Stalin and the Chinese Revolution
Two lines on the Chinese Revolution: the line of the Comintern and
Stalin versus the line of the Trotskyist opposition
made by Harpal Brar to the Stalin Society on 18 October 2009 to mark the 60th
anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China and the
forthcoming 130th anniversary of the birth of Stalin
In the latter half of the
1920s the Trotskyist opposition (Trotsky, Zinoviev, Radek and Kamenev) accused
the ‘Stalinist bureaucracy’ i.e. the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
(Bolshevik) [CPSU(B)] and the Comintern of selling the Chinese Revolution and
the Chinese communists down the river - of betraying the Chinese Revolution.
This slander has since then been picked up, and
repeated thousands of times, by the Trotskyite counter-revolutionaries,
revisionist renegades, social democrats, and even by some dubious
Marxist-Leninists. Every attempt is made by this gentry to invent sharp
difference of opinion between Stalin and Mao Zedong, between the line of the
Comintern, which was the same as that of Stalin and the CPSU(B), on the one
hand, and that of Mao Zedong, on the other hand, on the question of the Chinese
Revolution. Nothing could be further from the truth.
That Mao Zedong and the Chinese communists held
Stalin in extremely high regard is shown by the following words of Mao Zedong
on the occasion of Stalin’s 60th birthday:
“Stalin is the leader of world revolution. This
is of paramount importance. It is a great event that mankind is blessed with
Stalin. Since we have him, things can go well. As you all know, Marx is dead
and so are Engels and Lenin. Had there been no Stalin, who would be there to
give directions? But having him - this is really a blessing. Now there exist in
the world a Soviet Union, a Communist Party and also a Stalin. Thus, the
affairs of the world can go well. We must hail him, we must support him, and we
must learn from him. ... We must learn from him in two respects: his theory and
his work” (Quoted by Chen Po-Ta in Stalin on the Chinese Revolution).
Comintern’s analysis of the Chinese Revolution as regards the prospects
and character of the Chinese Revolution.
The Comintern held that the main character of the
Chinese Revolution was anti-feudal, for feudalism and the survivals of
feudalism were the most predominant factor in the Chinese countryside. China, at that time, had a population of roughly 400/450 million people, out of which 350
or 400 million people lived in the countryside. Roughly 90% of the people were
peasants who were exploited to the hilt by feudalism and, therefore, the most
predominant feature of the Chinese Revolution was the fight against feudalism.
Thus the Chinese Revolution was an agrarian
revolution spearheaded against feudalism and the entire militarist-bureaucratic
structure which rested on it. An agrarian revolution is the basis and content
of the bourgeois-democratic revolution. In China, at that time, the bourgeois
democratic revolution could not fail to be an anti-imperialist revolution,
because imperialism supported the whole structure of feudalism, the whole
fabric of feudalism.
It is imperialism which fosters, inspires, supports
and preserves feudalism and struggles on the side of feudalism. In colonial or
semi-colonial countries, people fighting against feudalism cannot but at the
same time be involved in a revolutionary fight for the overthrow of
imperialism, because the interests of imperialism are inextricably intertwined
with the interests of the feudal ruling class, as is happening today, for
instance, in the Middle East.
As early as 1913, Lenin had the occasion to point
out that the obsolescent bourgeoisie of Europe, out of fear of the rising
strength of the proletariat, was “supporting everything backward, moribund
and medieval” and “combining with all obsolete and obsolescent forces”
in an effort to preserve the tottering system of wage slavery. “And a more
striking example of this decay of the entire European bourgeoisie”,
he wrote, “can scarcely be cited than the support it is lending to reaction
in Asia for the sake of the selfish aims of the financial manipulators and
capitalist swindlers” (‘Backward Europe and Advanced Asia’)
Trotsky's analysis of the Chinese Revolution
Trotsky under-estimated and gave no decisive
importance to the strength of feudalism, maintaining that the Chinese
Revolution was merely aimed at ending China’s state-customs dependence on the
imperialist countries; that this revolution was anti-imperialist mainly because
it was directed at the abolition of unequal treaties imposed on China by the
various imperialist countries.
In May 1927, Trotsky submitted to the Central
Committee of the CPSU(B) and to the Executive Committee of the Comintern (ECCI)
the following thesis: “Fundamentally untenable is Bukharin's attempt to
justify his opportunist compromising line by references to the alleged
predominating role of ‘feudal survivals’ in China's economy. Even if Bukharin's
estimate of the Chinese economy were based upon an economic analysis, and not
upon scholastic definitions, all the same, ‘feudal survival’ could not justify
the policy which so manifestly facilitated the April Coup. The Chinese
revolution bears a national bourgeois character for the basic reason
that the development of the productive forces of Chinese capitalism is being
blocked by China's state-customs dependence on the imperialist countries”
(Trotsky: The Chinese Revolution and Stalin's Theses) (my emphasis -
No wonder Stalin
characterised Trotsky’s viewpoint as “that of a state counsellor of ‘his
Highness’ Chang Tso-lin”; As Stalin put it: “If Trotsky's viewpoint is
correct, then it must be admitted that Chang Tso-lin and Chiang Kai-shek are
right in not desiring either an agrarian or a workers’ revolution and in striving
only for the abolition of the unequal treaties and the establishment of
customs autonomy for China” (Stalin's emphasis).
And further, by way of comparison and summing up
the line of the Comintern and of Trotsky, continues Stalin:
“Thus we have two basic lines:
“(a) the line of the Comintern, which takes into
account the existence of feudal survivals in China, as the predominant form of
oppression, the decisive importance of the powerful agrarian movement, the
connection of the feudal survivals with imperialism, and the
bourgeois-democratic character of the Chinese revolution with its struggle
spearheaded against imperialism;
“(b) the line of Trotsky, which denies the
predominant importance of feudal-militarist oppression, fails to appreciate the
decisive importance of the agrarian revolutionary movement in China, and attributes the anti-imperialist character of the Chinese revolution solely to the
interests of Chinese capitalism, which is demanding customs independence for China.
“The basic error of Trotsky (and hence of the
opposition) is that he underestimates the agrarian revolution in China, does
not understand the bourgeois-democratic character of that revolution, denies
the existence of the preconditions for an agrarian movement in China, embracing
many millions, and underestimates the role of the peasantry in the Chinese
revolution” (Stalin: Revolution in China and the Tasks of the Comintern,
speech delivered at the 10th sitting of the 8th plenum of the ECCI, 24 May
Trotsky’s under-estimation of the role of
the peasantry is hardly new. It follows from his theory of ‘Permanent
Revolution’, which alone explains the degeneration of Trotskyism into a
counter-revolutionary agency in the service of imperialism.
As Stalin said:
“It is this peculiarity of Trotsky's scheme -
the fact that he sees the bourgeoisie and sees the proletariat, but does not
notice the peasantry and does not understand its role in the
bourgeois-democratic revolution - it is precisely this peculiarity that
constitutes the opposition's principal error on the Chinese question.
“It is just this that
constitutes the ‘semi-Menshevism’ of Trotsky and of the opposition in the
question of the character of the Chinese revolution.
“From this principal error stem all the other
errors of the opposition, all the confusion in its theses on the Chinese
question” (Stalin: Revolution in China and the Tasks of the Comintern,
speech delivered on 24th May 1927).
Other errors of Trotskyist opposition
Trotsky's “logical incongruity” towards Wuhan.
In the period of the all-national united front
(the Canton period), particularly the period between 1925 and 12th April 1927,
for some time Trotsky and the rest of the opposition demanded that the
communists should withdraw from the Kuomintang.
First, a few words about the Kuomintang (KMT) in
this period: it was a bloc of several oppressed classes - it was a bloc of the
national bourgeoisie, of the urban poor, of the peasantry, of the
petty-bourgeois intelligentsia, and of the proletariat. It was a bloc of
basically four classes. Between 1925 and April 12th, 1927, the national
bourgeoisie played a progressive role (of this more later on).
Trotsky demanded that the Chinese Communist Party
(CPC) withdraw support from the KMT. Why? Because the bourgeoisie is always
counter revolutionary. Trotsky makes the error of comparing the Chinese
bourgeoisie (in an oppressed country) with the Russian bourgeoisie (in an
The bourgeoisie of an oppressed country can for a
certain period of time, under specific conditions, play a progressive role and
become an ally of the proletariat.
Such an alliance is legitimate, as long as the
proletariat is not hindered in its work of organising independently among the
broad masses of people under its own programme. The fact is that being part of
the KMT facilitated the work of the CPC
On 12 April 1927 the right-wing of the KMT, led by
Chiang Kai-shek, launched its coup and started massacring the communists. The
national bourgeoisie set up its counter-revolutionary centre in Nanking, deserted the camp of revolution and sided with the counter-revolution and
Why? It was a) the fear of the Agrarian Revolution;
and b) the pressure put on Chiang Kai-shek by imperialism in Shanghai.
Following the desertion by the national
bourgeoisie, the left-wing of the KMT set up its headquarters in Wuhan, which became the base for the maximum development of the agrarian revolution, which
was led by the CPC.
How did the Trotskyist opposition characterise Wuhan?
Trotsky described it as a “fiction” - and
yet did not advocate withdrawal from this “fiction”, of the CPC, which
was at the time allied with the left-wing of the KMT in Wuhan.
Permit me to quote a passage from Stalin's speech,
which aptly describes Trotsky's attitude - “this ‘logical’ incongruity”
- towards Wuhan. Here is what Stalin said:
“Let us assume that Wuhan is a fiction. But if Wuhan is a fiction, why does Trotsky not insist on a determined struggle against Wuhan? Since when have communists been supporting fictions, participating in fictions,
standing at the head of fictions, and so on? Is it not a fact that the
communists are duty bound to fight against fictions? Is it not a fact that if
communists refrained from fighting against fictions, it would mean deceiving
the proletariat and the peasantry? Why, then, does Trotsky not propose that the
communists should fight against this fiction, if only by immediate withdrawal
from the Wuhan Kuomintang and the Wuhan Government? Why does Trotsky propose
that they should remain within this fiction, and not withdraw from it? Where is
the logic in this?
“Is not this ‘logical’ incongruity to be
explained by the fact that Trotsky took up a swaggering attitude towards Wuhan and called it a fiction, and then got cold feet and shrank from drawing the
appropriate conclusion from his theses?”
Such is the position of Trotsky on the question of Wuhan.
Zinoviev characterised the Wuhan government as a
Kemalist government. A Kemalist revolution is a revolution of the upper stratum,
of the merchant bourgeoisie against imperialism, which from its very beginning
is directed against workers and peasants, a revolution that gets stuck at its
very first stage, with the idea of passing into a socialist revolution being
entirely out of the question.
Such a government does not fight against
feudalism. Therefore, there is no place for communists in such a government.
If Wuhan was indeed such a government, the overthrow of such a government was
absolutely necessary. “But that is what ordinary people, with ordinary
human logic, might think.” (Stalin)
Far from advocating its overthrow, Zinoviev
concluded that the most energetic support be given to it!
Here is what Zinoviev said in his thesis,
distributed at the plenum of the Central Committee of the CPSU in April 1927:
“It is necessary to render the most energetic
and all round assistance to Hankow [Wuhan was a triple city of Wuchang-Hankow-Hanyang] and to organise resistance from there against the Cavaignacs.
In the immediate future efforts should be concentrated precisely on
facilitating organisation and consolidation in Hankow.”
Stalin’s comment on this peculiar stand of Zinoviev
was: “Understand that if you can!”
Yes, comrades, understand that if you can!
This is how Stalin sums up the confusion of the
opposition on the point under discussion:
“What does all this show? It shows that the
opposition has got entangled in contradictions. It has lost the capacity to
think logically, it has lost all sense of perspective.
“Confusion of mind and loss of all sense of
perspective on the Wuhan question - such is the position of Trotsky and the
opposition, if confusion can be described as a position at all”.
The opposition's demand for the establishment of the
Soviets while the communists participated in the Wuhan government.
At the very time that the opposition was demanding
that the Wuhan government be “energetically” supported (see Zinoviev’s
thesis above) it also demanded the immediate establishment of the Soviets of
workers’ and peasants’ deputies. But Soviets are organisational centres of
revolution - organs of uprising against the existing system. If not, they are
bound to degenerate and become empty chat-shops, empty playthings and bound to
lead to apathy, indifference and disillusionment among the masses, who quite
naturally become fed up with the endless repetition of resolutions and
Such a call in the spring of 1927, when the
left-KMT government in Wuhan was revolutionary, would have been tantamount to
‘skipping’ the KMT phase of revolution, endangering the revolution, and
rendering inestimable service to Chiang Kai-shek.
The incongruity of participating in Wuhan and yet calling for its overthrow was nothing short of sheer lunacy.
The Trotskyist opposition got entangled in this hopeless
(i) it confused bourgeois-democratic revolution in China with a proletarian revolution,
(ii) it confused the bourgeois-democratic
revolution in China with the bourgeois-democratic revolution of February 1917
in Russia, which rendered it blind to the distinction between the bourgeoisie
of an oppressed, semi-colonial country, which can, for a limited period of
time, play, and did play, a progressive and anti-imperialist role, with the
bourgeoisie of an imperialist country such as Russia which could not, and did
not, play a progressive role.
the line of the Comintern and the line of the
Here is Stalin’s apt summary of the two lines on
the Chinese Revolution.
“And so, we have before us two entirely
different lines on the Chinese question - the line of the Comintern and the
line of Trotsky and Zinoviev.
“The line of the Comintern
“Feudal survivals, and the
bureaucratic-militarist superstructure which rests upon them and which receives
every support from the imperialists of all countries, are the basic fact of
Chinese life today.
“China at the present moment is passing through
an agrarian revolution directed both against the feudal survivals and against
“The agrarian revolution constitutes the basis
and content of the bourgeois-democratic revolution in China.
“The Kuomintang in Wuhan and the Wuhan government are the centre of the bourgeois-democratic revolutionary movement.
“Nanking and the Nanking government are the
centre of national counter-revolution.
“The policy of supporting Wuhan is at the same
time a policy of developing the bourgeois-democratic revolution, with all the
consequences resulting from that. Hence the participation of the Communists in
the Wuhan Kuomintang and in the Wuhan revolutionary government, a participation
which does not exclude, but rather presupposes strenuous criticism by the
Communists of the half-heartedness and vacillation of their allies in the
“The Communists must utilise this participation to
facilitate the proletariat's role of hegemon in the Chinese
bourgeois-democratic revolution, and to hasten the moment of transition to the
“When the moment of the complete victory of the
bourgeois-democratic revolution approaches, and when, in the course of the
bourgeois revolution, the paths of transition to the proletarian revolution
become clear, the time will have arrived when it is necessary to set up Soviets
of workers’, peasants’ and soldiers' deputies, as elements of a dual power, as
organs of struggle for a new power, as organs of a new power, Soviet power.
“When that time comes the Communists must
replace the bloc within the Kuomintang by a bloc outside the Kuomintang, and
the Communist Party must become the sole leader of the new
revolution in China.
“To propose now, as Trotsky and Zinoviev do, the
immediate formation of Soviets of workers’ and peasants’ deputies and
the immediate establishment of dual power now, when the bourgeois-
democratic revolution is still in the initial phase of its development, and
when the Kuomintang represents the form of organisation of the
national-democratic revolution best adapted and most closely corresponding to
the specific features of China, would be to disorganise the revolutionary movement,
weaken Wuhan, facilitate its downfall, and render assistance to Chang Tso-lin
and Chiang Kai-shek.
“The line of Trotsky and Zinoviev
“Feudal survivals in China are a figment of
Bukharin's imagination. They either do not exist at all in China, or are so insignificant that they cannot have any serious importance.
“There does appear to be an agrarian revolution
in China at this moment. But where it comes from, the devil only knows
“But since there is this agrarian revolution, it
must, of course, be supported somehow.
“The chief thing just now is not the agrarian
revolution, but a revolution for the customs independence of China, an anti-customs revolution, so to speak.
“The Wuhan Kuomintang and the Wuhan government
are either a ‘fiction’ (Trotsky) or Kemalism (Zinoviev).
“On the one hand, dual power must be established
for overthrowing the Wuhan government through the immediate formation of
Soviets (Trotsky). On the other hand, the Wuhan government must be strengthened,
it must be given energetic and all round assistance, also, it appears,
through the immediate formation of Soviets (Zinoviev).
“By rights, the Communists ought to withdraw
immediately from this ‘fiction’, i.e. in the Wuhan government and the Wuhan Kuomintang. Why they should remain in Wuhan if Wuhan is a 'fiction'? That, it seems,
God alone knows. And whoever does not agree with this, is a betrayer and a
traitor [my emphasis - HB]
“Such is the so-called line of Trotsky and
“Anything more grotesque and confused than this
so-called line it would be hard to imagine.
“One gets the impression that one is dealing not
with Marxists but with some sort of bureaucrats who are completely divorced
from real life - or, still more, with ‘revolutionary’ tourists, who have
been busy touring about Sukhum and Kislovodsk and such-like places, overlooked
the Seventh Enlarged Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Comintern, which
defined the basic attitude towards the Chinese revolution and then, having
learned from the newspapers that some sort of a revolution - whether agrarian
or anti-customs, they were not quite clear - was really taking place in China,
they decided that it was necessary to compile a whole heap of theses - one set
in April, another in the early part of May, a third in the latter part of May -
and having done so, they bombard the Executive Committee of the Comintern with
them, apparently believing that a plethora of confused and contradictory theses
is the best means of saving the Chinese revolution [my emphasis - HB].
“Such, comrades, are the lines on the question
of the Chinese revolution.
“You will have to choose between them”.
Trotskyism chooses “inappropriate moments” to launch attacks on
the communist movement
Comrade Stalin ended his speech with the following
“I must say, comrades, that Trotsky has chosen
an inappropriate moment for his attacks on the Party and the Comintern. I have
just received information that the British Conservative government has decided
to break off relations with the USSR. There is no need to prove that this will
be followed by a universal campaign against the Communists. This campaign has
already begun. Some are threatening the CPSU(B) with war and intervention.
Others threaten it with split. Something like a united front from Chamberlain
to Trotsky is being formed” [my emphasis - HB].
“It is possible that they want to frighten us.
But it scarcely needs proof that Bolsheviks are not the sort to be frightened.
The history of Bolshevism knows plenty of such 'fronts'. The history of
Bolshevism shows that such 'fronts' have invariably been smashed by the
revolutionary determination and supreme courage of the Bolsheviks.
“You need have no doubt that we shall succeed in
smashing this new ‘front’ too” (Applause).
Trotskyism had a long history of choosing
inappropriate moments to launch attacks on Leninism - on Bolshevism. It did
this regularly from 1905 onwards all the way through to the 1920s and 1930s.
Reasons for the
opposition’s mistakes: Tactics
In addition to its bankrupt programme concerning
the prospect of the Chinese Revolution, the Opposition proved equally bankrupt
on matters of tactics.
The first tactical principle of Leninism: consider the nationally
peculiar features of a given country
Confusing the Chinese Revolution with the Russian
Revolution, the opposition came up with the slogan in April 1926: No alliance
with the Chinese bourgeoisie, when in the Canton Period the Chinese bourgeoisie
played a progressive role and the national army reached Yang Tse, thus
extending the revolutionary area enormously.
As a result of these victories, the opposition
retreated, renounced its old formula and adopted a ‘new’ one, that is, the CPC
must not withdraw from the KMT - that was the first punishment that befell the
opposition for failing to take into account the national peculiarities of the
A second example: The opposition did not understand
that the Chinese revolution was anti-imperialist, precisely because imperialism
inspired, preserved and supported the immediate (feudal) exploiters of the
Chinese people. When tens of million of peasants became involved in the mass
agrarian movement directed against feudalism and imperialism, the opposition
was once again forced to admit that it had been wrong and retreat. This was the
second punishment that befell the opposition.
A third example: In China the merchant bourgeoisie
were buying land and leasing it to the Chinese peasantry. Since the merchant
was not a feudal lord, the opposition came out with a ready-made formula that
feudalism and feudal survivals were of no consequence, that the Chinese
Revolution was not an agrarian revolution directed, first and foremost, against
feudalism, but a revolution for customs autonomy. The opposition forgot that
it was feudalism that exploited the Chinese people, that the entire
military-bureaucratic structure in China rested on the domination of feudal
survivals. Again, in consequence of mass participation if tens if millions of
peasants in the anti-feudal and anti-imperialist struggle, the opposition had
to retreat. That was the third punishment that befell the opposition.
As Stalin commented “Disharmony between
formulas and reality - such is the lot of the oppositionist pseudo-leaders”
(my emphasis - HB).
The second tactical principle of Leninism: the question of allies
The proletariat cannot do without allies. But these
allies must be mass allies, who do not prevent the proletariat from organising
itself independently, who do not prevent the communist party from organising
the proletariat and the broad masses of peasants, and rousing them to
revolution, who would not in any way restrict its propaganda.
Subject to these conditions, the proletariat must
avail itself of every opportunity to gain for itself a mass ally, even if such
a mass ally is a temporary, weak, vacillating, unstable and an unreliable
ally. Such is the essence of the second tactical principle of Leninism. Did
the Chinese proletariat have such allies? Yes, it did.
In the first stage of the revolution (the Canton
Period - the period of an all-nation United Front), these allies were: (i) the
national bourgeoisie; (ii) the urban poor; (iii) the petty-bourgeois
intelligentsia, and (iv) the peasantry.
During this period, the KMT was a mass organisation
and a revolutionary force. At that time Canton was the centre of revolutionary
struggle against imperialism.
What were the
achievements of this period? The achievements of this period were:
(1) The extension of
the territory of the revolution: the revolutionary troops reached as far as the
(2) The Chinese
proletariat got a chance of openly organising itself. The CPC gained the
possibility of openly organising the proletariat in trade unions,
(3) The Chinese
communists were able to form themselves from different groups into a mass party
of five or six thousand people;
(4) The Chinese
proletariat was able to create the first nuclei of the peasants’ organisations,
the peasants' associations; and
(5) The CPC was able to penetrate into the Army.
For the CPC, which at the time was a relatively
small force, these were enormous gains.
On 12 April 1927, the national bourgeoisie deserted
the revolution and established a counter-revolutionary centre in Nanking. At this point in time the petty-bourgeois intelligentsia sided with the
revolution, and a revolutionary centre was set up in Wuhan.
In this period the allies of the proletariat were:
(i) the peasantry; (ii) the urban poor, and (iii) the petty-bourgeois
intelligentsia. It would have been wrong during this period, when the
left-wing of the KMT had not yet disgraced itself, to have withdrawn from the
Wuhan KMT; Wuhan at this time was the centre of the revolution.
The gains of the Wuhan period were:
(1) The Communist Party, from being an
insignificant party of 5,000 to 6,000 members became a party comprising 50,000
or 60,000 members
(2) Trade unions grew into
a tremendous force and they came to include 3 million members;
organisations expanded to include several tens of millions of peasants in them;
(4) The Communist Party
gained the possibility of openly organising the revolution;
(5) The Communist Party
and the proletariat began to change from just being an insignificant factor
into the hegemon of the Chinese Revolution. It became the most important factor
of the revolution, rallying around itself the masses of the Chinese people.
Such were the achievements of this period.
A correct policy cannot by itself guarantee victory
When the Wuhan Kuomintang, when the left
Kuomintang, deserted the revolution, the Trotskyist opposition started saying
that this was because the Communist International had followed a wrong policy.
But a correct policy cannot by itself guarantee victory. What is required for
success to be achieved is not only a correct policy, but also a favourable
balance of class forces. If the forces of reaction are stronger, the revolution
may be defeated even though it is guided by a correct policy. One thing,
however, is certain: for success to be achieved, in addition to a favourable
balance of class forces, a correct policy, a correct programme and tactics, are
This is what Stalin had
to say on the question under consideration:
ascribes the temporary defeat of the revolution [in China - HB] to the Comintern's policy.” But “only people who have broken with
Marxism can say that. Only people who have broken with Marxism can demand that
a correct policy should always and necessarily lead to immediate victory over
the enemy” (Stalin: Notes on Contemporary Themes - China, ‘Pravda’,
July 28th 1927)
“A correct policy is by
no means bound to lead always and without fail to direct victory over the
enemy. Direct victory over the enemy is not determined by correct policy alone:
it is determined first and foremost by the correlation of the class forces, by
a marked preponderance of strength on the side of the revolution, by
disintegration in the enemy's camp, by a favourable international situation.
“Only given those conditions can a correct
policy of the proletariat lead to direct victory.
“But there is one obligatory requirement which a
correct policy must satisfy always and under all conditions. That requirement
is that the party's policy must enhance the fighting capacity of the
proletariat, multiply its ties with the labouring masses, increase its prestige
among these masses, and convert the proletariat into the hegemon of the
“Can it be affirmed that this past period has
presented the maximum favourable conditions for the direct victory of the revolution
in China? Clearly, it cannot.
“Can it be affirmed that Communist policy in China has not enhanced the fighting capacity of the proletariat, has not multiplied its
ties with the broad masses, and has not increased its prestige among these
masses? Clearly, it cannot.
“Only the blind could fail to see that the
Chinese proletariat has succeeded in this period in severing the broad masses
of the peasantry both from the national bourgeoisie and from the
petty-bourgeois intelligentsia, so as to rally them around its own standard”
(Stalin, ibid; my emphasis - HB).
Owing to the correct policy pursued by the CPC
during this period, its ties with the broad masses and its prestige among them
increased enormously. Even the Trotskyist opposition, during this period,
declared that it was correct for the CPC to pursue the policy of a
revolutionary bloc with the Wuhan KMT.
But as soon as Wuhan deserted the revolution, and
because of this desertion, the opposition began to assert that the policy of a
bloc with the Wuhan KMT was incorrect and sought to attribute the temporary
defeat of the Chinese Revolution to the policy of the Comintern, thus showing
its spinelessness, its break with Marxism and departure from the second
tactical principle of Leninism - the need for the proletariat to secure for
itself mass allies.
The third tactical principle: the question of educating the masses
This concerns the question of educating the masses;
the question of how a slogan for the party can become a slogan for the masses.
How must the communists lead the masses to revolutionary positions, so that
they (the masses) become convinced by their own political experience of the
correctness of the Party's slogan? How must the Communist Party lead the masses
in order to turn a formula, a perspective for the immediate future, into a
formula as a slogan of the day? How must the communists really act? This is of
Trotskyites will always tell you “we were the
first to tell you that the national bourgeoisie will desert”. Comrades, it
isn’t a question of playing a game, it is not a question at all of who was the
first one to tell us that the national bourgeoisie will desert. That is
absolutely stupid. The question is what policy you advocate at a given
particular time - a policy which is suited to the situation, and which neither
runs too far ahead of the masses, nor lags behind them. If you are issuing a
slogan long before the masses will accept it then it isn’t good enough for you
at a later date to say that you were the first one to issue that particular
The communist party must see further than the
masses, but at the same time it must not run far ahead of them. If the
communist party follows the tactics of perpetually overshooting or
undershooting, such tactics cannot be called long-range tactics; these are
The conception of the
United Front advocated
The opposition never tired of referring to a single
telegram sent by the Comintern in October 1926, which said: “Until Shanghai is captured, the agrarian movement should not be intensified”.
This telegram was wrong and Stalin admitted that it
was. And the Comintern cancelled it within five weeks of its despatch.
The facts need to be noted in regard to this
1. It was the Communist International and
Stalin who were responsible for cancelling this telegram and not the
2. The first time the opposition ever raised
this matter of the telegram, was nine months after this telegram had actually
This telegram was an isolated, episodic affair;
completely uncharacteristic of the line impressed on the CPC by the Comintern.
The line of the Comintern is contained in a number
of well known documents which are conveniently ignored by the Trotskyite and
other falsifiers of history.
In these the Comintern calls upon the CPC to “consolidate
its alliance with the peasantry”, to “put forward a radical agrarian
programme” and to identify itself “with the agrarian revolution”.
Here is an excerpt from the resolution (a document
which really defines the line of the Comintern) of the Seventh Plenum of the
Comintern, in November 1926, that is a month after the above- mentioned
“The peculiar feature of the present situation
is its transitional character, the fact that the proletariat must choose
between the prospect of a bloc with considerable sections of the bourgeoisie
and the prospect of further consolidating its alliance with the peasantry. If
the proletariat fails to put forward a radical agrarian programme, it will be
unable to draw the peasantry into revolutionary struggle and will forfeit its
hegemony in the national liberation move-ment” (‘Resolution of the
Seventh Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Communist International’) (my
emphasis - HB).
“The Canton People's Government will not be able
to retain power in the revolution, will not be able to achieve complete victory
over foreign imperialism and native reaction until the cause of national
liberation is identified with the agrarian revolution” (my emphasis
Allow me to quote some passages from the speech
that Stalin made in November of the same year - 1926. Stalin's speech was
published under the heading The prospects of the revolution in China. It is this speech, and not the above telegram, which is characteristic of the
line of Stalin and that of the Comintern on the Chinese Revolution.
Here is what Stalin said in his speech:
“I know that there are Kuomintangists and even
Chinese communists who do not consider it possible to unleash revolution in the
countryside, since they fear that if the peasantry were drawn into the
revolution it would disrupt the united anti-imperialist front. That is a
profound error, comrades. The more quickly and thoroughly the Chinese
peasantry is drawn into the revolution, the stronger and more powerful the
anti-imperialist front in China will be.”
“I know that among the Chinese communists there
are comrades who do not approve of workers going on strike for an improvement
of their material conditions and legal status, and who try to dissuade the
workers from striking. (A voice: ‘That happened in Canton and Shanghai’) That
is a great mistake, comrades. It is a very serious underestimation of the role
and importance of the Chinese proletariat. This fact should be noted in the
theses as something decidedly objectionable. It would be a great mistake if the
Chinese communists failed to take advantage of the present favourable
situation to assist the workers to improve their material conditions and legal
status, even through strikes. Otherwise, what purpose does the revolution in China serve?” (Stalin: The Prospects of the Revolution in China).
Here is a third document of December 1926 which was
sent to the CPC by the Communist International:
“A general policy of retreat in the towns and of
curtailing the workers’ struggle to improve their conditions would be wrong.
The struggle in the countryside must be extended, but at the same time
advantage must be taken of the favourable situation to improve the material
conditions and legal status of the workers, while striving in every way to lend
the workers’ struggle an organised character, which precludes excesses or
running too far ahead. Special efforts must be exerted to direct the struggle
in the towns against the big bourgeoisie and, above all, against the
imperialists, so as to keep the Chinese petty bourgeoisie and middle
bourgeoisie as far as possible within the framework of the united front against
the common enemy. We regard the system of conciliation boards, arbitration courts,
etc., as expedient, provided a correct working-class policy is ensured in these
institutions. At the same time we think it necessary to utter the warning that
decrees directed against the right to strike, against workers' freedom of
assembly, etc., are absolutely impermissible”.
Here is a fourth document issued six seeks before
Chiang Kai-shek’s coup:
“The work of the Kuomintang and the Communist
units in the army must be intensified; they must be organised wherever they do
not now exist and it is possible to organise them; where it is not possible to
organise communist units, intensified work must be conducted with the help of
“It is necessary to adopt the course of arming
the workers and peasants and converting the peasant committees in the
localities into actual organs of governmental authority equipped with armed
“The Communist Party must everywhere come
forward as such; a policy of voluntary semi-legality is impermissible; the
Communist Party must not come forward as a brake on the mass movement; the
Communist Party should not cover up the treacherous and reactionary policy of
the Kuomintang Rights, and should mobilise the masses around the Kuomintang and
the Chinese Communist Party on the basis of exposing the Rights.
“The attention of all political workers who are
loyal to the revolution must be drawn to the fact that at the present time, in
connection with the regrouping of class forces and concentration of the
imperialist armies, the Chinese revolution is passing through a critical
period, and that it can achieve further victories only by resolutely adopting
the course of developing the mass movement. Otherwise a tremendous danger
threatens the revolution. The fulfilment of directives is therefore most necessary
than ever before” (Stalin: About China, the International Situation and
the Defence of the USSR, 1927, CW Vol X).
In fact, as early as April 1926, a year before the
coup staged by the Kuomintang Rights and Chiang Kai-shek, the Comintern had
warned the Chinese Communist Party, and pointed out that it was necessary to
work for the “resignation or expulsion of the Rights from the Kuomintang”.
The above documents clearly reveal the Comintern
tactics of a United Front against imperialism during the first stage - the Canton period - of the Chinese Revolution, when the revolution was striking its blows
chiefly at foreign imperialism, and when the national bourgeoisie found itself
in the revolutionary camp and supported the revolutionary movement.
All these documents were known to the opposition,
but it carefully avoided mentioning them. As Stalin said: “Why does it
[the opposition] say nothing about them [the above documents]? Because
its aim is to raise a squabble, not to bring out the truth” (Speech to a
Joint Plenum of the Central Committee of the Central Control Commission of the
CPSU, 1 August 1927).
Stalin went on to refer to the February- March 1926
Sixth Plenum of the Comintern at which a unanimous resolution was passed, and
which gave approximately the same estimate of the first stage of the Chinese
Revolution (the Canton period) as given by the Comintern, which the opposition
repudiated a year later. Zinoviev voted for this resolution, and not a single
member of the CC of the Comintern, not even Trotsky, Kamenev or other leaders
of the opposition, objected to it.
The second stage of the
Chinese Revolution: the Wuhan period
The opposition was to assert that the Comintern had
failed to warn the CPC of the possible desertion of the left Kuomintang to the
side of counter-revolution. This assertion is refuted by two documents of May
1927, in which the Comintern impressed on the CPC the need to develop the
agrarian revolution systematically; to organise eight or ten divisions of
revolutionary peasants and workers with absolutely reliable officers; to
organise and intensity disintegrating activities in the rear and in Chiang
Kai-shek’s units; and to draw in new peasant and working-class leaders into the
CC of the KMT, in order that their bold voices may stiffen the backs of the old
leaders or effect their removal.
“Dependence upon unreliable generals must be
eliminated. Mobilise about 20,000 communists, and about 50,000
revolutionary workers and peasants from Hunan and Hupeh, form several new army
corps, use the students at the officers' school as commanders and organise
your own reliable army before it is too late. If this is not done there is no
guarantee against failure. It is a difficult matter, but there is no
“Organise a Revolutionary Military Tribunal
headed by prominent non-communist Kuomintangists. Punish officers who
maintain contact with Chiang Kai-shek or who incite the soldiers against the
people, the workers and peasants. Persuasion is not enough. It is time to
act. Scoundrels must be punished. If the Kuomintangists do not learn to be
revolutionary Jacobins they will perish so far as the people and the revolution
are concerned” (see Stalin’s speech of 1st August 1927) (Stalin’s
Summation of the Errors
of the Opposition
At this stage, it would be extremely useful to sum
up the errors of the Trotskyist opposition on the question of the Chinese
Revolution in the following words of Stalin:
“The chief mistakes of the opposition are:
“(1) The opposition does not understand the
character and prospects of the Chinese Revolution;
“(2) The opposition sees no difference between
the revolution in China and the revolution in Russia, between revolution in
colonial countries and revolution in imperialist countries;
“(3) The opposition is departing from Leninist
tactics, on the question of the attitude to the national bourgeoisie in
colonial countries at the first stage of the revolution;
“(4) The opposition does not understand the
question of the Communists’ participation in the Kuomintang;
“(5) The opposition is violating the principles
of Leninist tactics on the question of the relations between the vanguard (the
party) and the rearguard (the vast masses of the working people);
“(6) The opposition is departing from the
resolutions of the Sixth and Seventh Plenums of the Executive Committee of the
“The opposition noisily brags about its policy
on the Chinese question and asserts that if that policy had been adopted the
situation in China today [i.e. August 1st, 1927 - HB] would be better
than it is. It scarcely needs proof that, considering the gross mistakes
committed by the opposition, the Chinese Communist Party would have landed
in a complete impasse had it adopted the anti-Leninist and adventurist policy
of the opposition [my emphasis - HB].
“The fact that the Communist Party of China has
in a short period grown from a small group of five or six thousand into a mass
party of 60,000 members; the fact that the CPC has succeeded in organising nearly
3,000,000 proletarians in trade unions during the period; the fact that the CPC
has succeeded in rousing the many millions of the peasantry from their torpor
and in drawing tens of millions of peasants into the revolutionary peasant
associations; the fact that the CPC has succeeded during this period in winning
over whole regiments and divisions of national troops; the fact that the CPC
has succeeded during this period in converting the idea of the hegemony of the
proletariat from an aspiration into a reality - the fact that the CPC has
succeeded in a short period in achieving all these gains is due, among
other things, to its having followed the path outlined by Lenin, the path
indicated by the Comintern.
“Needless to say, if the policy of the
opposition, with its mistakes and anti-Leninist line on questions of colonial
revolution, had been followed, these gains of the Chinese revolution would
either not have been achieved at all, or would have been extremely
“Only ‘ultra-left’ renegades and advent-urers
can doubt this” (ibid) (my emphasis - HB).
Defeats of 1927 mainly
due to opportunism of the Chen Tu-hsiu clique
The CPC’s successes and failures closely related to
whether or not it adhered to the line of the Comintern and of Stalin.
Headed by the notorious Chen Tu-hsiu, the CPC at
the time failed to deepen the agrarian revolution and thoroughly expose the KMT
Soon after the defeats of 1927, Chen Tu-hsiu was
defeated, after which he made an unsuccessful attempt to launch a Trotskyist
movement in China, and on 10 December 1929 made a statement that it was
necessary to “work undeviatingly on the side of the international opposition
led by Comrade Trotsky”.
As to the defeats of 1927, which were due to the
failure of the CPC, under his leadership, to carry out the policy advocated by
the Comintern and Stalin, he attempted to whitewash his own opportunist role
and blame Stalin for it with this malicious slander:
“I [Chen Tu-hsiu], whose understanding
was not sufficiently clear, whose opinion was not sufficiently resolute, deeply
mired in the atmosphere of opportunism, sincerely supported the
opportunist policy of the Third International. I unconsciously became an
instrument of the narrow Stalin faction; I did not have an opportunity to develop;
I could not save the party; I could not save the revolution...”.
The malicious lies in the above statement are
refuted not only by the subsequent victorious path traversed by the Chinese
Revolution under the brilliant leadership of Mao Zedong, but also the following
statement which the Executive Committee of the CPC issued on 7 August 1927 by
way of self-criticism.
“The Communist International has repeatedly
instructed the CPC to fight for the improvement of the material conditions of
the working masses. ... At the same time, the Communist International points
out that it is necessary to arm the workers speedily, boldly and resolutely,
especially those elements which are most class-conscious and best organised.
... But the leading organ of our Party has developed a different course. It
has simply hindered and minimised the class struggle and the revolutionary
actions of the workers. Instead of spreading and promoting strike
movements, the Central Committee, together with the leaders of the Kuomintang,
decided on an arbitrary method of mediation and ruled that the final authority
belonged to the government. Under the government of a coalition of classes, led
at this first stage by the bourgeoisie, this kind of policy actually served
merely to protect the interests of the bourgeoisie and greatly obstructed the
workers’ movement. ...
“The agrarian revolution is the crux of the
bourgeois-democratic revolution in China. The Communist International has
repeatedly explained itself concerning this question.
“The relation between the Party and the
Communist International was also not in accordance with accepted organisational
procedure. There has never been a case in the history of the Communist
International where the instructions and resolutions were actually rejected in
such a critical situation. This was no longer merely a simple breach
of discipline, but a criminal act against the Chinese and International
Communist movement. ... The Chinese Communist Party not only carried out an
erroneous policy, a policy that brought the revolution to defeat, that
voluntarily liquidated the revolution and capitulated to the enemy, but also
would not admit its errors and obey the instructions of the Communist
International...” (my emphasis - HB).
The truth contained in the above statement of the
CPC is further corroborated by the following extract borrowed from the
pamphlet, Stalin and the Chinese Revolution, by Chen Po-ta:
“The Chen Tu-hsiu opportunism of 1927 was
precisely opposed to this dialectical analysis [of the character of the
Chinese Revolution, according to which the Chinese Revolution was of an
anti-feudal as well as an anti-imperialist nature - HB] by Stalin. The Chen
Tu-hsiu opportunism later merged with counter-revolutionary Trotskyism. This is
well known and will not be dwelt on further.”
The opportunists in the CPC went so far as to
suppress Stalin’s writings on the Chinese Revolution. “Both in 1927 when
Chen Tu-hsiu was in power and afterwards, the opportunists either intentionally
or unintentionally obstructed the dissemination inside the Chinese Party of
Stalin's many works on the Chinese question” (Chen Po-ta, ibid).
“It should be pointed out in this connection
that during the twenty-odd years since 1927, the errors of both Right and
‘Left’ opportunism which occurred within our party were usually, in the first
place, violations of this dialectical analysis by Stalin regarding the nature
of the revolution, by overlooking either the anti-imperialist or the
anti-feudal aspect” (Chen Po-ta writing in 1949, ibid).
During the ten-year civil war period, the ‘left’
opportunists, forgetting the anti-imperialist character of the Chinese
Revolution, opposed the policy of joining the anti-imperialist united front.
However, during the Resistance to Japanese
aggression, these ‘left’ opportunists transformed themselves into right
opportunists, coming to hold views akin to those held by Chen Tu-hsiu. They
failed to realise the decisive significance of deepening the agrarian movement.
Stalin had precisely these people in mind when he
“I know that there are ... even Chinese
communists who do not consider it possible to unleash revolution in the
countryside, since they fear that if the peasantry were drawn into the
revolution it would disrupt the united anti-imperialist front”.
They forgot the Leninist teaching of Stalin that “the
anti-imperialist front in China will become stronger and more powerful, the
sooner and more solidly the Chinese peasantry is drawn into the revolution”.
They advocated giving up the leadership of the
proletariat. They “saw only the bourgeoisie” and failed to see a
future victory of the people’s democratic revolution and that of socialism.
They forgot the Leninist teaching of Stalin and of the Comintern on the Chinese
Revolution that “the role of the initiator and leader of the Chinese
Revolution, the role of the leader of the Chinese peasantry must inevitably
fall to the Chinese proletariat and its party”.
Mao Zedong applied the
Comintern line to China
It is indeed the great merit of Mao Zedong that he
fought courageously against the ‘Left’ and Right opportunist deviations within
the CPC; that he fought for the implementation of the Leninist policy advocated
by the Comintern and by Stalin; that he delivered crushing blows at the
dogmatists and the Rightists in the Chinese Party; and above all, that, he, in
a most creative way applied the Comintern line to the situation in China and in
so doing further developed it to a still higher stage. It was this skilful
integration, by the CPC, under the brilliant leadership of Mao Zedong, of the
line of the Comintern with the concrete practice of the Chinese Revolution
which, among other things, led to the success of the Chinese Revolution.
Under the brilliant leadership of Comrade Mao
Zedong, the CPC never for a moment ignored either the anti-imperialist or the
anti-feudal aspect of the Chinese Revolution. While carrying out its task of
leading the peasantry in the agrarian revolution, it never missed an
opportunity of broadening the anti-imperialist front of the Chinese Revolution
by forming a national united front, thereby also overcoming the isolation of
the agrarian revolution. The formation in 1937 of the anti-imperialist front at
the insistence of the CPC was a culmination of the brilliant tactics of the CPC
under the wise leadership of Comrade Mao Zedong.
The fact that the Chiang Kai-shek bandits were
forced to agree to a united front with the Communist Party in order to wage the
War of Resistance of the Chinese people against Japanese aggression was a
brilliant victory for the line of Mao Zedong, for the line of Stalin and that
of the Comintern. It was at the same time a refutation of the
counter-revolutionary nonsense of the Trotskyites.
It is also the great merit of Mao Zedong that under
his leadership, the CPC avoided the mistakes of the 1927 period and firmly
upheld the principle of the independence of the Communist Party within the
Anti-Japanese United Front as well as the principle of rousing the peasantry to
revolution. The CPC, under the leadership of Mao Zedong, fought against the
dogmatists when they opposed the formation of the United Front and advocated “overthrowing
everybody”. Comrade Mao Zedong addressed the dogmatists thus:
“You cannot overthrow those in power, so you
want to overthrow those who are not in power. They are already out of power,
yet, you still want to overthrow them.”
The CPC also fought against the dogmatists when,
during the War of Resistance against Japan, the latter swung over to advocating
“unity with everybody”.
So, it was by following the correct
Marxist-Leninist line in regard to the nature of the Chinese Revolution and in
the matter of tactics that the CPC, under the correct leadership of Comrade Mao
Zedong, was able to lead the Chinese people successfully to achieve the
People's Democratic Revolution and then pass over to achieve socialism in China.
Had the counter-revolutionary jumble, advocated by
the Trotskyite opposition, been followed by the CPC, it would certainly have
meant either the victory of imperialism or the establishment of the
dictatorship of the bourgeoisie in China. It could on no account result in the
establishment of the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat
and the peasantry under the leadership of the proletariat, leading in course of
time to the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
To those who sow
dissension between the lines of Mao Zedong and of Stalin
There are many Trotskyites, as well as those who
are not Trotskyites, who assert that there were fundamental differences between
Comrade Stalin and Comrade Mao Zedong; that Stalin did not render any
assistance to the Chinese Revolution and that he tried his best to betray the
cause of the liberation of the Chinese people. In view of these persistent
slanders and misrepresentations, I find it necessary to conclude my speech this
afternoon with a few remarks that Comrade Mao Zedong made in a speech delivered
by him on December 20th, 1939, on the occasion of the 60th birthday of Stalin.
This is what he said:
“However, there are friends of another kind,
friends who have real sympathy with us and regard us as brothers. Who are they?
They are the Soviet people and Stalin.
“No other country has renounced its privileges
in China; the Soviet Union alone has done so.
“All the imperialists opposed us during our
First Great Revolution; the Soviet Union alone helped us.
“No government of any imperialist country has
given us real help since the outbreak of the War of Resistance Against Japan; the Soviet Union alone has helped China with its aviation and supplies.
“Is not the point clear enough?
“Only the land of socialism, its leaders and
people, and socialist thinkers, statesmen and workers can give real help to the
cause of liberation of the Chinese nation and the Chinese people, and without
their help our cause cannot win final victory.
“Stalin is the true friend of the cause of
liberation of the Chinese people. No attempt to sow dissension, no lies and
calumnies, can affect the Chinese people's whole-hearted love and respect for
Stalin and our genuine friendship for the Soviet Union”. (Mao Zedong: Selected
No comment is necessary. These remarks of Comrade
Mao Zedong, the leader of the victorious Chinese Revolution, are more than
sufficient to refute the campaign of lies of the open, and hidden, Trotskyites,
who have been doing their best to “sow dissension” and cause confusion,
who have been trying their best to represent the revolutionary line of Mao
Zedong as being different from the revolutionary line of Stalin; these remarks
are more than sufficient to refute the slanderous propaganda, of ‘friends’ and
enemies alike, against Stalin.