrats, landlords, the despotic gentry, capitalists, rich peasants, monks and all exploiting and counter-revolutionary elements shall be deprived of the right to elect deputies to participate in government and to enjoy political freedom…”
“In keeping with this vision, Mao and his supporters initiated ambitious economic reforms in Jiangxi. In 1930 the soviet government ordered that all surplus land be confiscated from landlords and affluent peasants, then handed to villages for redistribution. The process did not punish landlords or rich peasants, who like all others were entitled to ownership of land. Mao’s view was that declaring war on landlords ‘wasted’ revolutionary energy. He preferred a more inclusive approach that encouraged co-operation and production, rather than provoking internal disruption. Land policies in the Chinese Soviet Republic shifted radically in 1933, when Mao’s leadership was overtaken by the Comintern-backed Shanghai leaders. Post-1933 land policies in Jiangxi began to resemble those employed in Stalinist Russia. Land redistribution was controlled by the party centre, more closely monitored and conducted more ruthlessly. Landlords and wealthy peasants were excluded or given poor quality land; hundreds were persecuted, driven into exile or murdered. The CCP central executive condemned Mao’s land policies as too moderate and bourgeois – yet under Mao’s leadership agrarian production in Jiangxi had steadily increased. At its peak in around 1932 the Jiangxi region was outdoing most other Chinese provinces in terms of food production.”
In 1933 the CCP’s Russian-oriented Central Committee moved its headquarters from its precarious urban base in Shanghai to the Kiangsi Soviet. With support from Moscow, the members of the Central Committee gradually took over the leadership of the soviet from Mao, radicalizing Mao’s land reform policy so that not only large landlords but also rich peasants and small landlords had their possessions confiscated and redistributed. When Chiang Kai-shek launched his fifth military encirclement campaign against the Kiangsi Soviet in 1933, the new leadership resorted to a strategy of fixed positional warfare, and the soviet was overwhelmed. In October 1934 the Red Army abandoned its Kiangsi base and began its famous Long March.
Otto Braun, the Comintern military advisor, and Wang Ming, the leader of the Moscow-trained Chinese communists who had reduced Mao to a mere figurehead, were responsible for massive casualties, broken morale and increasing desertions among the Red Army. To remedy this situation, an emergency meeting was called as soon as the army had broken clear of the pursuing KMT forces. The Tsunyi (Zunyi) Conference held in Kweiyang (Guiyang) province was a turning point that propelled Mao and the policies he advocated to dominance in the CCP. The Comintern advisors and Russian-trained Chinese leaders had failed to grasp the realities of the Chinese Revolution. Stalin must bear great responsibility for these errors, not that Trotsky’s line was correct, but concrete analysis of concrete conditions, as they say, is the “living soul of Marxism.” The model of the October Revolution was inadequate to solve the problems that were occurring. A fresh analysis and application of Marxism was called for, and this was provided by Mao Tse-tung.
Mao had not yet worked out his strategy and where to go with the remnants of the Red Army, but he had won the support of the majority that guerrilla warfare and creating rural base areas was the way to go. Immediately, the task was to evade the KMT, but eventually, Mao decided to march all the way to Yen’an in the Shansi-Kansu-Ningsia (Shanix-Gansu-Ningxia) border region. This would put the Red Army in position to fight the advancing Japanese imperialists. It would put them closer to the Soviet Union and farther from the base of Chiang’s seat of power. The Long March was an epic achievement. Many died or dropped out along the way, but those who survived would become the core leadership of the Chinese Revolution for decades to come. It was a humiliation for Chiang Kai-shek and made Mao and the CCP international heroes. In Yen’an, Canadian journalist Edgar Snow interviewed Mao and made him famous with his bestselling book Red Star Over China.
As the Japanese invasion advanced, the pressure mounted on Chiang to call a truce with the Communists and build a new united front against the Japanese imperialists. In December of 1936, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek was kidnapped by KMT warlord Marshal Chang Hsiao-liang (Zhang Xueliang) in the “Sian (Xi’an) Incident.” Chiang was forced to agree to a “Second United Front” with the Communists, which was supported by the Soviets and the United States. The Generalissimo never forgave Marshal Chang for this humiliation, and kept him under house arrest for 50 years, wherever the KMT was headquartered, until Chiang died in 1975. A hero to the Communists, Chang Hsiao-liang declined invitations to return to mainland China, professing his loyalty to the KMT, and died in Honolulu at the age of 100 in 2001.
In Yen’an, Mao was again able to test his theories on “New Democratic Revolution” in practice and shape the ideological and political line of the CCP. In the caves of Yen’an, cadre schools were established to train young communists from all over China, most of them from poor peasant backgrounds, while basic literacy as well as political education was made available to the masses. KMT blockades prevented most of the aid from the Allies ever reaching Yen’an, but practicing self-reliance, they manufactured what they could to supply the communist-led forces, who captured most of their arms and munitions from the Japanese. Land was redistributed to the peasants, who in turn supplied the food, sent their sons to fight, and bore up under the savage repression of the Japanese occupiers.
Elliot Liu criticizes the Maoists for not being his sort of “feminists,” but they put a real dent in the centuries old patriarchal relations that weighed so heavily on the Chinese peasants, campaigning against foot-binding, wife beating, rape and prostitution, while integrating women into production and political life. Women’s militia detachments were formed and women’s organizations were among the varied mass organizations the communists sponsored and promoted in the communities in both the liberated and occupied territories. Jack Belden, an American war correspondent who covered the Japanese invasion of China, the Second World War and the Chinese Revolution noted in Gold Flower’s Story: “I discovered that the Communists’ drive for power was touched at almost every point by women, by their feelings, by their relationship to men, by their social status, by their symbol as an object of property, religion and sex.” Gold Flower (Kinhua) was a poor peasant woman in a small village in central Hopei province. Forced into an arranged marriage with an older man who raped her on her wedding night, abused and treated as a possession, Gold Flower fights back with the help of the Red Army and the Communist women’s association established in her village.
Mao was not a “nationalist” and was quite aware of the significance the example they were setting would have on the other colonial and semi-colonial countries.
“SNOW: With the achievement of victory of a Red movement in China, do you think that revolution would occur quickly in other Asiatic or semi-colonial countries, such as Korea, Indochina, the Philippines, and India? Is China at present the “key” to world revolution?
“MAO: The Chinese revolution is a key factor in the world situation…. When the Chinese revolution comes into full power the masses of many colonial countries will follow the example of China and win a similar victory of their own. But I emphasize again the seizure of power is not our (immediate) aim. We want to stop civil war, create a people’s democratic government with the Guomindang and other parties, and fight for our independence against Japan.
“Bao’an, July 19, 1936
“On Land Distribution
“SNOW: What is the foremost internal task of the revolution, after the struggle against Japanese imperialism?
“MAO: The Chinese revolution, being bourgeois-democratic in character has as its primary task the readjustment of the land problem – the realization of agrarian reform. Some idea of the urgency of rural reform may be secured by referring to figures on the distribution of land in China today. During the Nationalist Revolution I was secretary of the Peasant Committee [department] of the Guomindang and had charge of collecting statistics for areas throughout twenty-one provinces. Our investigation showed astonishing inequalities. About 70 per cent of the whole rural population was made up of poor peasants, tenants or part-tenants, and of agricultural workers. About 20 per cent was made up of middle peasants tilling their own land. Usurers and landlords were about 10 per cent of the population. Included in the 10 per cent also were rich peasants, exploiters like the militarists, tax collectors, and so forth.
“The 10 per cent of the rich, peasants, landlords, and usurers together owned about 70 per cent of the cultivated land. From 12 to 15 per cent was in the hands of middle peasants. The 70 per cent of the poor peasants, tenants and part-tenants, and agricultural workers, owned only from 10 to 15 per cent of the total cultivated land…. The revolution is caused chiefly by two oppressions – the imperialists and that 10 per cent of landlords and Chinese exploiters. So we may say that in our new demands for democracy, land reform, and war against imperialism we are opposed by less than 10 per cent of the population. And really not 10 per cent, but probably only about 5 per cent, for not more than that many Chinese will turn tailor to join with Japan in subjugating their own people under the device of the joint “Anti-Red Pact.”
“SNOW: Other things in the soviet program having been postponed in the interest of the united front, is it not possible to delay land redistribution also?
“MAO: Without confiscating the estates of the landlords, without meeting the main democratic demand of the peasantry, it is impossible to lay the broad mass basis for a successful revolutionary struggle for national liberation. In order to win the support for the peasants for the national cause it is necessary to satisfy their demand for land….” 
One of the basic tenants of Maoism is to unite all who can be united at each stage of the struggle and to use struggle to create more favorable conditions for struggle. Of course this isn’t new to Marxism. Marx sought to unite a broad spectrum of political-ideological tendencies (including Anarchists) in building the First International. This sort of unity is conditioned on programmatic agreement, as ideological-political unity is not possible. It is also closely related to application of the principle of the mass line. As Lenin expressed:
“One of the biggest and most dangerous mistakes made by Communists (as generally by revolutionaries who have successfully accomplished the beginning of a great revolution) is the idea that a revolution can be made by revolutionaries alone. On the contrary, to be successful, all serious revolutionary work requires that the idea that revolutionaries are capable of playing the part only of the vanguard of the truly virile and advanced class must be understood and translated into action. A vanguard performs its task as vanguard only when it is able to avoid being isolated from the mass of the people it leads and is able really to lead the whole mass forward. Without an alliance with non-Communists in the most diverse spheres of activity there can be no question of any successful communist construction.”
Maoism both concentrates and gives fuller expression to these concepts, but they are basic to Marxism. Everything develops in stages, with lower stages giving rise to higher stages of development. One does not sit down to a piano for the first time and play “Ode to Joy” by Beethoven. Neither do societies jump from feudalism to the higher stages of socialism in one leap. As the masses are the makers of history, it is incumbent on those who wish to change the world to win the masses to grasp the necessity and means of doing so. Commandism doesn’t work, even if at times it is not possible to fully implement the mass line. Sometimes authority must be invoked, as when a captain of a ship gives an order to keep a ship from floundering and being wrecked, but on the whole, collective wisdom trumps the subjective thinking of one individual. The concept of Democratic Centralism is based upon combining the greatest degree of inner-party democracy with unity of action in implementation of policy.
“From the time that Mao took over the leadership of the CPC, he made all efforts to develop the Party on true Leninist lines. Due to the domination of the earlier incorrect lines, particularly the third ‘Left’ Line of Wang Ming there were many deviations in party functioning. Due to the sectarian understanding there were no proper norms of democratic centralist functioning and a totally wrong approach to the two-line struggle. Decisions were taken without consultation and without involving the Party cadre and by manipulating the holding of plenums and other meetings.
“Two-line struggle was not conducted openly and representatives of another point of view were harassed and punished. Also due to dogmatism there was no implementation of mass line. Mao made all attempts to rectify these deviations as well as build up proper forums and bodies. In the process Mao also clarified and developed many organizational concepts. He also tried to correct certain wrong understanding that had grown in the international communist movement and also in the CPSU under the leadership of Stalin.
Democratic Centralism: Mao’s attempt to correct sectarian and bureaucratic deviations is seen in his explanation regarding democratic centralism. Mao’s understanding of democratic centralism is clearly ‘first democracy, then centralism’. He explained this in many ways – ‘if there is no democracy there won’t be any centralism’, ‘centralism is centralism built on the foundation of democracy. Proletarian centralism with a broad democratic base’.
“This view of Mao was based on his understanding that centralism meant first of all the centralization of correct ideas. For this to take it was necessary for all comrades to express their views and opinions and not keep it bottled up inside them. This would only be possible if there was the fullest possible democracy where comrades would feel free to state what they want to say and even vent their anger. Therefore, without democracy it would be impossible to sum up experience correctly. Without democracy, without ideas coming from the masses, it is impossible to formulate good lines, principles, policies or methods. However, with proletarian democracy it was possible to achieve unity of understanding, of policy, plan, command and action on the basis of concentrating of correct ideas. This is unity through centralism.
“Mao did not restrict the understanding of democratic centralism only to party functioning. He broadened the understanding to the question of running the proletarian state and building the socialist economy. Mao felt that, without democratic centralism, the dictatorship of the proletariat could not be consolidated. Without broad democracy for the people, it was impossible for the dictatorship of the proletariat to be consolidated or for political power to be stable. Without democracy, without arousing the masses and without supervision by the masses, it would be impossible to exercise effective dictatorship over the reactionaries and bad elements or to remold them effectively. Mao was making these observations after the rise of modern revisionism in the Soviet Union and saw that the masses had not been mobilized to exercise the dictatorship of the proletariat. He also saw the rise of revisionist tendencies within the CPC at the highest levels and recognized that the only safeguard against such trends was the initiative and vigilance of the lower level cadre and the masses.
“Thus Mao said in his talk in January 1962, “Unless we fully promote people’s democracy and inner-Party democracy and unless we fully implement proletarian democracy, it will be impossible for China to have true proletarian centralism. Without a high degree of democracy it is impossible to have a high degree of centralism and without a high degree of centralism it is impossible to establish a socialist economy. And what will happen to our country if we fail to establish a socialist economy? It will turn into a revisionist state, indeed a bourgeois state, and the dictatorship of the proletariat will turn into a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, and a reactionary, fascist dictatorship at that. This is a question, which very much deserves our vigilance, and I hope our comrades will give it a good deal of thought.”
“The Two-Line Struggle is another aspect of party organizational principles, regarding which Mao developed Marxist understanding and theory. Mao’s approach, based on dialectical materialism was to see incorrect opinions within the Communist Party as the reflection of alien classes in society. Thus as long as the class struggle continued in society there was bound to be its reflection in the ideological struggle within the Party. His approach towards these contradictions too was different. He saw them as non-antagonistic contradictions initially which through ‘serious struggle’ we should try to rectify. We should give ample opportunity to rectify and only if the people committing errors ‘persist’ or ‘aggravate them’, then there was the possibility of the contradiction becoming antagonistic.
“This was a correction of Stalin’s understanding, which he had presented in Foundations of Leninism. Stalin was opposed to any attempt to rectify wrong trends through inner-party struggle. He called such attempts as a “theory of ‘defeating’ opportunist elements by ideological struggle within the Party”, which according to him was “a rotten and dangerous theory, which threatens to condemn the Party to paralysis and chronic infirmity”. Such a presentation refused to accept the possibility of a non-antagonistic contradiction and treated the struggle against opportunism as an antagonistic contradiction from the very beginning.
“Drawing lessons from the same historical experience, Mao presented the methods of inner-Party struggle in the following manner. “All leading members of the Party must promote inner-Party democracy and let people speak out. What are the limits? One is that Party discipline must be observed, the minority being subordinate to the majority and the entire membership to the Central Committee. Another limit is that no secret faction must be organized. We are not afraid of open opponents; we are only afraid of secret opponents. Such people do not speak the truth to your face, what they say is only lies and deceit. They don’t express their real intention. As long as a person doesn’t violate discipline and doesn’t engage in secret factional activities, we should allow him to speak out and shouldn’t punish him if he says wrong things. If people say wrong things, they can be criticized, but we should convince them with reason. What if they are still not convinced? As long as they abide by the resolutions and the decisions taken by the majority, the minority can reserve their opinions.”
“Mao’s understanding thus was on the clear basis that as long as class struggle existed in society there was bound to be the class struggle in the Party—i.e., the two-line struggle. Therefore, it was only correct that this struggle should be fought out openly according the principles of democratic centralism. Thus Mao, through his understanding and implementation of the concept of two-line struggle, attempted to bring about a correct dialectical approach to classes, class struggle and inner-party struggle.”
Now it is true that the continued existence of classes and commodity relations under “New Democracy” and the lower stages of socialism will regenerate the bourgeoisie, and as socialist reconstruction moves forward there is a contradiction between state capitalism and the further development of socialism, but as with all contradictions there will be a principal aspect and a secondary aspect. If the secondary aspect becomes primary, then capitalist restoration will take place and the socialist system will become a state capitalist system. This is in fact what happened after Stalin died and after Mao died, and Mao recognized this danger. As pointed out by Chang Chun-chiao (Zhang Chunqiao):
“Historically, every major change in the system of ownership, be it the replacement of slavery by the feudal system or of feudalism by capitalism, was invariably preceded by the seizure of political power, which was then used to effect large-scale change in the system of ownership and consolidate and develop the new system. Even more is this the case with socialist public ownership which cannot be born under the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. Bureaucrat capital, which controlled 80 per cent of the industry in old China, could be transformed and placed under ownership by the whole people only after the People’s Liberation Army had defeated Chiang Kai-shek. Similarly, a capitalist restoration is inevitably preceded by the seizure of leadership and a change in the line and policies of the Party. Wasn’t this the way Khrushchev and Brezhnev changed the system of ownership in the Soviet Union? Wasn’t this the way Liu Shao-chi and Lin Piao changed the nature of a number of our factories and other enterprises to varying degrees?”
Classes and the “Epoch of Exploitation” can only be done away with by carrying the class struggle all the way to the negation of the negation with the elimination of classes, and this must be done globally. As problematic as it is to build socialism in one country or a group of countries while the rest of the world is under capitalist-imperialism, let alone while the world as a whole is dominated by the capitalist system, (and in the epoch of imperialism, it is imperialism that is the principal aspect), it is impossible to create classless, stateless society as an island surrounded by capitalist-imperialism. Without a state, an army and centralized authority to wield it, how can independence be maintained? As Huey P. Newton pointed out, liberated territory is not sufficient, it is not satisfied, because it exists in contradiction to the world around it and is beset on all sides and from within, and can only exist temporarily as a base for the World Proletarian Socialist Revolution.
“As early as 1920, Lenin, basing himself on practical experience in leading the Great October Socialist Revolution and directing the first state of proletarian dictatorship, pointed out sharply, “The dictatorship of the proletariat is a most determined and most ruthless war waged by the new class against a more powerful enemy, the bourgeoisie, whose resistance is increased tenfold by its overthrow (even if only in one country), and whose power lies not only in the strength of international capital, in the strength and durability of the international connections of the bourgeoisie, but also in the force of habit, in the strength of small production. For, unfortunately, small production is still very, very widespread in the world, and small production engenders capitalism and the bourgeoisie continuously, daily, hourly, spontaneously, and on a mass scale. For all these reasons the dictatorship of the proletariat is essential.” Lenin pointed out that the dictatorship of the proletariat is a persistent struggle—bloody and bloodless, violent and peaceful, military and economic, educational and administrative—against the forces and traditions of the old society, that it means all-round dictatorship over the bourgeoisie. Lenin stressed time and again that it is impossible to triumph over the bourgeoisie without exercising a protracted, all-round dictatorship over it. These words of Lenin’s, especially those he underscored, have been confirmed by practice in subsequent years. Sure enough, new bourgeois elements have been engendered batch after batch, and it is precisely the Khrushchev-Brezhnev renegade clique that is their representative. These people generally have a good class background; almost all of them were brought up under the red flag; they have joined the Communist Party organizationally, received college training and become so-called red experts. However, they are new poisonous weeds engendered by the old soil of capitalism. They have betrayed their own class, usurped Party and state power, restored capitalism, become chieftains of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie over the proletariat, and accomplished what Hitler had tried to do but failed. Never should we forget this experience of history in which “the satellites went up to the sky while the red flag fell to the ground,” especially not at this time when we are determined to build a powerful country.
“We must be soberly aware that there is still a danger of China turning revisionist. This is not only because imperialism and social-imperialism will never give up aggression and subversion against us, not only because China’s old landlords and capitalists are still around and unreconciled to their defeat, but also because new bourgeois elements are being engendered daily and hourly, as Lenin put it. Some comrades argue that Lenin was referring to the situation before collectivization. This is obviously incorrect. Lenin’s remarks are not out of date at all. These comrades may look up Chairman Mao’s On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People published in 1957. There Chairman Mao shows by concrete analysis that after the basic victory in the socialist transformation of the system of ownership, which includes the achievement of agricultural co-operation, there still exist in China classes, class contradictions and class struggle, and there still exist both harmony and contradiction between the relations of production and the productive forces and between the superstructure and the economic base. Having summed up the new experience of the dictatorship of the proletariat after Lenin, Chairman Mao gave systematic answers to various questions arising after the change in the system of ownership, set forth the tasks and policies of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and laid the theoretical basis for the Party’s basic line and for continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat. Practice in the past 18 years, particularly in the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, has proved that the theory, line and policies advanced by Chairman Mao are entirely correct.”
The proletarian state is not really a state but its antithesis, because in-so-much as its principal aspect is the dictatorship of the proletariat, its purpose is to create the conditions for the resolution of the class struggle by the advance of the World Proletarian Socialist Revolution to victory. If the principal aspect becomes the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, it becomes state capitalist and counter-revolutionary, thus a true state. It is not the degree of state ownership but the ideological-political line of the Party that determines its character. Everything is in motion, the question is; which direction it is going?
As pointed out in the Peking Review #15, April 9, 1976, exactly four months before Mao’s death:
“We have won great victories. But class struggle is acute and complicated, and there will still be resistance and twists and turns on the road of our advance. We must take class struggle as the key link, firmly keep to the general orientation of the struggle, and carry through to the end the struggle to repulse the Right deviationist attempt to reverse correct verdicts.
“In criticizing the Right deviationist attempt to reverse correct verdicts, Chairman Mao points out: “In 1949 it was pointed out that the principal contradiction within the country was one between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Thirteen years later the question of class struggle was reiterated, and mention was also made of the fact that the situation began to turn for the better. What is the Great Cultural Revolution for? To wage class struggle. Liu Shao-chi advocated the theory of the dying out of class struggle, but he himself never ceased to wage class struggle. He wanted to protect his bunch of renegades and sworn followers. Lin Piao wanted to overthrow the proletariat and attempted a coup. Did class struggle die out?” Hitting the nail on the head, Chairman Mao’s instruction exposes the reactionary character and fraudulence of the theory of the dying out of class struggle peddled by Liu Shao-chi, Lin Piao and that unrepentant Party capitalist-roader. It penetratingly expounds the nature of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and once again teaches us that we must analyze the contradictions in socialist society from the viewpoint of class struggle. The counterattack against the Right deviationist attempt is a continuation and deepening of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution; it is also a serious class struggle. We must analyze the class nature of the tendencies and slogans that appear in the course of the movement from the viewpoint of the struggle by the proletariat against the bourgeoisie. “We must not be academic and oversimplify the complex class struggle.”
“It is essential to put the study of Chairman Mao’s important instructions in the first place. These instructions are a sharp weapon for us to beat back the Right deviationist wind and a beacon illuminating our way in continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat. We should study conscientiously and be clear about the nature of the current struggle and the guiding principles and policies for it. If we do not study, we are liable to lose our bearings and be taken in.
“We should direct the spearhead of the struggle at the Party capitalist-roader who has refused to mend his ways. Chairman Mao points out: “With the socialist revolution they themselves come under fire. At the time of the co-operative transformation of agriculture there were people in the Party who opposed it, and when it comes to criticizing bourgeois right, they resent it. You are making the socialist revolution, and yet don’t know where the bourgeoisie is. It is right in the Communist Party—those in power taking the capitalist road. The capitalist-roaders are still on the capitalist road.” The unrepentant Party capitalist-roader is the general representative of the bourgeoisie. His revisionist program, his revisionist line and his reactionary words and deeds are a concentrated embodiment of the desire of the bourgeoisie for restoration. By directing the spearhead of the struggle at him and making a penetrating exposure and criticism, we shall be able to distinguish between right and wrong political lines, unite upwards of 95 per cent of the cadres and masses, and win still greater victories in the counterattack against the Right deviationist wind. If we keep a firm grip on this point, the class enemy’s scheme to switch the general orientation of the struggle will be brought to total bankruptcy.”
In this period, a socialist country cannot relax or ignore the reality of the danger of capitalist restoration. Indeed, as truly independent nations cannot exist, it is questionable if socialism is possible before the back of capitalist imperialism is broken globally. As Lenin pointed out, in mature capitalism, the tendency towards the creation of international unity of capital and economic life in general predominates. China’s economy and the U.S. economy are greatly integrated even as tensions mount politically and militarily. The U.S. imperialists are desperate to bring the Chinese oligarchy under their hegemony while the Chinese ruling oligarchy is desperate to become imperialists in their own right and not be subordinated. The principal contradiction in the world has changed. Mao himself recognized this in 1968, when he talked about the world revolution entering a new period:
“At present, the world revolution has entered a great new era. The struggle of the Black people in the United States for emancipation is a component part of the general struggle of all the people of the world against U.S. imperialism, a component part of the contemporary world revolution. I call on the workers, peasants, and revolutionary intellectuals of all countries and all who are willing to fight against U.S. imperialism to take action and extend strong support to the struggle of the Black people in the United States! People of the whole world, unite still more closely and launch a sustained and vigorous offensive against our common enemy, U.S. imperialism, and its accomplices! It can be said with certainty that the complete collapse of colonialism, imperialism, and all systems of exploitation, and the complete emancipation of all the oppressed peoples and nations of the world are not far off.”
Two years later, Huey Newton laid down his “Theory of Revolutionary Intercommunalism,” stating:
“In 1917, when the revolution occurred, there could be a redistribution of wealth on a national level because nations existed. Now, if you talk in terms of planning an economy on a world-wide level, on an intercommunal level, you are saying something important: that the people have been ripped off very much like one country being ripped off. Simple reparation is not enough because the people have not only been robbed of their raw materials, but of the wealth accrued from the investment of those materials-an investment which has created the technological machine. The people of the world will have to have control – not a limited share of control for “X” amount of time, but total control forever.
“In order to plan a real intercommunal economy we will have to acknowledge how the world is hooked up. We will also have to acknowledge that nations have not existed for some time.”
How the world is hooked up, is that the U.S. is no longer a country but a globe-reaching empire driven to consolidate its global hegemony. The monopoly capitalist ruling class is transnational. A handful of super-rich capitalists control the wealth of the world and own the mass media and the basic means of production. Their interests are in contradiction with the broad masses of humanity. The principal contradiction in the world today is between their need to consolidate their global hegemony and the chaos and anarchy, including the threat of nuclear war, they are unleashing on humanity by attempting to do so. To survive we must overthrow their rule and establish a global dictatorship of the proletariat.
In every country, there has been a dramatic shift in population from rural to urban areas as monopoly-driven capitalist agriculture displaces the world’s peasantry. At the same time, the capitalist-imperialists cannot profitably exploit an increasing number of people as workers. This growing mass of marginalized, urban proletarians and lumpens will be the mainstay of the next wave of the World Proletarian Socialist Revolution. In many places there is still a basis for rural-based people’s war, such as is going on in India and the Philippines, but Maoism must continue to evolve and adapt to changing conditions and developing contradictions.
Chapter Three: The CCP in State Power
“Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.”
Marx, Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852)
After defeating Chiang and his KMT forces on the mainland, Mao officially proclaimed the formation of the People’s Republic of China in October of 1949. Chiang and the remnant of his forces crossed to the Island of Formosa (Taiwan), where the U.S. Navy prevented the communist forces from pursuing him. Other KMT forces crossed over into Burma and northern Thailand in the “Golden Triangle,” where, with CIA assistance, they went into the business of growing opium and making heroin to finance the maintenance of their army.
With assistance from the Soviet Union, the CCP made steady and remarkable progress in developing the economy and achieving the goals of the “New Democratic Revolution” and proceeding to the task of socialist reconstruction. True to his word, Mao did not dispossess the “patriotic national bourgeoisie” without compensation and instead phased them out as the state was able to take over the administration of their industries. Following the policy of “Land to the Tiller,” the estates of the landlords were parceled out to the tenants, and poor people’s cooperatives were formed based upon voluntary collectivization. Mass literacy campaigns were carried out and all manner of schools and colleges were established as well as healthcare systems, public sanitation and other programs to serve the people. Initially, the emphasis was on basic industries like steel mills and power plants built in cooperation with the Soviet Union.
U.S. aggression in Korea prompted China to commit to aiding the regime of Kim Il-sung drive back the imperialist invaders. Despite U.S. military superiority, the war ended in a stalemate which bolstered China’s international standing, particularly among the Third World countries struggling to shake off the yoke of foreign colonial domination. After centuries of being beaten and treated as inferior, the non-white people of the world had found a champion to rally behind. Then in 1953, Joseph Stalin, the great leader of the Soviet Union passed away. He had led the Russians from a semi-feudal, wooden plow economy to the “Space Age” and the status of a world power. Speaking in Moscow in 1957, Mao proclaimed:
“‘There are two winds in the world, the east wind and the west wind’. There is a saying in China: ‘If the east wind does not prevail over the west wind, then the west wind will prevail over the east wind. I think the characteristic of the current situation is that the east wind prevails over the west wind; that is, the strength of socialism exceeds the strength of imperialism.’
“Chairman Mao pointed out first of all that the October Socialist Revolution marks a turning point in world history; the appearance in the heavens of two artificial satellites and the coming to Moscow of delegates from the sixty-four communist and workers’ parties to celebrate the holiday of the October Revolution mark a new turning point. The forces of socialism surpass the forces of imperialism. The imperialist forces have a leader, America; our socialist camp must also have a leader, and that leader is the Soviet Union. If we do not have a leader our forces might disintegrate! Chairman Mao… said it was an event of great significance that the communist and workers’ parties of sixty-four countries attended the celebrations of the fortieth anniversary of the great October Socialist Revolution. It showed the solidarity of the socialist countries, led by the Soviet Union. It showed the solidarity of the communists and workers’ parties the world over, with the Communist Party of the Soviet Union as their center. Chairman Mao said that the direction of the wind in the world had changed. In the struggle between the socialist and capitalist camps, it was no longer the West wind that prevailed over the East wind, but the East wind that prevailed over the West wind. The world now has a population of 2.7 billion, the countries now struggling for independence or for complete independence plus the capitalist countries with neutralist tendencies 600 million, and the imperialist camp only about 400 million, besides which they are also divided internally. Earthquakes are likely to occur over there. At present, Chairman Mao said, it was not the West wind that was prevailing over the East wind, but the East wind prevailing over the West wind.”
Despite Mao’s publicly expressed optimism, beneath the surface, the World Communist Movement was already pulling apart. In February 1956, Nikita Khrushchev, Stalin’s successor, dropped a bomb at the 20th Congress of the CPSU in the form of a “secret speech” delivered to selected delegates attacking Stalin and his legacy, which was soon leaked and appeared to the world in the NY Times. As Elliot Liu notes, “it sent shockwaves through the world socialist movement.” Mao’s initial response was to unite with the criticisms he believed to be valid while upholding Stalin’s positive contributions and trying to maintain the unity of the world communist movement:
“When we talk about committing errors we mean committing errors in subjective [perception] and mistakes in thinking. The many articles that we have seen criticizing Stalin’s errors either don’t mention this issue at all, or mention this issue only very infrequently. Why did Stalin commit errors? It’s because on some questions his subjective [perception] did not correspond to objective reality. At present, things like this still [occur] frequently in our work. To be subjective is to proceed not from objective reality or from realistic possibility but rather from subjective desires….”
“Reinforce the Unity of the Party and Carry Forward the Party Traditions” (Aug. 30, 1956), a speech at a preparatory meeting for the Eighth National Congress of the CPC. WMZ2, p. 112.
“The first thing is to unite with the several dozen Communist parties and with the Soviet Union. Since some mistakes have occurred in the Soviet Union and those things have been much talked about, they have been exaggerated, and now there is the impression that mistakes of that kind are really terrible. There is something wrong with such an outlook. It is impossible for any nation not to commit any mistakes at all, and [since] the Soviet Union was the first socialist country in the world, and has had such a long experience, it is impossible for it not to have made some mistakes. Where are the mistakes of the Soviet Union, such as Stalin’s mistakes, located [in the scheme of things]? They are partial and temporary. Although we hear that some [of these] things have been around for twenty years already, they are nevertheless still temporary and partial and can be corrected. The main current in the Soviet Union, its principal aspect, the majority [of its people], was correct. Russia gave birth to Leninism, and after the October Revolution, it became the first socialist country. It built socialism, defeated fascism, and became a great industrial state. It has many things from which we can learn. Of course, we should study the advanced experiences, and not the backward experiences. We have always proposed the slogan of studying the advanced experience of the Soviet Union. Who asked you to learn the backward experiences? Some people say that no matter what, even the farts of the Russians smell good; that too is subjectivism. Even the Russians themselves would admit that they stink! Therefore, things must be analyzed. We’ve said before that with regard to Stalin, we should [see him as having been] three parts [bad] and seven parts [good].”
, pp. 113-4. An editor’s note states that this is probably the first public statement of the “three parts bad, seven parts good” summation of Stalin that Mao repeated subsequently on a number of occasions (see below).
“Stalin should be criticized, but we have differing opinions as to the form the criticism ought to take. There are some other questions, too, on which we disagree.”
Remarks about the Criticism of Stalin (Oct. 23, 1956), WMZ2, p. 148, in full. A comment made to P. F. Yudin, the Soviet ambassador to China.
“I’d like to say something about the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. As I see it, there are two ‘knives’: one is Lenin and the other is Stalin. The Russians have now relinquished the knife represented by Stalin. Gomulka and some people in Hungary have picked up this knife to kill the Soviet Union, [by] opposing the so-called Stalinism. The Communist parties of many European countries are also criticizing the Soviet Union; the leader [of these parties] is Togliatti. The imperialists are also using this knife to kill people; Dulles, for one, picked it up and played around with it for some time. This knife was not loaned out; it was thrown out. We, the Chinese, did not discard it. Our first [principle] is to defend Stalin; the second is also to criticize Stalin’s mistakes; [so] we wrote the essay ‘On the Historical Experience of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat.’
“We are unlike some people who smeared and destroyed Stalin. Rather, we have acted in accordance with the actual situation.
“Are parts of the knife represented by Lenin now also being discarded by people in the Soviet leadership? As I see it, much of it has already been discarded. Is [the experience of] the October Revolution still valid? Can it remain a model for all other countries? Khrushchev’s report at the Twentieth Congress of the CPSU stated that it is possible to achieve political power through parliamentary means. This is to say that other countries no longer need to emulate the October Revolution. Once this door is opened, Leninism will basically be abandoned….
“How much capital do you have? All you have is a Lenin and a Stalin. But you have discarded Stalin, and most of Lenin too. Lenin’s legs are gone, perhaps there’s still a head left, or perhaps one of Lenin’s two hands has been chopped off. We study Marxism-Leninism, and we learn from the October Revolution. Marx has written so much, and Lenin has also written so much! Relying on the masses and taking the mass line are things we learned from them. It is very dangerous not to rely on the masses in waging class struggle and not to distinguish between the enemy and ourselves.”
Speech at the Second Plenum of the Eight Central Committee (Nov. 15, 1956), Version I, WMZ2, pp. 166-7. This version of the speech, however, had many strong criticisms of Stalin removed from it. (See the next item below.)
“From the very beginning our Party has emulated the Soviet Union. The mass line, our political work, and [the theory of] the dictatorship of the proletariat have all been learned from the October Revolution. At that time, Lenin had focused on the mobilization of the masses, and on organizing the worker-peasant-soldier soviet, and so on. He did not rely on [doing things by] administrative decree. Rather, Lenin sent Party representatives to carry out political work. The problem lies with the latter phase of Stalin’s leadership [which came] after the October Revolution. Although [Stalin] was still promoting socialism and communism, he nonetheless abandoned some of Lenin’s things, deviated from the orbit of Leninism, and became alienated from the masses, and so on. Therefore, we did suffer some disadvantages when we emulated the things of the later stages of Stalin’s leadership and transplanted them for application in China in a doctrinaire way. Today, the Soviet Union still has some advanced experiences that deserve to be emulated, but there are some other [aspects] in which we simply cannot be like the Soviet Union. For example, the socialist transformation of the capitalist industries and commerce, the cooperativization of agriculture, and the Ten Major Relationships in economic construction; these are all ways of doing things in China. From now on, in our socialist economic construction, we should primarily start with China’s circumstances, and with the special characteristics of the circumstances and the times in which we are situated. Therefore, we must still propose the slogan of learning from the Soviet Union; just that we cannot forcibly and crudely transplant and employ things blindly and in a doctrinaire fashion. Similarly, we can also learn some of the things that are good in bourgeois countries; this is because every country must have its strengths and weaknesses, and we intend chiefly to learn other people’s strengths.
“Stalin had a tendency to deviate from Marxism-Leninism. A concrete expression of this is [his] negation of contradictions, and to date, [the Soviet Union] has not yet thoroughly eliminated the influence of this viewpoint of Stalin’s. Stalin spoke [the language of] materialism and the dialectical method, but in reality he was subjectivist. He placed the individual above everything else, negated the group, and negated the masses. [He engaged in] the worship of the individual; in fact, to be more precise, [in] personal dictatorships. This is anti-materialism. Stalin also spoke of the dialectical method, but in reality [he] was metaphysical. For example, in the [Short] History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolshevik), he wrote of the dialectical method, [but] put [the theory of] contradictions [only] at the very end. We should say that the most fundamental problem of dialectics is the unity of contradictory opposites. It is [precisely] because of his metaphysical [character] that a one-sided viewpoint was produced, in which the internal connections in a thing are repudiated, and problems are looked at isolatedly and in a static way. To pay heed to dialectics would be to look at problems and treat a problem as a unity of opposites, and that is why it would be [a] comprehensive [methodology]. Life and death, war and peace, are opposites of a contradiction. In reality, they also have an internal connection between them. That is why at times these oppositions are also united. When we [seek to] understand problems we cannot see only one side. We should analyze [it] from all sides, look through its essence. In this way, with regard to [understanding] a person, we would not be [taking the position] at one time that he is all good, and then at another time that he is all bad, without a single good point. Why is our Party correct? It is because we have been able to proceed from the objective conditions in understanding and resolving all problems; in this way we are more comprehensive and we can avoid being absolutists.
“Secondly, the mass line was seen as tailism by Stalin. [He] did not recognize the good points about the mass line, and he used administrative methods to resolve many problems. But we Communists are materialists; we acknowledge that it is the masses who create everything and are the masters of history. [For us] there are no individual heroes; only when the masses are united can there be strength. In fact, since Lenin died, the mass line has been forgotten in the Soviet Union. [Even] at the time of opposing Stalin, [the Soviet Union’s leadership] still did not properly acknowledge or emphasize the significance of the mass line. Of course, more recently, attention has begun to be paid to this, but the understanding is still not [sufficiently] deep.
“Furthermore, class struggle and the dictatorship of the proletariat were [items] that Lenin had emphasized. At one time, the divergence between Lenin and the Third International and the Second International was mainly along the lines that the Marxists emphasized the class struggle and the dictatorship of the proletariat whereas the opportunists were unwilling to acknowledge them. One of the lessons to be learned from the occurrence of the Polish and Hungarian Incidents, in addition to [the fact that] there were shortcomings in the work [of the Communist parties], is that after the victory of the revolution they had not properly mobilized the masses to weed out thoroughly the counterrevolutionary elements.”
“Speech at the Second Plenum of the Eight Central Committee (Nov. 15, 1956), Version II, WMZ2, pp. 185-6. One excessively long paragraph in the report of this speech has been broken up into three paragraphs for readability purposes. Note that an expurgated version of this speech, which drastically tones down the criticisms of Stalin, is given as “version I” in WMZ2, and was also published in slightly different form after Mao’s death in the Selected Works of Mao Tsetung, vol. V. (An excerpt from “version I” is presented above, just before this item.)”
China was deeply invested in and dependent upon Soviet aid and technical support, but this now became leverage for Khrushchev to try to impose hegemony over the CCP and silence its criticism. Mao, however, became more vocal. The same sort of revisionist rot that had infected the 2nd International was infecting the Communist movement, particularly in the imperialist countries and Eastern Europe. In the socialist bloc, upward mobility corrupted party officials and state bureaucrats while improved conditions and living standards lulled the workers into complacency. As Marx had observed:
“The democratic petty bourgeois, far from wanting to transform the whole society in the interests of the revolutionary proletarians, only aspire to make the existing society as tolerable for themselves as possible. … The rule of capital is to be further counteracted, partly by a curtailment of the right of inheritance, and partly by the transference of as much employment as possible to the state. As far as the workers are concerned one thing, above all, is definite: they are to remain wage labourers as before. However, the democratic petty bourgeois want better wages and security for the workers; in short, they hope to bribe the workers …”
The siren’s song delusion of “peaceful coexistence” lured many to crash upon the rocks of U.S. imperialist hegemony. In part this delusion was fed by the World War II alliance against the Axis Powers, and even Stalin fell for the promises of post-war detente between the East and West that preceded the “Cold War.” At every bend in the road, opportunists will jump out, saying: “Enough Comrades, let us rest awhile and enjoy the fruits of our struggle. We are weary of the hardships of war and class struggle and deserve rewards for our past deeds of sacrifice. Let us enjoy a ‘normal life’ and put aside our guns and banners for a while.” Stalin had let go the Comintern in 1943 to assure the Allies of his peaceful intentions and sincerity towards the Anti-Fascist United Front. In 1944, Earl Browder had liquidated the Communist Party-USA and morphed it into a “Communist Political Association” to act as a “pressure group” within the Democratic Party under FDR.
Even before the war, the Comintern – under Georgi Dimitrov – made the error of forgetting that bourgeois democracy is but a concealment of the reality of bourgeois class dictatorship:
“Fascism is not a form of state power “standing above both classes — the proletariat and the bourgeoisie,” as Otto Bauer, for instance, has asserted. It is not “the revolt of the petty bourgeoisie which has captured the machinery of the state,” as the British Socialist Brailsford declares. No, fascism is not a power standing above class, nor government of the petty bourgeoisie or the lumpen-proletariat over finance capital. Fascism is the power of finance capital itself. It is the organization of terrorist vengeance against the working class and the revolutionary section of the peasantry and intelligentsia. In foreign policy, fascism is jingoism in its most brutal form, fomenting bestial hatred of other nations.
“This, the true character of fascism, must be particularly stressed because in a number of countries, under cover of social demagogy, fascism has managed to gain the following of the mass of the petty bourgeoisie that has been dislocated by the crisis, and even of certain sections of the most backward strata of the proletariat. These would never have supported fascism if they had understood its real character and its true nature.
“The development of fascism, and the fascist dictatorship itself, assume different forms in different countries, according to historical, social and economic conditions and to the national peculiarities, and the international position of the given country. In certain countries, principally those in which fascism has no broad mass basis and in which the struggle of the various groups within the camp of the fascist bourgeoisie itself is rather acute, fascism does not immediately venture to abolish parliament, but allows the other bourgeois parties, as well as the Social-Democratic Parties, to retain a modicum of legality. In other countries, where the ruling bourgeoisie fears an early outbreak of revolution, fascism establishes its unrestricted political monopoly, either immediately or by intensifying its reign of terror against and persecution of all rival parties and groups. This does not prevent fascism, when its position becomes particularly acute, from trying to extend its basis and, without altering its class nature, trying to combine open terrorist dictatorship with a crude sham of parliamentarism.
“The accession to power of fascism is not an ordinary succession of one bourgeois government by another, but a substitution of one state form of class domination of the bourgeoisie — bourgeois democracy — by another form — open terrorist dictatorship. It would be a serious mistake to ignore this distinction, a mistake liable to prevent the revolutionary proletariat from mobilizing the widest strata of the working people of town and country for the struggle against the menace of the seizure of power by the fascists, and from taking advantage of the contradictions which exist in the camp of the bourgeoisie itself. But it is a mistake, no less serious and dangerous, to underrate the importance, for the establishment of fascist dictatorship, of the reactionary measures of the bourgeoisie at present increasingly developing in bourgeois-democratic countries — measures which suppress the democratic liberties of the working people, falsify and curtail the rights of parliament and intensify the repression of the revolutionary movement.”
Benito Mussolini had been more correct when he stated: “Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.” Lenin had been even more spot on when he summed up: “Fascism is capitalism in decay.” Buying into the delusion that U.S. imperialism is not fascist, or that the Republican and Democratic parties are not equally fascist, that the bourgeois dictatorship in the U.S. is anything other than a two-party fascist dictatorship, has seriously undermined the Left both in the U.S. and internationally. It blinds us to the horrors committed decade after decade, from dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to the genocidal war committed against the Vietnamese and the millions killed since then in the Middle East and Africa, to the routine killing of Black and Brown youth on the streets by the police and the strategy of mass incarceration at home. What difference does it make if the perpetrators are Americans or Germans, Republicans or Democrats? What difference does it make if the troops goosestep or do the Harlem Shuffle?
In the decades after World War II, the C.I.A. and other United States agencies employed at least a thousand Nazis as Cold War spies and informants, men like Otto von Balschining, a former SS officer and top aide to Adolf Eichmann, an architect of the “final solution,” who wrote texts on how to terrorize and exterminate Jews, and Reinhard Gehlen, a former German major general and head of military intelligence on the Eastern Front, who was recruited by the U.S. military to form the “Gehlen Organization” of ex-Nazi agents to spy on the Soviet Union. Gehlen was later made head of the West German Federal Intelligence Service (BND). In the Philippines, Manuel Roxas, who had been chief rice collector for the Japanese, was selected to serve as the first President of the “independent” Philippines in 1946, and he pardoned other Japanese occupation collaborators.
Prior to, during and since the “Cold War,” the imperialists have employed legions of secret agents, romanticized in culture like James Bond movies, directed by “Think Tanks” of academics, psychologists, political scientists, economists and experts of mind manipulation and preying upon human weaknesses, to undermine and misdirect the struggle of the proletariat and oppressed peoples. The cutting edge of technology has been employed to spy upon and accumulate data on the most minute aspects of the socialist movements and activists on all levels and in all countries with relentless intent to hold back the liberation of humanity from class exploitation. Billions of dollars have been expended on such activities and agencies, and maintaining the illusion that we are not being manipulated and controlled, that “democracy” and “liberty” are being defended.
When the archives of the secret police in Tsarist Russia were opened, Lenin and the other comrades were shocked to discover how many of their associates had been paid agents, informers and moles, and this was “amateur night” compared to the intensity of the “Cold War” and the present era. It is understandable that Stalin was suspicious of everyone, but the greater problem has always been the spontaneous tendencies emanating from the class relations in capitalist society that carry over into socialism. Is it really shocking that so many of the “Old Bolsheviks” were purged? Maybe they were innocent of being hired agents of foreign powers, but the records show that they were not innocent of betrayal of the revolution. The later restoration of capitalism demonstrates that such betrayal became epidemic within the ranks of the “Party and State” of the socialist countries and socialist movements.
Mao’s initiation of the “Hundred Flowers” campaign was intended to break the mold of stereotypical party writing, conformist artistic expression, scientific straight-jacketing, and constricting of two-line struggle. Later, the intellectuals would whine that they had been set-up when it was followed by a crackdown on rightist tendencies, but nobody said “let a hundred poisonous weeds bloom.” There is a dialectic between encouraging proletarian democracy and exercising proletarian dictatorship. The “art of civilization” is doing one thing while pretending to be doing something else. The bourgeoisie and bureaucrats are masters of the art.
Political line can be sabotaged while appearing to be implementing it faithfully. Collective communal kitchens were intended to free women from household drudgery and allow them to integrate more fully into socialized production, but confiscating pots and pans to feed into backyard steel furnaces as “scrap metal” had the effect of making people dependent, discouraging private gardening and weakening the sense of family togetherness and privacy. Ideally, people should have the option of dining at home or grabbing a meal at the communal kitchen, and the option of alone time, family time and community socialization. Not to mention the folly of backyard steel furnaces in the first place or Mao being tricked into approving them by showing him steel from a conventional steel mill and telling him it was made in a backyard furnace. In some places, where there were people with knowledge of the traditional art of making steel in a forge, it could be, and was, done, but with great effort and much less efficiently than by a modern steel mill.
The “Great Leap Forward” (1958-1961) was opposed by many in leadership positions because it represented socialist reconstruction and self-reliance. Liu Shao-ch’i (Liu Shaoqi), the Vice-Chairman of the CCP and President of the People’s Republic of China, and Teng Hsiao-p’ing (Deng Xiaoping), the Vice Premier, who along with Premier Chao En-lai (Zhou Enlai) were in charge of the day to day running of the Party and State, resented Mao’s leadership, blamed him for the split with the Soviet Union and were in position to see the “Great Leap Forward” hit every bump in the road. Quite the opposite of Mao’s line of putting politics in command and unleashing the initiative of the masses, they favored financial incentives and reliance on experts.
The first year of the “Great Leap Forward” went well, and by the end of 1958, 700 million people had been placed into 26,578 communes. The peasants showed great enthusiasm for collectivization, the weather was good and there was a record harvest. 1959, however, did not go so well. The excellent growing weather of 1958 was followed by a very poor growing year in 1959. Some parts of China were hit by floods. In other growing areas, drought was a major problem. Feeling pressure to not only meet but exceed quotas, many local officials turned in inflated statistics, which meant grain needed for local consumption was being shipped to the Soviet Union to pay debts. The weather got worse in 1960 and rationing had to be introduced. In some areas famine, the tradition scourge of China’s subsistence agriculture, broke out, and delays in reporting meant delays in redirecting grain shipments back to the affected areas.
Many officials blamed Mao for the difficulties. Marshall Peng Te-huai (Peng Dehuai), the hero of the Korean War, was particularly outspoken. Peng, who came from a poor peasant family and had risen through the ranks of the KMT before joining the communists, had been Mao’s close ally in the Chinese Civil War, but the Korean War had convinced him of the need to professionalize the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and put him at odds with Mao’s line. In February 1958 Peng gave a speech for the fortieth anniversary of the Soviet Red Army, in which he suggested increased military cooperation between China and the Soviet Union. Mao opposed this suggestion, and began grooming Lin Piao (Lin Biao) as a viable successor to Peng for the position of Defense Minister. As part of the Great Leap Forward, Mao ordered the formation of a national militia that was controlled by Party members and independent of the PLA, eventually training and arming tens of millions of civilians.
When Peng visited his home province, he was shocked by the conditions he found there:
“The millet is scattered over the ground.
The leaves of the sweet potato are withered.
The young and old have gone to smelt iron.
To harvest the grain there are only
children and old women.
How shall we get through the next year?
Allow me to raise my voice for the people!”
– Peng Dehuai
Peng and Mao locked horns at the Lushan Conference in July of 1959. Peng had returned to China just previous to the conference after spending seven weeks abroad and was not planning on attending the conference, but Mao personally phoned Peng and invited him to attend. Mao opened the conference amiably by encouraging Party members to “criticize and offer opinions” on the government’s “mistakes and shortcomings,” promising no one would be branded as a “rightist” if he was criticized. Peng was vocal in his criticisms in the group meetings at the first part of the conference but reluctant to air all of his concerns publicly. Some comrades he confided in urged him to go see Mao privately and speak to him as an old friend and comrade, which he resolved to do.
“Peng visited Mao’s quarters on the night of July 13, but found Mao asleep, and wrote Mao a “letter of opinion” articulating Peng’s ideas instead. Peng delivered the letter to Mao on the morning of July 14, but Mao did not read the letter until July 17. Later on July 17 Mao had Peng’s letter widely circulated among the other delegates at the conference. Peng did not intend his letter to be widely read and attempted to prevent its circulation, but was not successful. Most other senior leaders, including Liu Shaoqi, Zhou Enlai, and Deng Xiaoping, supported Peng’s position before Mao began to attack it, indicating that they shared Peng’s views and that they did not see Peng’s letter as an attack on the Chairman.”
Later, Teng, Chou and Liu would support Peng’s being disciplined and removed from his positions and status. On August 16 the conference passed two resolutions. The first resolution condemned Peng as the leader of an “anti-Party clique,” and called for Peng’s removal from the positions of Defense Minister and Vice-Chairman of the Military Commission. The resolution did not eject Peng from the Communist Party, and it allowed Peng to retain his position on the Politburo, but he was excluded from Politburo meetings for years. The second resolution recognized Mao’s dominance within the Party and subtly called for an end to the policies of the Great Leap Forward.
Mao was forced to step down as head of state but retained his position as Party Chairman. Liu, Teng and Chou had effectively sidelined Mao for the time being and were able to phase out the Great Leap Forward, replacing it with their own polices. Private plots and agricultural implements were returned to the peasants, expertise began to be emphasized again, and the communal system was undermined. The failure of the Great Leap produced a division among the party leaders. One group blamed the failure of the Great Leap on bureaucratic elements who they felt had been overzealous in implementing its policies. Another faction in the party took the failure of the Great Leap as proof that China must rely more on expertise and material incentives in developing the economy.
Chapter Four: The Cultural Revolution
“The rise to power of revisionism means the rise to power of the bourgeoisie.” – Mao Tse Tung.
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR) was the high point to date of the World Proletarian Socialist Revolution, not because it succeeded in preventing capitalist restoration in People’s China, it only postponed it, but because it demonstrated where the bourgeois headquarters will appear under socialism and the necessity of exercising all round dictatorship over the bourgeoisie from below. As Elliot Liu points out: “The Cultural Revolution began in late 1965, in response to the publication of Ra Hui Dismissed from Office, a play that many believed was a veiled critique of Mao’s dismissal of P’eng Te-Huai during the GLF.”
Peng never understood why Mao had taken his letter as an attack and why he had not just pulled him aside if he thought he needed correction. Unwittingly, he had become a proxy to more powerful figures, notably Liu Shao-ch’i, Teng Hsiao-p’ing and Chou En-lai who used him to sway the conference while they avoided a direct confrontation. In September 1965, Mao agreed to rehabilitate Peng by promoting him to a position managing the industrial development of remote Southwest China and Tibet, which he at first refused. Then Mao called him personally on the phone to urge him to accept, hinting that his punishment may have been an error. Peng accepted and took the position, but when the Cultural Revolution broke out the following year, he was targeted by the Cultural Revolution Group. The play had made him a symbol to be smashed, and his refusal to confess to wrongdoing only enraged his Red Guard tormentors. The Cultural Revolution Group, which included Mao’s wife, Chiang Ch’ing (Jiang Qing), Chen Boda, Mao’s political secretary, Kang Shang, the head of the CCP’s internal security, Xie Fuzhi, the Minister of Public Security, Yao Wen-yaun, Chang Chun-chiao (Zhang Chunqiao), and Wang Li, was originally constituted to criticize the play. From there its portfolio had grown to rooting out counter-revolutionaries and “capitalist-roaders” within the state and party.
Elliot Liu criticizes Mao for underestimating the problem and saying that there were only a few “bad apples” that needed correcting, and misses the point that Mao was thoroughly outvoted on the Central Committee, yet he needed them to stand still for suspending the democratic centralism of the Party and allowing a mass Cultural Revolution to be raised against them. He first had to get control over the PLA, which he did by replacing Peng Te-Huai with Lin Piao, whom he later publicly named as his “chosen successor.” In September 1959, Lin took over as defense minister and undid Peng’s rightist reforms in the Army. Lin was not fundamentally different from other rightists in the Party, and in fact agreed with Peng’s criticisms. In fact, Peng was a man of better character. Peng had volunteered to lead the Chinese volunteers in Korea after Lin, who was Mao’s first choice, begged off citing health problems and went to Russia for treatment. An eternal pessimist and hypochondriac, Lin was afraid the U.S. was going to employ nuclear weapons and wanted to get far away.
Lin was a good tactician and tricky as a snake, but given to defeatism. Years earlier, in January of 1930, Mao had written “A Single Spark Can Start a Prairie Fire” as a letter to Lin to inspire him to have faith that a revolutionary situation was developing and a high tide was imminent. Lin was a loner, and because of his chronic health problems had been bypassed for promotions and was content to be nominally included on leading bodies. Yet he was ambitious, and Mao was counting on this to keep him striving to win his approval to get his reward when Mao passed over.
Among the reforms Lin initiated in the PLA, which included abolition of badges of rank and intensified political education, was the campaign to “Learn from Lei Feng,” which began in 1963. Lei was a young soldier from a poor peasant background who had been killed in an accident in 1962. The campaign was based upon Lei’s alleged diary, which was held up as a model of selfless devotion to the cause of revolution and loyalty to Chairman Mao. The campaign was aimed not only at the rank and file PLA soldiers but also the nation’s youth and school children. It served to prepare the ground for the Cultural Revolution and was an important aspect during it. Lei had no surviving relatives and was an unknown, so he could be fictionalized and presented as a flawless model for youth to emulate.
Lin Piao was himself a bit of a fictionalized character, as most of his work was performed by others while he remained a recluse. Lin often read speeches prepared by others, and allowed his name to be placed on articles that he did not write, as long as these materials supported Mao. One of the most famous articles published in Lin’s name was the 20,000-word pamphlet on revolution in developing countries, Long Live the Victory of the People’s War!, which was released in 1965. In studying the affairs of the CCP, nothing should be taken at face value. Mao was not really offended by Peng’s sincere criticism, nor was Lin an “ultra-leftist,” in fact he was a “rightist.” Mao had threatened the “rightists” at the Lushan Conference that even though they outnumbered him, if push came to shove, he was prepared to fight:
“In that case, I will go to the countryside to lead the peasants to overthrow the government. If those of you in the Liberation Army won’t follow me, then I will go and find a Red Army, and organize another Liberation Army. But I think the Liberation Army would follow me.”
And so they reached a compromise. Peng was thrown under the bus by the “rightists,” and they agreed to accept Lin Piao as his replacement. Mao accepted the restriction of his powers to that of Chairman and gave the “rightists” a free hand to manage economic development. Some say a period of five years was agreed upon. But Mao was not conceding defeat, and he was planning his next moves like a good chess player. Elliot Liu notes that from 1961 to 1964, 20 million state workers were relocated to the countryside and concludes that, “the doors to the party were closing,” but really Mao was opening a door for the masses to participate more fully in positions reserved for party bureaucrats which would manifest in the Cultural Revolution as “Revolutionary Committees” or “Three In One” committees.
The students were both “potential bureaucrats” and potential revolutionaries, and this duality manifested itself in the Red Guard formations. Indeed, it was this contradiction that gave rise to the class struggle in the universities and middle schools. In the struggle between “red” and “black” students based upon class background, the “black” background students who were discriminated against were sometimes more revolutionary than their “red” counterparts. Based on their class background, Marx, Engels, Lenin and Mao would all have been considered to have a “black” background. Khrushchev and the “capitalist-roaders” in the Soviet Union were mostly from a “good” class background.
Students responded en masse to Mao’s call for many reasons. Some were seeking to establish themselves for careerist reasons, and others were fired with revolutionary zeal. As Fanon observed: “Each generation must discover its mission, fulfill it or betray it, in relative opacity.” The Red Guard generation took as their mission continuing the revolution of their parents and grandparents and measured themselves against the sacrifices of the Long March. They wore old PLA uniforms and went without the comforts that their status as students entitled them to. Their spirit was captured in their marching songs:
“We Are Chairman Mao’s Red Guards
Red Guards, Red Guards,
Burning with revolutionary zeal,
Tested by the storm of class struggle,
Tempered for battle our hearts are red,
Standing firm, direction clear,
Our vigor for revolution strong,
We follow the party with full devotion,
We are Chairman Mao’s Red Guards
Red Guards, Red Guards,
We want to be the successors to Communism.
The revolutionary red banner passes on from generation to generation,
We want to carry on the glorious tradition.
Loving the country, loving the People, loving the Collective, loving to work.
Connecting with the workers and the peasants,
We are Chairman Mao’s Red Guards.”
When President Liu tried to rein them in, and Mao put up his famous “Bombard the Headquarters!” big character poster, the response was thundering, not only across China but across the world. A generation of students rocked the world as never before, and it kept on rocking throughout the 1960’s and early 1970’s:
“BOMBARD THE HEADQUARTERS!”
“China’s first Marxist-Leninist big character poster and Commentator’s article on it in Renmin Ribao (People’s Daily) are indeed superbly written! Comrades, please read them again. But in the last fifty days or so some leading comrades from the central down to the local levels have acted in a diametrically opposite way. Adopting the reactionary stand of the bourgeoisie, they have enforced a bourgeois dictatorship and struck down the surging movement of the great cultural revolution of the proletariat. They have stood facts on their head and juggled black and white, encircled and suppressed revolutionaries, stifled opinions differing from their own, imposed a white terror, and felt very pleased with themselves. They have puffed up the arrogance of the bourgeoisie and deflated the morale of the proletariat. How poisonous! Viewed in connection with the Right deviation in 1962 and the wrong tendency of 1964 which was ‘Left’ in form but Right in essence, shouldn’t this make one wide awake?”
Elliot Liu notes that the Red Guards did not divide themselves by gender and muted their sexuality. Their focus was on the question of which road China would take, the capitalist or the socialist road, and which class would exercise dictatorship over the other. China was struggling to advance from feudalism to socialism, with a brief period of “New Democracy” substituting for the stage of capitalist democratic revolution as a point of transition. In the West, bourgeois democracy has had a long run and the issue of bourgeois rights, which include women’s rights, civil rights, individual property rights and so on have been more of a focus than the collective issue of which class will rule. Self-cultivation and identity politics fit the petty-bourgeois politics of the radical students in the West more than they ever did in the socialist countries. Under socialism, bourgeois rights cannot be abolished, they can only be restricted. Individuals have rights, but it is in the securing of the collective freedom of the laboring classes through class struggle that they are able to enjoy them. While the West was focusing on “sexual revolution,” China was grappling with issues like “red versus expert,” which isn’t even on the agenda in the West.
Women made tremendous advances in the Soviet Union and People’s China primarily through the mass involvement of women in the class struggle and the struggle for production. Women rose to leadership positions in the Party, in the communities and workplaces by struggling for a proletarian line overall rather than as concessions to a women’s movement per se. Cultural productions like “The Red Detachment of Women,” “The Red Lantern” and “The White Haired Girl” provided models that inspired the young women of the Red Guards and masses generally. They portrayed women as strong fighters in the class struggle, worthy of respect. The oppression of women was part of the “Four Olds” to be struggled against and overcome.
The goal of the Red Guards was to act as a catalyst upon the masses as a whole to inspire them to rise up and demand greater power to the people in the decision making that affected their lives, and breaking the hold of old ideas, culture, customs and class relations in society, replacing old feudalist and capitalist things with socialist new things. But the “rightists” fought back and formed their own “Red Guards” to defend their privilege and engage the others in violent street battles, forcing Mao to turn to Lin and the PLA to restore order and disperse the Red Guards to the countryside to work with and learn from the peasants. Some accuse Lin Piao of encouraging ultra-leftist tendencies, anarchy and violence to allow him to seize power through the army. For example, with Lin’s encouragement, some Red Guard groups raised the slogan “Everything Old Must Go!” in contradiction to Mao’s instruction to “Make the Past Serve the Present, Make the Foreign Things Serve China!” These Red Guards attacked and vandalized temples, museums and private homes, burning old scrolls, books and antiques. A massive fight erupted at the site of the famous ‘Temple of the Reclining Buddha’ between rival Red Guard factions, some bent on destroying and others on preserving the national treasure, until the PLA broke it up.
The Cultural Revolution did inspire the masses of workers and peasants to step forward and demand and initiate changes that restricted the power of the bureaucracy and increased people’s power, such as “production, but overall, things continued moving forward under the slogan, “Grasp Revolution, Promote Production!”
“During the earliest part of the Red Guard phase, key Politburo leaders were removed from power—most notably President Liu Shaoqi, Mao’s designated successor until that time, and Party General Secretary Deng Xiaoping. In January 1967 the movement began to produce the actual overthrow of provincial party committees and the first attempts to construct new political bodies to replace them. In February 1967 many remaining top party leaders called for a halt to the Cultural Revolution, but Mao and his more radical partisans prevailed, and the movement escalated yet again. Indeed, by the summer of 1967, disorder was widespread; large armed clashes between factions of Red Guards were occurring throughout urban China.
During 1967 Mao called on the army under Lin Biao to step in on behalf of the Red Guards. Instead of producing unified support for the radical youths, this political-military action resulted in more divisions within the military. The tensions inherent in the situation surfaced vividly when Chen Zaidao, a military commander in the city of Wuhan during the summer of 1967, arrested two key radical party leaders.
“In 1968, after the country had been subject to several cycles of radicalism alternating with relative moderation, Mao decided to rebuild the Communist Party to gain greater control. The military dispatched officers and soldiers to take over schools, factories, and government agencies. The army simultaneously forced millions of urban Red Guards to move to the rural hinterland to live, thus scattering their forces and bringing some order to the cities. This particular action reflected Mao’s disillusionment with the Red Guards because of their inability to overcome their factional differences. Mao’s efforts to end the chaos were given added impetus by the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968, which greatly heightened China’s sense of insecurity.
“Two months later, the Twelfth Plenum of the Eighth Central Committee met to call for the convening of a party congress and the rebuilding of the party apparatus. From that point, the issue of who would inherit political power as the Cultural Revolution wound down became the central question of Chinese politics.”
Consciousness of China being liberated territory in the worldwide proletarian revolutionary struggle was at an all-time high. To the southeast war was raging in Indochina, with the Tet Offensive in 1968 marking a high-point of struggle in South Vietnam. Mass demonstrations of support took place in China, while factories worked hard to crank out war materials for the Vietnamese. The bombing of Hanoi and other cities in Vietnam brought home the vulnerability of Chinese cities, and mass efforts were made to dig elaborate networks of bomb shelters. Revolutionaries from around the world were invited to visit China and meet Mao or other top leaders, and China was generous in providing aid and assistance. When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated by the U.S. government in 1968, Mao issued a proclamation stating:
“Some days ago, Martin Luther King, the Afro-American clergyman, was suddenly assassinated by the U.S. imperialists. Martin Luther King was an exponent of nonviolence. Nevertheless, the U.S. imperialists did not on that account show any tolerance toward him, but used counter-revolutionary violence and killed him in cold blood. This has taught the broad masses of the Black people in the United States a profound lesson. It has touched off a new storm in their struggle against violent repression sweeping well over a hundred cities in the United States, a storm such as has never taken place before in the history of that country. It shows that an extremely powerful revolutionary force is latent in the more than twenty million Black Americans.
“The storm of Afro-American struggle taking place within the United States is a striking manifestation of the comprehensive political and economic crisis now gripping U.S. imperialism. It is dealing a telling blow to U.S. imperialism, which is beset with difficulties at home and abroad.
“The Afro-American struggle is not only a struggle waged by the exploited and oppressed Black people for freedom and emancipation, it is also a new clarion call to all the exploited and oppressed people of the United States to fight against the barbarous rule of the monopoly capitalist class. It is a tremendous aid and inspiration to the struggle of the people throughout the world against U.S. imperialism and to the struggle of the Vietnamese people against U.S. imperialism. On behalf of the Chinese people, I hereby express resolute support for the just struggle of the Black people in the United States.
“Racial discrimination in the United States is a product of the colonialist and imperialist system. The contradiction between the Black masses in the United States and the U.S. ruling circles is a class contradiction. Only by overthrowing the reactionary rule of the U.S. monopoly capitalist class and destroying the colonialist and imperialist system can the Black people in the United States win complete emancipation. The Black masses and the masses of white working people in the United States have common interests and common objectives to struggle for. Therefore, the Afro-American struggle is winning sympathy and support from increasing numbers of white working people and progressives in the United States. The struggle of the Black people in the United States is bound to merge with the American workers’ movement, and this will eventually end the criminal rule of the U.S. monopoly capitalist class.
“In 1963, in the “Statement Supporting the Afro-Americans in Their Just Struggle Against Racial Discrimination by U.S. Imperialism,” I said that the “the evil system of colonialism and imperialism arose and throve with the enslavement of Negroes and the trade in Negroes, and it will surely come to its end with the complete emancipation of the Black people.” I still maintain this view.”
In 1966, the year the Black Panther Party was founded, Chen Yi, who had replaced Teng Hsiao-p’ing as Vice Premier, stated:
“We have no illusions about U.S. imperialism, and we have made full preparations. We resolutely support the peoples of Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Korea and Japan and all other peoples suffering from U.S. imperialist aggression in carrying their fight against U.S. imperialism through to the end. No matter what tricks U.S. imperialism plays and no matter how it “escalates” the war, it will never be able to change this just stand of ours.
“We are very glad to see that more and more Americans have come to realize that it is the United States that is bullying China, not vice versa. They have begun to take action against the Johnson Administration’s policies of aggression and war. Nevertheless, the iron-clad fact confronting us is that the spearhead of U.S. imperialist aggression is more and more clearly directed against China. If U.S. imperialism insists on extending the war to China, we cannot but resolutely take up the challenge and we will not call off the battle until complete victory. Together with the other peoples of Asia and the whole world, we will do our part in overthrowing U.S. imperialism, which is the arch-aggressor and arch-warmonger of our time.”
When Huey P. Newton visited China in late 1971, he was treated as an honored guest by officials and the masses:
“I received the invitation to visit China shortly after my release from the Penal Colony, in August, 1970. The Chinese were interested in the Party’s Marxist analysis and wanted to discuss it with us as well as show us the concrete application of theory in their society. I was eager to go and applied for a passport in late 1970, which was finally approved a few months later. However, I did not make the trip at that time because of Bobby’s and Ericka’s trial in New Haven. Nonetheless, I wanted to see China very much, and when I learned that President Nixon was going to visit the People’s Republic in February, 1972, I decided to beat him to it. …
“As we crossed into China the border guards held their automatic rifles in the air as a signal of welcome and well-wishing. The Chinese truly live by the slogan “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun,” and their behavior constantly reminds you of that. For the first time I did not feel threatened by a uniformed person with a weapon; the soldiers were there to protect the citizenry.
“The Chinese were disappointed that we had only ten days to spend with them and wanted us to stay longer, but I had to be back for the start of my third trial. Still, much was accomplished in that short time, traveling to various parts of the country, visiting factories, schools, and communes. Everywhere we went, large groups of people greeted us with applause, and we applauded them in return. It was beautiful. At every airport thousands of people. welcomed us, applauding, waving their Little Red Books, and carrying signs that read WE SUPPORT THE BLACK PANTHER PARTY, DOWN WITH U.S. IMPERIALISM, or WE SUPPORT THE AMERICAN PEOPLE BUT THE NIXON IMPERIALIST REGIME MUST BE OVERTHROWN.”
Huey did not get to meet with Mao, but he did meet with Chou En-lai and Chiang Ch’ing. Huey described the People’s Republic as a “free and liberated territory with a socialist government.” He did not get to see all the contradictions playing out beneath the surface, but he did get an overall picture of what had been accomplished in a couple of decades of revolutionary state power. He already had a grasp that that power was temporary and conditional on how the class struggle was going. In the “January Storm” of 1967, an import achievement of that struggle was the formation of the Shanghai Commune. Inspired by the Paris Commune of 1871, factory workers had formed the Workers’ General Headquarters (WGH), which became part of the Cultural Revolution Group (CRG).
In November of 1966:
“The Cultural Revolution and the struggle against “those in authority taking the capitalist road” involved the broad masses of people in Shanghai. Representatives of many factories and colleges formed a broad alliance of rebel organizations. They went out all over the city, explaining their stand, rebutting false charges, and calling on the masses in posters, meetings, and demonstrations to resist the revisionist leaders and sweep them from power.
“The Shanghai party authorities tried to keep the workers out of the struggle, particularly by distorting the revolutionary slogan, “grasp revolution, promote production,” emphasizing only the second part. The workers were told that they must “obey this slogan”—by not leaving their jobs to join the demonstrations. Despite such efforts, a Shanghai-wide organization of rebel workers was formed. It first functioned underground and then in early November declared its existence with an inaugural rally of tens of thousands of workers from the city’s 800 factories. This was the birth of the Shanghai Workers Rebel Headquarters.
“Before the rally the rebel workers sent a delegation to the city authorities. They wanted the Party Committee to officially recognize their new organization, and they demanded that the Mayor come to the rally to hear criticisms from the people. These and other demands were rejected and instead the revisionists issued instructions that “those loyal to the party will not participate or support the Workers Revolutionary Rebel Headquarters.” Spies were sent into the crowd, the platform was bugged, and provocateurs tried to break up the rally.
“The rally of students, cadres, peasants, and workers lasted seven hours. Then the crowd marched to the city Party Committee, where they demanded to see the mayor. When the mayor refused to come out, the rebels decided to go to Beijing to present their case directly to Mao Tsetung.
“2,500 Workers Headquarters members converged at the Shanghai railway station and took over a Beijing-bound train. Another group of rebels set off to walk the 900 miles to Beijing!
“When the Shanghai party leaders ordered the train stopped at Anting, about 20 miles north of the city, those who had set out on foot joined those on the train.
“The Shanghai party leaders sent relatives to urge the rebels to go home. But many of these relatives were won over to support the rebellion and workers from nearby factories and farm communes brought food and water to the rebel workers. The party and city officials called on the workers to return to their jobs—once again mis-using the revolutionary slogan “grasp revolution, promote production” to argue that the workers should go back to work. They said the workers could participate in the revolution—after working hours. But 1,000 workers said they would not leave until their demands were met and occupied the train for the next three days.
“It was at this point that the Central Cultural Revolution Group (CCRG) in Beijing intervened. Zhang Chunqiao from the CCRG went to Anting, and during a nine-hour meeting, he listened to the rebels’ demands and discussed with them the complex question of how to handle the contradiction between “grasping revolution” and “promoting production” in the course of waging the class struggle. Zhang assured the workers that they had support from Mao and top party leaders in Beijing and convinced them to return to Shanghai—to continue the struggle there.
“Then, in a rather “in your face” move, Zhang Chunqiao held a mass meeting in Shanghai with the workers who had returned from Anting and formally signed their demands. Zhang said that Mao and the party’s Central Committee knew about the situation in Shanghai, that the CCRG recognized the Workers Headquarters as a revolutionary organization, and that the Standing Committee of the Central Committee had confirmed this decision. Such news was immediately spread far and wide by the rebels as wall posters and leaflets by the thousands declared and greeted this important support from Beijing.
“The Mayor of Shanghai, who opposed Mao’s line, was enraged and, upon hearing that Zhang had signed the workers’ demands, remarked: “Zhang Chunqiao signs and catches us all with our pants down”! Attacks against Zhang’s leadership intensified—he received threats on his life, his house was broken into, and rebels under his leadership were physically attacked.
“In fact, Zhang’s support of the rebel workers, given that he was considered a direct emissary from Mao, shattered the credibility of the mayor and his Party Committee and played an extremely important role in creating public opinion in favor of the rebel workers. And Mao himself openly and specifically approved the “Shanghai January Storm” and called upon his supporters all over the country to emulate this action wherever it was needed, to prevent the restoration of capitalism and push forward the building of socialism.”
The Shanghai Commune only lasted for around a month when it was replaced by a Revolutionary Committee. Revolutionary Committees were tripartite bodies composed of representatives of the people, the Party and the PLA. Clearly this represented a concession Mao was forced to make to Chou En-lai and Lin Piao. To understand this need to compromise, we must examine all the contradictions at play. In the 1960s-70s, China is still a backward “Third World” country emerging from semi-feudal conditions, threatened by U.S. imperialism, and the U.S. has become a superpower consolidating its global hegemony. From Taiwan, South Korea and South Vietnam, it is aggressively threatening China’s sovereignty and existence as a socialist country. At the same time, China is threatened by the rapidly emerging social-imperialism of the Soviet Union, which shares a long border with the People’s Republic and is provoking border incidents with the PLA. The Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia to crush the “Prague Spring” with 200,000 troops and 5,000 tanks in 1968 sharply brought this threat home to the Chinese.
Internally, there is the threat of capitalist restoration by capitalist-roaders within the Party and the State, both those of the inclination to ally with Soviet Social-imperialism and those desiring alliance with U.S. capitalist-imperialism, and some vacillating between these positions. Unleashing anarchy and chaos on too grand a scale could empower either tendency and invite intervention by either imperialist superpower or both. Mao’s objectives were to keep China on the socialist path, restore the integrity of the Communist Party and strengthen the dictatorship of the proletariat to continue with socialist reconstruction, and at the same time to defend the territorial sovereignty of the People’s Republic and build a worldwide united front against imperialism to advance the world proletarian socialist revolution to victory.
The Shanghai Commune was riddled with factionalism, as was the Red Guard movement as a whole, and China was degenerating into factional infighting on a grand scale. Mao wanted the younger generation, and the masses generally, to gain experience in revolutionary struggle, but he also wanted to preserve the gains of struggle that had been attained so far. He didn’t want the workers’ struggle to degenerate into economism: For one thing the State could not afford to spend the capital it needed for economic development on higher wages, nor could he forget that the majority of China were still peasantry, and reducing the gap between urban and rural development was critical to building socialism. Economism, moreover, creates a fertile ground for revisionism and the bourgeoisification of the workers, as can be clearly seen in the West. As Yao Wen-yaun expressed:
“The important task now confronting the revolutionary committees at all levels is to do the work of struggle-criticism-transformation conscientiously and well, and without losing any time. In order to accomplish this task, it is imperative to persist in leadership by the working class and to “bring into full play the leading role of the working class in the great cultural revolution and in all fields of work.”
The plan was to balance the power of the Party, the Army and the Masses, with the proletariat playing the leading role.
“Chairman Mao has pointed out that in those places and organizations where power needs to be seized, the policy of the revolutionary “three-in-one” combination must be carried out in establishing a provisional organ of power that is revolutionary and representative and has proletarian authority. This organ of power should preferably be called a revolutionary committee.
“This policy is the political and organizational guarantee for the victory of the proletarian revolutionaries in their struggle to seize power. The proletarian revolutionaries should understand this policy correctly and implement it correctly.
“The revolutionary “three-in-one” provisional organ of power should be formed by leaders of revolutionary mass organizations that truly represent the broad masses, the representatives of the People’s Liberation Army units stationed in the area and revolutionary leading cadres. None of these three bodies can be excluded. It is wrong to overlook or under-estimate the role of any one of them.
“As a result of the vigorous mass movement of the great proletarian cultural revolution during the past half year and more, the masses have been fully mobilized, and large numbers of representatives of the revolutionary masses have emerged as a new force. The broad revolutionary masses serve the proletarian revolutionaries as the base for seizure of power from the handful of Party persons in authority taking the capitalist road. They are the base of the revolutionary “three in-one” provisional organ of power.
“True proletarian revolutionaries and the new-emerging representatives of the revolutionary masses have performed immortal exploits in the great proletarian cultural revolution. They are the new rising forces nurtured by Mao Tse-tung’s thought and they embody the general orientation of the revolution.
“The present struggle to seize power from the handful of Party persons in authority taking the capitalist road is a mass movement from below under the leadership of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party headed by Chairman Mao. In the revolutionary “three-in-one” provisional organ of power, it is imperative to give full play to the role of leaders of the revolutionary mass organizations and to take full account of their opinions, and never regard them simply as secondary for they represent the broad revolutionary masses. If their role is denied or underrated, the revolutionary masses as well as the great proletarian cultural revolution are in fact negated. If they are excluded or regarded as secondary, it is impossible to establish a provisional organ of power that is revolutionary, representative and has proletarian authority; it is impossible to effect a revolutionary “three-in-one” combination.
“In all great revolutionary mass movements, it is difficult to avoid shortcomings and mistakes. It is necessary to see clearly the essence, the mainstream and the general orientation of the revolution. In this great proletarian cultural revolution, the shortcomings and errors of the leaders of revolutionary mass organizations who truly represent the masses are a question of one finger among ten, and the sort of problem that arises in the course of progress. As proletarian revolutionaries, we should recognize that their general orientation is correct, that they have many strong points and that we should learn from them modestly. As for their shortcomings and errors, we should help them warm-heartedly, patiently and by proper method. It should also be noted that many revolutionary mass organizations have themselves pointed out the wrong tendencies existing in their own organizations and have proposed ways of correcting them as a result of their creative study and application of Chairman Mao’s works. This is revolutionary consciousness and initiative, a quality of true worth. It is precisely the revolutionary masses themselves who have proposed eliminating self-interest in their own thinking while seizing power from the handful of Party persons in authority taking the capitalist road.
“In the final analysis, the question of one’s attitude towards leaders of revolutionary mass organizations that truly represent the broad masses taking part in the “three-in-one” provisional organ of power is a question of one’s attitude towards the masses, towards the mass movement itself. It is also an important indication of whether or not the proletarian revolutionary line represented by Chairman Mao can be carried out. We must at all times remember Chairman Mao’s teachings: “The masses are the real heroes,” “the masses have boundless creative power,” “the people, and the people alone, are the motive force in the making of world history.” Any organization or individual, once alienated from the revolutionary masses, will certainly not be able to carry out the proletarian revolutionary line represented by Chairman Mao.”
The problem in the Party had a lot to do with the system of patronage that existed within the bureaucracy, which in Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc countries was known as the nomenklatura. The Russian term is derived from the Latin nomenclatura, meaning a list of names. Roughly equivalent to the establishment in the capitalist West, the nomenklatura were administrative bureaucrats appointed at every level of the Party, the State, and the Economy, including management and unions. At every level and in every branch of the Soviet system there were two lists, one of positions to be filled and the other of potential candidates to fill them. Those who were on those lists became “clients” to those who had the power to make those appointments. Loyalty to one’s “patron” was necessary to retain one’s position and certainly was a necessary attribute to getting promoted. As one went up the ladder, one was able to make appointments oneself, and at the top, the struggle between powerful patrons caused major reshuffling of the key positions in a bureaucracy. As one’s patron moved up, one was likely to move up as well. It was in the interest of the patron to reward his loyal clients and surround himself with those whose careers had benefited from his patronage.
The revolutionary committees quickly fell under the domination of the PLA as the Red Guards were dispersed over the countryside and the leaders of the revolutionary mass organizations were divided by factionalism, while the Party bureaucracy was weakened by the Cultural Revolution itself. Lin Piao was gaining more and more power as Mao’s health was deteriorating. A lifelong heavy smoker, Mao was suffering from heart disease and lung disease. It is also believed that he had either Parkinson’s disease and/or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Mao was becoming alarmed that Lin was impatient to succeed him. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica:
“When the Ninth Party Congress convened in April 1969, Defense Minister Lin Biao was officially designated as Mao’s successor, and the military tightened its grip on the entire society. Both the Party Central Committee and the revamped Communist Party were dominated by military men. Lin took advantage of Sino-Soviet border clashes in the spring of 1969 to declare martial law and further used his position to rid himself of some potential rivals to the succession. Several leaders who had been purged during 1966–68 died under the martial law regimen of 1969, and many others suffered severely during this period.
“Lin quickly encountered opposition. Mao himself was wary of a successor who seemed to want to assume power too quickly, and he began to maneuver against Lin. Premier Zhou Enlai joined forces with Mao in this effort, as possibly did Mao’s wife Jiang Qing. Mao’s assistant Chen Boda, however, decided to support Lin’s cause. Thus, despite many measures taken in 1970–71 to return order and normalcy to Chinese society, increasingly severe strains were splitting the top ranks of leadership.
“These strains first surfaced at a party plenum in the summer of 1970. Shortly thereafter Mao began a campaign to criticize Chen Boda as a warning to Lin. Chen disappeared from public view in August 1970. Matters came to a head in September 1971 when Lin himself was killed in what the Chinese asserted was an attempt to flee to the Soviet Union after an abortive assassination plot against Mao. Virtually the entire Chinese high military command was purged in the weeks following Lin’s death.
“Lin’s demise had a profoundly disillusioning effect on many people who had supported Mao during the Cultural Revolution. Lin had been the high priest of the Mao cult, and millions had gone through tortuous struggles to elevate this chosen successor to power and throw out his “revisionist” challengers. They had in this quest attacked and tortured respected teachers, abused elderly citizens, humiliated old revolutionaries, and, in many cases, battled former friends in bloody confrontations. The sordid details of Lin’s purported assassination plot and subsequent flight cast all this in the light of traditional, unprincipled power struggles, and vast numbers of Chinese people began to feel that they simply had been manipulated for personal political purposes.”
In 1972, Mao suffered a stroke. In that same year, Chou discovered he was dying from cancer. Both men realized that a successor must be chosen to be groomed to take over to prevent China sinking into anarchy when they passed. Teng Shao-peng was rehabilitated, at Chou’s insistence, and brought back into leadership as 1st Vice Premier, which effectively made him Chou En-lai’s chosen successor, and as Chou’s health deteriorated, allowed him to effectively run the country. Teng was careful to avoid any blatant deviation from the domestic policies established by Mao, but Mao refused to accept his self-criticism as sincere. When Chou died, Hua Guofeng, not Deng, was selected to become Zhou’s successor. With Mao’s approval, the “Gang of Four” initiated the “Campaign to Criticize Teng Shao-peng.” This was really a continuation of the “Campaign to Criticize Lin Piao and Confucius.” In part this was a mass campaign to trace the struggle between Confucianism and Legalism in Chinese history, and at the same time was also veiled criticism of Chou En-lai, and Teng and rightists in the Party generally.
After the Tiananmen Incident on April 5, 1976, Mao had Teng removed from all posts, though he retained his Party membership. He was accused of masterminding a riot after wreaths honoring Chou En-lai were removed from a monument. Chou was extremely popular because of his many years of service, and it was not generally realized that he had been behind a lot of the rightism in the Party leadership, as he had been careful to remain in the background and appear as a centrist and peacemaker. Even Mao had been fooled by Chou and underestimated his old comrade’s cunning. Mao was looking back in anger, and he ordered flags to be lowered to half-mast across China, but only for one hour.
After Mao’s death on September 9th, 1976, the “Gang of Four” were quickly suppressed along with the Left in general, and Teng soon maneuvered his way back to power, pushing aside the centrists. Those who had been knocked down by the Cultural Revolution were rehabilitated and those who had participated were marginalized and kept from rising in the Party. A national campaign to criticize and repudiate the Cultural revolution still continues 40 years later. Mao was slandered, but not in the same way Stalin had been. He has remained an icon and beloved figure to the Chinese people. The Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution are summed up as folly and madness, but the restoration of capitalism in all but name is presented as “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics.”
Chapter Five: Conclusions
The thrust of Elliot Liu’s critique is that there is no difference between the socialist and capitalist road and that ideological and political line are not decisive. He rehashes the critiques of various Anarchist and Trotskyist writers as authorities to back up his claims. Since he maintains that the line of building socialism in one country was wrong, he negates all the experience of the struggle since the October Revolution, and the suppression of the Kronstadt Mutiny against the Bolsheviks in 1921. To him, the struggle has just been a waste of time and human lives from which we can’t learn a thing. In contrast to this, let’s look at the summation of one of the participants in the Cultural Revolution:
“In his work Karl Marx, Lenin made a vivid and scientific generalization on the law of the development of things, describing it as “a development, so to speak, that proceeds in spirals, not in a straight line.” In many of his important works, Chairman Mao has incisively expounded and elaborated this brilliant thought of Lenin’s. Chairman Mao has pointed out: “Events have their twists and turns and do not follow a straight line.” (On Protracted War.) Dwelling on the law of development of class struggle, he has said: “Make trouble, fail, make trouble again, fail again…till their doom; that is the logic of the Imperialists and all reactionaries the world over in dealing with the people’s cause, and they will never go against this logic. This is a Marxist law.” “Fight, fail, fight again, fail again, fight again…till their victory; that is the logic of the people, and they too will never go against this logic. This is another Marxist law.” (Cast Away Illusions, Prepare for Struggle.) This teaching of Chairman Mao’s points out the two diametrically different outcomes for the imperialists and reactionaries on the one hand and the revolutionary people on the other hand; he also points out that a tortuous course of development is inevitable in the struggle between the revolutionary forces and counterrevolutionary forces. The disruption and failure of the counterrevolutionaries and the failure and success of the revolutionary people are two aspects which are interlinked and can transform themselves into each other. The alternate appearance of these two aspects in the course of revolutionary struggle is a concrete manifestation of the law of spiral development.
“Why do things develop in spirals? It is because in each thing there is the contradiction between its new and its old aspects and the two aspects of the contradiction are united and at the same time opposed to each other, thereby pushing the development of things. The course of development of things from a low to a high stage is one in which the new things develop through continuously defeating the old. To conquer the old and replace it, a new thing is bound to meet with strong resistance from the old; only by repeated and fierce struggles can the new thing grow in strength and rise to predominance, and only thus can the old thing be weakened and forced to perish gradually. Therefore, in spite of the fact that the general direction of the development of things is a forward movement from a low to a high stage, it cannot advance in a straight line. The inevitable phenomenon in the actual process of development is that there are twists and turns of varying degrees at one time or another. Chairman Mao has said: “Like every other activity in the world, revolution always follows a tortuous road and never a straight one.” (On Tactics Against Japanese Imperialism.) This is because there is a process of development for the revolutionary forces to grow and for the counter-revolutionary forces to perish, and it is not possible for the former to completely defeat and annihilate the latter overnight. This is also because the cognition of objective laws, the leap from the realm of necessity to the realm of freedom, requires a process of accumulating experience—from without experience to having experience, from less experienced to more experienced. Only by repeated comparisons between positive and negative experiences can one achieve a correct understanding of the law of the development of revolution and consciously apply this law to accomplish the revolutionary tasks.
“Spiral development only approximates a series of circles, but each cycle is not a simple repetition of the previous one and does not return to where it started. As Chairman Mao has summed up: “With each cycle the content of practice and knowledge rises to a higher level,” (On Practice.) Superficially, reversals and zigzags look like going out of the right path, but actually every time a reversal or a twist and turn is overcome, it is invariably accompanied by a victory and progress, thereby pushing the thing to a new stage. Compared with the old stage, every new one is brought to a comparatively higher plane and by no means returns to the original place. The unity of opposites—the progressiveness and tortuousness of development of things—makes up the complicated spiral movement. The viewpoint that things develop in a straight line negates the tortuous nature of the development of things, and the viewpoint that things move in a circle negates the progressive nature of the development of things; both negate the dialectical unity of the progressive and tortuous nature, and will inevitably lead to the metaphysical quagmire.
“The history of development of human society over the past several thousand years is a history of spiral development full of twists and turns. Revolutions in the past, be it the replacement of the slave system by the feudal system, or the replacement of the feudal system by the capitalist system, involved dozens or hundreds of years of repeated and tortuous struggles centering around progress and retrogression, restoration and counter-restoration. Since the replacement of one system of exploitation by another system of exploitation involved such a process of development, the socialist revolution in which socialism triumphs over capitalism and which makes final elimination of the system of exploitation and classes its goal, will by no means be smooth sailing. The struggles involved will be more tortuous and protracted than those of any previous revolution and tremendous efforts have to be exerted. Chairman Mao has taught us: “New things always have to experience difficulties and setbacks as they grow. It is sheer fantasy to imagine that the cause of socialism is all plain sailing and easy success, without difficulties and setbacks or the exertion of tremendous efforts.” (On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People.) Chairman Mao said this in 1957. Practice in the past 17 years has greatly heightened our understanding of this viewpoint. After the seizure of political power by the proletariat, the overthrown reactionary classes refuse to take their defeat lying down. They are bound to come out to engage in sabotage and disruption to get back their lost “paradise” and look for agents in the ranks of the Communist Party as their political representatives for staging a come-back. In addition, the socialist revolution in the realm of the superstructure will be more arduous than before owing to the thousands of years of influence of the exploiting classes’ traditional ideas. It will take a considerably long period of time to decide the question of which will win out, the proletariat or the bourgeoisie, in the political and ideological spheres. Class struggle and the two-line struggle at home always coordinate with the class struggle abroad. The domestic class enemies are bound to work hand in glove with the imperialists and social-imperialists and make trouble whenever they have the opportunity to do so. Therefore, after the seizure of political power, the proletariat faces the heavy task of strengthening the dictatorship of the proletariat, consolidating the worker-peasant alliance, uniting the people of various nationalities, and persisting in continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat. Much work remains to be done. The proletariat must sum up the positive and negative experiences in the protracted and repeated struggles and continue to deepen its understanding of the law of socialist revolution and socialist construction. Only in this way can it overcome hardships and obstructions on the path of advance, defeat the bourgeoisie and all other exploiting classes and realize communism.”
Hung Yu, “History Develops in Spirals,” Peking Review #43, October 25, 1974.
The World Proletarian Socialist Revolution has not developed in a straight line. It broke through first where the chains of capitalist-imperialism were weakest and failed to inspire successful revolution in the capitalist-imperialist countries primarily because of the opportunism of the Left within these countries, who failed to live up to their resolutions to turn imperialist war into revolutionary class war. Capitalism creates the necessary conditions for socialism, but the transition to socialism does not happen automatically, it requires revolution. As Ché put it: “The revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it fall.” Instead of blaming Stalin and Mao, the Left in the West needs to criticize itself for failing to develop a valid revolutionary movement and drowning every revolutionary spark with buckets of right and “left” opportunism.
The Russian Revolution and creation of the Socialist Camp coincided with the uprisings and national liberation struggles in the colonial and neo-colonial countries being underdeveloped and exploited by capitalist-imperialism. Inspired by and given material assistance from the Socialist countries, these basically bourgeois democratic struggles became part of the World Proletarian Socialist Revolution. The objects of U.S. Imperialism were not simply to contain and undermine existing socialism, but to extend and consolidate its own global hegemony. To the extent that the anti-colonial struggles created opportunities to displace European monopolies with U.S. hegemony, they were welcomed by the U.S. imperialists, who, under the guise of “anti-communism” welcomed them to the “Free World” with “Foreign Aid” and “Dollar Diplomacy.” Rising Soviet “Social Imperialism” had their own version of “Foreign Aid” and “Ruble Diplomacy.”
Capitalism was restored in the Soviet Union and now in People’s China, but already these countries show signs that new waves of revolution are rising. U.S. Imperialism won the “Cold War,” but there are signs that U.S. Imperialism is coming apart at the seams, that it is weakening and facing ever greater challenges both at home and abroad. The former colonial countries are under the grip of neo-colonial domination, but there are indications that new storms against imperialism are brewing, and Maoism is the common language revolutionaries in all three of these situations are communicating in.
“The reversals and twists and turns on the road of revolution are only whirlpools, big and small, in the long river of history and are of little significance. As far as the entire course of history is concerned, advance and ascendancy make up the mainstream and essence of things, while twists and turns and retrogression are only branches and transient phenomena. The proletariat is bound to defeat the bourgeoisie; socialism is bound to triumph over capitalism; Marxism is bound to prevail over revisionism—this is the established general trend of the development of history. Chairman Mao has pointed out: “The world is progressing, the future is bright and no one can change this general trend of history.” (On the Chungking Negotiations.) Any reversals or twists and turns, even retrogression and the repeating of history for a while, can only affect the tempo of historical development, but can neither halt the advance of history nor change the direction of its development. Both in the past and in modern times, there have been countless reversals and twists and turns in the development of history. From Confucius (551-476 B.C.) to Yuan Shih-kai (1859-1916) and Chiang Kai-shek, and from Chen Tu-hsiu to Wang Ming, Liu Shao-chi and Lin Piao, all were reactionaries swimming against the tide of history. None of them succeeded in turning back the clock of history. Instead, every one of them lifted a rock only to drop it on his own feet and ended up in self-destruction.
“We firmly believe that no reversals or twists and turns of any kind can obstruct the cause of revolution from advancing; this belief is based on the historical-materialist viewpoint that “the people, and the people alone, are the motive force in the making of world history.” At all times the people are the masters of history and the people always want to make revolution. Led by Chairman Mao, the broad masses are firm in taking the road of socialism. The working class, the poor and lower-middle peasants, the commanders and fighters of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, the revolutionary cadres and revolutionary intellectuals all have profound proletarian sentiments for the Party and Chairman Mao and have enormous enthusiasm for the socialist cause. As long as we have firm faith in the masses and rely on them, we can overcome any reversals or twists and turns and surmount any kind of difficulty. Both at home and abroad, class enemies all try to subvert our dictatorship of the proletariat and change our socialist system by taking advantage of the reversals or twists and turns that appear in the advance of our revolutionary cause, but all to no avail. This is because our revolutionary cause stands for the fundamental interests of the people and has won the approval and support of the masses.
“The correctness or incorrectness of the ideological and political line decides everything.” We also firmly believe that no reversals or twists and turns of any kind can impede the advance of the revolutionary cause because our revolution is carried out under the guidance of the correct Marxist-Leninist line. Chairman Mao’s proletarian revolutionary line is the product of the integration of Marxism-Leninism with the concrete practice of the Chinese revolution; it is the fundamental guarantee for winning victory in the revolution. It is entirely due to Chairman Mao’s proletarian revolutionary line that we defeated imperialism and the Kuomintang reactionaries with Chiang Kai-shek as their ringleader, that we got hold of arms and seized political power and won great victories in socialist revolution and construction. When an erroneous line dominated, there were reversals and twists and turns in our struggles, causing serious damage to the revolutionary cause and even leading the revolution to failure; but when the correct line dominates, the reversals or twists and turns that appear in the course of our struggle are only partial and temporary and are not difficult to eliminate. Therefore, under the guidance of the correct line, achievements are always primary and the situation is always excellent. Having undergone tests in prolonged struggles, our Party, state organs and the People’s Liberation Army can withstand any storms. After eight years of tempering in the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, the dictatorship of the proletariat in our country is consolidated as never before. As long as we strengthen revolutionary unity, unswervingly carry out Chairman Mao’s proletarian revolutionary line, correctly distinguish and handle the two different types of contradictions, we will make the excellent revolutionary situation still more excellent.
“While the prospects are bright, the road has twists and turns.” This is a scientific conclusion drawn from the summing up of countless historical experiences, and it has been verified in practice.”
In Critique of the Gotha Program, Marx proclaimed that:
“In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labor, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labor, has vanished; after labor has become not only a means of life but life’s prime want; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-around development of the individual, and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly—only then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banners: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!”
In the Soviet Union, it was agreed that in the lower phase of socialism, the correct formula is: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his work (labor investment).” In as much as skilled labor is of greater value than unskilled (and requires an investment of labor to acquire), that a multi-tiered wage scale is appropriate and necessary. As society and the socialist economy develops, this wage differential can be narrowed and more and more services and goods can be distributed on the basis of need. The gap between incomes and lifestyles should be narrowed rather than expanded, as well as the contrast between urban and rural life, between mental and manual labor, and so on. As Lenin envisioned in 1917, under socialism (at a higher level):
“All citizens are transformed into hired employees of the state, which consists of the armed workers. All citizens become employees and workers of a single country-wide state “syndicate.” All that is required is that they should work equally, do their proper share of work, and get equal pay. … The whole society will have become a single office and a single factory, with equality of labour and pay.”
Elliot Liu accuses Mao and the Maoist of “philosophical idealism” by putting politics in command and believing that ideological-political line distinguishes capitalism from socialism. However, it is precisely a question of which class is dictating to society.
“Speaking at the First Plenary Session of the Ninth Central Committee of the Party on April 28 1969, Chairman Mao said, “Apparently, we couldn’t do without the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, for our base was not solid. From my observations, I am afraid that in a fairly large majority of factories — I don’t mean all or the overwhelming majority — leadership was not in the hands of real Marxists and the masses of workers. Not that there were no good people in the leadership of the factories. There were. There were good people among the secretaries, deputy secretaries and members of Party committees and among the Party branch secretaries. But they followed that line of Liu Shao-chi’s, just resorting to material incentive, putting profit in command, and instead of promoting proletarian politics, handing out bonuses, and so forth.” “But there are indeed bad people in the factories.” “This shows that the revolution is still unfinished.” “Chairman Mao’s remarks not only explain the necessity for the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution but also help us be more aware that in the problem of the system of ownership, as in all others, we should pay attention not only to its form but also to its actual content. It is perfectly correct for people to give full weight to the decisive role of the system of ownership in the relations of production. But it is incorrect to give no weight to whether the issue of ownership has been resolved merely in form or in actual fact, to the reaction upon the system of ownership exerted by the two other aspects of the relations of production — the relations among people and the form of distribution — and to the “reaction upon the economic base exerted by the superstructure; these two aspects and the superstructure may play a decisive role under given conditions. Politics is the concentrated expression of economics. Whether the ideological and political line is correct or incorrect, and which class holds the leadership, decides which class owns those factories in actual fact.”
It is quite evident that after the Lin Piao Affair, the Right, in the persons of Chou and Teng, gained control over the day to day running of the State including foreign policy. Those who had been knocked down by the Cultural Revolution were rehabilitated by Chou and restored to high office, particularly in the PLA and the State. Quite apart from the foreign policy of the Cultural Revolution, As Elliot Liu notes: “In the international arena, the CCP began to act more like a self-interested capitalist state.” Citing things like China rushing to recognize Pinochet regime in 1973, it must be recalled Mao suffered his stroke in 1972 and Chou and Teng were running things. The “Third World Theory” Liu refers to was Teng’s creation. It was precisely a question of which class was in power.
As Stalin pointed out:
“The dictatorship of the bourgeoisie is a secret, concealed, backstage dictatorship, which needs a plausible camouflage with which to deceive the masses. The dictatorship of the proletariat and revolutionary peasantry, on the other hand, is an open dictatorship, a dictatorship of the masses, which has no need to resort to deception in home affairs or to secret diplomacy in foreign affairs. But it follows that our bourgeois dictators will strive to solve the most vital problems of the country, the question of war and peace, for example, behind the back of the masses, without the masses, by means of a conspiracy against the masses.”
The capitalist-roaders in China have never dropped their socialist camouflage, even to this day. China is now second only to the U.S. in the number of billionaires, with 213 as compared to 536 in the U.S. It is also second in number of millionaire households, with 2,070,000 as compared to 8,008,000 in the U.S. The CCP is now the party of billionaires and millionaires, and this is the result of class dictatorship by the bourgeoisie. It would be “philosophical idealism” to deny it. As Huey Newton pointed out: “If we understand dialectics we know that every determination brings about a limitation and every limitation brings about a determination.” It was possible to build socialism in Russia and China, but with limitations, and these limitations determined that the State, and particularly its military-industrial complex, must be maintained and expanded to sustain national self-determination in the face of aggressive imperialist global hegemony. Once it became apparent that the revolution in Germany had been defeated, it could also be determined that a restored imperialist Germany would be a threat to the Soviet Union’s survival and that they must build a powerful military with a modern technological base in a hurry to survive. Stalin’s pragmatism certainly had philosophical roots in his understanding of dialectical materialism, but none the less, the Germans would be coming and the Soviet Union had to be prepared. Once it became apparent that capitalism had been restored in the Soviet Union, and that China was targeted by U.S. Imperialism, China was likewise threatened. Opening to the West was conditioned by fear of being invaded by the Soviet Union, but also by Mao’s determination that the contradictions within the U.S. would give rise to the next great wave of the World Proletarian Socialist Revolution spearheaded by the struggle of the Black people within the U.S. against racial oppression.
Speaking to this Huey stated:
“I mentioned earlier the “negation of the negation,” I mentioned earlier the necessity for the redistribution of wealth. We think that it is very important to know that as things are in the world today socialism in the United States will never exist. Why? It will not exist because it cannot exist. It cannot at this time exist anyplace in the world. Socialism would require a socialist state, and if a state does not exist how could socialism exist? So how do we define certain progressive countries such as the People’s Republic of China? How do we describe certain progressive countries, or communities as we call them, as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea? How do we define certain communities such as North Vietnam and the provisional government in the South? How do we explain these communities if in fact they too cannot claim nationhood? We say this: we say they represent the people’s liberated territory. They represent a community liberated. But that community is not sufficient, it is not satisfied, just as the National Liberation Front is not satisfied with the liberated territory in the South. It is only the groundwork and preparation for the liberation of the world–seizing the wealth from the ruling circle, equal distribution and proportional representation in an intercommunal framework. This is what the Black Panther Party would like to achieve with the help of the power of the people, because without the people nothing can be achieved.
“I stated that in the United States socialism would never exist. In order for a revolution to occur in the United States you would have to have a redistribution of wealth not on a national or an international level, but on an intercommunal level. Because how can we say that we have accomplished revolution if we redistribute the wealth just to the people here in North America when the ruling circle itself is guilty of trespass /de bonis asportatis/. That is, they have taken away the goods of the people of the world, transported them to America and used them as their very own.
“In 1917, when the revolution occurred, there could be a redistribution of wealth on a national level because nations existed. Now, if you talk in terms of planning an economy on a world-wide level, on an intercommunal level, you are saying something important: that the people have been ripped off very much like one country being ripped off. Simple reparation is not enough because the people have not only been robbed of their raw materials, but of the wealth accrued from the investment of those materials-an investment which has created the technological machine. The people of the world will have to have control – not a limited share of control for “X” amount of time, but total control forever.
“In order to plan a real intercommunal economy we will have to acknowledge how the world is hooked up. We will also have to acknowledge that nations have not existed for some time.”
In other words, Huey was saying that in this new period, we are in the stage of monopoly capitalism Lenin characterized as, “mature capitalism that is moving towards its transformation into socialist society.” Because the U.S. is now a global empire, it cannot be overthrown simply by the masses within the United States, not when it has its military spread all over the globe and when capital is transferred electronically. Once overthrown, it will be necessary to have a worldwide redistribution of wealth and to carry out socialist reconstruction of the world economy. The global revolution the world proletariat was not ready for in 1917 is coming around again.
The Central Committee of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party (NABPP) has summed up that the principal contradiction in the world today is between the need of the capitalist-imperialist ruling class to consolidate their global hegemony and the chaos and anarchy – including the threat of nuclear war – they are unleashing by attempting to do so. In particular, they are determined to subordinate and integrate the new capitalist oligarchies in Russia and China. Whether or not they are able to do so, capitalist-imperialism is in decline and a downward spiral of crisis upon crisis it cannot resolve and which can only be resolved by the World Proletarian Socialist Revolution.
Wherever we are on this planet, there is one common enemy we all share, the capitalist-imperialist ruling class. Where does the empire base its military? Everywhere!
“Major elements of the conquest and world domination strategy by the U.S. refer to:
“1) the control of the world economy and its financial markets,
“2) the taking over of all natural resources (primary resources and nonrenewable sources of energy). The latter constitute the cornerstone of U.S. power through the activities of its multinational corporations.
“Geopolitical Outreach: Network of Military Bases
“The US has established its control over 191 governments which are members of the United Nations. The conquest, occupation and/or otherwise supervision of these various regions of the World is supported by an integrated network of military bases and installations which covers the entire Planet (Continents, Oceans and Outer Space). All this pertains to the workings of an extensive Empire, the exact dimensions of which are not always easy to ascertain.”
During the 2011 Republican debate in Tampa, Rep. Ron Paul stated: “We’re under great threat because we occupy so many countries. We’re in 130 countries. We have 900 bases around the world. We’re going broke…. What would we do if another country, say China, did to us what we do to all those countries over there?” There are probably more now. The U.S. military budget exceeds half a trillion annually. In addition to its own military, the U.S. Imperialists have NATO, which has expanded from 12 countries during the “Cold War” to 28 today, including several of the former Socialist Bloc of Warsaw Pact countries. Then there are the countries with “partnership agreements,” where the U.S. provides training and advisors, equipment and military aid. Where the U.S. does not have an open presence, it has covert operations, including inside the militaries and state bureaucracies of Russia and China. It has trade and business connections and a comprador bourgeoisie. It has spy satellites and drones and all manner of electronic and cyber surveillance.
The ruling class is transnational and can direct their empire from anywhere, including their ocean going yachts and private jets. The class war must be an intercontinental battleground. To be free anywhere, we must liberate everywhere and give the bourgeoisie no place to hide and regroup. We need to create an international dictatorship of the proletariat based upon revolutionary intercommunal solidarity and proletarian internationalism. We need a globally planned and managed, socialist economy and socialist reconstruction to create the conditions for the leap to Communism. We need to manage the ecological impact and create green technology to ensure the sustainability of life on this planet, and we need to create a decent standard of living for everyone with equitable distribution of resources.
Communism is a global system of borderless, stateless, classless society under which humanity can prosper and enjoy the maximum degree of personal and collective freedom, a society without war, poverty or discrimination. To get there from here requires a protracted struggle, both violent and non-violent, resolving antagonistic and non-antagonistic contradictions though application of the mass line and revolutionary praxis. Marxism-Leninism-Maoism is the “Science of Revolution,” but it is not the last word. The past is prologue, as they say, and the most challenging struggles are ahead of us. We must continually develop revolutionary science by applying it and amending our ideological-political theories and how we apply them in practice.
Change is absolute and revolution is the main trend in history and the world around us. Reactionaries cannot change that, they can only make trouble and unleash chaos and anarchy and threaten us with repression and war. Within the people’s movements they promote misdirection and “false consciousness,” applying the principles of “divide and rule” and “confounding” their opposition and the masses. We must be critical thinkers and fearless seekers of truth, because all truth serves the cause of revolution. We must also recognize that “politics is the art of the possible,” and neither tail behind not substitute ourselves for the masses.
They say, “hindsight is 20/20,” but it’s not. It is distorted by our subjectivity and idealism, not to mention the disinformation we are fed. We forget that ideas that are current were unknown in the past, or only thought about by isolated individuals and unknown to the masses. Marx has been the most influential thinker of the past two centuries, but mass understanding of Marxism has yet to be achieved. When the masses have grasped Marxism, it has been limited and conditioned by their pre-existing ideas and the struggles they are concerned with. As Stalin noted:
“…the national question includes such questions as national culture, national statehood, etc. But it is also beyond doubt that, after all, the peasant question is the basis, the quintessence, of the national question. That explains the fact that the peasantry constitutes the main army of the national movement, that there is no powerful national movement without the peasant army, nor can there be. That is what is meant when it is said that, in essence, the national question is a peasant question. I think that Semich’s reluctance to accept this formula is due to an under-estimation of the inherent strength of the national movement and a failure to understand the profoundly popular and profoundly revolutionary character of the national movement. This lack of understanding and this under-estimation constitute a grave danger, for, in practice, they imply an under-estimation of the potential might latent, for instance, in the movement of the Croats for national emancipation.”
“New Democratic Revolution” is simply bourgeois democratic revolution under the leadership of the proletariat in alliance with the poor peasants. It includes the national bourgeoisie as much as is practical, but as vacillating and conditional allies. It relies primarily on the peasantry and rural poor. Land reform and redistribution of land are key to winning the support of the peasantry, but there are limitations. In the War Against the Japanese Invaders, a much larger percentage of the landlords and national bourgeoisie could be won to the united front and so land reform was focused upon the collaborators with the Japanese. Today, the involvement of landlord or national bourgeois elements is much less likely, but may at times be of use to the revolutionary cause. For example, if the U.S. should try to militarily occupy the Philippines again or repeat the Marcos dictatorship, this would affect the way the NDF is constituted.
The NABPP is calling for the formation of a Worldwide United Front Against Capitalist-Imperialism, Racism and Police State Repression. In some places, where New Democratic Revolution is applicable, this united front would overlap with and be inclusive of the National Democratic Front, in the imperialist countries, it would include non-proletarian elements, particularly from the oppressed nationalities. However, the thrust is to promote the World Proletarian Socialist Revolution. In the developed capitalist countries like the U.S., the bourgeois-democratic revolution is basically completed, but not entirely fulfilled. Racial discrimination, gender discrimination, and discrimination against LGBT people, etc. continues and is being struggled against. Some forms of slavery exist, as does remnants of feudal oppression. These struggles are basically bourgeois-democratic in character.
Corporate support for women’s rights or gay rights movements are not unusual. Recently the Ford Foundation announced it was giving a 100 million-dollar grant to Black Lives Matter. The Ford Foundation explained:
“The Movement for Black Lives has created an opportunity for philanthropy to see and learn from new and dynamic forms of social justice leadership and infrastructure. To support and fund this thriving movement, philanthropy itself has had to adapt. Meanwhile, leaders have kept donors’ good intentions in check with candid reminders of how philanthropy can hurt a movement, as well as how it can help. Listening and learning is central to Ford’s approach, as we strive to be a thoughtful, effective social justice funder at this critical time.
“By partnering with Borealis Philanthropy, Movement Strategy Center, and Benedict Consulting to found the Black-Led Movement Fund, Ford has made six-year investments in the organizations and networks that compose the Movement for Black Lives. We also seek to complement the important work of philanthropic allies such as the Hill-Snowden Foundation, Solidaire, the NoVo Foundation, the Association of Black Foundation Executives, the Neighborhood Funders Group–Funders for Justice, Anonymous Donors, and many more. As we continue to engage with and learn from the movement, we’re eager to deepen and expand this community of social justice funders. We want to nurture bold experiments and help the movement build the solid infrastructure that will enable it to flourish. As we do so, we believe it’s essential that our funding not dictate or distort the work underway.
“We’ll provide long-term support to the Movement for Black Lives, so that these visionary leaders and organizations can continue to cultivate and maintain a movement of young black women and men who are pushing through established boundaries as they seek to realize the promise of equality and justice for all. That is what democracy needs to function—and it’s what the Movement for Black Lives is doing.”
The intention of these NGO’s is to counter the influence of revolutionaries and co-opt these movements and activists, acting as a “safety valve” for the masses to let off steam, as well as to promote bourgeois ideology among the masses and activists. This influence can be seen in the adoption of the language of victimology and identity politics promoted by corporate NGO’s by today’s young “revolutionaries.” Political Correctness in speech also tends to alienate these activists from the masses, who are marginalized within the social justice movements funded by the ruling class. Today’s “social justice warriors” constitute the left wing of neo-liberalism whose worst nightmare is the dictatorship of the proletariat. They would rather critique capitalist-imperialism than see it overthrown by the rough hands of the workers and oppressed people.
In an interview with Edgar Snow in 1970, Mao allegedly stated: “I am a lone monk walking the world with a leaky umbrella.” Some say the interpreter did a poor job translating, and the real meaning of his words were: “I know no law, I hold nothing sacred.” Considering the source, I tend to favor the original translation, because it expresses the limitations Mao was under given the composition of the Central Committee of the CCP and the stage of struggle in the world at that time. The principle contradiction in the world was changing in 1970, but it wasn’t apparent to many in the World Communist Movement. Huey’s Speech at Boston College was scoffed at as “sophomoric” and “revisionist” by more orthodox Marxist-Leninists at the time, though this didn’t stop him from being invited to visit China and treated like a revolutionary hero. Clearly Mao believed: “The struggle of the Black people in the United States is bound to merge with the American workers’ movement, and this will eventually end the criminal rule of the U.S. monopoly capitalist class.” Five years earlier in his “Statement Supporting the American Negroes in Their Just Struggle Against Racial Discrimination by U.S. Imperialism” (August 8, 1963), Mao stated:
“The speedy development of the struggle of the American Negroes is a manifestation of sharpening class struggle and sharpening national struggle within the United States; it has been causing increasing anxiety among U.S. ruling circles. The Kennedy Administration is insidiously using dual tactics. On the one hand, it continues to connive at and take part in discrimination against Negroes and their persecution, and it even sends troops to suppress them. On the other hand, in the attempt to numb the fighting will of the Negro people and deceive the masses of the country, the Kennedy Administration is parading as an advocate of “the defense of human rights” and “the protection of the civil rights of Negroes,” calling upon the Negro people to exercise “restraint” and proposing the “civil rights legislation” to Congress. But more and more Negroes are seeing through these tactics of the Kennedy Administration. The fascist atrocities of the U.S. imperialists against the Negro people have exposed the true nature of so-called American democracy and freedom and revealed the inner link between the reactionary policies pursued by the U.S. Government at home and its policies of aggression abroad.”
From these and other statements by Mao, we can perceive a strategic view that the overthrow of capitalist-imperialism would result from a combination of revolution within the U.S. combined with revolutionary anti-imperialist struggle throughout the world. The United Panther Movement led by NABPP-PC considers this strategy valid and as applicable today as when he was first presenting it. Thus we say: “Mao More Than Ever!” We are in a new period, in which there is no “Socialist Bloc” to act as a rear area for the World Revolution, and monopoly capitalism is striving to – indeed driven to – consolidate its global hegemony, where the principle contradiction in the world will either take us to a new world war or revolution will prevent the world war. If we miss this opportunity, world war will give rise to world revolution.
Mao taught that: “The seizure of power by armed force, the settlement of the issue by war, is the central task and the highest form of revolution. This Marxist-Leninist principle of revolution holds well universally, for China and for all other countries.” And also that: Every Communist must grasp the truth; “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” “War is the continuation of politics.” In this sense, war is politics and war itself is a political action; since ancient times there has never been a war that did not have a political character…. However, war has its own particular characteristics and in this sense, it cannot be equated with politics in general. “War is the continuation of politics by other . . . means.” When politics develops to a certain stage beyond which it cannot proceed by the usual means, war breaks out to sweep the obstacles from the way…. When the obstacle is removed and our political aim attained the war will stop. Nevertheless, if the obstacle is not completely swept away, the war will have to continue until the aim is fully accomplished…. It can therefore be said that politics is war without bloodshed while war is politics with bloodshed.
In a very real sense, we are already at war, because the ruling class is waging a “War Against the Poor,” not only here but globally. In the U.S. it takes the form of trigger-happy police gunning down poor and working class people with virtual impunity, particularly Black and Brown youth in the oppressed communities. It takes the form of mass criminalization and mass incarceration, also directed primarily at Black and Brown youth. It takes the form of cut backs in social services, union busting, and privatization, all of which fall under the heading of “Neo-Liberalism.” Unlike the period of “Cold War Liberalism,” when the ruling class feared the spread of socialism from the “Socialist Camp,” capitalism is showing its fangs and predatory nature. Literally, “the rich are getting richer while the poor get poorer.”
As Professor Robert Reich, of the University of California at Berkley, the former Secretary of Labor, pointed out:
“All of these changes have resulted in higher corporate profits, higher returns for shareholders and higher pay for top corporate executives and Wall Street bankers – and lower pay and higher prices for most other Americans.
“They amount to a giant pre-distribution upward to the rich. But we’re not aware of them because they’re hidden inside the market.
“The underlying problem, then, is not just globalization and technological changes that have made most American workers less competitive. Nor is it that they lack enough education to be sufficiently productive.
“The more basic problem is that the market itself has become tilted ever more in the direction of moneyed interests that have exerted disproportionate influence over it, while average workers have steadily lost bargaining power—both economic and political—to receive as large a portion of the economy’s gains as they commanded in the first three decades after World War II.”
The dictatorship of the bourgeoisie is the root cause of the hollowing out of the middle class and forcing masses of workers into low wage, non-union, temporary and part-time jobs, without benefits or job security. The development of technology and automation is one factor. As Huey Newton predicted in 1970:
“If the ruling circle remains in power, it seems to me that capitalists will continue to develop their technological machinery because they are not interested in the people. Therefore, I expect from them the logic that they have always followed: to make as much money as possible, and pay the people as little as possible – until the people demand more, and finally demand their heads. If revolution does not occur almost immediately, and I say almost immediately because technology is making leaps (it made a leap all the way to the moon), and if the ruling circle remains in power the proletarian working class will definitely be on the decline because they will be unemployables and therefore swell the ranks of the lumpens, who are the present unemployables. Every worker is in jeopardy because of the ruling circle, which is why we say that the lumpen proletarians have the potential for revolution, will probably carry out the revolution, and in the near future will be the popular majority. Of course, I would not like to see more of my people unemployed or become unemployables, but being objective, because we’re dialectical materialists, we must acknowledge the facts.”
Outsourcing of jobs has been another factor, as increased globalization has enabled the ruling class to transfer production to where wages are lowest and environmental protections are weakest. China’s “Economic Boom” since capitalist restoration has been the result of massive export of capital and production from the U.S. and other industrialized countries to exploit China’s low wage economy. But this “Boom” is turning into a “Bust” as China’s economy is slowing down and unemployment and marginalization of workers is growing. Whole cities of newly constructed buildings are empty and decaying as a result of this “slow down.” Worker unrest is growing and so is worker militancy. The “spectre of communism” – of Stalin and Mao – is haunting the former socialist countries. In a survey published in January 2015, a majority of Russians (52 percent) said Stalin “probably” or “definitely” played a positive role in the country. A Global Times poll in China has revealed that more than 85 percent of respondents see the merits of Mao Zedong as greatly outweighing his mistakes, with more than 90 percent of respondents showing reverence or respect to Mao.
A recent Harvard University survey, which polled young adults between ages 18 and 29 in the U.S., found that 51 percent of respondents do not support capitalism. Just 42 percent said they support it. In 2011, the Pew Research Center found that people ages 18 to 29 were frustrated with the free-market system. In that survey, 46 percent had positive views of capitalism, and 47 percent had negative views — a broader question than what Harvard’s pollsters asked, which was whether the respondent supported the system. With regard to socialism, by contrast, 49 percent of the young people in Pew’s poll had positive views, and just 43 percent had negative views. In 1999, a BBC News Online poll, showed a majority voted Karl Marx the “Greatest Thinker of the Millennium.”
These astounding numbers do not reflect the relative strength of the contemporary Left but rather the alienation of the masses from the capitalist-imperialist system and increasingly exposed dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. The contemporary Left, for the most part, is alienated from the masses. The contemporary Left is infected by every malady of ideological-political opportunism there is. Dominated by the petty-bourgeois intellectuals, many of whom depend upon corporate-sponsored NGO’s for income or professorships in corporate-dominated universities, the various tendencies share a disdain for the working masses and lumpenized poor. Identity politics and “condescending savior” complexes substitute for revolutionary class consciousness and revolutionary intercommunal solidarity. It is fashionable to heap derision on Lenin, Stalin and Mao and extol the virtues of those who were only footnotes to history — who bear resemblance to today’s intellectual frauds.
A new revolutionary vanguard must come from the masses, from the oppressed communities, the prisons and sweatshops of the world. As the words of the Internationale express:
“We want no condescending saviors,
To rule us from a judgement hall; We
workers ask not for their favors;
Let us consult for all. To make the
thief disgorge his booty,
To free the spirit from its cell,
We must ourselves decide our duty,
We must decide and do it well.”
Simple nationalization of the means of production does not equate to socialism, and this has never been the position of Marxism-Leninism or Maoism. The key question has always been which class holds power. Ultimately, it is a question of ideological-political line. This the importance of the Cultural Revolution and why it represents the high point to date in the World Proletarian Socialist Revolution.
“The Cultural Revolution began among the students in the colleges and universities which were the main bastions of bourgeois ideology. But it quickly spread to the communes and factories with workers and peasants criticizing persons in authority who were taking the capitalist road, removing them from their positions and establishing direct proletarian control over economic enterprises and public administration by means of the setting up of Revolutionary Committees. This constitutes a strengthening of the dictatorship of the proletariat over the bourgeois elements. However, Mao never underestimated the strength of revisionism in China and he has this to say in a letter to Chiang Ching, his wife and close comrade, written right at the start of the Cultural Revolution in 1966:
“Since 1911, when the emperor was overthrown, a reactionary regime has not been able to hold China for long. If there is a Right-wing, anti-communist coup d’etat in China, then I am certain that those elements will not know a moment of peace.
“It is very possible that they will be able to retain their dominance for a while. If the Right-wing seizes power, it will be able to use my words to retain power for a time. But the Left will use other quotations of mine, and organise themselves, and overthrow the Right-wing.”
Because of the contributions of Chairman Mao and the Chinese Revolution, we are better armed and prepared to advance the World Proletarian Revolution to victory. Defeating the bourgeoisie won’t be easy, but we can do it. Revisionism is the first and last line of defense of the bourgeoisie. We must defeat it to prepare for revolution, and we must defeat it to sustain the revolution. We must carry the revolution forward to the elimination of classes and the leap to classless society. We must expect setbacks and defeats on the road to victory. As Mao expressed:
“In social struggle, the forces representing the advanced class sometimes suffer defeat not because their ideas are incorrect! but because, in the balance of forces engaged in struggle, they are not as powerful for the time being as the forces of reaction; they are therefore temporarily defeated, but they are bound to triumph sooner or later. Man’s knowledge makes another leap through the test of practice. This leap is more important than the previous one. For it is this leap alone that can prove the correctness or incorrectness of the first leap in cognition, i.e., of the ideas, theories, policies, plans or measures formulated in the course of reflecting the objective external world. There is no other way of testing truth. Furthermore, the one and only purpose of the proletariat in knowing the world is to change it. Often, correct knowledge can be arrived at only after many repetitions of the process leading from matter to consciousness and then back to matter, that is, leading from practice to knowledge and then back to practice. Such is the Marxist theory of knowledge, the dialectical materialist theory of knowledge.”
There are inherent problems in the delegation of authority and creation of bureaucracy, just as there are inherent problems in ultra-democracy and tailing after spontaneity. So long as classes exist in society, the class struggle is irreconcilable, hence the need of a state. The state, being a bureaucracy inclusive of a special repressive apparatus to exercise class dictatorship, maintains a sense of “law and order” through enactment of laws, law enforcement, courts and correctional facilities, from a position of partisanship on behalf of the ruling class. Under socialism, the defining feature is the dictatorship of the proletariat. Maintaining the state, and particularly the army (and related services), is necessary where socialism is being built in the context of a world under the hegemony of capitalist-imperialism. Socialist reconstruction cannot proceed without sharp class struggle and continually expanding the power of the people in contradiction to that of the bureaucracy.
In a class society, this is a matter of class struggle. The party of the revolutionary proletariat has the contradictory responsibility to both exercise the dictatorship of the proletariat through the state and lead the class struggle of the masses in contradiction to the state bureaucracy. The “Two Line Struggle” within the party is the reflection of the class struggle within society, and at stake is the continuation along the “Socialist Road” under the dictatorship of the proletariat or counter-revoluution. The delegated authority from the masses to the party bureaucracy puts cadre in a position where they are de facto members of a ruling class or political elite. In as much as capitalism exists within the context of socialist reconstruction under muted form, the issue of which class is exercising dictatorship puts the ideological-political line guiding the practice of the cadre as paramount in the class struggle.
Before they became “class enemies,” the “capitalist-roaders” had been “heroes of the people,” decorated, honored and promoted for their service to the revolution. In the struggle between “red” and “expert,” it was natural for the “experts” to feel superior. They were competent and successful while the “reds” were often amateurish and sometimes impractical. The “experts” had the advantage of specialized training and education and copying existing models. The “experts” were result-orientated but short-sighted. What they could not see, (or were resigned to), was that in the long run, reliance upon financial incentives and rewards and replicating class relations retarded socialist reconstruction and would result in capitalist restoration.
The pull of spontaneity for a bureaucracy is to increase its own authority, importance, privileges and class interests. Communist cadre must therefore act as “their own worst enemy,” as partisans of the proletarian class. The masses must be able to criticize and when necessary remove cadre who are unable to resist the pull of spontaneity to a bourgeois ideological-political orientation. The masses must be highly motivated to criticize and exercise all-round dictatorship over the bourgeoisie in society. Cadre must also be highly motivated and conscious that their job is primarily political and revolutionary; to keep the state on the socialist road. “Grasp revolution promote production!” expresses this relationship.
The special privileges and incentives received by managers and technocrats in the Soviet Union and People’s China were minor compared to their counterparts in the West, and particularly the U.S., where the owners of the means of production actually have little to do with the actual running of their empires, and CEO’s, financial managers and key employees are lavishly rewarded with big salaries and other valuable benefits. The difference between “reds” and “experts” was primarily ideological and political.
The key capitalist-roaders in China were Mao’s lifelong comrades with whom he had shared the rigors of the Long March and the years of struggle and sacrifice. They had shared the agonies of defeats and loss of beloved comrades, and struggled side by side to defeat opportunist lines of both left and right that threatened to destroy the Party and the revolution. He naturally hoped to resolve the contradictions with them non-antagonistically and win them to sincere self-criticism and rehabilitation, to maintain party unity and advance the struggle for socialist reconstruction. He also had to tread a difficult path between unleashing anarchy and chaos and being lax and liberal in waging the class struggle while the imperialist class enemies were at the gates. The two superpowers, the U.S. imperialists and Soviet social-imperialists, were both anxious to extinguish the spark of revolution Mao was nurturing.
Not having a successor to pass the torch to, and being too ill to continue, Mao was unable to prevent defeat. We cannot over emphasize the significance of Lin Piao’s betrayal and the effect it had on the outcome of the Cultural Revolution and the course of the World Proletarian Socialist Revolution. In a very real sense, Lin Piao succeeded in assassinating Mao.
Long Live the Immortal Contributions of Chairman Mao Tse-tung!
Dare to Struggle and Dare to Win…. All Power to the People!
 V. I. Lenin, “Anarchism and Socialism (1901),” Lenin Collected Works, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1961, Moscow, Volume 5, pages 327-330.
 J. V. Stalin, Foundations of Leninism; Collected Works Volume 6, pages 71-196, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow: 1953
 Macrohistory and World Timeline, http://www.fsmitha.com/h2/ch10-6.htm
 J. V. Stalin, “Anarchism or Socialism?” December, 1906 — January, 1907, Collected Works, Vol 1, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow: 1953
 30,000 square kilometers
 Harold R. Isaacs, The Tragedy of the Chinese Revolution (Second Revised Edition, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1961), p. 337.
 Derek J. Waller, The Kiangsi Soviet Republic: Mao and the National Congresses of 1931 and 1934, Center for Chinese Studies, University of California Berkley, 1973
 “Jiangxi Soviet: Chinese history,” Written by: The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica
 Jack Belden, “Gold Flower’s Story,” New England Free Press (1979)
 Edgar Snow, Red Star Over China: The Classic Account of the Birth of Chinese Communism. New York: Grove Press, 1968. 415–418, 444–445.
 V. I. Lenin, “On the Significance of Militant Materialism,” 1922, Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, Volume 33, 1972, pp. 227-236
 “Mao on the Party,” Democracy and Class Struggle, Jan. 4, 2011
 Chang Chun-chiao (Zhang Chunqiao), “On Exercising All-Round Dictatorship Over the Bourgeoisie,” Foreign Languages Press, 1975 from an article in Hongqi
 “Firmly Keep to the General Orientation of the Struggle,” [This article is reprinted from Peking Review, #15, April 9, 1976, pp. 6-7. The “unrepentant Party capitalist-roader” referred to in this article is of course Deng Xiaoping (Teng Hsiao-ping).]
 Mao Tse-tung, “A New Storm Against Imperialism,” [“Statement by Comrade Mao Tse-tung, Chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, in Support of the Afro-American Struggle Against Violent Repression” (April 16, 1968)], Peking Review, April 19, 1968
 “Huey P. Newton’s Speech at Boston College 18th November 1970,” Socialism and Democracy, April 8, 2012
 From: ‘China Becomes Red’ (Part 2) by Claude Arpi (Author of The Fate of Tibet)
 “The East Wind Prevails Over the West Wind,” [Extracted from Mao’s remarks to Chinese students in Moscow, 17 November 1957. (Mao Ch-his tasai Su-lien ti yen-lun, pp.14-15).]
 Page 50
 “Mao’s Evaluations of Stalin: A Collection and Summary,” (Sept. 6, 2006), Single Spark, massline.org
 Marx & Engels, “Address to the Central Committee of the Communist League,” (1850)
 Georgi Dimitrov, “The Fascist Offensive and the Tasks of the Communist International in the Struggle of the Working Class Against Fascism,” Main Report delivered at the Seventh World Congress of the Communist International, August 2, 1935, Georgi Dimitrov, Selected Works Sofia Press, Sofia, Volume 2, 1972
 Eric Lichtblau, “In Cold War, U.S. Spy Agencies Used 1,000 Nazis,” New York Times, Oct. 26, 2014
 Jurgen Domes, Peng Te-huai: The Man and the Image, London: C. Hurst & Company. 1985.
 “Peng Dehuai,” Wikipedia the Free Encyclopedia
 “Great Leap Forward,” Encyclopædia Britannica
 Elliot Liu, Maoism and the Chinese Revolution, p. 74
 “Lin Biao,” Wikipedia the Free Encyclopedia
 Mao Tse-tung, “Speech At The Lushan Conference,” July 23, 1959, Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung
 Franz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, (1961)
 We Are Chairman Mao’s Red Guards, Lyric and music by the PLA Songs Editorial Department Performed by the Propaganda Team of the Political Department, China People’s Liberation Army units under the Beijing Command.
 Mao Tse-tung, “Bombard The Headquarters – My First Big-Character Poster,” August 5, 1966, [SOURCE: Peking Review, No. 33, 11-3-1967.]
 “Cultural Revolution,” Encyclopædia Britannica
Tom: Old customs, culture, habits and ideas were challenged as never before. I, myself, got my first “Little Red Book” of Mao’s quotations in Chicago, when I hooked up with the White Panther Party at the demonstrations outside the Democratic Party National Convention, in the summer of 1968. It was one of hundreds of millions printed in People’s China, with a red plastic cover and an inscription by Lin Piao. I was 17 years old, and like the Red Guards, I had dropped out of school to be a full time revolutionary. We didn’t have a set uniform like the Black Panthers, so we wore Mao buttons as our badge of identification. You couldn’t get communist books, or even books about communism, back then, at least where I lived, unless they were written by a Trotskyite, Anarchist or J. Edgar Hoover. We were bombarded with anti-communism, and had been since elementary school. Mao’s words were like fresh air. The “Red Book” and the Communist Manifesto were our introduction to the possibility of another world.
 Mao Tse-tung, “A New Storm Against Imperialism”
 Chen Yi: “A New and Great Anti-U.S. Revolutionary Storm is Approaching: Replies to Akahata Correspondent,” [This article is reprinted from Peking Review, #2, Jan. 7, 1966, pp. 5-9.]
 Huey P. Newton, Revolutionary Suicide, Chapter 32
 It is possible Mao’s health prevented him from meeting Huey at that time.
 The ‘Headquarters of the Revolutionary Revolt of Shanghai Workers’ led by Wang Hung-wen (Wang Hongwen).
 “Zhang Chunqiao and the Anting Incident,” Revolution #3, May 22, 2005, posted at revcom.us
 Yao Wen-yuan, “The Working Class Must Exercise Leadership in Everything,” Peking Review, No. 35, August 30, 1968, p. 3-6.
 On the Revolutionary ‘Three-In-One’ Combination,” Editorial of Hongqi (Red Flag), No. 5, 1967
 “Cultural Revolution,” Encyclopædia Britannica
 Che Guevara, Intercontinental Press (Vol. 3 January-April 1965); also, in Che Guevara speaks: Selected Speeches and Writings (1967)
 Hung Yu, “History Develops in Spirals,” Peking Review #43, October 25, 1974. (Slightly abridged translation of an article in Hongqi [Red Flag] #10, 1974.)
 Karl Marx, “Part I,” Critique of the Gotha Program, (1875)
 Lenin, The State and Revolution (August-September 1917), Selected Works, Vol. 2, Moscow 1967, pp. 344-45 [Lenin’s emphasis]
 Chang Chun-chiao (Zhang Chunqiao), “On Exercising All-Round Dictatorship Over the Bourgeoisie.”
 Elliot Liu, p. 102
 J. V. Stalin, “A Government of Bourgeois Dictatorship,” September 27, 1917, Collected Works, Vol. 3, March – October, 1917, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1954
 List of countries by the number of US dollar billionaires, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, from Forbes Magazine, “The World’s Billionaire Ranking 2015.”
 “Millionaire,” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, according to the Boston Consulting Group‘s 2016 study.
 Huey P. Newton, “Speech at Boston College, 1970.”
 Huey P. Newton, “Speech at Boston College, 1970.”
 See note 3.
 Prof. Jules Dufour, “The Worldwide Network of US Military Bases: The Global Deployment of US Military Personnel,” Global Research, July 1, 2007.
 Louis Jacobson, “Ron Paul Says U.S. has Military Personnel in 130 Nations and 900 Overseas Bases,” POLITIFACT, Sept. 14, 2011.
 J.V. Stalin, “Concerning the National Question in Yugoslavia: Speech Delivered in the Yugoslav Commission of the E.C.C.I.,” March 30, 1925, Collected Works, Vol. 7, 1925, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1954
 Brook Kelly-Green & Luna Yasui, “Why black lives matter to philanthropy,” Ford Foundation, 19 July 2016
 Simon Leys, “The Myth of Mao,” Dissent, Winter, 1977
 Mao Tse-tung, “A New Storm Against Imperialism”
 Mao Tse-tung, “Statement Supporting the American Negroes In Their Just Struggle Against Racial Discrimination by U.S. Imperialism” (August 8, 1963), Peking Review, Volume 9, #33, Aug. 12, 1966, pp. 12-13.
 Mao Tse-tung, “Problems of War and Strategy” (November 6, 1938), Selected Works, Vol. II, p. 219.
 Ibid., p. 224.
 Mao Tse-tung, “On Protracted War” (May 1938), Selected Works, Vol. II, pp. 152-53
 Robert Reich, “The Real Reason for the Growing Gap Between Rich and Poor,” Newsweek, 9/28/15.
 Huey P. Newton, “Speech at Boston College.”
 Alec Luhn, “Stalin Russia’s New Hero,” New York Times Sunday Review, March 11, 2916.
 Zhang Yiwei, “85% say Mao’s merits outweigh his faults: poll,” Global Times, 12/24/2913
 Max Ehrenfreund, “A majority of millennials now reject capitalism, poll shows,” Washington Post,” April 26, 2016.
 “Marx the millennium’s ‘greatest thinker,’”BBC News, 1999
 Eugene Pottier, The Internationale, Translated by Charles H. Kerr
 Nottingham Communist Group, “Mao on Revisionism,” Red Star, No. 3, February 1980.
 Mao Tse-tung, WHERE DO CORRECT IDEAS COME FROM? May 1963
I am a Pan-Afrikan