Social Revolution Party

"Philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways: The point, however, is to change it."

Why China Went Capitalist

Posted by sorev on 30/08/2009

The following was lifted from the Kasama Project‘s webpage (who lifted it from the MLMRSG).  The original article can be found here or here.

Why did the Chinese Communist Party turn into a capitalist party so quickly once Mao died?

Why was it so easy for Deng and supporters to kick out the “Gang of Four”, Mao’s closest supporters and most “left” among the leadership?

Why was there no mass rebellion against this among the members of the Party?

Why did the “cadre” – full-time Party officials – go along with this swift move back to capitalist production, distribution, and property relations?

How was it that Deng himself had so much support among the Party cadre that he was able to control the Party behind the scenes and then, in a couple of years, openly take over? Along with Liu Shaoqi Deng had been one of the main targets of the GPCR.

The proximate roots of the overthrow of Chinese communism lie in the question of “cadres” that arose again and again during the Cultural Revolution.

One side – ultimately, it was Mao’s side – in the GPCR claimed that the vast majority of the Party cadres were either “good” or reformable. Here are some quotations:

The “Sixteen Points” of August 8 1966, one of the basic statements of the GPCR, stated that most cadre were good. Point Eight reads:

8. THE QUESTION OF CADRES

The cadres fall roughly into the following four categories:

(1) good;
(2) comparatively good;
(3) those who have made serious mistakes but have not become anti-Party, anti-socialist rightists;
(4) the small number of anti-Party, anti-socialist rightists.

In ordinary situations, the first two categories ( good and comparatively good ) are the great majority.”

Badiou has noted, though superficially, incompletely, the problem with this statement.

“First of all, it is held, as if axiomatically, that in essence the party is good. Point 8 (“The Question of Cadres”) distinguishes four types of cadres, as put to the test of the Cultural Revolution (let us remember that in China, a “cadre” is anyone who dispenses authority, even if minimal): good, comparatively good, those who have made serious mistakes that can be fixed, and lastly “the small number of anti-Party and anti-socialist Rightists.” The thesis is then that “the two first categories (good and comparatively good) are the great majority.” That is, the state apparatus and its internal leadership (the party) are essentially in good hands, which renders paradoxical the recourse to such large-scale revolutionary methods.”

-Alain Badiou, “The Cultural Revolution: The Last Revolution?” Positions 13:3 (2005), 492.

A common way of stating this in GPCR documents is that only a “handful” of cadres are bad and must be removed.

Lin Biao speech October 1, 1966

“Today, we are celebrating this great festival amid an upsurge of the great proletarian cultural revolution. This is a great revolution, an entirely new and creative revolution carried out after the seizure of political power by the proletariat. Its aim is to overthrow through struggle the small handful of persons within the Party who are in authority who have taken the capitalist road,…” –

“June 1, 1966, Chairman Mao decided to publish in the press the first Marxist-Leninist big-character poster in the country, posted first in Peking University. This kindled the raging flames of the great proletarian cultural revolution and set in motion the mass movement which has as its main target for attack the handful of persons within the Party who are in authority and are taking the capitalist road….”

“It is a fact that in our army there are a handful of persons in authority taking the capitalist road and an extremely few diehards clinging to the bourgeois reactionary line …. ” (209)

“This great cultural revolution means precisely the arousing of hundreds of millions of people to liberate themselves and to seize power from the handful of people within the Party who are in authority and are taking the capitalist road.” (212)

“The handful of representatives of the bourgeoisie are vicious and dare to bully people to such an extent precisely because they still have power!” (213 – Peking Review, January 27, 1967).

“is entirely wrong to adopt a policy of opposing everything, casting out everything and striking down everything. It should be noted that some of the leading cadres are on the side of Chairman Mao’s revolutionary line and are resolved to wage a struggle against the handful of persons in authority in the Party taking the capitalist road. We must have full confidence in these cadres and fight side by side with them. As for the leading cadres who have swerved or made errors in line, we should also unite with them to fight together, so long as they are willing to mend their errors and return to the Party’s correct line and to Chairman Mao’s line.” – People’s Daily Feb. 2 1967 (216)

“The firm implementation of the great alliance of the proletarian revolutionaries and the solidarity of the broad masses of people are the most important conditions for achieving victory in the struggle to seize power from the handful of persons in power in the Party who are taking the capitalist road. At a time when the great proletarian cultural revolution has entered a stage of launching a struggle to seize all power from the handful of persons in power in the Party who are taking the capitalist road,…” – Red Flag editorial (217)

“Only by doing so will it prove helpful to the greatest extent in isolating and attacking the handful of persons within the Party who are in power and taking the capitalist road,…” — ibid, 218.

“3) Sufficient importance must be attached to the role of revolutionary cadres in the struggle to seize power. The leading cadres who uphold the proletarian revolutionary line are the precious wealth of the Party. They can become the backbone of the struggle to seize power and become the leadership in the struggle to seize power. These leading cadres have, for considerable time in the past, waged a struggle against the handful of persons within the Party who are in authority and taking the capitalist road. They are now appearing before the masses, openly indicating before the masses that they are on the side of the proletarian revolutionaries, integrating with the revolution- ary masses, and fighting together with them. Workers, peasants, revolutionary students and revolutionary intellectuals must believe in them.” ibid, 218

“The overwhelming majority of cadres in general in the Party and government institutions are good and want to make revolution. The proletarian revolutionary rebels among them are the main forces for seizing power within their respective units.” ibid, 219.

“…renegades, special agents, counter-revolutionaries and diehard capitalist-roaders who have managed to sneak into the revolutionary ranks are but a handful. This should be our basic estimate of the cadre ranks.

– People’s Daily May 13, 1967, CQ Jl-Sp ‘68 p. 184.

Many more such quotations about “handfuls” can be found.

Many statement, like some of those quoted above, go far beyond merely stating that most cadre are good or reformable, to insist that cadre must be in the leadership of the GPCR.

“..the revolutionary leading cadres rise together with the masses in the struggle to seize power from the handful of those within the Party who are in authority and are taking the capitalist road, the revolutionary mass organisations must support them. They must see that the revolutionary leading cadres have acquired comparatively richer experiences in struggle, are more matured politically and possess greater organisational strength. It is quite advantageous to the struggle for seizing and grasping power to have them participate in the core leadership. As for cadres who have committed errors, we must deal with them correctly and must not knock them down. Regarding those inexcusable anti-Party and anti-socialist elements and those who persistently refused to reform and failed to undergo reform after being educated repeatedly, we must allow them to repent and encourage them to redeem their crimes with meritorious deeds.” – ibid, 218.

If cadre are in the lead, then the masses are not in the lead. The masses are to follow the cadre.

The Left

Why was there so much insistence from the Party leadership that “most cadre are good”, even that “cadres should lead”, and that only a “handful” or an “extremely few diehards” were “persisting in the bourgeois reactionary line?”

The answer is: because there was a mass movement – a number of mass organizations – that were claiming the opposite of this: that most of the Party cadre were reactionary.

The statement “Whither China?” by the Shengwulien organization is the expression of the Left – derided as the “ultra-left” by the Party leadership and cadre and that often described itself as such, as “ultra-left” – is the best known statement that draws this conclusion.

“The rule of the new bureaucratic bourgeoisie must be overthrown by force in order to solve the problem of political power.

“Facts as revealed by the masses and their wrath told people initially that this class of “Red” capitalists had completely become a decaying class that hindered the progress of history, and that the relations between them and the people in general had changed from relations between the leaders and the led to those between the rulers and the ruled, the exploiters and the exploited, from the relations of revolutionaries of equal standing to those between the oppressors and the oppressed. The special privileges and high salaries of the class of “Red” capitalists was built on the basis of the oppression and exploitation of the broad masses of the people. In order to realize the “People’s Commune of China”, it was necessary to overthrow this class …

“We really believe that ninety per cent of the senior cadres should stand aside, that at most they can only be objects to be educated and united. This is because they have already constituted a decaying class with its own particular “interests”. Their relation with the people has changed from the relation between the leaders and the led in the past to that between exploiters and the exploited, the oppressors and the oppressed. Most of them consciously or unconsciously yearn for the capitalist road, and protect and develop capitalist things. The rule of their class has completely blocked the development of history … However they (the bureaucrats) hit back at and carry out counter-reckoning against the revolutionary people with increasing madness, pushing themselves nearer and nearer the guillotine. All this proves that no decaying class in history would voluntarily make an exit from the stage of history.

“In the new society of the Paris Commune type this class will be overthrown.”

We also know of this Left position by the attacks of its enemies.

“Recently, a sort of so-called ‘new trend of thought’ prevails in society. Its principal content is to distort the major contradiction of socialist society into one between the so-called ‘power-holders’, i.e., the ‘privileged persons’ who hold ‘property and power’ and the masses of the people. It demands an incessant ‘redistribution’ of the social property and political power under the proletarian dictatorship. The new trend of thought has equated the current GPCR with a conflict for wealth and power ‘within a reactionary ruling class’. It has equated the headquarters of Mao/Lin with that of Liu/Teng/Tao. It has branded all leading cadres as privileged persons and thrust them all into the position of objects of revolution.” (CNS, No. 188. Quoted at http://www.wengewang.org/read.php?tid=4420 )

Official statements make clear the fact that the official insistence that “most cadres are good” is in direct opposition to the Left position that most cadres needed to be overthrown.

“…[R]enegades, special agents, counter-revolutionaries and diehard capitalist-roaders who have managed to sneak into the revolutionary ranks are but a handful. This should be our basic estimate of the cadre ranks….The outstanding revolutionary cadres who have gone through the trials of the struggle of the classes and lines can then be placed in key positions where they will be able to give full play to their role of backbone in the revolutionary three-way alliance. . . .

Only by setting out from such a basic estimate will it be possible to avoid Right or extreme “Left” errors in handling the cadre question. …It will also prevent us from regarding the cadre ranks as thoroughly rotten — a view which suspects all and overthrows all, and ruthlessly smashes cadres down for any error committed, no matter how minor it may be (FE/2783).”

– People’s Daily May 13, 1967, China Quarterly Jl-Sp ‘68, 184.

Jiang Qing, a member of the Cultural Revolutionary Group around Mao, attacked this “ultra-left” in a speech in Anhui on September 5 1967:

“It looks as if they come out in the guise of either extreme “leftists” or rightists who oppose the Central Committee headed by Chairman Mao. This is quite impermissible and they are doomed to failure. At present if you take Peking as an example you have this kind of thing. I call it a thing because it is a counter-revolutionary organisation. It is really called the “May 16th” group. They don’t have a very large membership. On the surface they are young people and these young people have been misled. They are a minority of bourgeois elements and are filled with hatred against us; but these are only individuals. The vast majority are young people and they are using the instability of young people’s ideology. The real manipulators behind the scenes are very bad people. This “May 16th” group appeared first of all under the guise of extreme “leftists.” They concentrated their aim against the Prime Minister [Zhou Enlai, attacked by the Left as the defender of the reactionary cadre] and in fact they collected material about us to send abroad. Naturally we are not scared. Why should we be frightened by this? You can go and sell it if you like. If you have had a good meal and feel like doing something and don’t want to do revolution, no matter what you do, we are not scared. From the point of view of the rightists, at the end of January and February there was an atmosphere of opposition to the proletarian cultural revolution. At present this atmosphere is one of “leftism.” They are opposing the Central Committee. This is the guise of extreme “leftists ” who are opposing the Prime Minister….

– CQ Oct-Dec 1967, 212.

The Shanghai Commune was perhaps the main high point of Left influence. Mao had praised the Paris Commune. In February 1967 editorials appeared in Red Flag praising it and the efforts to form a Chinese Commune. Like the Paris Commune, its leaders were to be subject to immediate recall. In fact Zhang Chunqiao took control of it with the support of the Beijing-based Cultural Revolution group.

Zhang made the founding speech of the Shanghai Commune on February 5 1967. A week later he and Yao Wen-yuan went to Beijing where Mao explained to them that the Commune was a bad idea. Other cities wanted to form Communes. As in Marx’s day, direct recall of officials proved to be a popular idea! Mao suggested that power be vested instead in “three-in-one” committees, or “three-way alliance” – the Army, Party cadre, and “revolutionary rebels” like Wang Hongwen.

This was spelled out in the pamphlet “On the Revolutionary Three-in-One Combination.” This document repeats over a dozen times the formula that “only a handful” of cadres were reactionary. The “three-in-one” committee idea was specifically intended to counter the Left.

“In some localities, a few persons have proposed that “all persons classified as leading cadres should stand aside”. This view is devoid of class analysis. It counterposes the masses to all cadres. It does not direct its spearhead against the handful of persons in authority taking the capitalist road but against the great number of cadres. It therefore runs counter to the basic spirit of the 16-point decision of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party concerning the great proletarian cultural revolution, to the general orientation of the struggle and to Mao Tse-tung’s thought. To act in this way is objectively helping the class enemy. Those comrades who committed such mistakes unconsciously should immediately correct them. It is dangerous for them to persist in their own view. All revolutionary cadres should welcome the comrades guilty of such mistakes, as soon as they correct them, and in no circumstances should retaliate against them.” – http://www.marx2mao.com/Other/RTOC68.html

Before long the “hunt” was on for Leftists. Yang Xiguang, author of “Whither China?”, was singled out for special attack and went into hiding. According to Yang he was safe as long as he remained in his home province, but was turned into the police when he left it. He spent 10 years in prison. Dongping Han discusses the persecution of former “rebels” under Deng in the late ‘70s and ‘80s (“Negating the Cultural Revolution,” in The Unknown Cultural Revolution. MR Press, 2008).

Who Was Right? Who Was Wrong?

Were Mao and his high-level supporters correct when they insisted that the Party cadre were 90% good, “wanted to make revolution”, and those “on the capitalist road” were “a small handful”?

Or was the “ultra-Left” correct when they wrote, quoting Shengwulien,

“We really believe that ninety per cent of the senior cadres should stand aside, that at most they can only be objects to be educated and united. This is because they have already constituted a decaying class with its own particular “interests”. Their relation with the people has changed from the relation between the leaders and the led in the past to that between exploiters and the exploited, the oppressors and the oppressed. Most of them consciously or unconsciously yearn for the capitalist road, and protect and develop capitalist things. The rule of their class has completely blocked the development of history …”

In historical hindsight it is obvious. The “ultra-Left” were right. Mao was wrong.

The same Party cadre who, with Mao’s support, retained power in the Party supported the overthrow of the “Gang of Four” as soon as Mao died; then supported Deng’s swift reversion to open capitalism.

My point is not to say that the so-called “ultra-left” – really, the Left – were “correct” in all respects. But they were correct about the BIG issues.

A new Communist Party was needed. “Whiter China?” stated:

“The July 1st editorial of 1967 raised the question of Party building. During the violent class struggle in July and August, a very small number of “ultra-Leftists” put forward the demand that the “ultra-Left should have its own political party… To make revolution it is necessary to have a revolutionary party.”

“As a result of the practice of struggle having gained rich experience and entered a higher stage, the maturity of the political thinking of the revolutionary people of China has also entered a higher stage. A new trend of thought (called “ultra-Left trend of thought” by the enemy), including “overthrow of the new bureaucratic bourgeoisie”, “abolition of bureaucratic organs”, “thorough smashing of the state machine”, etc. wanders among the revolutionary people like a “spectre” in the eyes of the enemy.”

Yang Xiguang’s statement saw the future of China very accurately:

“The 9th National Congress of the Party about to be convened is not expected to be able to thoroughly settle the question of where the Chinese Communist Party is going. The political party that is produced in accordance with the provisions promulgated by the Centre for rehabilitation, regulation and rebuilding of the Party (if such a party can be formed) will necessarily be a party of bourgeois reformism that serves the bourgeois usurpers in the revolutionary committees.”

This is, in fact, precisely what happened.

“Whither China?” also pointed to the fact that the roots of this bourgeois restoration went back to the very foundation of the Chinese People’s Republic:

“To really overthrow the rule of the new aristocracy and thoroughly smash the old state machinery, it will be necessary to go into the question of assessment of the past 17 years…. The real revolution, the revolution to negate the past 17 years, has basically not yet begun, and that we should now enter the stage of tackling the fundamental questions of China’s revolution …”

The Cult of Mao Was the Achilles’ Heel of the Left

A glaring contradiction in “Whither China?” is the insistence of its authors that Mao was on their side, the side of the Left.

Yet Mao had come out against the Shanghai Commune. Mao had supported the “three-in-one” committees that the Left recognized as window-dressing, a form of rule in which the revolutionary forces – supposing they actually got representation at all – would be second in every way to the old cadre and the Army. And “political power flows from the barrel of a gun.” Ultimately it was the command of the Army that held state power under this system.

“Why did Comrade Mao Tse-tung, who energetically advocated the “commune”, suddenly oppose the establishment of “Shanghai People’s Commune” in January? That is something which the revolutionary people find it hard to understand.

“Chairman Mao, who foresaw the “commune” as a political structure which must be realised in the first cultural revolution, suddenly put forward “Revolutionary committees are fine!” (“Whither China?”)

In order to “explain” Mao’s actions “Whither China?” has recourse to a strained and very economic-determinist view of Mao’s actions. It suggested that Mao was choosing a “zig-zag path” because history must proceed that way.

“Revolution must progress along a zigzagging way. It must go through a prolonged course of “struggle-failure-struggle again-failure again-struggle again till final victory”.

“… the wise supreme commander Comrade Mao Tse-tung once more made a big retreat after September, in disregard of demands by impatient revolutionaries for victory. A political situation of bourgeois usurpation of power came about with the establishment of revolutionary committees or preparatory groups for revolutionary committees.

“Chairman Mao’s rousing call, “Arm the Left!” was an intensive concentration of the courage of the working class. But the September 5 order completely nullified the call to “arm the Left”. The working class was disarmed. The bureaucrats again came back to power …

Shengwulien suggests that somehow Mao did not openly support the Left because the people were not ready for it:

“Revolutions often take various reformist, unthorough roads. It is only when all panaceas are proved useless that the revolutionary people would resolve to follow the most painful and most destructive, but also the most thorough and revolutionary road. The struggle in the transition period of revolutionary committees will inevitably disillusion the masses about the panacea of bourgeois reformism which they love so much. Chairman Mao says: “Buddhist idols are set up by the peasants. When the time comes the peasants will throw away these idols with their own hands. There is no need for others to do it too soon.” In the not far distant future the revolutionary people will surely smash to pieces with their own iron hands the newborn red political power which they have secured with their own blood and lives …”

In reality Mao never supported the Left. Mao played a centrist role. He opposed the open reversion to capitalism, but never dismissed those who, like Deng, were its main proponents.

Understanding Mao’s centrism is key to understanding why the GPCR was basically decided by 1967. With the left in defeat and centrism, in the form of Mao and the “Gang”, in charge, China’s policies began to move to the right. This is most obviously seen in “ping-pong diplomacy” and then “Nixon in China”. Mao and Zhou warmed up to the USA when the US imperialists were still bombing the hell out of Vietnam and funding the South Vietnamese fascists to the hilt.

This isn’t the place to review all the contradictions in China’s political history between 1968 and Mao’s death. Certainly many left initiatives remained. Mao placated the right and smashed the “ultra-left” but never let the right seize power completely. His leadership, including the “Gang”, was centrist, meaning: right in essence but with a left cover.

During this time the pro-capitalist right was consolidated. There is no way Mao’s policies could have been so quickly reversed, capitalism so swiftly re-established and with so little opposition from within the Party, unless the Right became thoroughly consolidated while he was still alive. These were those Party cadres that Mao had insisted were “mainly good” and that the “ultra-left” had correctly viewed as the enemy.

The “ultra-left” could not see past the “cult of Mao.” They could not see Mao’s centrist role – that he actually opposed them and supported the cadre; that he opposed a Paris Commune kind of state in which Party cadre would have to win election from the working class or be deposed.

Something similar had happened in the USSR during Stalin’s lifetime. Khrushchev would not have been able to take over the Party and country so swiftly, and then Gorbachev able to restore capitalism in the name of “back to Lenin”, “back to ‘real socialism’”, if the roots of this reversal did not reach far back into the Stalin and even the Lenin years.

So the “cult” of Mao helped mislead and defeat the “ultra-left” and reinstall the Right. Maybe that is why Mao’s body still lies in state in Tienanmen Square, as Lenin’s does in Red Square.

Lesson: Criticize the “cult”, criticize Mao’s writings, criticize Maoism.

No truths are true forever. No leader is “always right.” Mao was a great leader. Under his leadership the Chinese Revolution was won and the Chinese People’s Republic established. He also initiated the GPCR, without which the mass “ultra-Left” movement would never have come into being.

At the same time Mao’s failure to support the Left and conciliation of the Right – of which Deng is just the most obvious example – guaranteed China’s reversion to capitalism once he had passed from the scene.

The “cult” of Mao facilitated that. It was a disgusting display of adulation, idolatry, lack of criticism, mass manipulation, cynicism. Even if Mao had represented the Left the “cult” would have been bad, like the “cult” around Stalin had been bad, because it disempowered the masses.

The “cult” of Mao stands in the way of the critical assimilation of the lessons of the Chinese Revolution. As long as Mao and his writings are regarded as “beyond criticism” any attempt to understand why the Chinese Revolution was reversed is condemned to go around in a circle. In that way it serves a similar purpose to the “cult” around Stalin. Khrushchev, who had risen to the leadership of the USSR by participating in this “cult” (along with lots of other Party cadre) then attacked it. Likewise Deng began the criticism of Mao’s legacy.

If “everything had come out all right”, if China had gone on to progress in a communist direction after Mao’s death, then we’d have to conclude that Mao’s judgment that “90% of the cadre being basically good” was basically correct. After all, “90% of the cadre” are more than enough to determine which direction the Party is going to take. Instead, China moved sharply towards capitalism immediately Mao died. This could not have happened without the support of “90% of the cadre”.

So Mao and the others were wrong. The “ultra-left” were correct. A new communist party was necessary. And it was necessary not in 1976, when Mao died, but long before Mao died. It was necessary, at the latest, when the “ultra-left” recognized the need for it.

I don’t fault the “ultra-left” like the Shengwulien, the May 16 group, and others we know little about. They achieved a lot. It would have been very hard to reject Mao during the GPCR, no matter how necessary we can now see that this was. The “ultra-Left” did not have the benefit of hindsight. They could not know what we now know, thanks in part to their experience.

But today, we ourselves have no such excuse.

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