SOCIAL STRUGGLES IN CHINA by Joao Bernardo. (Translated by Phil Meyler)
Translated from the Portuguese Lutas Sociais na China, Contra a Corrente, Lisbon, 1976.
To the memory of Liu Chieh, Chu Ching-fang, Wang Li, Sidney Rittenberg and Yao Teng-shan who were in the forefront of the proletarian revolts during the 'cultural revolution', sharing in the illusions and greatness of that first great working class uprising against state-capitalism and who were reported to have been executed at the end of 1968 or early 1969.
INTRODUCTION TO THE ENGLISH EDITION.......
I was somewhat hesitant when it was proposed to bring out this pamphlet in English. It is a hastily written polemical text in which no detailed economic and social analysis of Chinese state-capitalism is attempted. This is something which urgently needs to be done from a revolutionary Marxist perspective. A succinct and necessarily simplified explanation for a problem of such dimensions, in which much has still to be studied, runs obvious risks. It could be confused with those hurried generalisations and unprofound 'inspirations' which are the usual make-up of a certain far left literature. Much of this literature deals with China in two simple strokes. First, the authors establish a forced and unfounded parallel between the Chinese and Russian revolutionary processes, inventing Chinese Kerensky's and Russian Shanghai Communes (in I927), a Hundred Flowers Movement in Russia and a NEP in China. Secondly, the workers' struggles are not measured in the institutions in which they took place (in the real process) but on the basis of a few ambiguous slogans with entirely different meanings for the proletariat and the state-capitalists. In this way our revolutionary authors deny any revolutionary and spontaneous content to the tremendous mass struggles which shook Maoist China. As I see it, and for reasons which I hope are explained, however succinctly, in this pamphlet, such theses are worse than unfounded; they are utterly void.
This poverty stricken ideology reflects the social base of a part of the far-left groups, generally made up of frustrated students led by would-be technocrats. These leaders and militants project onto the working class the same contempt and superiority which they themselves are obliged to suffer from the truly dominant strata of society. The ideological nature of the explanations stems from this. The ruling class, to which they belong like contemptuous offspring, occupies the entire landscape; but since they are hated they take on a demonic function. Those in favour of the ruling class present it as the exclusive agent of all history - as a history of wonders. This section of the left-wing critics also present it as the exclusive agent of all history - but as a history of Horrors. In both cases the independent role of the proletariat is the same; nil. In this pamphlet, I have tried not to fall into this vicious circle and to show how the working class exercised an autonomous and revolutionary role in the struggles, which generally were unable to surpass certain ruling class factions. For revolutionaries, it is above all, these demonstrations of autonomy which should interest us most, since only through them will we be able to understand future conditions for a radical anti-capitalist struggle and a complete proletarian autonomy.
In the Portuguese context, for which it was written, this pamphlet came out of the need to criticise a different form of confusing proletarian struggle with the manoeuvres of the ruling bureaucracy. During the first half of 1976, when Teng Hsiao-ping tried to rise from being a factional ruling-class leader to being its supreme leader, thus paving the way for the rise of Hua Kuo-feng, a large number of Portuguese Maoists – as indeed Maoists all over the west - became euphoric, insisting that this meant the real victory of Mao, of Ms Chiang Ching and her followers. They pointed out that the proletarian rebels (news of whom was enthusiastically given) was support for the Maoist faction. They concluded that China was still Red and that the Maoist phoenix was rising over the ashes of the Centrists. Many journalists, perhaps because of a lack of other information, reproduced a more sober version for the bourgeois press. The Maoists tried to justify their revolutionary fantasies in this confusion. This pamphlet arose out of this situation. It wanted to show that Teng Hsiao-ping was not representative of the Centrists but belonged to a different faction; that it had been the Centrists and not the Maoists who had ousted Teng; that the Maoists had been 'dead' politically, ever since the end of the 'cultural revolution' and that the Centrists were only awaiting the death of Mao - and that the Centrists were only awaiting the death of Mao – and that perhaps, they would not even have waited, if that Great Helmsman had shown himself to possess a Long Long Life, in order to complete their final putsch. Above all it wanted to show that the more recent proletarian revolts were autonomous and didn't support any ruling-class faction and that the proletariat remained indifferent to these power struggles.
Mao died some months after the appearance of this pamphlet and, at least up to the present, all its forecasts are being confirmed. The 'Gang of Four' fell, without any workers' revolt trying to sustain it. And if their triumphant enemies today attribute responsibility for the proletarian revolts, before and after the fall of the Maoists, to the Shanghai Group, this should not fool us. In ruling class quarrels it is usually the losing faction which gets blamed for essentially spontaneous workers' struggles. The history of Stalinism has so many examples of this that it would be impossible for us to list all of the variations on this theme. Although those fooled by it for the first time might be excused, it is inexcusable when history is repeated. This pamphlet gives sufficient reasons for the isolation of the Maoists from the working class in the period after the 'cultural revolution'. And should these be insufficient then surely the speed with which the disciples of Ms Chiang Ching were dismissed or imprisoned, and their inability to launch any popular movement to support them, is supplementary proof that the present proletarian revolts are directed against the entire system and not merely against one of the ruling class factions. Thus, I continue to maintain that, after the 'cultural revolution', proletarian struggles sprang up spontaneously and were completely separate from the internal affairs of the state apparatus.
Regarding these intra-ruling class questions, it is worthwhile noting that the predictions made in the pamphlet have been generally, confirmed.
Despite this, the dust has not yet settled enough to give a definite opinion. The final crackdown of what remains of the Maoist tendency will tend to throw the power of the Centrists off-balance. It was exactly this unbalance which allowed the untiring Teng and his group to have another go at taking supreme power, an ambition which, up to the present, has been frustrated because the other tendencies have organised against it, leaving the Centrists to maintain the balance of power. The most important aspect of the struggle, irrespective of whatever happens to Teng or Hua or any of the other mandarins and marshals, is that it has broken the hold of the existing tendencies and allowed a new organisation of tendencies and a new balance of power. It means a reorganisation of the now mature (in other words, the beginning of the senile) phase of Chinese state-capitalism. I think the pamphlet has dealt with the economic reasons which determine this mature phase - although, as was pointed out, non-systematically and only in certain aspects.
This doesn't purport to be a detailed study, one which would give the text a long-term validity. Since it resulted from a polemical necessity my only aim was to understand a particular moment of class struggle in China. But an interested reader could use the method described here for an analysis of China in the years to come. Perhaps this is the only interest which the text has: a proposal for a model of how Marxist methodology could be applied to a state-capitalist society.
The Portuguese edition carried an appendix which is omitted in both the Spanish and the present English edition. In this appendix I was trying (how many, before me, have tried?) to open up a polemic with certain Maoists especially those who, in the Portuguese political spectrum, were more to the left. Obviously I did not succeed. Since these questions would be of little interest for an English or American public, the appendix has been omitted without anyone losing anything by it.
It goes without saying that certain passages would have been written differently today. One is perhaps more important than the others. It seems to me now, that the elimination of Lin Piao and his followers didn't simply correspond to a struggle of the rest of the factions of the dominant class against the Maoists, but also implied a split within the Maoist faction, in which the part led by Ms Chiang Ching supported Chou En-lai against Lin Piao. Lin was in favour of an accelerated militarization programme which would allow China to oppose Russia and the U.S. simultaneously. Such a programme implied certain economic changes and social tensions which would have broken the bonds between the Maoists and the working class (those defined in the pamphlet) and risked the very stability of the ruling class. This serious split within the Maoist camp shows the point to which it had weakened and lost all political initiative. But I doubt if this correction alters the general conclusions which were reached.
Joao Bernardo. February, 1978.
1 THE REAL STRENGTH OF THE WORKERS' MOVEMENT
Many, disillusioned with what is happening in the USSR latch onto the myth of a Red China and a President (or Comrade? or Comrade President?) Mao, helmsman of proletarian struggles. Anxiously they tell themselves and others something to the effect that "if China is not communist then there are no communist countries and this implies that communism is a utopia and slavery eternal".
For myself and for many other comrades, denying that a communist government exists anywhere in the world means simply that, for us, communism and State power (particularly the economic power of the State) are totally antagonistic.
Communism is by no means an empty illusion. Daily, throughout the world, the proletariat creates egalitarian and communist social relations in its struggles when these are direct, autonomous and led, not by trade unions or political parties, but by the proletariat itself. But global capitalist market pressures prevent these new social relations from becoming dominant in any isolated country. All production poses the problem of finding outlets and it is impossible for any isolated company or country to develop and consolidate communist social relations given the integration and domination of the world capitalist market. The failure, so far, to develop a truly international revolutionary process has also meant the inability to transform the social relations established by the proletariat into communist relations of production. Nevertheless in vast sections of the globe proletarian struggles increasingly present themselves independently of the bureaucratic institutions, unions or factions of the state apparatus and thus create and develop new social relations which can last over a period; indeed, as long as the autonomy of the struggle lasts. Here is the proof that communism is not a baseless utopia. These proletarian social relations established in struggle prefigure tomorrow's world. It is here and not in the state apparatus and its appendices that the proletariat should place its hope. Here too, its strength should be concentrated. The strength of the workers' movement is measured by the workers' movement itself. We have no need to accept the blinkers of crude bureaucratic illusions.
2. IS CHINA A SOCIALIST COUNTRY?
I don't believe it possible to call a social system socialist or communist where it is not the workers themselves who control the economy, where wage-labour persists, where gratuitous labour is generalised, where capitalist technology reigns supreme, where repression of the autonomous workers' movement is a daily occurrence and where capitalist relations of production remain basically unchanged.
The counter-revolutionary foreign policy and alliances with the most backward and conservative forces have become the most widely publicised aspects of the Chinese regime because it is precisely this aspect which is of most interest to other capitalist countries, and most preoccupies their newspapers. But no 'foreign policy' can be separated from 'internal policy'. The present alliance of the Chinese ruling class with the internally repressive and externally aggressive capitalisms of the US and EEC countries corresponds to that stage of development of capitalist relations in China in which state-capitalism is expanding beyond the orbit of national frontiers, transforming itself into an imperialist power and entering into conflict with its closest enemy, Russian imperialism. The foreign policy pursued by the Chinese state-capitalists arises as a direct result of the reproduction of capitalist social relations within China. Thus, it can only be understood by analysing 'internal policy'.
It is not my intention in the brief space of this essay to analyse the principle economic aspects of Chinese state-capitalism or to trace the history of the great social conflicts which brought it about. This theme is dealt with in two or three well known books (I). I shall limit myself to reviewing some of its more salient features.
(I). For a general outline see, "Le tigre de papier; sur le développementdu capitalisme en Chine, Paris, Spartacus, 1972, Série B, No 48. In myown book "Para uma teoria do modo do producao communista", Afrontamento, Porto, I975 , the reader can find a chapter which gives a detailed analysis of the 'cultural revolution'. Recently (1975) an anthology "China pais capitalist ou socialista?" was published by Assirio & Alvim, and the longest text 24 theses " was actually written by this author, something which the anthologist, (J.M.Gago -writing under one of his pseudonyms JP. Rebelo - for reasons known only to himself though certainly not from ignorance) ignored, completely. Some of these theses had served as a basis for the chapter on the 'cultural revolution' and this is obvious for anyone who reads both texts. Meanwhile however they underwent important theoretical changes. The aforementioned anthologist, while not even citing the author, more seriously does not cite the theoretical corrections which he deemed necessary to introduce into the text. The main interest of the "24 theses..." in the form in which they are now published lies, above all, in the statistics which are given on external Chinese policy.
3. GENERAL ASPECTS OF STATE CAPITALISM IN CHINA
Until the complete take-over by the Chinese Communist Party in 1949 China was, almost completely non-industrialised (with the exception of certain enclaves under direct foreign influence). Essentially an agricultural economy the country was dominated by production relations which were very different from those which had made European history. (2) This meant that the necessary capital for a sweeping and accelerated development of Chinese capitalist industry was non-existent. A country in such a situation, attempting capitalist development, has two general options.
(a) It can appeal for large scale investment of foreign capital, the state apparatus then using part of the subsequent profits to develop certain sectors of the national industry.
(b) It can expropriate the capitalists and big land-owners and with capital thus centralised, reinforced by an over-exploitation of the workers, it is able to develop capitalist industry and at the same time carry out the land reforms necessary for capitalist development.
Brazil today is an example of the first model while China is an example of the second. Clearly these models are not something which the ruling class can choose. They are imposed on them historically. These models don't ideally exist before they are applied in practise - on the contrary they materialise from the attempts to synthesise in theory the existing practical problems.
There is a fundamental common denominator between these two alternatives although the dynamic of each is different. What essentially they have in common is the reinforcement of the state apparatus. In the second mode the need for this state reinforcement is obvious since what is at stake is the expropriation of private capitalists and big land-owners and thus the transformation of private property into state-property. But in the first model, even though state ownership is reinforced, the fact that private property (and an active political role for private capitalists) survives tends to blur this reinforcement for the superficial observer. Investment of foreign capital on a large scale in a country where the state apparatus is politically and economically weak can only lead to total domination by a small number of multi-national monopolies who essentially use the country as a source for raw materials, thus stifling capitalist development as well as the development and expansion of the indigenous capitalist class. A country which relies on foreign investments can only divert a part of the profits of such investments to stimulate other sectors of industry by developing a strong state economy. This necessity to reinforce the state apparatus leads to a growing militarization of the political and economic fields, clearly evident in the countries attempting this model (from Iran to Brazil, amongst the right, not forgetting the left-wing Peru). Both models necessitate the reinforcement of the state apparatus and the development of state capitalism. But there are differences and these condition not only the economic trajectories as also the class struggles which develop.
Private capitalists continue to play an important and active role in the first model. This, in general, forces them to accept certain parliamentary forms or at least a facade of liberalism, which, at first sight appears to contradict the ruling dictatorial system. Secondly, since economic development depends on profits channelled by the state from foreign dominated economic sectors; this means that development is highly uneven. Inequality can thus be greater than the general rule under capitalism since no development takes place in those branches which go against the interests of foreign capital. The country thus finds itself dependent on fluctuations in the world market. Unable to influence it, it is forced to suffer its effects; and its industry therefore remains completely subordinated to technological developments within the imperial metropoles.
Thirdly, since a large number of workers are hired by companies directly dominated by foreign capital their control is not only critical in the sphere of production but also in the subordinate sphere of consumption. This leads to distortions in the standard of living and consumer habits and results in increased inflation. Lastly, together with all these factors, the systematic entry of purely speculative capital, loans designed to subsidise the bureaucratic government apparatus but playing no part in production, increases inflation in these countries to a level higher than the world average. In general these fluctuations in inflation are felt much more brutally and have important repercussions on the whole process of industrialisation.
The second model generally characterises economic development in countries where, for various historical reasons attempts of the ruling class to initiate capitalist development coincide with the needs to engage in armed struggle against imperialist countries. A total or partial blockade is established and this makes it difficult, at least in the short run, to appeal for large scale foreign investments. At the same time, the armed struggle waged in a bureaucratic manner, develops a state-apparatus which is highly centralised and militarised. Such conditions, reinforced by the objective class interests of the state managers makes it necessary to take the type of measures implied by the second model.
The second model of development corresponds to the Chinese case, amongst others, and has the following more salient features.
Firstly, the private capitalists accept their own expropriation since without it there cannot be a sufficiently rapid concentration and development of capital. They accept their own expropriation - and this is fundamental for them – in so far as they maintain a leading position in the control of the economy. If, for some reason, there already exists a bureaucratic faction strong and large enough to oppose their integration into the state economic apparatus then it means that a profound social struggle occurs within the managerial and state-capitalist class. Usually this results in the extermination of the ex-private capitalists since the objective pressures of the concentration of capital oppose any other solution.
Secondly, the transformation of private property into state property, together with the needs of accelerated industrialisation, require that land reforms be carried out. While the small and medium sized holdings can have more or less weight depending on the political and economic circumstances, the larger estates are dissolved and statified and the estate owners, as a rule are both destroyed politically and physically eliminated. This is usually limited to an idle parasitic class and does not extend to the agricultural engineer who can easily be transformed into managers and state-capitalists. Agrarian reform is an indispensable basis for accelerated industrial development because it increases industrial productivity. It decreases food imports and allows more capital intensive industrial development. This increased productivity in, turn permits a decrease in the importation of industrial raw materials. It 'frees' the work force so that they can now labour in the industrial centres without having to live under the sub-nutritional conditions characteristic of the old regime, conditions which had made them less productive than is now deemed necessary. It also transforms agrarian holdings into markets for industrial products such as tractors, chemical fertilizers etc. It increases the standard of living for the rural population and thereby the internal consumer market as a whole.
Thirdly it gives a lift-off to capitalism simply through the concentration of national capital without, in the initial phase, relying on assistance from foreign capital. It necessitates a super-exploitation of the proletariat which in turn causes:
(i) The militarisation of labour, with the military bosses having direct control over the factories and union apparatus, applying military discipline to labour relations.
(ii) The use of gratuitous labour (unpaid work by soldiers, prisoners, agricultural wage earners and even by industrial workers) who, outside working hours cultivate a few vegetables in the small state-distributed plots, to complement their diet and compensate for their meagre wages.
(iii) An increase in the number of hours worked and of the intensity of work (the mythological 'heroes of labour' etc).
(iv) Alongside the militarisation of labour there is the increase in the repressive forces, be they police, Party, ideological, all involving productivity and designed to reinforce exploitation.
(v) For wages to remain at a minimum workers must ignore the greater part of consumer goods and not 'feel their need', thus reducing the demand for higher wages. In this way, while contact with the remainder of the capitalist world is restricted in the sphere of production, it becomes completely shut off from the penetration of modern consumer goods.
Finally, while this development ensures a greater internal equilibrium (within capitalist limits), it also permits (capitalist integration and the world market permitting) a greater technological independence in relation to advanced capitalist powers. This capitalist expansion acquires a sufficiently solid base so that, when the national limits of production are reached, it is able to transform itself economically into a particularly 'aggressive' imperialist power – something which need not always be expressed in military terms.
Such factors contribute to explaining the isolation of these countries. But really, this isolation is only apparent since a network of contacts is established between these countries and the centres of world capitalism. These include the importation of the means of production the export of commodities, especially raw materials. As soon as the economic blockade brought about by the armed struggle is lifted, this also includes the negotiation of loans. The penetration of foreign capital in this model is by no means nil. But it differs fundamentally from the other type of development. In general, investment by foreign capital is not direct but rather mediated through relations established between States. This development of State-to- State economic relations, a consequence of state-capitalist development in these developing countries, has very important repercussions on the investing countries. It reinforces the economic role of the state and contributes to important structural changes. Thus isolation is only apparent. This illusion of 'isolation' originates from the fact that dealings within the capitalist world market don't occur in their usual form - i.e. from capitalist to capitalist. Nor do they occur as in the first model of development; i.e. between capitalist and state. It is not really isolation that is in question at all, but merely the predominance of typical state-capitalist economic relations in the present stage of capitalist integration; i.e. State-to-State relations.
(2). In formulating the problem in such a broad way I was merely trying to avoid the polemics which arise over the problem "Asiatic Despotism". There is by no means any agreement on the serious problem of classifying traditional Chinese economy. In this short essay I have no pretensions that the problem is dealt with; however, let the problem be noted. (Note for the English edition).
SPECIFIC ASPECTS OF STATE CAPITALISM IN CHINA: Maoism
This all applies to China which, as we pointed out, is a typical example of the second type of development. However, in the Chinese case there is a specific aspect which is of tremendous importance. The limited capitalist development in China, before 1949, resulted in a lack of technological managers i.e. those managers whose task it is to understand and control the technical aspects of production and bridge the gap which in capitalist society exists between the producers and the means of production.
Before1949, managers in China were mainly administrators and bureaucrats, either in the official civil-service, or in the state apparatus organised by the Communist Party in those areas under its control. The result was that when, in 1956, the state took over almost all of the existing industrial capital, the dispossessed private capitalists remained in positions of technological control and were transformed into managers and state-capitalists. The needs of accelerated capitalist expansion in a country the size of China, with its lack of industry, allowed the integration of yesterdays private capitalists into the state apparatus. Moreover, it did so without developing friction and hostility on the part of the already previously formed state-capitalists; i.e. those formed in the central state apparatus between 1949 and 1956 or in the Communist Party controlled areas before 1949. The extent of the tasks which the managers had to carry out and the absence of a prior technocracy allowed this originally hostile group to become a part of the new ruling class.
This forms the objective basis for one of the most important differences between the development of state capitalism in the USSR and in China.
When, with the defeat and recuperation of the proletarian revolution in I9I7-I8, Russia systematically developed towards state capitalism, the extensive rural sector of the economy was still semi-feudal while the industrial sector was one of the most developed in the world. Russia, at this time, possessed one of the highest levels of capitalist concentration of industry, evidenced for example, in the fact that the number of wage labourers per factory was, on average, higher than that of the great capitalist powers. Production in certain basic industries, like steel, was one of the highest in the world. As a result, a class of technocrats already existed in the Russia of I9I7-I8. This resulted in two important differences with what was later to happen in China:
(a) The number of technocrats was large and they were well-trained. They were immediately able to take on the tasks of economic planning.
(b) The intellectuals (essentially the managers who had the knowledge to develop the productive forces) trained before I9I7, and therefore outside the Leninist party, were far more numerous than those inside the Party. Thus certain intra-managerial struggles took on the appearance of a conflict between intellectuals and the Party; something which has repercussions even today, as anyone who reads a newspaper knows.
In China, on the contrary, the intellectuals - or what interests us here, the managers - were integrated into the Party. They were either trained in the Communist Party controlled areas before I949 or later in the Central state apparatus. Or else, they were managers who had previously been private capitalists but who, in order to be included in the new ruling class; had to show their political and ideological loyalty - and what better way was there than joining the party. In this way, in China, all intra-managerial struggles meant struggles within the Party. This was eventually to provide them with more headaches than their Russian counter-parts.
The restrictions placed on the technocratic cadres during the first years of Communist Party hegemony throughout China in no way put an end to this struggle within the ruling class. This historical situation has had, even until today, very important effects on the character of Chinese proletarian struggle against the state capitalist system in expansion. Even though all of the old private capitalists had been integrated, the number of managers and state-capitalists has been, until very recently, insufficient for the total planning of the economy. And without total planning a fully state-capitalist system cannot survive. It would have had to resort to manipulating market prices in order to achieve economic equilibrium, thereby implying a complete economic and political restructuring. Under Chinese conditions, this would have brought down the regime and meant a return to the previous situation (although the previous regime had given ample proof that it was unable to develop capitalism or even maintain the then existing economic situation.) They seemed to be trapped in a vicious circle: the interests of the regime as well as the objective needs of capitalism in China obliged a state capitalist system with a totally planned economy. But because of the historical weakness of Chinese capitalism, the class of managers which existed was too small to take charge of this process of planning.
The novelty of Maoism, with its particular conceptions of the state, the Party and the mass movement, consists precisely in the resolution of these problems. This is its historical role.
Quite recently I read a letter which criticised a series of articles on recent events in China. As it is hard to anything more succinct on the subject I'll quote most of the letter (3).
"The author of these articles points out the difference which for him exists between a Maoist and being pro-China. Tired of the disconcerting twists in Chinese politics he opts for the comfortable position of being a Maoist without being pro-Chinese and is thus subject to such dilemmas as was Lin Piao a Maoist or a revisionist traitor who wanted to restore capitalism ? Is Teng Hsiao-ping a Maoist or Idem? And Chou En-Lai. Is Hua Kuo-feng a true Maoist or a disguised capitalist? Because there is only one Maoist; Mao-Tse-Tung (and even here)... For the author Maoism is a product of one enlightened brain and not the ideological expression of a real process which is unfolding in China (my italics). It is a process of capital accumulation in an under-developed country marked by continuous struggles between rival factions of the ruling group (Party/state). As such it has nothing whatever to do with the end of capitalism or commodity production, of wage labour. It has nothing to do either with the construction of a society in which the free development of one is the condition for the free development of all...."
(3) A letter by Joao Saores published in the now defunct left weekly "Gazeta da Semana", April 22nd, 1976, criticising a series of articles on the events in China at that time.
Here the author of the letter goes much further than a mere reference to the Chinese situation. He points to what is, perhaps, one of the most important possibilities of developing revolutionary theory: to undertake a Marxist analysis of the so-called Marxist currents, or more concisely, to apply Marxism to itself, in a Marxist way. Our Marxist state-capitalists reserve the critical and dialectical method for an analysis of private property and degenerate into some of the crudest forms of idealism when they begin to discuss the 'socialism' of fully integrated state-capitalist systems.
What, in a nutshell, Maoism is all about - and this is what makes it original is the organisation of a system where it is the workers themselves who are given the task of putting the entire economic plan into effect, as well as making suggestions and studies in each production unit prior to elaboration of the plan. The managers and state-capitalists, however, maintain control over all central aspects of its elaboration and execution. This is the economic function of the famous Maoist system. It urges initiative at the grass roots level while, at the same time, preventing the unification of these initiatives. For Maoism, the proletariat should be allowed a certain level of activity - but only to the extent to which the state-capitalists need to make up for their own deficiencies.
The extent of these initiatives is limited, in the first instance, to the place of production, which are unable to unite with other localised initiatives and thus unable to develop into an autonomous movement. Secondly; the purpose of these limited initiatives is to reinforce state-capitalism. Moreover it is a form of unpaid labour; the proletariat is not paid to carry out managerial work and the exploited gratuitously undertake the tasks necessary for their own exploitation. Here is the real meaning of the 'mass-line' of Maoism, as well as the secret concerning the difference between the Stalinist and Maoist models of planning. This difference cannot be explained in terms of leaders. It is not, as the idealist missionaries of Maoism would have it, the result of ideological differences which have real effects but the result of real differences which have ideological effects. The peculiarity of Maoism in relation to the Stalinist model of state-capitalism is explained by the history of capitalism in both countries and by the type of development which these state-capitalisms are forced to follow today. Here I merely mean to introduce the question in a general way, since an exhaustive study is not my intention.
The peculiarities of the economic and social situation which Maoism reflects and leads has had important repercussions on the working class struggles in China, particularly in their large and apparently sudden outbursts as well as in the way they were recuperated. But these always formed part of the struggle against Maoism, or at worst, despite Maoism, and not because of it.
5. GENERAL ASPECTS OF THE SOCIAL STRUGGLES IN CHINA...
After I949, the social struggles in China have been orientated by the following general axis and their multiple combinations:
a) The weakness of the managerial apparatus and its recourse to partial proletarian initiatives meant that the Chinese apparatus of ideological containment and repression was less monolithic than, for example, inStalinist and post-Stalinist Russia, N. Korea, Cambodia, or many other countries under the American sphere of influence. Thus under these circumstances, whenever a minor crisis appeared in the apparatus of central control, there was always possibility that these partial though controlled initiatives might tend to become unified and transformed into a truly autonomous movement, into a struggle against the State and state-capitalism.
b) The Chinese state-capitalists found it necessary to appeal to the proletariat in the elaboration and practical execution of fragmentary aspects of central planning, extending the scope whereby proletarian elements could be converted into new managers. This constantly fed the ruling class with new blood, a considerable factor in the strengthening of this class (4). In general, when the proletariat is forced to carry out managerial work gratuitously, a minority transform themselves into effective managers even though they formally maintain a proletarian appearance, especially as regards lifestyles.
c) The fact that these new managers are permanently incorporated into the ruling class, or putting it another way, that a high level of state-capitalist social mobility exists, increases the tensions within the state-capitalist class. The former private capitalists, now state-capitalists, have a relatively long tradition of being the dominant class. They are culturally very different from the popular layers, with a strongly defined elitist exclusivity. Hostile towards these new managers they oppose this social mobility as long as objective conditions allow them to do so. In this they have the support of the majority of state-capitalists who were trained inside the state-apparatus in those regions occupied by the Communist Party before I949. A minority faction, however, supports this infusion of new blood to the ruling class, but only because it is here that its own political force lies. The differences, it seems to me, depend on the kinds of positions occupied within the state-apparatus.
When analysing concrete examples, social struggles in China can only be understood if, in addition to the economic situation, we take into account these three axes and their possible inter-relationship.
Any analysis of the Chinese economy is, however, very difficult. Complete statistics for the overall economy are not available. They remain the secret of the state-capitalists - or more especially of its elite - and are not divulged to ordinary mortals, whether workers in China or in any other country, so that they could be informed about such apparently simple things as the evolution of production over the years, or consumer or wage indices, prices etc.
In 197I, for the first time since 1960, certain statistics were published. But they were partial and insufficient for an analysis of purely economic aspects or specific relations of production. In I975, the Chou En-lai Report to the 4th Popular Assembly (the equivalent of a parliament, given that China maintains the constitutional fiction of the existence of various parties and a Legislative Assembly) gave some more data on the evolution of production. But the report remained absolutely silent on the problems of distribution and consumption. Under such circumstances it is impossible to make any statistical analysis of the conjectural effects of the economic situation on the class struggle. (5)
I'd be very pleased if our Maoist groups could explain how exactly a workers' democracy can function without the workers having the least chance of understanding the economic base of the society they live in. Of course it's not something they could explain to others, since its one of the things they can't even explain to themselves.
In reality the lack of complete published statistics is the condition whereby the proletarian managerial initiatives remain limited to each production unit. They can thus never question central planning, nor intervene in it. Anyone who has attempted to study the Chinese situation knows of this insuperable difficulty - and which the limited size and ambitions of this text cannot overcome. This allows certain idealistic or voluntarist tones to be imposed on the analysis. Social conflicts become isolated from the basic economic transformations and appear as mere attempts at self-justification, rather than being related to the evolution and problems of production or the entire economic base in general.
In the next part of this text I shall attempt to deduce the general economic and political lines of development in China but, it must be remembered, within the limits of the incomplete statistics available. The readers are thus forewarned, but let them also remember that they should keep this in mind when reading other analyses of the Chinese situation published over the last ten to fifteen years.
It is well worth emphasising one important social aspect which conditions each of the general axes outlined above. As state-capitalism evolved and the new managers were able to consolidate their positions, the lack of managers was being progressively overcome. In this sense the ideology known as Maoism , which sought to overcome the objective limitations of state-capitalism in the given economic and social conditions by resorting to fragmentary and localised proletarian initiatives, meets the beginning of its own end. Having (in the space of one generation and throughout the whole country) managed to train a layer of managers which are now capable of totally controlling the economy without the need to resort to fragmentary proletarian initiatives, Maoism is extinguished by achieving its historical goal. The death pangs of Maoism have agitated China for the past decade. They simultaneously reflect the end of the internal expansion and consolidation of state-capitalism and the beginning of its life as an already established social and economic system. With the 'cultural revolution' Maoism unleashed its final episode. But the physical annihilation of the revolutionary proletariat by Maoism, towards the end of the 'cultural revolution', demonstrated more than anything that the forms of social development which China had followed until then had lost their historical importance and necessity, and that Maoism as such was finished. In the years 1967-69 millions of Chinese revolutionaries saw Maoism as the executioner of the revolution. At the same time, the state-capitalists who had abandoned Maoism in order to let it struggle against the masses knew full well that the hour of Maoism was over and that it was now its own executioner.
Let's examine more closely how this process unfolded. This will help us understand the present situation which to a certain extent is the retarded development of the contradictions which existed at that time.
(4) "The more the dominant class is able to recruit into its ranks the most important people from the dominated class the more solid and dangerous becomes its oppression" ... Karl Marx, Capital, Vol 2.
(5) Despite the fact that the existing statistics don't permit detailed analysis of the economy or a better understanding of social conflicts the fact that the economic data available is not very well known prompts me to quote the essential parts.
The 1971 statistics revealed that total production for 1970 had reached the equivalent of I20 billion dollars, $30b from agriculture and $90b from industry. However according to the table given below a greater figure for production can be inferred.
The average growth rate for the period 1957-70 was given as 2.2% yearly.
Although this figure is much less than that forecast by the authorities it exceeded the population growth by 0.2%. Some commentators consider a figure of 2% for the population growth as being an optimistic hypothesis used by the authorities in the last plan. They consider it to be much greater. In 1971, no estimates were given on the production of cereals or any agricultural product, or on cattle breeding, or earnings in any of these.
The 1975 figures are more complete although partial as regards distribution of earnings, consumer prices and productivity as well as the import and export of capital. This prevents us from making a detailed analysis of concrete aspects of exploitation or the imperialist expansion of the Chinese economy.
Beside the Chou En-lai Report which deals with the period an American University institution published its own estimates for the period 1971-75 from which we can get a certain idea of the more recent development of the economy although we must remember that the sources are different.
Note not only a diminishing annual growth rate for total industrial production but a considerable decline in steel and coal. This will hold back future industrial production. These stifling effects on the economy could become more acute with shortages in transport, since the railways network is developing at only10%, less than the 11% annual growth rate in total industrial production over the period 1964-74. There appears to be a marked improvement in agricultural production, reinforced by high growth in the production of fertilizers and tractors. However, the problems caused by population growth could topple this balance.
An increase in oil production should also be noted. Besides covering the total needs of the country in recent years it is also being exported. If these exports increase as forecast and if China maintains its present policy on oil it will be curious to see the evolution of relations with the Arab countries.
6...THE "CULTURAL REVOLUTION" AND THE PROLETARIAN REVOLTS...
Initially the 'cultural revolution' appeared to be no different from other previous social upheavals which, as I mentioned above, never went beyond the limits of the state-capitalist class.
The Maoists, i.e. those sections of the state-capitalist class who found their social support and historical raison d'etre in promoting individual workers into new managers, along with these managers, periodically promoted large 'cultural' campaigns (6) aimed at levelling out the behavioural differences between the elite and the masses. This process sought to accomplish two objectives. On the one band, it played down the differences between the ruling class and the exploited, making it more difficult for the latter to consciously understand the class divide. It sought to impose the same style of dress on both exploiters and exploited - the famous Mao suits – and stepped up campaigns "to eat with the masses" and "live with the masses" which, are today part of Maoist political folklore. On the other hand, these campaigns were designed to serve the specific interests of the Maoist faction, used partly to eliminate other factions (with such arguments as that they lived scandalous lives, or were a source of revolt for the working masses). These campaigns were obviously conducted against the old ruling class as well as those who had held high office for some time and bad taken on the spirit and behaviour patterns of an elite.
These periodic 'cultural' movements played an important part in the struggle of these socially mobile managers and Maoist state-capitalists against the already consolidated, self-sufficient faction of the managerial and bureaucratic apparatus. The new managers, using these movements, sought to get rid of the restraints which hampered their promotional possibilities within the ruling class. Here was the new blood of state-capitalism rushing pitilessly through the already somewhat sclerotic arteries of the system.
However, unlike other similar movements, the 'cultural revolution', begun in I966, led to an enormous autonomous revolt by the proletarian masses - which up to the present day constitutes the greatest experience of revolt in a fully integrated state-capitalist system.
This happened because the 'cultural revolution' had come at a time when the internal evolution of Maoism had reached saturation point while, at the same time, the economic situation was such as to incite an upsurge of proletarian revolt.
The so-called "Great Leap Forward" had accomplished a tremendous accumulation of capital through the super-exploitation and defeat of the proletariat – in this case, with respect to their wage demands. It meant considerable deterioration of the workers' situation, especially their working conditions, the pace of work etc.
Proletarian revolt by the time of the 'cultural revolution' was then set to explode because of the following factors:
-The discontent felt when the workers demands made at the time of the "Great Leap Forward" were not met by the regime;
- Deterioration of working conditions;
-The inability of the Maoists to maintain hegemony. They were being outflanked by the faction more linked to centralised management and to the old ruling class. This faction we can call 'traditionalist', and was led at this time by Liu Shao-ch'i and Teng Hsiao-ping;
This inability was a result of the fact that the state-capitalist class itself had sufficiently developed to be able to monopolize all managerial skills and powers. This implied the end of social mobility and appeals to localised proletarian initiatives.
The combination of these aspects created a situation where:
(a) Conflicts within the ruling class were exacerbated and became more difficult to resolve. The usual process of social mobility which had always granted Maoism a quick victory was now bankrupt.
(b) The workers' movement (with all the structural reasons for revolt – the exploitation of surplus value) was restless because standards of living had fallen drastically. Reacting to this crisis which was partially paralysing the centre of power, the workers' movement unleashed a wave of revolt which went way beyond the usual isolated and partial struggles and grew into a national movement.
(c) It was no longer possible for the Maoists to curtail revolt by promoting proletarian activists into new managers. For the first time they were unable to recuperate the movement. They were forced to rely on massive use of troops to repress tens of millions of proletarians, killing thousands not to mention those who were executed later.
Within this framework of the evolution of the general situation, the proletarian revolts during the 'cultural revolution' took place. It brought with it tremendous hope as well as a dramatic defeat.
Perhaps it's difficult for the generation of revolutionaries which grew up in Portugal after 1968, to imagine the meaning of these revolts which took place during the 'cultural revolution'. We lived in a world where the, then triumphant anti-colonial struggles were laying the foundations for the most repressive and bureaucratic regimes; in which mythical hopes in a somewhat libertarian and poetically heterodox Cuba bad been dissipated by Castroist state-capitalism; where the upsurge of armed struggle in Latin America, which for years had fostered some hope, had shown itself to be mere will o' the wisp rather than a tremendous conflagration; in which the proletariat in the Eastern bloc apparently and passively had accepted super-exploitation and the debasement of their cultures; where we saw a Europe in which wildcat strikes were rare occurrences and the onslaught of generalised struggle something confined to the memory of other days. Living in a Portugal in which Salazarism had seemed to retain the upper hand after the 1958-61 crises and which, in spite of the colonial wars, had found a new breathing space with the 'liberalisation' which Marcelo Caetano (PM of Portugal 1968-74) was to introduce (7), it would be difficult for this new generation to evaluate the new hopes, the spirit and the lessons which the sight of hundreds of millions of proletarians in struggle had brought with them. The defeat was hard.
The proletarian movement was defeated by two main factors. One of them was social, the Army, the other socio-ideological, Maoist mythology.
The reasons why the 'cultural revolution' didn't touch the Army are complex and I don't intend to list them all. I shall confine myself to two aspects. The first is of a particular nature, limited to China. The second is of a more general character which, it seems to me, explain the cohesion of the Army at a time when all other state institutions, including the Party, seemed to be falling apart or actually fell apart.
(1). The Army, unlike the managerial, technological and administrative apparatus, was not based on localised proletarian initiatives. The pyramid of discipline was rigorously built. It preserved itself intact by standing above any of the great quarrels brought on by large scale social mobility.
(2) The modern Army, living in barracks, extremely hierarchical and rigidly disciplined, has demonstrated a notable capacity to resist disintegration.
It always remains the last bastion of state power and of the privileges of the exploiting class. In state-capitalist systems the Army has wider functions than in regimes where the economic role of the state is not so great. A model for the organisation of work and social life in general, it also carries out direct economic functions whether or production (working for nothing). Along with its usual repressive functions, this means that it occupies a central position in the institutions of fully integrated state-capitalist regimes. Of necessity, especially in such regimes, the, workers' movement must prepare itself for an armed struggle against the Army or at least against the bulk of the military forces (8).
If the Chinese proletariat didn't take on the Army when they should have done, and only did so when it was already too late, this was due to Maoist mythology. The Army - or at least most of its higher ranks - was, controlled by Maoist officers; for example Lin Piao, leader of the radical wing of the Maoists, was the Minister of Defence. The proletariat had illusions that he would remain neutral or even go as far as supporting their struggle. This brings us to the other main aspect: Maoist mythology.
Maoist mythology is the aforementioned ideological expression of the high social mobility within the workers' movement. It is the ideological meeting ground for managers and proletarians, the common ground on which ideological frontiers are dissolved and deformed. For the majority of the workers, as long as the attack on state capitalism were not appropriate, the Maoist faction appeared to be allied with them in the struggle against the most oppressive aspects of the ruling class. The rise of proletarian elements lasted as long as this class remained somewhat open and not yet degenerate; in the eyes of many workers promotion into the ranks of the ruling c1ass was seen as a sort of 'first prize', 'open' to all. Rigorous historical parallels are always problematic but Maoist mythology, based as it was on high social mobility, was not entirely dissimilar to the Rockefeller mythology of a century ago, that "American dream" of a 'democratic capitalism'- in which being a capitalist was seen as being a prize for good civic behaviour. This ideological perspective which dominated the analyses of American society during the initial phase of industrial expansion caused many commentators to deny that class society existed in the US. Social differences were interpreted as mere inequalities within a single class, in the way in which today Marxist wizards, like Bettleheim and Co can explain how a Prime Minister in China earns 600 yuans a month, a top-ranking Army officer 1000 yuans, a company director 260, an engineer more than 220, while lower paid workers earn 30 yuans a month, light industrial workers some 56 yuans and a heavy industrial worker, somewhere between 69 and l06yuans. At the root of the tremendous prestige which a century, ago, America enjoyed amongst the poorer classes, was the myth of a classless society based en supposed equality in terms of promotion. It can be compared with the Maoist mythology a century later.
The annihilation of the mass movement during the 'cultural revolution' also meant the end of Maoist mythology. But it was to arrive too late for the movement to be reborn again under the banner of anti-Maoism and class struggle.
The first phase of the 'cultural revolution' appeared as a conflict within the ruling class, pitting the figures of Mao Tse-tung (and later Lin Piao) against the figures of Liu Shao-chi and Teng Hsiao-ping from the 'traditionalist' faction. The task of bridging the differences between these two factions was being taken on by the pragmatic group of Chou En-lai who, being a part of the dominant Maoist faction was actually closer to the 'traditionalists'. The role of the Chou En-lai faction was minimal while the split between the two groups was acute, but it was to increase in importance the more that class cohesion was being rebuilt and a new hegemony emerging. All of this however still lay in the future.
At this time, the real possibilities for social mobility were in decline. This caused a certain breakdown of the ruling class which made the unity and cohesion of that class all the more important. It also made it impossible for the Maoist faction to gain a quick victory. Thus the initial phase of the 'cultural revolution' dragged on without any decisive victories on either side. With the entrance of the proletariat (who were revolting in ever greater numbers) the conflict, which had been a strictly internal ruling class affair, was carried onto yet another level.
The second phase of the 'cultural revolution' transferred the process from managerial to proletarian realms. The groups which remained actively on the scene confronting each other were the traditionalist (Liuchist) faction and the hundreds of millions of proletarian revolutionaries. As the struggle expanded throughout China, and it seemed that a free and communist society was taking over, the Maoists remained aloof and Maoist mythology remained intact. Maoist managers, steadfast in their support for the social mobility which guaranteed their popular support and political muscle, appeared to the revolutionary masses in struggle as a safe, even real, ally. It was a contradictory epoch, for sure, in which many millions of proletarians began the assault on central power singing hymns to Mao and his 'thought', while these same thoughts were the very defence of that central power. Just a tiny faction of the extreme revolutionary proletarian organisations was able to question the myth of Mao; but without any really large audience.
The revolutionary masses triumphed over the Liuchist faction remaining completely unaware of the Maoist danger and this began the final phase of the 'cultural revolution'. The Maoists emerged from their feigned unconcern and hurled the army against the insurrectionary masses. Not being federated or prepared to confront the Maoists on a national scale the thousands of revolutionary proletarian organisations became isolated and easily annihilated. The victory which many were already claiming was transformed into profound defeat.
Although carried out to the tune of paeans of praise to Mao, the expansion of the proletarian movement in this second phase of the 'cultural revolution' objectively corresponds not only to an anti-state-capitalist struggle but also to the effective construction of certain elements of communist society. Some, who call themselves anti-state-capitalists or even anarchist, judge the direction of those on the march by the tune of the piper who seemingly leads them. Since they see the proletarian revolts as depending on the ideological myth of Mao they contemptuously reject it altogether as an integral part of Maoist bureaucracy. They are unable to distinguish the 'cultural revolution' as a bureaucratic phenomenon, internal to the ruling class from the movement of millions of proletarians against state-capitalism. Elitism, at least amongst intellectuals, is always idealism. They think they can sum up social movements by reference to a few who participated in them, in other words think they can evaluate those movements simply in terms of their formal and external expressions. Personally, I think it preferable to try to understand the social organisation which gave rise to these revolts and measure their potential and limits, or if you like, their real meaning. This meaning is by no means a reinforcement of Maoism. Actually, it is quite the contrary.
(6) Here 'cultural' is understood in the sociological sense of the word, meaning the subjective and objective forms of everyday life.
(8) This poses the problem of the dangers of bureaucratisation and militarization of the workers' movement, especially when the armed struggle lasts over a prolonged period and of which the Spanish Civil War provides a good example. The problem is not treated here since it was never really posed by the workers' movement during the 'cultural revolution'.
There are three striking aspects in which the proletarian movement at this time created certain elements of a communist and egalitarian society.
(1) The Urban Communes.
Shanghai is at the heart of industrial China. (10) And it was precisely here that the communes' movement was most profound, although it also developed in other cities. The proletariat attempted to build a society in which its representatives were permanently revocable and paid a wage equal to that of an average worker. They did so according to the precepts of the Paris Commune, which form, the basis for any communist society. Nowhere, throughout these revolts, was the proletariat able to realise this project. Nevertheless it remained a general ambition which the proletariat fought to put into practice.
(I0) Here I refer to proletarian attempts to set up real communes. This has nothing whatsoever to do with the so-called peasant communes which were merely economic and administrative units created by Maoism during the "Great Leap Forward". Let the reader avoid any confusion. (Note to English edition).
(2) REVOLUTIONARY INTERNATIONALISM.
During the assault on central power the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was one of those which fell into proletarian hands. One of the most solid supports for the Maoist regime had been the alliance which Chinese state-capitalists had formed with other national bourgeoisies, state-bureaucracies and state capitalists. In an attempt to smash it, the revolutionaries recalled diplomatic staff and sent their activists and propagandists abroad, as ambassadors of revolution. If these attempts at revolutionary activity on foreign shores sometimes raise a smile because of their apparent naivety, it should be remembered that this naivety was the fruit of the isolation in which the masses were kept, as well as the ignorance and lack of information about the problems and methods of the modern workers' movements (11). When we see these new 'diplomats' engaging in pitched battles with the English police in London because they wanted to pull down the propaganda pasted on the walls of the embassy, was this not a breach of one of the most subtle and best guarded secrets of the international ruling class, i.e. foreign policy. And as many knew, it was the declared intention of the Chinese revolutionaries to do their utmost to set up an international proletarian organisation.
(11) One example suffices. When, some years ago, the Chinese Government established diplomatic relations with the Francoist regime in Spain the Chinese newspapers published a short history of Spain, mentioning the rise of Franco without mentioning the Civil War. What is most serious here is not so much the ideas about information which the state-capitalists have but the fact that they managed to keep the masses in such a state of ignorance as regards the problems and experiences of proletarian revolution, such that this kind of mystification was at all possible. For a quarter, or even a third of humanity the million deaths during the Spanish Civil War is just, ignorance and silence. Stalinism ordered the death of the majority of Spanish communists who had sought refuge in Russia after the collapse of the Republic. Maoism buried them in oblivion.
(3) THE STRUGGLE AGAINST CAPITALIST TECHNOLOGY
This is, perhaps, one of the most ignored and forgotten aspects of the proletarian movement at that time. Present-day technology results from the separation of the producer from the means of production, the ignorance about the means and processes of production in which the producers are maintained, as well as the total subordination to it during the work process. It is this separation which constitutes the objective basis for the very existence of managers, actual or aspiring state-capitalists, whose task it is to control the flow of technical and scientific information needed for production. Since the proletariat lacks this information, the technological managers fill in this gap and allow the smooth running of the economy. Capitalist technology is jealously guarded by the managerial and state-capitalist class. Thus, no communist revolution can advance without posing itself the problem – not as a long term goal, but as something to be started right away - of the restructuring of capitalist technology and developing forms which are geared to the formation of non-capitalist social relations, i.e. communist and egalitarian relations established by the proletariat in struggle. During the 'cultural revolution' the proletariat advanced in this sense, especially as regards industrial techniques applied to agriculture.
It shows the profound level which, in certain sectors, the anti-state capitalist struggle reached. (I2)
(12) Technocrats think that they have a monopoly over invention although all they generally do is to capitalise on other people's inventions. There is, thus, nothing more ridiculous and insulting for this technocracy and indeed for the bourgeoisie in general, as the assertion that the proletariat is capable of technological invention or that they will create a new technology which corresponds to the new social relations developed during the course of struggle. For capitalists such an idea is laughable. But if these same capitalists took the trouble to read that work which many of them regard as their Bible, i.e. The Wealth of Nations, they'd find that Adam Smith, in the opening pages where he refers to the division of labour, affirms the inventive capacity of the proletariat in relation to capitalist technology.... (The Works of Adam Smith, 1811-12, Vol 2, PPI3-I5) - (Note to English edition).
The lack of unification of the movement, of a China-wide federation capable of uniting the thousands of proletarian mass organisations in struggle against state-capitalism forced them to accept the untouchability of the Army and thus ensured the survival of Maoist mythology, or more exactly, the centralism of the capitalist state.
The blood-bath which ensued, the imprisonments, the forced labour, the executions, all of these make up the infamous episodes of the Maoist victory. The reconstruction of the administrative, governmental and party apparatuses are merely the civil and bureaucratic episodes. Both suggestively illustrate the faces of state-capitalism; cruel, yet insipid; bloody, yet civilised.
THE END OF MAOISM AND THE NEW HEGEMONY OF THE CENTRISTS...
After crushing the proletariat, the administration was initially rebuilt on the basis of a mixture of Maoist elements from the Party, technological managers from industry, and military leaders. The latter were in the majority reinforced by a cohesion demonstrated through repression.
When the Liuchists were overthrown, and then smashed, by the proletarian masses, it seemed that the Maoists were guaranteed a lasting victory. They were not, however, to win. Why not?
Above all, they lacked the objective possibility to strengthen the very regime which gave them their only raison d'etre. Possibilities for large-scale social mobility being exhausted, the Maoists were forced to carry out large scale repression of the workers' movement. The need for unity now underlined all ruling class directives and reinforced a closed caste spirit among them. We see this in the reintegration of those traditionalists ousted during the first phase of the 'cultural revolution' - though not of Liu himself. The managers rushed to consolidate their ranks and breach the gaps opened up by the 'cultural revolution'.
The decline of social mobility was leading to the impotence of all those who depended upon it. This defeat of the proletarian movement marks the turning point of Maoism, lived and felt as an ideological reality by the masses. It henceforth becomes a mummified formalism, only preserved for certain political and social occasions. With the consolidation of state-capitalism and the stabilization of its ruling class, Maoist populism became condemned to gradual extinction. It marks the rise of a pragmatic centrism, from this point on, collegiate. Though still to go through disturbed periods, this was the general line of development of state-capitalism after the 'cultural revolution'.
Chou En-lai had always served as the go-between for the newly promoted managers and the capitalist class as a whole. Even before 1949, he had served as the main link between the bureaucratic state apparatus in those CCCP controlled zones and the Kuomintang bureaucrats and private capitalists. After 1949, it was always Chou En-lai who managed to iron out the internal conflicts and maintain ruling class unity. The new social situation created by the 'cultural revolution' made him even more indispensable. With social mobility in decline without the need to appeal to fragmentary proletarian initiatives, the ruling class found a new cohesion and caste spirit. Chou En-Lai, the unifier of the various factions of the dominant class, discovered his most fertile terrain. By the end of his life, this, his historical role, had expanded beyond all limits and in all fields.
Initially the formation of the new ruling-class unity followed two general lines.
(I). The reintegration of all these managers who had been purged, mainly Liuchists, although Liu Shao ch'i himself could be sacrificed since he was so hated by the proletariat and was such an arch-enemy of the Maoist faction. His second in command, however, could still claim one of the top jobs.
(2). While during the 'cultural revolution' the Army constituted the most cohesive organisation precisely because it was under Maoist control, it now became one of the principal destabilizing factors to state-capitalist unity, since it had to carry out the directives implicit in this new line) serving the cohesion of class factions rather than Maoist hegemony. This led to the assassination of Lin Piao and of the principle Maoist leaders in the Army. Ch'en Po-ta was also killed. This latter had been the most important Maoist ideologue in the civil bureaucracy and had been responsible for the famous letter to the Russians which initiated the Sino-Soviet polemic in the early 1960's, marking the return to radical Leninism.
The rise of Teng and the elimination of Lin didn't mean that hegemony had passed from the Maoists to the Liuchists, as so many hasty journalists seemed to imply in their reports. It meant that hegemony was being consolidated by the Centre; i.e. that the reasons why ideologically defined factions existed were being qualified and the cohesion of the ruling class reinforced. The rise of Teng Hsiao-ping meant the reintegration into the Party and State apparatus of an ousted faction of state-capitalists, something which was a necessary condition for re-establishing cohesion and hegemony at the centre. That Lin Piao and other Maoist army leaders were assassinated meant the subordination of military leadership to this hegemony. Both are expressions of the same tendency.
The ease with which Lin Piao and his followers were eliminated in a palace Coup, without the proletariat as much as lifting a finger in their defence, shows the lack of support which the Maoists had, after having repressed the proletarian revolts. The Maoist faction, with the objective conditions which had given them their historical raison d'etre and their strength exhausted, were now on the point of disintegration. The majority came under the control of the centrists led by Chou En-lai. Only a handful of older Maoist leaders held out in the defence of the bureaucratic positions they occupied, the newspapers generally referring to them as 'the Shanghai Group' , which shows how much their importance had been reduced. In the wider sense, the Maoist faction consisted of all those lower cadres and leaders who depended on social mobility for their political importance, but more strictly speaking, as an organised political force, Maoism was now limited to Shanghai. This didn't occur by chance. Being the main industrial centre it was here from I949 on, that the process of social mobility had created the strongest bonds between these newly formed state-capitalists and the proletariat. Having once represented a vast social movement the Maoist faction declined into something which had the immediate goal of preserving the positions of its members in the state apparatus.
Up in the clouds, glorious and senile, was Mao Tse-tung. He, who had once been one of the greatest military leaders of our times, the architect of one of the most original forms of state-capitalism, a philosopher of some merit and a talented poet was now a living mummy. He simply gave his name to the repertoire of citations and conventional phrases which opened and closed official ceremonies.
The China of yesteryear was over. The new China was beginning.
(8) TENG HSIAO- PING: THE IMPOSSIBLE HEIR
The death of Chou En-lai and the immediate task of finding a successor were to intensify the passage from a developing to an already consolidated state-capitalism.
Chou had been able to bring about the pragmatic union of the various ruling class factions for a number of reasons. His long history of Centrist opportunism, his militancy from the founding days of the Party, the personal dramas of his life all invested him as a privileged figure in the circles of power and cloaked him in personal prestige. No-one united the same characteristics to be able to take over his functions. Therefore it was necessary to build up a type of collegiate leadership, where one of the figures could have more weight than the others but where the ideological personalisation of power would not be so blatant. This implied a profound remodelling of the governmental and Party apparatus. This collegiate-type leadership, the expression of a greater cohesion of the state-capitalist class and of a more advanced phase of the economic regime could, however, only advance gradually.
Chou died on January 8th, 1976. "The king is dead, long live the king".
Funeral speeches generally indicate successors, eulogy being the appropriation of the dead man's qualities. The eulogy was given a week later by Teng Hsiao-ping. Teng had disappeared from the public scene in 1967, when the Maoist faction had wiped out the Liuchist faction in which Teng was second in command. For the Centrists however, Teng was a figure who could be useful later, and with this in mind, Chou had been able to save him from public attack by the Maoists. In I973, he had been able to bring Teng back into public life, as Vice Premier, one of the highest ranks in the government hierarchy. From then on Teng became one of the most renowned leaders of the 'traditionalist' faction.
Obviously no continuity existed between Chou and Teng. The dead man had been the conciliator between the factions, their point of equilibrium. Teng Hsiao-ping merely represented one of these factions. If he were to take on the role of Chou, then his faction would have to achieve hegemony. But a different evolution of the Chinese ruling class was objectively required. It wasn't just a question of one of the factions defeating the others, but rather of achieving the cohesion and, where possible, the fusion of the factions. Teng's destiny was already on the cards. His rise had been an historical error and history only permits such unfaithfulness over very short periods.
Proof of the impossibility of Teng's rise was given when the Maoist faction insisted on the removal of Li Hsien-nien, Vice Premier in charge of Commerce, as a condition for their support. Li had disappeared from public life shortly after the death of Chou. Politically be was not a part of the Teng faction, nor of the old Liuchists. His position is best summed up by saying that he acted as the go-between for the Teng faction and the Centrists. But the economic strategy worked out by Li Hsien-nien (actually by the Chou group in general) worked more in the interests of the traditionalist faction than for the Maoists.
The difference between this economic strategy and that of the Maoists was above all in the area of foreign relations. The economic line of Chou En-lai and Li Hsien-nien which bad prevailed since the end of the 'cultural revolution', again attempted a rapid concentration of capital and a leap forward in industrialisation. To achieve this, besides the reinforced exploitation of the proletariat, it was necessary to make massive purchases of the means of production, and manufacturing processes on the foreign market.
These were the purchases which provoked such a deficit in the Chinese balance of payments.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Diversalis, Universalia 1976, P. 200; quoted by the French Centre for Foreign Trade; and Le Monde, April 17th, I976, according to Jetro, Japanese Economic Trade Relations Organization.
According to Jetro, the balance of payments was to be in surplus in 1976 and 1977. This re-ba1ance is due solely to decreased Western imports, so much so that the effected countries are lowering their interest rates for the sale of complete factory units on a turn-key basis. The OECD set their interest rates in 1974 at 7.5%. Japan has already lowered theirs to 6.5% and it is expected that both France and Italy will do the same.
Thus the economic development sought, by the dominant pragmatic Centrists reinforces the links between the Chinese technocratic managers and world technocracy. Why is it that the Maoists oppose this road to economic development? It must be remembered that the basis of support for the Maoists are those lower cadres who rose to the ruling class on the wave of large-scale social mobility feasible up to a few years ago. We are referring to cadres with a low technical capacity, on the whole poorly trained in the more complex technological processes, or to junior regional bureaucratic and administrative staff, cut off from Peking. Not only do relations with the foreign technocracy elude them, since dealings are usually made directly with central power where the Maoists are poorly represented, but also because of the introduction of technological systems about which these junior managers knew little. The conservative American weekly, Time wrote:
"China has a serious generation gap. The majority of moderate leaders like Li Hsien-nien and Defence Minister Yeh Chien-ying are old party bureaucrats. The radicals are generally younger cadres who were able to increase their personal power during the Cultural Revolution and these gains are now being threatened by the rehabilitation of the old guard of Chou. As one American analyst put it, "young people who were poorly trained were promoted despite this lack of skill... they are now trying to remain in these positions." (April 19th, I976)
The real basis for the existence of managers as a class is their role in the knowledge gap which separates the proletariat from the means of production. Capitalist technology creates this demand for managers (which is why any anti-capitalist struggle will have to remodel technology) and the managers differ only according to the needs of this technology. Maoist managers defended a type of development based on traditional skills, precisely those which they knew and had easier access to. This is the secret of the so-called 'national independence' in Chinese industrial development, a utopian wish in an epoch in which the capitalist mode of production is completely international. But it sums up the economic and social programme of the Maoist faction - as well as its limits.
This weakness of the Maoist faction is reflected in the sudden twists and turns after the death of Chou En-lai. Although the Maoists were strong enough to cause the fall of Li Hsien-nien, they were far too weak to obtain any change in economic policy, or insist on the promotion of Wang Hong-wen, their main representative. Wang had appeared for some time after the 10th Congress as No.3 in the party hierarchy (after Mao and Chou En-lai). He was a military man whose job was the control and organisation of labour in Shanghai, the fortress of Maoism at that time.
What we see in the days following the death of Chou En-lai is the main leader of the traditionalists rising to the top, with the Maoists unable to push forward their own candidate or even him into an important position. All they could achieve was the dismissal of the principle figure of economic policy but without being able to change the economic policies. This situation was unstable and provisional because Teng could only remain in power as long as he made no attempt to go beyond the limits of his faction. He could never as leader of this faction; constitute the centre of unification for the entire ruling class. This important issue could not wait. It could also be foreseen that since the Maoists had emerged from the power struggles after the death of Chou En-lai in such a weak position, that they would only play a secondary role in its solution.
(9) HUA KUO FENG RISING TO THE HEAVENS: Step One.
The direction that this process would take becomes clearer on Feb 7th, 1976, when Hua Kuo-feng was nominated 'Provisional' Premier. Teng maintained real power but everyone today knows that the future would prove differently.
Hua Kuo-feng was undoubtedly a possible choice is a successor for Chou En-lai: (a) He belonged to the pragmatic and opportunistic centrists who mediated between the various factions. (b) He was part of one of the decisive aspects in the militarisation of the regime; the political police. (c) He belonged to that stratum of managers, trained after 1949, who felt the need and the possibility of managing the entire economic and administrative apparatus without resorting to localised proletarian initiatives (d) He had no heroic past, either real or mythical which might allow him to become a unique figure and was therefore no barrier to a collegiate-type leadership.
Let us look at each of these aspects in more detail.
(a). For most observers Hua was a man with no "well-defined line". But this is a characteristic of the pragmatism of power as regimes are being consolidated and the ruling class becomes decadent. The undefined line is no more than the ability to take up any equilibrium position between the various warring factions, thus avoiding splits and divisions and reinforcing ruling class power. The absence of ideology, in the romantic sense, characterises Centrist opportunism and is a condition for its effectiveness. When a regime appears to de-ideologise itself this means that no one faction controls the others, and that ruling class cohesion is maintained by the centre.
(b). It was Hua's relationship with the more politicised sections of the military apparatus - or the more militarised sections of the political apparatus - which transformed him from being one amongst many candidates to being the required one. Having been attacked by the revolutionary proletariat during the 'cultural revolution' Hua reappeared in 1968, after the defeat of the proletarian uprising, as second-in-command in the provincial administration in Hunan, Province (population 50 millions). In 1970, he became governor of the province and the principle figure there in the Party and administrative apparatus. His participation in the organs of central power was still minor; after the
9th Party Congress, in April 1969, he had become a member of the Central Committee. This was due: to his status in the provincial hierarchy rather than any effective participation in the Central state apparatus. His great opening came with Lin Piao's last ditch attempt to win hegemony for the Maoist and exclude the traditionalists from power. Lin was assassinated and in the purges which followed, Hua showed how capable he was in the hunt for Lin Piao's followers in Hunan Province. He then showed that be was more than just a pragmatic Centrist, but capable of firmly defending this Centrism against other factions. Hua's rise to Peking and his participation in Central Government date from this time. In November 1972, he was nominated political commissar in the Canton Province military region, allowing him to gain experience of the central mechanisms of the Army. In Aug 1973, the 10th Party Congress elected him to one of the 22 places in Politburo of the Central Committee; the supreme decision making body. In January 1975 he was promoted to one of the twelve Vice-Premiers and took over the Public Security Ministry, in others words, became head of the political police and the militia I've already mentioned the decisive importance of in state-capitalist regimes, as an instrument of repression and a source of unpaid labour, but also as a centre of cohesion for the ruling class. It also exists as a model for the rigid and extreme hierarchical organisation of labour.
In such a social structure the political police mediate between the civilian and military apparatuses. The militias, which include lower cadre and trusted workers' supplement the policing tasks, and form an important ideological link between the ruling class and the exploited in the attempt to maintain at the ideological level ideas which had arisen from the now exhausted social mobility. After the heroic army of the Long March, whose mythology nourished
Maoist ideology came the technocratic army, the efficient police force, above ideologies, and not feeding myths but rather the prisons of the regime. The support offered by the bureaucracy of Hunan province to the central party and governmental apparatuses, as also Hua's control over the political police and the militias, helped him emerge as one of the principle figures of Centrist pragmatism – if he only knew how to use that power? Later events were to show that he did.
A boy at the time of the Long March, a youth in 1949, Hua was neither a descendant of the old ruling class which constituted the principle supports for the traditionalist faction, nor was he one of the cadres who had risen due to the Maoist appeal to partial workers' initiatives. Sufficiently 'popular' to maintain contacts with the Maoist faction with enough bureaucratic and technocratic experience to be a shrewd dealer with the traditionalists, Hua was an example of the new generation of state-capitalists which the Chinese Communist Party had been able to create and train. Efficient and capable, rising from being a specialist in agricultural irrigation to the highest ranks of police and central repression he owed this rise to neither to the military struggles against the Koumintang nor to climbing on the backs of the proletarian movements against the regime but rather to his capacity to manipulate within the Party. A pragmatist with no heroic past he had a calming effect on the majority of the state-capitalists.
(d) The fact that no popular or heroic myths had grown up around him, at the same time having a reputation for firmness, had transformed him into a personality strong enough to rise to the top but sufficiently weak to prevent a de-facto collegiate leadership. Charismatic figures emerge at the dawning of a class, at a time when it is not sufficiently consolidated for each member to have a clear idea of their tasks. Once regimes become established, and the ruling class enters into a period of maturity and decadence, these elements lose their ideas and myths, becoming clearly conscious that their historical role consists only in reinforcing the new process of exploitation. These leaders, helmsmen of a legendary past become collective and prosaic resorting to efficiency rather than flights of the imagination. The spiritual death of Mao is not just the result of senility; it is part of the development towards a collegiate-type leadership.
Undoubtedly, his physical death was to intensify the process. Hua Kuo-feng had all the necessary characteristics to succeed Chou- En-lai.
But it's not enough just to combine these conditions, it's also necessary to know how to use them, against others who also have the necessary characteristics or who might play their cards with the same result. It is the everyday circumstances and the ups and downs of this mini-political struggle which decides which of the various candidates will occupy the chair. At this point in history people become inter-changeable, and it doesn't really matter who is chosen, since they all represent the same thing. Only after the struggle when the final decision has been taken, does the winner begin to distinguish himself from the others by a newly acquired attribute the fact that he won.
In the period from February to the beginning of April, 1976, neither was Hua victorious nor was Teng defeated. The latter maintained real power, the former merely nominal power, while the Maoists appeared to play little part in the struggle. All the characteristics of this inter-ruling-class struggle were prefigured here; the struggle of the Centrists to obtain the leadership due them, wrestling it from the traditionalists who objectively could not carry out these functions; the shady attempts of the Maoist faction, or more precisely the 'Shanghai Group', to rise through the gaps which this conflict opened up.
10... HUA KUO-FENG RISING TO THE HEAVENS: The second step
The great attack on Teng Hsiao-ping was preceded by a few skirmishes which filled in the picture for attentive observers. On February 12th 1976, five days before the formal Domination of Hua Kuo-feng and a little less than a month after Teng had taken power; a wall-poster campaign began at the University of Peking and in Shanghai, aimed directly at Teng but without naming him explicitly. From then on newspaper articles took up this attack but without explaining at whom it was aimed. It was an attempt at debate within the closed circle of the ruling class. It was enough to tell the proletariat that something was taking place but without explanation. In this way a larger number of future alternatives could be left open.
On February 22nd, Hua told a chosen audience where he stood in the debate - on the side of those making the attacks. Can the reader guess who this audience was? Ex-President Nixon, an old confidante of the quarrels among the Chinese state-capitalists.
On February 26th, Teng Hsiao-ping explicitly named all the wall posters. From then the tone of the polemic grew bitterer.
On April 4th, the day of the Ching Ming festival (to mourn the dead) the public mourning of Chou En-lai, in Peking, was used by Teng's followers in an attempt to reaffirm the continuity between him and the late Premier. The demonstration on the following day was more explicit. It thus reproduced the utopian ambition of the traditionalist faction to succeed the pragmatic Centrists by attaining hegemony. If the attempt by Teng to take supreme power was a historical error, the attempt to consecrate it in a public demonstration, and at that time, was an incredible blunder, on which was his undoing. For three months the factions had been preparing for battle; the only uncertainty was when it would start. This kind of theatrical representation of Teng's impossible rise served as a pretext.
On the 5th, a morning and an afternoon of struggle was all that was required to arrest or disperse Teng's followers and for Hua Kuo-feng to take effective power. History doesn't permit that errors be prolonged and usually finds a way of resolving them.
It is important to note one aspect, the consequences of which I shall return to below, but which, if prolonged, could be decisive in either consolidating the present situation or bringing about a new explosion of events. Despite the fact that Teng's demonstrators attacked military barracks, even setting fire to one of them, and also burning various automobiles (which in China are reserved for important officials) the army did nothing. Repression came at the hands of the Militia. It was Hua Kuo-feng who controlled the militias while Teng Hsiao-ping was Chief of Staff of the Army.
Was this passivity on the part of the military designed not to exacerbate the split between the various factions, keeping the Army above factional disputes and thus conserving it as the patron of class cohesion? Or, alternatively, does it mean that influential military personalities were against Hua? The evolution of events seems, as we shall see, to confirm this second hypothesis, although it may be premature to form a definite opinion. I shall attempt below to analyse the meaning of this problem within the context of these struggles.
Events in Peking were repeated in Canton and Nanking although exact details are not fully known. The most recent accounts refer to confrontations, at times bloody, in Honan, Yunnan, Kiangsi and Kweichow provinces. But these demonstrations remained isolated and the Centrists dominated the situation without difficulty. Hua and the other Centrists were able to take power quickly.
The substitution of Teng Hsiao-ping was publicly announced on April 7th and Hua was confirmed leader of the government and promoted to Vice-President of the Central Committee. It is unknown if he still maintains direct control over the political police and the militias but it is more than likely that he would have passed the job onto some other trusted soul. Hua thus became the highest figure in the government apparatus and second-in-command, immediately after Mao (president of the Central Committee in the party apparatus the demotion of Wang Hong-wen, the candidate of the Shangai Group. Wang had seen a lightning rise since the 10th Congress, at one time becoming No 3 in the hierarchy (Chou En-lai who was still alive was No 2) but only enjoyed power comparable with this rank for a very short time, although, formally, he held onto the title until Teng's repromotion.
On the other hand, Chang Ch'un-chiao was not promoted. This was the man responsible for the miserable betrayal and disarming of the Shanghai Commune during the 'cultural revolution' and who, ever since, had been one of the Chief Maoists in the central government, a Politburo member and Vice-Premier, and was also a likely candidate of the Shanghai Group, The elimination of Teng was also to mean the retreat of the Maoist faction by the consolidation of the Centrists. It is curious to note that Li Hsien-nien, former Vice Premier in charge of Commerce, who during the rise of Teng had been sacrificed to the wrath of the Maoists (as a figurehead that is, but not in terms of his politics) reappeared in public life on the very day when the fall of Teng and the victory of Hua were confirmed. The Centrists were not only taking control, they were also rehabilitating all of their former allies.
The decline of the Maoist faction in the face of the new hegemony of the Centrists were obvious when, on June 15th, the Chinese Government officially announced to the world (the population of China, as usual, was left in the dark) that the Central Committee had decided that Mao would receive no further foreign visitors, due to ill-health. Mao's senility, however, doesn't date from here; it had been noted a good few years earlier although this had never stopped him from receiving foreign visitors, even if the talks had only a symbolic value. His sequestration under these circumstances had a double function, it was to show that this nominal head of the Maoist faction had no real political force and was reduced to a mere symbol. At the same time it allowed them to prepare his successor, something which was more problematic than the succession of Chou En-lai. Certain journalists speculated that this new measure was an attack on Hua Kuo-feng to the extent, they said, that Hua enjoyed the support of Mao. But, it seems to me that there is very little to justify this logic and that the reasons are much more obvious; an attack on the main source of prestige for the Maoists.
All these conflicts remain restricted to the ruling class and any reader minimally informed about the 'cultural revolution' can see that any comparison with the proletarian revolts of that time is clearly false. The 'cultural revolution' is distinguished by the fact that the proletariat didn't limit itself to supporting the Maoists against the other ruling class factions, but went beyond the narrow limits set for the movement and launched wave after wave of revolt against exploitation, the State and the regime itself, even if poorly conceived.
During the 'cultural revolution' the Maoist faction held power while the Liuchists were overthrown and dispersed. The Maoists only lost hegemony at the end of the struggle when the ruling class reunited its forces under the new conditions of exhausted social mobility. We now see the Maoist faction in retreat.
II. ORDER AND WORK.....
"This time the vast masses were absent" is the phrase or idea which is frequently seen in the Western Press reports sent out during and after the April events.
The wall-posters which from February on prepared the fall of Teng, were limited to the walls inside the universities. The movement in the provinces, besides being small, was also limited to the surrounding areas of the universities. Just like the opening phases of the 'cultural revolution' it was these apprentice-technocrats who were most active. At that time the process was quickly taken over by the proletariat who left the universities in the rearguard.
Now, none of this took place. The public demonstrations which prepared the fall of Teng began and stayed within the universities. Even during the April 4th-5th events there was no conflict with the proletarian masses. It was simply a clash between traditionalists and state-integrated Militias. These latter were composed of lower level cadres and Maoist workers, who as long as they were Militia, were isolated from their work-mates and any shop-floor movement. No autonomous movement of the proletariat emerged nor was there any significant working class agitation during these days and afterwards.
Keeping the workers in the state of passivity relative to the conflict was one of the principal preoccupations of both the Centrists and the Group of Shanghai. On March 10th, for example, when Teng was explicitly attacked, the main daily newspaper, Peoples' Daily insisted on the need to maintain public order and production. It's a wise old saying: politics and political struggle exists for gentlemen, for the workers only the diligence of work and rude jests. The proletariat coming out on demonstrations is a waste of time – except, maybe, on Sundays – and a use of energy which would be better employed in the production of surplus value for the ruling class. At most, and in the case where governors are radical populists, politics is offered as a spectacle without public participation. On March 28th the same newspaper appealed to the proletariat in an editorial "to use the language of the campaign against the right-wing towards increasing industrial production" saying that "there was no reason why the attack on the right-wing deviationists should effect production" and told workers to "aim high so that they could obtain bigger, better and speedier economic results by putting the state-plan into practice" (Le Monde, April 17th, 1976, page 3). This plan supposedly began on January 1st of that year, had still not been made public – which shows not only the elitism of the decision-making process in China but must also make it somewhat difficult to execute. Le Monde summed up: "the conclusion is obvious and is repeated throughout the columns of the newspapers. The present movement should in no way effect production" (May 29th 1976, page 5). Even more surprising is the commentary which the Le Monde correspondent makes on the above editorial "Even the left of the Party seem to make every effort to ensure that the campaign against "economism" does not effect production". If this is anti-economism, what, one may ask might economism be?
This same preoccupation to keep proletarian intervention to a minimum confining the conflict to an intra-ruling class affair marked the general tone of events after the defeat of Teng and the enthronement of Hua Kuo-feng. Teng had been criticised in large meetings but all of them stage-managed by the authorities. In Shanghai, where the Maoist faction was strongest, Chang Ch'un presided over a meeting criticising Teng which was attended by 200,000 workers. This, for a country the size of China, and a city as important as Shanghai, is not many, especially if we compare it with the meetings of the 'cultural revolution' which were often attended by over a million workers. Probably the Shanghai meeting marks the high point in the campaign but its passivity and lack of participation makes it identical to what happened in other cities. During these meetings many from all strata of the hierarchy were criticised, but all kept their jobs. Official texts and speeches asked that "criticism be concentrated on Teng" (Le Monde May 29th, 1976, page 5) and, up to the time of writing, only three disappearances from public life have been noted; Chou Jung-hsin, Minister for Education, who had been severely criticised before the fall of Teng, two First Secretaries of the Provincial Committee of the Party - Tang Chi-lung and Chiang Wei-ching, of Chekiang and Kiangsi province respectively.
The absence of important promotions or expulsions is due to various reasons:
(1) It is undoubtedly due to the fact that the pragmatic Centrists had a firm hold on the reigns of power, even since the end of the 'cultural revolution', so much so that Hua didn't need to reorganise his staff. In a certain way Hua's rise meant that the centre was receiving the credit it thought due to it.
(II) Concentrating the conflict onto the figure of Teng as well as the calls for moderation were attempts to maintain the unity of the state-capitalists. Unity depended on the continued hegemony of the Centrists.
(iii) Perhaps even more important was the awareness that a split in the ruling class and a consequent collapse of power would risk opening the floodgates of proletarian activity on a mass scale and the destruction of that 'order' and that 'production' which none of the factions wanted to jeopardise. This fear of a generalised confrontation with the proletarian masses as to reinforce class unity. But was this confrontation really possible under the circumstances?
CONTINUED PASSIVITY OR REVOLT?
It is impossible to give a precise answer to this question from afar. But certain hypotheses can be formulated.
From the economic point of view the accelerated concentration of capital of which the large scale importation of the means of production is an index, certainly didn't help living conditions for the proletariat. The Chinese leaders state that by the turn of the century they will achieve an annual growth rate of at least 9%, (10 to 11% for industry in general, I5-I8%, for heavy industry and between 6% and 7% in agriculture) The reader who compares these forecasts with those given over the last few years (see footnote 5) will have some idea of the enormous concentration of capital which this would necessitate - as well as the super-exploitation and increased work pace which would have to be imposed on the working class. Recent events, as we saw, in no way jeopardised economic policies, and if changes were made it was only in the sense of reinforcing them. Possibilities were objectively created whereby the struggle against exploitation could be intensified. It is known that in the Spring of 1975 workers' strikes in Hengchow apparently calling for wage increases reached levels such that it was officially admitted that 11,000 soldiers had be sent there to establish order. Obviously a struggle of this size cannot be an isolated case. The problem is firstly whether the effects of these struggles last, after being defeated in their immediate aims, or more precisely, to what extent the proletariat develops autonomous and egalitarian social relations in these struggles. Secondly whether these struggles continue isolated or whether, and to what extent, they are able to relate to each other.
From the social point of view, however, it is necessary to take into account that a few years previously a large number of the more active proletarians, and amongst them the more experienced militants, were massacred by the Maoists in the final phases of the 'cultural revolution'. And if the proletariat, at times, is able to get back on its feet fairly rapidly there are innumerable cases in which the defeat and the re-emergence of struggle was spaced by a whole generation. Western correspondents said that they saw wall-posters in some factories which criticised technicians and managers. But the information is too vague to be able to have an idea as to the origins of this movement whether it is an effective proletarian movement or, as it could also be, a struggle amongst managerial factions.
There is one conclusion which we can reach for the moment with relative certainty. The proletarian masses have remained relatively passive until the present time and have not tried to take advantage of the conflicts which divide the managers, a negative conclusion certainly, but they also have not supported either of the disputing factions, which is something positive.
This said, the problem is in knowing whether the present passivity masks unrest, which is underground. It is in this context that the position of the army in the present struggle between the various tendencies is important.
A SUSPENDED QUESTION - THE ARMY....
We saw during the April 5th events in Peking, the Army, despite being physically attacked by those partisan to Teng Hsiao-ping, did not react.
It was the civil Militias, dependent on Hua, which re-established order. Since that time the position of the Army bas remained dubious in the present struggles.
Teng was Chief of State of the Army and after being demobbed this decisive position has yet to be filled. Certainly Army appointments are sometimes not publicly announced in China, but this position is too important for any such-promotion to be kept quiet. On the other hand, the high ranking Chiefs seem to be hesitant in accepting the leadership of Hua. The Defence Minister, Yeh Chien-ying, is undoubtedly one of the pragmatic Centrists and some commentators liken his political orientation to that of Li Hsien-nien. But what the army chiefs will question is not the certainty of Centrist hegemony but whether Hua Kuo-feng, embodies it. While all the most important figures have been present at the meetings which denounced Teng and supported Hua, a sizeable number of the military chiefs have remained absent, amongst them Ch'en His-lien, Commander of the military region of Peking and member of the Politburo, and said to be one of the most powerful generals in China and who distinguished himself in repressing the proletarian revolt during the 'cultural revolution' in the province of Kiangsu. Thus the army has been associated, albeit in a vague and general manner, with the critics of Teng but not with the supporter of Hua.
If this situation lasts without being resolved the Chinese ruling class will be faced with a profound crisis. Conflicts will grow more acute and the ability to deal with proletarian attacks will, at least partially, be undermined.
It remains to be seen in the event of such a proletarian offensive whether the same mistakes made during the 'cultural revolution' will be repeated; the inability to free itself of populist ideological myths of state -capitalism, the delay in setting up the Communes, and the unification of the various revolutionary movements, as well as the delay in attacking the Army. If such mistakes are repeated, with the obvious result of forcing a realignment of the ruling class factions (favouring the Maoist faction), then this would mean that these mistakes were symptoms of deeper problems facing the proletariat in state- capitalist regimes. It would therefore be necessary to analyse it another light so as to form a theoretical understanding of social relations in a fully integrated state-capitalist society.
The process which has unfolded in China, up to the time of writing, is limited to a social struggle within the ruling class. Whether this class is able to maintain its unity, both in relation to the Army and to the autonomous offensive of the proletariat, depends on whether the struggle can be transformed into one in which the proletariat frontally opposes that class. It is here that our attention should be focussed.