[Book] China: From Permanent Revolution to Counter-Revolution

The Final Collapse of the KMT: the CCP Assumes Power

9.1 Introduction

In 1934, as a coherent and co-ordinated force, well-funded, well-armed and supported by imperialist bombers, the Nationalist armies drove the Communists from the Jiangxi Soviet and hounded them to the border with Manchuria. The Japanese invasion of China in 1937 saved the Communist stronghold in Shensi from its own bandit extermination campaign and subsequently the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was able to extend its control to large areas behind Japanese lines. In purely military terms the PLA could not match the Nationalist armies, but in a civil war politics are decisive and here the PLA had key advantages.

During the Sino-Japanese War, the forces tearing Chinese society apart (famine and the peasant hunger for land), accelerated rapidly and riding on the crest of a wave of peasant rebellion, the PLA was able to destroy Chiang Kai-shek’s armies. This occurred in the short period after WWII when “Bring the Troops Home” movements made it impossible for the imperialists to intervene directly in China. The CCP took the leadership of the Third Chinese Revolution, secured national independence and united mainland China.

Broadly speaking, Mao’s thought boiled down to the strategy of peasant war for an extended period on a national scale, and the application in China of the theory of revolution by stages (whether expressed in adventurist or opportunistic terms). This class collaborationist approach was the ideological and political expression of Mao’s Stalinism and showed itself in Mao’s attempts to slow the disintegration and collapse of the Kuomintang regime with the offer of coalition government. This was a crime, not only against the Chinese masses and the Chinese revolution, but against the world proletariat and the world socialist revolution.[1]

9.2 Mao Becomes Supreme Leader

The Politburo meeting of March 1943 appointed Mao its Chairman, with the authority to single-handedly settle disputes. On 8 July 1943, the Liberation Daily used the phrase “Mao Zedong Thought” for the first time, after which it began to be widely used within the Party. By the end of the 1942-44 Rectification Campaign, “Long Live Chairman Mao” had become an acceptable slogan within the CCP. Liberation Daily began to carry headlines such as: “Comrade Mao Zedong is the Saviour of the Chinese People!”.[2] All bureaucracies require a supreme leader to arbitrate between conflicting groups. Mao was on the point of achieving that position within the CCP.

Having completed the Rectification Campaign, Mao convened the 7th Party Congress in Yenan, from 23 April-11 June 1945. Germany had surrendered in May and it was certain that Japan would soon be defeated. Mao’s ideas and theories would guide the Party on the major task of how to deal with KMT regime. Mao delivered the main report On Coalition Government and dominated all the sessions.

The CC meeting immediately prior to the Congress adopted a Resolution on Certain Historical Questions which re-wrote CCP history and elevated Mao to omniscience. The catastrophes suffered by the CCP prior to the Tsunyi Conference became a chain of deviations from Mao’s correct line. Chen Duxiu was blamed for the defeat of the 1925-27 revolution; Ch’u Ch’iu-pai and Li Lisan were blamed for the defeats during the adventurist Third Period; Wang Ming was held responsible for the defeat of the Red Army in Jiangxi which made the Long March necessary. Stalin and the Comintern received no rebuke whatsoever.[3]

A new Party constitution was adopted at the Congress. This was proposed by Liu Shaoqi in a fawning report exalting Mao and naming Mao Zedong Thought as the ideological foundation of the CCP. The preamble of the constitution read “The CCP takes the theories of Marxism-Leninism and the combined principles derived from the practical experience of the Chinese revolution – Mao Zedong Thought – as the guiding principles of all its work.”[4] By 1948 at the start of village and CCP meetings all those present would stand, face a portrait of Mao and bow their heads three times exactly as had been done with the emperors.[5] In the primary schools the children were taught to sing: “Mao Zedong is like the sun; He is brighter than the sun; Little brother, little sister; Everyone clap hands, come and sing.”[6]

At the First Plenum of the Central Committee of the CCP following the 7th Congress, Mao was elected chairman of the CC, of the Politburo, and of the Secretariat. At the end of August 1945, he finally and formally concentrated all power in his hands when he was elected chairman of the newly reorganised Military Council of the Central Committee.[7] Stalin rose to leadership over the bodies of Lenin’s Central Committee and the bureaucracy sustained itself only with a police state and by burying an entire generation of Bolsheviks. The major achievement of Stalin’s policies was the rise to power of Hitler in Germany; no wonder then that free discussion and dissent were impermissible in the CC of the AUCP(B). This was not the situation for Mao. True he had been favoured by Stalin and the ECCI, but he had genuinely played a leading role in the activities of the CCP. This gave a very different character to CCP Politburo and CC meetings; there could be genuine discussion and dissenting opinions tolerated (within a Stalinist framework) – at least for a time.

We should note that over this period the CCP was making every attempt to show the political lines of Stalin and Mao as being essentially the same:

“Comrade Mao Zedong’s views on the nature and tactics of the Chinese revolution were based on the teachings of Stalin and were identical with the views of Stalin. … Comrade Mao Zedong is Stalin’s … outstanding disciple and has been able to lead China’s revolution to victory because his method of work and his way of reasoning are those of Stalin.”[8]

Po-ta also quotes Mao on Stalin:

“Stalin is the leader of world revolution. This is of paramount importance. It is a great event that mankind is blessed with Stalin. Since we have him, things can go well. As you all know, Marx is dead and so are Engels and Lenin. Had there been no Stalin, who would be there to give directions? But having him – this is really a blessing. Now there exist in the world a Soviet Union, a Communist Party and also a Stalin. Thus, the affairs of the world can go well.”[9]

In the spring of 1950, Stalin sent Academician Pavel Yudin, Rector of the Institute of Red Professors, part of the Department for Agitation and Propaganda, to edit a new version of Mao’s Selected Works to be published in Russian. Yudin was charged with checking the ideological content, and after two years in Beijing during which time he had a number of nocturnal meetings with Mao to thrash out doctrinal issues, he reported to a private meeting of the Russian Politburo: “They are Marxists, Comrade Stalin.”[10]

Stalin died 5 March 1953, and in his funeral oration, Mao said: “All the writings of Comrade Stalin are immortal Marxist documents. His works, The Foundations of Leninism, The History of the CPSU (Bolsheviks), and his last great work, The Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR, are an encyclopaedia of Marxism-Leninism, the summation of the experience of the world Communist movement in the past hundred years.”[11] The list embodies Stalin’s betrayal of Leninism, his falsification of the history of the Bolshevik Party and the Theory of Socialism in One Country. It was these texts that CCP members, the cadres of every organisation (teachers, students, trade unionists, women’s groups, etc.) were instructed to study as the ideological underpinnings of Mao’s leadership.

9.3 Mao Attempts Compromise with Chiang

In July 1945, the Red Army was entrenched in the economically primitive Shanxi-Gansu-Ningxia Border Region covering thirty counties and eighteen large liberated zones primarily in the north-east and east of China. The total combined area was about the size of France with a population of tens of millions and a militia of nearly half a million. In Russia in 1917, the dual power took the form of Soviets of workers, peasants and soldiers on one side against the provisional government on the other. In China it would take the form of opposing armies. This situation was encouraged by the CCP because it gave them greater control of the revolutionary dynamic and enabled agrarian reform, for example, to be presented as a gift from above for which the peasants should be grateful and which maximised their political passivity.[12]

Stalin declared war on Japan on 9 August 1945, the same day the second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. The Soviet armies launched an offensive into Manchuria on a front extending over a thousand miles. In the space of a few weeks 700,000 Japanese troops surrendered, and the Soviet army occupied Manchuria, Inner Mongolia, and North Korea. With the removal of Japan as a military threat there was a short honeymoon period during which Stalin mistakenly believed he could peacefully co-exist with the imperialists who had been his war-time allies. Stalin urged Mao to meet Chiang Kai-shek, do a deal, and enter the KMT government as a junior partner.

Behind enemy lines in the liberated zones of north China, most of which the Japanese did not consider worth occupying, the Stalinist authorities – within the constraints imposed by the war and their class-collaborationist perspective – had considerably improved the lives of the peasants under their control. In these regions, the big landlords were prevented from expanding their holdings so the independent middle peasants remained predominant, and the poor peasants were able to maintain themselves.

The same was not true in KMT areas. Traditionally it had taken tax collectors generations to rob the peasants of their land and leave them so impoverished that they rose in rebellion. The degree of corruption of the KMT regime meant a race as local officials got as rich as they could before the regime collapsed totally. Taxes were heaped on the poorest peasants until in aggregate they were greater than the crop value. For the first time in Chinese history, land was left idle. In Honan province taxes were so high that the peasants not only lost all their grain, they lost their land, clothing, farming implements and had to sell their children as slaves, and their wives and daughters as servants and concubines. Belden claims that this phenomenon was observable as early as 1941 and contributed substantially to the great war time famines – as Belden put it: “They were taxed to death.”[13]

Starvation in KMT areas was rampant, the peasants were being forced into conditions that were intolerable, conditions that had traditionally meant widespread rebellion; the great masses of peasants were making their own ‘forcible entrance’ onto the stage of history. The peasants flocked to a party which was actually fighting the hated KMT regime, stood for lower taxes and interest payments, offered order and democratic reforms and, in the liberated areas, ensured peasants were not starving.

In August 1945, Chiang under pressure from the Americans, invited Mao Zedong to Chongqing (Chungking, the KMT capital 1937-45) for peace negotiations. American imperialism had accepted that the CCP could not be eliminated using only military means and so long as civil war raged in China it was difficult, if not impossible, for it to cash in on the victory over Japan. A country torn by armed strife is hardly a safe field for profitable investment. Nor, under such circumstances, could it proceed with its plans for converting China into a base for military operations against the Soviet Union. Thus the United States urged Chiang Kai-shek to compromise with the CCP, democratise his regime, and broaden the base of the Nationalist government.[14] The US ambassador to China, Patrick J Hurley, visited Mao in Yenan and was successful in persuading him to meet Chiang in Chongqing on 28 August and to order the 8th Route Army to halt its progress in the liberated areas.

Stalin was delivering on his promises made at Yalta and elsewhere to US and British imperialism, and on 14 August 1945, the Soviet Union signed a Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship and Alliance with Chiang, so that when the hand-over of Manchuria took place it was KMT forces that moved into the cities. However, the situation internationally was changing and from October 1945 the Red Army began quietly supplying the PLA with munitions seized from the Japanese, the first signs of the cold war were emerging and Stalin wanted to keep all his options open.[15]

Negotiations with Chiang lasted forty-three days. On 10 October 1945, an agreement between the KMT and CCP announced that it accepted Chiang as leader of China and on 30 January 1946 a truce was formally signed between the KMT and CCP. During the negotiations, US marines occupied key railroads and the two main cities in northern China, Tianjin and Beijing, holding them while Chiang organised his armies.[16] In keeping with the alleged end of class war, the 8th Route Army and the New 4th Army were merged and renamed the People’s Liberation Army.

With Japan’s surrender, Chiang Kai-shek (with American approval) ordered the 400,000 Japanese puppet troops to remain at their posts and to act as his garrison until Nationalist troops arrived. During the negotiations at Chongqing the US transported to north China three Kuomintang armies of half a million troops. In accord with the CCP agreement to recognise Chiang’s regime as the official government, the PLA halted its attacks on the cities and industrial complexes. However the PLA retained control of the countryside.[17]

From September 1945 to the end of 1946, there was a considerable revival and growth of the mass movement in China. The students and working masses in the great cities, particularly Shanghai, protested against civil war and called for a coalition government including the Communists. Workers demanded the right to organise trade unions and there were more than 2,000 strikes in Shanghai alone over this period. These struggles were limited to democratic and economic demands and did not reach a nationwide level, but did show that the masses were confident enough to raise their heads and fight to improve their living conditions. The CCP made no attempt to link the factory workers’ struggles to either those of the peasants or the students, nor to transform the strikes into political struggles. Instead it attempted – as it had done so many times before – to persuade the working masses not to go to extremes, and not to hinder the united front with the national bourgeoisie; and it worked closely with the leaders of the yellow trade unions to check ‘excessive’ demands.[18]

In the liberated areas, those peasant militias least controlled by the CCP were carrying through their own land grab, killing landlords, expelling rich peasants and sharing out the seized lands at village meetings. Initially, many lower rank CCP cadres were carried along by these initiatives and in some areas there was a significant transfer of land to the poor and middle peasants. The PLA was instructed to step in and to contain this upsurge within the official policy of “double reduction” of rent and debt. Nevertheless, many poor peasants accrued sufficient land to feed their families and so graduated to being middle peasants with the added bonus that their debts and rent repayments were either greatly reduced or abolished.[19]

During the negotiations in Chongqing, the CCP and the Kuomintang convened a Political Consultative Conference to determine the basic organisation of a new government. The conference began on 10 January 1946 and was attended by representatives of the KMT, the CCP and – as window dressing – the Democratic League (which would be banned on 13 October 1947), the Youth Party, and notable public figures. A military truce was declared on the first day of the conference in the names of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek and Chairman Mao Zedong. The major documents agreed at the conference were the Resolution on Government Organization and the Resolution on Military Problems.

It was widely expected that the military question would be the make-or-break issue because the CCP was at the conference only because of the existence and strength of the PLA. However, in 1946 Chiang was confident of victory on the battlefield and this mis-assessment led to his intransigence on every question. Even the composition of the 40-strong State Council (the supreme organ of the Government) became an irreconcilable difference.[20]

The State Council was to decide matters by a simple majority vote, except in those cases where the decision involved changes in administrative policy when a two-thirds vote of the State Councillors was required. Chiang quite deliberately provoked the Communists by destroying the effectiveness of this safety measure. Against the advice of the American ambassador he demanded the CCP be restricted to only 13 delegates, one short of being able to exercise a veto. Simultaneously, he demanded the CCP immediately withdraw the PLA to designated areas and begin decommissioning.

Mao drew back from political suicide but otherwise did everything to maintain the agreement – even appealing to US imperialism to intervene on his behalf (which it did!) – but the Generalissimo insisted on unconditional surrender. As the Sino-Japanese war had progressed the KMT had retreated inland and had been cut off from the industrial centres with the result that the specific weight of the conservative and backward sections of the big landlords increased substantially.

The big landlords were convinced that the freedoms enjoyed by the peasants in the Communist-occupied regions would spark widespread peasant uprisings and seizure of the land. To avoid this catastrophe, the rapid re-conquest of these regions was needed. These landlords were Chiang’s strongest support in his military adventure against the CCP. They urged immediate action while the balance of military forces appeared favourable to the KMT.[21]

To convince the KMT it was prepared to make real concessions to be accepted into a coalition, the CCP issued a decree on 4 May 1946 permitting landlords to own 50% more acreage than middle peasants, and 100% more if they had been active in the war against Japan. Any ‘excess’ land was to be purchased; sold to peasants with the funds to buy it. Reductions in rent and interest were presented as “solving the land problem.”[22] This policy did not reflect the wishes of the peasant masses; what they wanted was agrarian revolution.

Middle and poor peasants, and land labourers comprised over 90% of the peasant population, and events in the liberated areas had shown they were prepared for revolutionary seizure of the land.[23] If the CCP had called on the peasants to seize the land and merged that with the demands of the urban workers, the Chiang Kai-shek government would have collapsed like the house of cards that it was. Such a call would have transformed the pre-revolutionary situation that existed into insurrection and power could have been taken in the most propitious way for the Chinese people. But that was not Mao’s goal.

All parties to the Chongqing conference agreed that an independent PLA controlled by the CCP was quite impossible within a unified bourgeois democratic China. Thus the Resolution on Military Problems laid down the fundamental principle: “Separation of army and party. …. All political parties shall be forbidden to carry on party activities, whether open or secret, in the army.” The Resolution also covered practical methods for creating a new army for the new democratic Republic of China.

Washington made strenuous efforts to effect this compromise between the KMT and the Stalinists because the alternative was massive intervention by its own armed forces, taking over the Chinese government and overseeing its economic, military and governmental affairs. This was excluded. The “Bring the Boys Home” campaign within the US armed forces and public opinion at home made large-scale intervention impossible.[24]

9.4 Chiang Breaks off Negotiations

To work out how to implement the Resolution on Military Problems, a three-person committee was convened, consisting of General Chan Chih Chun (National Government), Zhou Enlai (CCP), and US General George C Marshall, (chairman and ‘advisor’). Only unanimous decisions were to be implemented. Naturally, the Committee was paralysed. Nationalist forces were moving into the towns, major industrial complexes, and communication routes in Manchuria, while PLA units were extending the liberated areas as fast as they could. Clashes were inevitable. In June 1946, the Generalissimo unilaterally called a 15-day halt to activities in Manchuria and demanded that the PLA withdraw within that period or suffer the consequences. The ultimatum was condemned by the CCP as a violation of the January agreement. At this, on 30 June, Chiang launched a general offensive against the PLA.[25] The disparity in weaponry and troop numbers meant that initially the Nationalist forces scored important victories, forcing the PLA to retreat, leaving the Nationalist armies in control of all the major and strategically important towns and the railway lines

Up to this point no-one has suggested differences in policy between Mao and Stalin. Mao had faithfully adhered to Stalin’s post-war Popular Front coalition strategy. However, in China there was now a resumption of hostilities between the Nationalists and Communists which was leading to full-scale civil war. It was this escalation which led many to believe there was a break between Mao and Stalin on the grounds that Stalin still wanted a coalition government in China.

But it was just at this time that Winston Churchill announced the cold war in his ‘Iron Curtain’ speech on 5 March 1946. This had given Chiang the confidence to harden his position, convinced Washington would bail him out. On 15 November 1946, Chiang convened a hand-picked National Assembly and the CCP was excluded. From now on, the question of governmental authority (let alone state power) would be resolved by force of arms. Still enmeshed in the theory of stages, the CCP now pressed for a coalition government of liberals, democrats, independent groups and organisations, and ‘social luminaries’ but without Chiang Kai-shek and KMT reactionaries (shades of Wuhan!).

There were strong similarities to the trajectory followed by Stalin in Eastern Europe. Stalin had initially declared that the USSR intended only to replace fascist collaborators by governments friendly to the USSR; there was no intention of altering the social system of these countries. They were to be bourgeois democracies in which the Communist Parties would play an important but not decisive role, and there was no question of the dictatorship of the proletariat as the state form.[26] Of course, in Eastern Europe the factor determining the course of events was the presence of the Red Army, but the political direction pursued by Stalin and Mao was parallel.

Meanwhile, the cold war continued to escalate, and rather quickly. On 12 March 1947, Truman laid down the Truman Doctrine: Washington would defend the ‘Free World’ against Communist aggression. It seemed that once again war against the Soviet Union was high on imperialism’s agenda. The coalition governments in Eastern Europe artificially imposed by the Soviet Army were unceremoniously thrown into the dustbin and replaced by People’s Democracies in which the leading and decisive role was given to the national Communist Parties loyal and subservient to Stalin. Soon Eastern Europe would become a buffer zone protecting the Soviet Union, and with a matching economic system.

A Nationalist or even a coalition regime in which the CCP was stripped of the PLA, would have meant China becoming a puppet of American imperialism, placing US air and naval bases at Stalin’s back door. Stalin had launched the Second United (Popular) Front between the CCP and KMT to protect the Soviet regime from a war on two fronts. Now, precisely the same considerations pushed him in exactly the opposite direction. The Soviet Union needed an ally on its eastern frontier and the only real chance of getting one was for the PLA to win the civil war. Stalin had no reason from either a political or military viewpoint, to break with Mao; instead the Soviet Army rushed to assist the PLA in its preparations for a counter-offensive.[27]

Initially, the Nationalists had an estimated five-to-one advantage in troops and a virtual monopoly of heavy equipment, transport, and air power. The PLA, on the other hand, enjoyed the advantage of already holding liberated zones not only across the crucially important area of Manchuria but also across much of China that had been behind Japanese lines and was now in the rear of the Nationalist armies.[28]

The total amount of American aid given to the KMT was considerable. It is a flagrant lie when reactionary circles in the United States and the world try to explain the victory of Mao Zedong by the insufficient support Washington gave Chiang. After the end of the war against Japan, strictly military aid, besides numerous American advisors in China and the transport of soldiers and materiel in American ships and planes, amounted to nearly US$30 billion in today’s money. Additional economic aid amounted to a further US$30 billion. In fact, no amount of US dollars paid to Chiang Kai-shek would have held back the mounting flood of the Third Chinese Revolution.[29]

The Nationalist army swept westwards and reached the peak of its military successes when it seized Yenan in March 1947. The greater number and fire power of the Nationalists pushed the PLA back to the Russian/Manchurian border where Stalin gave it sanctuary and allowed it to recuperate, re-arm, and re-train. Despite the Soviet bureaucracy’s desire for a compromise with American imperialism on a world scale; in its own immediate interests it had to offer help to Mao. The Soviet Army provided the PLA with huge amounts of light and heavy weapons taken from the Japanese army and supplied numerous Soviet technicians and advisors. Modernised, well-armed, well led, well-motivated and determined, the PLA soon occupied villages, smaller cities and towns and laid siege to the great cities where Chiang’s huge armies with the best American equipment were stationed.

Despite the massive US aid, the war was turning against the Nationalists. The PLA used the same tactics as during the bandit extermination campaigns – cutting communications and destroying bodies of troops – but now it was advancing on the cities. Defending the cities of Manchuria fragmented Chiang’s armies and finally they would become death-traps.[30]

The peasant armies under CCP leadership differed greatly from any former peasant armies. Here was a force systematically organised and trained, equipped with modern techniques, endowed with a national and up-to-date programme of democratic reform even though of an opportunist nature. In the face of the KMT armies the CCP needed the active support of the peasants and so carried through its reformist programme of rent and interest rate reductions and cancellation of debts in a much more vigorous manner. However, to remain within the limits of the New Democracy no revolutionary land seizures were called for even in CCP-controlled areas such as the provinces of Jiangsu, Hopeh, and Hunan.[31]

Nationalist morale was rapidly ebbing away. The military structure was demoralised and permeated from top to bottom by a general feeling of helplessness. The Communist forces they were facing now had weapons as good as their own, a better sense of solidarity and a fighting spirit. Nationalist soldiers were isolated and besieged with little hope of reinforcements, their generals had gained their positions through being cronies of Chiang not ability, their officers abused the soldiers under their command, were openly corrupt and using the war to enrich themselves, and they faced a hostile population.[32]

9.5 CCP Land Policy: 1945-49

During the initial period of the Jiangxi Soviet, the CCP enacted its most radical land programmes when it began seizing the land of the landlords and rich peasants and distributing it to the middle and poor peasants. But maximising food production in an isolated community imposed limits on seizure and redivision of the land, and the lands of the rich peasants were soon protected.

In Yenan between 1937 and 1945, for the sake of the Anti-Japanese United Front with Chiang Kai-shek, the Stalinists renounced the revolutionary content in their agrarian programme and proclaimed themselves defenders of private property both in land and in industry. They declared their opposition to the expropriation of landlords (save those that had collaborated with the Japanese) and limited the peasant struggle to the reformist demands of lower rents (reduced by 25% but to be no more than 37.5% of the crop) and lower interest rates (less than 15% annually).[33] These reforms were important and their implementation greatly improved the lives of the peasantry, saving many from starvation, but the Stalinists did not use them as a means to build a revolutionary movement, rather to put a brake on it.[34]

After Japan’s surrender, cadres in the liberated areas found it difficult to square Party policy with the demands of the peasants who wanted revolutionary seizure of the land. In many villages where the 8th Route Army had only a notional presence, even the rich peasants rose spontaneously against the landlords and those who had collaborated with the Japanese. The peasants demanded a settlement of scores and in many cases this meant killing the landlords, but it always meant seizing their land.[35] So fierce was this movement that CCP cadres hid as peasants settled accounts and took revenge. Where they could, the landlords fought back, relying on thousand-year-old traditions and strong arm tactics. Some succeeded in forcing the peasants to momentarily take a step back, but new peasant leaders invariably stepped up to replace those who had been murdered, and led the masses forward.

With the breakdown of the truce and the advance of the Nationalist army during 1946-47, the CCP re-appraised and radicalised its agrarian programme, and acknowledged that the peasants were not satisfied with the reformist People’s Front policy. Under attack from KMT armies and pressured by the peasants, the CCP effected a left turn in its agrarian policy. During late 1946 a great show would be made of bringing landlords and rich peasants who had collaborated with the Japanese before village meetings where they would be judged, and if found guilty their lands seized and divided.[36] The CCP put on a radical face by seizing landlords’ “excess” land, holdings more than twice that of a middle peasant. Hinton has described in some detail how in individual villages, inexperienced cadre could be swept along by the general mood and take measures popular with the peasants – all landlords would have all their lands re-distributed. But official CCP policy still stopped well short of general land reform and these actions would later be condemned by the CCP leadership as “extreme leftism.”[37]

The CCP was on the horns of a dilemma, Mao had to explain why the Party had to balance between opposing forces and how to control dissent. Reforms were needed to arouse enthusiasm for the war effort which was good, but cadres had to ensure that the enthusiasm did not spill over into land expropriation, which was bad. To avoid this, the reforms must be modest: “this is not the time for a thorough agrarian revolution … our present policy should stipulate that the landlords shall reduce rent and interest, for this serves to arouse enthusiasm of the basic peasant masses …, but the reductions should not be too great.”[38] The hope of a Popular Front alliance with the KMT was more important to Mao than the demands of the peasant masses for land.

“Land to the Tiller” and the expropriation of pre-capitalist landholders has been the core demand of bourgeois revolutions, beginning with the French Revolution of 1789. In China, official CCP policy was that the distributed land was personal property with title deeds supplied by the government and its re-sale was permitted. Thus, the seizure and distribution of land was not the end of class divisions in the countryside, merely a new starting point. Richer peasants were allowed to buy land confiscated from the landowners, and hence take the first step to being a landlord, perpetuating the very practices that were supposedly being abolished.

The measures deliberately provided landlords with ways to evade the worst effects of land reform. For example, Mao insisted that the rich peasants and landlords who co-operated (i.e. by donating the least fertile part of their lands to the peasants’ association as a token of co-operation) should be treated leniently, could retain their moveable property, and should be left enough land to cultivate with family labour (just the policy which caused the Futian incident). The families of communist soldiers and cadres were allowed to retain 50-100% more land than the standard holding. This meant in practice that many landlords could retain most, if not all, their best land by sending one son to serve in the PLA. As land reform progressed it became increasingly clear that the most needy were benefitting least.[39]

In April 1947, Liu Shaoqi carried out a survey and found that in the Chin-Sui Border Region after two years of land reform, re-distribution had been fully satisfactory in only 200 of 1,500 villages. Many poor peasants remained without land. As part of its Popular Front policies the CCP had encouraged rich peasants in the rural base areas to join the Party, and Liu concluded that landlord and rich peasant elements had infiltrated into village Party branches, peasants’ associations, and local militias, and had successfully limited the land reform measures.[40] This was due not only to the limited nature of the land expropriations but also because many of those in authority, having acquired the best land and larger areas of land for themselves by underhand and/or dishonest methods, had little interest in continuing the process.

The CCP attempted to solve the problem with a ‘Wash Your Face’ campaign, the major aims being for higher cadres to persuade local cadres to give up some or all of their illicit gains, to restore party discipline and correct the errant behaviour of hooligan elements within the Party and militias.

In northern China the fluid nature of the fighting first against the Japanese army and then against the KMT and the ming tuan, meant that despite any official truces, a guerrilla war continued unabated with local militias the first line of defence of many villages. In the first stage of liberation there was a justified gratitude towards the militias which expressed itself, for example, as the provision of free meals. Unfortunately, given the political level of the militias and the Stalinist nature of many of these groups, in numerous villages this became the start of a creeping corruption.

One of the first tasks of the militiamen was to question landlords to identify who were KMT personnel and agents-provocateurs. The nature of the relationship between landlord and peasant, its intimacy, its casual cruelty and violence meant that the questioning sessions had a revenge element and often degenerated into beating the suspects, many of whom died as a result. Many landlords and their sons fled leaving their wives and daughters. Very rapidly rape became common practice. Soon it was being used against middle and poor peasant families who raised objections or awkward questions. All too often the militia moved from being a scourge of the gentry to being a scourge of the peasants. Too often the militia commanders were CCP members who closed their eyes to what was going on. Hinton explained that the Wash Your Face Campaign was an attempt to clear out these local despots.

As part of the campaign the conduct of all CCP cadres was to be reviewed at village meetings where the peasants were allowed to raise what criticisms they wanted with the promise that those cadres whose behaviour was unacceptable would be ejected from the Party. Initially, the process appeared to be working well and many cadres were suspended from the CCP, some even being held in jail. However, the criticisms of the CCP rapidly escalated to an extent that the leadership hurriedly intervened to bring the process to an end.[41] Simultaneously, the CCP understood it would soon be the national government and feared the Wash Your Face Campaign could undermine Party cohesion and discipline. Soon, most of the cadres who had been criticised and even those jailed were re-integrated into the Party. The first part of the Wash Your Face campaign was widely trumpeted to further establish Mao’s populist credentials, the final outcome kept quiet.

On 10 October 1947, soon after the Nationalists had seized Yenan and in a move to the Left to firm up its peasant support, the CCP adopted the Outline Land Law. This law was to be uniformly and rigorously enforced in those areas controlled by the PLA. This law formally sanctioned “Land to the Tiller” (Article 1), and provided for expropriation of landlords’ and rich peasants’ properties without compensation (Article 3). However, sequestered land was to be distributed so that each person in the village would own an equivalent area. It was intended that poor peasants would benefit, middle peasants would remain much the same but rich peasants and landlords would lose. Importantly the Land Law cancelled all prior debts (Article 4), but expressly permitted the unhindered transfer of money to invest in commercial or industrial enterprises (Article 12).[42]

Landlords and their family members would each receive an equal share, KMT soldiers would receive an equal share, even the family members of collaborators.[43] Party cadres in the village peasants’ associations were empowered and entrusted to implement the agrarian reform. They did this mainly though ad hoc “people’s tribunals” which were meetings of the entire village (Article 13).

Stalinism is an inherently corrupt system based on privilege, so the new land reform programme was often distorted to the benefit of Party members just as the previous land reforms had been. The many Party members from landowning families who had penetrated the ranks of the Party over the past decade were now joined by cadres who had become middle or even rich peasants. The Open Letter to the Members of the Party, published in January 1948 by the Central Committee of the Shansi-Shantung-Hunan region, described the situation: “…a section of the party membership … is composed of landowners and rich peasants who are protecting the property of their families and relatives” and in some areas “these elements occupy most of the positions in our party … (our) agrarian reform … policy appears to reflect the views of the landowners and the rich peasants.”[44]

During the war with Japan, outside of the CCP-controlled areas, concentration of land ownership advanced at a greatly accelerated rate. At the start of the war the Chinese village was already facing destitution; within KMT areas it emerged from the war completely ruined. Small, middle and even some rich peasants had to borrow to feed their families and as a result were largely bankrupted. Huge tracts of land fell into the hands of the big landlords, village usurers, officers of the Nationalist army, and local KMT officials, all of whom had close ties with the banking capitalists.[45]

At the end of the war with Japan, land ownership took a new and dramatic turn. The leading circles of the murderous and foully corrupt Kuomintang government were determined to enrich themselves no matter what the social cost. Using state-owned companies the government began to nationalise the land of collaborators in territories previously occupied by Japan, dispossessing large numbers of peasants and creating a new layer of speculators and parasitic owners. The breakdown of civil society due to the complete disorganisation of the KMT regime was completed by the severe drought of the summer of 1945. Villages in KMT areas were virtually depopulated as millions of peasants died of hunger. The situation was rapidly escalating towards the classic conditions for widespread peasant rebellion.

As the Nationalist armies collapsed it became clear that the CCP would soon form a government. The blueprint for the economy was to be Mao’s New Democracy which meant the nationalisation of only:

“the big banks and the big industrial and commercial enterprises … the republic will neither confiscate capitalist private property in general nor forbid the development of such capitalist production as does not ‘dominate the livelihood of the people’…. A rich peasant economy will be allowed in the rural areas. Such is the policy of ‘equalisation of land ownership’.”[46]

The official Party line was further elaborated in a speech by Jen Pi-shih on 12 January 1948 opposing hostile treatment of landlords because it might “adversely affect the productive labour force in the countryside.”[47]

With governmental power near at hand, the party leadership swung hard to the Right. Only three months after the introduction of the Outline Land Law, Jen Pi-shih demanded an end to land re-distribution until the peasants had been properly educated. Six days later, Mao himself weighed in against “left excesses”, urging that “newly rich peasants” in the liberated areas should be treated as “middle peasants”, that former landlords and rich peasants could be reclassified as middle or poor peasants, that no one should pursue landlords into the towns, that poor peasant associations should be compelled to admit rich peasants, landlords and the enlightened gentry:

“there has been an erroneous emphasis on ‘doing everything as the masses want it done’ … one-sidedly propagating a poor peasant-farm labourer line … the democratic government should listen (to) the middle peasants, the independent craftsmen, the national bourgeoisie and the intellectuals.”[48]

This change in line was ideologically driven. The combined strength of the PLA, over 90% of the peasants, students and workers was more than sufficient to take power against KMT forces that were dissolving. But the CCP had the perspective of revolution by stages and this schema was now artificially imposed on the actual revolution.

The turn in land policy required local cadre conferences to explain the new line. There was great confusion in the ranks of the Party and a substantial degree of hostility. To sweeten the pill the leadership instructed that henceforth the families of cadres would receive the same support as those of soldiers fighting at the front. Cadres would now be released from a substantial burden and freed to concentrate on Party work. Those who had been found to have stolen goods during the land re-distribution would face no charges if they returned the goods. Those cadres still being held in jail on, e.g. rape charges, would be freed on making an apology.[49]

As the PLA moved into the southern provinces, the limitations of the new policy conflicted with the wishes of the peasants. The most serious problems were in Hunan where, before Party cadres could intervene to stop them, the peasants’ associations expropriated the landlords’ lands and the people’s tribunals handed down death penalties. Here class war was labelled a “left deviation” and Communist leaders called for moderation, but seizure and redistribution of land and harsh treatment of the landlords and rich peasants continued in many liberated areas.[50]

In the spring of 1948, Mao insisted that in the areas which had newly come under PLA control there was no urgency in introducing agrarian reforms which should, in any case, be carried through only on condition that the “Party cadres were adequate both in numbers and quality to grasp the work of land reform and must not leave it to the spontaneous activity of the masses.”[51] On 24 August 1948, the New China News Agency officially announced that the existing agrarian reform programme was ending and from then on the peasants would have to be satisfied with a reduction of rent, taxes and interest to usurers (Chao Kuo-chun, Op. cit.). The cut back in land reform derived directly from the class collaborationist approach of New Democracy.

Officially, policy returned to reducing rents and interest rates and the Stalinists showed the other side of their political face. As in Yenan, rents and interest rates were reduced so as not to exceed 37.5% of the crop and less than 15% respectively, but now the CCP and PLA enforced payment to the landlords and village usurers. By these means, the Communists attempted to prove to the landlords and capitalists that they were better and more efficient defenders of private property than the KMT, in the hope this would enable an alliance with the ‘national’ section of the bourgeoisie.[52]

9.6 The PLA Cruises to Victory

The most effective weapon in the hands of the CCP was propaganda with the most decisive element its land policy. It shattered the apparent inertia of the peasants by linking their aspirations to a means of achieving them. The promise of land reform brought the hitherto crushed masses into open revolt against the KMT regime.

By 1948, Chiang Kai-shek and the KMT were maintaining themselves in power by bribery and terror. The KMT was controlled by a clique so utterly corrupt that ministers lined their pockets by selling war materials supplied by the United States to the PLA.[53] Mayors of villages responsible for sending young recruits to the army organised a system whereby families able to pay an exorbitant fee could keep their sons at home. The missing soldiers were listed in the regimental books so that the officers could put their pay in their own pockets. The result was that many armed formations had no more than 60% of their listed strength.[54]

The PLA successfully transformed guerrilla warfare into positional warfare in a very short time. In the autumn of 1948, the PLA launched an all-out counter-offensive. In Manchuria, the big cities, one after another, were occupied without a fight as a result of the capitulation or disintegration of Chiang’s armies. The key battle was for Mukden (Shenyang, largest city in Manchuria). Its defenders, five well-equipped and well-trained armies, took their weapons and equipment and defected to the Communists. The city was occupied by the PLA on 1 November 1948.[55]

Thereafter, Communist victories tumbled one upon another. By the end of 1948 the PLA had captured all the cities of Manchuria including the capital, Changchun, and the big mining districts of Anshan and Fuhsun, where the Japanese had built a miniature Pittsburgh which, at its height, had mined 20,000 tons of coal a day. The Communist occupation of Manchuria was a mortal blow to Chiang’s government, giving the CCP a solid economic base bordering the Soviet Union and from which they would be almost impossible to dislodge.[56]

The advance of the PLA had a sympathetic resonance amongst the workers and the students, and gave them the confidence to challenge the KMT. There was a new wave of strikes, e.g. in Shanghai, protesting the banning of the sliding wage scale. The students played a notable role, representing the petty-bourgeoisie in general. Large-scale protests and demonstrations took place in the big cities: Chongqing, Nanjing, Shanghai, Canton, Beijing, etc. The slogans demanded democracy and peace, against KMT dictatorship, and against the persecutions conducted by the KMT. The CCP played a divisive role, keeping the workers and students as far apart as possible and using both separately to exert pressure on the KMT to accept peace talks. If the CCP had been responsive to mass pressure, it would have called on the workers and the masses in the big cities to join with the peasantry and students and rise in rebellion to overthrow the regime, it would have been as easy as knocking down rotten wood. But Mao called on the people to wait quietly for their liberation by the PLA.[57] His objective was to restrict the struggle as much as possible to the military plane and he was largely successful. The deliberate discouragement of workers’ struggles and the rapid advance of the PLA brought a period of quiescence in the labour movement.

In every village under PLA control, Communists were instructed to retain plots of land ready for any soldiers who deserted from Chiang Kai-shek’s army and joined the PLA. Coupled with the obvious fact that the KMT was rapidly losing the war, this proved to be highly effective, seen in the fact that Chiang’s army had probably the highest rate of desertion of any army in history. Evidence of this was clear in the great cities and important military bases north of the Yangtze River: at Tsinan the KMT troops rebelled against their own officers and surrendered to the Communists on 24 September 1948, at Tientsin (Tianjin) the KMT troops simply melted away and the city fell on 15 January 1949, Beijing surrendered later that month without a fight, and at Kaifeng the KMT army evaporated and the PLA entered on 19 June 1949.

The American Intelligence Services were unanimous that the Nationalist government was in its “death throes”. “The process of disintegration and fragmentation is so far advanced as to render almost impossible the establishment of a functioning government or even (one) capable of offering resistance to the Communists.”[58] Respect for the civil population and abstinence from plunder which distinguished the PLA from all KMT armies contributed greatly to winning the support of the population.[59] In its report the CIA mentioned this as a major factor in the welcome the PLA received from the peasants:

“the following major policies benefit the peasantry … (3) recruitment on a voluntary basis rather than conscription …. ; (4) close cooperation between the armed forces and the peasantry; (5) a high degree of economic self-sufficiency (on the part of the PLA).”[60]

Many of the bourgeois who had previously supported Chiang were in a state of despair. Anti-Chiang sentiment was disorganising the army and paralysing the government. Inflation was impoverishing the great mass of the population, including lower level government functionaries who, to stave off hunger, were forced to demand bribes and actively participate in the corruption of a regime that was rotten from top to bottom and decomposing. Commerce and industry was coming to a halt and the living conditions of the middle and lower classes (including the middle and lower functionaries in the government institutions) cast them into the pit of despair. Its only prop was US imperialism and when that was removed the regime collapsed.

As the PLA prepared to cross the Yangtse, an important political and psychological incident occurred which demonstrated decisively the end of imperialist gunboat diplomacy in China. On 19 April, HMS Amethyst was dispatched from Shanghai to sail up the Yangtse to Nanjing, ostensibly to relieve the destroyer Consort, but in reality as a threat to the PLA to leave British interests alone. After a shoot-out with PLA shore batteries, the Amethyst turned tail and made good her escape. From then on, foreign companies in China had to abide by the rules of the New Democracy. The Liberation Daily announced:

“foreign interests … under the jurisdiction of the People’s Government … have been deprived of their special privileges which they enjoyed in the past … if they can dutifully obey all ordinances and rulings of the People’s Government and engage in business which is beneficial to the livelihood of the people and the livelihood of our country, they will be permitted to exist and will be protected.”[61]

On 21 April 1949, the PLA crossed the Yangtze River and proceeded on a triumphal march southwards. Nanjing surrendered without a fight on 23 April. With complete victory in sight, to allay the fears of the most affluent peasants, the CCP took steps to reorient their policies even more towards moderation and class compromise. On 25 April 1949, Mao Zedong as Chairman of the People’s Revolutionary Military Committee, and Zhu De as Commander in Chief of the PLA, declared the new government to be a democratic (i.e. bourgeois) dictatorship and promised protection of property for every individual and of all privately-owned factories, stores, banks, warehouses, vessels, wharves, etc., except those controlled by “war criminals” and “bureaucratic capital.”[62] When Lenin addressed the Petrograd Soviet immediately after the October Revolution he ended his short speech with the words: “We must now set about building a proletarian socialist state in Russia. Long live the world socialist revolution!.”[63] One searches in vain for a similar sentiment in Mao’s pronouncement.

A seven point proclamation on land reform was also issued: “reduction of rent and interest should be carried out first and land distribution later … after the PLA has arrived and work (organisation and indoctrination) carried on for a comparatively long time.” The CCP was certainly not going to bow to mass pressure and allow China to follow the Russian model where peasants took the land and the Bolshevik Party legitimised the seizure after coming to power. Instead, the party would exercise a tight control and limit any changes. Bourgeois commentators praised Mao for his “cautious approach” and reported the “confusion” and “bewilderment” of the poor peasants when they did not receive the hoped-for land after liberation. Another cause of bewilderment was that in Article 4 of the 1947 Land Law, all debts had been cancelled but now only rent debt was cancelled, though interest on the remaining debts was supposedly limited to a maximum of 15%.[64]

Hangchow fell without a fight on 3 May, and Fuchow on 20 May. On 7 July, (birthday of the CCP), Lin Piao, top commissar in Central China, issued a directive to the Party membership, drawing attention to a serious situation in the countryside. Being an army man, Lin was blunt: peasants in the villages were being neglected and were taking the law into their own hands. Too many Party cadres believed they had earned the right to a comfortable urban life and were resisting being assigned to the countryside. These expectations were natural in a party based on privilege, and represented the conflict between cadres wanting to enjoy their privileges and the need to participate in the agrarian struggle to maintain Party control.[65]

On 20 August 1949, the New China News Agency reported that peasants across Hunan and Jiangxi provinces were again up in arms against the limits set by the CCP’s class-collaborationist land policy. The response of the CCP is very informative; naturally there was no error in the political line – the fault lay with local cadres who had been either insufficiently alert to head off the rebellion or not firm enough when carrying out punitive raids against the rebels. This bureaucratic response was in accord with the time-honoured practice of Mao’s mentor in Moscow.[66]

The question Lin did not address was why did the peasants in areas which were supposed to have been liberated, feel neglected? This occurred because once national power was within their grasp, the CCP moved from a policy of reliance on the middle and poor peasants, to actively courting the exploiting classes. Collaboration with the capitalists necessarily meant collaboration with the landlords too, for the two were entwined in innumerable economic and social activities. When Mao returned to his native province, it was not as a pioneer leader of peasant uprisings, but as a long-lost son of the landowners!

Shanghai offered token resistance but surrendered on 26 May. Mao Zedong proclaimed the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on 1 October 1949.[67] Article 1, which defined the nature of the state, was careful to describe the People’s Republic of China as a New Democracy or People’s Democracy with no mention of socialism. Article 3 made it clear that the new regime would protect the economic interests of the petty-bourgeoisie and the national bourgeoisie.

Canton (Nationalist capital for the previous six months) surrendered on 15 October. Chiang Kai-shek fled to Taiwan (Formosa).

The complete collapse of the Chinese Nationalists and the speed at which the CCP took over southern China astounded even them. The PLA did not conquer but rather was handed the cities. Here was a situation in which the objective conditions for revolution had become rotten ripe. The exceptional historic, national and international circumstances which prevailed at the time enabled a peasant army isolated from the urban working class, to take power from the bourgeois-landlord rule of Chiang Kai-shek.[68]

With its entrance into the big cities, the peasant PLA squashed all attempts by the urban workers to participate in the overthrow of the KMT regime and promised protection of private property, Chinese and foreign.[69] Only ‘bureaucratic capital’, i.e., only enterprises directly controlled by members of the Kuomintang government were affected; and even in these cases the investments of independent private capitalists were left intact.

The strategy of the PLA in north China had been to establish deep roots amongst the peasants in the liberated areas before taking the towns. The speed of its advance meant that in the south the situation was reversed. The PLA first took the towns and then extended out into the countryside. There were two consequences: substantial armed resistance by KMT units continued for some time, and the local power structure of gentry, landlords, rich peasants, merchants, and usurers remained in place, and land reform had to start from scratch.

The victory of the PLA was a magnificent military achievement but it was possible only because of the complete blind alley of landlordism and capitalism in China; all the propertied classes were inter-twined with each other and entangled with imperialism, forming a bloc so reactionary it was opposed to even the minimum changes which might have saved itself from the coming revolution.

In southern China, where landlordism was most developed, the CCP adopted the policy of forming Committees of Poor Peasants to mobilise mass support for agrarian reform. These committees unified the landless and poor peasants and were supposed to be tightly controlled by Party cadres but began to force the pace of agrarian reform in ways unacceptable to the Party. In a short time the Committees of Poor Peasants were replaced with Peasant Committees which middle and rich peasants could join and which were much more restricted in their functions. It is no surprise to discover the CCP complained that these Committees often did not include a sufficient number of rich and medium-rich peasants. There was also a constant stream of complaints by cadres that the poor and landless peasants “always want to control everything” and “violated the property of the medium-rich peasants.” The next step was for the Peasant Committees to delegate authority to the Village Congress of People’s Delegates which Mao demanded should “embrace all democratic classes, including workers, peasants, artisans, the free professions, intellectuals, entrepreneurs and enlightened landowners.”[70] An organisation based on class collaboration replaced the authority of the poor peasants.

The Stalinists pursued a conservative, reformist policy in a situation pregnant with the greatest revolutionary possibilities. For twenty years and more, since the defeat of the Chinese Revolution in 1927, the Stalinists had based their activity and then their programme almost exclusively on the peasantry. The peasantry, for all its revolutionary actions against the landlords, is a conservative social formation: the worker wants to socialise industry, but the peasant wants to own the land. The conservatism of the peasant was fed by almost universal illiteracy, by isolation and by the economic backwardness of rural villages, and by patriarchy and medieval social traditions and customs.

The Stalinists directed their attack at feudalism – not capitalism – in the belief that the feudal remnants had an independent social and political significance and the destruction of feudalism was necessary to clear a path for capitalist development. The conclusion that the main fight in China was against feudalism (and imperialism) led naturally to the CCP seeking to establish its political rule on the social base of the peasantry.[71] Such a perspective had a conservatising effect on the CCP itself because it drew it away from the proletariat, a process accelerated by the failure of the ultra-left policy of red unions.

Only after the flowering of capitalism would it be time to talk of the socialist revolution. This was a classic Menshevik conception of the historical process, using a schema in which history was chopped into arbitrary, predetermined stages which ignored actual class relations. Despite weighty feudal remains, the world market held sway over the Chinese economy. Property relations in China, even in the countryside were bourgeois property relations. To treat feudalism as the main enemy was to throw the class struggle in China off its true course and this was a core weakness at the heart of the CCP’s programme.

Despite the huge preponderance of the peasants and the great weight of agriculture in the economy, the agrarian problem could not be solved separately from China’s economic problems as a whole. Even after expropriation of the landlords’ excess land, a small plot remained a small plot, inefficient and primitive. This kept open the door to the village usurer and even the return of landlordism as richer peasants bought up the land of bankrupted peasants under Article 12 of the Land Law.

In 1950, the Regulation on Urban and Urban Fringe Land Reform stipulated that urban land was to become state land and would be managed by city governments. We shall see that the Stalinist nature of the CCP would mean this became a source of extensive corruption within local and national government.

9.7 Summary

The Chinese Revolution took place in a society so diseased that it was disintegrating. There was universal, bitter hostility to a ruling regime rooted in all that was rotten, that had again and again demonstrated it had neither the will nor the capacity to get China out of its blind alley. The great mass of the population was facing hunger and starvation, driven to despair and willing to make almost any sacrifice to save themselves and their families. This combination of exceptional conditions broke the fetters of conservatism and brought the masses to insurrection. The upsurge of the peasantry was of seismic proportions. The CCP rode this wave to power.

With imperialist support, the strength of the Nationalist forces was sufficient to crush the Jiangxi Soviet. With the internal collapse of the KMT, brought about by corruption and the loss of imperialist support, “Land to the Tiller” became a realistic option for KMT soldiers, undermined the loyalty of Chiang’s troops, and substantially aided the victory over the Nationalists.

The mass upsurge of the peasantry against hunger, starvation and KMT corruption was victorious due to specific and exceptional conditions. American imperialism was unable to intervene directly to support Chiang; Russia had invaded Manchuria and Mao gained an impregnable base and huge quantities of arms; the PLA was present to provide structure and the focus for that rebellion.[72]

However, while revolutionary peasant armies had a thousand-year-old tradition, in 1949 they were confronted by a quite different world from their forefathers; a world dominated by two super powers, one of which had given them much needed support at a critical time in the civil war, and the other which backed their enemy. The result of the victory of the peasant armies was bound to be shaped in fundamental ways by this international context.

The government that began wielding power in Beijing in 1949 would establish a workers’ state in China despite Mao’s declared goal of maintaining capitalism for a prolonged period. Of course, if Stalin and Mao had been Leninists they would have proposed the creation of a Socialist Federation of the Soviet Union and China in 1949. Instead, the Mao regime tried every which way to construct a stable bourgeois state until faced by the Korean War and the aggression of American imperialism. To protect itself it took measures that were socialist in principle.


[1] Woods, A. The Chinese Revolution of 1949, 1 October 2009, w.m.com.

[2] Sheng, M. Mao, Stalin, and the Formation of the Anti-Japanese United Front: 1935-37, The China Quarterly No. 129, 1992, p149-170.

[3] Peng Shuzi, Some Comments on Mao Tse-tung, 1968, w.m.org.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Hinton, W. Fanshen, Pelican, 1972, p378.

[6] Belden, J. China Shakes the World, Gollancz, 1951, p121.

[7] Pantsov, A. and Levine, S. Mao, Simon & Schuster, 2012, p340-342.

[8] Chen Po-ta, Stalin and the Chinese Revolution, 1953, FLPH.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Pantsov and Levine, Op. cit., p373.

[11] Schram, B. Political Thought of Mao Tse-tung, Praeger, 1963, p295.

[12] Pantsov and Levine, Op. cit. p345 and 392.

[13] Belden, Op. cit. p98.

[14] Glass, F. China After World War II, 1946, w.m.org.

[15] Pantsov and Levine, Op. cit. p347.

[16] Chang, J. and Halliday, J. Mao, Vintage, 2007, p149.

[17] North, R. Moscow and the Chinese Communists, Stanford Univ. Press, 1963, p205/240.

[18] Peng Shuzi, The Causes of the Victory of the Chinese Communist Party over Chiang Kai-Shek, Feb., 1952, w.m.org.

[19] Hinton, Op. cit. p182.

[20] Kerry, T. Mao-Stalin Rift: Myth or Fact, 1960, w.m.org.

[21] Mandel, E. The Third Chinese Revolution, May 1950. MIA.

[22] Wang Fanxi, The Stalinist State in China, 1951, Socialist Review.

[23] Hinton, Op. cit. p711.

[24] van Slyke, L. The China White Paper, 1967, Stanford, U.P.

[25] Kerry, Mao-Stalin, …. Op. cit.

[26] Cohen, A. The Communism of Mao Tse-tung. Univ. of Chicago Press, 1966, p94 et seq.

[27] Kerry, Mao-Stalin … Op. cit.

[28] North, Moscow … Op. cit p223.

[29] Mandel, E. The Third Chinese Revolution, May 1950] MIA.

[30] Peng Shuzi, Op. cit.

[31] Ibid.

[32] North, Moscow … Op. cit. p205 et seq.

[33] Chao Kuo-chun, Agrarian Policy of the Chinese Communist Party Asia Publishing House. 1960.

[34] Glass, China … Op. cit.

[35] Tanaka Kyoko, The Civil War and Radicalization of the Chinese Communist Agrarian Policy, 1945-1947, Papers on Far Eastern History, No. 8, 1973, p49-114.

[36] Sullivan, W. Land Reform Plans in China, Far Eastern Survey, 1950, 19(4)33-38.

[37] Hinton, Op. cit. p573.

[38] Mao Zedong, On Policy, 25 December 1940, SW II, p.446.

[39] Tanaka Kyoko, Mao and Liu in the 1947 Land Reform, The China Quarterly, No. 75, 1978, p566-593.

[40] Ibid.

[41] Hinton, Op. cit. p281-2.

[42] Hsieh Yueh, Mao Tse-tung’s “Revolution”, Report on Chinese Stalinism, 1949, w.m.org.

[43] Saich, T. The Rise to Power of the CCP, Sharpe, 1996, p1295-8.

[44] Hsieh Yueh, Op. cit.

[45] Glass, China … Op. cit.

[46] Mao Zedong, New Democracy, 1940, w.m.org.

[47] Shao-Chuan Leng, Pre-1949 Development of the Communist Chinese System of Justice, The China Quarterly, No. 30, 1967, p93-114.

[48] Wang Fanxi, Op cit.

[49] Hinton, Op. cit. p572-583.

[50] Shao-Chuan Leng, Op. cit..

[51] Wang Fanxi, Op. cit.

[52] Glass, China … Op. cit.

[53] Grant, T. The Unbroken Thread, Wellred Books, 1989, p282-288.

[54] Belden, Op. cit., p376.

[55] North, Moscow … Op. cit. p239.

[56] Peng Shuzi, The Causes … Op. cit.

[57] Ibid.

[58] CIA Report, Developments in China 1949, ORE 44-49.

[59] Schram, S. Mao Tse-Tung, Penguin Books, 1966, p242.

[60] CIA Report, … Op. cit.

[61] Thompson, T. China’s Nationalisation of Foreign Firms 1949-57. University of Maryland, 1979.

[62] Shao-Chuan Leng, Op. cit.

[63] Lenin, V. Report on the Tasks of the Soviet Power, 25 October 1917, CW26:240.

[64] Sullivan, Op. cit.

[65] Lui, C. An Aborted Revolution, Fourth International, 1950 11(1)3-7.

[66] Ibid.

[67] North, Moscow … Op. cit. p205/240.

[68] Peng Shuzi, The Causes … Op. cit.

[69] Hsieh Yueh, Op. cit.

[70] Ibid.

[71] Ibid.

[72] Belden, Op. cit., p330 and 341.