Theses On The Chinese Revolution


By Cajo Brendel
Solidarity (U.K.) Pamphlet # 46 (1974)


Preface to the Second English Edition

The Theses on the Chinese Revolution were written during the spring and summer of 1967, when China was in the threes of the so-called 'Cultural Revolution'. Information concerning these historic events was insufficient at the time. The author nevertheless made an attempt at a social analysis, that brought him to certain conclusions concerning the Chinese Revolution as a whole.

The author's views differ fundamentally not only from those of the Maoists, but also from those of all sorts of Leninists (Trotskyists included). Unlike what they think-and in contradistinction too to bourgeois appreciations-the Theses don't accept that the political aims of the Chinese Communist Party determined the Chinese events. On the contrary, those political aims and the events that really occurred were both aspects of the stage of development of the Chinese Revolution. This revolutionary process is none other than the transition from pre-capitalist forms of production into a modern society, based on wage-labour, and on its way to something like state- capitalism.

The Theses on the Chinese Revolution were first published in Dutch in the monthly Daad en Gedachte (Act and Thought'). in the spring of 1969 they were published in France in Cahiers du Communisme de Conseils. In 1971 the first English edition appeared as an Aberdeen Solidarity pamphlet. In 1973 an Italian edition was published in Caserta. In one respect this second English edition is like the first; in the Theses proper, nothing has been changed. Although the author resorted to several sources, among them some well known sinologists, outstanding Chinese communist writers (such as Mao himself), pamphlets (published in English in the People's Republic of China) and articles from Peking Review, he desisted from footnotes. He preferred to convince, not by mentioning names or titles, but by the inherent logic of the series of events that have been recorded.

True enough, many explanations could now be expanded on the basis of greater knowledge. But to do so would have taken us far beyond the original character of the Theses, although it would not have meant any fundamental reappraisal. The new facts at the author's disposal have not basically transformed his views. On the contrary, as he sees it the latest developments in China have only confirmed them.

This is best understood if one looks at two of his other writings, added here to the primary text by way of introduction. The first deals with some aspects of Chinese foreign policy. It was finished shortly after the restoration of diplomatic relations between the People's Republic of China and the USA. The main point is a critical look at Chou-En-lai's attitude to the Ceylon and Bangladesh revolutions. The second point-specially dealt with for this edition-describes the conflicts within the Chinese Communist Party as they became apparent at its Tenth Congress and through the anti-Confucius campaign. Both essays must be considered as a link between the seven year old Theses and the present state of affairs. The author hopes that they will contribute to making current events more easily understood.


Introduction (1974)

1) Some Reflections on the Counter-Revolutionary Nature of Chinese Diplomacy

In the last quarter of the eighteenth century the USA, under George Washington, threw off the British colonial yoke. Even before the French people had made their own middle-class revolution, the Americans had sent to the courts and governments of a predominantly feudal* (*The British Kingdom (since the revolutions of 1641 and 1688) and the Dutch Republic were the sole exceptions.)Europe their own diplomatic representatives.

To the Paris court of Louis XVI there came in this role one of America's most able ambassadors: none other than Benjamin Franklin. In the preceding years he had not only been a red-hot champion of American independence, but he had also acquired an international reputation as a physical scientist. In his person two things found themselves combined. He was enveloped in the lustre of the young Transatlantic Republic which, by its very existence, announced to the absolutist princes that their reign had come to an end. On the other hand, Franklin was the personification of pure science, unobstructed by ecclesiastical dogma. Technical progress, based on the new science, had enabled the rising bourgeoisie to build up its own forms of` production in countries that were still dominated by the nobility and clergy.

The fact that it was Benjamin Franklin who had set foot on the French shore as the ambassador of the despised American Republic, had to be tolerated by the worn out order. It also stimulated the self-consciousness of the French Third Estate. The stimulus was made even stronger by the behaviour of this diplomatic representative of the early. American employers.

Benjamin Franklin had always led a simple life. This was, on the one hand, the result of puritanism (the product of rising capitalism). On the other, it was explicable by the demands of thrift, created by the problem of accumulation in a country of middle-class pioneers. Franklin would never have dreamt of giving up his way of life, after moving to the extravagant neighbourhood of the French royal household. He went about Paris and Versailles in a dress readily recognised by all as Third Estate garb. He wore his clothes with the same pride with which the marquesses and dukes of France wore their silk coats. Deeply convinced that his middle-class country-and the republican form of government-represented the future, Franklin forced, by his appearance, the French nobility to honour his personality. In the process, he also forced it to recognise a new class, that was laying an increasing claim to its rightful position in society.

Acting in this manner, Franklin gave an example of revolutionary diplomacy that the world has never seen since. He could be characterised as a middle-class prove. He daily defied his detested class enemy and put new heart into his French class-comrades. Later (after the bourgeois revolution had triumphed in France and elsewhere) such a conduct totally lost its meaning. The bourgeoisie, itself becoming the ruling class, was no longer engaged in revolutionary practice. It started imitating the manners and style of its former class enemy. Nothing could be found anymore of revolutionary diplomacy.

Much later, the world was led for a moment to believe that the Russian Bolsheviks (in different circumstances but in a similar way) had repeated what Benjamin Franklin had done to intimidate the nobility and to activate the Third Estate. In March 1918, when the Soviet government was negotiating at Brest-Litovsk with German imperialism, the Muscovite representatives came to this Polish town with working-class caps and peasant fur coats. Bolshevik Russia had barely introduced the New Economic Policy, had scarcely taken the road to state-capitalism, than its diplomats started behaving just as the official representatives of a state-capitalist republic might be expected to do.

The delegation that sat at Brest-Litovsk, in front of the German imperial generals, was composed of political idealists. When idealism had gone, and the bourgeois character of the Russian Revolution had become obvious, the suits of the Russian diplomats became as starched and conventional as one can imagine. At the same time, the thoroughly bourgeois character of Russian foreign policy and the bourgeois traits of Russian diplomacy appeared.

It is not hard to illustrate this with some examples. In feudal, pre-revolutionary France, Benjamin Franklin would have guarded himself against the smallest gesture that might have been understood as a sign of alliance or sympathy with those in power. On the other hand, the diplomats of state- capitalist Russia (at the time of Lenin and Trotsky, as well as at the time of Stalin and his successors) displayed day after day their inner affinity with capitalism and with the bourgeoisie.

Chicherin, as a People's Commissar for foreign relations, expressed his warm sympathy towards the liberal German Secretary of State, Dr. Stresemann, over the death of President Ebert (a man who once declared that he 'hated revolution like sin'). Later on there were many expressions of sympathy at the death of other dignitaries of the European middle-class. The Kremlin diplomats kept up very friendly relations with Chiang Kai-Shek and with Kemal Pasha, while the latter respectively massacred Chinese and Turkish communists. Representatives of the Kremlin honoured Mussolini, Churchill, and Roosevelt. They entered into a pact with Hitler. In the early thirties they made their way into the League of Nations, which in their revolutionary heyday they had called the 'thieves kitchen'.

From where did these clear and important differences with the revolutionary diplomacy of Benjamin Franklin arise? The explanation is simple. Franklin in eighteenth century France was surrounded by his class enemies. The diplomats of state- capitalist Russia moved in middle-class Western Europe, among people of a similar political and social background. Far from having made diplomatic or psychological mistakes, the Russian representatives did just what they were expected to do.

For some time the Russian (bourgeois) revolution seemed to have great consequences for similar bourgeois developments in Asia and Africa. Bolsheviks, like the previously mentioned Chicherin, or like Borodin (who in the twenties was the political adviser to the Chinese Kuo Min Tang) were political idealists. They dreamed of an anti-colonial struggle in which Eastern peoples would strike a heavy blow at Western capitalism. But this dream had one pre-condition: the political idealists in Russia needed the reassurance that they would not suddenly and horribly be awoken from another dream, the dream that they weren't living, anyhow, in a capitalist country.

As soon as the capitalist nature of Bolshevik society came to the fore, the time for political dreams came to an end. The political idealists made way for the realists. Instead of illusions about revolutionary support for Asia or Africa there came the reality of bestowing favours upon that particular class in Eastern society that tended to slow down the break- through of modern capitalism (with the aid of western imperialism). This harmonised better with Russia's own interests and with the foreign policy which the Kremlin had opted for ever since 1921.

So it is today with Chinese foreign policy and Chinese diplomacy. The Chinese Revolution had essentially (not in details) the same character as that in Russia in 1917. There may indeed be differences between Moscow and Peking, but China just like Russia is on its way to state-capitalism. Just as Moscow does, Peking pursues a foreign policy that has little to do with revolution elsewhere in Asia (not even middle-class revolution).

Like Russia in the thirties, modern Maoist China has for over 20 years been seeking membership of the United Nations. Chinese foreign policy is not directed at the stimulation of the bourgeois revolution throughout the rest of Asia and in Africa. It is directed at obtaining alliances. It is a policy in which Mao Tse-tung and Chou En-lai display as little finesse as Stalin and Litvinov displayed in their time.

The true character of Chinese foreign policy and of Chinese diplomacy can be seen in the light of two examples drawn from very recent history. We mean Peking's attitude to the revolutionary events in Ceylon and Pakistan respectively. In Ceylon, where the coalition government of the so-called United Left Front under Prime Minister Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike clashed with the revolutionary movement that stood for a state-capitalist future, Peking did not take the side of the revolutionaries. It gave full support to Mrs. Bandaranaike. The same happened in Pakistan when a civil war broke out between the reactionary feudal dictatorship of General Yahya Khan and the population of East Pakistan.

The armed revolt in East Pakistan was the desperate answer to the colonial exploitation of the country by the West Pakistan clique. It was directed against the pattern of large landownership and against social conditions that intentionally kept the country backward. Sheik Mujibur Rahman headed the uprising for a short time. Even if the insurrection had not been beaten down, he never could have maintained that position. Behind him (and behind the social forces that he represented) more radical forces were looming up, just as in Russia. The Bolsheviks had loomed up behind those political forces that had emerged after the February Revolution.

However, the coming to power of Sheik Mujibur would have meant progress compared to the brutal rule of Yahya Khan, who was linked with imperialism. (We speak of course of progress within the framework of bourgeois development.) Mujibur called himself` a 'socialist'. Neither he nor those who are called on to complete the East Pakistan revolution deserve any such denomination. Neither in East nor West Pakistan was socialism on the agenda. Sheik Mujibur represents the East Pakistani bourgeoisie. This bourgeoisie is weak, just as it is in most Asian countries. That explains why middle-class revolution in this part of the world tends to be enacted in forms that first manifested themselves in Russia, and later in China.

If-and for convenience only-anyone wanted to give names to the actors in the Pakistan drama, one might call Sheik Mujibur a Menshevik. One might designate as Bolsheviks the revolutionary forces in the background, to which Tariq All, the London political writer, belongs. General Yahya Khan could be compared to some Tsarist general or other, perhaps to a Kornilov (a Kornilov successful in the western part of Ids bi-partite country but who ran up against serious resistance ill its eastern half).

Peking-whose policy is our subject-didn't support the Pakistan 'Bolsheviks'. It didn't even support the 'Menshevik' Sheik Mujibur. Peking gave diplomatic, political and military aid to the Pakistan 'Kornilov', General Yahya Khan. The Chinese Minister for Foreign Affairs, Chou En-lai, sent a message to Yahya Khan that was first published in the Peking Review, then in the Pakistan Times (the mouth-piece of the reactionary West Pakistan government). In this message Chou En-lai declared: 'Your Excellency and leaders of various quarters in Pakistan have done a lot of useful work to uphold the unification of Pakistan and to prevent it from moving towards a split. We believe that through the wise consultations and efforts of Your Excellency and leaders of various quarters in Pakistan, the situation in Pakistan will certainly be restored to normal. In our opinion the unification of Pakistan and the unity of the people of East and West Pakistan are the basic guarantees for Pakistan to attain prosperity and strength.' The meaning was clear enough: Peking was opposed to the national, middle-class uprising in East Pakistan. The People's Republic of China considered the East Pakistan (bourgeois) revolutionaries as 'a handful of persons who want to sabotage the unification of Pakistan'(1) Hence Chou's words in the quoted message.

China, as we have said, did more. She supplied the counter-revolutionary government of Yahya Khan with weapons and equipment. These weapons-tanks made in China-were not only used against the East Pakistan insurgents. They were also used against West Pakistan workers, fighting a class-struggle against their rulers.

In other words Chinese policy towards Pakistan was just like Moscow's policy towards China in the late twenties. At that time Russian aid enabled Chang Kai-shek to massacre the workers of Shanghai. General Yahya Khan massacred the Pakistani workers with Chinese aid.

At a public meeting in Amsterdam the West Pakistani Trotskyist, Tariq All, pointed out these facts. The Dutch Maoists present were scandalised. Evidently they hadn't yet read Chou En-lai's letter to Yahya Khan, a letter that had appeared in the Peking Review. They behaved like Stalinists in the thirties, unaware of Stalin's latest changes of line. A Maoist sympathiser, writing in the British paper New Society(and much better informed about what had really happened), suggested that the Chinese might have backed Yahya for 'long- term motives', namely to enable him to smash the ('Menshevik')Awarmi League of Sheik Mujibur and pave the way for the Bengal left. (2) One might ask such a simpleton why Lenin in 1917 didn't back Kornilov, thereby Enabling him (Lenin) to settle with the Kerensky government, after a successful coup!

Tariq Ali doesn't talk such nonsense. He considers Chinese foreign policy towards Ceylon and Pakistan as 'wrong' policies. We reject his Bolshevik opinions. We see the policy that we denounce as the logical consequence of the state-capitalist character of the Chinese Republic.

The latest example of this-strictly logical-policy is the Chinese approach to the United Nations and the USA. Peking wants to keep up good relations with both. (3) When a number of young supporters of the American left (and sympathisers of Mao) were recently in Peking, Chou En-lai made it clear to them that their resistance to Nixon was, of course, just their own problem. China was looking for friendly relations with the White House. Such an attitude is similar to Moscow's attitude to Hitler and to Mussolini. It is the cynical policy of diplomatic zig-zags in front of the worst enemies of the working-class. Neither Mao nor Chou En-lai can be blamed for it, for they are not in office to promote the interests of the Chinese working-class. They are in office to promote the interests of Chinese state-capitalism. It is not they, the Chinese leaders, who are going the 'wrong way'. Those who are on the wrong path are those who expect a revolutionary policy or revolutionary diplomacy from Maoist China.

2) The Tenth Congress of the Chinese Party and After

If anyone wishes to characterise the play acted behind closed doors in Peking last summer (under the title of 'Tenth Congress of the Chinese Communist Party') he would have to define it as a 'Comedy of Errors'. Although a mere spectator, he would feel like another Duke Solinus who, surrounded by two pairs of twins, didn't know which was which.

Wasn't there the Chinese Foreign Secretary, Chou En-lai, declaring that 'the struggle of the Asian, African and Latin American peoples to obtain or defend national independence was deepening and enlarging as the result of an irresistible historical trend'? Didn't Chou simultaneously express his 'solidarity with oppressed nations all over the world, those countries that were exposed to tyranny and domination' and deplore what he called 'the mutilation of Pakistan' caused by (a fact, of course, which he didn't mention) a social uprising for autonomy, a social uprising that he (Chou En-lai himself) had vainly helped to suppress? From such words ordinary people might conclude that by Chinese standards 'solidarity with the oppressed' doesn't mean what it means to the oppressed themselves. They might conclude that behind the walls of Peking reigns a confusion of tongues. That first impression would be strengthened by everything the Congress revealed about what was logically its main concern: the Chinese scene itself.

On that score the Congress attached the greatest possible importance to the doings of the late Lin Piao, once Chairman Mao's 'close comrade in arms'. Killed in a plane crash as he was flying to Russia on September 13 1971 (and consequent- ly dead for two years), Lin Piao's ghost overshadowed the Peking conference. The meeting so remembered him, and was so dominated by his personality, that the 1249 delegates even proceeded to expel him from the party 'once and for all', as if he were still in the world of the living.

Wasn't it confusing that this man, Lin Piao, who as recently as a year before had been posthumously charged with 'left-extremism', was now being called a 'right-wing criminal' who had always (!) had a bourgeois outlook and who had aim- ed at the restoration of capitalism in China. (Incidentally, the forms of production existing in China, based on wage-slavery, didn't need such a 'restoration', being in their very essence capitalist.

Wasn't it even more confusing that Lin Piao (a fervent champion of the so-called 'Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution'),whose rise to power had taken place during and immediately after that political tempest that had strengthened the Party's position, could have been described as the leader of an anti-Party group? Liu Shao-chi, Lin Piao's opponent in those crucial years from 1966 to 68, and against whom the whole weight of the Party had been launched, was on the other hand merely described as a 'revisionist', serious as such a charge may be.

Wasn't it embarrassing that Wang Hung-wen, a young Shanghai worker who played an important role in the battle against that former head of state, Liu Shao-chi, was chosen as one of the five (instead of one) Vice-Chairmen of the Party, and as a member of its Central Committee, only to be confronted outside the meeting by former political friends of Liu, like Teng Chiau-ping, rehabilitated as were many others of his kind, despite a frontal attack on Liu Shao-chi by Chou En-lai?

One can't avoid asking what, in the Chinese jargon, terms like 'socialism' and 'capitalism', 'revisionism' and 'anti-Party clique' really mean. Can it be that the confusion of tongues in Peking is as great as it was in state-capitalist Russia in the early sixties, when the Moscow leaders were fighting out their differences hidden behind deceptive definitions? Didn't the same abuse of 'anti-Party groups' indicate on that occasion something very different from what one might have expected? Indeed, a short but close examination of those mimic-battles is very useful to clarify their present Chinese counterpart.

The spectacular Russian play had been preceded by another. In the twenties and thirties the contradiction between social reality and Bolshevik reality had given rise to a theoretical discussion about Leninist thought, the real issue of which was the class structure of the so-called soviet state. In the early sixties the interpretation of Leninism wasn't at issue. Though Leninism (whatever that happened to be) remained the official Bolshevik theory, its special social function (namely, to hold back the truth about state-capitalist exploitation by discussing it in 'socialist' phraseology), had become less urgent. Of course Leninism still supplied this ideological need, but at the same time another need had come into being.

In the past the theoretical battles mainly reflected developing contradictions between Russian workers and a new rising ruling class. By the second half of the century, these contradictions had become a widespread reality. The new ruling class was in the process of becoming a dominant and influential factor in society. Against this social background Party traditions, born in entirely different social circumstances, were felt to be theoretical humbug, a stumbling block in the new class's way to genuine development. The new ruling class could no longer collaborate with a bureaucracy that indulged in practices in no way adapted to the new situation, practices that hindered the development of production.

What the new class wanted was a more or less 'new' Bolshevik Party adapted to the current situation, a Party that would recognise the new class's powerful position. The requirements of the new class led to an interesting struggle between the old Party bureaucracy and the representatives of the factory management that had come into being, and that formed the basis of the new class. The struggle lasted many years. Both factions balancing one another, the outcome was for a long time undecided. At one time the old Party held the strongest positions, at other times the managerial faction did.

All this started in darkness, before Stalin's death. It became visible in the post-Stalin era. It reached its culminating point in the days of Khruschev, who won power because he was the right man at that particular time. His personality-as his biographer, George Paloczi-Horvath, wrote-was just as enigmatic as the Soviet world. The true content of this enigma was that the Russian situation had produced the unstable character of Nikita Sergeyevich Khruschev, and that conversely, an unstable man like Khruschev (more than anyone else among government notables), was suited to a situation in which neither the bureaucracy nor the new ruling class could claima final victory. Khruschev was a misfit in the bureaucracy to which he formally belonged. But he didn't identify himself with the Russian management, nor did the managerial strata regard him as a reliable supporter. Perhaps just because of these qualities, Khruschev had an unmistakable feeling about what was up. When his adversaries boxed his ears with quotations from the dead Lenin. Kruschev pointed out that people were living in another time: what was valid then had lost its value. With those words he accurately divulged what was going on behind the scenes.

With Khruschev in office, the struggle between the new class and the old Party reached its final stage. Lengthy trench warfare made way for a war of movement. So often and so quickly did positions in the Kremlin change that when Suslov and Mikoyan returned to Moscow from a short visit to Budapest (where, as representatives of the new class, they were prepared for a flexible attitude towards the government of Imre Nagy, to whom they had guaranteed the withdrawal of Russian troops) they were confronted with an entirely different mood.* (*Background information given by Tibor Meray in one of the most interesting books on the Hungarian Revolution: Thirteen Days that Shook the Kremlin (Thames & Hudson, 1958).)

During this period the attack from the new management on the Party traditionalists became fiercer. The embarrassment provoked by its mystifying slogans was greater than ever before. Those who favoured the domination of the new ruling class over the old bureaucracy never tired of proclaiming their legal heritage from the Party. At the same time the defenders of the Party (old style) were stigmatised as the 'anti-Party group'. What lay behind the slogans and stigmatisations was clear enough in the debate (though it wasn't carried on in plain Russian but in a language one might define as Party-Chinese). We here give some quotations with (in brackets) translations into everyday speech.

KOSYGIN (member of the Presidium of the Central Committee, defending management): 'Members of the anti-Party group opposed everything that was new or progressive. By such an attitude, in fact, they wrecked the economic policy of the Party and of the country ... ' ('The anti-Party group opposed the rise of the new class of managers and wrecked its economic policy').'They were against any proposal that could have improved the soviet economy' ('They opposed proposals not in accordance with the policy of the new class'). 'Molotov opposed the new economic and agricultural policy' ('Molotov was an adversary of management').

MIKOYAN (the most outstanding champion of the new class): 'They-the members of the anti-Party group-cling to conservative, dogmatic points of view that prevent the introduction of innovations' ('They stood for the past and opposed any accommodation to the reality of the growing power of the new class'). 'Molotov is the ideologist of bygone times' ('Molotov's thought is adapted to yesterday's reality. That reality does not exist any longer because of the increasing influence of the managerial class').

MOLOTOV (in defence of the anti-Party group): 'The Party's new programme is a revisionist and counter-revolutionary one' ('The Party's new programme aims to make the Party a tool of the new class. It transforms the principles of Stalinism. It is directed against everything the old Party represented').

SATJUKOV: 'Molotov has always been a bungler in home affairs' ('Political knowledge is strictly reserved for the class that has power and rules').

KHRUSCHEV: 'The Soviet Union is in great need of capital' ('The accumulation of capital doesn't keep pace with the needs of the new managerial class').

Joining the debate in this way, Khruschev in fact took the victors' side.'Long live the new ruling class' was the true meaning of his belated intervention. Before long he found out that he had acted too late. He was dismissed as soon as the new ruling class no longer felt itself seriously threatened. With Kosygin's appointment as Prime Minister there started a new chapter in Russian history.

Could it be that last year's happenings in China resemble in some way what we have described as happening in Russia? In present day China, too, there are forces at work more or less favourable to the rise of a 'new class'. Attempts to analyse these forces have been made in the Theses. There is no need to repeat the argument. Nor is it necessary again to explain-as was done in the Theses-why the Great Cultural Revolution can be regarded as the response to social developments similar to those that, in Russia, had strengthened managerial positions. There have been many subsequent indications suggesting that the Cultural Revolution wasn't as successful as Chou En-lai would have had the delegates to the Tenth Congress believe. Those social forces in the background which even if they didn't give rise to a 'new class' nevertheless prepared its way (pushing forward individual managers), still exist. They proved themselves stronger than the violence of the Red Guards and appeared to be totally interwoven with Chinese social relations. However, unlike the 'new class' in Russia, its Chinese counterpart has not so far proved stronger than the Chinese Party. In the course of the Cultural Revolution the Party was transformed for the purpose of better resistance. Such facts should be a warning against too simplified an analogy.

Things in China are not what they had previously been in Russia. Nevertheless, the phenomenon of a (future) managerial class holds the key to every Chinese problem. For instance, Chou En-lai was very clearly criticising the managerial point of view in his speech to the Tenth Congress when he addressed himself to 'those who pretended that after the Ninth Congress (held in April 1969) the development of production should be the Party's main task' and to those 'who claimed that it was not the antagonism between the working class and the bourgeoisie that was the most important contradiction in China, but the contradiction between the advanced socialist system and the backward productive forces in society'.

But in China things are far more complicated than this. The same Chou En-lai, in the same speech, underlines the necessity for a 'transformation of all parts of the superstructure that are not co-ordinsted with the economic foundation'. That sounds like a concession to managerial demands. Apparently matters were not pushed to extremes. The forementioned presence of rehabilitated adherents of managerial champion Liu Shao-chi and the fact that some of those men had again been able to obtain influential positions in the country point in the same direction.

The only possible explanation is that hitherto the pro- managerial and pro-bureaucratic forces were balanced. One must not forget that these are not the only social forces in China, where there is also a very large peasantry. Finally, if the Party was reformed during the Cultural Revolution, partly in response to the views of the peasants, it was just to take the wind out of the management's sails. To conclude: the antagonism between the Party and the new class in China hasn't by a long way reached the point that had been reached in Russia some fifteen years earlier. This is the situation that accounts for various declarations about perfect Party-unity applauded by the delegates in Peking.

How does one reconcile the fact that this unity has been so loudly trumpeted with the fact that delegates were pro- claiming, in the same breath, 'the inevitable necessity for many more struggles in the future'? And why, if unity was as solid as one was made to believe, were the deliberations strictly secret, with only the texts of the speeches and the new constitution published, together with a meaningless official postscript?

The implied contradiction is nothing but a paradox. The appearance of unity stands out because Party and management are equally strong. Hampered by the peasantry, they don't face each other in the same way as they did in Russia. This is why the Cultural Revolution remained unfinished. Behind the scenes, managerial tendencies (the forces that led to the development of the new class) are still at work. Sooner or later the equilibrium will be upset. The Party's new constitution stressed classic Leninist 'democratic centralism' as the basic organisational principle, while at the same time adding that it would be 'absolutely impermissible to suppress criticism and to retaliate' and that, on the contrary, 'the Party should encourage other views and great debates'. This was an attempt to delay the clash for as long as possible.

Nevertheless the officials are well aware that such a postponement cannot be permanent. 'The downfall of the anti-Party group' Chou En-lai told the delegates, 'doesn't end the struggle between the two Party lines'. It wasn't unity that characterised the Tenth Congress but the sound judgment that the tendencies representing the new class could not be made to disappear and that the fight against them would decide the Party's future. To put it in Mao's words:'within a number of years another revolution will probably have to be carried out. Demons and devils will break the surface'. Since then, history has borne out that if one talks of the devil he is sure to come.

Before concerning ourselves with the devil, let us talk of the demons. Just as Molotov in Russia, the ghost of Lin Piao was hammered with the charge of defending an 'anti-Party line'. What strikes one is the formal resemblance of the indictments. True enough, the Chinese at their Congress were speaking Party-Russian just as the Russians had been speaking Party-Chinese. This doesn't automatically imply that words in Party Chinese have the same meaning as in Party-Russian.

In Russia the 'anti-Party group' defended the (old) Party. It was therefore attacked by the new class. In China the new class was attacked by the reformed Party that sought new strength through its self-reform. Did Lin Piao resist? If so, his position would have been the opposite to that of Molotov. Instead of defending the Party against the management as Molotov had done, Lin Piao would have stood at the side of the new class. He would have stood at the side of Liu Shao-chi, who was his bitter enemy in the Cultural Revolution. Though their names were linked at the last Congress, such a conclusion isn't strengthened by Lin Piao's speeches. None of them contain the least indication to such a change of front.

At most, it might be remembered that it was Lin Piao who jammed the brakes on the Red Guards when the Cultural Revolution threatened to plunge the country into economic disaster. But he did so with the full agreement of Mao himself, and of the Party. Could it be that Lin Piao didn't agree with this moderate policy? If so that might explain why the Party first accused him of 'left extremism'. It doesn't explain however why such a reproach was only heard three years later.

Or was Lin Piao really as moderate as he showed himself to be? Hadn't he been on the Party's left long before the Cultural Revolution, whose fruits didn't prove to be as red as many people had expected? What supports this view is the position of his alleged number one accomplice, Chen Po-ta, another head of the Cultural Revolution draft and a faithful transmitter of Mao-thought at every moment of his life. There are good reasons for the view that Lin Piao was a tempered radical and that this led him to being seen as on the left when the Party, withdrawing from the Cultural Revolution line, veered to the right. After Lin Piao's death, his position seemed to be on the right because the pendulum had oscillated and because the Party, in reaction to another new class danger, had undergone a radicalisation.

Against this view one might quote Lin Piao's more or less 'managerial' position concerning production. But this is rather uncertain as Chou En-lai's reproaches on this point were directed rather against Liu Shoa-chi, with whom Lin Piao was linked only by means of a political manoeuvre. In favour of this view, on the other hand, are Chou's own words, that the so-called anti-Party line 'had been and still was one of the two lines inside the Party'.

Be this as it may, the Party's radicalisation was obvious. The appointment to its leadership of Wang Hung-wen, who had had to be called to order because he had gone 'too far' during the Cultural Revolution, was therefore symptomatic. But let nobody think that the radicalisation in question has anything to do with the working-class struggle against capitalism. At the Tenth Congress no word was spoken either about the exercise of power by the workers themselves or about the abolition of the wages system, or of a society based on production. Chou En-lai commented with satisfaction about 'the stability of prices and the market's prosperous position'. His statement was characteristic both in its lack of any working-class analysis and because of what it revealed concerning the true nature of Chinese economic and social relations.

These basic economic and social relations are evidently not at stake. Consequently the real issue is not the choice between a proletarian or a bourgeois alternative. Everything depends on whether the transformed (or even more transformed) Party or whether management will rule the roost. That is what lies behind the Party's radicalisation, whatever Chou may have been saying about 'a conflict between proletarian and bourgeois interests, in which one would have to distinguish false communists from sincere ones'. Speaking thus, Chou was just churning out Party-jargon, whose deceptive appearance masked real differences.

When the process of radicalisation had started, where did the traditional and outstanding leaders like Mao and Chou really stand? At the Congress the latter never tired of quoting Mao and of stressing his hostility to Lin or Liu. But that doesn't necessarily argue his real position ** (**Chou told the delegates, that the official'Report to the Ninth National Congress', delivered by Lin Piao, had actually been written by Mao; that Lin himself, in collaboration with Chen Po-ta, had drafted another document (that had been cancelled); and that Lin didn't agree with the text he was delivering. Whatever the truth of this story may be (and whatever it may not be) it remains that what could be true for Lin, might also be true for Chou.) What exactly Chou represents is unclear. This is partly due to the fact that, since some time before the Tenth Congress, everything in China's social and political life has again been on the move. Firm positions will become visible as time goes by. That applies to everyone on the Chinese scene.

Concerning Mao for instance, Chou informed the delegates that after the Ninth Congress the Chairman had given several warnings to Lin Piao, all of them in vain, seeking to 'save' him. Does this mean that Mao Tse-tung, Lin Piao and Chen Po-ta hadn't such fundamental differences after all? Was it only.at a later date that the rift widened? In that case, it isn't only the official statement about Lin Piao that stands contradicted. It is also suggested that Mao wasn't heading the radicalisation but merely tail-ending it.

How, in connection with all this, should one seek to under- stand the three attempts on Mao's life, in which Lin Piao is said to have been closely involved as the main conspirator? Were these attempts made because the Chairman tended to an even more managerial point of view? Or were they made because Mao firmly refused to adopt such a position? Listening to the Party-jargon, looking at the Chinese smoke-screen, happenings remain obscure. Nevertheless, conclusions can be drawn that go far beyond the commonplace fixations about a 'power battle'. Such descriptions don't tell us anything of the social forces that drive the actors to appear before the footlights. It is far more important to understand this fact than to know who is who. From the historical point of view it doesn't matter so much whether this one or that one represents the Party or the management. The actors are of secondary interest. The play: that's the point. The battle for power is not important. What are important are the economic and social frameworks that determine its limits and by which it is characterised. It is for this reason that we have placed in the centre of our analysis the struggle between the new class and the Party bureaucracy, quite apart from actual questions of policy. The correctness of this method is confirmed when we examine the anti-Confucius campaign, a campaign that reached its full development after the Tenth Congress.

The campaign was launched on August 7 1973 by an article in the Peking Peoples Paper. The author was Yang Chung-kuo, deccan of the Philosophy Faculty of the Canton Sun Yat-sen University (and since referred to as the No. 1 theorist of anti- Confucianism). The campaign did not start as a pure philosophical discussion. Philosopher Yang said, 'the battle of words with Confucius has a very actual meaning. To criticise his reactionary thoughts can be useful whenever one participates in present-day class struggle ...'

What sort of class struggle could Yang be referring to? Neither in his article nor in the debate that followed was the subject touched upon. Nowhere was it treated from the point of view that human thought is connected with society, and therefore is right as long as the society exists that gave birth to it, becoming incorrect to the extent that a given society is lost in its successor. Such a treatment, linked with the con- viction of the oppressed that neither society nor thought are invariable and eternal, doesn't suit any ruling class. Ruling classes never have an eye for the relativity of their own mastery. From the mere fact that things were not put in this way one can draw some plausible conclusions.

Confucius wasn't interpreted as a child of his time, who reflected the social relations and contradictions of the Chou dynasty in Chinese antiquity. His ideas were considered apart from their soil. They were described as intrinsically reaction- ary. No attempt was made to understand Confucius from within Chinese society. On the contrary, Chinese society was explained by stressing Confucius' influence. This method naturally led to the substitution of social comprehension by moral judgement.

Consequently the anti-Confucius campaign wasn't a philosophical attack on the essential roots of class power. That remains unchallenged. The discussions became moral condemnations of certain politicians on behalf of others. For this purpose, Confucius, who had died 2000 years previously, was raised from his grave and criticised. Whether all this was really being aimed at the dead Lin Piao, or at his living competitors, is less clear. But once again this is of secondary significance.

For our purpose, it is more important to realise that there is a direct connection between the anti-Confucius campaign and the issues of the Cultural Revolution. 'Confucius', we are told by Philosopher Yang, 'reserved absolute wisdom for the monarch. The reformers of his time however wanted freedom of thought on behalf of a hundred philosophical schools, with different and opposite opinions.' Confucius 'promised his monarch all the land. The reformers on the contrary were fighting for private landed property and for individual farming'.

The themes hardly need further explanation. Yang, whose origin was the non-Bolshevik Democratic League of China (which had once taken an intermediate position between the Communist Party and the Kuo Min-tang) seems to be a clear voice of the new class. When he speaks of a less important philosopher, dispatched at Confucius' command, one might believe that he is not only pointing at Lin Piao's murder plot against Mao but that-from an opposite position-he is also referring to the rumour that Lin didn't die in a plane crash but was done away with by Chou En-lai. If Yang condemns Confucius for calling back 'those who were already buried in oblivion, aiming to restore the old order', that too seems to concern Chou. Chou, after all, was the man who for many years had been the architect of the new class policy. Moreover, he had his own responsibility for the rehabilitation of those who had been sacrificed in the Cultural Revolution.

Yang can thus be interpreted in different ways, possibly because his philosophical contribution to an actual struggle suffers from the contradictions of the struggle itself. Another possibility is that these contradictions are either the pure consequence of the special Party-philosophical jargon, or that they have been created deliberately, for reasons of safety in turbulent times.

For times are turbulent in China. Quoting Confucius, bureaucrats and managers march against each other. The devil that looms up is a second Cultural Revolution, as predicted by Chairman Mao. Whose future is at stake? That of Chou or that of Mao? Time will tell. Nonetheless, one thing seems certain: the outcome of the struggle will not in the least change the (state) capitalist nature of Chinese society. The rule of the Party-bureaucracy or managerial rule? That is the question for the years to come. Whatever the answer, in the long run the new class seems to have the best testimonials.

On to the Thesis on the Chinese revolution


NOTES

1. The full text of Chou En-lai's message was published too in the New Left Review July/August 1971.

2. The suggestion of the ingenious Maoist is reprinted in the same issue of the New Left Review p 39.

3. When this essay had been written, the provisional result of the Pakistan events was yet unknown. Neither was there any question of China's latest approach to Japan. The explanationz/ above, I believe, can hardly be changed by those facts.


Other disbanded anarchist/libertarian groups