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Maoism versus Marxism

Copyright: Iskra Research; May 1994

American public TV has recently released and begun broadcasting two 3-hour documentaries about China in the XX-th century. The first deals with the period of 1911—1949, before the victory of Mao. The second documentary deals with the years from Mao's assumption of power till his death in 1976.

These documentaries were designed to perpetuate the old myth that Stalinism equals Marxism. This thesis becomes more and more difficult to sustain in the face of the events of the past decade: Gorbachev's liquidation of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Chinese Communist Party's promotion of capitalist economic and social relations in China, etc.

As the world capitalist system becomes less and less stable, it is ever more urgent for it to distract the working class from considering the socialist alternative. The middle class "historians", film makers and public "educators" must therefore present a grotesquely perverted version of reality.

The analysis below goes in some detail into the development of Maoism. It establishes that since the late 1920's the Chinese Communist Party has not represented Marxism in China, that it became a peasant party with an anti-Marxist petty-bourgeois outlook and through all the vicissitudes of the left and right turns of world Stalinism, it retained a utopian and reactionary perspective of a nationally based and classless socialism, or in the words of Trotsky, "peasant socialism".

Early days

The situation of rural China in the beginning of the XX-th century — conditions of feudal servitude in the countryside, enshrined in tradition, religion, enslavement of the women in the family, etc. were presented fairly objectively. However, when showing the division of China among the various imperialist powers: Great Britain, France, Japan, United States, Russia, and others, the producers left it to the viewer to conclude that important economic forces drove the Great Powers to divide and exploit China, encourage the preservation of ancient reactionary practices, and even foment the use of opium. Perhaps the Opium Wars themselves were left out for a legitimate reason (these examples of imperialist greed triumphing over pretensions to the "civilizing duty of White Man and of Christianity" occurred in the XIX-th century), but it would have been incumbent upon a historian of China in the first half of the XX-th century to outline the economic interests of the United States, France, Britain or Japan. An American historian would be duty bound to uncover the cynicism of the "Open Door" policy of our great "democracy".

It is impossible to overestimate the influence of the Russian Revolution on the masses of Africa and Asia. The 1905 and especially the 1917 revolutions literally woke up Asia. In China, the nationalist movement was at a dead end until 1917. Its bourgeois and middle class leaders held an attitude of both hate and fear towards the young proletariat in the cities and the uncounted millions of peasants in the villages. Unable to mobilize the masses around economic and social liberation slogans, they were completely helpless to oppose the various landed warlords and city merchants who were armed and assisted by the imperialists. Nationalist appeals to Wilson's "Peace Program" were dealt a death blow in 1919, when the victorious Entente divided among themselves the former German concessions in China. Chinese nationalism was forced to look to the young Soviet Republic as its only ally against the "democratic" imperialists.

The show deals quite fairly with Sun Yat-sen and his vague democratic and nationalist program. However, it screens Chiang Kai- shek from a critical examination. From most accounts Chiang was a military adventurer who rose on Sun Yat-sen's coattails, was averse to corruption and distinguished himself by shrewd manipulation of adversaries. Sun Yat-sen until his death in 1925, and Chiang up until 1926, both proclaimed their allegiance to "world revolution" and hailed the Soviet Republic for its assistance to the Chinese Revolution.

The Comintern

The Chinese Communist Party was formed in 1921 by eager young men (and a few women), without much experience or Marxist education, but a great deal of enthusiasm and energy. They looked to the Executive Committee of the Communist International in Moscow for advice on the strategy and tactics of world revolution. Mao Tse-tung was one of hundreds at the founding congress of the CCP and nothing specific set him apart in this period of revolutionary optimism and growth.

Unfortunately for the young Chinese communists, the fourth congress of the CI in 1922 was the last one, where Marxist strategy could be freely worked out in discussion with Lenin and Trotsky. Beginning with 1923, the Triumvirate of Zinoviev, Kamenev and Stalin began to subvert inner party democracy and impose a new interpretation of Bolshevism on the young sections of the International. Zinoviev, attempting to root out the tremendous popularity of Trotsky among the sections of the International, embarked the young parties on a fake campaign of Bolshevization, miseducation and bureaucratic shuffling of the various Central Committees of the different sections. Expulsions, transfers and arbitrary demotions of "arguers" and "back talkers", promotions of conformists and yes-men became the policy throughout the Communist International.

In 1923, the Zinoviev leadership of the Comintern advised CCP to enter into the Kuomintang as a constituent and subordinate part. This was accompanied with a thoroughly reactionary attack on Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution, ignorantly counterpoising it to the outdated 1905 formula of Lenin of a "democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry". The Zinoviev — Stalin pragmatic plan foresaw the Kuomintang leading a democratic and anti-imperialist revolution, and CCP acting as a pressure group which would ensure KMT's sympathy towards the USSR. The Kremlin regime then began a program of military and political assistance towards the South China regime of Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-shek. Although Trotsky objected to this mixing of banners and political movements, he was outvoted and silenced.

In the fall of 1923, Trotsky and a large number of the respected leaders of the Bolshevik party issued a call to combat the progressive bureaucratization of the Party and state apparatus, against the domination of the secretaries, for a revival of the militant spirited ideological life within the communist movement as the only sure guarantee of the correct training of new revolutionary cadres. But the 1923 Opposition was isolated and suppressed due primarily to the passivity of the Soviet masses, itself the result of delays and setbacks of the European revolution. Trotsky himself, while remaining of the Central Committee and within the Politburo, was prevented from raising principled questions in the party press and was subjected to an unprincipled boycott by the other high leaders of the Russian CP.

Socialism in one country

Defeats in Bulgaria and Germany in 1923 sapped some of the fighting spirit of the Communist movement. More dangerous was the bureaucratic reaction at the top, in Moscow. In 1924, adapting to the defeats of revolutionary uprisings in Europe, Stalin and Bukharin advanced the anti-Marxist theory of "socialism in one country", saying that it was possible to build socialism in Russia, regardless of the success or failure of workers' revolutions in the advanced capitalist countries.

This theory was dangerously fatal to the communist movement on many accounts, not all of them obvious at first. Firstly, it promoted the notion that one country, its economy, its working class and its culture could be isolated from the world as a whole. Marxists traditionally held that socialism would be a world order, based on the highest achievements of industry, technology and culture of mankind as a whole. Secondly, it advanced the notion of evolutionary, incremental, slow and measured transformation, which until then Marxists had associated with opportunism and reformism. Thirdly, it placed the survival of the Soviet Union above the needs of world socialist revolution. To be sure, class conscious workers from the beginning saw the first workers state as their own and rose to its defense. However, all the Bolshevik leaders until 1924 realized, and the program of the Comintern stated, that the supreme, the overriding goal was the world revolution. As Lenin explained in 1918 during the debate over the Brest-Litovsk Treaty, if it were a choice between the German revolution and Soviet power in Russia, the Russian Bolsheviks would be duty bound to sacrifice themselves for the success of the more important German socialism. Trotsky saw the relationship between the Soviet state and the world socialist revolution as one between a part and the whole.

But the conservative leaders in Moscow, representing the interests of privileged layers within the Party and the state apparatus, wanted to "settle down" and enjoy the fruits of power. The right wing of the Bolshevik party coalesced around the bureaucratic General Secretary — Stalin, with Bukharin as the ideological fig leaf of this opportunist combination. Towards the end 1925 Zinoviev, the post- Lenin leader of the Comintern, and Kamenev, Lenin's Deputy and head of government (who until then sided with Stalin in a plot to isolate Trotsky), were forced to come out for the defense of the social and economic positions of the working class.


The struggle within the Russian Communist Party and the Third International in the next two years was conducted around three major issues: internal policy within USSR, the Chinese Revolution, and the Anglo-Russian Trade Union Committee. Within the USSR, the Left Opposition stood for the tactic of faster industrialization through progressive taxation of the richer peasants and the traders. The Stalin-Bukharin right wing stood for lower taxes, relaxation of state economic monopolies and "peaceful growing of the petty bourgeoisie into socialism".

On the international scale this opportunist policy translated into blocking with the trade union reformers in Britain and other advanced countries. The Stalin wing looked to a lengthy stabilization of world capitalism and demanded that the German, French, British and other CP's act as "revolutionary" pressure groups on their respective governments or Labor parties in favor of peace with Russia.

In China, India and other colonial and semi-colonial countries the Stalin — Bukharin leadership promoted the outlived 1905 slogan of Bolsheviks for a "revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry". This slogan was taken to the absurd length of actually merging the CP's within the bourgeois anti-colonial movements, putting the social liberation slogans on the back burner, disarming workers' militia, allowing landlords to dominate in the peasant organizations, etc. The CI said that these countries were not ripe for a socialist revolution, as if Russia in 1917 were any "riper".

Trotsky and the Joint Opposition called for independent propaganda and organization of the Communists. Due to Trotsky's bloc with Zinoviev and the latter's hostility to the theory of permanent revolution, Trotsky was forced to limit his theoretical criticism of the line of ECCI. Because of Stalinist censorship and on direct orders of the Politburo, he was unable to explain his own theoretical conception of the course of the Chinese Revolution. However, the Joint Opposition demanded political independence for the CCP, publication of its own press, promotion of its own slogans, propaganda under its own banners, etc.

In September 1926, the Opposition issued a circular letter (it was forbidden to publish its statements in the press) entitled "The Chinese Communist Party and the Kuomintang". It stated: "The leftward movement of the masses of Chinese workers is as certain a fact as the rightward movement of the Chinese bourgeoisie. Insofar as the Kuomintang has been based on the political and organizational union of the workers and the bourgeoisie, it must now be torn apart by the centrifugal tendencies of the class struggle. There are no magic political formulas or clever tactical devices to counter these trends, nor can there be". ("Leon Trotsky on China", Monad Press, p. 114). One of the conclusions of the letter said: "But first of all, the CCP must ensure its own complete organizational independence and clarity of political program and tactics in the struggle for influence over the awakened proletarian masses" (ibid. p. 116). It accused the Stalin Bukharin leadership: "The responsibility for the CCP Central Committee's mistakes lies first of all with the leading group of our own party. The policy of remaining in the Kuomintang in spite of the whole trend of developments was dictated from Moscow, as the highest precept of Leninism" (ibid. p. 119). As the Opposition noted, the Chinese policy of the Comintern was headed by many life-long Mensheviks like Rafes and Martynov, and by Bolsheviks who opposed the slogan of Soviet power in 1917.

The leadership of the Chinese Party was also chafing under the discipline of the Kuomintang and of the ECCI. In May 1926 Chiang expelled most Communists from leadership posts within the Kuomintang. It was becoming clear to everyone that class conflicts were becoming predominant within the Nationalist — Communist bloc. But the bureaucratic leadership in the Kremlin, thinking that they could buy the Nationalists off, kept sending more military advisors and arms supplies to China, lauded Chiang and the other generals as revolutionary leaders and ordered the CCP to limit and curtail its own activity as the Nationalists demanded. When Chiang visited Moscow in 1926, Stalin even made him an honorary member of the Executive Committee of the Communist International and requested all the Politburo members to exchange photographs with him (Trotsky alone refused.) Kuomintang was elevated to the status of a "sympathizing section" of the Comintern. Stalin exerted all his power and invoked the authority of the October Revolution and of the Comintern to prevent the linking of the oppositional elements within CCP with the Opposition in Russia. Needless to say, neither Mao, Chou En-lai, Lin Piao nor the other future Maoist leaders were to be counted among the critics of this poisonous line of the Comintern.

Destruction of the CCP as a proletarian party

The disaster which Trotsky foresaw the year before, came to pass in April 1927. In October 1928, examining the lessons of the victory of counterrevolution in China, Trotsky wrote: "The Stalinist policy of the Chinese Communist Party consisted of a series of capitulations before the bourgeoisie, accustoming the workers to support patiently the yoke of the Kuomintang. In March 1926, the party capitulated before Chiang Kai-shek; it consolidated his position while weakening its own; it discredited the banner of Marxism; it converted itself into an auxiliary instrument of the bourgeois leadership. The party extinguished the agrarian movement and the workers' strikes by putting into practice the directions of the Executive Committee of the Communist International on the bloc of four classes. It renounced the organization of soviets so as not to disturb the situation at the rear of the Chinese generals. It thus delivered to Chiang Kai-shek the workers of Shanghai, bound hand and foot.

"After the crushing of Shanghai, the party, in conformity with the directions of the Executive Committee of the Communist International, placed all its hopes on the left Kuomintang, the so-called "center of the agrarian revolution" The communists entered the Wuhan government, which repressed the strike struggle and the peasants' uprisings. They thus prepared a new and still crueler devastation of the revolutionary masses. After all this, an instruction entirely penetrated with the spirit of adventurism was issued, ordering an immediate orientation toward the insurrection. It is from this that was first born the adventure of Ho Lung and Yeh T'ing, and the even more painful one of the Canton coup" ("The Chinese Question After the Sixth Congress", ibid. p. 353).

In 1925—27, the more thoughtful among the Chinese Communist leaders tried to protest against the policy of subordination to the Nationalists. They were accused of "Trotskyist" deviations and silenced. The "national democratic revolution" policy of the Comintern gave a free hand to Chiang to isolate the communists and then massacre tens of thousands of militants in Shanghai, Hankow and throughout China. The warnings of the Left Opposition were brutally confirmed by events.

The documentary powerfully presented testimony as to the ferocity and extent of the White terror. It described the mass killings of Communists and militants, the brutality and ferocity of Chiang's forces. It even included an interview with KMT's chief of secret police who unabashedly spoke of tortures and executions of Communist members and sympathizers. What was missing (not surprisingly) was an explanation for such bestiality by the rich elite of China towards the workers and peasants, who "presumed" to deprive the landlords and merchants of their property. Chiang's butcher officers were taking their revenge on the working class for the fright it gave them in the social struggle of the previous period. An analogy can legitimately be drawn with the bloody suppression of the Paris Commune of 1871, or the Russian Civil War, or the mass killings which accompanied the overthrow of the Salvador Allende regime in Chile, and so on.

By the summer of 1927, after Chiang's troops massacred Communist workers and leaders of the Red trade unions and peasant unions in Shanghai, the Comintern ordered an about face and launched the decimated and dispirited CCP into a series of adventurist uprisings. These uprisings were totally unprepared politically. They were launched from Moscow as a ruse by Stalin to drown out the criticisms of the Opposition and "militarize" the political discussion within the CPSU and the Comintern. As a result of these isolated putsches, the CCP became even more isolated and demoralized. The membership of the party dropped from hundreds of thousands in 1925—26 to a few thousand in 1929, most of them peasants and former workers who fled the cities to escape the Nationalist terror.

But Mao, Chou En Lai, Lin Biao and the other up and coming CCP leaders never probed to the roots of this disaster. When opposition to Stalin's policy arose within the CCP, they denounced it, expelling hundreds of most experienced communists, including the central leader of the Party, Chen Tu-hsiu. Mao continued to follow every twist and turn of the Comintern and Stalin. By the time of the 6th Congress of the Comintern in the summer of 1928, all voices of opposition within the Comintern were expelled, exiled and jailed. Trotsky was sent into exile in Alma Ata, other Russian Oppositionists were dispersed to remote corners of The USSR.

Within China, Chu Teh and Mao adapted to the new "left" line of the Comintern, retreated into the countryside and began a guerrilla warfare based entirely on the peasantry. Whereas before the 1927 Nationalist massacres, the CCP was composed primarily of hundreds of thousands of workers in the cities, by 1930 it was made up overwhelmingly of peasants, including even some small landlords. The program of the CCP underwent a fundamental change as well. Its strategic orientation gravitated to abandonment of class struggle, to a nationalist "union of four classes", lower taxes, mild land reform, etc. Its political tactics changed from time to time. At some periods The CCP aimed to take power, advancing "from the countryside into the cities". At other periods it supported the Nationalists and Chiang Kai- shek. Always, it was against the Marxist program of proletarian socialist revolution.

Conflicts between Mao and Stalin

The WGBH TV documentary presented in a totally false light the conflicts between the Chinese communist leadership and the Comintern. In the mid-twenties, the CI imposed a Menshevik conception of revolution on the young and pliable Chinese party. It ordered the CCP to liquidate itself into the Kuomintang, abandon social slogans, which alone were able to rouse the masses, and disarm itself, the trade unions in the cities and the peasant unions in the countryside. This policy was based on a petty-bourgeois interpretation of the old 1905 Bolshevik slogan "revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry". Lenin discarded this slogan in April 1917, as he reoriented the Bolshevik party towards converting the democratic revolution into socialist. Lenin, in fact, adopted Trotsky's conception of the permanent revolution.

But the show kept quiet about the strategic difference between the Marxist conception of permanent revolution based on a revolutionary government of workers and poor peasants led by the proletariat, and the Stalinist conception of revolution by stages, that is a democratic bourgeois revolution first, and a socialist revolution in the future. Instead, the show presented us with a detailed expose of a purely tactical disagreement between Stalin's emissary to China, Otto Braun, and the Mao leadership. Braun was for regular war tactics, building orderly Red Army formations, defending fixed objects, cities, regions, etc. Mao was for guerrilla tactics, maneuvers, and so on.

This was the so called "Third Period" in the history of the Comintern. Having been forced to abandon the collaboration and "step at a time" line of 1924 — 28, Stalin embarked on forced collectivization in Russia and on ultimatist and sectarian "class war" policy elsewhere. In Germany, this policy called for attacks on the Social-Democrats, even when this split the workers' movement and helped the Fascists. In China this line called for abandoning democratic slogans, instead calling for the building of Soviets, Red Armies, Soviet zones, etc. This worsened the sectarian isolation of the Chinese Communist Party and hastened its virtual decimation in the cities. The Third Period policies of guerrilla warfare had a further lasting effect: the Chinese Communist Party ceased to be a workers' party and became a party based on the peasantry.

The Third Period lasted until 1934 in Europe, a bit longer in China. It led to the victory of Hitler in Germany and was quietly abandoned. The 7th Congress of the Comintern in 1935 proclaimed a totally different line, a policy of the Popular Front. The Communist parties were urged to form alliances with Social-Democrats, Radicals, democratic capitalists, trade union reformists, etc. The goal now was peace in Europe, opposition to Fascism, preservation of the status quo. The colonial question became subordinated to the diplomatic power politics of the Kremlin bureaucracy. Indian, Vietnamese or Indonesian Communists were ordered to develop their strategy according to how friendly their colonial masters (Britain, France and Holland) were to the USSR.

In China this policy required Mao to form an alliance with Chiang and the Kuomintang against the Japanese invaders. Although Chiang was extremely weak and isolated even within the Chinese bourgeoisie (in December 1936, in the famous Sian coup, he was kidnapped by military Nationalist leaders, who wanted to fight against the Japanese). Mao pulled Chiang's fat out of the fire in this incident and delayed the victory of the Chinese Revolution by another 13 years.

World War II and the resistance to Japan

The stage theory of revolution and Mao's slavish obedience to Stalin led to a continuing series of debacles for the Chinese revolution. Japan was actively hostile to the USSR since the October Revolution. It was therefore OK for CCP to be consistently anti-Japanese. However, Mao's policy towards Chiang Kai-Shek and the non-Japanese colonial powers in China (the US, Britain, France) varied in response to the diplomatic needs of the Kremlin regime. United front against Japan was concluded in 1937. Mao assigned Kuomintang the leading role in both the anti-Japanese struggle and in the ensuing period of economic reconstruction (see his 1938 report "On the New Stage"). The Stalin — Hitler pact of August 1939 swung Mao towards another "leftist" zigzag which lasted until Hitler attacked the USSR in June 1941. After Pearl Harbor and US entry into the war, Mao and the Chinese Stalinists once again discovered the "peace-loving nature of the great democracies".

During the later stages of WW II Mao enthusiastically cooperated with the "democracies" in their struggle against Germany and Japan. Stalin (and Mao) applauded American nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. In 1945, Mao went so far as to conclude another agreement with Chiang Kai Shek, gave up the coastal cities to Chiang's forces, and even publicly proclaimed "Long live Chiang!"

The Teheran and Yalta accords between Stalin and the Anglo- Americans divided up the world into areas where "socialist" revolutions would be conducted by the Red Army (East Europe), Western Europe, where Stalin ordered the French, Greek and Italian Communists to curb their ambitions and cooperate in the restoration of capitalism, and the rest of the world (including China, India and Africa), where "democratic" imperialists would once again bring the benefits of civilization to their colonial slaves.

Victory of the Chinese Revolution

It did not quite work out the way Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt planned it. Capitalism was so discredited and weakened as a result of the mass slaughter of the Second World War that it could never restabilize itself in the colonial world. India, China, Vietnam, Indonesia, the great African colonies — rebellion against the old colonial masters was seething everywhere, and the world capitalist leader, the United States had its hands full just restoring some stability to the bourgeois economic system in Europe.

Despite the decision at Yalta, despite Stalin's support for Chiang Kai-Shek, despite Mao's program of power sharing with the Kuomintang, the bourgeois regime in China, rotten to the core through decades of collaboration with the British, the French, the Americans and the Japanese, hated by one and all for its corruption and brutality, this regime fell apart within a couple of years. State power in China was finally thrust upon the Chinese Communist Party and Mao Tse-tung.

It should be noted that the victory of Mao's peasant armies was accomplished without independent political participation of the Chinese proletariat. Mao's forces suppressed independent workers' organizations, put trade unions under police control, jailed and killed socialist militants. They especially hunted out and destroyed the Trotskyist organizations.

The original policies of CCP did not call for socialization and thorough nationalization. They still held to the theories of class collaboration learnt in the school of Menshevik Stalinism. The first blow to this complacent step-at-a-time attitude was the outright hostility and threat of the United States and the threat of invasion by Mac Arthur's troops in the initial phase of the Korean War. China had to be put on a war footing, its industry and agriculture organized for a gigantic two year war effort.

Now, when we look back on the experience of China, Korea and Vietnam we can better evaluate the limited achievement of the Chinese Revolution. Within the constraints of world wide maneuvers between Stalinism and imperialism, the colonial and semi-colonial states of Asia and Africa were subjects of this global tug of war. While the Stalinist bureaucracies colored their expansion into new territories in the garb of socialism, the overriding aims of these privileged elites was gaining new material bases for personal enrichment and as leverage in their global balancing act in the struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Neither the Chinese revolution, nor the victories of Vientam's, Laotian or Cambodian CPs were due to an independent, conscious struggle of the working class. For that reason alone they remained limited in scope and led to dead ends.

Mao and Stalin

It is appropriate to draw some conclusions about the relationship between these two "communist" dictators. This "documentary" show deals with this question one-sidedly and superficially. True to its goal of identifying Marxism with Stalinism, it talks of Mao's theoretical works of Marxism as it shows him reading a book by Stalin.

Over the thirty year period 1923—1953 until Stalin's death, persistent clashes occurred between the policy and requirements of Kremlin and the practical needs of anti-Nationalist and anti- imperialist struggle of the Chinese CP. Time and again, Kremlin's policy dealt a setback to the struggle of the Chinese masses for their liberation. Stalin's perspective excluded a socialist revolution in China; despite all evidence he continued to support Chiang Kai-shek up until 1949 and viewed the CCP as a pressure group on the Nationalist regime and on the imperialists.

In the mid-twenties, Stalin's instructions to submit to the discipline of the KMT led to the mass slaughter of the communist workers and peasants. The "left turn" of the Third Period completed the isolation of Chinese Stalinists and their disappearance from the cities. The right turn of the Popular Front period, left zigzag of the Stalin — Hitler Pact and all the successive "left" and right turns had one consistent effect: disorientation and demoralization of the Chinese masses and of the rank and file of the CCP.

Real Marxism was purged from the Party with the expulsion of Chen Tu-Hsiu and hundreds of other Oppositionists in 1928 — 29. All critical thought was suppressed, anyone who had a good memory, or objected to the next zigzag, or was not agile enough to execute it quickly and quietly were "struggled against", silenced, purged. Party education was reduced to memorization of the latest slogans. It would later degenerate into the grotesque spectacle of millions of people waving the "Little Red Books" filled with the "Thought of Mao".

Mao especially welcomed and supported the Moscow Trials of 1936 — 38. The CCP branded Trotskyist movement as agents of Japanese imperialism, betrayed socialist militants to the KMT secret police, and from time to time resorted to violence against their working class opponents, especially the Trotskyists.

Lenin's last political struggle was against Stalin and the bureaucratization of the Communist Party. Stalin embraced "Leninism" when Lenin's body was safely embalmed in the Mausoleum and live Lenin could not answer back. Mao had a number of sharp clashes with live Stalin. To be sure, neither one of them was a real Marxist and the clashes were not of a theoretical or principled nature, but purely practical. Mao pragmatically submitted to Stalin, executed the required turn, and continued praising this "Lenin of today".

As Stalin turned Lenin into an icon of the new "Marxist" religion, so Mao eulogized Stalin after the latter's death. In 1956, when the Moscow Stalinists for their practical reasons denounced the "cult of the personality", Mao continued with this facet of the religion. He shrewdly estimated that the cult of Stalin was a useful base on which to build his own religion.

Mao in power

The policy of zigzags continued after the victory of state power by the CCP. Trying to follow every twist and turn would require a thorough study of the past but a few of the major ones should be noted.

Overthrow of the universally hated Nationalist regime was accompanied by democratization and rationalization of government. Power passed into hands of members of the CCP, former peasants, workers and intellectuals with long experience of guerrilla war. Immediately after taking power, Mao and Liu Shao-ch'i declared that collectivization in China would take time; it would depend on industrialization and mechanization of agriculture. The Korean War forced their hand somewhat. But even after the end of the war, Mao soon moved to speed up collectivization. Cooperatives were introduced, and soon after, in 1955, Mao called for a campaign of rapid planned collectivization and for the setting up of "socialist" village collectives.

In 1956, Mao launched the slogan of "letting a hundred flowers bloom, letting a hundred schools of thought contend". When this campaign got out of hand and threatened Party rule, he reversed himself and began savage persecution of intellectual critics. In 1958 came the "Great Leap Forward", by which Mao tried to channel popular energy and enthusiasm of the young into a utopian adventure of "instant" industrialization. This new policy of village communes (utopian communal living and working schemes) and hundreds of thousands of wasteful village industries brought about a collapse of agriculture and mass famine. By some accounts about 30 million Chinese peasants perished from hunger in 1959 — 60.

In 1960 Mao was forced to call a retreat to more realistic development policies. Chinese economy was dealt an additional blow by the cooler relations with the Soviet bloc. When power struggles broke out within the top ranks of the CCP, Mao launched the "Great Cultural Revolution" where he maneuvered against his rivals within the leadership by launching millions of student youth and the unemployed into futile and destructive marches and demonstrations. All the rival factions glorified Mao and the "Mao Tse-tung thought" and the whole episode now seems a cynical attempt by Mao to turn the mass discontent of the Chinese youth into a Mao religion.

The clearest expression of the class character of Maoism is the position it took vis-a-vis imperialism, especially the United States. Throughout its history up until today Maoism continued to maneuver and make deals within the world capitalist system. It brokered the cease-fire of Korea in 1952; the division of Vietnam in Geneva in 1954. Within the framework of the Cold War, Mao pragmatically tried to play off the dominant forces of the Soviet bureaucracy and the US imperialism. The low point of this base maneuvering came in 1972, when Mao invited Nixon to China and allowed United States to play off the USSR and the PRC against each other.

Throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America Maoism exploited its authority as an alternative to capitalism or to the USSR. Perhaps the biggest contribution of Maoism to the maintenance and survival of imperialism until today lies in its masquerade as a radical alternative to Soviet Stalinism. By the 1960's, the Soviet bureaucracy lost most of its credibility as a revolutionary force. Maoism stepped into the shoes of traditional Stalinism and continued to divert radical youth around the world into the dead end of guerrilla wars, peasant roads to socialism, belief in the all-knowing Leader, and other such anti-Marxist rubbish.

Today's policies of the Chinese Communist Party are the logical extension of the petty-bourgeois outlook of Maoism in the epoch of capitalist crisis and stagnation. The lessons of Yugoslavia should burn on the minds of the new generation of Chinese workers and youth. Under the program of capitalist restoration, China is headed towards break-up into competing provinces, some more industrial, others less developed, but all of them totally dependent on foreign capitalists, dominated by the institutions of world capitalism.