The IMT (International Marxist Tendency) is a British based orthodox Trotskyist party. They have a branch in the US called the WIL, or Workers’ International League. This US branch has a branch here in Saint Louis. To their credit, the overwhelming majority of their members (I think they have like 6 or 7), are fairly decent personally, which is more than can be said for most Trotskyists, anyway. They show up to events, sell their papers, chant, and go home. Harmless enough, at least better than the other Trotskyist group here. That being said, personability doesn’t make up for horrible politics and positions. I came across a particularly atrocious “historical piece” from their website last week, titled China’s Long March to Capitalism. Now, I’m used to Trotskyist historical revisionism and hysterics whenever a revolution led by a party that doesn’t believe that Stalin was the most horrible man ever that singlehandedly oppressed and ate 30 million people down to the marrow comes to a successful conclusion, but this is some extra shit even for Trotskyists. Let’s take a look.
The article starts off by, grudgingly, stating that the Chinese Revolution was the second most important event in history, and goes on to state that it led to the abolition of landlordism and capitalism and with it the abolition of imperialist domination in a huge area of the globe. It’s fundamentally downhill from there. It goes on to state:
However, whereas the Russian revolution led to the setting up of a relatively healthy workers’ state established by the working class under the leadership of the Bolshevik party ‑ a revolutionary party with an internationalist outlook ‑ the 1949 Chinese Revolution led to the immediate setting up of a Stalinist deformed workers’ state.
Why did the Russian Revolution lead to the setting up of a relatively healthy workers’ state established by the working class, but the Chinese Revolution led to the immediate setting up of a “Stalinist deformed workers’ state?” Simple, because Trotsky was involved in the first and wasn’t in the second. The IMT asserts and arrogates for Trotsky a key and gamechanging role in the October Revolution, second only to Lenin. Trotskyists have a habit of defining “pure” socialism as anything that Trotsky had an even marginal role in, while denigrating anything that “Stalinists” played a leading role in. To do so they engage in remarkable mental and written gymnastics, outright manufacture of lies, and historical revisionism. The article goes on to boldly proclaim:
The most elemental conditions of workers’ democracy were lacking right from the very beginning. There were neither Soviets, nor workers’ control, nor real labour unions independent of the State, nor an authentic Marxist leadership. This was because the revolution was carried out under the leadership of the Stalinists at the head of a peasant army and was not based on the working class in the cities.
This is another boldfaced falsehood. What is “authentic Marxist leadership”? Apparently, to Trotskyists, not endangering one’s revolution, putting the lives of millions of people at risk, and adapting to conditions to ensure the success and victory of the revolution makes one not an “authentic Marxist”. This is part of why Trotskyism had no standing in the Black liberation struggle that waxed in the 1960s and early 1970s. Stale dogma that is to be mechanically applied and swallowed whole, negating or playing down actually existing conditions simply didn’t and doesn’t hold up in regards to the liberatory mission of the Black masses in the United States. Those who take Marxism as a guide to action for liberation, not a dogma or a blueprint, and are creative in application, are the authentic Marxists. The Trotskyist line on the military aspects of the Chinese Revolution, represented by Chen Duxiu, a founder of the Chinese Communist party, which is reprinted here in the call for basing the revolution on the working class in the cities and struggling within the Kuomintang to take over the leadership, was thoroughly shown as baseless and incorrect, and almost resulted in the destruction of the Communist Party when put into practice. This is another Trotskyist trademark, continuing to push failed lines and tactics despite their being defeated time and again.
Mao Zedong and the Chinese Stalinists formed a state in China in the image of Stalinist Russia – a monstrous bureaucratic caricature of a workers’ state and therefore the Chinese Revolution of 1949 began where the Russian Revolution ended. We have to remember that the Chinese revolution abolished capitalism in China in spite of the perspectives of the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party. Mao’s original perspective was that of one hundred years of capitalism. He had the Stalinist two-stages theory that stated that in a backward underdeveloped country socialist revolution was not possible and therefore the first stage would be “democratic”, i.e. bourgeois. Only after capitalism had developed would the struggle for socialism become possible. This theory was to be disproved by what happened once the Chinese Communists came to power.
Mao simply never said that there would be “one hundred years of capitalism”. What he did say, however, in On New Democracy (1940) was that:
This new-democratic republic will be different from the old European-American form of capitalist republic under bourgeois dictatorship, which is the old democratic form and already out of date. On the other hand, it will also be different from the socialist republic of the Soviet type under the dictatorship of the proletariat which is already flourishing in the U.S.S.R., and which, moreover, will be established in all the capitalist countries and will undoubtedly become the dominant form of state and governmental structure in all the industrially advanced countries. However, for a certain historical period, this form is not suitable for the revolutions in the colonial and semi-colonial countries. During this period, therefore, a third form of state must be adopted in the revolutions of all colonial and semi-colonial countries, namely, the new-democratic republic. This form suits a certain historical period and is therefore transitional; nevertheless, it is a form which is necessary and cannot be dispensed with…
Communism is at once a complete system of proletarian ideology and a new social system. It is different from any other ideology or social system, and is the most complete, progressive, revolutionary and rational system in human history. The ideological and social system of feudalism has a place only in the museum of history. The ideological and social system of capitalism has also become a museum piece in one part of the world (in the Soviet Union), while in other countries it resembles “a dying person who is sinking fast, like the sun setting beyond the western hills”, and will soon be relegated to the museum. The communist ideological and social system alone is full of youth and vitality, sweeping the world with the momentum of an avalanche and the force of a thunderbolt. The introduction of scientific communism into China has opened new vistas for people and has changed the face of the Chinese revolution. Without communism to guide it, China’s democratic revolution cannot possibly succeed, let alone move on to the next stage. This is the reason why the bourgeois die-hards are so loudly demanding that communism be “folded up”. But it must not be “folded up”, for once communism is “folded up”, China will be doomed. The whole world today depends on communism for its salvation, and China is no exception.
Everybody knows that the Communist Party has an immediate and a future programme, a minimum and a maximum programme, with regard to the social system it advocates. For the present period, New Democracy, and for the future, socialism; these are two parts of an organic whole, guided by one and the same communist ideology. Is it not, therefore, in the highest degree absurd to clamour for communism to be “folded up” on the ground that the Communist Party’s minimum programme is in basic agreement with the political tenets of the Three People’s Principles? It is precisely because of this basic agreement between the two that we Communists find it possible to recognize “the Three People’s Principles as the political basis for the anti-Japanese united front” and to acknowledge that “the Three People’s Principles being what China needs today, our Party is ready to fight for their complete realization”; otherwise no such possibility would exist. Here we have a united front between communism and the Three People’s Principles in the stage of the democratic revolution, the kind of united front Dr. Sun Yat-sen had in mind when he said: “communism is the good friend of the Three People’s Principles.” To reject communism is in fact to reject the united front. The die-hards have concocted absurd arguments for the rejection of communism. Just because they want to reject the united front and practice their one-party doctrine.
New Democracy is a specific, anti-imperialist, transitional stage for semi-colonial and colonial countries, not “100 years of capitalism”. It’s explicitly a break with the old bourgeois-democratic revolution, the era of which ended with WWI. There was never any withdrawal or “folding up” of communism. Nor did he have any phony illusions about the fact that China was to be a socialist country, and certainly didn’t embrace a line that stated that capitalism must first develop fully in China before socialism could exist. The principles of New Democracy are developed to loose colonial/semi-colonial countries from the shackles of imperialism, and are derived from the actual experience of making revolution in a country of that type. The Trotskyists’ Eurocentered dogma, divorced from reality and conditions, simply doesn’t hold good for making revolution in countries like China and Vietnam, where the primary contradiction was between the imperialists and their comprador lackies and the masses of freedom loving people who sought to destroy imperialism.The New Democratic Revolution is a part of the world proletarian socialist revolution, an ally and fighting comrade of the proletariat in capitalist countries. The IMT can’t fathom the New Democratic Revolution because they’re wrenched from the reality of the masses of people in the world who struggle in semi-feudal, semi-colonial conditions and instead choose to center themselves squarely in Europe. To them, all worthwhile development of theory or practice (which is notoriously scanty) ended with the death of Trotsky in 1940. The article goes on to say:
However, the bureaucracy had many shortcomings. In particular it had a narrow nationalist outlook which was characteristic of all the Stalinist regimes. Had China and Russia been genuine workers’ states they would have come together in a Socialist Federation with the countries of Eastern Europe and developed an international plan of production using in a combined and rational manner the human and material resources of all these countries. Instead ‑ as the Marxists had predicted ‑ the national outlook of both the Chinese and Soviet bureaucracies eventually brought about a conflict.
This led to the Sino-Soviet split in 1960. The Soviet bureaucracy had attempted to bring China within its “sphere of influence”. This the Chinese bureaucracy could not tolerate and as Mao had not come to power on the basis of an advancing Russian army (as in most East European countries) he had his own independent base similar to that of Tito. The Marxists in fact pointed out at the time that Stalin would have another Tito on his hands. As the conflict erupted, the Russian Stalinists withdrew all their aid, experts and so on, dealing a serious blow at Chinese development at the time. It was after this that the Chinese bureaucracy embarked on the utterly reactionary road of autarchy, isolating China from the rest of the world economy and thus from the international division of labour.
Where’s the narrow nationalist outlook? Every honest Communist knows that the People’s Republic of China in the Socialist era offered material assistance and support out of the spirit of proletarian internationalism to liberation movements and newly liberated countries around the world, from Vietnam to Cuba. It was also a firm friend of the Black liberation struggle waged in the United States. Socialism can exist in one country, this is what meshes with the facts regardless of the Trotskyists’ hysterical yammerings to the contrary. Class struggle continues under socialism and antagonistic classes continue to exist, those who would restore capitalism must be struggled against, bourgeois rights (discrepancies between mental and manual labor, etc.) must be combated and restricted, and communist relations must be consciously enacted through relying on and using the enthusiasm of the masses of workers and peasants for socialism. This is what the Chinese experience of socialist construction teaches us. Socialism can exist, and must be defended against capitalist restoration from newly engendered capitalist elements.The Trotskyite article also, annoyingly and arrogantly, continues to call the Trotskyists of this time “the Marxists”, and calls the Chinese path to socialist development and self sufficiency “autarky”. Perhaps if the PRC should have relied on the Trotskyists’ exports of arrogant bluster and bombast and newspapers! This article also simplifies the Sino-Soviet split, the worsening of relations due to the two-line struggle between the Soviet revisionists under Nikita Khrushchev and Leonid Brezhnev, portraying it simply as a conflict between two stagnant, Stalinist deformed workers’ states. No mention of the capture of state power in the USSR by the bourgeoisie represented by Khrushchev and the attack on Stalin’s legacy in 1956 is made, nor is the Chinese Communist Party’s response and subsequent back and forth struggle between revisionism and actual genuine Marxism-Leninism seriously engaged with or discussed. What there is plenty of, however, is hollow and baseless dogmatic blustering and arrogance that is rooted in nothing material or real. This is especially obvious once the section “dealing” with the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution is read.
Between 1949 and 1957 average annual growth rate of the Chinese economy was 11%, and in the period from 1957 to 1970, industrial production continued to grow at 9%, far higher than in the capitalist world (in the same period India’s growth rate was less than half that of China’s.) In 1952 China was still only producing 1000 tractors per year, an indication that agriculture was still very primitive. By 1976 China was producing 190,000 tractors per year.
All this was achieved in spite of the disruption of adventures such as the Great Leap Forward in 1958 and the Cultural Revolution in 1966. The Great leap Forward was responsible for a serious drop in agricultural production, leading to a famine that took the lives of 15 million Chinese and between 1967 and 1968 there was a fall of 15% in industrial production, producing a sharp fall in the living standards of the masses. After these two major disruptions in economic development, the economy recovered thanks to the state plan.
Apparently, attempts to rectify that which the Trotskyists criticize “Stalinism” for are simply disruptive adventures. Deng Xiaoping, Liu Shaoqi, Peng Dehuai, and Lin Piao agree, as does Confucius. The Eurocentric and dogmatist Trotskyists can’t fathom the construction of socialism outside of their hard nosed and shamefully Eurocentric (which the IMT has a fig leaf for in the form of a relatively active branch in Pakistan) dogma.
The Great Leap Forward had errors, like all new things. The general line was to shift emphasis away from overfocus on heavy industry to promote development of agriculture and light industry, which would provide a base for the building of heavy industry (this was a rectification of a major error of Stalin’s), reduce the gap between town and countryside, and between the people, particularly between worker and peasant. Essentially, it was a revolution not just in economics, but in technology, politics, society and culture to fundamentally transform both town and countryside. This movement resulted in the organization of millions of people into communes, which undertook projects ranging from manufacture of tractors to forestry projects. Left deviations, the “communist wind”, such as efforts to collectivize small articles of peasant property, such as chickens and pigs, levelling off of “poor” and “rich” production brigades (which caused resentment among the latter, and excessive demand for labor without compensation/capital accumulation to the detriment of the peasants in regards to shares were the three major errors. These errors were corrected, and the Great Leap Forward was a major advance in revolutionizing the face of China. This was no adventure, this was revolution. The Cultural Revolution was the furthest advance of socialism to date, with the masses of Chinese workers and peasants taking active roles in advancing communist relations, criticizing and actively struggling against capitalist restoration in the country, and revolutionizing the structure of society, with workers managing factories and cadres engaging in production, students revolutionizing schools, and the mass movements unfolding massive criticism of revisionists within the party and within society. Obstinate party bureaucrats, the bane of the Trotskyists, were overthrown, and millions of people made revolution in all aspects of society. But, it was an adventure that stymied China, so say the Trotskyists! This shows, again, the limitations and stubbornness of their dogma, and they unite with revisionists and capitalist reactionaries the world over in portraying the Cultural Revolution as a mass purge of bureaucrats personally commanded by Mao himself, who is constantly called a Bonapartist dictator.
Although the planned economy allowed the Soviet Union to make tremendous progress in the development of the means of production, it still lagged far behind the advanced capitalist countries. But so long as the bureaucracy was developing the productive forces a relative stability was guaranteed to the Stalinist regime. Indeed in the 1930s not only were the productive forces being developed, they were developing at a much faster rate than in the capitalist world. This explains the resilience of the Stalinist regime in that period and also why the pro-capitalist tendencies within the bureaucracy could not yet crystallize into a viable force.
Trotsky, however, also explained that at a certain stage in its development the bureaucracy, from being a relative fetter, would become an absolute fetter on the development of the means of production. The rate of growth would slow down and this would reopen the possibility of capitalist restoration. This is what happened in the 1960s and 1970s. Economic growth in the Soviet Union first slowed to a level comparable to that of the capitalist West and then ground to a halt.
The Trotskyists here unite with Deng Xiaoping style revisionists and capitalist roaders, who also embraced the economistic “theory of productive forces” and didn’t grasp the necessity of relying on the masses of people, making revolution in the superstructure, and grasping revolution to promote production, instead putting experts and development of the productive forces in command. This was a major criticism of Stalin (who initially obtained this bad line, and others, in the first place from Trotsky himself), expressed by Mao:
“For a long time Stalin refused to recognize that under the socialist system contradictions between the relations of production and the forces of production and contradictions between the superstructure and the economic base continue to exist. It was only when he wrote Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR one year before his death that he hesitantly discussed the contradictions between the relations of production and the forces of production under the socialist system and said that if policies were incorrect or improperly regulated, problems would arise. Even so, he still did not present [the problem of] contradictions under a socialist system between the relations and the forces of production and between the superstructure and the economic base as an issue of overall significance, he still did not recognize that these contradictions are the basic contradictions that propel socialist society forward. He thought that his state was secure. We mustn’t think that the state is secure; it is secure and, at the same time, insecure.”
Essentially, this long screed is an example of the dead ended, Eurocentric, and frozen in time nature of Trotskyism as an ideology. While the Chinese Revolution and the socialist construction experience from 1949-1976 produced several new and universal military, philosophical and theoretical contributions to the arsenal of the world proletariat in the long march to the worldwide victory of Communism, Trotskyism as represented by the International Marxist Tendency is, fundamentally, a relic that has nothing of note or of import to offer the liberation project. It is rooted historically and theoretically in the Europe of the early 20th century, and, instead of adapting to changing conditions and developments, chooses instead to stubbornly remain rooted in the mind of a defeated man who undoubtedly participated with some distinction in the revolutionary project in Russia, but who held horribly incorrect lines and turned around theories, and was wrong more often than not the results of which were, ironically, shown to be flawed in practice when tested on that field by Stalin. This article and others where the IMT tries to tackle the Chinese Revolution are marked by dishonesty, divorce from reality, and an obvious lack of investigation free from dogmato-sectarian cherrypicking, and oftentimes delves into ludicrous fantasy, exemplified in the closing to another article.
On the basis of experience, the Chinese workers, peasants, students and intellectuals will rediscover the great revolutionary traditions of the past. The new generation will embrace the ideas of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky and Chen Duxiu, the founder of Chinese Communism and its true heir. Napoleon once said of China: “When this giant awakens, the world will tremble.” We echo these words, with an amendment: the giant that is destined to shake the world is none other than the mighty Chinese proletariat. We look forward with impatience to the hour of that awakening.