Why Marxism-Leninism-Maoism is the philosophy still standing
A response to the response from Comrade Avian
In the interest of responding to the discourse from one ‘Comrade Avian,’ who has compiled a categorized list of responses to my previous essay, Yo dawg, the Maoists have a point ☭. Their essay is available here, and attempts to make use of a number of “Marxist-Leninist” arguments against the Maoist position, and we must examine what is being said. It will also be an opportunity to expand and clarify a number of points made in the original essay. They broke my essay up into four separate claims (very well, you can organize your response however you like) and labelled them as claims 1, 2, 3, and 5, for some reason, addressing them in turn with a few interludes and summaries.
The most telling thing about the response is that there is absolutely no discussion of class, and most especially of class struggle. The “Marxist Leninist” position constantly want to avoid defining class struggle — what is it if not the conflict between the proletariat and bourgeoisie. We are fully aware and knowing that the bourgeoisie can be identified, labeled, pinpointed, and that they are our enemies and that we — the proletariat and it’s allies — are in conflict against them — that is the struggle. It’s not just armed conflict (although it is that as well), but its a never-ending battle against their ideas and policies and programs and structures, in conflict with our own. Where is the class struggle for “Marxist-Leninists?” Where is the class struggle within China and within the party? The very thing that Mao warned us about and spent his last decade of life developing a program to combat against. Revisionism the very thing that even the “Marxist-Leninists” agree was the fatal damage that destroyed the Soviet Union from within. How they have come to reckon that this struggle is no longer required, or ongoing, (or that the form that it takes is functionally invisible and co-operative) in modern China is the same as offering the existing bourgeoisie there their protection.
Has the matter of class struggle been settled in China? If the answer is yes, then they represent a most dangerous repetition of Khrushchev and his whole wretched line. This question is harder for them still, if they answer no. What is, then, the scientific definition of revisionism for the “Marxist Leninists?” Can they acknowledge now that Khrushchev and Brezhnev were both revisionists — that they were both capitalist roaders who put the USSR on the path to capitalist restoration?
Now then, do classes exist in socialist countries? Does class struggle exist? We can now affirm that classes do exist in socialist countries and that class struggle undoubtedly exists. Lenin said: After the victory of the revolution, because of the existence of the bourgeoisie internationally, because of the existence of bourgeois remnants internally, because the petit bourgeoisie exists and continually generates a bourgeoisie, therefore the classes which have been overthrown within the country will continue to exist for a long time to come and may even attempt restoration. The bourgeois revolutions in Europe in such countries as England and France had many ups and downs. After the overthrow of feudalism there were several restorations and reversals of fortune. This kind of reversal is also possible in socialist countries. An example of this is Yugoslavia which has changed its nature and become revisionist, changing from a workers’ and peasants’ country to a country ruled by reactionary nationalist elements. In our country we must come to grasp, understand and study this problem really thoroughly. We must acknowledge that classes will continue to exist for a long time. We must also acknowledge the existence of a struggle of class against class, and admit the possibility of the restoration of reactionary classes. We must raise our vigilance and properly educate our youth as well as the cadres, the masses and the middle- and basic-level cadres. Old cadres must also study these problems and be educated. Otherwise a country like ours can still move towards its opposite. Even to move towards its opposite would not matter too much because there would still be the negation of the negation, and afterwards we might move towards our opposite yet again.
-Mao, Speech At The Tenth Plenum Of The Eighth Central Committee, 1962
However, before we begin, there’s an important part of understanding that needs to be brought in:
whose Line is it Anyway?
Unfortunately, I don’t think any of the various rebuttals to my essay so far have actually addressed one of the larger points, nor even understood it in depth — the criticism of the “Frankenstein” “Marxism-Leninism.” People seem to think that this was some sort of call for purity or some trivial or inconsequential criticism, but the problem is that historical materialism is being abandoned. What is this thing and how did it come to exist in the world. This problem is most clearly understood in the concept of lines, with the different political formations having different lines, resultant from different histories, experiences, theory, people, and events that shape and define them. Those lines can be traced right through history, from the point of origin in the past and forward through time into the present today. And in investigating this line, we will come to understand the thing that materially exists in the present. This is the essence of historical materialism. But this is the problem with the Frankenstein-line of “Marxism-Leninism,” how did this thing come to exist in the world and is it in contradiction with material history?
The whole point of being a Marxist-Leninist in the first place (as opposed to some vague notion of ‘Marxist’) is that you uphold the lessons learned, used, and applied by Lenin, especially vis-a-vis his rivals like Kautsky. Remember that there were many who also claimed the title of Marxist and claimed to be upholding and advancing Marxism, yet most are forgotten and irrelevant today. Thus when you claim to be Marxist-Leninist, this means you uphold Lenin’s idea of the vanguard party, imperialism, the Leninist conception of the state, among other advances, and that Lenin had the correct interpretation of Marx’s work (most especially evident with regard to the state in State and Revolution — Lenin’s most important work). In this way, the ideology is able to build on itself and develop itself, learning the lessons of history and incorporating them as it grows. This is the internal strength of Marxism — it attacks in waves. The next outburst of revolutions has the lessons of the previous ones already baked in. But in doing this, claiming to be Marxist-Leninist, you also must reject the rival theses of Kautsky, et al. such as his ‘ultra-imperialism,’ or “pure democracy,” because they are incompatible and in contradiction to Lenin’s theses. As both Lenin’s theory and history demonstrated, Kautsky proved to be a fraud and a fake, who was upholding the bourgeoise and their ideas in place of the Marxist ones he claimed to represent. Kautsky was wrong, and Lenin was right, and and this is where the Maoist line comes in. Because history repeats, first as tragedy, and then as farce.
Above you can see the continued history of the authentic Marxist-Leninist line, the one that analyzed and understood the world correctly. This line breaks from another during the Sino-Soviet split, much in the same way that Lenin’s Marxism broke with Kautsky’s faux-Marxism in against the backdrop of the First World War. Lenin’s line lead to the toppling of the Tsar, the creation of the Soviet Union, incorporated Lenin’s lessons and learnings into its own structure with Stalin’s synthesis and that was where it became Marxism-Leninism, and then won World War Two. Now in 1956, this line splits again — one divides into two — just like it did with Lenin’s Marxism versus Kautsky’s, this time during the Sino-Soviet Split between Khrushchev and Mao. One of these lines was correct about Khrushchev and later Brezhnev et al., and what they were doing and what they represented (and which class they represented), and the other line were those frauds themselves and their pawns, puppets, and strategic allies who went along with their distortion.
“The rise to power of revisionism means the rise to power of the bourgeoisie. “ -Mao
This isn’t about “ideological purity” — like its a nice suit that cannot have a stain on it —no, this is about failing to understand how and why things exist in their present form, by tracing their line from the past using historical materialism. MLM is the philosophy that has fully reckoned with the fact that Mao was correct about Revisionism in the USSR, while the remaining “Marxism-Leninims” haven’t reckoned with the fact that their purported ideology diverged away from them back in 1956 and that they’ve been following false-Marxists since then, and their recent revival has been them parading around the Frankensteined corpse. Remember that when Lenin first emerged versus Kautsky, he and his Marxism were considered to be fringe, ultra-leftist, dogmatists as well, by all the mainstream Kautskyites. Now the Kautskyites and all descended from that line (save maybe Jacobin writers) are all dead and gone and forgotten, while Lenin lives on. You claim to reject Khrushchev's and Brezhnev’s theories and “contributions” to Marxism (which is good), but then you uphold the policies and practices and structure and history that resulted from them — this is the grave contradiction.
In the years after 1953 the C.P.S.U. no longer considered itself as the vanguard party of the working class in the Leninist tradition but as a party of the whole people. The state of the dictatorship of the proletariat, which Marx considered as continuing until the establishment of communism, was replaced by the state of the whole people. Before the economic reforms of 1953–58 it was possible to argue as it was done by Stalin that commodity production in the Soviet Union was of a special type: ‘commodity production without capitalists, which is concerned mainly with the goods of associated socialist producers (the state, the collective farms, the cooperatives), the sphere of action of which is confined to items of personal consumption, which obviously cannot possibly develop into capitalist production, and which, together with its ‘money economy’, is designed to serve the development and consolidation of socialist production’ (Stalin, J., op. cit., pp. 20–21.).
But after the market reforms of 1953–58 when the means of production began to circulate as commodities the situation qualitatively changed. The commodity forms of production which existed under socialism were of special type as Stalin pointed out. After the reforms the restrictions placed on commodity production were removed and commodity forms began to embody the economic relations of another type. Marx in ‘Capital’ had established that the commodity, the basic cell of capitalism, contained within itself the embryo of both wage-labour and capital. The logic of rapidly expanding commodity production meant that the economic categories, such as labour-power, surplus value, capitalist profit and the average rate of profit, would appear once again. It is in this context that the programme for the establishment of Communist society put forward by Khrushchev in 1961 has to be evaluated. In place of the contraction of the sphere of operation of commodity production and commodity circulation in the advance to communism the C.P.S.U. envisaged their further utilization. The programme withdrew from the task of the abolition of classes under socialism and refrained from restructuring the relations of production of Soviet society. The perspective put forward by Stalin of raising the group property of the collective farms to the level of the property of the entire people was ended. In place of this the notion of a future merger between collective farm property and the state property was adopted under Khrushchev.
-Vijay Singh, Stalin and the Question of ‘Market Socialism’ in the Soviet Union After the Second World War,1994
Claim #1 — Maoists actually have accomplished way more than Marxist-Leninists in the past 40 years
I didn’t actually state this — the argument was that Maoists were running the experiment of Marxism against the world more, and more actively, with more lessons being learned, and with a clear reckoning of their history compared to all the lines derived from Khrushchev’s — but this statement is still true all the same. More fundamentally, from this line, is that despite all the new “Marxist-Leninists,” they have not produced or contributed anything new, just the death rattles of their Frankenstein ideology.
What Dash doesn’t seem to recognise is just how devastated the left was with the fall of the USSR
The first problem here is that Maoist line, too, had their own collapse and fall and loss of resources, when their movement was devastated in the 1980s with Deng taking power. The Marxist-Leninist movements (the actual pro-Mao ones, not the Khrushchevite ones) suddenly found their rear-base of revolution, their arms supplier, their principle ally in the struggle for proletarian liberation — Mao’s China — cut off and no longer willing to support their revolutionary movements — this was a collapse of its own, with the same ultimate effect as the USSR collapse for it’s satellites: supplies were no longer being exported. So the issue is that both Maoism and the Khruschevite ‘Marxism-Leninism’ both suffered a collapse, but the Marxist-Leninists have given themselves a thirty-year long excuse for the uneventful decades, while Maoists picked themselves up immediately and counter-attacked the bourgeoise. There is a significance here because it was ironclad proof that Marxist socialism wasn’t done in the world, even after losing China (and continuing even after “losing” Russia — though Russia had, in reality, been lost since the 1950s).
If anything, what China is doing today is arguably for the better by not trying to export revolution like the USSR did … we cannot rely on a single state or a single central power to basically fund all our revolutions for us
But this is exactly what proletarian internationalism is about and exactly the point —and a core part of the basis for the Sino-Soviet split where Mao proved himself and his line correct. There needs to be an arsenal of the proletariat (this is demonstrated by the fact that there are so few weapons factories in the world, and nearly all in imperial cores).
“Proletarian internationalism is the perception of all communist revolutions as being part of a single global class struggle rather than separate localized events. It is based on the theory that capitalism is a world-system and therefore the working classes of all nations must act in concert if they are to replace it with communism.”
And the Marxist line already knows that the bourgeoisie will not be overthrown, nor stripped of their power, without armed revolution, and that a peaceful transition of power will not happen. “The Communists base themselves on rich historical experience which teaches that obsolete classes do not voluntarily abandon the stage of history.” — J. Stalin. Thus in refusing to export the arms and supplies comrades need to carry out that armed struggle is the same as Khrushchev's peaceful coexistence doctrine all over again. If you are going to repeat, defend, and uphold the Khrushchev line, then at least have the courage to state it openly, admit it, and call yourself a Khrushchevite. This debate was already done and has since been settled, and you are resuscitating Khrushchev’s position — the one that was proven to be bourgeois, and wrong.
“The cause of the proletariat has always had an international character. Communists of all countries must unite in a joint struggle for the triumph of their cause. Without solidarity and unity based on proletarian internationalism, no country can achieve revolutionary victory or consolidate it. The only correct way of protecting and strengthening this unity is to respect the principles determining the fraternal relations between communist parties and countries. These principles are: unity based on marxism-leninism and proletarian internationalism, mutual help and asssistance, independance and equality, unanimity of view achieved through discussion.”
-Statement by the Communist Party of China, Modern Leninism and Revisionism, 1962
Now you can try can argue that they are developing their productive forces first, and that they will export arms later (trying to frame revisionist China as Stalin’s Socialism-in-One-Country), but this incorporates its own deceit. Stalin made it clear that the internationalism would continue and that the USSR would be there to provide arms and supplies to revolutionary movements in the future (and did, such as in Civil War Spain, or supplying the KPD against Hitler’s Germany) — it was a tactical decision as part of a larger strategy and this was explicitly stated and made clear, and the international struggle was never abandoned nor forgotten. But this is not the case with China. This is not a statement that has been made or advanced by the modern CPC. Instead, you are forced to invoke wishful thinking of an imagination-promise that China might eventually do that later — something China themselves has never claimed nor something any Marxist would dare hide from the global masses (this would be conspiracy, and Marxists do not engage in conspiracy behind the backs of the masses). We state explicitly what we intend to do, so that the masses know and understand our actions. In fact, China has shown, repeatedly, that it will supply arms for the crushing of revolutionary movements.
“There is one, and only one, kind of real internationalism, and that is — working whole-heartedly for the development of the revolutionary movement and the revolutionary struggle in one’s own country, and supporting — by propaganda, sympathy, and material aid — this struggle, this, and only this, line, in every country without exception.”
– V.I. Lenin, 1917
Dash thinks all current AES states are revisionist.
They all are revisionist. I don’t say that to hate on them, I say that because Khrushchev is a revisionist, and Brezhnev is a revisionist. And because they are revisionist, so is their line, and so are their satellites, including all four of the other remaining “AES” whose economic models all followed from this line, and integrated with this line, and existed as an extension of the revisionist USSR. The way in which they existed in the world was to exist in such a manner as to function as a compatible addition to the post-Stalin Soviet Union, incorporate into that revisionist economy, and that relationship to the Soviet Union shaped them and their policies, and the entire Khrushchev framework is at the base, and has never been fully repudiated by those states.
Let us examine Cuba, for example. Maoists dont (necessarily) hate Castro — opinions range from hatred to genuinely liking him, but the issue is that he was a revisionist and failed to take and uphold the authentic Marxist line, and the rest falls from that. We can’t just look at Castro and Cuba as they exist now and assign whatever categories we like to them, to be a historical materialist, we have to follow the line from the past right through to the present to understand how that thing exists. No one calls Nikita Khrushchev an authentic communist or Marxist anymore (though for forty years, people did do that), and Khrushchev has since been revealed to all as a revisionist and someone whose ideas undermined and destroyed socialism. It was Mao who took the correct line, in defending and upholding Stalin, during the Sino-Soviet Split, and Khrushchev created, pushed and refused to back down from his incorrect line, which most of the ‘communist’ parties of the Soviet Bloc followed, sadly. This lead to Mao designating the revisionist USSR as ‘social imperialist’ — pointing out that they were no longer pursuing proletarian internationalism or worldwide communist revolution, but rather their own carving out of the world for spheres of influence, and that their economic system was going to reproduce capitalism and ultimately fully restore it — a prediction which, in fact, happened.
This is where we have to examine Fidel Castro and which line he took. This was actually what caused Che to split with Fidel, as Che, the more authentic communist, wanted Castro to take Mao’s line, and Che relentlessly attacked Khrushchev's Soviet reforms as the restoration of capitalism (and the model that would be used for Cuba). But Castro was a pragmatic man, and China was poor and very far away, while Russia was closer and comparatively wealthier at the time, and so Castro integrated the Cuban economy into the Soviet system. Thus, from the very beginning, the Cuban structure was one of Khrushchev’s “communism,” and already out of line with Marxism.
The issue is that Castro modeled his economy based off the Soviet Union, and the demands of the Soviet Union defined and shaped Cuba’s production. This is why some Maoists make the ‘Cuba was a sugar colony’ argument — I think it can be in poor taste, but the substance — the reason why this argument is made — is because the Cuban economy exists as an extension of Khrushchev’s USSR, which, itself, was revisionist and in the process of restoring capitalism. And that Cuban policies, foreign and domestic, extended from that. Hence why Castro is considered a revisionist, and why Cuba’s “actually existing socialism” isn’t derived from the authentic Marxist line, but based off a revisionist model from the outset, and still structured using parts of the revisionist model today.
Now it’s not impossible to reckon with this history and remove the revisionism, but that would require a rather large campaign first of identifying the revisionism in the policies and structure still present, as well as what the correct Marxist line is in the present, and then engaging in a massive transformation effort back towards the correct Marxist line and a full removal of all those things stemming from Khrushchev and Brezhnev that shaped Cuba today. However, no such reckoning has been undertaken, and Canal-Diaz sits considerably to the right of Castro, who himself was to the right of Che — hence the problem of trying to now say Cuba is on the authentic Marxist path. Where and when and how did it get back there? Simply because it fits our narrative of a good communist story, and that we have sympathy for Cuba’s defiance of American imperialism and exporting of doctors doesn’t mean it exists with the correct ideas about Marxism and Marxist revolution in the world today.
Now this doesn’t mean you have to hate Cuba or Fidel. I still hold a favourable opinion of Castro (though I understand why some others don’t). We can consider Fidel Castro to be a good man, and a good heroic revolutionary, with a good heart and good intentions, and lead a good revolution and made the world a better place for all his efforts — all of that is good things and yay for Castro for that, but all of those are moral claims which Marxism takes little interest in. Castro’s “socialism” was that of Khrushchev and Brezhnev, and he never fully broke with that, and that revisionism still lingers. The system he created is not one that destroys capitalism, instead it carries the revisionist seeds that always, ultimately reproduce it.
This is the same problem that extends to other “actually existing socialism” as well. Take Vietnam; while Ho Chi Minh is a hero to both “Marxist-Leninists” and Maoists, Vietnam also, eventually, ended up taking the Brezhnev line (though don’t forget Deng launching a war against Vietnam as well), and the Vietnamese “socialism” emerges from the same revisionist USSR line and incorporated that same revisionist for-profit USSR framework (though today, after the capitalist reforms and the restructuring to compete with China at the bottom of the Global Value Chain, its much closer to a social-democratic form of neoliberalism). And in Korea, its still clear that the American occupation of South Korea is the primary contradiction on the peninsula, and that the North is the victim whom we should, and do, sympathize with — it also must be remembered that Kim Il Sung had his own left-opposition which he repressed and even violently crushed. And we all know Juche is a strange deviation from Marxism, but rarely examine the alternative avenues DPRK could have taken. Part of what worries me about “Actually Existing Socialism” is that “Marxist-Leninists” have more concern from whomever won, or even whomever is just still in power, than for authentic communists who lost their struggles, now dead and forgotten, despite holding correct positions and fighting for the actual Marxist line.
The August Incident: The Struggle Against the Right Opportunist Line in the Workers' Party of Korea
Picture: Kim Il-sung (left), a part of the right opportunist line, listening to a speech by Kim Tu-bong (right), a part…
Claim #2 — the “Horrors” of the Cultural Revolution
It’s very revealing that you imply the Cultural Revolution was a horrible, terrible experience, but never identify for which class. For the bourgeoisie and their allies, I have no doubt it was terrible and frightening and that the Cultural Revolutionaries could come for them at any moment, but for the masses the Cultural Revolution was a tremendously empowering and liberating period; one which gave previously disenfranchised workers and peasants the ability to cast down their oppressors and abusers and exploiters still present within the Chinese system. Many of the old hierarchies and systems still remained in place even after Mao’s revolution was victorious, and many of the old small rulers of society still held their positions, and many abused their positions. The Cultural Revolution was the avenue for the masses to finally call out the corruption, the anti-socialism, the old bourgeois ideas of these small rulers, and give the masses themselves the capacity to criticize them and even strike them down. For the oppressors and abusers and exploiters, there was reason to fear — and that’s a good thing.
Much of the violence, brutality and destruction that happened during the ten-year period was indeed intended, such as the persecution of people with a bad class background at the beginning, and later action against the Rebels, but the actions did not stem from a single locus of power…We should also note the difference between schoolchildren in Beijing, where many high-ranking CCP officials and army officers were located, and those in other places such as Shanghai, the home town of three of the so-called ‘Gang of Four’ radicals. It was not in Shanghai, the supposed birthplace of the Cultural Revolution radicals, but in Beijing that schoolchildren beat up their teachers most violently.
-Mobo Gau, The Battle for China’s Past, pg 17
One cannot oppose the two major experiences of the socialist revolution, the soviet revolution and the chinese revolution. But a unilateral appreciation of the Cultural Revolution has often resulted in an underestimation of Stalin’s and Lenin’s theoretical work. And this type of underestimation is a source of opportunism.
-Ludo Martens, For the unity of all communists, in defence of proletarian internationalism, 1995
Dash tries to argue that Mao successfully curbed revisionism and bourgeois elements of the Communist Party in China by launching the Cultural Revolution.
It was in the process of doing this, yes. And that process was a struggle (class struggle, specifically), because the bourgeoisie also fought back against those attempting to curb their power and correct their lines. It was an ongoing battle, and with Mao at the helm, the masses were slowly gaining the upper hand. But that process was stopped with Hua Guofeng’s and then Deng Xiaoping’s seizure of power, but for the ten years to that point, the masses had been empowered and invigorated. They were calling out the overseer, gatekeeper, and managerial stratas of Chinese society for their bourgeois ideas and revisionism — their phony representation of Marxism and deviation from Mao’s socialist construction — and where necessary, forcibly removing them from positions of power so that those with proletarian interests could replace them. This struggle sometimes took on a violent form, and Mao, especially, made efforts to stop the excesses, but some violence was unavoidable and necessary for the masses to exercise their will. “If the bourgeoisie guards the gate, then fight your way in!”
Right, because it’s not like cultural elements such as Buddhism became under heavy persecution during this time period, or anything else.
The problem here is that the notion is presented as a liberal-humanist concern (“oh wont somebody please think of the Buddhists!”) without the Marxist analysis of class. What power, authority, and domination over society and the masses did the religious structures and institutions have and exert. The persecution of religion has often been, and even here in China, was an avenue for resisting the oppressive structures still lingering from capitalism and even feudal society. In Enver Hoxha’s Albania, the old religious institutions were used to justify holding women as literal property (as in, “I’ll trade you two goats for that daughter of yours”), and Hoxha’s state-mandated-Atheism, while repressive, was an avenue to combat, curtail, and end this abusive and horrible practice. I have no doubt that there were innocents caught in the middle, and excesses against those who didn’t deserve it, but rightist errors and retrenchment of injustices do not correct leftist errors and violence in the toppling of those injustices.
Only when Deng assumed office did things begin to improve
No, this is the pro-Deng narrative, which hides behind neoliberal GDP statistics, echoing statements from the Western bourgeois narrative, and refuses to analyze socialism on socialism’s terms. Both the Great Leap Forward and the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution were huge successes for developing China and Chinas economic capacity — despite the failures and mistakes made in the process. The fact that self-proclaimed “socialists” have come to take a position on these two periods which is identical to the Western bourgeois position; repeating bourgeois hysteria and citing bourgeois sources, decrying murders of millions, with no defence for the socialism and socialist character and strategy of these movements, nor the gains made during them — is an alarming one. What’s more is that significant economic growth in China occurred during, and as a result of, these eras — which Deng Xiaoping then piggybacked his capitalist restoration on top of. The success and growth in China was a result of Mao’s socialism, not Deng’s capitalism, and Deng reaped the fruits of Mao’s labour in the same way that Khrushchev and Brezhnev reaped the fruits of Stalin’s.
[T]he dramatic improvements in the living conditions, infrastructure, and agricultural practices of China’s rural population … emerged in this period.
[T]he Cultural Revolution helped overthrow local hierarchies, establish participatory democracy and economic planning in the communes, and expand education and public services, especially for the elderly… [T]hese changes fostered dramatic economic development in rural China.
-Dongping Han, The Unknown Cultural Revolution
This is because the Cultural Revolution was quite unabashedly about ideology over materialism.
I’m going to call this what it is, a neo-Brezhnevism. Back during the GPCR, the accusation against it (which you can still find regurgitated by some of the lingering Revisionist Communist Parties which sided with Khrushchev and Brezhnev) was that the “Cultural Revolution was a peasant movement and not a proletarian one,” and was misguided from that. This is the sort of statement that sounds vaguely Marxist, and you are suppose to nod your head and agree and let the issue drop, without actually dissecting what that means. This is the same for this notion of ‘ideology over materialism,’ which wasn’t the case in the first place — the Cultural Revolution was the process of materially removing the material bourgeois-leaders and material bourgeois-elements from the material institutions and material organizations that materially existed in the material society. Bourgeois-loyalists were in charge of the material factories and material farms, in material positions of power, and when the Cultural Revolution challenged them, they were finally forced to make material corrections to their abusive behaviors, tendencies, and policies, or face material removal. The second issue is that the whole notion of dialectics shows us this relationship is a back and forth process (with material at the base), but in which ideas provide the transformative impetus in guiding and influencing the reshaping the material world. And since we get our ideas from the world (again, material at the base), removing the material institutions of capitalist production (markets, profit, etc) is removing those ideas from the masses, and in replacing them with proletarian structures for socialist production, (economic planning, new democracy, etc), which produces the new proletarian ideas which guide and shape the socialist transformation.
There is a larger concern here as well about how you approach sources of information. You (correctly) are highly suspicious of bourgeois sources, even Russian ones, which paint Lenin as a villain or Stalin as a purely negative figure. Yet you have no suspicion or doubt with regards to the pro-Deng accounts despite the fact the people who wrote and popularized these accounts are precisely the kinds of elements the proponents of the Cultural Revolution targeted. You call the so-called “Gang” of Four ultra-left deviants, but with no clear motivation, nor even what that deviation actually was?
The pro-Deng side, following the Cultural Revolution, also conducted their own opportunist and unlawful acts such as arresting Cultural Revolution activists and factional rivals — not just the leaders but many ordinary people who were merely participating in these movements.
Interlude — the Cultural Revolution, just whose side was Mao on?
It might seem that I’m dwelling on the Cultural Revolution, but this is the question of the utmost importance for us today in the division between the “Marxist-Leninists” and the Marxist-Leninist-Maoists. It’s impossible for both the pro-Deng side and the pro-(so called) “Gang” of Four to both be correct — the two factions exist in an antagonistic contradiction. Yet both claim Mao, both claim to be the rightful successor to Mao, and both claim to be correct. Let’s go through the Cultural Revolution and see if we can discover what Mao’s actual position was relative to the “Gang” and Deng.
The beginnings of the Cultural Revolution occurred, as already discussed in the previous essay, when Mao’s big-character poster, “Bombard the Headquarters,” specifically attacking Liu Shaqoi and Deng Xiapoing, went up. They were also both harshly criticized by Mao at a major party meeting in 1967. Liu Shaoqi was placed under house arrest and died shortly after, and Deng was formally ejected from the Communist party and removed from his positions by Mao himself.
In 1971, Lin Biao, who had previously been slated to be Mao’s successor, and was functionally his number two, attempted a pro-USSR coup of Mao. Lin Biao was motivated by his extreme anti-Western positions, but was much more malleable on capitalism and revisionism, hence his goal of capitulating socialism to the Khrushchev-Brezhnev line. His coup failed, and he died while attempting to flee the country to the Soviet Union. But this put the Communist party in the uncomfortable position of needing to unify and show Chinese solidarity against in the wake of another potential wave of Soviet aggression, attacks, and invasion. With heavy support and pressure from Zhou Enlai, who was now on the right of the party by this time, Deng was reluctantly allowed back in the party by Mao in 1973, while they liquidated Lin Biao’s clique.
The condition for Deng was that he was supposed to self criticize, with Mao warning his close colleague Vice Chairman Wang Hongwen (one of the “Gang”) that despite Deng having a talent, he also had an inclination toward the capitalist road, and that he must be on guard against this. This was the statement Mao made of Deng, offering criticism, which Deng proceeded to ignore, and never actually offered the self-criticism that was asked of him, and Mao criticized him for this too.
Also, for all the praise for Deng’s talents, when he was placed in the role of leading the economy in 1974, where he utterly failed to perform. This is all especially ironic because the pro-Deng position relies so heavily on the idea that Deng was better for the economy when the bulk of the evidence demonstrates that he was worse and that the planned economy was always superior. This is extra-gross because the pro-Deng position constantly needs to argue that market economies are actually superior to, or at least offer a benefit to growth over planned economies, a complete reversal of one of the things that actual communists advocate for fiercely.
By late 1974, Mao (who was increasingly frail by this point) had put the rather important “Study the Dictatorship of the Proletariat Campaign” and the “Criticize Lin [Biao] and Confucius Campaign” in the hands of Yao Wenyuan and Zhang Chunqiao (two of the “Gang”). The purpose of these policies was to oppose and prevent a capitalist restoration. These weren’t vague policies — these included specific, direct attacks at Deng Xiaoping, Zhou Enlai, and the Right of the Party, and the policies they were advocating. In fact, this is where (and in what relation) Mao also famously makes the statement I used in my essay, which was, again, was specifically aimed at Deng and warning the Cultural Revolutionaries that the capitalist-roader bourgeois enemies existed right inside the Communist Party — a theory that Deng denied:
“You are making the socialist revolution, and yet you don’t know where the bourgeoisie is. It is right inside the Communist Party — those in power taking the capitalist road. The capitalist roaders are still on the capitalist road.
In mid-1975, Mao Zedong and all four members of the ‘Gang’ together spearhead the “Criticize Water Margin Campaign.” This was another attack on Deng Xiaoping, Zhou Enlai, and the right wing within the CPC. It’s very telling how many of Mao’s statements, policies and campaigns were initiated alongside the so-called “Gang” of Four, and against Deng’s rightist-faction. Mao constantly trusted these programs to the “Gang,” and constantly criticized Deng. The anti-Zhou campaigns by Mao and the “Gang” were a result of the policies of Zhou Enlai and his degradation towards the rightist line, as he had wanted capitalist restoration and a closer alliance with the United States.
Early in 1976 Zhou Enlai finally died, and this opened up another power struggle over who would become the next Premier, and clear successor to the aging Mao. The right of the CPC wanted Deng Xiaoping and pushed hard for him, while Mao’s own chosen successor was Zhang Chunqiao. General Ye Jianying, the conservative Deng-aligned rightist and leader of the People’s Liberation Army threatened a military coup or civil war against Mao and his Central Committee if Zhang Chunqiao was appointed. Mao did not want a civil war or chaos, especially with another potential conflict with the USSR looming. This is why the compromise of Hua Guofeng was agreed upon, who was the relative centrist between Zhang and Deng. It was noted that this was a man who “talks left but acts right,” and Yao Wenyuan’s (one of the “Gang) children commented that Hua Guofeng was “a great actor.” It was seen as enough of a victory for Mao and the “Gang” at the time just keeping Deng from power.
In response to Deng’s power grab, Mao approved of the new campaign of criticizing Deng (yet again), with the “Reversing the correct verdicts goes against the will of the people” campaign. Mao was also, once again, openly hostile to Deng’s rightist reforms. Yet, despite all of this, Deng would be allowed to stay on in his position, as long as he didn’t violate party unity. But of course he did! This time, with the “Anti-Mao Counterrevolutionary Tiananmen Square Incident” — an anti-communist protest organized by Deng (who insisted he was only there to get a haircut!), which was later redefined by the Revisionist CPC as a heroic display of patriotism. Thus, Deng was expelled yet again.
This is where the Cultural Revolution went into a free-for-all attack, with the masses criticizing and attacking Deng, in a tremendously popular move. Unfortunately, Mao died shortly afterward. Ironically, he thought that at least he had saved Chinese socialism, and died believing that Deng was removed from power and no longer a threat to socialist construction. But shortly after Mao’s death, Hua Guofeng revealed his true colors, having the so-called “Gang” of Four imprisoned with support from Ye and the PLA, and restoring Deng Xiaoping’s position within the party. Guofeng attempted to establish his own cult of personality, but being incompetent, useless, and uncharismatic, it was just a matter of Deng reinstating his rightist followers , and maneuvering his pieces on the board to finally get himself installed as the de facto paramount leader within a few years, while Guofeng faded into disgrace and obscurity.
Just to reiterate, under Mao, there were numerous campaigns against Liu Shaqoi (another figure the CPC rehabilitated after the Cultural Revolution), Zhou Enlai, Lin Biao, and Deng Xiaoping, yet never one against the supposed “Gang” of Four. Also remember that Mao: launched the Cultural Revolution, had Deng removed, constantly expressed the need to fight against revisionism, tried to appoint leftists (including Zhang Chunqiao) to power, expressed need for more Cultural Revolution, was constantly against and opposed to market reforms, warned of capitalist restoration, warned that the bourgeoisie were right inside the Communist Party (a theory Deng denied), removed Deng from office as second time, and made sure the “Gang” who he supposedly hated had a large say in running the party after he died. It becomes very clear whose side Mao was actually on. I’d be less hostile to the pro-Deng position if they had the courage to just say that they oppose Mao and hate his entire legacy, but in the same way liberals now need to appropriate Marx, the pro-Deng position needs to appropriate Mao.
Claim #3 — China isn’t socialist anymore, and neither are your arguments for it
This is the most damning part of it all — what has become of the Western communist movement in which capitalism is now communism. When I was in the pro-China camp, I would always dodge this discussion, because I knew correctly that central planning was superior to market allocation, and assumed that the pro-market position had to be either a concession or a mistake. But this is the problem —both of those are damning, and with the arguments you are required to make to advocate for them, you’ve functionally become right wing libertarians, arguing for markets and free trade, as long as its given the label “socialism.” The entire Deng quote of “Black Cat, White Cat,” — as Mao correctly points out, shows that Deng cannot differentiate capitalism from socialism, and neither can his supporters. Eduard Bernstein must be spinning in his grave; if only he had called his revisionist take on Marxism “Socialism with German Characteristics,” perhaps he’d still have relevance. The fact that you call yourself a “Marxist-Leninist” while your economic arguments are in favour of markets, in favour of privatization, in favour of petty production, in favour of decentralization, in favour of decollectivization, in favour of the continued existence of private property — you’re “Marxism-Leninism” has more in common with run-of-the-mill neoliberal ideology than anything Marxist.
Marxism exists as a repudiation of markets, with the very central thesis of Marxism being that the collectivization and socialization of labour is necessarily an improvement to the efficiency and production, and that concentrating that further is both more efficient, and if sufficiently concentrated and centralized, provides a qualitative transformation to the mode of production (this would require the demolition of the label ‘private property’ and the antagonistic class which upholds it) — a socialist mode of production. From this, a socialist economy is necessarily more efficient than a capitalist one. This realization is one of the very reasons we become Marxists. The fact that you do a complete reversal on this notion is pure-anti-Marxism. The arguments themselves promoting markets as beneficial are identical to those made by right-libertarians and neoliberals as to why you actually need to have markets and why central planning does not work.
Moreover, China’s success was not the mastermind product of Deng Xiaoping’s communist masterplanning genius, but of a number of factors working in it’s favour, especially the carryovers from the socialist system left by Mao, which laid the foundation for China’s success.
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For three days in the middle of May 1989, the Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev visited Beijing. It was the…
Marxism-Leninism-Maoism must be revived to save China from the evil Dengist takeover
Yes, this is correct.
In fact, Mao agrees, and it was his last great prediction before his death:
I have predicted that full-scale capitalist restoration may appear in China.
Why did Lenin speak of exercising dictatorship over the bourgeoisie? It is essential to get this question clear. Lack of clarity on this question will, lead to revisionism. This should be made known to the whole nation.
In a word, China is a socialist country. Before liberation she was much the same as, a capitalist country. Even now, she practises an eight-grade wage system; distribution according to work and exchange through money, and in all this differs very little from the old society. What is different is that the system of ownership has been changed.
Our country at present practises a commodity system, the wage system is unequal, too, as in the eight-grade wage scale, and so forth. Under the dictatorship of the proletariat such things can only be restricted. Therefore if people like Lin Piao come to power, it will be quite easy for them to rig up the capitalist system. That is why we should do more reading of Marxist-Leninist works.
Lenin said that ’small production engenders capitalism and the bourgeoisie continually, daily, hourly, spontaneously, and on a mass scale’. They are also engendered among a part of the working class and of the party membership. Both with the ranks of the proletariat and amongst the personnel of state and other organs there are people who take the bourgeois style of life.
Stability and unity do not mean writing off class struggle; class struggle is the key link and everything else hinges on it.
After all, what the hell have market reforms ever done for China? What good has ever come out of the development of Socialism With Chinese Characteristics?
This is the one. Few of the other arguments bother me particularly as much as this one, because it’s too on the nose. This one is the one that stands out — the one that says a bit too much. Without making this circular reasoning and relying on pointing to China and saying “look how well it’s done,” explain to me how and why markets are preferable to planning. Explain the mechanics; the process. What is the essence of this argument — the reason why. As a Marxist, explain why a market could be more efficient than central planning, because central planning is the very thing Marxists uphold like a lion defending its cubs — so explain how all other Marxists have gotten this so wrong.
This is the crux of it, because the very reason you area Marxist, as opposed to an anarchist or whatever, is because you know centralization and planning and the socialization of production is more efficient — this understanding is what drives you into Marxism. Yet, here, you turn anti-communism into communism by suddenly doing a full reversal to petty production and markets. This is essentially the mainstay of the arguments, but let us go through each of them in turn.
The dramatic increase in life expectancy
Most of the dramatic increase in life expectancy came during the Cultural Revolution (as well as the Great Leap Forward — even with the billions dead!) where agriculture was rapidly developed, housing was planned (and guaranteed), and healthcare made as widely available as possible.
Deng did indeed purge a lot of hardline Maoists, some of whom were women and workers. That doesn’t make him a misogynist
I didn’t call him a misogynist, I called him an undemocratic far-right capitalist roader who usurped power in a coup and then disenfranchised the poorest and most left wing voices in the People’s Assembly, backed by some of the worst reactionaries and rightists in China.
so I can imagine why Deng would want to replace these schools with more standard ones
Here is is again. Capitalism is communism! It’s very telling that Deng-supporters seem to insist that education and education systems need to take the shape of Western capitalist nations; that they do not believe socialist states are capable of developing new ways to do education. The contempt for the masses and their ability to find a new way of doing things is the most vile anti-socialism. At least this contempt for the masses and the assumption of their inability to make their own education system is fully in line with being a Deng Xiaoping supporter.
The strange thing to me is that education in the United States has become a lot less humanistic in the last decade: more testing, more memorizing, more competition, more specialization, and commodification with expected returns. Of course, the same has happened in China; arguably the first thing to be “reformed” was the education system so it went back to the way it was for thousands of years and all the people with power and wealth are elite graduates of top universities.
You would think people raised on such a horrible system would be even more sympathetic to the greatest historical attempt to remake education to serve the oppressed and fundamentally change what we think education is. I guess it’s so distant now that it seems unimaginable and “meritocratic” education in STEM is the best we can imagine for “socialism.” I always found it funny that meritocracy is originally a satirical term because of course every ruling class imagines themselves to have gotten there through merit but the origin has been so lost (like “brainwashing” and other cold war terms that keep coming back to life) people really cling to it.
Not true. As a few Chinese people in your own thread told you, those who still owned their own farms produced the majority of agricultural output.
In the same way I’m suspicious of sources who won’t identify class distinctions and class enemies, I’m similarly suspicious of the pro-Deng Chinese accounts you interact with — English speaking Chinese citizens are rarely from the ranks of the poorest — and simultaneously those touting the efficacy and benefits of petty production and markets — since the people you are speaking to are likely the beneficiaries of the extracted surplus labour, rather than those having their labour surplus extracted. Collective farms have no owners, but private farms do, and those private farm owners have a class interest to uphold, while the proletariat has a class interest to destroy it. China has its labour aristocrats and petty bourgeoisie, and their interests don’t align with the Global Proletariat any more than their Western counterparts. Do these opinions come from those who are will to name and call for the destruction of the bourgeoisie and the bourgeois class?
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by Ramin Mazaheri for The Saker Blog There are almost too many socioeconomic gains for me to list... and yet the idea…
Deng’s reforms in the countryside — known as the Rural Revolution — included the replacement of the collective farming system with a “household responsibility system…”
Call this what it is — bourgeois petty production. If you are going to defend it, then name it for what it is or stop calling yourself a Marxist. More fundamentally, just as you need to explain why markets are actually more efficient or superior to central planning; you also must explain why petty production is superior to collectivization. What is the justification? Again, without pointing at China and saying “look how well they are doing,” — explain the mechanics of the process, why ‘household responsibility’ (read privatized) farming is actually somehow more efficient than collectivized.
Monthly Review | China's Grain Production
Zhun Xu is an assistant professor of economics at Renmin University of China. Wei Zhang is an assistant professor in…
Deng pretty much gave the peasants the self-determining liberation they had expected from Mao since the establishment of the People’s Republic.
The peasants themselves do not seem to be in agreement with you, especially since many millions of them lost their positions and protections as workers on the collective farms, and were forced into urban centres to become cheap exploitable labour in factories, where new capitalists could generate great profits from themselves. This is all justified under the guise of neoliberal line going up, and the sheer unevenness and inequality of the Chinese system, despite the marginal improvements for those at the absolute bottom. Even today, China experiences growing inequality. The fact that some of the most destitute are being lifted out of poverty is the right-wing capitalist argument of “a rising tide lifts all boats,” only re-iterated in a Chinese context. The United States had tremendous gains, even for the very poor, from the 1900s right through to the 1960s, but this doesn’t offer a defence of their societal mode of production, nor are they an example of “actually existing socialism.”
The appraisal of post-Mao reforms in this book is not meant to argue that the past is better than the present or that there is nothing good about the post-Mao reforms. For many people in China the present regime is less oppressive and suppressive. Even the label of landlord and rich peasants as a class classification was abolished in 1978, an initiative that I consider the best ever by the post-Mao Hua Guofeng leadership. It is also absolutely indisputable that there is no longer any shortage of consumer goods, and that the people in China as a whole have more material possessions. The Chinese as a whole have more money, they have more to eat, they have more and better clothes to wear, and many of them even travel more for pleasure. It is therefore very puzzling that through all my travel and work in rural China — including a trip to Long Bow Village, a village that has been extensively documented by Hinton, and especially my in depth study in the Gao Village area — I have heard expressions of admiration and even love of Mao everywhere, but hardly any enthusiasm for Deng.
I have encountered only a couple of people who preferred Deng to Mao and these were descendants of former ‘class enemies’ such as landlords or rich peasants. They attributed their liberation from class labelling to Deng Xiaoping, although in fact the abolition of class labels was accomplished in 1978 before Deng became the paramount leader. Mao’s portraits can still be seen in the average rural household, but one can hardly find a portrait of Deng Xiaoping anywhere.
During my interviews I found that even those who did make it by getting rich first in rural China preferred Mao as a leader, and they refer to Deng derogatively as ‘Deng aizi’ (Deng the dwarf). That rural people prefer Mao to Deng is not because they are benighted, brainwashed or plain stupid as suggested by some Chinese elite intelligentsia. On the contrary, they are able to compare the era of Mao with that of post-Mao reforms in a broad picture. For them Mao was the foremost leader that led the country to unity and stability. It was during the era of Mao that a basic and fundamental industrial, agricultural and scientific foundation was laid for later development…They find that they cannot apply the same interpretation to the policies and intentions of the post-Mao reform leadership. They think the post-Mao authorities are simply reaping the fruit of the hard work done in the past, and for their own personal benefit.
My research in the Gao Village area in the past two decades and my recent research in Long Bow Village suggest that many rural people think that even if China had retained its collective system they would have had the same kind of living standard as they have now. Wang Jinhong, who served as the Party Secretary of Long Bow Village from 1966 to 2003, had no doubt this when I interviewed him in February 2005. He had built a huge and comfortable two-story house during the 1980s, but he insisted that he would have done the same if Maoist policies had continued.
According to one research study in Henan province, some rural people actually think they could have done even better, and for everyone. The survey was carried out in a county that had above average living standards at the time of research in 2000. Among the 200 questionnaires returned (out of 208), only 11 per cent agreed that living standards had gone up a lot since the reforms. In contrast, 55 per cent of the respondents thought that their standards of living had not gone up much, 11.5 per cent felt they had not risen at all, and 22.5 per cent stated that they were worse off since the reforms (Zhuo Yi 2003). Similarly, 41.5 per cent of them stated both that their living standard would have been more or less the same and the societal habits and customs (shehui fenqi) would have been much better if Maoist policies had continued. About 90 per cent of the respondents thought that in terms of healthcare, agricultural mechanization, irrigation improvement and technical innovation, reform policies have made the situation worse.
-Mobo Gau, The Battle for China’s Past, pg 198
Not all Chinese peasants seem to share the experience that you’ve assigned to them.
Dash is just upset at the implication of a free market economy, it would seem.
I’m extremely upset at the implication of a free market economy, because I am a communist and a Marxist, and those positions exists and have always existed in hostility to “free markets.” If you are going to promote this, then you should have the courage to openly label and call yourself a “free market advocate” rather than a socialist. At least walk around with a “I heart free markets” t-shirt, or pin, or something at your “socialist” meetings so that the actual communists can identify you and keep their distance. Even Chinese Professors are pointing out that their system is in full effect, a capitalist one.
the government sought to end the system of lifelong employment for workers in state-owned enterprises by using fixed-term contracts to hire new labor, which they hoped would allow companies to refrain from renewing workers’ contracts if they were not qualified, efficient, or capable enough
If this program was applied in North America, you would immediately recognize it for what it is and call it out as vile neoliberalism. But by assuming China to be primitive, this neoliberalism is presented as an advancement and improvement — over socialism no less, as advocated by a self-proclaimed socialist. Removing workers for lacking qualifications (or being inefficient or incapable!!) with no meaningful safety net is just throwing them to the curb to suffer and starve, taking away any long term protections to their income, so that cheaper shorter contracts can drive wages down further’. Thus, for the capitalists, the next wave of docile trainees can be brought in and provide better margins and returns on wages, and the older less useful ones can be jettisoned. And you call this socialism.
This is strict Marxian ethics applied to a socialist market economy
Marxism doesn’t concern itself with ethics, and Marxism is opposed to markets. “Socialist market economy” is an oxymoron, and the problem in this debate is pinning down what it means in its context because it is so easy for the pro-Deng position to shift:
Most defenders of China today play a very basic trick. They conflate different arguments for markets into a single thing called “market socialism” and then use the term to mean all of these things simultaneously so that they can switch when cornered.
There are at least three different meanings of market socialism.
1. Allowing the penetration of foreign capital in order to acquire technology, foreign investment, exchange reserves, and international political leverage. Generally, these are seen as concessions in a time of emergency even if that emergency is decades long. This has been practiced to some degree in every socialist country although in the post-Soviet period it has gone much further with entire SEZ regions, whole industries given to foreign investors, and vast distortions to the economy like multiple currencies. Nevertheless, this is the most defensible but the least interesting. Markets here just mean commodity production in a controlled manner and there is no confusion about their nature as a carrier of capitalist production. This describes North Korea and Cuba.
2. The market itself as the director of investment. Usually this also comes with a decoupling of markets from capitalism and the idea that the market itself can allocate resources better than economic planning given a vaguely defined level of underdevelopment. Only China and Vietnam have gone so far as to make profit the driving force of investment, open market prices the driver of commodity production (in China exposing agriculture to free market prices fundamentally changed what was produced and how it was produced rather than increasing some abstract concept of “efficiency”), and labor markets the primary force of employment and wages although the post-Stalin USSR and Eastern European countries made efforts toward this. This is basically neoliberal ideology and is totally alien to socialism; for example the underlying logic is identical to the “economic calculation problem” and its claim of the inherent inefficiency of planning. Only China actually calls this socialism, Vietnam is more ambiguous about what to call an economy that follows the coercive laws of competition given it’s obviously capitalism.
3. The market as capitalism but this being a “necessary stage” in the evolution of nations given postcolonial underdevelopment. Deng at his most frank basically says that he doesn’t care whether China is socialist or capitalist as long as it sees economic growth. This means it is capitalist given the presumptions behind this belief but it’s almost always disguised behind Confucian allegory, only the western internet left has gone so far as to openly admit China has capitalist relations and that this is a good thing. Nevertheless, despite rhetoric, Vietnam is probably closer to this ideal than China since it privatized basically the entire economy but Vietnam is perhaps more defensible, both for their honesty and their desperation. China, like Yugoslavia, made efforts towards this but stalled because of political gridlock and relative freedom of maneuver given different conditions in East Asia vs. Europe, although China went much further after the death of Deng and the pre and post Asian financial crisis economies can’t be conflated.
Really none of these apply to socialism in 2021 where the relations of production are completely backwards compared to the forces of production. As is often pointed out, the megacorporations of today are vast planned economies that use computerized inventory management and data collection to control production from a single box on the Amazon warehouse floor to millions of sales a minute and each consumer preference to go with it. But we can sort of understand the disorientation of the neoliberal period and the rot that had set in by the 80s in the remaining planned economies and the difficulty of reconstituting communist economic theory after decades of stagnation. Today there’s really no excuse given a new generation of the left has no relationship to that period and it’s embarrassing that all three of these definitions must be used to defend China and its incoherent ideology (or at least the incoherent ideology it presents to the world as a compromise between different factions that fundamentally disagree and a summation of historical figures who all hated each other as a continuous thought). Regardless, you should be aware of when the switch takes place from one definition to the other and you have to force people to define their terms at all times.
-smokeuptheweed9, Response to: ‘How does the role of markets under capitalism differ from their role under socialism and/or a socialist market economy?’
Almost every country is to some degree trying to participate in the global economy, because it’s quite unrealistic in this day and age to try and be completely self-sustaining; you cut yourself off from a lot of key resources if you go the route of complete isolationism.
The reason isolationism is good is not because it is better than being part of a socialized network (which is more efficient, even though you were tacitly arguing against that earlier), but the reason is because your goal as a communist is to bring that network down, so that a socialist one (which will develop differently and in a superior fashion) can be erected in its place. Socialism does not build on the shoulders of capitalism, socialism builds on the corpse of capitalism. We don’t construct our projects on top of those we seek to topple. Being isolated is a good thing, because it means that your economy is protected from the contradictions and crises of capitalism, and that when the breakdown or overthrow of the capitalist system is underway, you will have a working and operational rear-base to meet the needs of the revolution. That rear-base collapses if it is dependent and integrated into the capitalist system that you are supposed to oppose.
First off, literally nobody is saying China is promoting global communism.
Yes, and this is the problem. Communists should be promoting global communism, unceasingly. Even if there’s a tactical withdrawal, as in Socialism-in-one-country, that should be openly stated, there should be no stoppage of — at least vocal — support for other communist revolutions, and supplies and arms should be sent at the best opportunity or when necessity demands (again, the Spanish Civil War and German KPD provide good examples of the USSR doing this).
China’s strategy is to allow the market to play its role in resource allocation and developing the productive forces
This is the whole problem of the ‘developing the productive forces’ thesis — is that it actually runs contra-Marx and what Marx spent the latter half of his life advocating. The whole point is that capitalism had, even by Marx’s time, already introduced the conditions that give rise to the proletariat class — the liberating class of all humanity (since the conditions for proletarian liberation and human liberation are identical) — the class which ends the bourgeois class and emancipates itself and humanity from the previous modes of production. Because this development had been achieved, there was no more ‘development’ that capitalism had to offer which socialism could not do better.
In 1881, Russian communist Vera Zasulich wrote a letter to Marx asking him whether he believed all countries needed to go through capitalism before reaching communism. She wanted to know if Russian communists needed to defend capitalism’s rise in Russia, as Russia, at the time, was not yet a capitalist country. In a series of drafts that were intended to serve as a response to her, Marx defends the possibility of a socialist transition in Russia without the prior consolidation of capitalism. According to him, the greatest productive forces of Russia were the rural communes, and they could point in the direction of a socialist organization of production without depending on the consolidation of capitalism in the country. However, this was only possible because in Europe the productive forces had already been developed greatly under capitalism. Russia could benefit from this, as Marx says that, since machines had already been invented, they wouldn’t need to be invented again. If they existed in the west they could be produced in Russia.
So Marx himself believed in the possibility of a socialist transition in a country that didn’t have capitalism. This clearly depends on the circumstances, and his analysis is directly directioned at the Russia of the late 19th century and its rural communes. Also, in 1882, in a preface to the Russian edition of the Manifesto, he adds that he believes that a Russian revolution is only possible if it becomes the spark that ignites revolutions in the west. These are his owns words: “If the Russian Revolution becomes the signal for a proletarian revolution in the West, so that both complement each other, the present Russian common ownership of land may serve as the starting point for a communist development”. This would later be Lenin’s position as well (without the rural commune bit).
Nor is China’s market economy some form of really long (never-ending, essentially) “New Economic Policy,” — in fact it was essentially the opposite. The whole point of the NEP was that it would be ended to give way to Stalin’s collectivization. But in China, the reverse happened: collectivization was already well under way in the Mao era, and the reversed to what it is now. For Lenin, it was an intermediate step in advancing from a feudal relation to a socialist one, while China regressed from a socialist relation back to a capitalist one (but which is far more profitable for the few fortunate farm owners).
The peasantry after the consolidation of Soviet power. Whereas before, in the first period of the revolution, the main objective was the overthrow of tsarism, and later, after the February Revolution, the primary objective was to get out of the imperialist war by overthrowing the bourgeoisie, now, after the liquidation of the civil war and the consolidation of Soviet power, questions of economic construction came to the forefront. Strengthen and develop the nationalised industry; for this purpose link up industry with peasant economy through state-regulated trade; replace the surplus-appropriation system by the tax in kind so as, later on, by gradually lowering the tax in kind, to reduce matters to the exchange of products of industry for the products of peasant farming; revive trade and develop the co-operatives, drawing into them the vast masses of the peasantry-this is how Lenin outlined the immediate tasks of economic construction on the way to building the foundations of socialist economy.
In fact, Stalin specifically addresses the idea that the USSR was not “ready for socialism” (or the idea that capitalism was the road to socialism) or even that the NEP was capitalism:
NEP is capitalism, says the opposition. NEP is mainly a retreat, says Zinoviev. All this, of course, is untrue. In actual fact, NEP is the Party’s policy, permitting a struggle between the socialist and the capitalist elements and aimed at the victory of the socialist elements over the capitalist elements. In actual fact, NEP only began as a retreat, but it aimed at regrouping our forces during the retreat and launching an offensive. In actual fact, we have been on the offensive for several years now, and are attacking successfully, developing our industry, developing Soviet trade, and ousting private capital.
But what is the meaning of the thesis that NEP is capitalism, that NEP is mainly a retreat? What does this thesis proceed from?
It proceeds from the wrong assumption that what is now taking place in our country is simply the restoration of capitalism, simply a “return” to capitalism. This assumption alone can explain the doubts of the opposition regarding the socialist nature of our industry. This assumption alone can explain the panic of the opposition in face of the kulak. This assumption alone can explain the haste with which the opposition seized upon the inaccurate statistics on differentiation in the peasantry. This assumption alone can explain the opposition’s special forgetfulness of the fact that the middle peasant is the central figure in our agriculture. This assumption alone can explain the under-estimation of the importance of the middle peasant and the doubts concerning Lenin’s cooperative plan. This assumption alone can serve to “substantiate” the “New Opposition’s” disbelief in the new path of development of the countryside, the path of drawing it into the work of socialist construction.
As a matter of fact, what is taking place in our country now is not a one-sided process of restoration of capitalism, but a double process of development of capitalism and development of socialism — a contradictory process of struggle between the socialist and the capitalist elements, a process in which the socialist elements are overcoming the capitalist elements. This is equally incontestable as regards the towns, where state industry is the basis of socialism, and as regards the countryside, here the main foothold for socialist development is mass co-operation linked up with socialist industry.
-J. Stalin, A Year of Great Change, 1929
Understand what Stalin is saying here — he is not saying that ‘we need to do some capitalism and it will lead to socialism in the future’ (that would just be Bernstein’s argument regurgitated).
Stain is not arguing that the existence of capitalism now will create socialism in the future. He is saying that right now there is a struggle between capitalism in agriculture (petty peasant production which is integrated into the national economy through indirect taxes in kind) and socialism in industry (nationalized industry and state control of credit and foreign trade). The struggle is in bringing the petty peasant communities into larger and larger communes and eventually a single state planned economy, on which the presence of socialism in state industry will exert an inexorable pressure. This is the opposite of China where communes were decollectivized and petty production restored in order to turn excess rural labor into a migratory proletariat for global capitalism. The justification was that the Chinese state could peel some surplus value from this immense exploitation and use it for import substitution coupled with a neoliberal argument that the market is inherently more efficient in agriculture. The question of the speed of collectivization is different because the Chinese argue that collectivization is inherently inefficient and that the market is superior to planning for everything except a few key industries (which require state backing because of their backwards position vis-a-vis global monopoly capitalism — there is no argument that planning itself is superior now or in the future).
China will have the resources to develop into a fully socialist state and economy, and the need for foreign enterprises will be no more. They will therefore have the means to govern China as a fully socialist country without the need to be doing what they’re doing right now.
Where does China state this? Where is this explicit statement from China? This is important, because you are promising that they will be removing foreign enterprises (with no explanation as to how or what that will look like) and become a fully socialist country “without the need to be doing what they’re doing right now.” Do the foreign enterprises know that China is planning this? Similarly, will the billionaires just be allowed to remain — does socialism have billionaires? And if not, how will they be removed? By what process? In order to imagine a socialist China without billionaires, you have to imagine a tremendous class reckoning to come — something the CPC has never promoted, nor mentioned, nor spoken of. It would be a grand conspiracy — which again, is not something socialists engage it, and it denies the capacity of the billionaire class to defend itself and its interests with the resources at its disposal. If you are imagining a socialist with billionaires, then congratulations, you are a “socialist” who has moved to the right of Bernie Sanders supporters. This is yet another frightening aspect of this pro-China movement; that you assign your own imagined schemes and plans for China’s development, which China has never openly stated (and would outright deny if confronted with it), but are certain that this elaborate plan will come to fruition.
Claim #5 — Actually Existing Socialist states don’t exist, and those states can do nothing to further revolution anywhere
Since we have already explained why “AES” do not actually exist, and why they, without radical transformation, are not capable of furthering revolution anywhere, let us focus on China, and understand the core backbone of the idea in the promotion of “China is socialism,” namely the significant economic gains and improvements seen in (parts of) modern China.
Let it be known that revisionists are capable of helping to alleviate poverty, improve material conditions and provide meaningful social/welfare programs — I’m don’t think anyone has ever denied that. In fact, I’d say that’s part of the discussion which often gets ignored and the lack of conversation there is part of what kept me in the pro-China camp for as long as I was. If revisionists are doing some good in the world, then how can revisionism be bad? But the issue is not that only the authentic Marxists can alleviate suffering — that is not true, but also not necessary, the issue (as I now believe it correct) is that only authentic Marxism can overturn capitalism, and thus resolve the contradictions that give rise to most of the suffering on the planet in the first place.
Even the best revisionism is only going to provide bandages and blankets, as comforting/beneficial as those might be in the moment for those that receive them, it doesn’t tackle the problem at its source — why are people bleeding or freezing? Even Khrushchev and most of Brezhnev’s time in office saw the conditions of almost all USSR citizens improving, but no one today defends either of those two as authentic communists, nor are their programs like the Kosygin Reforms looked on today as ‘Socialism with Russian Characteristics’ — we all see it for what it was, a major step toward capitalist restoration and the gradual erosion of the socialist system. Providing a consumptive market might help (some) people acquire and accumulate goods and luxuries, but its also reproducing capitalism and undermining the system at its core.
While we cannot know for certain what may have happened had China stayed on the socialist road, we also know where the capitalist road ultimately leads, and that it will never solve the problems of capitalism by producing the capitalist mode of production more. A Marxist reckoning must come.
Literally nobody is saying NATO is the ultimate enemy of capitalism.
This one might be my fault since the phrasing was poor (though it was just a blurb at the bottom of a picture, and is constantly being depicted as some core argument), but the argument was not a technical argument about the nature of NATO and the assumptions of “Marxist-Leninists,” but the mechanics of systems in the world producing and reproducing capitalism, which necessarily produce imperialism, which, from their very existence, manifests new empires to fill the gap. The point is that you cannot defeat imperialism without anti-revisionism, because revisionism is capitalism disguised as Marxism, and is reproducing the capitalist system from within the very ‘socialist’ domains that maintain it. If NATO breaks down, its not impossible for the Chinese “Communist” Empire to be next, and for them to absorb NATO assets as their puppets, and this is all completely lost on “Marxist-Leninists” who will assuredly keep saying that “this is socialism.”
Cuba has its own specific material conditions to account for. We in the West have material conditions completely separate from Cuba, or China, or any other socialist/socialistic country around the world.
The whole point about Cuba and Fidel taking the revisionist line and integrating into the revisionist-Soviet economy is that it is a lesson in what not to do. It is an example of mistakes on the road to socialism that should be avoided and not repeated. We should be upholding Che’s position, and criticizing Castro’s. We should be clearly pointing out the errors with the lessons of what not to do next time, not coddling it from examination.
“As Marxists we have maintained that peaceful coexistence among nations does not encompass coexistence between the exploiters and the exploited, between the oppressors and the oppressed.” — Che Guevara
Any actual communist is principally anti-war and anti-violence; it’s just that the conditions we live under make a peaceful revolution impossible. Nobody actually wants that, trust me.
Communists are anti-war except class war. That is an important distinction which you have dodged. One of the centrepieces of the debate between Mao and Khrushchev was that it is impossible for socialism to be achieved through peaceful means (with Salvador Allende later providing the absolute proof), thus any notion of Peaceful Coexistence is a bourgeois deceit, and a betrayal to the global proletariat to which you claim to align yourselves with. I know you think this cannot be harmful to cheerlead a revisionist China, but this was exactly what doomed the Indonesian communists in the 60s.
After the Sino-Soviet Split, the Communist Party of Indonesia — one of the largest, fastest growing, most advanced, and most developed in the world at its time — made the fatal mistake of taking the Khrushchev line. They considered the Soviets to be their allies and proletarian-comrades-in-arms, and that they would listen to the Soviet recommendations for peaceful revolution (whatever that means). Despite having the size and momentum to have a very reasonable shot at violent revolution and toppling of the increasingly unstable regime in Indonesia, the Indonesian communists sat and waited for directives from Moscow, who asked them not to engage in hostilities. Shortly after, the Indonesian government began a genocidal purge of communists and minorities, massacring them by the hundreds of thousands, as they sat by uselessly looking to the Soviet Union for help or even guidance, while the USSR basically said, “Yo, look, that sucks for you guys, but, how is this my problem?” By the time it was done, millions were dead and the Indonesian Communist movement has never recovered; because they mistook a bourgeois class enemy for a friend.
Who are our enemies? Who are our friends? This is a question of the first importance for the revolution. The basic reason why all previous revolutionary struggles in China achieved so little was their failure to unite with real friends in order to attack real enemies. A revolutionary party is the guide of the masses, and no revolution ever succeeds when the revolutionary party leads them astray. To ensure that we will definitely achieve success in our revolution and will not lead the masses astray, we must pay attention to uniting with our real friends in order to attack our real enemies. To distinguish real friends from real enemies, we must make a general analysis of the economic status of the various classes in Chinese society and of their respective attitudes towards the revolution.
Mao, Analysis of the Classes in Chinese Society, 1926
This isn’t the extent to which revisionism can be harmful, though, Indonesia is just one of many examples — of a good communist party with good intentions, and what a fatal error that tolerating and accepting revisionism proved to be for them. The problem with revisionism is that there’s not a singular way in which is caused damage, but rather it’s the explosive ingredient that ignites during crisis. There have already been warning signs that the pro-China “GenZedong” crowd was tending towards fascism. There was an abundance of support for Vladimir Putin during his invasion of Ukraine from the pro-China position (somehow ‘No war but class war’ became ‘okay some war’). Mao warned us repeatedly about not being able to clearly identify our friends and our enemies, and Marx showed us that it was the class divide which runs deepest. Pointing at the Chinese bourgeois class and labelling them friend is a most dangerous mistake.
Maoists (and MLMs by proxy) do not recognise this inherent humanism to communism
This is correct, we don’t recognize humanism — that was the Eurocommunist position (to make Marxism into a humanist philosophy) and another vile form of revisionism. In the mid 1950s and right through to the 70s and beyond, the European communist movements — previously supportive of and defenders of Lenin, Stalin, Mao, the USSR, China, etc. (albeit to varying degrees in some places) — largely began to abandon their support. There’s an overdetermination of reasons this happens — Khrushchev’s DeStalinization campaign, the ‘sending in tanks’ to crush the revolt in Hungary, the Sino-Soviet Split, and a myriad of other real world events — but the gist of it is that the European communists wanted to break away from the real world socialist movements, and carve out their own, ‘good wholesome, clean humanist communism’ without any of the baggage that Lenin, Stalin, Mao or others had left behind, in their own break with the authentic line.
This became the Eurocommunist movement, a new (not really) approach to communism that would achieve its victories with parliamentary democracy or workers strikes or whatever other means, but not through the ‘authoritarian’ violence of the Eastern Communist states. The Eurocommunists decided that the way to advance Marxism would be promoting it as a humanist philosophy — showing how great Marxism could be for everyone, and therefore why everyone should embrace Marxism!
As such, from this line of thought, the fundamental question of the Eurocommunists became, “why isn’t everyone a Marxist?” And this became the guiding organizational question and principle of the Eurocommunist movements, in their attempts to engage the European masses. And sadly, nearly every radical left Marxist philosopher and thinker in Europe followed suit and embraced the Eurocommunist movement. All except for Louis Althusser. In many ways, Althusser is both the last truly great Western Marxist and Western philosopher (especially since neoliberalism has all but murdered philosophy) and he refused to give in to the Eurocommunists and maintained his die hard support for Stalin, et al. And it is in this debate with the Eurocommunists, where Althusser performs his great philosophical takedown of the Eurocommunist position; destroying their ideology, their philosophy, and taking their souls. And he does it all simply by reframing their fundamental question.
Instead of asking the question, “why isn’t everyone a Marxist?,” Althusser flips the question on its head, “Why do Marxists exist at all? Why does history produce Marxists?” Or to put it more materially: given that history exists, and that Marxists exist, and continue to emerge from history, then “why does history keep secreting out Marxists?” Althusser removes human agency as the driving force of history in his consideration and examination of it, and instead looks at history as a process, and then asks the question as to why Marxists, and communists, and revolution, etc. emerge from this process. This became the anti-humanist position, and is the far stronger of the two philosophically — especially evidenced by the utter failure and relative collapse of Eurocommunism despite facing relatively little adversity. So, yes, Maoists are inclined to the anti-humanist position.
Are Maoists wrong about everything? No, they’re still revolutionary socialists who follow many of the essential principles of Marxism-Leninism.
If you actually believe this you should be taking great issue with China providing supplies and weapons to the Philippines.
it was necessary
The last argument to address is the cowards way out. The argument that the capitalist restoration was forced upon China, forced upon the “Actually Existing Socialist” states, and that isn’t untrue in most cases and I’m sympathetic towards accepting and acknowledging that. But this is also what I meant in the essay about ‘Actually Existing Socialism’ becoming the upper limit to what we imagine to be possible. Of course this isn’t all that these states could be. But they are never going to free themselves from capitalism by participating in it — even if their condition is improved, they simply become another link in a capitalist chain, and the next chain is forged.
We must enter into conflict against capitalism and smash it. While I fully understand that nations may reach the point where they are no longer able to resist; we are socialist revolutionaries, and we do not give up and compromise and say, “well that’s the best we can do, learn to live with some capitalism.” We understand what defeatism and capitulation is and what it looks like in this worldwide struggle, and if that’s the line you choose to take, by all means, accept whatever compromise for your surrender the bourgeoisie will allow, and enjoy whatever cage they provide for you. However, the rest of us will fight onwards for socialism without you. We have a world to win.