The class character of China Part 1: From the 1949 Revolution to the 1978 “Reform and Opening-up” is republishing with permission this important document by the Bolshevik Group South Korea. It can be downloaded from their website published as a pdf here or can be read on the website here.

As the Bolshevik Group state in their introduction:

“The issue of China, as it was the case for the Soviet Union before the capitalist counter-revolution, is the foremost subject of the revolution of this era. China, which has the world’s largest population, is the core target of the U.S.led imperialist camp. For this reason, China, along with the United States, is almost always a key player involved in various conflicts in the world. In this respect, the world working class, which is advancing to the revolution, must accurately understand social character of China and its political motives. Revolutionary and counter-revolutionary barricades are divided around this issue.”

Class-Conscious believes this document is important on shedding light on the class character of China. It outlines how China remains as a Deformed Workers State, that is a country with a socialised means of production despite the growth of a large capitalist sector over the last forty years. Ruled over by a Stalinist bureaucracy in the form of the CCP domestic and international class pressures generated by this hybrid economy. means that China is very much a society in transition and that its future is not settled. The analysis here is in line with the article written by Robert Montgomery “China: Capitalist, Socialist or “Weird Beast“.

Note: some additional images and minor editing have been added to the original article

We have published the article in two parts:
The class character of China Part 1: From the 1949 Revolution to the 1978 “Reform and Opening-up”
The class character of China Part 2: Changes in Chinese society as a result of “Reform and opening-up”

Part 1: From the 1949 Revolution to the 1978 “Reform and Opening-up”

China’s birth as a workers’ state

On October 1, 1949, the Communist Party of China(CCP), which won the civil war against the capitalist Kuomintang(KMT) supported by U.S. imperialism, declared the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. A second workers’ state was born that abolished private ownership in a vast area where about a quarter of the world’s population resides.

“New Democracy”: Chinese class cooperation

During the period 1925-27, when the violent revolutionary eruption occurred, the CCP was devastated by the class-collaborationist policy of merging with the KMT, losing its urban areas and being chased to the periphery. Since then, the CCP had almost lost its organizational foundation in the urban working class. The political background of its revival was the support of the poor farmers who suffered from barbaric aggression and devastation by Japanese imperialism. The Chinese Red Army, solidified during the anti-Japanese national liberation struggle, recruited most of its rank and file from sons and daughters of peasants. 

Mao Zedong and the CCP did not envision a socialist revolution to abolish private ownership. The goal was to maintain the anti-imperialist united front of CCP and KMT even after the liberation from imperialism and move forward to establishing a “joint government of CCP and KMT”, that is a “coalition government of workers and capitalists.” This illusional and catastrophic idea was called, “New Democracy”:

“But today is not yet the time to introduce socialism. The present task of the revolution in China is to fight imperialism and feudalism, and socialism is out of the question until this task is completed. The Chinese revolution cannot avoid taking the two steps, first of New Democracy and then of socialism.” “China’s national bourgeoisie has a revolutionary quality …because China is a colonial and semi-colonial country which is a victim of aggression.”

“The Chinese democratic republic which we desire to establish now must be a democratic republic under the joint dictatorship of all anti-imperialist and anti-feudal people led by the proletariat, that is, a new-democratic republic, a republic of the genuinely revolutionary new Three People’s Principles with their Three Great Policies.”―Mao Zedong, January 9, 1940

This “New Democracy,” which resembles Menshevik’s idea of the Russian Revolution, was not Mao’s original idea. It was a Chinese version of the so-called “socialism in one country” of the Stalinist bureaucracy, a coagulation of the achievements and degeneration of October Revolution.

Class collaboration of Bureaucracy and “socialism in one country”.

The October Revolution in Russia made the working class the ruling class but the failure of the subsequent revolutions slowed its momentum. From that point on, the Bureaucracy consolidated its position. Moscow’s bureaucracy partly intersects with the interests of the world revolution, but not entirely. Thus, on the one hand relying on the socialized property of the October Revolution the bureaucracy defended the workers state, but on the other hand it betrayed it and laid the foundation for a counter-revolution. “Socialism in one country” is the combination of short-term understanding and the contradictions of bureaucracy. It is a theory that subordinates the historical and long-term prospects of the working class of the world to the narrow mentality of the bureaucratic caste which emerged from the revolution of one country.

The revolutionary advance of the working class in each region is the most fundamental means of defending the Soviet Union. Sitting atop the October Revolution the Kremlin bureaucracy did not understand that and was obsessed with shortsighted thinking. It was consistent with the response of “discharging one’s urine on one’s frozen feet.” In order to counter German and Japanese imperialism, which immediately threatened the Soviet borders it undertook a policy of flattering the US, UK, and French imperialism conciliating with them. In 1943, it presented the dissolution of Comintern, the communist leadership of the world working class. It imposed a class-collaborationist policy that discouraged the revolutionary advancement of the workers of each country, urging them to reconcile with the ruling class of their own country.

In the end, the policy of class collaboration supported the capitalist classes on the brink of collapse and helped to restore them. The bourgeoisie soon fought back and destroyed the working class in each country, which had made revolutionary advances. Under this unfavorable dynamic of forces, Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union eventually suffered capitalist counterrevolution.

Stalin’s check on China: Seeds of Sino-Soviet conflict

Moscow’s Stalinist leadership was rather burdened with the Chinese revolution. First and foremost the Chinese Revolution might provoke the anger of American imperialism, which showed its monstrous power in World War II. Second, there was the fear that China, like the Tito government of Yugoslavia, might not obey the Stalinist leadership in Moscow after the revolution.

The Stalinist leadership, which advocated the status quo, insisted that the CCP form a joint government with the KMT. This prevented the final aggression, which would be a decisive blow to KMT. They dissuaded the People’s Liberation Army(PLA) from crossing the Yangtze River. This was an event that provided a glimpse of the beginning of the Sino-Soviet conflict as well as how catastrophic the methodology of the bureaucracy called “socialism in one country” was.

Here are some related conversations.

“A huge communist state on Soviet Russia’s eastern frontier would create serious problems for his Government.……because of its vast extent and huge population China would prove to be “indigestible” even to the communist appetite……“let the Americans pour all the money they wish into China—it will only make them weaker””—Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Cloyce K. Huston, Counselor of Mission, Office of United States Political Adviser in Japan, January 8, 1949

“Stalin has made a series of mistakes on China……During the War of Liberation, he did not authorize the revolution. He argued that if a civil war broke out, the Chinese people would perish. At the beginning of the civil war, he doubted our victory, and after that, he doubted our victory as a ‘Tito-style victory.’”—Mao Zedong, remarks at the enlarged meeting of the Chinese Political Bureau, April 25, 1956.

“Just before crossing the Yangtze River, Anastas Mikoyan arrived in Xibaipo from Moscow. He came on behalf of Stalin to listen to the situation of the Chinese Revolution and our opinions. At that time, the military and political situation was very favorable to us, and we were preparing for the liberation of entire China beyond the Yangtze River. However, the Soviet Union had a different idea from ours. They asked us to stop the civil war and tried to create a situation of literally the Period of Northern and Southern Dynasties.”—Zhou Enlai, meeting Liu Xiao, who was appointed as Chinese Ambassador to Soviet Union in 1955

“After the PLA advance toward south, the risk of British and American troops landing behind the PLA increased significantly. The PLA should not rush southward.”―A letter from Stalin, April 23, 1949

Fantasy of “Class Coexistence”

As such, Moscow’s bureaucracy ordered the CCP to form a “capitalists and workers” two-class coalition, and the Mao led CCP embodied it as “New Democracy.” Stalin and Mao’s idea of a “workers-capitalists coalition government” was a non-Marxist fantasy. The idea was based on an unscientific illusion that the “temporary and accidental” balance between the two classes represented by the CCP and the KMT would continue. 

On 10 October 1945, the chairman of the Kuomintang (KMT) government Chiang Kai-shek met with Chinese Communist Party (CCP) chairman Mao Zedong in Chongqing for peace negotiations.

In history, there is often an unstable situation of “dual power” in which two hostile classes cannot completely subdue the other. However, the coexistence of the two hostile classes who want to become the ruling class creates an unstable situation, as when magnets from the same pole repel each other. Therefore, the dual power situation appears only temporarily. Society fluctuates to find stability. Then, either the capitalist class or the working class violently suppresses its counterpart, ending the dual power.

A case in point occurred eight months before the October Revolution in 1917. Kerensky’s measures of incarcerating Bolshevik leaders and outlawing the party in July followed by Kornilov’s coup in late August, were both capitalist-led attempts at stabilization. The Bolsheviks achieved social stability dominated by the working class through the October uprising.

“Temporality, coincidence, and inevitability of an unexpected violent clash” are the essence of the dual power situation that appears during the revolutionary period. Refusing to understand this essence and having the illusion that the accidental balance may continue, leads to class collaboration and subsequent catastrophe. In modern and contemporary history, most of the victims of the catastrophe were the exploited class with belated class awakening. Spain in 1937, Indonesia in 1965, and Chile in 1973 are representative examples

Political consciousness of the United States and the Kuomintang

Nether U.S. imperialism nor the bourgeois nationalist KMT lacked class-conciousness. Despite the deep disillusionment and hostility of the Chinese working people, their class instincts were strong. Fortunately for China and the world working class, they rejected the Stalin/Mao fantasy of a ‘two-class coalition.’

 U.S. imperialism would not tolerate the vast Chinese region being added to the area of the world workers states; and the KMT had the intention of completely destroying the CCP. During the anti-Japanese war or the civil war, the KMT pretended to respond to a joint front or peace agreement with the intention that when the situation became favorable they would repeatedly betray their promises. Each time, they attacked the Communist troops who had been careless and wounded them deeply.

Realization of ‘Permanent revolution’

The U.S. imperialists and the KMT forces eventually drove the situation to the breaking point and they eventually fled to Taiwan after being defeated in the civil war. This represented the defeat of imperialism against the interests of the local people and the defeat of its corrupt local KMT puppet. On the other hand, it was the Communist Party’s final victory to overcome the initial military disadvantages through the widespread mass support of the working people.

This is the historical background of the establishment of a workers’ state on the basis of the abolition of private ownership, contrary to the intentions of the Comintern and the CCP, which pursued a two-class joint government. We call the workers’ state established in this form a ‘deformed workers state.’ As a result, under the influence of the Soviet Union, a workers’ state established by the Revolution in 1917, a ‘deformed’ workers’ state was born in China following the North Korea and Eastern Europe. It was a brilliant victory for the working people of the world at the expense of many people.

In addition, the Chinese Revolution showed once again that a country’s revolution is not limited to its boundaries, but is shaped by world historical maturity and international relations. Although it grew into an anti-imperialist liberation struggle in the immature capitalist region, it abolished private ownership and proceeded to the socialist revolution when it was combined with the achievements of the previous 1917 revolution. Following the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and North Korea, it became another historical example of the permanent revolution.

Outcome of the Revolution

China has long been insulted as the ‘sick man of Asia.’ The revolution dramatically developed China’s industry just by abolishing private ownership. Gross industrial production increased 38 times and heavy industrial production increased 90 times. Industrial production, which increased by an annual average of 11.3% between 1952 and 1977, was much faster than that achieved in any other country at the same time in modern world history. By the mid-1970s, China had already manufactured jets, medium-sized tractors, modern deep-sea fishing boats, nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles, and in 1970 it launched satellites. 

Before the revolution, the majority of the population was illiterate, but after the revolution, the vast majority received educational benefits. A comprehensive health care system was introduced. The average life expectancy has almost doubled, from 35 before 1949 to 65 in the mid-1970s. (Refer to Maurice Meissner in “Mao’s China and Later”). 

Prior to the revolution, Chinese women were oppressed by “foot-binding,” “girl killing,” “trade marriage,” and “concubinage.” The revolution greatly improved the status of Chinese women. Although there was a limit due to low productivity, it was the result socialization of production means and domestic labor, and women’s participation in society.

“In the mid-2010s, a sociologist asked a Chinese woman born in the 1950s if she wanted to go back to the Mao Zedong era. After answering, “I never want to go back because I don’t like poverty,” the woman told her mother’s story even though she didn’t ask. Her mother, who was born in 1927, said, “I have to thank the Communist Party. If it hadn’t been liberated, I’m sure your father would have had several concubines,” she said of her mother-in-law, who locked the gate because her daughter-in-law, who worked hard in an illiterate education class, said, “The Communist Party is right. My mother didn’t know how to write before, but now she can read books and newspapers because of her illiteracy education after liberation.”—“The Transition of 100 Years of Women’s Liberation in Modern China”, Kim, Mi-ran

“Koreans say that China is a communist country, so it is not good in many ways, but in terms of gender equality, China is far ahead of Korea.…After socialistization, the phrase “Women account for half of the sky” became common in China, forming a social atmosphere that recognizes women’s rights more than in Korea.”—“Gender Equality, Korea lags behind China,” Park Hye-young, Women’s Newspaper, August 20, 2010

“Since the establishment of a socialist New China in 1949, with the promulgation of a new ‘marriage law’ as the starting point, these Chinese women have been legally guaranteed their independent rights, including love and freedom of marriage. Even in light of the legally guaranteed logic of gender equality, the degree of equality enjoyed by these Chinese women seems to be comparable to that of other countries in the world.”—“The Current Status of Chinese Women in the wake of 3.8 World Women’s Day,” OhMyNews, March 8, 2001

Three ways to improve productivity

Improvement of productivity is vital for the “socialist” revolution in underdeveloped countries with pre-capitalist productivity in order to defend its revolutionary achievements. Like the symbolic expression of “meat soup with rice,” loyalty to one’s country is maintained only when stable living conditions are guaranteed. And after the abolition of private ownership, the growth of productivity is urgently needed for military defense against the hostility of the domestic and foreign capitalists.

There are three ways for a newborn workers state to improve its productivity: ‘First, help from developed countries by revolution, second, mobilization of the entire productive force of a country, and third, compromise with a capitalist market economy.’

1) The first way to promote productivity: Helping developed countries by Revolution

Productive force and Permanent Revolution

Of course, the first way is the most desirable and fundamental solution. The socialist revolution in Russia, which has just begun capitalist development, was the realization of objective historical laws. However, along with that, it was also the realization of the revolutionaries’ subjective sense of purpose who understood the laws of history most sharply. Marx and Engels predicted that the law of the permanent revolution would be carried through to Russia, and Lenin and Trotsky put the Russian revolution on the socialist path in their understanding of the laws.

“Now the question is: can the Russian obshchina, though greatly undermined, yet a form of primeval common ownership of land, pass directly to the higher form of Communist common ownership? Or, on the contrary, must it first pass through the same process of dissolution such as constitutes the historical evolution of the West?

The only answer to that possible today is this: If the Russian Revolution becomes the signal for a proletarian revolution in the West, so that both complement each other, the present Russian common ownership of land may serve as the starting point for a communist development.”―Manifesto of the Communist Party, The 1872 German Edition, Marx and Engels

But how far can the socialist policy of the working class be applied in the economic conditions of Russia? We can say one thing with certainty – that it will come up against political obstacles much sooner than it will stumble over the technical backwardness of the country. Without the direct State support of the European proletariat the working class of Russia cannot remain in power and convert its temporary domination into a lasting socialistic dictatorship. Of this there cannot for one moment be any doubt. But on the other hand there cannot be any doubt that a socialist revolution in the West will enable us directly to convert the temporary domination of the working class into a socialist dictatorship.―Results and Prospects, Trotsky, 1906

‘It was clear to us that without aid from the international world revolution, a victory of the proletarian revolution is impossible. Even prior to the revolution, as well as after it, we thought that the revolution would also occur either immediately or at least very soon in other backward countries and in the more highly developed capitalist countries, otherwise we would perish. Notwithstanding this conviction, we did our utmost to preserve the Soviet system under any circumstances and at all costs, because we know that we are working not only for ourselves but also for the international revolution.”—Lenin, 1921, Works, Vol.XVIII, part 1

Failure of follow-up Revolution in advanced capitalist countries

Pressure on the Soviet Union and colonies eased while imperialist countries were immersed in World War II, a competitive war for world hegemony. As the pressure weakened, anti-imperialist national liberation struggles intensified in various colonial areas. The Soviet army defeated German and Japanese imperialism in Eastern Europe and North Korea, and the area of the workers states expanded in combination with the consciousness of the working people in the region. China, which won the civil war, joined the workers states.

However, the long-awaited revolution of advanced capitalist countries failed even after World War II. In advanced capitalist countries such as Germany, France, and Spain, the workers’ revolution was on the verge of success, but it cooled down as it failed to fill the last deficiency of the ‘revolutionary leadership.’.’

Thus, the subsequent revolution of advanced capitalist countries, which would complement the backward productivity of the ‘degenerated/deformed’ workers’ states, failed.

Sino-Soviet conflict and breakdown of economic cooperation

Against this backdrop, economic cooperation with the Soviet Union, a relatively advanced country compared to China, was crucial. Economic support from the Soviet Union, including supplies and technology, would be a great help to the Chinese working people who were tired of the long civil war. Although less than advanced capitalist countries, the Soviet Union’s industrial growth was remarkable thanks to the achievements of the October Revolution. Productivity, which has been unlocked by the abolition of private ownership, has taken a leap forward despite various limitations. It succeeded in testing nuclear weapons for the second time in the world in 1949 and launched the world’s first spacecraft, the Sputnik, in 1957.

Mao Zedong and Joseph Stalin in Moscow in 1949

However, the interests of the Soviet Union and the Stalinist bureaucracy in China were only partially consistent with those of the world’s working class. They lost their international perspective and were trapped in a national one. Thus, they often struggled against the historical struggles of the world’s working class. They did not base their perspective on the cause of the entire world working class. They did not deploy their capabilities in a macroscopic long-term outlook, but were trapped in the perspective of a narrow country, prioritizing their own interests, and deploying them in that way.

 The Comintern, the leading body for coordinating the overall interests of the world’s working class, was disbanded in 1943 as a tribute to the U.S.-British-French imperialism called the wartime ‘Alliance.’ Abusing the authority of the revolution in October 1917, the bureaucracy in Moscow operated the Workers’ State camp in a hegemonic and overbearing manner. Instead of mutual benefit and equality, they forced a relationship between the main center and the subordinate sectors.

The Sino-Russia conflict began in this way and eventually lead to military conflict. Even as the Soviet Union changed its leadership from Stalin to Khrushchev and Brezhnev, and China from Mao Zedong to Deng Xiaoping, the conflict did not ease but worsened, and even reached the point of military conflict.

At last, the two workers’ states were no longer brothers. Both sides even engaged in incredible and despicable betrayal of the working class, attracting U.S. imperialism to the conflict. Both became the mortal enemy of the other. Workers’ internationalism was broken and ridiculed by Stalinist bureaucracies in these two countries. Imperialism, including the United States, used this conflict as a means of ‘divide and rule.’

The decades-long dispute between China and the USSR resulted in various incidents. This topic is an important key to understanding the worldview and specific policies of Stalinist bureaucracy, including the theory of ‘socialism in one country,’ and the distorted history of the so-called ‘practical socialism’ camp. We have described this issue in several articles, including ‘Myanmar’s Military Dictatorship and working Class,’ but we need a more specific understanding. We are conducting this ‘more detailed study of the Sino-Soviet conflict.’ The results of the study will be announced soon.

Mao’s evaluation of the Sino-Soviet Conflict

However, this article introduces some interesting conversations to get a glimpse into the Sino-Soviet conflict that has stifled China, a newly born workers’ state.

“Mao Zedong: I always said, now, and then in Moscow, that the criticism of Stalin’s mistakes is justified. We only disagree with the lack of strict limits to criticism. We believe that out of Stalin’s 10 fingers, 3 were rotten ones.…His first major error was one as a result of which the Chinese Communist Party was left with one-tenth of the territory that it had. His second error was that, when China was ripe for revolution, he advised us not to rise in revolution and said that if we started a war with Jiang Jieshi that might threaten the entire nation with destruction.…After the victory of our Revolution, Stalin had doubts about its character. He believed that China was another Yugoslavia.…When I came to Moscow [in December 1949], he did not want to conclude a treaty of friendship with us and did not want to annul the old treaty with the Guomindang [Kuomintang]. I recall that [Soviet interpreter Nikolai] Fedorenko and [Stalin’s emissary to the PRC Ivan] Kovalev passed me his [Stalin’s] advice to take a trip around the country, to look around. But I told them that I have only three tasks: eat, sleep and shit. I did not come to Moscow only to congratulate Stalin on his birthday. Therefore I said that if you do not want to conclude a treaty of friendship, so be it. I will fulfill my three tasks. Last year, when I was in Moscow, in a conversation where [Soviet Premier Minister Nikolai] Bulganin was also present, we heard that Stalin had bugged us back then.

N.S. Khrushchev: Yes, I said it at that time. He had bugged us as well, he even bugged himself. Once, when I was on vacation with him, he admitted that he mistrusted himself. I am good-for-nothing, he said, I mistrust myself.”—FIRST CONVERSATION BETWEEN N.S. KHRUSHCHEV AND MAO ZEDONG, HALL OF HUAIZHENTAN [BEIJING], July 31, 1958

The discord between the Stalinist leaders of the two workers states blinded by ‘socialism in one country,’ worsened after the Soviet Union refused to relocate its nuclear technology to China. The following year, in October 1959, the two countries declared a break in relations.

Isolated China

China, a newly born workers’ state was in danger of being overwhelmed due to the collapse of China-Soviet cooperation. During the 1950-53 Korean War, U.S. imperialism not only threatened mainland China with nuclear attacks, but continued to use the remnants of the KMT to provoke them. The international war of criticism between the Soviet Union and Chinese bureaucracy, which blamed each other for the breakdown, soon led to a gunfight. The Soviet Union’s help which would relieve China’s economic difficulties, which had been difficult due to the civil war and the Korean war, disappeared. The sacrifice of the revolutionary people had have to be compensated for by the improvement of life conditions, but it was greatly delayed. In this way, China is in a desperate situation suffering from internal and external troubles.

2) The second way to promote productivity: ‘Great Leap Forward Movement’

Again, in order for a workers’ state to survive, it must ensure a sufficient level of productivity. Only then can we meet the needs of the working people and confront imperialist aggression. In addition, there are three ways to increase productivity in an isolated working country established in underdeveloped countries: 

(1) help from developed countries that have achieved revolution 

(2) mobilization of the entire productive force of a country (Stahanov, the Great Leap Forward, the Chunlima Movement, etc.) 

(3) compromise with a capitalist market economy. (New Economic Policy, Buharin Policy, Vietnam Doimer).

However, the first road was blocked by the failure of the revolution in advanced capitalist countries and the breakdown of relations with the Soviet Union.

China had entered the second road. In other words, the people are making all-out efforts to maximize the productive forces. Around 1958, the Great Leap Forward Movement began to catch up with developed countries within 15 years.

Total productive force depends on labor productivity, and productivity of labor depends on the level of science and technology in the society. Therefore, there is a limit to achieving the development of the productive forces only with the conscious enthusiasm of members of society without the support of science and technology. However, Mao Zedong’s leadership, which had been mired in unscientific thinking, believed that it could catch up with developed countries through ‘efforts” and subjective mass consciousness.

Catastrophe, Mao’s downfall and Right Turn

The result was disastrous. The movement to increase production of the iron ore required for development heavy industry in a hand-crafted manner resulted in a disastrous crop failure, combined with other unscientific agricultural plans. Many people starved to death due to a lack of grain. It was the result of a combination of unscientific setting of goals, the methods of bureaucratic implementation, and the philosophy of idealism which holds that all hardships can be overcome with only ‘effort,’ and uncritical follow-up to the leadership.

Even Mao who had led the long civil war to victory and enjoyed tremendous authority within the party and the country, could not survive in the face of significant deaths of at least millions, at most tens of millions. In 1962, Mao was sent down to the back of the line.

Policies of Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping Leadership

After the fall of the Mao-centered subjectivist faction, the Liu Xiaoqi and Deng Xiaoping leadership, which took the helm of China, had no choice but to pursue a certain compromise with capitalism for immediate survival. Chinese society turned right this time. 

The urgent task of Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping’s leadership was to escape extreme hunger. To do so, food production had to be increased. This was the most important policy that the new leadership pursued in a short period of four years.

When production technologies such as tractors are supported, collective farming, represented by the People’s Corporation, plays its role. If it is not able to escape from the manual method, collective farming can rather lower production. The Liu-Deng leadership introduced policies to compromise with private ownership, such as ‘allowing small-scale private land ownership and sideline business,’ ‘reviving local markets,’ ‘distribution by labor,’ and ‘allowing excessive product ownership.’ It worked. In 1961, production in the region where the policy was introduced increased by nearly 40%.

The Cultural Revolution of Mao Zedong Faction

Both internal and external difficulties threatened the life of the newborn Chinese workers’ state, and economic problems were at the center. Mao’s subjectivist left faction of the CCP ignored the economic question. The 1958–61 Great Leap Forward Movement experiment had catastrophic consequences and clearly revealed their ignorance and incompetence on economic issues. 

Nevertheless, the subjective leftist faction, which was united around Mao, could not accept their dismissal. They had held the leadership of the CCP, the center of the Chinese revolution, for decades. This experience equated the personal fate of the Mao-centered left-wing faction with the fate of the revolution. Thus, they regarded their fall as a threat to the revolution, and again in very subjective way of thought. And their fall meant the loss of all the privileges enjoyed by the state power. And this loss may have been more intolerable than counter-revolution for the corrupt bureaucrats obsessed with power.

Deified Authority

The subjective leftist faction within the Chinese bureaucracy used Mao’s divine authority as a weapon instead of Marxist science. The Chinese people suffered for decades from poverty and the oppression of foreign powers. They had a desperate desire to be freed from them. Mao was at the peak of the CCP and the Red Army who had led the anti-Japanese national liberation struggle and the civil war against the KMT to victory. Thus, Mao became the cohesion point of the desire for liberation of the Chinese people. In this process, Mao became the embodiment of “praying for good luck” with more realistic authority than God.

 The subjective leftist faction of the CCP, which has been united around Maobegan to regain power. In order to resolve the immediate hunger some of the emergency measures implemented under the leadership of Liu Xiaoqi and Deng Xiaoping were exaggerated as ‘pro-capitalist’ counter-revolution.

China in a state of panic: Background of the ‘Cultural Revolution’

The manic agitation of the subjectivist left faction caught on like wildfire in combination with a larger social atmosphere of extreme stress. In the midst of a series of hardships and failures, Chinese society was panicked. There was need for a scapegoat to easily explain the pain and failure and to hold them accountable. 

Under the global imperialist system, the suffering of the Chinese people continued endlessly. Decades of humiliating history of imperialist invasions, nearly a decade of liberation war with Japan, of civil war with the KMT, of three years of Korean war against the United States, the major failure of the Great Leap Forward movement and the catastrophic hunger, and conflict with the USSR up to the armed battle. 

China’s society vibrated violently as the leadership’s agitation intersected with an extremely tense society. The Cultural Revolution was a symptom of a stress-prone society that was blocked from the front and the back, such as body aches and seizures. The fires that the subjective left-wing faction, led by Mao, set in 1966 in order to regain power burned for 10 years until Mao’s death in 1976. It was a time for calm reappraisal and for all members of society to realize there was no way out on the old road and agree on a new direction. In the meantime, a considerable amount of human and physical resources in China, have been consumed in flames.

Changes in the ‘Three Kingdoms’ relationship

Through the Cultural Revolution, the subjective left-wing faction united around Mao regained solid political power. However, the domestic economy and the conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States outside the country had not been resolved. The Soviet power shifted from Khrushchev to Brezhnev, but the conflict between the two countries did not ease. On the contrary, it worsened, and became so harsh that it that it developed into an armed conflict between two nuclear armed powers. The conflict between the two workers states of China and the Soviet Union was not a coincidental result of the qualities of the leaders. It was the necessary result of Stalinism as a system. And the hostility of U.S. imperialism remained. China has not been able to get out of the situation of being beleaguered.

However, the Vietnam War, which entered a new phase with the intervention of the United States in 1964, changed the relationship between the Soviet Union, China, and the United States. China was the first to desire change. It was difficult for China to deal with both powers as enemies. The strategy of the ‘Romance of the Three Kingdoms’, which separated the two hostile countries, replaced class politics. From China’s point of view, the armed conflict with the Soviet Union was the ‘light of the eyebrows’ that had to be put out first. On the other hand, the United States, which was fighting the Vietnam War, was able to isolate the Soviet Union by seducing and alienating China.

China helping the U.S. made blockade of the Soviet Union

Thus, China and the United States suddenly made eye contact with each other. It was no coincidence that China-U.S. relations began to warm up in 1969, when Sino-Soviet discord reached its peak due to the border dispute. With Nixon’s visit to Beijing in 1972, reconciliation between China and the United States reached its peak. China, a workers’ state, joined hands with the imperialist United States and isolated the Soviet Union. Then it joined the US imperialist policy of blocking the Soviet Union. China stood on the same side as the U.S. in Chilean Pinochet coup in 1973, Angolan Civil War in 1975, Afghanistan War in 1979, and the war with Vietnam in 1979.

 As a result Chinese society quickly turned right again. In order to find its own way to live, it reconciled with imperialism and betrayed workers’ internationalism. Mao Zedong and the CCP participated in the anti-Soviet blockade established by the United States and stood on the other side of the world’s working class. These two leaders of the workers’ states betrayed internationalism and made a decisive revision to Marxism-Leninism.

Mao’s death and the power of the Pragmatic Faction

In 1976, Mao Zedong, who opened the way for market reforms and opening up through diplomatic relations with the United States, died. The subjectivist left faction within the CCP, which was hiding behind Mao’s halo, lost its authority. One month after Mao’s death, the arrest and purge of the ‘Gang of Four’ meant the end of the subjective leftist faction within the CCP, which took power in the ‘cultural revolution.’ Subsequently, the ‘practical’ faction within the CCP, represented by Deng Xiaoping took power. Exhausted from long hardships, China accepted the emergence of this faction without resistance which had been attacked it as a ‘pro-capitalist counterrevolution’ just 10 years before.

Road to ‘Reform and Openness’

As explained earlier, there are three ways to develop the productive forces in areas where productivity is lagging: (a) revolution in the developed countries or support from existing worker states (the Soviet Union); (b) accumulating productive force through collective effort; and (c) capitalist concessions through some private ownership. However, China has confirmed that paths (a) & (b) were blocked through nearly 30 years of practical experience. The only way left was (c). The 3rd option resembled the New Economic Policy (NEP) at the time of Lenin, which the Soviet Union chose right after the civil war, and the policy of Bukharin, represented by the statement, “Enrich yourself!”

The Deng Xiaoping leadership, who held the helm of China, exhausted by the Great Leap Forward Movement and the Cultural Revolution due to various hardships of the previous period, entered the third road that remained. This path was called ‘get rich first,’ ‘’black cat and white cat,’ ‘reform and open,’ and ‘market socialism.’ It was the way to attract some degree of capitalism to avoid immediate poverty and to develop the productive forces

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