Header Ads

Header ADS

Petty-Bourgeois Revolutionism -THE GENERAL AND THE PARTICULAR

Throughout its history the working-class movement has constantly had to fight petty-bourgeois revolutionism. This type of revolutionism emerged even before the proletariat became an independent class, since the petty bourgeoisie, having its roots in pre-capitalist social relations, is historically older than the working class.

Depending on the specific forms assumed by the disintegration of small commodity production and on specific historical conditions, petty- bourgeois revolutionism has different roots in different countries. The social basis of diverse manifestations of petty-bourgeois revolutionism in the Romanic countries of Western Europe was provided mainly by the ruined urban handicraftsmen, whereas in Russia it was provided chiefly by the peasantry, oppressed by survivals of serfdom. In countries where there is colonial or national oppression, petty-bourgeois revolutionism develops on the basis of the downtrodden state of the whole or nearly the whole population and naturally acquires a national liberation character. Certain sections of the intelligentsia in all countries are a feeding ground for petty-bourgeois revolutionism.

Numerous facts are known when the pettybourgeois struggle has played a progressive role. Marxists assess highly the work of the Jacobins in France, the contribution of the revolutionary Narodniks to Russia’s emancipation movement, and the role of Sun Yat-sen in the development of China’s anti-imperialist struggle; they honour 10the memory of Cuba’s revolutionary democrat, Jose Marti. In modern conditions, the revolutionary petty bourgeoisie is capable of paving the way for progressive development in countries where there is as yet no working class. In many of the countries that have won national independence, an outstanding role was played by revolutionary democrats representing the interests of the working peasantry, semi-proletarian elements and petty-bourgeois urban sections. These revolutionary democratic forces succeeded in steering some of these countries on to the road of non-capitalist development and are implementing important social transformations. And although much in the ideas of the revolutionary democrats is inconsistent and contradictory, Marxists consider it their duty to support them, being convinced that the logic and experience of the class struggle will help honest revolutionarydemocratic leaders to gradually rid themselves of many illusions.

The objective possibilities of petty-bourgeois revolutionism depend greatly on the period in which it asserts itself. Since the working class has become the most consistent revolutionary force of modern society, a force able to rally all those who are oppressed by capitalism, and still more so since socialism has become an international force, the positive role of the petty-bourgeois revolutionaries becomes the more apparent, the closer they draw to the proletariat and act as its allies.

At the same time, in addition to militant democratism, passionate love of freedom and resolute struggle for national independence, the petty bourgeoisie breeds also cowardly reformism, and what Lenin ironically described as petty-bourgeois11 revolutionism—menacing, haughty and presumptuous in word, and hollow in deed.

The diversity of types of small-commodity economy are reflected in one way or another in the motley ideology of the petty bourgeoisie and the forms of its revolutionism. Being unable to create an objective, scientific theory to explain the process of social development, the petty bourgeoisie thinks up the most grotesque ideological conceptions. In so doing, it eclectically borrows propositions from various bourgeois doctrines, and, after the emergence of the Marxist ideology of the working class, from the proletarian ideology, and attempts to conciliate them.

For of all their erratic groping and the fact that their judgements are often diametrically opposed, all types of petty-bourgeois revolutionism at all times have certain features in common. Marx, Engels and Lenin showed great penetration in disclosing these common features, and subsequent events have brought additional proof that their analysis was highly accurate.

The principal feature observed in all types of pseudo-revolutionism is extreme subjectivism, unwillingness to take into account the objective laws of social development, blind faith in the miraculous power of revolutionary slogans, direct and immediate action, irrespective of the prevailing socio-political situation. Hence the tactics of unrestrained adventurism, or, as Lenin noted, passive "waiting for ’great days’ along with an inability to muster the forces which create great events". [11•1 Proletarian revolutionism is notable for its combination of scientific sobriety in the analysis of the objective state of affairs with the most 12emphatic recognition of the importance of the revolutionary energy and initiative of the masses, and also of parties and individuals that are able correctly to express the requirements of social development; whereas petty-bourgeois revolutionism is based on impulses and passions.

Defining petty-bourgeois revolutionism Lenin wrote in his “Left-Wing” Communism—an Infantile Disorder: "The instability of such revolutionism, its barrenness, and its tendency to turn rapidly into submission, apathy, phantasms, and even a frenzied infatuation with one bourgeois fad or another—all this is common knowledge." [12•1 Appalled at the horrors of capitalism, the petty bourgeois easily falls into extreme revolutionism but is unable to muster the necessary patience, organisation, discipline and endurance. This social phenomenon can be observed in all capitalist countries, and historical experience shows that it can cause harm not only during the period of the struggle against capitalism, but also after capitalism has been vanquished in individual countries by the revolutionary forces.

Before the victory of Marxist ideology in the working-class movement, when the struggle of the proletariat was still weak and the forms typical of the movement’s initial stages still prevailed, anarchism was the fullest expression of the numerous shades of petty-bourgeois revolutionism. Lenin called anarchism "bourgeois philosophy turned inside out." [12•2 The individualist views and ideals of the anarchists, Lenin noted, were in direct opposition to socialism and looked not into the future of the bourgeois system, but into its past, when lone, 13scattered petty producers were governed by blind coincidence. "Anarchism,” Lenin wrote, "is a product of despair. The psychology of the unsettled intellectual or the vagabond, and not of the pro- letarian." [13•1

While the working-class movement was making its first steps, the anarchists did not attach any importance to it or else tried to co-operate with workers’ organisations in order to subordinate them to their aims. But as Marxist views gained ground, the hostility of the anarchists towards proletarian ideology became more clearly manifest.

Opposing organised forms of the workingclass struggle in general and political struggle in particular, rejecting the state as such, including the dictatorship of the proletariat, the anarchists incited the workers to spontaneous violent action. They accused the leaders of the working class of careerism and of forgetting the interests of the revolution, of "pursuing the worst kind of bourgeois policy".

The anarchists resorted to splitting activities in the First International, secretly organised their own "Social-Democratic Alliance" and declared that this secret organisation would accept people "combining brain, energy, honesty, ability to conspire and revolutionary passion".

Ignoring the laws of socio-economic development they were unable to analyse objective reality correctly and to reveal the social forces able to blaze the trail into the future. The anarchists thought that the future could be charted according to their subjective desires, and that all means were suitable to achieve their aim. Some 14extreme representatives of anarchism declared that poison, the dagger and the hangman’s rope were the weapons of the genuine revolutionary, the rebel, the trouble-maker who is prepared to destroy everything that stands in his way.

The growth of the workers’ mass movement and its better organisation deprived the activity of the lone revolutionary of any justification and petty-bourgeois ideas became increasingly meaningless. The anarchists gradually turned from revolutionary phrase-mongering to deliberate disorganisation of revolutionary struggle and began to rally to their black banners all sorts of degraded, declassed elements, half-crazed intellectuals dreaming of violence and destruction, people with a grudge against the whole world.

There were many varieties of anarchism. Having emerged as the ideology of the urban lumpenproletarian, it spread to the countryside and gave birth to various peasant variants. In Russia, anarchism considerably influenced the ideology of the Narodniks and the various shades of peasant Utopian socialism. Lenin said of anarchism in Russia that "in the past (the seventies of the nineteenth century) it was able to develop inordinately....” [14•1

The assertion that the peasantry possesses a "socialist instinct”, that the village commune is an embryo of socialism and that peasant uprisings will save mankind from capitalism and exploitation provides a family link between anarchism, various groups of the Narodnik movement and its epigons—the Socialist- Revolutionaries, in particular the Socialist-Revolutionary Maximalists. 15

In countries which were more backward than Russia, anarchism appeared later, and assumed specific forms bearing the imprint of national features. In China, anarchism began to spread in the beginning of the twentieth century. It became particularly strong after the 1911 revolution. However, as Lenin wrote as early as 1901, during the whole of its existence, anarchism "has produced nothing but general platitudes against exploitation". [15•1

Although ideologically sterile, anarchism nevertheless exerted a pernicious influence by obstructing the revolutionary struggle of the working class. Russia’s anarchists gained evil fame in 1917 and during the Civil War. During the national revolutionary war in Spain (1936), the anarchists considered that their main task was not victory in the war and not the rout of the fascists, but an immediate "social revolution”. In Aragon, where, for a short time, they managed to seize power, almost all the property of the people was socialised and all political activity except that of the anarchists was prohibited. On the pretext of collectivisation they took away the peasants’ land and cattle, made them work for very low pay, "equal for all”, under supervision of armed groups. What was called “collectivisation” led to a natural economy in which each village had to live on its own resources. At the enterprises too the anarchists concentrated all their ultra- revolutionary activities on equalitarian distribution. Outrages, violence, and expropriation became the official policy of the anarchists. This was so much grist to Franco’s mill. Manifestations of anarchism are encountered even today, particularly in a number of Latin American countries.16

With the spread of Marxism in the workingclass movement, anarchism, which according to Lenin is "one of the most harmful elements of the working-class movement”, [16•1 degenerated more and more.

The extensive spread of Marxist ideas throughout the world does not mean, however, that the ideology of petty-bourgeois revolutionism has completely disappeared. It has begun to adapt itself to the changed conditions. "The dialectics of history,” Lenin wrote, "were such that the theoretical victory of Marxism compelled its enemies to disguise themselves as Marxists." [16•2 When Lenin said that, he had in mind the "internally decayed liberalism”, which strives to revive in the form of socialist opportunism, but his words apply just as much to petty-bourgeois revolutionism, which tries to survive by disguising itself as Marxism and using Marxist terminology in the hope of winning positions within the workingclass movement developing under the banner of Marxism-Leninism.

A new stage thus emerges in the development of petty-bourgeois revolutionism, which now finds expression in various “Left” and “ultra-Left” interpretations of Marxism, but preserves its traditional subjectivism, its revolutionary phrasemongering, its blind faith in the miracle-working power of all direct action; the wrenching of "this ’direct action’ out of its general social and political context, without the slightest analysis of the latter." [16•3

If the anarchists accused Marx and Engels of 17 opportunism, representatives of later generation petty-bourgeois revolutionism spearheaded their vociferous accusations against Lenin and his followers. Arch-revolutionary anarchic phrases are now filled in with Marxist terms, but their sense has not changed. Lenin’s book “Left-Wing” Communism—an Infantile Disorder which called for flexibility in tactics and the use of all forms of struggle, was considered opportunistic by the ultra-revolutionaries.

Later, too, Leftist elements continued to allege that the Leninist line of the Comintern was a continuation of the false path leading "from revolution to reformism, from struggle to tactics of diplomacy and the illusory embellishment of contradictions and antagonisms". [17•1

Lenin described petty-bourgeois revolutionism of that time as revolutionism "which smacks of anarchism, or borrows something from the latter and, in all essential matters, does not measure up to the conditions and requirements of a consistently proletarian class struggle". [17•2 Today revolutionism smacking of anarchism strives to act the role of the only mouthpiece of Marxism, loudly proclaims itself the only genuinely Marxist trend. Having failed in their attempts to set themselves up as a “Left” opposition to Leninism, Leftist groups which subsequently appeared in the working-class movement and fought against the Marxist-Leninist Parties generally assumed names which advertised their alleged links with Leninism, "Leninist Union”, "Marxist-Leninist Party”, 18“Leninist Wing of the Party”, "Back to Leninism”, "Long Live Leninism! "are the names of some of the dissenting petty-bourgeois revolutionist organisations and their programme political documents.

In the early stage, the Bakuninists were the most typical representatives of motley anarchism, but later however Trotskyism became the main source from which the many hues and shades of petty-bourgeois revolutionism derived their ideology. It would be fruitless to try to discover a complete or still less a consistent ideological system in Trotskyism. It is sufficient to look at this pettybourgeois trend in Russia in the period between the two revolutions to see that Trotsky’s skips from one political line to another, so resolutely exposed by the Bolsheviks, are not just biographical episodes but a characteristic feature of the Trotskyist world outlook.

“In 1903 he was a Menshevik,” Lenin wrote about Trotsky at the end of 1910; "he abandoned Menshevism in 1904, returned to the Mensheviks in 1905 and merely flaunted ultra-revolutionary phrases; in 1906 he left them again; at the end of 1906 he advocated electoral agreements with the Cadets (i.e., he was in fact once more with the Mensheviks)." [18•1 A few years later, Lenin noted that Trotsky "has never had any ’physiognomy’ at all; the only thing he does have is a habit of changing sides, of skipping from the liberals to the Marxists and back again, of mouthing scraps of catchwords and bombastic parrot phrases." [18•2

The only consistent feature in Trotsky’s views, in all his vacillations, is hurrah-revolutionism, which ignores the objective conditions of the struggle, a type of revolutionism which he borrowed essentially from the anarchists.

In his attempt at an autobiography, as Trotsky styled his My Life, published in Berlin in 1930, he says that he has no truck with anarchism, but it is not difficult to see that Trotsky’s views on revolutionism greatly resemble the ideas of the anarchists.

In his book, Trotsky repeatedly touches on the question of the "psychological type of the revolutionary”, declaring that "with sufficient experience one can distinguish with a high degree of accuracy between a Bolshevik and a Menshevik by just looking at them”. That is rather amusing, considering that it comes from a person who hobnobbed with the Mensheviks all his life and only joined the Bolsheviks in 1917. Trotsky admits with unconcealed self-satisfaction that he believes in "socio-revolutionary fatalism”, flaunts his " revolutionary position" and his delight knows no bounds when he recalls that somebody wrote somewhere that "Trotsky went about like a Leyden jar and every contact with him caused a discharge".

Here is how Trotsky described what he calls the revolutionary inspiration of a political leader: ”. . . the unconscious rises from its deep lair, subordinates the conscious working of the mind, and merges with it to form a sort of higher unity.” In his opinion, the actions of the leaders of the October Revolution were determined by the fact that the "hidden forces of the organism, the deep-most instincts inherited from our animal ancestors, all rose to the surface, broke through the doors of 20psychological routine and in conjunction with supreme historico-philosophic generalisations, placed themselves at the service of the revolution".

We cannot help recalling Lenin’s apt description of Trotsky as a “windbag”, as a "hero of the phrase”, as a man of whom "unbearable phrasemongering”, "senseless exclamations, bombastic words, arrogant tricks" were typical. His phrasemongering was by no means harmless, it served as a cover for his petty-bourgeois revolutionism, which, in certain historical conditions, comes close to proletarian revolutionism but usually opposes it and fights it.

In 1917, when revolutionary events were quickly coming to a climax, Trotsky came close to the Bolsheviks, but later, whenever a situation arose that called for patience, a temporary withdrawal, preparation for a lengthy struggle without any guarantee of an immediate effect, one could immediately discern the disorganising essence of Trotskyism, which was prepared to sacrifice the real achievements of the already victorious revolution for the sake of a high-sounding phrase about the future revolution.

The Trotskyists showed hostility to every step the world communist movement made to win over new allies, to work out a more flexible policy corresponding to the new conditions; they accused the Communists of revisionism, of rejecting revolutionary principles, of sliding towards bourgeois positions.

When the Trotskyists had been utterly defeated in the Soviet Union, they intensified their efforts to arouse international dissent. Trotsky hoped to unite all the ultra-Left sectarian elements that existed in some Communist Parties, to create a common platform, to enlist all renegades and by first splitting up the individual parties, eventually to split the Communist International.

The subversion carried out by the Trotskyists for many years in the Communist Parties with the object of destroying the Comintern was unsuccessful. The Trotskyists suffered a complete fiasco with their pseudo-revolutionary platform in the international working-class movement and became an impotent sect. Having lost all hope of disintegrating the Third, Communist International from within, they set up their so-called Fourth International in 1938. This organisation, whose first aim was to undermine the unity of the MarxistLeninist Parties, drags out a miserable existence and is torn by internal strife.

The history of the struggle against the efforts of Trotskyism to undermine the Marxist movement from within shows that Trotskyism has no social basis worth speaking of, that its adherents are recruited chiefly from groups of intellectuals and declassed elements reinforced by all sorts of dissidents and adventurists. Lenin once said of Trotsky that "such types are characteristic of the flotsam of past historical formations". [21•1 Yet such flotsam of the past can become dangerous; they can and do gain new life as soon as favourable situation arises.

Now that socialism has become the leading force in the world, and more and more peoples, after being oppressed for centuries, are appearing in the arena of history, one can speak of a new phase in the manifestations of petty-bourgeois revolutionism.

The enlistment of “recruits” to the labour movement, the drawing of new sections of working people into the class struggle, Lenin noted, was always accompanied by vacillations in theory and tactics, the repetition of old mistakes, temporary returns to obsolescent views and tactics. No wonder, therefore, that the winning over not merely of certain sections of the working people, but of whole peoples to the liberation movement is accompanied by vacillations and errors, and the revival and unexpected intermingling of long since rejected views.

Where backward economic relations prevail, Lenin pointed out, champions of the labour movement emerge who embrace only some aspects of Marxism, only separate parts of the new world outlook, only separate slogans and demands, because they are unable to break completely with all bourgeois and petty-bourgeois views. Russia’s backward economic relations explain why the Russian Marxists had to wage such a long and stubborn struggle against various manifestations of petty-bourgeois ideology.

When the national liberation revolution was unfolding in China, the economic relations in that country were even more backward than in Russia. This vast country with stagnant semi-feudal relations was in bondage to the imperialist powers who exploited its backwardness in the most predatory manner. In its 1,200,000 villages, a multitude of peasant households, mostly small and on a rental basis, had to bear intolerable feudal oppression. From century to century, the primitive hoe and the sickle remained practically the only implements of labour. The urban petty bourgeoisie was numerous. Chronic hunger carried away millions and millions of people with inexorable regularity. The agrarian question and the liberation from imperialist dependence were the cardi- 23nal issues that determined the nature of China’s growing agrarian, national liberation revolution.

In the early twenties, when the Communist Party of China (C.P.C.) was forming, China’s industrial proletariat numbered less than three million. At that time, however, the C.P.C. grew in pace with the labour movement, and workers constituted the majority in it. At the First AllChina Party Congress in 1921, each delegate represented only about 50 Party members, at the Second Congress in 1922, 120, at the Third in 1923, 400, and at the Fourth in 1925, about 1,000. By 1927 the Party had over 57,900 members, and close on 58.3 per cent of these were workers.

Chiang Kai-shek’s counter-revolutionary coup d’etat in the spring of 1927 shattered the labour movement. Many experienced Communists who were connected with the working-class movement perished. The Party membership dropped to 10,000.

The conditions in towns were extremely unfavourable for Party activity. Reaction was rampant. The Kuomintang held strong positions and had a large army at its orders. Naval units and marines of the imperialist powers were stationed in the main proletarian centres. After 1927, the Communist Party was compelled by circumstances to work mainly in the remote countryside. For 22 years the Party was cut off from the industrial centres. It developed with the agrarian revolution and the growing peasant movement. Leading Party personnel became engrossed with the peasants and began to underestimate work in towns. The Comintern repeatedly drew the attention of the Chinese Communists to the fact that they were neglecting work among the working class.

As regards its composition, the Communist 24Party became predominantly a peasant Party. In 1949, when the Chinese People’s Republic was proclaimed, there were about seven million Party members, only four per cent of whom were workers. Ten years earlier Liu Shao-chi, speaking of the negative phenomena in the Party due to its specific composition, said: "The reason, I think, is simple, our Party did not drop from the sky, but emerged from the womb of Chinese society."

Some joined the Party for the sake of the great communist aims, but "to some of our comrades, of peasant origin, communism meant the ’overthrow of the Tu hao [24•1 and the division of the land’ ”. To the Party flocked also those who "were in a hopeless position, had no profession, no work, no chance to learn, wanted to throw off the family yoke, to escape a marriage being forced on them, etc. Finally some people joined the Party in the hope that it would help them to have taxes lowered and ’to get on in the world’.... It is therefore quite natural that when a critical moment arises some of them begin to vacillate in certain situations and change for the worse."

Lu Hsing, perhaps the only representative of China’s progressive national culture who was not defamed during the "cultural revolution" and whom even "the great helmsman" recognises, wrote in the mid-twenties that when the slogans of the revolution are pronounced by revolutionary phrase-mongers they have a growling sound: "Revolution, r-r-r-revolution, r-r-r-r! . .."

The petty-bourgeois medium not only formed the surrounding in which the Party existed, it also affected its composition, was a constant source of many errors, of both a Right opportunist and chiefly a Leftist nature.

The history of the Communist Party of China abounds in manifestations of Leftist adventurism, which harmed the people’s struggle enormously. The Sixth Congress of the Communist Party held in 1928 exposed the harm and dangers resulting from the activities of Trotskyist-putschist elements in the Party. But the semi-Trotskyist group headed by Li Li-san, which gained a majority in the Central Committee of the C.P.C. in the summer of 1930, pursued an anti-Leninist line expressed, as the Comintern noted, "in putschist, adventurist tactics". [25•1

The revolution in China was developing unevenly, there was as yet no revolutionary situation in the country. Yet the Leftist adventurists pursued a policy of organising insurrections and refused to reckon with the real conditions, insisting on "the immediate introduction of socialism" in the districts liberated from the enemy. Li Lisan relied mainly on China’s Red Army, which at that time numbered only 60,000 badly equipped officers and men. Instead of consolidating the territorial basis of the revolution, the Left adventurists wanted to seize large towns.

This pernicious policy greatly undermined the authority of the Party among the masses and would have had catastrophic consequences for the cause of the revolution had not the Comintern 26helped the Chinese Communists to rectify their erroneous line.

In the late twenties and early thirties, many Communist Parties and the Comintern itself committed Leftist, sectarian mistakes, which were condemned and rectified by the Seventh Congress of the Comintern in 1935. However, the Comintern took the correct line in respect of China. It was worked out in sharp struggle with the Trotskyists, who ignored the uneven development of the revolution in various districts and advocated a general uprising, maintaining that the impending Chinese revolution would immediately be a socialist one.

The Comintern, however, proceeded from the assumption that, in the first stage, the Chinese revolution would be anti-feudal, and therefore recommended that, in addition to work in the towns, a territorial basis should be created for the revolution in the countryside. Since the revolution was developing unevenly, the Comintern warned the Chinese Communists against a premature general insurrection and stressed the necessity to strengthen the young Red Army and to master guerilla tactics.

The struggle against Li Li-san’s Leftist antiComintern deviation was not an easy one. Even after Li Li-san was removed from the leadership, his followers maintained a conciliatory attitude towards him and their attacks were soon spearheaded against those who insisted on a consistent implementation of the Comintern line.

Subsequently, Mao Tse-tung did everything possible to falsify this period in the history of the C.P.C. For this purpose he worked out the " Decision on Some Questions of the History of Our Party”, which after its approval by the Seventh 27Enlarged Plenum of the Central Committee of the C.P.C., in April 1945, became the official interpretation of the preceding decade in the history of the Party under Mao Tse-tung’s leadership.

This lengthy document appended to the Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung importunately stressed that Mao Tse-tung, "in particular, never supported it [the Li Li-san’s line] but, on the contrary, rectified with much patience the ’Left" mistakes.... [27•1 Actually, however, like Li Li-san, Mao Tse-tung at that time considered that "only after wiping out comparatively large enemy units and occupying the cities can we arouse the masses on a large scale...." [27•2 He says so outright in his letter "A Spark Can Start a Conflagration" (January 5, 1930). Half a year later, in July 1930, Mao Tse-tung, echoing Li Li-san’s views, wrote: ”. . . the objective and subjective conditions for the victory of the revolution have matured throughout the country and a new revolutionary upsurge has set in. In this situation, the immediate task of the revolutionary masses is to concentrate all revolutionary forces, to seize political power throughout the country, to ensure the triumph of the revolution on a country-wide scale."

Condemning "petty-bourgeois hotheadedness" in words alone, the "Decision on Some Questions of the History of Our Party" glorifies Mao Tsetung as the saviour of the Party, who never made any mistakes and hushes up the fact that Mao’s plan to seize the large town of Nanchang as early as 1929 was one of the most dangerous manifestations of Leftist adventurism at that time. The capture of the town of Changsha by the troops 28under Mao Tse-tung in September 1930 was also a reckless step. The siege of the town took a heavy toll, and the troops were able to hold it only for a few days. This venture too was nothing but a practical implementation of Li Li-san’s policy.

Thus, there are no grounds for asserting that Mao Tse-tung disagreed with Li Li-san. On the contrary, Mao shared Li’s views, and dissociated himself from Li Li-san only when Leftist adventurism ended in failure.

This explains why the "Decision on Some Questions of the History of Our Party" is surprisingly soft-spoken where it concerns Li Li-san’s deviation but castigates the followers of the Comintern line severely. The latter are accused of criticising Mao Tse-tung for “riflemania”, " parochialism, conservatism, typical of the peasant mind”, for underestimating the hegemony of the working class and work in towns.

A comparison of various documents shows that the services Mao Tse-tung claims he rendered by substantiating the importance of the revolutionary bases in the countryside, the need to form a single national anti-Japanese front and other propositions were in the final analysis nothing but a particularisation of the relevant Comintern directives. The success of the Chinese revolution under Mao Tse-tung’s leadership was possible only because the Comintern persistently corrected the Leftist and Right-opportunist mistakes in China. That is apparently why the “Decision” makes no mention of the Comintern from the time when Mao Tse-tung assumed the leadership of the Party, and all activities of the Party are reviewed in complete isolation from the international communist movement.

The Li Li-san line—by no means the only manifestation in the Chinese Communist Party of “Leftism”, semi-Trotskyism and Trotskyism—is closely related to the views then held by Mao Tse-tung. Great interest attaches in this connection to Li Li-san’s speech of repentance at the Eighth Congress of the C.P.C. in 1956.

Admitting his previous mistakes, Li Li-san made no promises for the future, because pettybourgeois faults, he said, are like weeds which even a "fire in the steppe does not fully destroy and which grow again when the spring winds blow." [29•1

The years following the Eighth Party Congress showed that Li Li-san displayed a certain clearsightedness when he forecast that the defects of petty-bourgeois revolutionism would be revived if conditions were favourable.

While the Chinese revolution was still in the anti-colonial, anti-feudal, bourgeois-democratic stage, the numerous petty-bourgeois elements joining the Communist Party proved to be revolutionaries capable of clearing the road of various feudal and colonial vestiges for further advance. At that time Mao Tse-tung said: "Two steps have to be taken in the Chinese revolution: the first is New Democracy, and the second socialism. Moreover, the first step will take quite a long time and can by no means be accomplished overnight. We are not Utopians, and we cannot depart from the actual conditions confronting us." [29•2

During that period, the C.P.C. scored major 30victories and the Chinese people benefited under its leadership, especially in the field of agrarian reform and economic rehabilitation. However, when the country was faced with more complex tasks in building the economic basis for socialism and developing new social relations, there was growing evidence of petty-bourgeois impatience and the inability to switch over from methods which were justified during the war period to methods of long-term socialist construction in peace-time aimed at winning one economic position after another.

Without this change of methods, there can be no successful socialist construction. But such a change requires great patience and consistency.

However, with the formation of the Chinese People’s Republic in 1949 it was announced that the democratic stage of the revolution was over; democratic measures began to be called socialist and socialist changes began to be introduced with great haste, in direct violation of the principle but recently proclaimed by Mao Tse-tung, "We cannot depart from the actual conditions confronting us.” There were more and more manifestations of petty-bourgeois impatience, the desire to rush ahead regardless of real possibilities, attempts to skip over unavoidable stages of development determined by objective socio-economic factors, in particular by the level of development attained by the productive forces.

Criticising Leftist views on the possibility of achieving socialism "at one go”, of gaining a paradisial life practically by a single cavalry attack, Lenin drew attention to the petty-bourgeois, adventurist character and the enormous danger of such views. In the article "The Importance of Gold Now and After the Complete Victory of 31Socialism”, written in 1921, Lenin spoke of the need for a "gradual, cautious, and round-about approach to the solution of the fundamental problems of economic development”. "The greatest, perhaps the only danger to the genuine revolutionary is that of exaggerated revolutionism, ignoring the limits and conditions in which revolutionary methods are appropriate and can be successfully employed." [31•1 The revolutionary will surely perish if he elevates “revolution”, to something almost divine, if he loses his head and his ability to reflect, weigh, and ascertain in the coolest manner under what circumstances there should be revolutionary action and when it is necessary to switch to reformist action.

Mao Tse-tung, who knew how to act in a revolutionary way when it was necessary to struggle against imperialism and internal reaction, proved absolutely unable to implement the methods necessary for the successful building of socialism. After the rehabilitation of the economy ruined by long wars, the Mao Tse-tung group began imposing upon the Party a policy that threatened to plunge the country into economic catastrophe. Naturally, this policy was resisted by all those who strove to build socialism along MarxistLeninist lines relying on the experience of the Soviet Union and other socialist countries.

For a long time the differences in the C.P.C. were carefully concealed and there was only indirect evidence of the struggle within the Party. It intensified and began to take various forms after the Eighth Congress of the C.P.C. (1956). The so-called cultural revolution has shown what extremes the Maoists are ready to go to in order 32to suppress all resistance to their adventurist line.

The stand of the Mao Tse-tung group roused fresh hopes in the adventurists in the so-called Fourth International. They thought that there had appeared enormous opportunities which "open up a field of activity such as Trotskyism had never had before”. As early as September 1960, that is, before the Meeting of Representatives of 81 Communist and Workers’ Parties in Moscow, the so-called Fourth International sent an open letter to the Central Committee of the C.P.C., in which it applauded its stand, saying that it coincided with Trotskyist positions, and called upon it to initiate an open discussion with the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the entire world communist movement. "The Fourth International,” the letter read, "which from the moment of its foundation has been fighting . . . against the ideas against which you are fighting today, supports you."

The Trotskyist press praised Mao’s subsequent splitting activities and declared that in its differences with Moscow, Peking stood practically on Trotskyist positions. The Trotskyist "International Secretariat" welcomed the "theses of the C.P.C. . . . since they clearly resemble some Marxist revolutionary propositions of our movement”. In Britain, the Trotskyists were even more outspoken. After publication of the C.P.C. letter outlining the 25 points of the Chinese leadership’s line, they declared: "The Chinese call it ’the 25 points’ —we call it Trotskyism."

The fact that Mao Tse-Tung’s views coincide on many points with those of the anarchists and Trotskyists and that the methods they use for subversion against the Marxist-Leninist Parties 33are similar does not mean that these manifestations of petty-bourgeois revolutionism are based on identical conceptions.

It would be over-simplifying to hold that Maoism emerged on the basis of anarchism or Trotskyism and is only a variant of these trends. If Maoism has “developed” on its own a number of propositions resembling anarchist or Trotskyist propositions, this only proves that, in the face of the objective laws of social development, pettybourgeois pseudo-revolutionaries of different trends generally resort to the same “remedy”— unrestrained voluntarism.

The difference between the social basis that gave birth to anarchism and Trotskyism and the one that fosters the views of Mao’s followers also has its influence. Anarchism is the world outlook of the tramp, of the urban lumpenproletarian. Trotskyism also reflects mainly the views of declasses, of townspeople, including intellectuals, who have lost all ground for action. But the Mao group’s petty-bourgeois revolutionism is not of urban, but of rural origin.

The specific conditions in China, a vast peasant country, in whose liberation from colonial dependence and feudalism the peasants played an enormous role, left their imprint on the manifestations of petty-bourgeois revolutionism. Therefore the views spread by the Maoists contain, besides anarchist and Trotskyist ideas, also purely Narodnik ideas, reminiscent of those which were professed by the Russian Socialist-Revolutionaries of both Right and Left wings, and so resolutely opposed by the Bolsheviks. [33•1

The opinion that there can be no comparison between Trotskyism, with its initially clear-cut anti-peasant trend, and the views of the Narodniks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, which are advertised as an expression of peasant interests, is wrong. The evolution of the views of the Trotskyists and Socialist-Revolutionaries has erased many of the differences between them.

K. V. Gusev, a Soviet historian, who studied the ideology and history of the Socialist- Revolutionary Party and drew widely on new archive materials, [34•1 found that Trotskyism and the pettybourgeois socialism of the Narodniks and Socialist-Revolutionaries have much in common as regards their methodological principles and also possess many common features typical of all pettybourgeois revolutionism. Among these features, the author says, are emphasis only on the destruc- 35tive role of the revolution, and inability to determine the role and place of the classes in it, the opinion that it is a purely volitional act, undue haste, and some others. [35•1

In the present epoch, in which the historical transition from capitalism to socialism is taking place under the guidance of Marxist-Leninist ideas, it is natural that many people who wish to be considered revolutionaries declare themselves Marxist-Leninists.

But as the old saying goes: Not all those who say "Lord! Lord!”, however will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. It is not enough to declare oneself a Marxist, one must actually be one, and the Maoists are not. At first, Mao declared that he would "apply the general truth of MarxismLeninism in the concrete conditions obtaining in China”. A few years later he set himself the task of "making Marxism Chinese, of seeing to it that it has a Chinese character in its every manifestation”. Later Mao’s followers declared that he had transformed Marxism from a European into an Asiatic form, had “sinicised” Marxism. Now Mao is presented as the greatest Marxist of all times and all peoples.

But the Marxist teaching cannot be sinicised, Japanised or Russified. Reformists, revisionists and anti-communists of all shades have at differ- 36ent times wasted a sea of ink trying to picture Leninism as a purely Russian phenomenon, one that does not fit the European countries. These views have been refuted not only by Marxist critics, but by life itself. The falsifiers of Marxism have now found support in China.

Marxism-Leninism is omnipotent because it correctly reflects the general laws applying to all countries without exception, irrespective of their specific features. Marxism-Leninism makes it possible to find one’s bearings in any situation and to find solutions promoting progressive development. If any part of Marxism-Leninism is accepted by itself, and the others rejected or overlooked, the integrity of revolutionary theory is destroyed, leaving a heap of eclecticisms of the type characteristic of the pre-proletarian period in social development or, at best, of the first steps of the labour movement.

What has happened in China is what Lenin meant when he spoke of the danger that arises in backward countries, where ideologies emerge which "seize upon one aspect of the labour movement, elevate one-sidedness to a theory. . . ." [36•1 Mao Tse-tung’s group seizes upon only one aspect of Marxism: it recognises the role of the subjective factor in the historical process and rejects the other, which requires a sober scientific analysis of the objective state of affairs. This one- sidedness, which amounts to a break with Marxism, is "elevated to a theory" and, furthermore, has a pronounced nationalist tint, differing in this from many previous manifestations of petty-bourgeois revolutionism.

Peking uses Marxist terminology to disseminate 37views which have nothing whatsoever in common with Marxism-Leninism. Maoism emerged in a backward country which had for a long time been subjected to colonial oppression. It is a peculiar peasant variant of petty-bourgeois revolutionism. It is an ideology which reflects the determination of the petty bourgeois to improve his position immediately through a universal levelling or let the whole of mankind perish if he fails.

The claim of the present representatives of petty-bourgeois revolutionism that they speak on behalf of a 700-million nation does not make their ideology any more viable. This freakish patchwork of bits of conceptions long since smashed by Marxism-Leninism and tailored to narrow nationalist interests cannot pretend to a future.

The objective conditions for a flourishing of petty-bourgeois revolutionism are naturally present in China just as they were in Russia and still are in other backward peasant countries. But the presence of the conditions for a disease to spread does not necessarily mean that there must be an epidemic. The task of Marxist political leadership is precisely to diagnose ills, and then to fight them, to correct erroneous views capable of ruining the revolution.

The Communist Party of the Soviet Union succeeded in this task because it was implacable in the fight against Right-wing opportunism and all variants of Leftist pseudo-revolutionism. "When it came into being in 1903,” Lenin wrote in 1920, "Bolshevism took over the tradition of a ruthless struggle against petty-bourgeois semi-anarchist (or dilettante-anarchist) revolutionism. . . ." [37•1

The Bolsheviks had to wage a particularly in- 38tense struggle in subsequent years, when the Party was defending the Leninist line in socialist construction. The Theses of the C.C., C.P.S.U., Fiftieth Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution, note the great importance of the ideological and political rout of Trotskyism which "sowed distrust for the working class of the U.S.S.R., maintaining that socialism could not be built in our country without the victory of the proletarian revolution in the West. . . . Using the screen of Left ultra-revolutionary phraseology, they [ Trotskyists] tried to impose an adventurist policy of artificially pushing the revolution in other countries and dooming the building of socialism to failure in our country." [38•1

The absence of serious traditions in the struggle against Leftist ultra-revolutionism was felt in China when it had to face the difficulties of building socialism in a backward country. Renegades and advocates of an adventuristic, great-power policy disguised by Leftist phrases got the upper hand in the leadership.

Communists are convinced that in the present epoch any country, even the most backward one, can successfully develop along non-capitalist lines and arrive at socialism. If the Mongolian People’s Republic was able to travel that path at a time when there was only one socialist country in the world—the Soviet Union—which, moreover, was surrounded by hostile capitalist states, now, when the world socialist system is marching from strength to strength, it is all the more possible for socialism to triumph in any developing country.

The events unfolding in China are by no means inevitable in a backward country. Here we have the exception that proves the rule.

Trampling upon the principles of proletarian internationalism, the Maoists are rejecting cooperation with the socialist countries, with the Soviet Union, whose assistance played such a substantial role in the achievements of the Chinese People’s Republic. The consequences of this policy prove that, in a backward country such as China, advance towards socialism is possible only with the co-operation of the socialist community, its assistance and experience.

Petty-bourgeois revolutionism is an enormous danger at all stages of the struggle against capitalism. It becomes particularly harmful when the victorious revolution opens up prospects for the practical building of a new society. Proof of this is the serious danger threatening China’s revolutionary achievements through the fault of the Mao group.
* * *


[11•1] V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 16, p. 349.

[12•1] Ibid., Vol. 31, p. 32.

[12•2] Ibid., Vol. 10, p. 73.

[13•1] Ibid., Vol. 5, p. 327.

[14•1] V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 31, p. 33.

[15•1] Ibid., Vol. 5, p. 327.

[16•1] Ibid., Vol. 19, p. 408.

[16•2] Ibid., Vol. 18, p. 584.

[16•3] Ibid., Vol. 15, p. 195.

[17•1] "Activity of the Executive Committee and the Presidium of the Executive Committee of the Communist International (from July 13, 1921 to February 1, 1922)" (in Russian), Petrograd, 1922, p. 96.

[17•2] V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 31, p. 32.

[18•1] Ibid., Vol. 16, p. 391.

[18•2] Ibid., Vol. 20, p. 160.

[21•1] V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 20, p. 347.

[24•1] Tu hao—a category of rural exploiters, including particularly the kulaks, usurers, and den-keepers, linked with criminal elements and the police.—Ed.

[25•1] Letter of Comintern Executive Committee to the Central Committee of the C.P.C. about the Li Li-san group (October 1930). In the collection Strategy and Tactics oj the Comintern in the National-Colonial Revolution. As Illustrated in China(in Russian), Moscow, 1934, pp. 283–90.

[27•1] Mao Tse-tung, Selected Works, Vol. 4, p. 179.

[27•2] Ibid., Vol. 1, p. 123.

[29•1] Materials of the Eighth All-China Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (in Russian), Moscow, 1956, pp. 368–75.

[29•2] Mao Tse-tung, Selected Works, Vol. 3, p. 128.

[31•1] V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 33, pp. 109, 110–11.

[33•1] Many books have been published in China in recent years to “prove” the exclusive nature oi the Chinese peasantry; in particular, some 500 works have been devoted to the history of the peasant wars in the Middle Ages. Garushyants, a Soviet historian, who has made a study of the research methods of modern Chinese historians, writes that some historians were accused of dogmatism for applying to China the view expressed by Lenin that "lack of consciousness and vaguely expressed political demands are typical of the peasant mass”. Historians who quoted Lenin’s words that the medieval ideals of peasant equality are Utopian were also branded as dogmatists. Engels’s characteristic of the religious mythical consciousness of the peasants is considered outdated. According to the Chinese historians, only the Russian peasantry could be considered as “tsarist”, and the views held on this score by the founders of Marxism-Leninism should, they say, not be applied to China. The "classical revolutionary tradition in China" is said to be a result of the "peasantry’s deep consciousness".

[34•1] In 1919 the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries declared that they were willing to join the Comintern, if their views —a mixture of Trotskyism and Narodism—were recognised. The peasantry, they wrote, is a powerful detachment of the international army of labour fighting for socialism. The backward countries which have predominantly a peasant population stand closer to socialism and therefore "if imperialist capital is defeated in an international war. . . and the Russian and West European industrial workers give their support, a world socialist revolution may be carried out (as envisaged by Karl Marx), especially if the Chinese and the Indians help".

[35•1] See Lenin s Fight Against Petty-Bourgeois Revolutionism and Adventurism (in Russian), Moscow, 1966, pp. 289– 90.

[36•1] V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 16, p. 349.

[37•1] Ibid., Vol. 31, p. 33.

[38•1] Fiftieth Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution, Theses of the Central Committee of the C.P.S.U., Moscow, 1967, p. 12.
Powered by Blogger.