Maoism: a monstrous offspring of decadent capitalism

See also :

Printer-friendly versionSend by email

China: a link in the chain of world imperialism, part iii

In previous articles, we have outlined the history of the proletarian revolution in China (1919-1927), and clearly distinguished this from the period of counter-revolution and imperialist war which followed it (1927-1949)[1]. We have shown that the so-called “Chinese people’s revolution”, built on the defeat of the working class, was nothing but a bourgeois mystification, designed to enrol the Chinese peasant masses into the service of the imperialist war. In this article, we will focus on the central aspects of this mystification: Mao Zedong himself as a “revolutionary leader”, and Maoism as a revolutionary theory, and one which claims to be a “development” of marxism to boot. We intend to demonstrate that Maoism has never been anything but a bourgeois ideological and political current, born from the guts of decadent capitalism.

Counter-revolution and imperialist war: the midwives of Maoism

Mao Zedong’s political current within the Communist Party of China (CPC) only appeared in the 1930s, in the midst of the counter-revolution when the CPC had been first defeated and physically decimated, then had become an organ of capital. Mao formed one of the numerous coteries which fought for control of the party, and so revealed its degeneration. Maoism, right from the start, had nothing to do with the proletarian revolution, except that it emerged from the counter-revolution that crushed the working class.

In fact, Mao Zedong only took control of the CPC in 1945, when “Maoism” became the official doctrine of the party, after the liquidation of the previously dominant coterie of Wang Ming, and while the CPC was fully involved in the sinister game of world imperialist war. In this sense, the rise of Mao Zedong’s gang is the direct product of his complicity with the great imperialist gangsters.

All this might astonish anyone who only knows the history of 20th century China through Mao’s writing, or bourgeois historiography. It has to be said that Mao took the art of falsifying the history of China and the CPC (he benefited from the experience of Stalinism and the gangs that preceded him in power from 1928 onwards) to such a level, that simply to recount events as they happened takes on the air of a fairy-tale.

This immense falsification is founded on the bourgeois and profoundly reactionary nature of Mao Zedong’s ideology. In rewriting history, in order to appear to the world as the eternal and infallible leader of the CPC, Mao was of course motivated by the ambition to strengthen his own political power. Nonetheless, he also served the fundamental interests of the bourgeoisie: in the long term, it was vital to wipe out the historic lessons that the working class could learn from its experience during the 1920s; in the short term, the working and peasant masses had to be brought to take part in the imperialist slaughter. Maoism perfectly satisfied these two objectives.

Mao Zedong’s participation in the liquidation of the proletarian party

The tissue of lies that surrounds the legend of Mao Zedong begins with the veil cast over his obscure political origins. Maoist historians may repeat endlessly that Mao was one of the CPC’s “founders”; they nonetheless remain very discreet about his political activity throughout the period of rising working class struggle. They would otherwise have to admit that Mao was part of the CPC’s opportunist wing, which blindly followed all the orientations of the degenerating Executive Committee of the Communist International. More precisely, they would also have to admit that Mao was a member of the CPC group which in 1924 joined the Executive Committee of the Kuomintang, the National Popular Party of the big Chinese bourgeoisie, on the fallacious pretext that this was not a bourgeois party but a “class front”.

In March 1927, on the eve of the bloody suppression of the Shanghai rising by Kuomintang troops, and while the CPC’s revolutionary wing was desperately calling for an end to the Kuomintang alliance, Mao was in the opportunist chorus, singing the praises of the butcher Chang-kai-shek, and approving the actions of the Kuomintang [2].

Shortly afterwards, one of Mao Zedong’s companions in the Kuomintang, Qu Qiubai, was nominated leader of the CPC under the pressure of Stalin’s henchmen recently arrived in China. His main mission was to lay the responsibility for the crushing of the proletarian insurrection at the door of Chen Duxiu - who was to become a sympathiser of Trotsky, and symbol of one of the currents struggling against the opportunist decisions of the CI [3] - by accusing him of having fallen into opportunism and having underestimated the peasant movement! The corollary of this policy was a series of disastrous adventures, in which Mao Zedong participated fully throughout the second half of 1927, and which only accelerated the dispersal and annihilation of the CPC.

If we are to believe history as corrected by Mao in 1945, he criticised the “left opportunist sliding” defended by Qu Qiubai. The truth is that Mao was one of this policy’s most stalwart partisans, as we can see from the Report on Hunan, which predicts “the impetuous uprising of hundreds of millions of peasants”. This prediction was concretised in the “Revolt of the Autumn Harvest”, one of the most significant fiascos of Qu Qiubai’s “insurrectionist” policy. The working class was crushed, and any possibility of a victorious revolution had disappeared with it; in such conditions, any attempt to provoke a peasant uprising could only be disastrous, and lead to new massacres. The famous “impetuous uprising of hundreds of millions of peasants” in Hunan was in fact reduced to the grotesque and bloody adventure of some 5,000 peasants and lumpens led by Mao, which ended in a rout, with the survivors fleeing into the mountains and their leader being pushed out of the Party’s Politburo.

During the period of the proletarian revolution, Mao Zedong was part of the CPC’s opportunist wing, actively contributing to the defeat of the working class and the annihilation of the CPC as a proletarian organisation.

The conversion of the CPC into a bourgeois party and the creation of the Mao gang

In our previous articles, we have seen how the Communist Party of China was physically and politically exterminated by the combined action of Stalinism and Chinese reaction. From 1928, workers no longer joined the party en masse. Then, when the party was no longer Communist in anything but name, began the formation of the famous Red Army, bringing the peasantry and lumpen-proletariat increasingly into its ranks. Within the CPC, elements began to come to the fore, who had been the furthest from the working class, and needless to say closest to the Kuomintang. The party grew with the arrival of all sorts of reactionary dross, from Stalinists indoctrinated in the USSR, to Kuomintang generals, via warlords in search of territory, patriotic intellectuals, and even  of “enlightened” members of the upper bourgeois and feudal classes. Within the new CPC, all this scum were ready for a fight to the death to gain control of the party and the Red Army.

As with all the parties of the Communist International, the counter-revolution was expressed in the degeneration of the CPC and its conversion into an instrument of capital. These parties became a terrible source of mystification for the whole working class, misleading it on such fundamental questions as that of the revolutionary organisation, in both its function and its internal functioning. The bourgeoisie’s official ideologues have only spread and amplified this work of mystification. Official historians present the CPC from 1928 to today as the model of a communist party: for the defenders of Western democracy, the internecine wars within the CPC are proof of the dubious behaviour of communists and marxism’s falsehood; for the unconditional defenders of Maoism, these same struggles were the means to defend the “politically correct line of the brilliant Chairman Mao”. These two categories of ideologue, though apparently opposed, in fact work in the same direction: the mendacious identification of the proletariat’s revolutionary organisations with their absolute opposite - the organisations born of capitalism’s decadence and the bourgeois counter-revolution. One thing is certain. Mao Zedong could only develop his full “potential” in the rotten setting of a CPC turned bourgeois. Mao had already tried out the gangster methods which were to serve him in controlling the party and the army during his “epic” retreat into the Xikang mountains - a disastrous rout if ever there was one. He took control of the region by making alliances with the leaders of the armed gangs that controlled it, only to eliminate them afterwards. This was the period which saw the birth of Mao’s gang, through his alliance with Zhu De, a rival general to Chiang-kai-shek, who was to become his inseparable companion. Mao knew how to kow-tow to better placed rivals, at least until he could supplant them in the party hierarchy. When Qu Qiubai was replaced by Li Lisan, Mao supported the latter’s “political line”, which in fact was nothing but a continuation of his predecessor’s “putschist” policy. Mao’s rewritten version of history tells us that he rapidly opposed Li Lisan. In reality, he participated fully in one of the disastrous coups attempted under the impetus of Bukharin in the CI’s “third period” (see letter from the CI, October 1929), and led by Li Lisan in the 1930s. The aim of these coups was to “take the cities” with a peasant guerrilla army. In 1930, Mao Zedong changed sides again, when the clique led by Wang Ming - known as “the returned [ie from Russia] students”, or the “28 Bolsheviks”, who had spent two years being trained in Moscow - began a clean-up to take control of the party, and removed Li Lisan. This was the time of the obscure “Fujian incident”. Mao Zedong undertook a large scale punitive expedition against the CPC in control of the Fujian region. The members of this section of the party were accused, depending on the version, of being either lackeys of Li Lisan, part of an anti-Bolshevik league, or members of the Socialist Party. Part of the truth only came out years after Mao’s death. In 1982, a Chinese review revealed that “the purges in western Fujian, which lasted several months and resulted in massacres throughout the Soviet zone, began in December 1930 with the Fujian incidents. Many leaders and militants of the Party were accused of being members of the Socialist Party and executed. The number of victims is estimated at between four and five thousand. In reality, there was not the slightest trace of a Socialist Party in the region...[4].

This purge was the price for Mao’s partial return to the good graces of the “returned students”. Despite being accused of having followed the Li Lisan line, and of having committed excesses in Fujian, he was neither liquidated nor deported like so many others. And although he was removed from his military command, he had the consolation of being made “President of the Soviets”, during the pompously named “First Congress of Soviets in China” at the end of 1931: this was an administrative role, under the control of the Wang Ming clique.

From this moment onwards, Mao tried both to strengthen his own clique, and to sow division in the ruling clique of “returned students”. But he remained under their heel, as we can see from the rejection by Wang Ming of Mao’s proposal of an alliance with the “Fujian government” (made up of generals in revolt against Chiang-kai-shek). Wang Ming did not want to prejudice his existing treaties with the USSR and Chiang-kai-Shek. Mao had to back down publicly, and accuse this “government” of “deceiving the people” [5]. This also shows that although Mao was made President in 1934, the real strong man of the party remained Chang Wentian, prime minister of the “Soviets”, and one of the “returned students”.

On the Long March with the Stalinists

The legend of the “Chinese people’s revolution” has always presented the Long March as the greatest “anti-imperialist” and “revolutionary” epic in history. We have already shown that its real objective was to transform a force of peasant guerrillas, scattered in a dozen regions around the country and occupied in struggle against the great landlords, into a regular centralised army capable of engaging in a war of positions. The aim was to create an instrument of Chinese imperialist policy. The legend also tells us that the Long March was inspired and led by President Mao. This is not entirely true. To start with, Mao was ill, and politically isolated by the Wang clique throughout the period of preparation for the Long March, unable to “inspire” anything at all. Furthermore, the March could not be “led” by anybody, even Mao, for the simple reason that the Red Army had no centralised command, but was made up of a dozen more or less independent regiments isolated from each other (the formation of a centralised General Staff was in fact one of the objectives of this campaign). The only element of cohesion in both the CPC and Red Army was the imperialist policy of the USSR, represented by the “returned students”. The latter’s strength was wholly due to the political, diplomatic, and military support of the Stalin regime. The legend also “teaches” us that it was during the Long March that Mao’s “correct line” overcame the “incorrect line” of Wang Ming and Zhang Kuo Tao. The truth is that the concentration of forces sharpened the rivalries within the leadership for control of the Red Army. Out of respect for the truth, we should also say that if Mao gained in influence during these sordid struggles, he did so in the shadow of the Wang clique. Two anecdotes are significant in this respect.

The first of these concerns the Zunyi meeting of January 1935. Maoists describe this meeting as “historic” because it supposedly marks the moment where Mao took command of the Red Army. In reality, this meeting was a plot (set in motion by the various cliques of the detachment in which Mao was travelling), in which Cheng Wentian (one of the “returned students”) was named Party Secretary, while Mao recovered the position he had held before his removal from the Military Committee. These nominations were disputed shortly afterwards by much of the party, since the Zunyi meeting did not have the status of a Congress. They were one of the underlying causes of the later split in the CPC.

The second anecdote concerns the events in the Sichuan region a few months later. Several Red Army regiments had concentrated here, and Mao tried to take overall command, with the support of the “returned students”. Mao’s nomination was opposed by Zhang Kuo Tao, an old member of the CPC, who had commanded one of the “red bases”, and led a more powerful regiment than that of Mao and Cheng Wentian. This led to a violent quarrel, which ended with a split in the Party and the Red Army, led by two different Central Committees. Zhang held his position in the Sichuan region, with most of the troops already concentrated there. Even Mao’s companions, like Liu Bocheng and the faithful Zhu De (who had followed him like a shadow since the rout of 1927 in Xikang), went over to Zhang Kuo Tao. Mao Zedong and Cheng Wentian fled the region and took refuge in the “red base” of Yanan, which was the final point of concentration for the regiments of the Red Army.

The troops that stayed in Sichuan remained isolated, and were decimated little by little, which obliged the survivors to join the army in Yanan. Zhang’s fate was sealed: he was immediately removed from his functions and went over to the Kuomintang in 1938. From these events sprang the Maoist legend of “the combat against the traitor Zhang Kuo Tao”. In reality, Zhang had no choice: if he was to escape the purges launched by Mao in Shangxi and stay alive, he needed the support of another faction of the bourgeoisie. But there was not the slightest class difference between Mao and Zhang, any more than  there was between the CPC and the Kuomintang.

It is also worth remembering that it was during this period of military concentration in Sichuan that the CPC echoed the USSR’s imperialist policy (proclaimed by the 7th Congress of the Stalinised Communist International in 1935) by calling for a national united front against Japan: or in other words, calling for the exploited to put themselves at the service of their exploiters’ interests. This confirmed, not just the CPC’s bourgeois nature, but also its role as principal supplier of cannon-fodder for the imperialist war.

Control of Yanan, alliance with the Kuomintang

In Yanan, during the war with Japan between 1936 and 1945, Mao Zedong used cunning, trickery and purges to take control of the CPC and the Red Army. There were three phases in the Yanan clan war which marked Mao’s rise: the elimination of the Yanan base’s founding group, the consolidation of the Mao clique, and the first open conflict with the Wang Ming clique which was to lead to the latter’s elimination.

Maoism extols the expansion of the Red Army in Shangxi as a product of the peasants’ revolutionary struggle. We have shown that this expansion was based both on the CPC’s methods of enrolment of the peasantry (an inter-classist alliance, whereby the peasants obtained a reduction in rent — small enough to be acceptable to the landed proprietors — in exchange for their mobilisation in the imperialist slaughter), and on its alliances with regional warlords and with the Kuomintang itself. The events of 1936 are revealing in this respect, and they also show how the old Yanan leadership was liquidated.

When the regiment of Mao Zedong and Chang Wentian reached Yanan in October 1935, the region was already prey to factional struggles: Liu Shidan, founder and leader of the base since the beginning of the 1930s, had fallen victim to the purges and had been imprisoned and tortured. He received the immediate support of the newly arrived regiment. He was freed, in exchange for his subordination to Mao and Chang.

At the beginning of 1936, Liu Shidan’s troops were ordered to launch an expedition to the east, towards Shansi, to attack the local warlord Yan Jishan and the Kuomintang troops supporting him. The expedition was defeated and Liu Shidan killed. Another expedition towards the West met the same fate. These events, in particular Liu Shidan’s death, made it possible for Mao and Chang to take control of the Yanan base. The method is reminiscent of Mao’s seizure of the Jinggang mountains a few years previously: he began by allying himself with the zone’s leaders, but later on  their supposed “tragic deaths” left him in sole command.

While the expeditions to East and West went to their defeat, Mao was setting up an alliance with another warlord. The Sian region, south of Yanan, was controlled by the mercenary Yang Hucheng, who had given shelter to the governor of Manchuria, Zhang Xueliang, and his regiments, after their defeat by the Japanese. Mao contacted Yang Hucheng in December 1935, and their non-aggression pact was established a few months later. This pact was the background to the “Sian incident” (see International Review no.84): Chang-kai-shek was taken prisoner by Yang Hucheng and Zhang Xueliang, who wanted to try him for collaboration with the Japanese. Under pressure from Stalin, his capture was used solely to negotiate a new alliance between the CPC and the Kuomintang.

Needless to say, the Maoists have tried to portray the CPC’s alliances with the warlords and with the butcher of Shanghai — in which Mao took a direct part — as skilful manoeuvres intended to profit from the divisions existing in the ruling classes. It is true that the traditional bourgeoisie of landed proprietors and the military were divided, but not because they had different class interests, nor even because some were reactionary and others progressive, nor even because some were — as Mao would have it — “intelligent”, and others were not. Their divisions were based on their defence of particular interests, some favouring Chinese unity under Japanese control because this would gain or preserve their local power; while those, like the governor of Manchuria, who had been unseated, sought the support of other imperialist powers opposed to Japan.

In this sense, the alliance between the CPC and the Kuomintang was clearly bourgeois and imperialist, and went as far as to conclude a military aid agreement between the government of the USSR and Chiang-kei-shek, which included the supply of fighters and bombers and a convoy of 200 lorries, which remained the Kuomintang’s main source of supply until 1947. At the same time, the CPC was established in its own zone (the legendary Shanxi-Ganxu-Ningxia); it integrated the main regiments of the Red Army (the 4th and the 8th) into the army of Chiang-kai-shek, and had one of its commissions participating in the Kuomintang government.

At the level of the CPC’s internal life, we should point out that the commission which negotiated with, and then entered, the Chiang government, represented both the “returned students” (Po Ku and Wang Ming himself), and the Mao clique (Chou Enlai), which confirms that Mao did not yet control the party or the army, and that at least in appearance he was still allied with Stalin’s henchmen.

Wang Ming’s defeat and the flirt with the USA

The rivalry between Mao and the “returned students” first came into the open at the CPC Central Committee’s plenary session of October 1938. Mao took advantage of the Wuhan fiasco (the seat of the Kuomintang government, which was attacked by the Japanese, and for whose defence Wang Ming was responsible) to undermine Wang Ming’s authority in the party. He nonetheless had to accept the nomination of Chang Wentian as General Secretary, and wait a further two years until the imperialist war made it possible to turn the situation to his advantage, against the clique of the “returned students”.

In 1941, the German army invaded the USSR. To avoid opening a new front, Stalin opted for a non-aggression pact with Japan. Its immediate consequence was the end of Russia’s military aid to the Kuomintang, but also the paralysis and fall of Wang Ming’s Stalinist faction in the CPC, obliged as it was to collaborate with the Japanese enemy. In December, Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbour brought America into the war for control of the Pacific. These events prompted a move towards the US by both the Kuomintang and the CPC, Mao’s faction in particular.

Mao launched an all-out attack on the “returned students” and their acolytes. This was the meaning of the punitive “rectification campaign”, which lasted from 1942 to 1945. Mao began by attacking the party leaders, especially the “returned students”, accusing them of being “dogmatic and incapable of applying marxism in China”. Mao made the most of the rivalries within the Wang clique, and succeeded in winning over some of its members, including Liu Chaichi who became party General Secretary, and Kang Cheng, who became the inquisitor in charge of Mao’s dirty work — the same position that Mao himself had held in Fujian in 1930.

The Wang clique’s press was suspended, while only that under Mao’s control was authorised to publish. The Mao clique took control of the party schools and militants’ reading. The purge continued, with arrests and persecutions spreading from Yanan throughout the party and the army. Some, like Chou Enlai, remained faithful to Mao. The “recalcitrants” were sent to the combat zones where they fell into the hands of the Japanese, or simply eliminated.

The purge reached its height in 1943, coinciding with the official dissolution of the Third International, and the USA’s mediation between the CPC and the Kuomintang. Some 50-60,000 people were liquidated during the purge. The leading “returned students” were eliminated: Chang Wentian was exiled from Yanan, Wang Ming narrowly escaped an attempted poisoning, Po Ku died mysteriously in an “air accident”.

Within the framework of the imperialist war, the “rectification campaign” corresponds to the CPC’s turn towards the United States. We have already examined this aspect in International Review no.84. We should simply point out that the impetus for this turn came from Mao and his clique, as we can see from the official correspondence of the US mission to Yanan at the time [6]. And it was no accident that the struggle against the Stalinist clique coincided with a rapprochement with the USA. Of course, this does not make Mao a traitor to the “Communist camp”, as Wang Ming and the ruling clique in Russia were later to claim. It merely demonstrates the bourgeois nature of his policies. For Chiang-kai-shek, as for the whole Chinese bourgeoisie, Mao included, their chances of survival depended on their ability to calculate coldly which imperialist power they should serve: the USA or the USSR.

Nor is it an accident that the tone of the “rectification” became more moderate as the likelihood of a Soviet victory over Germany increased. The purge “officially” came to an end in April 1945, two months after the signature of the Yalta treaty, where the Allied imperialist powers decided, amongst other things, that Russia should declare war on Japan, just as it was preparing to invade northern China. This is why the CPC had to follow Russian orders. Mao’s temporary return to the Stalin camp was not made of his own free will, but because of the new division of the world between the great imperialist powers.

Nonetheless, the end result of the “rectification” was the control of the CPC and the army by Mao and his gang. Mao created for himself the title of Party President, and proclaimed Maoism, or “Mao Zedong thought”, to be “marxism applied to China”. Since then, the Maoists have resorted to legend to explain how Mao came to the leadership thanks to his theoretical and strategic genius, and to his struggle against the “incorrect lines”. They would have us believe that Mao founded the Red Army, created the agrarian reform programme, triumphantly led the Long March, created the red bases, etc. And it is all untrue! This is how the cunning parvenu Mao Zedong passed himself off for a Messiah.

Maoism: an ideological weapon of capital

Maoism, then, became a dominant theory during the world imperialist war, in a party which already belonged to the bourgeoisie, despite continuing to call itself communist. At the outset, Maoism aimed to justify and consolidate the grip of Mao and his gang on all the controls of the party. He also had to justify the party’s participation in the imperialist war, alongside the Kuomintang, the nobility, the warlords, the big bourgeoisie, and all the imperialist powers. To do so, he had to hide the real origins of the CPC. Maoism could not be satisfied with putting a particular “interpretation” on the clan war within the party: it had to deform completely the history of both the party and the class struggle. The defeat of the proletarian revolution and the degeneration of the CPC were carefully wiped out; the CPC’s new identity as an instrument of capital was justified “theoretically” by Maoism.

On this false foundation, Maoism demonstrated its abilities as another instrument of bourgeois propaganda used to mobilise the labouring masses, especially the peasantry, under the patriotic banners of imperialist war. Once the CPC had finally conquered power, Maoism became the official “theory” of the Chinese “People’s State”, in other words of the state capitalism set up in China.

Despite its vague references to a pseudo-marxist language, “Mao Zedong thought” cannot hide its sources in the bourgeois camp. When he took part in the coalition between the CPC and the Kuomintang, Mao considered already that the interests of the peasantry should be subordinated to the interests of the national bourgeoisie represented by Sun Yat Sen: “The defeat of the feudal forces is the real goal of the national revolution (...) The peasants have understood what Dr Sun Yat Sen wanted, but was unable to achieve during the forty years that he devoted to the national revolution[7]. In fact, the references to Sun Yat Sen’s principles remained at the centre of Maoist propaganda to enrol the peasants for imperialist war: “As far as the Communist Party is concerned, the whole policy that it has followed these last ten years corresponds to the revolutionary spirit of the Three Principles of the People and the Three Great Policies of Dr Sun Yat Sen[8]. “Our propaganda must conform to this programme: carry out the testament of Dr Sun Yat Sen by awakening the masses to resistance against Japan” [9].

In the first article in this series, we already showed how during his “forty years devoted to the national revolution”, Sun Yat Sen was constantly seeking alliances with the great imperialist powers, Japan included. His “revolutionary nationalism”, as early as the “revolution” of 1911, was nothing but a vast mystification to hide the imperialist interests of the Chinese bourgeoisie. Maoism limited itself to adopting this mystification, in other words to putting itself in tune with the old ideological campaigns of the Chinese bourgeoisie.

Indeed, the “brilliant Mao Zedong thought” is little more than a vulgar plagiarism of the official Stalinist manuals of the day. Mao adulated Stalin, and made him out to be a “great continuator of marxism”, if only to ape the shameless falsification of marxism conducted by Stalin and his henchmen. Maoism’s so-called application of marxism to Chinese conditions is nothing other than the application of the ideological themes of the Stalinist counter-revolution.

A complete falsification of marxism

We will now examine some of the main aspects of the supposed application of marxism, as revised by “Mao Zedong thought”.

On the proletarian revolution

A study of Chinese history on the basis of Mao’s works would leave the reader in complete ignorance of the repercussions within China of the proletarian revolutionary wave set off in 1917. Maoism (and so official history, whether Maoist or not) has buried the proletarian revolution in China lock, stock, and barrel.

When Mao does mention the proletarian revolution, it is only to include it within the “bourgeois revolution”: “The revolution of 1924-27 was carried out thanks to the collaboration of two parties - the CPC and the Kuomintang - on the basis of a well-defined programme. In barely two or three years, the national revolution encountered immense success (...) These successes were based on the creation of the revolutionary support base of Kuang Tong, and the victory of the Northern Expedition[10]. All this is pure falsehood. As we have seen, the period from 1924 to 1927 was characterised not by the “national revolution” but by the revolutionary wave amongst the working class in all the great Chinese cities, rising to the point of insurrection. The co-operation between the CPC and the Kuomintang, in other words the opportunist alignment of the proletarian party with the bourgeoisie, was built not on the basis of “enormous successes”, but of tragic defeats for the proletariat. And finally the “Northern Expedition”, far from being a revolutionary “victory”, was nothing but a bourgeois manoeuvre designed to control the cities and massacre the working class. And the high point of this expedition was precisely the massacre of workers by the Kuomintang.

As for the events of 1926, in the midst of an upsurge of the workers’ movement Mao could hardly avoid a reference to the “general strikes in Hong Kong and Shanghai, at the origin of the events of 30th May[11]. But by 1939, he had reduced these to a mere demonstration by the intellectual petty-bourgeoisie, and failed so much as to mention the historic Shanghai insurrection of 1927 in which almost one million workers took part [12].

The systematic burial of the whole experience, and of the historic and worldwide importance of the revolutionary movement in China, is one of the essential aspects of Maoism’s “original” contribution to bourgeois ideology in obscuring proletarian class consciousness.


This is one of the historic principles of the proletariat’s historic struggle, and therefore of marxism, which contains within itself the question of the destruction of capitalist states and the overcoming of national boundaries imposed by bourgeois society. “It is indisputable that internationalism constitutes one of the cornerstones of communism. It has been well-established since 1848 that the “workers have no country” (...) If capitalism found in the nation the most appropriate framework for its own development, communism can only be established on a worldwide scale. The proletarian revolution will destroy all nations” (from the Introduction to our pamphlet Nation or Class?).

In Mao’s hands, this principle was turned into its exact opposite. For him, patriotism and internationalism were identical: “Can a communist internationalist also be a patriot? He not only can be, he must be (...) In wars of national liberation, patriotism is the application of the internationalist principle (...) We are both internationalists and patriots, and our slogan is: ‘struggle against the aggressor to defend the fatherland’[13]. Let us just recall in passing that the “national war” in question is none other than World War II! This is how the enrolment of workers into imperialist war becomes an application of proletarian internationalism! It is by using just such monstrous mystifications that the bourgeoisie gets the workers to massacre each other.

Mao Zedong cannot even claim the distinction of being the first to formulate this “ingenious” idea, whereby an internationalist can be a patriot at the same time. He merely repeated the speech of Dimitrov, one of Stalin’s hired ideologues: “Proletarian internationalism must, so to speak, “acclimatise itself” to each country (...) The national ‘forms’ of the proletarian struggle in no way contradict proletarian internationalism (...) The socialist revolution will be the nation’s salvation[14]. He himself was merely adopting the declarations of social-patriots of the Kautsky variety, who sent the proletariat to the slaughter in 1914: “All have the right and the duty to defend the fatherland; real internationalism consists in recognising this right for the socialists of every country[15]. We are more than willing to recognise Maoism’s continuity, not with marxism, but with those “theories” which have always tried to deform marxism in the service of capital.

The class struggle

We have already shown how Mao Zedong, throughout his works, buried the whole experience of the proletariat. And yet he never ceases to refer to “the proletariat’s leading role in the revolution”. Yet the most important part of “Mao Zedong thought” on the class struggle is that which subordinates the interests of the exploited classes to those of their exploiters: “It is now an established principle that in the war of resistance against Japan, everything must be abandoned in the interests of victory. Consequently, the interests of the class struggle must be subordinated to the interests of the war of resistance, and not enter into conflict with them (...) We must apply an appropriate policy of readjustment in the relations between the classes, a policy which does not leave the working masses without political and material guarantees, but which takes account of the interests of the possessing classes[16].

Mao Zedong’s terminology here is that of a classic bourgeois nationalist, who demands that workers make the supreme sacrifice in exchange for promises of “political and material guarantees”, but in the framework of the national interest, in other words in the framework of the interests of the ruling class. He is indistinguishable from the others, except for the particular cynicism which allows him to describe this as a “deepening of marxism”.

The state

Maoism’s supposed “development of marxism” appears in the question of the state, through the theory of the “new democracy”, presented as the “revolutionary path” for under-developed countries. If we are to believe Mao Zedong, “the revolution of the new democracy (...) does not lead to the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, but to the dictatorship of the united front of various revolutionary classes under the leadership of the proletariat (...) It also differs from the socialist revolution, in that it can only defeat the domination of the imperialists, collaborationists, and reactionaries in China, since it eliminates none of those sectors of capitalism that contribute to the anti-imperialist and anti-feudal struggle”.

Mao has thus discovered a new kind of state, which is supposedly the instrument of no particular class, but rather an inter-classist front or alliance. This may be a new formulation of the old theory of class collaboration, but it has nothing to do with marxism. The theory of the “new democracy” is nothing but a new version of bourgeois democracy, which claims to be the government of the people, in other words of all classes. The only difference is that Mao calls it a “front of various classes”, and as he himself recognised: “Essentially, the revolution of the new democracy coincides with the revolution that was called for by Sun Yat Sen with his Three Principles of the People (...) Sun Yat Sen said: “In modern states, the so-called democratic system is in general monopolised by the bourgeoisie and has become merely an instrument for oppressing the common people. By contrast, the democratic principle defended by the Kuomintang defends a democratic system in the hands of this common people, and will not allow that it should be confiscated by the few”” [17].

Concretely, the theory of the “new democracy” was the means for controlling the largely peasant population in the zones under CPC control. It was later to become the ideological fig-leaf for the state capitalism set up when the CPC took power.

Dialectical materialism

For years, Mao Zedong’s “philosophical works” were taught in university circles as “marxist philosophy”. Not only does Mao’s philosophy have nothing to do with the marxist method - despite its pseudo-marxist language - it is in total opposition to it. Mao’s philosophy, inspired by vulgarisations of Stalin, is nothing but a justification of its author’s political contortions. Let us consider, for example, the embarrassing rhetoric that he uses to deal with the question of contradictions: “In the process of development of a complex thing many contradictions are found, and one of these is necessarily the principle whose existence and development determines or influences the existence and development of the others (...) A semi-colonial country like China provides a complex framework to the relations between the principal contradiction and the secondary contradictions. When imperialism unleashes a war against such a country, the different classes which make up the latter (except a small number of traitors) can temporarily unite in a national war against imperialism. The contradiction between imperialism and the country in question thus becomes the principle contradiction, temporarily relegating the contradictions between the different classes within the country to a secondary and subordinate level (...) Such is the situation in the present war between China and Japan”.

In other words, the Maoist “theory” of “displaced contradictions” simply comes down to saying that the proletariat can and must abandon its struggle against the bourgeoisie in the name of the national interest, and that the antagonistic classes can and must unite in the framework of imperialist slaughter, that the exploited classes can and must bow to the interests of the exploiters. We can understand why the bourgeoisie all over the world spread Maoist philosophy in the universities, presenting it as marxism!

To sum up, we would say that Maoism has nothing to do with the working class’ struggle, nor its consciousness, nor its revolutionary organisations. It has nothing to do with marxism: it is neither a tendency within nor a development of the proletariat’s revolutionary theory. On the contrary, Maoism is nothing but a gross falsification of marxism; its only function is to bury every revolutionary principle, to confuse proletarian class consciousness and replace it with the most stupid and narrow-minded nationalist ideology. As a “theory”, Maoism is just another of those wretched forms adopted by the bourgeois in its decadent period of counter-revolution and imperialist war.



[1]  See International Review nos.81 and 84.

[2] See the Report on an enquiry into the Hunan peasant movement, Mao Zedong, March 1927.

[3] For more on Chen Duxiu, see the box below.

[4] Quoted by Lazlo Ladany, The Communist Party of China and Marxism, Hurst & Co, 1992.

[5] Speech by Mao at the 2nd Congress of the “Chinese Soviets”, published in Japan. Quoted by Lazlo Ladany, op. cit.

[6] Lost Chance in China. The World War II despatches of John S. Service, Vintage Books, 1974.

[7] Report on an enquiry into the Hunan peasant movement, Mao Zedong, March 1927.

[8] The urgent tasks after the establishment of the co-operation between the Kuomintang and the Communist Party, Mao Zedong, September 1937.

[9] Present tactical problems in the anti-Japanese United Front, Mao Zedong, May 1940.

[10] See the first article in this series, in International Review no.81.

[11] Analysis of classes in Chinese society, March 1926.

[12] The Chinese revolution and the CPC, Mao Zedong, December 1939.

[13] The role of the CPC in the national war, Mao Zedong, October 1938.

[14] Fascism, democracy, and the Popular Front, report presented by Georgi Dimitrov to the 7th Congress of the Comintern, August 1935.

[15] Quoted by Lenin in The downfall of the Second International, September 1915.

[16] The role of the CPC in the national war, op. cit.

[17] The Chinese revolution and the CPC, op. cit.