What is really happening in China?

This article was written at a time (Autumn of 1976) when many on the left had big illusions that Maoist China was somehow a genuine socialist regime. Alan Woods was able to see beyond the fog of the Maoist propaganda and see what was really happening in China. This article provides interesting background information for anyone who wants to know the truth about the nature of the Chinese bureaucracy, that same bureaucracy that is now pushing China more and more towards capitalism.

Spring 1977 introduction

A poster of the anti-Deng Campaign
led by the Gang of Four in 1976

The following article was originally published towards the end of 1976, using material that had been assembled until the middle of that year. Technical difficulties prevented earlier publication. It appears here for the first time in English and its analysis will prove extremely useful to all serious minded fighters for Socialism who are seeking a Marxist explanation of what is going on in China.

Casting aside the revolutionary phraseology of the Chinese leaders the article reveals the material motivations behind their actions. By analysing the underlying reasons for the anti-Deng campaign in early 1976, with uncanny accuracy the fall of the radical wing of Jiang Qing is predicted. Given that the bureaucracy’s desire for a better standard of living is conditional on economic growth, those sections that threatened political upheavals, like the “Gang of Four”, had to be removed. As the battle unfolded between the two factions in the post Mao era, he who controlled the army, had power. With Mao gone the role of supreme arbiter fell on the army.

The last six months have seen China almost torn apart by political upheavals, which have taken place against a background of mounting economic problems. Last July’s earthquake killed some 650,000 people and is reported to have set China back three years. With natural catastrophes too, plans to bring China up to the levels of the leading world economies have suffered a setback. Since the consolidation of Hua, all emphasis is now on “order, stability and economic growth”. The editorial in the People’s Daily of December 20th called for “the strengthening of the management of enterprises, instituting and improving rational rules and regulations, launching socialist emulation drives and raising productivity.” Material incentives have been introduced, and “Bourgeois material incentives, though inherently bad, are inevitable during the period of socialism before communism is reached”, claimed the People’s Daily March 30th.

The Gang of Four were ousted
shortly after Mao’s death

Yet the purging of the “Gang of Four” initially lead to greater disorders, almost culminating in a Civil War. In Shandong province more than 40,000 were killed or wounded between August and October last year. Reports of private armies, bank robberies, weapon and grain seizures, raping of women and transport sabotage, came from all over China. Again it was the army that restored order, especially when it took over the railways in January, so as to facilitate the transport of 75% of the country’s freight. Again all was the fault of the “Gang of Four”, who were also charged with “hastening Mao’s end, forging his will, betraying state secrets, organising violence in the Cultural Revolution, blocking Party documents, sabotaging production, anti-Party activities, etc. “Yet each member of the Gang had a responsible position in the party, but could still somehow do all this and no-one seemed to notice. It was only, when their activities began to threaten the interests of the bureaucracy as a whole that they were removed.

From the accusations against Jiang we also get a glimpse of the life-style of the top echelons. How can she have “ordered a shipyard to close because the noise disturbed her, cut down a forest because her view was obstructed, had an electrician tortured for not providing enough heat in her bedroom etc.” in this “socialist paradise” of “workers’ democracy”? Can it be that privileges do exist after all?

And what of the masses? They usually find out what is going on after the event. After Hua’s appointment some 2 million of them, heavily interspersed with army units, paraded in Beijing in a carefully controlled demonstration. In late January they also read that the erstwhile “capitalist roader” Deng (see article below) was being rehabilitated. So too with economic growth. The masses face food and fuel shortages while items like coal are exported in order to obtain foreign currency to pay for imports of technological goods. And whilst they go short they will read on the wall-posters that Maggie Thatcher has been wined and dined by the Maoist leadership! Such is the cynicism and treachery of the Chinese bureaucracy.

All these recent events are only a confirmation of the analysis contained in this article. As the article also states, only a return to the traditions of Bolshevism can lighten the burden of the Chinese masses and provide the way forward to the building of healthy workers’ democracies in China, the USSR and the whole world.

Spring 1977


What is really happening in China?

By Alan Woods

For the advanced workers of all countries the Chinese Revolution of 1949 follows the Russian Revolution as the second most important event of the twentieth century. In a single blow an enormous country, almost a sub-continent, with a population of hundreds of millions, was removed from the orbit of world imperialism.

China itself inherited from capitalism a whole number of problems that arose from a weak and underdeveloped economy: illiteracy, starvation and national humiliation. The establishment of a nationalised, planned economy was an indispensable precondition for the enormous growth of the productive forces during the last 20 years.

Any analysis of present day China is faced with a serious problem of the lack of concrete facts and above all of official figures for economic development.

For that reason the figures that we have are scanty and incomplete. Nevertheless even these figures show that the rates of economic growth are impressive. The first official statistics of economic development were made public a few years ago in an interview given by Zhou Enlai to the American reporter Edgar Snow, the well-known biographer of Mao. Using these and other official figures we can make the following economic comparison:

Millions of tonnes 1957 1970 1971 1972
Raw Steel 5.35 18.00 21.00 23.00
Chemical Fertilizers 0.63 14.00 17.00 20.00
Oil 0.46 20.00 25.00 29.00
Cereals 85.00 240.00 250.00 240.00
Cotton Cloth* 5.05 8.50 ---- ----
(*Billions of Metres)        

Despite the scantiness of these facts we get an overall impression of a very strong process of development. The figure for the Gross Industrial Product quoted by Snow for the year 1970, on the eve of the beginnings of the last five year plan was 90,000 million dollars, with an annual growth rate of around 9% for the period 1957-70. And this took place despite the economic dislocation caused by the “Great Leap Forward”, the failure of the “Communes” and the chaos of the so-called “Great Cultural Revolution”, and the sabotage of the economy arising from the withdrawal of the Soviet experts and Soviet aid.

Thus although the production of steel effectively fell as a result of, the “cultural revolution” between 1967-68, the figure of 18 million tons was reached in 1970. In general steel production grew by 400% in a period of 15 years.

Today, at the end of the 4th plan of development, we have the results of the last five years (1971-75) recently published in Le Monde: L’annee Economique et Sociale, 1975: “Last year the Chinese economy experienced strong growth. It reached a growth rate in the development of industrial production of around 10%, at a time of stagnation and economic crisis in all the capitalist countries.”

Not only in the industrial field but also in agriculture the Chinese economy demonstrated its superiority in relation to the neighbouring capitalist countries like India. The backwardness of the Chinese countryside is a serious obstacle to economic progress, which can only be overcome by the industrialisation and electrification of the country. But even in this sector nationalisation, limited mechanisation and the application of a more scientific technique, has brought about some spectacular results.

In 1949 China was producing 100 million tons of grain compared with 250m tons in 1971 (a growth rate of 4% per year for 20 years) and 275m tons in 1975. And this was despite the primitive agriculture methods based on the wooden plough, the bicycle and the wheelbarrow, with a great shortage of tractors and other agricultural machinery. The production of chemical fertilisers rose to 17m tons in 1971, but is still insufficient to replace the use of human excrement, the strong smell of which even reaches the very centre of Beijing.

In fact only 8% of land is cultivated and this sustains 88% of the population. With new techniques China could feed all of Asia. But agriculture takes second place to industry. Some 4/5ths of the population live in the country and some 23% of the rural communities still don’t have direct access to roads. Despite the important developments of the last 27 years, China is still for the moment a relatively backward country. As in Russia the Chinese peasant has strong ties to his small parcel of land within the “commune”. His right to personal use within the “commune” was confirmed in the constitution approved last year. Only the complete mechanisation of agriculture would take the Chinese peasantry out of the rut of medieval localism that it has lived in for the last two thousand years. Even the thoughts of Mao are impotent without tractors.

Nevertheless the removal of the rule of landlordism and capitalism meant an enormous step forward. In 20 years the consumption of electricity in agriculture rose from 20m kilowatts/hour to 6,000m. Last year the total production of electricity reached some 125m k/h. Coal production reached 410m tons, oil extraction between 70-80m tons (65m in 1974). China has already begun to export oil and other goods. The fact that China is already self-sufficient as regards food is in effect a colossal historic conquest. The superiority of a nationalized, planned economy over capitalism can be seen in the contrast between China and India, a country which achieved independence two years before the Chinese revolution, but which remained under the capitalist system. With a population only 50% larger than that of India, China produces more than twice as much grain (275m tons vs. 116m.tons for India, in 1975). Under capitalism the Indian people have 8.7m unemployed in the towns alone, and an industrial growth rate less than half that of China. The Indian masses suffer from conditions of starvation, poverty and illiteracy, that were wiped out in China thanks to the elimination of capitalism.

In the fields of medicine, education, housing, China has also made great gains. A high level of health, which can even be compared to the levels of some western countries, has been attested to by many doctors who have visited China. Infant mortality, malnutrition, and the existence of infectious illnesses, are at a level which is more European than Asiatic. In 1949 China had enormous problems with smallpox, leprosy, pestilence, cholera, malaria and tuberculosis. Nowadays they are practically eliminated. As the medical correspondent of the Sunday Times says:

“In contrast with India, or with Indonesia or with South America, China has controlled the population growth, its people are adequately fed, and the main fatal infectious illnesses are controlled.”

Twenty-five years ego – a Chinese magazine explains – there were no medical installations in the rural areas. If someone fell ill and could pay he was sent to a hospital in the town. The poor peasants, who existed on the borders of starvation and death, did not have the chance to consult a doctor. When they were suffering from a pain they had no other recourse than to wait for death. Now a hospital has been established in every district and a polyclinic in every “commune”. In contrast with Spain, medicine in China is the responsibility of the State and is not open to private exploitation and private profit.

The correspondent of Informaciones recently wrote about education in China. Before 1949 some 80% of the population was illiterate. Today 93% of children go to school and secondary education has been extended to all the towns and a great part of the countryside (in 1975 some 145m matriculated from primary schools and some 36.5m from the secondary schools). Once again in contrast with Spain, education in China is free.

Do privileges exist in China?

These things mean enormous historic gains and the Chinese workers understand that perfectly. Nevertheless the standard of living of the masses is still maintained at a low level. Cotton clothing is rationed (in Beijing about 5 metres per year). Consumer goods are scarce and the shortage of housing is still serious. “In a country where there are no private cars, the drivers save every drop of petrol, even at the cost of the motors and the transmission systems. Lighting in the homes and in the offices is weak and the students put on their overcoats to go to lectures in freezing classrooms. Electrical labour saving devices or for heating are almost unknown in the homes”, writes a correspondent of The Times.

The basic industrial wage is about £7 per month for a 48-hour week. Skilled workers can earn up to £22. But the professional people earn £67 or more.

Bearing in mind the relatively underdeveloped character of the country this already signifies quite a sharp difference between the lower and higher layers. It is difficult to find figures for the wages of the top civil servants of the State, but even if these were formally on the same level as a professional person, this would also not give a concrete impression of the style of life of these people, bearing in mind the “perks of the job”, privileges, official cars, etc.

Many Western correspondents have got the impression that China is a society without class differences or privileges of any sort. This is not surprising.

During the 1930s, precisely during the period of the consolidation in power of the Russian Stalinist bureaucracy, the bourgeois reporters and tourists were writing in the same way about the absence of obvious privileges in the USSR and about “soviet democracy”, the “new civilization”, etc. Nevertheless a Chinese worker or peasant looks at things with different eyes to those of a bourgeois tourist. The problem is that in a relatively backward country where consumer goods are in short supply, it is precisely the “small differences” that are very important. As in Russia basic things like public transport and housing are cheap, as is food, and what is even more important is that prices have been maintained at the same level for 20 years. This is one of the most important advantages of the nationalized, planned economy.

If it is true that the differences that exist in China are probably smaller than in any other Stalinist state, they are nevertheless much more obvious for a Chinese worker than for a foreigner, who is accustomed to more dazzling exhibitions of wealth and privilege. The journalist Ignacio Iparraizi of the newspaper Informaciones wrote in February: “If the top civil servants, the intellectuals, the technicians, enjoy great material privileges, abundant economic wealth, in a word live extremely well thanks to their higher incomes, the truth is that they hide it very well. Uniformity is the common denominator of the Chinese population. Everyone there seems, at least in their external behaviour, to be the same. Perhaps the restaurants may be the only place where their excellent salaries are noticed. There are no private cars, nor dachas (country houses), like in the USSR; nor are there in a word all those more or less superfluous luxury articles which are the symbol of the top echelons of the social pyramid.” (Info, 20th Feb). 

Besides the certain element of apparent snobbism in the idea of “more or less superfluous articles” – for the Chinese poor although not, of course, for a Spanish bourgeois reporter – we have here a bad understanding of the reality of China. In the USSR (which Iparraizi juxtaposes with Chinese society as proof of the uniformity of the latter) there was a similar situation in the years of the first five-year plans under Stalin. And for very simple reasons. On the one hand the Russian economy at that time was at a very much lower level than at present, a level which did not permit the production of all “those more or less superfluous, luxury articles...” On the other hand the Stalinist bureaucracy, having the aim of a rapid development of the basic productive forces, above all of heavy industry, carried out propaganda on the need to work hard, for personal sacrifice, against luxuries, and “more or less superfluous articles”, and even punished those sectors (middle and lower layers) of the bureaucracy which enjoyed a lifestyle which, under the conditions then in existence, constituted a provocation for the workers.

The Soviet workers, just like the Chinese workers of today, made great sacrifices to build the Soviet economy. There too there was apparently “uniformity” – according to the reports of the foreign correspondents of the 1930s. Nevertheless there existed even at that time enormous privileges in the USSR which escaped the attention of the bourgeois reporters. The mere fact of not having to wait in a queue to get the basic necessities is an enormous privilege in a country like the USSR, even today. And with the greater development of the productive forces the private dachas and cars of the bureaucracy have immediately been seen.

To see the privileged situation of the Chinese bureaucrats there is no need to look for cars and colour televisions, but to observe the small details of everyday life. Here we have a great problem. The official Chinese news media gives very few facts about real life in the country, whilst the journalists who visit the country limit themselves, in general, to superficial observations of “uniformity”. The official news media, according to what the same Iparraizi says, doesn’t even admit the existence of some crime or natural catastrophe in the country (the last earthquake is an example).

“Robbery, murder, simple accidents, not the slightest news can be found in them (Chinese newspapers -Ed.). Even today no one knows the number of victims that were caused by the violent earthquake that jolted the North East of China last year and whose effects caused alarm in the suburbs of Peking, far from the epicentre. “ (Info, 21st Feb)

It is obvious that to look for evidence of corruption, bad administration and privileges of the bureaucracy in the official press will mean wasting time. Only now and then is it possible to got an idea of what is happening from the “news media.”

“Even in the very ranks of the party there must be cases of corruption, and that is probably the reason why the Chansai magazine Study and Criticize recently reproduced in its pages articles from the year 1951 in which there were denounced with all the details two cases of corruption involving cadres of the party.”(ibid)

From the reports of different correspondents you can get a very exact idea of the differences between the workers and the bureaucracy, even from details the significance of which is even missed by the same writer. For example, an English journalist is writing about a train journey in China:

“A chef from the buffet car comes into your compartment to discuss the menu, the price and the quality of the dishes. Nevertheless there are relatively few passengers who eat in the restaurant. The majority of them are content with large round sandwiches and apples which are sold on the platforms... above all they are civil servants and top officers who travel in the Pullman (1st class). The officers don’t wear any sort of badge, but you can easily pick them out by the four pockets on their tunics as compared to the two of the normal soldiers.” (Sunday Times, 19/1/75).

It is true that “the uniformity is the common denominator of the Chinese population”. But by the small detail of four pockets instead of two, a Chinese worker knows that he is in the presence of a social superior, has to be content with a sandwich whilst the other discusses the quality of the dishes in the restaurant, and sits on hard benches when the other travels in a Pullman. Of course here there are no “dachas” or private cars. But at times the difference between four pockets and two is enough...

The social tensions between the privileged layers and the Chinese workers came to light during the so-called Cultural Revolution, above all during its last phase.

The Informaciones correspondent wrote about a very significant conversation that he had with a Chinese worker about his experiences: “What years those were” ...he said to me with bright, enthusiastic eyes...”We fought very hard until we overthrew the revisionist management of our factory. As a child the director had been the shepherd of a landlord. He had known hunger and privations. Then he joined the party and had arrived at the highest position of responsibility in the factory. But with the passing of time he forgot his class origins, he had degenerated: a sofa had been bought and on Sundays he went out for a drive in the official car of the factory, taking his family with him” (Info Feb 21st, – our emphasis)

Here we have a very graphic description of the lower layers of the bureaucracy and the attitude of the workers towards them. The fact of buying not a dacha but a sofa in the conditions of China today and [with] the standard of living of the workers, represents an immense privilege (although it seemed a lie to the bourgeois reporter), and the absence of cars is supplemented by the Chinese civil servants by using “the official car of the factory”. And it isn’t that the Chinese bureaucrats “hide” their privileges “very well”, rather that the “experts” of the West don’t know how to see things with the eyes of a Chinese worker.

Although the official press, monopolized by the bureaucracy, lacks many facts about corruption and the arbitrary methods of the civil servants who are privileged, we have another source of information which is far more “credit worthy”: we refer to the wall writings, by means of which the workers expressed their problems during the “cultural revolution.”

These wall-posters contain numerous examples of corruption and black market practices amongst officials. The vice of “Kao Chang” (greasing the palm) was endemic in ancient Chinese officialdom. Under bureaucratic rule and in the absence of workers’ democracy, a continuation and extension of this “honoured tradition” was inevitable.

One of these posters, which was quoted in the Western press, was written in the name of 1,000 wood-workers of Guilin, and accused 3 officials of pocketing 400,000 Yuan (approx. £960,000). On one occasion these officials appropriated 3,000 Yuan after buying cheap overcoats for the workers, by making out an order for dear ones with the help of the supplier in Lanzhou, Western China.

In another lumberyard officials were accused of spending 7,800 Yuan on banquets and other treatments for their contacts who helped them in their swindles. Another poster accused prominent people of using public buildings “for pleasure and as a swimming club” for the officials of the town. These last posters were torn down and the women who tried to put them up found firearms turned against them.

The treatment of the gangster bureaucrats can be contrasted with that of a worker like Liang Hua of Shensi, whose case was told on another poster. Caught whilst he was pinching in a factory, he first had his wages reduced and a few months later he was sacked. Starting from this deception we can get a very concrete impression of the arrogance and arbitrary rule of the factory manager, without doubt an authentic cadre of Mao’s party. This worker had to make the long journey from Xian to Beijing some eleven times before getting work.

After the “Cultural Revolution” there were various attempts on the part of the local authorities to suppress these protests, at times using hard methods. The posters spoke of gangs of “right-wingers” in lorries, armed with stones, clubs, and iron bars, who were intimidating workers with the complicity of the authorities.

Other posters complained of police violence, as in the case of a girl, who was intimidated for criticizing an official, persecuted by the forces of “public order”, submitted to long interrogations, imprisoned, beaten, deprived of political rights and who was finally found dead.

Commenting on such “incidents”, Wang HongWen, leader of the so-called “Left” wing of the party leadership, emphasizes to the foreign press in 1973 that, “there still remains a number of cadres, especially leading cadres who do not tolerate different ideas on the part of the masses, either inside or outside the party. They even suppress criticism and carry out revenge, and this is very serious in some individual cases.

“Working on the problems that exist amongst the people the discipline of the party absolutely forbids incorrect practices like having recourse to suppression if you cannot convince, and to detention if you cannot suppress.”

These words of a leading member of the Politburo contain a brave admission of the police methods used to fight the opposition to the bureaucracy: “they do not tolerate different ideas” and “they suppress criticism”, “carry out revenge”, “suppression” and “detention”, are phrases which give quite a clear idea of the mentality and actions of these layers, when they see the danger of losing their privileges. If it is true that there are no privileges or individual interests to defend, if it is true that there exists a regime of workers’ democracy, then from where do these methods come, which are completely alien to the traditions of Marxism and Bolshevism? In spite of the diplomatic phrase that refers to “some individual cases”, there cannot be the slightest doubt that those methods are generalized and normal. The phrase that attributes these methods to “leading cadres” is also not a casual one, but is likewise an admission that these crimes do not result from “mistakes” on the part of some officials or individuals, but that they arise precisely from the regime itself and its leadership.

Almost one year after the comments of Wang HongWen, similar incidents were still appearing on the posters, like that in the summer of 1974 – which was signed by workers from the Beijing transport company, who were complaining that in their garage some 200 to 300 old activists were being classified as “Leftists” and persecuted to the point of having their wages suppressed for two years. It was told how one had committed suicide and another had attempted it.

At this point a whole number of questions arise. If in China the workers control the state, if there exists workers control in the factories, then from where do these savage reprisals against the workers and the arbitrary actions of the officials come? If there exists freedom of expression and criticism, why do the workers need to express themselves by means of posters and not in the press of the party and the trade unions? How can there exist such corruption and bad administration? Is it that the Chinese trade unions are not capable of carrying out their elemental duty, that of defending the workers?

After the “Cultural Revolution” the trade unions have been reconstructed “at a higher level”. Pointing out the role of the trade unions to a foreign journalist, the director of a factory explains the problems: “In the past they (trade unions-Ed) paid too much attention to the well-being of the workers and not enough to politics.” The Chinese trade unions lack even the slightest independence from the State. As the director explains their basic role is not to defend the interests of the workers, but to act as a transmission belt for the ideas and the plans of the bureaucracy.

The Cultural Revolution

Mao Zedong

The so-called Cultural Revolution was interpreted by the “friends of China” (more correctly the “friends of the Chinese bureaucracy”) as a fight against the bureaucracy, a prior step to the total elimination of privileges and inequality in Chinese society. This theme had an echo in the writings of the shortsighted intellectuals and genii of the “China watchers” who were carefully looking between the lines of the speeches of Mao and company to find an explanation of the “mysterious” events in China. In reality there never was anything new or original in the manoeuvres of the Chinese bureaucracy, who were following the model of Russian Stalinism from the 1930s.

During the first years of the industrialisation of the USSR and the five-year plans, even Stalin made a series of attacks in a demagogic fashion “against the bureaucracy”, and even used the whip of the purges against the middle and lower layers of the bureaucracy. This was organised as a sort of control over the voracious appetite of the privileged officials.

Freed from the necessary control of workers’ democracy, the factory directors, engineers, and state officials, would have had infinite possibilities of enriching themselves at the expense of the state and the bureaucracy as a whole, through pillaging the nationalized economy. In order to defend the rule of the bureaucracy as a ruling caste, there was a need for a new version of Bonaparte, who by resting on, the new forms of nationalized property which was the fundamental gain of the October Revolution, could give the appearance of being “above” society, balancing between the different layers and classes, within society, which continued to exist in the transition stage from capitalism to socialism. Stalin, the Bonapartist dictator, was wielding the club of terror and using it not only against workers but also against the bureaucrat who took more than his “just portion” of the booty.

The “Cultural Revolution” had a role similar to this policy of Stalin’s in the period 1929-39. Basing themselves on the workers and the students, above all on the latter, the top layers of the bureaucracy grouped around the Chinese “Bonaparte” Mao, as part of the ruling caste, carried out a number of heavy blows against other sections of the bureaucracy which were excessively greedy, and whose corruption and thieving was threatening the advances in the economy.

Mobilizing the masses with demagogic calls to fight against “bad officials”, Mao at no time relaxed his grip on the levers of power, above all of the peasant army, the classical weapon of any type of Bonapartism. In this way they effectively carried out a state purge of the State, of industry and of the party. If the purification did not reach the same levels of bloodletting as the Moscow trials, it was only because in China there did not exist any sector of genuine “Bolsheviks” which could have meant a serious danger for the bureaucracy.

The Russian Revolution began as a relatively healthy workers’ state established by the working class under the leadership of an internationalist Marxist party. The Chinese Revolution of 1949 began where the Russian Revolution left off. From the very beginning the Chinese workers state was established in a peculiar Bonapartist manner. Resting on a peasant army, in a classic peasant war, the Stalinists (ex-Marxists) balanced between the different classes of Chinese society to destroy the bourgeois state and carry out the nationalisation of the economy. But at the same time the most elemental conditions of workers’ democracy were lacking. In China there were neither Soviets, nor workers’ control, nor real labour unions independent of the State, nor an authentic Marxist leadership. The victory of the Chinese revolution was possible due to a favourable confluence of objective circumstances – the inability of American imperialism to intervene directly and the complete bankruptcy of Chinese capitalism, which in 20 years had not been able to solve any one of the fundamental problems of Chinese society.

With the living example of the very powerful Stalinist state in Russia before their eyes, the Chinese ex-Marxists built a state in the image of Russia. That is to say that from the beginning it was a deformed workers’ state, which was resting on the nationalised productive forces. These nationalisations meant a great historic step forward, but without the conscious control and participation of the working class in the running of the state, the economy and society.

Nevertheless in a nationalised economy with centralised planning of all branches of production, workers’ democracy is not a sentimental thing but a necessary condition of life itself. In a country of 800 millions, where a province is the size of the largest countries in Europe, the method of control “from above” by a clique of bureaucrats, even if it were made up of the most sincere, honest and intelligent people in the world, will inevitably produce some monstrous mistakes of leadership, waste and corruption. By blaming it on shortages, the bad workings of the economy, etc., the “sabotage” of Liu Shao-chi, Lin Biao, or now of Deng Xiaoping, the Chinese leaders try to explain defects which are inherent in the system of Stalinist bureaucracy.

The Peoples' Liberation Army were used to
control any campaigns which got out of hand

Without the control of workers’ democracy the only way of preventing the ambition of the bureaucracy from devouring an excessive part of the national product, and thus impeding growth, is by means of the whip of the “strong man”, the Bonapartist dictator. In the “cultural revolution” Mao, in a classic Bonapartist fashion, set the worker against the director, the “old” against the “new”, the soldier against the civilian, the town against the country, and one section of the bureaucracy against another. Using the gangs of the “Red Guards” as a whip, Mao punished the lower and middle layers of the bureaucracy, and even frightened some of the leading elements, with the aim of reaffirming his role as the “supreme chief”. But all the time he was resting on the base of the “Peoples’ Liberation Army”, an army that was overwhelmingly made up of peasants, the classic weapon of Bonapartism. The “regulatory” role of the army was clearly seen towards the end of the “Cultural Revolution.” After having terrorized the lower officials by inciting “the masses to rebel”, Mao began to contain the disorder by means of his loyal peasant troops. “Order” was established in the factories (not without bloodshed), stubborn students were sent to the villages, and the people were advised to “learn from the PLA.”

The pendulum swung towards the right. Lin Biao, yesterday’s shining light, the old “faithful companion of President Mao”, disappeared, and two years later was denounced at the 10th Congress of the party as a “bourgeois scab” who wanted to restore feudalism (nothing less than that) in China. Those who didn’t jump quickly enough fell with him. The new turn was not approved by the workers everywhere. According to a report of a journalist of the English Sunday Times: “A military commander confirmed to me that in the end he had to send troops to some factories to restore order.”

The “Cultural Revolution” had held the officials in check. “The director of a silk spinning factory in Suzhou said that during the Cultural Revolution there had been demonstrations of ‘anarchy’,” reports the correspondent of The Times. “Now the only thing that the factory directors wanted was a rapid return to ‘normality’.”

The Ninth Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (April 1969) marked the end of the Cultural Revolution. From then on the slogans of before like “it is correct to rebel” and “what the masses say is final” were rapidly repudiated. The People’s Daily, official organ of the party, said on the 29 of July 1969: “If something is final or not depends on whether or not it is in agreement with the thought of Mao Zedong.”

It is very significant that many of those attacks against “ultraleftism” concentrated on the dangers of “economism” – a very clear proof that the workers were taking advantage of the disorders and going on the offensive for economic demands, even to the extent of going on strike. Thus the Peoples Daily:

“Hidden enemies are taking advantage... of every opportunity to create disturbances... sabotaging socialist property and the economic plans by calling up the whirlwind of economism... and by taking advantage of religious differences to try and destroy the unity amongst the same nationalities”.

During the “Cultural Revolution” not only the workers were in a constant state of turmoil, but so too were the minority nationalities of Tibet, Inner Mongolia, Manchuria, and the Islamic region of Xinjiang near the frontier with the USSR. The Revolution had a profoundly disturbing effect amongst the nationalities, giving a strong impulse to nationalist and centrifugal tendencies. It was such tendencies, along with fear of the workers’ movement that made the ruling caste decide to intervene with the PLA to restore order.

A new “Great Leap Forward”

What must also be borne in mind is that the dual purpose of the exercise had been achieved: terror had been spread amongst the ranks of the officials who were absorbing in the form of bribes, swindles, and corruption, an excessively large proportion of the wealth created by the workers, and also the workers had been convinced, by means of a campaign against “material incentives”, of the need to make sacrifices. Behind all this was the underlying idea of a new edition of the “Great Leap Forward” to construct the industrial strength of China in the next period.

This aim of the bureaucracy came to light at the IV National People’s Congress, which was held in January 1975, and which took place in conditions of absolute secrecy, as did the 10th Congress of the Party. The first thing that the Chinese people officially heard about the Congress was by means of announcements of its decisions after they had been made.

This was the first meeting of the National People’s Congress for ten years. In this period fundamental changes took place in Chinese society: the “Cultural Revolution”, negotiations with the USA, the border conflict with the USSR, unrest in the factories and amongst the people, the campaign against “Confucius and Lin Biao”, all of this without the Congress being asked of its opinion. In the same way the party, the League of Youth, and the ‘trade unions’ were naturally disbanded in this period.

The 10th Party Congress was hurriedly convened with the aim of denouncing the “traitor” Lin Biao (until then Mao’s successor) and of approving the new “Constitution of Mao”. It is clear that the IV National People’s Congress was nothing more than a rubber stamp to approve the decisions that had already been taken by the Chief and his latest clique. The main aim of the Congress was to open a new period of industrial development with the intention of “building socialism” in China alone. This explains the campaign for economic self-sufficiency that was launched by the regime. The Chinese bureaucracy is under the pressure of the two giants, Russia and the USA, especially Russia in the adjacent state.

The new constitution points out that “social imperialism” (Russia) is one of the main enemies. They see the need for a rapid development of the economy, especially in heavy industry, to reach the military potential of China. In his speech to the congress, the Prime Minister of that time, Zhou Enlai, pointed out the ambitious aims of the Chinese bureaucracy:

“To establish before 1980 an industrial and economic system which is nationally independent and relatively integrated... To carry out before the end of the century the modernisation not only of agriculture, industry and national defence, but also science and technique, so as to place our national economy amongst the leading ranks of the world.”

Despite all protests to the contrary the bureaucracy of Stalinist China has the perspective of becoming the third world power in the next two decades.

But this perspective still goes against the very low level of the productive forces in China. In spite of the enormous progress that was possible thanks to the nationalised and planned economy, the real specific weight of China at this moment can be seen in the annual production of steel of around 25 million tons, a figure that is more than England and twice as large as the Spanish figure, but which is completely insufficient for a country of 800 millions. To realise Zhou’s plan, and to arrive “amongst the leading ranks” in the space of 25 years, would need massive efforts and great sacrifices on the part of the Chinese workers and peasants. The production of steel at the present moment means that China still does not have enough to satisfy even the internal needs of the country. To reach the present level of the USSR in the space of 25 years, China will have to raise the production of steel at least 5 times – which would mean an increase of 25% each year.

In this context the theory of building socialism in China alone, and of “self-sufficiency”, is a reactionary utopia. Only the triumph of the socialist revolution in one or more advanced countries (like Japan) could make available the necessary capital to rapidly overcome the 1000-year backwardness of China. The narrow, unilateral nationalism of the Chinese leaders in reality places an obstacle in front of the development of the revolution in Japan, India, and other nations. The workers and peasants of China paid for the delay of the proletarian revolution in the industrialised countries with blood, sweat and tears.

The Maoist philosophy of “self-sufficiency” supposes a long period of hardships and sacrifices for the masses of China. Only by holding back increases in the standard of living can the necessary capital be obtained to finance the transition from an economy that produces 25 million tonnes of steel to one that produces 100 million tons, as projected in Zhou’s plan.

In order to do this it will be necessary to extract from the workers and peasants the last ounce of labour power. As a high official said in an interview with a foreign journalist during the National Congress:

“There still remain many problems to be solved, like the political and material aspects of industrialisation, and at whose cost they are to be solved” (our emphasis). To the same journalist another official answered the first question in a very simple manner:

“We only have enough clothes and a full stomach. But in order to develop the economy this situation has to be maintained for some time and the people understand that.”

The working class, of course, is always ready to make sacrifices and to work hard, while it can see that it is doing it in its own class interest, and that it is not being used by a privileged class or caste. This is possible on condition that the worker democratically participates in the organisation of industry, and in the running of society and the state. But even then the masses are only capable of sacrificing their “today” and their “tomorrow” up to a certain point. Further than that no amount of bureaucratic threats and orders of a military kind can prevent enthusiasm being changed into apathy and resentment.

In this context the so-called “Constitution of Mao” was approved, at the IV Congress. In it can be found the “rights of the citizens” which include freedom of expression, of the press, of religious belief, and even the right to strike. Like the Stalin Constitution of 1936, the “most democratic constitution in the world”, this new one does not attempt to be a serious guide to action, but a threat for the bureaucracy.

The “rights” which it contains pose a threat for the officials who step out of line: strikes will be allowed in cases of individual “abuses”. But the “right to strike” in the sense that Western workers will understand, does not exist.

Workers who go on strike to better their standard of living are condemned for being “economists”, for following “material incentives” and for “not putting politics in first place”.

Nevertheless, in spite of the totalitarian state, with the existence of privilege corruption and repression, there is no doubt that the masses of workers and peasants still support the new order (due to the enormous historic gains which it represents) and are even ready to make sacrifices in order to develop the economy at this particular time. There is no reason to doubt that there exists a real enthusiasm for the building of socialism in all sections of the population, at least amongst the working class. The economic development plan, which has been connected to the name of Zhou Enlai by the masses, explains to a large extent the enthusiasm of the latter for his memory, as shown in the last demonstrations in Peking.

Without doubt the pursuit of the reactionary dream of socialism in China alone will bring with it an enormous wastage of resources and human power, although because of the advantages of the planned economy there is no doubt that the Chinese economy will be rapidly transformed into a formidable power, despite all the obstacles of the losses and inefficiency which are part of bureaucratic planning.

Nevertheless this economic growth will give a great impulse to the differences and privileges of the bureaucracy, which up to now have been contained within more or less “respectable” limits because of the backwardness of the economy. At the same time this will produce a feeling of growing hostility amongst the workers and they will begin to understand the difference between the words of the “little chiefs” and the realities. The relative stability of the rule of the Chinese bureaucracy is actually due to the relatively progressive role that it is playing in the development of the productive forces. The Chinese bureaucracy is still strengthening the economic development of society, although in a way that is a thousand times less efficient and with many more sacrifices and losses than that which would be possible under a regime of workers’ democracy. The main reason why the Mao clique could allow itself the luxury of an adventure like the “Cultural Revolution” is precisely because it felt secure and had sufficient room in which to manoeuvre. There is no doubt that the movement of the masses, which had been set in motion by the manoeuvre of Mao, was going, much further than that which could be allowed. Although China at the present time has the most stable Stalinist regime in the world, the strikes and factory occupations which occurred during the “Cultural Revolution” were already an indication of the scheme of the future political revolution of the Chinese proletariat, which alarmed the bureaucrats and produced a rapid turn on the part of the ruling clique.

The fall and the death of Lin Biao, the most prominent leader of the “Cultural Revolution” marked a change of policy of the Maoist clique. At the Ninth Congress of the C.C.P, the name of Lin was effectively written into the constitution as the heir of Mao. The Tenth Congress approved a resolution to “expel forever from the party, Lin Biao, the bourgeois careerist, conspirator, trickster, renegade and traitor”. The collaborator of Lin, Mao’s ex-secretary Chen Boda, was characterised as a “principle member of the anti-party clique of Lin Biao, and anti-communist element of the Kuomintang, Trotskyist, renegade, enemy agent and revisionist”. Such are the characteristics of the leaders of the “Cultural Revolution” whose photos appeared in the Maoist press throughout the world for years as the loyal companions and comrades of Mao! But what does a turn of l80 degrees matter to people who are accustomed to eating their words every two minutes when the order comes “from above”?

This is the method of Stalinism, which will always find some argument or other to justify its zigzags. Nevertheless for all serious socialists – and even for the Maoist comrades who are thinking – these changes demand a serious explanation.

The brevity of the Congress and the totally clandestine nature of what went on there gives us a very concrete idea of its real character. The Congresses of the Bolshevik Party were held every year despite the difficult conditions. In the most dangerous moments of the Russian Civil War the Annual Congress of the Party took place openly; political differences were publicly discussed, in such a way that all the workers of Russia and the world could understand perfectly the position of the Bolsheviks on all questions.

Internal differences within the Party very often arrived at a quite serious point, but at no time to the point of splits and expulsions of leading comrades, far less to them being denounced as “agents of the bourgeoisie”.

The Tenth Congress of the C.C.P. represents the negation of the method of the Bolsheviks. It was prepared and held in total silence. As the journalist Ignacio Iparraizi reports: “Days before there was rumour circulating amongst the foreign journalists about the possibility of an imminent meeting of the Congress of the C.C.P... I rushed to the hotel. The head of the floor waiters replied to my question: ‘They have just in fact finished’ announcing the victorious closure of the Tenth Party Congress.”

“I listened on the radio to a continual repetition of the final communiqué of the Congress. After nearly two years of silence the name Lin Biao was finally mentioned. All the country knew of the treason and death of the ‘arch renegade’ heir-apparent of Mao Zedong, but no one had as of yet said it officially. From now on his name, just like in previous years was to going to appear daily in the media. A movement of “Pi Lin” (criticism of Lin Biao) was set in motion in order to sweep away once and for all his pernicious influence.’ (Infomaciones, 20th February).

After the Congress the Chinese people were allowed to listen to the final communiqué. But what about the opening communiqué? What about the political resolutions? What of the discussions in favour or against, the rank and file, or at least of the leadership? Of all this, absolutely nothing. Only a “victorious closure” of a Congress which “expelled for ever from the Party” (after his death) yesterday’s hero, whose name had been inscribed in the constitution itself, as an arch renegade, and all this without the slightest explanation. And now the masses were invited to participate in a campaign to denounce Lin Biao, in the same way that a few years earlier they had been invited to demonstrate in his favour!

The Ninth Congress lasted three weeks. The tenth lasted merely five days to arrive at some conclusions that were diametrically opposed to the previous one. From this fact we can only draw one conclusion: that all the positions had been agreed before the Congress, whose role was nothing more than that of “unanimously approving” all the positions which the chiefs put forward, but which gave a slight impression of democracy. Nevertheless it remains quite clear that the whole matter had already been decided “from above”, and what is more, some time ago.

In the period prior to the IV People’s National Congress which was also held in a completely secret manner, what a surprise when we see the reappearance of numerous victims of the “Cultural revolution” (yesterday’s arch renegades) yet again as leading cadres of the State, of industry and of the party.

In January of 1975 the Fourth People’s National Congress took place in conditions of absolute secrecy, just as did the previous Congress of the C.C.P. The principal objective of the Congress was precisely that of opening up a new period of industrial development with a view to “building socialism” in China alone.

As a “pleasant reminder” of the Cultural Revolution for the officialdom, Mao took care to include in the new collective leadership some of the rebellious youth. Wang HongWen is the best example. Beginning as a trade union bureaucrat in Shanghai this young careerist rose to power in the violent shift “towards the left”. He was kept in the leadership after the fall of Lin Biao as a counter-weight against those of the ilk of Deng Xiaoping. His function was to alarm the bureaucrats by raising the threat of the Red Guards, as he did in a speech two years ago where he directed his sarcasm against those who “after seven or eight years still do not understand the Cultural Revolution. Some paint it as a black abyss all their hair stands on end when they hear it being mentioned... some say that the Great Cultural Revolution was completely unnecessary”.

There is not the slightest doubt that those are precisely the feelings of a large part of the Chinese officialdom about the “Cultural Revolution”. On the one side the whip of the “adored chief” worries them. But on the other hand they accept it with resignation as a disagreeable necessity, in order to keep the excesses within their own ranks and thus maintain the power of the bureaucracy as a whole, as the price to pay for their power and privilege. The arbitrary rule of Mao weighs very heavy, but the alternative of the democratic control of the workers would be a thousand times worse. For his part Mao keeps absolute power by means of an unstable equilibrium between the different classes and layers in society, but always resting on the State, which in turn rests on the new relations of production (nationalisation of industry, of land, State monopoly of foreign trade, etc.) As the “supreme arbiter” between the masses and the bureaucratic caste, and also between the different factions of the bureaucracy, Mao appears as being “above” society. The illusion of greatness does not proceed from the supposed “genius” of Mao (the illustrious “Thoughts” of the little red book are approximately on the same theoretical level as a guide for boy-scouts), but from the relations between the classes and layers of Chinese society. The personal power of Mao is an aberration from the point of view of socialism. It is of course something completely alien to Marxism and incompatible with a socialist society. Nevertheless, here it is not a question of a socialist society, but of a society in the transition stage from capitalism to socialism. The nationalisation of the means of production means an enormous step forward, guaranteeing the rapid development of the economy for the benefit of all the Chinese people.

But on the other hand the low level of the productive forces does not permit a rapid transition to a classless society. Two classes continue to exist: the proletariat and the peasantry, with a great difference between the town and the country. There is also the contradiction between manual and intellectual work. The shortage of consumer goods is a constant source of privileges, corruption, black market, etc. These are the social factors on which the bureaucracy bases itself, a bureaucracy which represents a parasitic cancer within the workers’ state and whose role ends up very much like that of the reformist bureaucracy in the workers’ organisations in the capitalist countries, and with the same contradictions. On the one hand a reactionary role in relation to the working class, which has to pay for all the privileges of the ruling caste in exchange for its inept and traitorous “services”. But also on the other hand a relatively progressive role in relation to the enemy class. In other words the offices and privileges of the labour bureaucracy depend in the last instance on the existence of the organisations of the working class. Although he betrays the workers every day by selling them for a low price to the capitalists, the reformist bureaucrat is not ready to see the base of his power and privilege disappear. Against the bourgeois state and the bosses the trade union bureaucrat defends his organisation. Nevertheless it very often happens that the reformist policy of the bureaucracy facilitates the destruction of the organisations on which he depends to maintain his privileges.

With the necessary changes a comparison can be made between the role of the reformist bureaucracy under capitalism and the ruling caste in the USSR and in China. To the degree that the Stalinist bureaucracy rests on the new socio-economic forms, the gains of the revolution, defending them against Imperialism, it is playing a relatively progressive role. Nevertheless the mere existence of the bureaucracy is a factor which more and more undermines the workers’ state, with its corruption, bad administration, and economic and political zigzags. In the USSR, which after 50 years of extraordinary economic development has reached the level of a modern industrial economy, the contradiction between the bureaucratic power and the demands of the nationalised economy is already almost absolute, whilst in China, which is still in quite an underdeveloped situation, the Maoist bureaucracy enjoys much more room in which to manoeuvre.

Any worker knows from his own experience of the corruption and bad administration in the large capitalist firms. How can this inefficiency be explained? The capitalists are interested in the greatest efficiency possible in production. But in practice the opposite occurs and for a very simple reason: in any important firm (lets say a multinational) it is almost impossible for a small group of bourgeois “experts”, even if they were the most intelligent in the world, to be able to organise a firm in an efficient manner without the active and conscious participation of the workers.

A thousand problems arise such as errors of judgement, mistakes which cannot be corrected “from above”. But under capitalism there at least exists the control of the market, of “free competition”. In a nationalised economy this does not exist. A regime of workers’ democracy, of workers’ control, where management of the economy and of society is in the hands of the workers, is not a Utopian idea. In a country like China, a sub-continent of 800 million people, it is absolutely out of the question that a plan of production that is bureaucratically imposed from above can be carried out without a whole number of errors and basic distortions. If the economy of China has reached an annual growth rate of ten per cent, this is despite the bureaucratic regime and not because of it. At the present time, because of the very low level and simple structure of the economy, the damage caused by the bureaucratic management is still much less than in the USSR for example. Nevertheless it would be possible, under a regime of workers’ democracy, to reach a growth rate that is far higher than the present one.

The Bonapartist regime of Mao exists on the one hand to defend the rule of the whole of the bureaucracy against the workers, but on the other hand to defend the nationalised economy against the destructive actions of the same bureaucracy, at times by resting on the workers to aim blows at the officialdom, above all at the middle and lower layers of the same. A quote of Mao’s says:

“For 50 years we have been singing the International: nevertheless on ten occasions there have appeared in our party those who tried to create divisions. To my way of seeing things that is going to happen 10, 20, 30 times more.”

In an implicit way there can be seen in these words a threat against the same officials. This quote, and the previously mentioned one of Wang, means: “Do not think that you are safe. Keep your nose clean and your fingers far from the till, for if not...”

The fall of Deng

At the IV People’s National Congress the perspective was opened up for China of being like a superpower of the “leading ranks of the world” towards the end of the century. From the need to achieve the means to build a strong base for an economy, of “autarchy” (self-sufficiency), there arises on the one hand a policy of “austerity” within the country, and on the other hand a policy of good commercial relations with the capitalist countries abroad. The obsessive fear of being dependent on the Russian bureaucracy drives the Chinese leaders to seek economic agreements with the capitalist powers, including some of the most reactionary.

Although China’s foreign trade with capitalist countries may be relatively small, it has grown very rapidly in the last 5 years as we see from the following:

Foreign Trade with the Capitalist World (Millions of Dollars)
Exports to
Imports from
Hong Kong
West Germany

In the years 1973 and 1974 China began to import a number of industrial goods with the aim of establishing the base for “industrial self-sufficiency”. In Wuhan, Japanese and German engineers were building a steel works which cost $500m. The USA and France are participating in the construction of 13 chemical plants with the aim of doubling chemical production by 1978-79. Similar projects also exist in oil, electronics, etc.

China nevertheless, to a greater extent than the USSR, has serious problems in relation to its intervention on the world markets, due to the lack of foreign exchange.

After having a deficit in its foreign trade of about 1,000 million dollars in 1974 China had to reduce its orders abroad last year. There were a number of cancellations of orders for food and grain (including the whole of an order for wheat and maize, with a value of 150m dollars, from the USA), although imports of machinery continue to rise (up approx. 30%) and will continue to grow as a result of previous orders from the period 1972-74. Despite these difficulties it has been calculated that China’s foreign trade can grow at the rate of 10-15% annually until 1980 as a result of the rise in production and the oil exports. These figures are a tacit admission of the bankruptcy of the idea of “autarchy” and “socialism in one country”. Nevertheless the problems of the industrialisation of a country offer a very concrete explanation of the internal struggle of the bureaucracy in the last few months. It seems indisputable that there exists a certain section of the bureaucracy that would prefer to follow a policy of rapprochement with the USSR, as a means of opening up a number of possibilities for credit, investments and foreign trade. Although the bureaucracy in general is obsessed with the fear of being dominated by its “social imperialist” neighbour, a sector is of the opinion that the confrontation with the Soviet Union is holding back the development of the productive forces and, on the other hand, that a political-economic agreement with the USSR would not necessarily mean the acceptance of a situation of inferiority, since the Chinese bureaucracy would have a wide margin to manoeuvre between the USSR and US imperialism.

These divisions amongst the bureaucracy became deeper after the death of Zhou-Enlai, the “guiding spirit” of the new economic development plan and the protector of Deng Xiaoping. The role of Mao in all these events remains unclear. But it is very probable that the Chief is already in a state of semi-senility. According to some reports Mao is already 83 years old and is “infirm and almost incapacitated as regards his speech”. Nevertheless in the present situation in China the decisive factor in any internal struggle within the party will not be the political arguments, nor the ideas, nor the programmes, but the word of the Chief. As we have seen before the raising of Mao to the role of supreme arbiter between the different factions of the bureaucracy is an essential need of the Bonapartist system. Even as a sick and almost senile, old man, the personage of the dictator (the personification of the ruling caste) is in the centre of everything. By means of the clique, lead by his wife Jiang Qing leader of the “left” wing of the politburo, Wang HongWen the old man continues to be the main factor.

Despite this there is no doubt that the position of Deng-Zhou Enlai has a lot of support at the present time in the ranks of the bureaucracy, even at high levels, as was seen by the splits in the Central Committee which followed the removal of Deng. It seems very probable that the clique of Jiang Qing-Wang HongWen on the other hand does not count on the support of a determining section of the bureaucracy.

Thus can be explained in the gradual, cautious and indirect character of the campaign against Deng, the ferocious struggle in his defence, and the open divisions within the Central Committee. Nevertheless the struggle apparently ceased with his defeat. How can this be explained?

The struggle against Deng began after the death of Zhou Enlai this January. On the 6th of January there was an article published in the People’s Daily attacking “those ambitious capitalists who were subjected to criticism and unmasked during the great proletarian Cultural Revolution, but who have refused to repent.”

In the summer of last year a group of teachers protested against the relaxation of the university norms, which lead to a policy of admissions according to political suitability which according to them, was holding back the modernisation of the economy. This fact served as a pretext for the campaign, led by two personal secretaries of Mao’s wife Jiang Qing, against “the revisionist attitudes of the rightists.”

The edition of the Peoples’ Daily of 6th February characterised “the revolutionary debate of the masses” as “a continuation and deepening of the great proletarian cultural revolution.”

Another article of the People’s Daily of the 11th February quoted “the bad tactic” of eclecticism, defined as “putting the economic on the same level as the political”, and adding “they don’t pay any attention to the orientation and the line, only to work, work, work.” The main accusations were those of: copying professionalism and the use of experts, the restoration of material incentives and “open opposition to those who are called ultra-left.”

This language of the Cultural Revolution will not have pleased wide sectors of the bureaucracy, above all those who work in industry or belong to the array, who fear a repetition of previous disorders. The attacks against Deng continued in a more cautious manner, in the beginning they did not even name him. The fact that Deng “refused to be corrected”, that is refused to arrive at an understanding with the clique of Wang-Jiang Qing, means that he was conscious of the aid that he was getting from wide sections of the bureaucracy. For a long time, both in the army, the trade unions and amongst the provincial leaders of the party (many of them previous victims of the “Cultural Revolution” like Deng), there was a refusal to actively participate in the new campaign. These vacillations are important for they show that the majority of the officials had no interest in strengthening a new “madness”, which would disorganise the economy at a critical moment, and they had far less interest in handing over power to the clique of Wang-HongWen. Only after much hesitation and also probably under the pressure of Jiang Qing, who could take advantage of the authority of her illustrious husband, did they decide to participate and then very unwillingly.

Mao instructed ultra left factions to
create the ‘Shanghai Commune’ in 1967.
This did not emerge from genuine revolutionary
democratic organs of the masses.
It was suspended by Mao shortly after its creation.

The violent campaign of “dazibaos” (wall posters) against Deng was orchestrated by Wang HongWen, the “youngster” (40 years old) of the Chinese leadership, and the previous leader of the so-called cultural revolution in Shanghai. These young people, who were careerist bureaucrats, were used by the Chief in a cynical manner. He treated them with utter contempt, punishing them as you would an “infant” when they went too far. Mao rested on these elements in the Cultural Revolution, using them to deal blows at the lower layers of the bureaucracy. But later on when Wang defended his plan of going forward with the “Communes”, he was ridiculed by Mao for the time for a new turn had arrived. Now the clique around Mao decided to unleash their pet dogs to terrorize one faction of the officialdom. In this way nobody knew where they were because of these constant turns. In this situation of conflict and uncertainty the bureaucrat in the factory and the state could not work. He hates and despises the “Leftists”, but he fears the Chief much more, even when he is, “infirm and almost incapacitated as far as his speech is concerned”.

The campaign against Deng continued during March, but without him being named once. On the 21st of March the People’s Daily pointed out that the “the leaders who had been involved in the capitalist road were completely isolated”. It seems as if the leading faction of the campaign wanted to calm the nerves of the officials, by assuring them that the only target of the campaign was Deng, and that a repetition of a generalised purge was not foreseen. This paper is the mouthpiece of the party leadership and emphasised that the campaign was to limit itself to peaceful and orderly activities, and that in no way were the activities of the universities, the towns, and above all of the economy, to be interrupted.

Nevertheless the campaign provoked a strong reaction, amongst the lower levels of the bureaucracy and even amongst the workers who were supporting Zhou’s economic plan. The propaganda against “economism” and in favour of austerity, and also the possibility of a new period of chaos, frightened both factory managers and workers, as we saw by the violent demonstrations that occurred on April 5th.

The sheer size of the demonstrations and the bloody confrontations that accompanied them means that the group around Deng, which had been attacked daily in the press, was not as isolated as the People’s Daily was saying. The pro Deng demonstration (formally pro Zhou Enlai), was made up of “thousands of people, who even managed to stop the police from preventing a group of roughnecks from burning vehicles and attacking a building in the main square. Such things had never been seen in China,” writes the correspondent of Informaciones (April 7th). An interesting detail is that the main target of the violence of the demonstrators were the students. (They were the most prominent elements in the “Red Guards” who also clashed with workers during the “Cultural Revolution). Of course a large part of the demonstrators were lower officials, many of them from the provinces; in other words the demonstration was organised from within the bureaucratic apparatus.

The speeches that were made during the demonstration supported the policy of Zhou Enlai (now of Deng) of economic construction, and radically opposed another adventure like that of the “Cultural Revolution”: “The crowd warmly applauded during a speech by a spontaneous orator, who stated that he was ready to fight to put an end to those who wanted to change the policy as laid down by the Prime Minister, Zhou. Straight after he referred to the radicals as 'false Marxists'.” (Hoja de Lunes, April 5th)

The army had to intervene to put an end to the disturbances, i.e. once again it played the role of arbiter in the struggles: “ranks of militiamen and soldiers, some of them with rifles and with bayonets attached, surrounded the main square in Beijing , Tiananmen, where the previous Saturday groups of demonstrators burnt several cars and set fire to a building”. (Informaciones, April 8th.)

It would seem that the violence of the reply caught the ruling clique of the politburo by surprise. Referring to the demonstrations, which caused some deaths, some wounded and the burning of a military barracks, the People’s Daily adopted quite a defensive tone: “and recognised that Mr. Deng was right in wanting to modernise the economy, industry, agriculture, science and defence by the end of the century. But it maintained nevertheless that in order to achieve that Deng had tried to reject the fundamental principle of the class struggle.” (Informaciones, April 6)

The campaign against Deng had entered its last phase, with the demonstrations in his favour deciding the result. A double communiqué of the political bureau of April 7th, “in agreement with the proposal of President Mao”, announced the decision to nominate Hua Guofeng as the new Prime Minister. One word from the Supreme Arbiter was sufficient to solve the fate of Deng. He was accused of being the cause of the demonstrations, apparently organised in the name of Zhou Enlai, which were designated as being “counter-revolutionary incidents”. Later on Deng was stripped of all his offices. For the second time Deng was purged. In the 1960s he had one of the most important jobs in China, that of General Secretary of the Communist Party, then he disappeared during the “Cultural Revolution”, but appeared again in April 1973 at an official banquet in Peking. In January 1974 he was once again a member of the Politburo. Before being stripped of all his positions, Deng was not only Prime Minister, but also vice-president of the party and chief of the Supreme Military Staff, the second man in China after Mao. Now he was denounced as a “monster” and as the leader of a counter-revolutionary conspiracy which was following “a capitalist policy.”

In the official explanations there was mention of the existence of “a class struggle” in China, and also of the existence of a bourgeois current within the ranks of the Communist Party. Evidently the Prime Minister, vice-president of the Party and chief of the Supreme Staff, a veteran of the C.C.P., wanted to reinstall capitalism in China, and even organised a counter-revolutionary demonstration, during which several people were attacked and a military barracks was burnt down. If it had really happened in this way it would have been logical that he would have been expelled from the party and at least arrested. But Deng is not in jail and is still a member of the C.C.P. From this simple fact we can deduce that the accusations against Deng are completely false; that here it isn’t a question of a class struggle “between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie within the party”(!), but rather a struggle between bureaucratic cliques which represent different factions within the ruling caste.

The Maoist press described in glowing terms the demonstration that took place after the fall of Deng and in support of Hua Guofeng, as proof of the spontaneous enthusiasm of the masses. Nevertheless all the reports indicate that this demonstration had a character of being rather “organised spontaneity”. Informaciones of the 9th April says that “hundreds of thousands of workers, students and youth demonstrated their support for Hua Guofeng in the streets of Peking, after the removal of Deng following a decision of President Mao Zedong and the Central Committee (!), despite the fact that it seems that the Central Committee is divided”. The report continues: “yesterday’s demonstrations were perfectly organised. All the banners and cartoon posters had the same tone, and for the first time Deng was denounced by name on the cartoon posters that abounded in every street of the town.” And further on: “these facts are in complete contradiction with the disturbances on Monday in Tiananmen square when, according to the latest official facts, four vehicles and a military barracks were set on fire and more than a hundred people were wounded.”

The masses figured in these events only on orders from above, to demonstrate their support for the Chief. Nevertheless, when the movement in the streets threatened to go further than the “rules of the game” it soon became “counter-revolutionary”, and consequently dispersed by the army “with rifles and attached bayonets.”

The movement to criticize Lin Biao
and Confucius began after Lin Biao’s
‘accidental’ plane crash. He was expelled
from the Party after his death.

As Fernando Claudin in Realidades (April 23rd) writes: “The fact that outside of China we are ignorant of the ideological and political position of each group (of the party leadership – Ed.), of the concrete content of the differences, means that the immense majority of the Chinese people suffers from the same ignorance, for if the opposite were the case it would be impossible for the information not to cross the frontiers. Once again therefore the ‘masses’ are mobilised by some or others (above all by those who are in control at a given moment of the levers of power), without them being able to form their own opinion, without their intervention being inspired by an open and public debate. The same thing happened on previous occasions. We still do not know the positions of Lin Shao-shi, nor of Lin Biao, or of their supporters, which were even put forward by these same people.”

There arises here another problem for the honest Maoist. If in effect there exists in China a regime of workers’ democracy, and if the overwhelming majority of the Chinese people supports Mao, why are the proceedings of the Party congresses and of the Central Committee not published?, and further, why do they not publish the arguments and the answers to the same of the “capitalist collaborators” and the “arch-renegades”?, especially since they only represent a few “poisonous elements” and “a small group of bourgeois” which within the party has been completely isolated”.

Without a public debate of all the positions it would be impossible to think of a workers’ democracy and a real participation of the masses in the ideological battles. But it goes further. How can it be that a representative of the bourgeoisie who wants to restore capitalism can occupy the second highest position in the Chinese hierarchy, and what is more, be elected with acclamation in the Tenth Party Congress only two years before? Is it because all the Congress delegates were imbeciles, or agents of the bourgeoisie? The People’s Daily of the 17th February referred to divisions within the CC of the Party over the matter of Deng. Nevertheless Deng was deposed by a “unanimous” decision of the Politburo (despite the fact that Deng was a member of this organ and, of course, voted for his own removal).

In reality the whole campaign against Deng was organised, from the start by the ruling clique of the Politburo headed by Wang HongWen, with the help of Mao’s wife Jiang Qing. Once the Central Committee was confronted with the authority of Mao it had nothing more to do. The role that Mao played in the whole affair is not known for certain. Stalin, during the last years of his life, had lost all reason, even to the point of beginning a new wave of purges with the aim of complete liquidation of the whole of the party leadership. There came a time when he forbade his long serving faithful follower Voroshilov entrance into the sessions of the Politburo, accusing him of being “an agent of British imperialism”. It is possible that Mao did not know what he was doing, and in his senility had the idea of launching another “Cultural Revolution”, irrespective of the catastrophe that this would mean for the Chinese economy. Anyway with or without the conscious participation of Mao it remains absolutely clear that the person behind the campaign was Jiang Qing, in conjunction with the Leftist faction of the politburo and Wang HongWen. At a certain moment Mao’s wife, who considered herself as an artist, even launched the accusation against Deng Xiaoping that her new operas bored him! (Guardian Weekly, March 21st). On these levels the anti-Deng campaign had the character of being an authentic “palace conspiracy”, with the aim of imposing Wang as the successor to Mao before the latter died.

The struggle between Deng and his enemies in the Politburo took place at the top echelons of the hierarchy, without the slightest participation of the rank and file of the party, let alone of the masses. These confrontations, which arose towards the end of January and the beginning of February, took place in a number of meetings of the Politburo, and not of a plenary session of the Central Committee.

In Informaciones of the 20th February it was reported that, “...the fact that that meeting took place at the level of the Politburo, and not at that of the Central Committee, gives us a better idea of how we thought power was operated in China. The Central Committee of the C.C.P. is composed of some 300 people and it would have been very rare if there had taken place a direct confrontation between diverse tendencies within such a numerically large assembly (!). On the other hand however, and considering how it is made up at the present time, the Politburo with its 23 voting members or alternates, represents the appropriate body for such a discussion.”

The internal situation of the C.C.P. is so far removed from the methods of workers’ democracy that they cannot even allow the luxury of a discussion within the Central Committee, much less a public discussion of the questions. In a country of 800 millions, with a party of 28 million members, all the important decisions are taken by a clique of 23 people who “considering how it is at the present time” in China is “the appropriate body for a discussion”. The article continues: “As the meeting was prolonged there was a confrontation of ideas and even between people, and also a reciprocal evaluation of the military strengths and techniques of each one of the tendencies.”

This report of a bourgeois newspaper, which has not been refuted by the Chinese embassy, gives us a very clear idea of the Stalinist deformation of the internal life of the C.C.P. Evidently to resolve the confrontation between two wings of the bureaucracy, there is a need to resort to not only “ideas” (clearly that least of all) but also to the “military, political and technical forces” which each one of the tendencies has at its disposal. And what was the relationship of forces? There is no doubt that the group around Deng had a lot of sympathy amongst the sectors responsible for the economy in the provinces and in the array. Many of those who hold responsible positions in the party and the administration in the provinces are moreover “rehabilitees” of the “Cultural Revolution”, just like Deng, and obviously they were afraid of a repetition of the events of 1966-68.

Mao relied upon the Armed forces at
decisive junctures to sustain power
for himself and the bureaucracy as a whole

On the other hand there exists in the ranks of the bureaucracy a great fear of the vacuum that there will be after the death of the chief. For this reason there certain tendency to close ranks around Mao, at least for the moment. In Spain the Fascist bureaucracy had just as much fear about the demise of Franco that they tried in a completely insane manner, to keep the corpse alive for weeks on end. In China the Stalinist bureaucracy still prefers to accept the humiliation of the rule of the decrepit clique of Jiang Qing to the alternative of an open struggle against the “Supremo”, while he is still breathing.

In all of this there is nothing that is surprising. The Chinese bureaucracy understands perfectly its parasitic and usurping character, and feels the need to rest on a “strong man” in relation to the masses. Their superstitious faith in Mao arises from the need to defend their power and privileges against the workers and peasants. At times the personal power of the Chief costs them quite a lot, as in the years of the “Cultural Revolution”. There is no doubt that the idea of a generalised repetition of these events horrifies the bureaucrats who are working according to the “Zhou plan” of economic development. The overwhelming majority of them have no interest in another period of “madness”. Being solid and pragmatic bureaucrats they are much more interested in the construction of “socialism in China alone”, with the consequential increase in their power, riches and privileges, than in the ideas of the little red book.

Of course economic tasks demand “law and order” in the factories and Red books, and also without having to face the tiresome need to go once in a while to the country to lose time throwing fertilizers into the ground.

For the great majority of the officials all this was nothing more than an irritating interruption of their work, the price that they had to pay for the services rendered by the great leader. In effect these methods can be useful to punish some comrade who has shown himself as excessively corrupt, and thus angered the workers, who now endanger the rule of the bureaucracy as a whole. But a generalised campaign like that of 1966-68 would be a real disaster for the economy. In order to achieve their ambitious objectives they would have to avoid a repetition of that "madness", cost what it may.

Some bourgeois “experts” and also, of course, the Maoists, are predicting that the “Cultural Revolution” is beginning again. These people have understood not a thing about what is happening in China, and they accept all the words of the leadership as being the truth.

The fall of Deng did not mean that the Wang-Jiang Qing faction was victorious, nor the beginning of another “Cultural Revolution”. In effect the promotion of Hua has meant that the bureaucracy did not want to set itself up in opposition to the Mao clique, but neither was it ready to hand over power to Wang HongWen. The resistance of the bureaucracy to any repetition of 1966-68 was obvious from the beginnings of the anti-Deng campaign. As the editorial of the People’s Daily pointed out on March 10th, they were not going to tolerate the organisation of “combat groups” aimed against the internal regime of the party. “In the most recent time period the multitudinous movements of young activists has been condemned. By taking advantage of the free transport these activists ran around the towns, schools, factories, and administrative centres during the cultural revolution, in an organised propaganda effort to overthrow certain leading elements of the Party.” (Informaciones, March 26th).

The same report continues; “Today the reverse is the case, for they are insisting that the campaign should be developed under the leadership of the Party committees at the appropriate levels.”

The promotion of Hua Guofeng represented just as much a defeat for the Wang faction as for the Deng faction. Hua, who was previously in charge of the Ministry of Public Security (China has more than 1 million police, agents of internal security, and frontier guards – 1 for every 800 inhabitants), represented a temporary “compromise” between the two factions of the hierarchy. He counts on the powerful help of the military wing of the bureaucracy which wants to modernise its military equipment.

In this sense the interests of the military wing coincide to a large extent with those of the industrial wing. The indispensable factor for the modernisation of the army is precisely the rapid development of the productive forces, mainly of heavy industry. The continuing attacks against Hua on the part of the “Leftists” means that the internal struggles of the bureaucracy were not eliminated with the fall of Deng.

After the death of the old man they are going to surface in a more vigorous manner. The policy of “self-sufficiency” and complete isolation from the rest of the world is in contradiction with the development needs of Chinese industry. In fact the interest that the bureaucracy has in arriving at some commercial agreements with the capitalist powers is a tacit admission of this. There is also without doubt a section of the bureaucracy that looks favourably on the restoration of normal relations with Moscow, which would facilitate economic development. But this does not mean that the Deng faction is ready to accept a subordinate role in relation to Moscow, as some Western “experts” think. As Ignacio Iparraizo states: “A triumph of the Deng Xiaoping line, we say openly, would have lead China in the long or medium term within the orbit of Moscow.” (Informaciones, April 8th).

This isn’t certain. No section of the Chinese bureaucracy would be interested in being within “the orbit of Moscow”. But it would seem to a section a good idea to follow a policy of manoeuvring between the Russian bureaucracy and US imperialism, but always maintaining “national independence”, i.e. maintaining the control of the Chinese bureaucracy over “its” territory and “its” people. The death of Mao will open a new period of clashes, confrontations and campaigns – but this time against the “ultra-Leftists” who have already suffered defeat with the destitution of Deng. The appointment of Hua as vice-president of the Party is a sharp rebuff for Wang HongWen, since the post of first vice-president of the Central Committee should have been his. Until this moment Wang was effectively number two in the Party hierarchy and successor to President Mao.

The rejection of Wang is the first step in the defeat of the so-called “Leftist faction” in the Politburo. In effect the bureaucracy said to this group: “until this point and no further”. The overthrow of Deng is nothing more than a uselessly expensive victory from the point of view of the Wang group. Sooner or later, after the death of Mao, there will be a confrontation on the part of the decisive sectors of the bureaucracy with this clique, which, without the support of the Chief, does not count on the support of the most important sector of the ruling caste.

After the death of Mao, his wife, Jiang Qing will disappear even more rapidly than did Peron’s wife after his demise. The loyalty of the army to Mao Zedong is one thing, giving support to the tiresome whims of a second class opera composer is completely different. She will soon be found in comfortable but compulsory retirement.

While the old man is alive there is no possibility of an understanding with the Russian bureaucracy. The alleged tendency of Deng towards a reconciliation undoubtedly angered Mao and was an important factor in the campaign against him. It was no accident that Nixon was invited to Beijing in February of this year during the campaign against Deng. Nixon was received in Beijing with all honours, arriving in a Chinese plane that had been put at his disposal by the authorities. There is no doubt that the decision was taken by Mao himself as an open demonstration of his opposition to any attempt to arrive at an agreement with the Russians. After inviting Nixon, which of course was an insult to the working class of the world, there was talk of the possibility of Beijing also inviting James Schlesinger, one time Minister of Defence under Nixon, but dismissed by Ford. The Chinese press frequently saluted the anti-Soviet speeches of Schlesinger, despite the fact that only a year earlier he had proposed using nuclear arms against North Korea if it should attack the South.

The support of the Chinese bureaucracy, together with the CIA, of the reactionary forces in Angola is one more proof of the nationalist degeneration of the bureaucracy.

They only have to hear that a reactionary regime is opposing Russia and already they appear with outstretched hand. After the slaughter of the Sudanese communists, friendly relations were immediately established between China and that country. Now when the bourgeois bonapartist regime of the Sudan is taking a turn to the Right, it turns to the USA and of course to the Chinese bureaucracy. On the 21st April Informaciones was commenting on the visit of the Egyptian vice-president to China: “Mr. Mubarak has been received with great pomp in Peking.” Nixon, Sadat, Schlesinger, Heath, Josef-Strauss, these are the intimate friends of the great internationalist, Chairman Mao.

There is hardly any reactionary regime in the world that has not received aid from the Maoist regime: The Iman of Yemen, the Sultan of Zanzibar, before being overthrown, also had very friendly relations with China. The Chinese government supports NATO, SEATO, the Common Market, and the Chinese press publishes with acclaim all the speeches of the most reactionary Western politicians against “the danger of the USSR.” Recently the Chinese bureaucracy has drawn much closer to the Pinochet regime in Chile, even closer than US imperialism. In the UN the representatives of “People’s China” refused to support a resolution that condemned the repressive policy of the Pinochet regime, although the USA delegation, in a hypocritical manner, voted for it.

China’s foreign policy, far from being a “revolutionary policy”, is dictated by the interests of the Chinese bureaucracy. It has a strictly chauvinist and one hundred percent reactionary character, above all in Asia where it complements the counter-revolutionary policy of the Russian bureaucracy. On the one hand the latter supports the bourgeois government in India, on the other the Chinese bureaucracy equally supports the reactionary theocratic regime in Pakistan. The role of the Chinese bureaucracy in supporting the massacre of the Bangladeshi people by the bloody dictator Yahya Khan will remain for all time as an accusation against the chauvinist policy of Beijing and an example of treason against the international working class.

The whole foreign policy of the Chinese bureaucracy is characterised by the same cynicism and reactionary chauvinism as that of the Russian bureaucracy. The clearest proof of the nationalist degeneration of them both is precisely the Sino-Soviet conflict. The internationalism of the October Revolution was expressed by the very form of the Russian workers’ state, which was a Socialist Federation of the peoples of the Old Russian Empire. Five decades later there is a military confrontation between the troops of the Russian and Chinese bureaucracies on a frontier that was artificially established in the last century by the Chinese emperor and the Tsar. The so-called “socialist” states of the USSR and China discuss the problem in the friendly language of machine guns and tanks. Such is the situation that has been created by the dire consequences of the Stalinist theory of “Socialism in one country”!

The Sino-Soviet conflict is a crime against socialism and the world working class. It is dictated on both sides, by nationalist considerations that are completely alien to proletarian internationalism. Neither of the two bureaucracies has posed the only valid solution of a Socialist Federation of China and the USSR, a solution that would be in the interests of both peoples.

If the Chinese bureaucracy had had a single atom of internationalism, which the Bolsheviks posed as their main perspective, then a socialist federation not only of the USSR and China but also of Japan, would be a possibility. The whole history of those three countries is closely intertwined. It is no accident that Japanese imperialism has always tried to advance through Korea and Manchuria towards the enormous mineral riches of Siberia. The Russian bureaucracy has been incapable of seriously exploiting the tremendous possibilities of this region. But the planned union of the productive forces of the three countries; the heavy industry of the USSR, the enormous reserves of labour in China, and the technique of Japan, would facilitate in five or ten years the exploitation of Siberia, which would in turn bring about a transformation of the standard of living of all Asia.

Only a return to the Bolshevik traditions of workers’ democracy and proletarian internationalism could win over the labouring masses of India, Japan, and the rest of Asia to the Socialist Revolution, and thus put on the order of the day the socialist transformation of the world.

Autumn 1976

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