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China: the bourgeois Revolution has been accomplished, the proletarian Revolution remains to be made

China: The bourgeois Revolution has been accomplished, the proletarian Revolution remains to be made

Speaking of the vicissitudes of post-revolutionary Russia in the period after 1926 – that period to which Stalin left his name and which deserves to be considered bourgeois not only on the economic level but also on the political level[1] – and also referring to the bourgeois democratic revolution which had just triumphed in China under Mao’s banner, our party wrote in 1953:

«The bourgeois revolution in China has come on time on its continental area, as did the French Revolution.
The Russian capitalist revolution took place late in relation to the development of its continental area. It went through the stages exceptionally fast, arriving at state capitalism.
Neither one is socialist. Both are digging the grave of world capitalism»[2].

Our decided opposition to the economic and social structure born from the «Maoist revolution» and to its ideological superstructure, and especially to the so-called «Marxism-Leninism» impudently displayed by Peking (as to the fake «Bolshevism» impudently claimed by Moscow) is not in contradiction with the fact that we recognise that the Chinese revolution played a great progressive role in history. Marx and Engels«Manifesto» is a hymn to the bourgeoisie in so far as it revolutionises all the economic, social and political relationships of the previous epochs, and arouses gigantic productive forces which until then had been imprisoned in obsolete structures; at the same time and all the more so it is a declaration of war to the death against the bourgeoisie on the part of the greatest of the productive forces to which it has given birth, the army of wage labourers, the class of proletarians who will be its gravedigger. To take up the words of one of our party works, «the central condition for the triumph of socialism is capitalism itself, even if the revolutionary party, from its first appearance, leads a relentless war against it and, as the relationship between the forces allows it, climbs the steps which lead from the scientific critique to the opposition in principle, the political polemic and the armed insurrection»[3]. This is precisely the reason why, for a Germany not yet liberated from the pre-capitalist chains, the «Manifesto» assigned to the communist party (just as Lenin will do later for Russia) the task to «fight with the bourgeoisie whenever it acts in a revolutionary way, against the absolute monarchy, the feudal squirearchy, and the petty bourgeoisie», and at the same time the still more imperative task to «never cease, for a simple instant, to instil into the working class the clearest possible recognition of the hostile antagonism between bourgeoisie and proletariat, in order that the German workers may straight away use, as so many weapons against the bourgeoisie, the social and political conditions that the bourgeoisie must necessarily introduce along with its supremacy».

In the same way as the Stalinist counterrevolution of 1926–27 had destroyed the organisation, the theory and the program of the proletarian movement and had thereby made it impossible for the proletarian movements of the West to give a resolute aid to the popular and plebeian revolutions of the East, we Marxists recognise that «in the Asian countries where the patriarchal and feudal type of agrarian economy still prevails» even «the political struggle of the «four classes» is an element contributing to victory in the international communist struggle, even if its immediate result is the establishment of national and bourgeois forces». And continuing, «this is due as much to the formation of new areas where the socialist demands will be on the order of the day as to the blows which these insurrections and revolts deliver to Euro-American imperialism»[4]. But this recognition does not mean and will never mean that we renounce our own independent party position, that we recant our insistence of the irreconcilable antagonism between the two fundamental classes of modern society, or that we adopt the ignoble interclassist programmatic and tactical basis, which constitutes the foundation of the Maoist ideology that we denounce, and will never cease from denouncing, because it is precisely the ideology of a bourgeois national revolution!

The emancipation from the imperialist yoke, the liquidation of the burden of feudalism, the construction, starting with what was only a colony or semi-colony of world capital, of a united and independent China, the creation of a single national market, the overthrow of the centuries old structures of economic and social relations in the countryside, the construction of the foundations for the expansion of modern industry in a huge country – this is the revolutionary side, albeit bourgeois revolutionary, of Maoism.

But Maoism pretended at the 8th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (1956) that the «People’s Democratic Dictatorship» (read: the revolutionary bourgeois power) was the expression of the interests and aspirations of «all» the citizens of the Republic, without taking into account the fact that they belong to this or that class – a claim common to all the bourgeoisies but which Marxism rejects. It has even claimed that it «has in essence (!) become a form of the dictatorship of the proletariat» before turning this, in the 1974 Constitution, into simply the «dictatorship of the proletariat», and even into the first stage of communism. Under the guise of bringing Marxism up to date and as a banner to lead the class of industrial and agricultural wage labourers to victory, it launched to the world all the baggage of democratism, gradualism, pacifism, coexistence, and mercantilism which every more or less consistent bourgeois revolution carries with it. It is this which is its incurably counterrevolutionary side.

The working class embodied in its revolutionary party and led by it never hesitated, even though it knew that by doing this it would have to give up not only its sweat but also its blood, to applaud and support the historically necessary achievements of the bourgeois revolutions, even when these revolutions are incomplete, as is always the case when the proletariat is not able to physically play the dominant role. But in spite of this it never accepted to «sink down to being only an appendage of official bourgeois democracy» and renounce its task of taking on and defending up to the end «their position as an independent party» and «not allowing themselves to be seduced for a single moment by the hypocritical phrases of the democratic petty bourgeois [and the maxims of «Mao Tse-tung Thought» are nothing but this] into refraining from the independent organisation of the party of the proletariat», which advances as its own war cry the slogan of the «Revolution in permanence»[5].

This therefore explains our position on the Chinese revolution.

However as it is indicated in the passage from our article of 1953 quoted at the beginning, in order to explain the present development of the Chinese revolution it is not sufficient to recognise that it was and is a bourgeois revolution, and without doubt the greatest of this post-war period, a revolution whose social origins are well defined by the worship of the individual, of Mao as the creator of history instead of being the instrument of it. It is necessary to add that the combined action of the scourge of the reactionary Kuomintang of Chiang Kai-shek and the plague of Stalinist opportunism with the theory of «revolution through stages» which the «great leaders» of Maoism adopted in 1926–27 (and never rejected) made it impossible for the social movement in China to take the path – which in the international situation fifty years ago could have been short – of a bourgeois democratic revolution led up to the end, up to the transformation into a proletarian revolution. And after the blood bath of 1926–27 – the most horrible which the bourgeoisie, in its entire history, can boast of having inflicted on the workers and peasants who rushed to support it against the ancient regime – the social movement in the 30’s had to take up the struggle again starting from deep within rural China, from the economic and political periphery, and follow the long and drawn out tortuous path, the wearisomly protracted march of the «peasant revolution», which reached its aim, the large cities and their central nucleus, Peking, only after long and complex manoeuvring. It follows that the at last established «People’s Republic» and the «power of the whole people»[6] saw themselves inevitably prohibited from the possibility of developing on the basis of large scale agriculture, and still less on the foundation of large modern industry based on the massive and intensive accumulation of capital in the countryside. They had to develop instead on the basis of an agriculture that was extremely small scale with its tiny plots of land, and therefore very backwards, although it was protected in its precarious structure by the existence of a strong single central power rid of the octopus of imperialist domination as well as of the suffocating provincialism of the War Lords, and thus able to ensure, as had been done before in China for thousands of years, the physical conditions for the survival of the small and the minute rural enterprises through the regulation and control of the canals in a countrywide system of irrigation.

They were able to accomplish this by rousing the gigantic peasant and even proletarian masses from their age-old slumber and thrusting them into the arena of history, drawing along even some far from negligible strata of «useful bourgeois»[7]. Thus they have given the signal for the accelerated development of the productive forces and the transformation of semi-colonial China into a great power. But they have not gone beyond the first phase of all bourgeois revolutions, something which is only possible by following a tumultuous path on which, up till now, only some basic steps have been taken. This first phase can be defined, with all due caution about comparisons with the East (see our 1953 article), as the «French» phase as opposed to the «Russian»: the establishment of small peasant ownership and exploitation limited to the horizon of self-sufficiency, with its stubborn resistance – but a hopeless one because of the impossibility, in the long run, of the ideal of economic self-sufficiency on the peripheral and central level – and with all the secondary effects which this could only have on the destinies of this immense country liberated and unified at last. This is the secret of the convulsions which periodically shake contemporary China within the very framework of its capitalist transformation.

From the phase of the very cautious «land distribution» of 1949–1953 up to the so-called «collectivisation» with its mutual aid teams and its small and medium size agricultural co-operatives between 1953 and 1958; from the phase of regional regrouping of agricultural co-operatives into communes elevated to the rank of basic socialist units of communist society and combining micro-agriculture with micro industry (including even micro-ironworks) up to the open acknowledgement in 1962 of the failure of the superhuman effort undertaken to accumulate capital in the countryside on a level sufficient to give an impetus to large-scale industry; and up to the later ups and downs (including the Cultural Revolution, and regardless of what the «leftists» may think) of what could be defined as the idealisation, in a petty bourgeois way, of a capitalism that is backwards in the agricultural field (and even more so in the industrial field) but one which strives to surmount its own backwardness by «depending on its own forces», which means pushing the workers of the factories and of the countryside up to the breaking point; from one end to the other the history of the capitalist evolution of China since the revolution is only the history of the contradictions inherent in its material basis at the beginning. These are the contradictions between small family agriculture and the unrestrainable thrust towards industrialisation. These are the contradictions between, on one hand, the objective necessity of going beyond the first stage of the bourgeois upheaval of economic and social relations in the countryside, in order to initiate the second stage: the expropriation and concentration of rural enterprises (the cornerstone of a true and decisive «leap forward» towards at least a Russian-type state capitalism, however much a hybrid it may be between the backwards kolkhose and large scale agriculture) and on the other hand the desperate resistance of the small peasant against this irreversible process.

It is the contradiction between the myriad of local economies consuming what they produce and the irruption of mercantile exchanges on an ever increasing level among these economic units and between the city and the countryside. The contradictions among those who make up the fictitious bloc of several classes, contradictions between the large and middle bourgeoisie emerging from the very fabric of micro-agriculture, and the rural petty-bourgeoisie (and mini petty bourgeoisie), and between these classes and intermediate classes on one side, and the proletariat on the other. The contradictions between the progressive integration of China in the world market and in the «concert» of nations (which has many voices but is without a conductor) and the attempt to protect itself behind the shield of a self-sufficiency pursued in vain[8]. The contradictions between the unrestrainable push in the direction of trade with the outside world and the tendency – becoming more and more weak – towards isolationism.

It is the interplay of these ceaselessly re-emerging contradictions which explains the advances and regressions – all punctuated not by natural disasters, but by social and economic ones – of «People’s China». And only Mao’s idealistic and petty-bourgeois «romanticism» could hope to resolve this through «consciousness raising», through political pedagogy and through ideological «remoulding», founding all these (since we are supposedly dealing with non-antagonistic contradictions) on the superior harmony of the «whole people». It is this interplay of contradictions which explains the periodic struggles between rival factions, the appearance and the disappearance on the scene of «historic leaders» suddenly transformed into right and left deviationists. It is the reflection of these contradictions «in the heart of the people» – and therefore in the heart of a regime which confesses, behind its mask, to be incontestably bourgeois – which explains the continual updating of a «Thought» which bases itself however on the immutable foundation of inter-classist populism. It is the outburst of these contradictions on the world scene which gives the key to a foreign policy which each time «surprises» and «disorients» more and more the motley but amorphous crew of false «leftists». And it is this also which explains the apparent paradox of a China which, since it achieved independence and embarked on the path of overcoming its own historic backwardness, became a model for the advanced detachment of peoples of the «Third World», and this at the very moment when, far from declaring war on the imperialist countries, it preached (as it already had done in 1963 in the famous «A Proposal Concerning the General Line of the International Communist Movement» which remained the Bible of Maoism) the «principles» of complete equality between states, the respect of their territorial boundaries, their sovereignty and their independence, the non-interference in the affairs of other countries, the «mutually advantageous» development of trade, and finally «world peace», in the first place with the old «paper tiger», American imperialism, and following logically, with the traditional enemy Japan. It is also the interplay of these contradictions which explains the no less apparent paradox of a foreign policy which, to the consternation of the «leftists» of all colours, places labels of «anti-imperialist» on the most conservative regimes of Asia and on a Europe united behind the Yankee shield against the USSR

It is on the backdrop of these same contradictions that, with Mao’s death, the inverted ideological reflection of the clash of material forces projects the disgusting scandalous movie of the struggle between Hua Guofeng and the most recent Shanghai «clique», not hesitating to draw out of the stores of a barbarous past the tales of the serpent woman, the fallen angel and heroes changing into rogues, all in order to hide under the veil of «palace conspiracies» and even marital intimacies the harsh reality of antagonisms ceaselessly arising from the capitalist mode of production which laboriously clears a way for itself through these convulsions.

The Chinese revolution was capitalist, but it has taken place. Having reached the difficult phase of consolidation, China has integrated itself, and integrates itself always more so, as a great power (even if it pretends to be otherwise) in the world system of states: it has its seat in the U.N., it sees all the VIP’s of the world respectfully bow in front of the mortal remains of its Great Helmsman and the most rapacious businessmen flock to Peking to make business deals. The tangle of internal contradictions will not be unravelled by a «Thought» but by the double pressure of the world market and the accumulation of capital in its countryside and in its cities. The resolution of these contradictions in the direction of large-scale capitalism will not be the outcome of peaceful developments, but will be accompanied by new and powerful tremors in the depths of society. This is what the post-Mao period will consist of, a period of which the bourgeois «political pundits» hopelessly sought to find the secret, immediately after the Great Helmsman’s death, in the hierarchical order of succession of possible «dauphins» and seek today in the destinies of the new «group in power». It is from this period (which is in every way consistent with the past one) that the independent class struggle of the Chinese proletariat will arise, called up to avenge the slaughter of 1926–27 in the fire of the communist revolution.

The fact that the gigantic bourgeois revolutionary cycle in the Far East dressed itself in socialist garb, and continues to do so now, is not at all strange or surprising for Marxism which already in 1920 – while the awakening of Asia was setting the horizon ablaze – announced in the Theses of the Third International on the national and colonial question the necessity of a «determined struggle against the attempt to cloak the liberation movements of the backwards countries in communist colours whereas in fact they are not truly communist» (an attempt a thousand times repeated in the 20’s by the party of Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-shek and logically undertaken by its obvious successor, Mao’s Chinese Communist Party). The fact that this revolutionary cycle took the path not only of a growing integration in the world market but also of an accelerated insertion into the sphere of influence of Euro-American capitalism was so predictable that in the same 1953 article we wrote: «If China comes out of the revolution seeking a way to accelerate its march towards private capitalism, which it cannot yet gather into a single block manoeuvred by an iron military government – as was done in Russia – it will have to rely on the Western economies».

The Chinese proletarian and communist revolution still has to be made and it will be part of a world-wide revolution. Far from following the «Thought» of Stalin or of his more or less degenerated inheritors, or the «Thought» of Mao or his more or less orthodox heirs, it will throw them away among the antiquated tools of a dark prehistory. But it will do this with the cry of «Well dug old mole!». The revolutions which have paraded with these two names and which have fed off the proletarian and plebeian blood pitilessly spilled, create in effect day after day – and nothing can prevent it – the army of industrial and agricultural proletarians who will throw away not only these derided ideological banners, but also an entire mode of production and an entire society founded on its basis. They create day after day the material conditions both for the gigantic battle which this army will have to engage in and for its resounding victory, and they open today an immense field, that of the difficult task of the reconstruction of the class party after the devastations accomplished by opportunism.

The historical justification for these revolutions lies in the following fact and only in it: without knowing it and, even more so without wishing it, they dig their own grave.

This is the funeral oration which we dedicate to Mao.

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  1. For the Bolsheviks it was clear that the October revolution, which was politically proletarian, nevertheless had to carry out bourgeois economic tasks. It took the Stalinist counterrevolution to cause it to loose its proletarian and communist political characteristics. [⤒]

  2. «Stalin-Malenkov: toppa, non tappa», published in no. 6/1952 of «Il Programma Comunista», our semi-monthly newspaper in Italian. [⤒]

  3. «Le prospettive del dopoguerra in relazione alla piattaforma del Partito», published in «Prometeo» no. 2, 1946 (reprinted «Per l’organica sistemazione die principi comunisti», Editions ‹Il Programma Comunista›, Milan, 1973, p. 151). [⤒]

  4. «Les revolutions multiples», published in «Le Prolétaire» no. 164, January 1974. [⤒]

  5. Marx and Engels, «The Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League», 1850 («The Karl Marx Library», vol. 1, «On Revolution», McGraw-Hill, 1971, pp. 114. 118). [⤒]

  6. Established, but not without hesitations, compromises, fears, and often abandonments characteristic of all petty-bourgeois movements, even revolutionary ones. [⤒]

  7. «Useful» in so far as, contrary to pre-Revolutionary Russia, the most advanced wings of the bourgeoisie, small in number but not devoid of energy, had a significant cultural tradition and had struggled with much courage, arms in hand, against feudalism and central and peripheral despotism. [⤒]

  8. This attempt without doubt found an impetus in the harsh experience of the avarice with which the U.S.S.R. granted its «aid» to the «sister» Republic who had undertaken an effort of industrialisation and modernisation analogous to that of the Stalinist Five Years Plans (but even more exhausting). This is only one of the ironies of history for those who believed and still believe in Russian or Chinese «socialism». [⤒]

Source: «communist program», N°. 3, May 1977

About the romanisation of chinese names etc. consult our page «A Non-Exhaustive Euro-Hannic Transcription Engine»

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