Internet Statement 2004-41


On an article and a debate with Michael Opperskalski

What a criticism of revisionism and what an attempt to justify the former policy of the DKP ! 

On questions concerning the policy of the Communist Party of China during the sixties and seventies

In the present debates led by many groups and organisations, as mirrored in the newspaper ”Offensiv”, among others, it could be noted for a long time that a stop was made at very important questions of the communist movement. In this way, the debate with the CPCh about revisionism has been omitted, although the criticism exerted by this party between 1956 and 1966 and continuously until 1976 had an especially fundamental and forward-looking character, which was proven by history, reflecting the experience of this party from many years of initially non-antagonistic and later on antagonistic debate with the CPSU. Michael Opperskalski’s article "Wie weiter? - Einige Thesen zur Situation der kommunistischen Bewegung" (”How to go on? – Some theses about the situation of the communist movement”) 1 was a certain exception, as here an author from the ranks of the former Deutsche Kommunistische Partei (DKP) 2 happens to go into these questions, which strongly concern it. For a long time Michael Opperskalski, a representative of the DKP, has been dealing from within this party with fundamental questions of the movement and also with the discussion with other parties. On the one hand it was his position that triggered a certain interest in this article. On the other hand it was the opportunity for a direct dispute about these essential questions  which occurred at the author’s lecture with quite a similar content on Jan. 12, 2004 in Berlin. Prospects were discussed, too. This not only touched the history of the debate on revisionism, but it also gave rise to deal with another article by Michael Opperskalski (together with Frank Flegel), on the so-called EAL, the ”European Anticapitalistic Left”. 3

Which kind of criticism of revisionism?

Using this idea of an EAL several organisations, parts of the DKP including, attempted to create a party which, so to say, fills in  the gap created by the openly liberal and rightist development of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) and the ”Partei des Demokratischen Sozialismus” (PDS) 4, which both suffer from a decline of credibility. More or less this is a plan to set up a new social democratic party, created by forces which have been claiming to be revolutionaries up to now. Several Trotskyite organisations have also joined, Linksruck 5 and SAV 6 for example.

In the above-mentioned article, quite correctly, several points are showing what this EAL approach is all about. Basically this is a new bourgeois-revisionist party under construction.  However, what is left to be criticised in this paper: where occurs the self-critical reflection of the DKP concerning its own former role of many years? Today, fortunately, several representatives of the DKP criticise the XX. party congress of the CPSU and, in general, the obvious revisionist decay of the Soviet Union and the former socialist camp, which had lead to their dissolution and annihilation. However, it is impossible to overlook the part which revisionism played in Europe and the world. Let us look at  our own experience. We experienced that whoever criticised revisionism in the end of the sixties/beginning of the seventies, was immediately, almost as by reflex , put into a rightist corner. One could not even dare to quote these points and to criticise the revisionist line of the CPSU. Harpal Brar, whose explanations we have to contradict clearly at several points, described quite impressively at an event in Berlin on August 12, 2002, how he, too, had experienced the same during the sixties.

If one only touched upon the fact that with Nikita Sergejevich Khrushchov a political line was present which amounted to a co-operation with the US against the international revolutionary movement, which by all measures contained a nuclear complicity, or even if one criticised minor points as for example the CPSU’s faulty propaganda of a general parliamentary way, closely connected to the aforementioned points, an incredible defamation and isolation was started. The whole communist movement was set under pressure amounting to the isolation of single representatives, who had criticised this.  As a matter of fact also the DKP participated in this play after the late foundation in 1968.

Thus the revisionism of those times must not be belittled or even completely denied in its practical importance, when criticising the revisionism in new approaches of today. What happened then, and why it happened, must not be denied and must be investigated. We don’t think that today the door should be shown to the Marxist-Leninist forces with the argument: you supported this or that at that time. On the contrary, one should talk about these matters. In every discussion, however, it is important to approach  every question bluntly, to make an end to any form of cowardice facing certain historical questions, as exactly this was what  has caused immeasurable damage to the debate with modern revisionism.

Kurt Gossweiler 7 once said that limiting the damage vis a vis the revisionist line was what they always strove to do in the German Democratic Republic. Exactly this behaviour is unable to lead to a fruitful struggle against such a stubborn wrong line. Covering up historical facts, evading what actually presses the movement, leads exactly to our being rolled over by the circumstances thus evaded. No, it doesn’t matter if certain serious and especially faulty things, even if communists temporarily changed to the other end, are discussed here, and contradictions are explained.

After I explained this to Michael Opperskalski, he said that he felt uncomfortable talking to people like me, that is from the so-called former ”Chinese” direction, because one would here be branded counterrevolutionary. This, however, I had not done.

I expressed clearly that such a reply serves to head off criticism. I had only wanted to stress this for the purpose of really uncovering and bringing out contradictions. It will be left to see if there is readiness to  face the brute facts. In the very same manner, by the way, we set about uncovering and mercilessly bringing to light, let us say, rightist phenomena in the Marxist-Leninist movement. This cannot be but useful. In this respect we can learn unconditionally from Marx and Engels who in fact analysed so thoroughly and mercilessly their own socialist sphere, but never intended to either ”destroy”  individuals or meant to cut off  these person’s journey through life. No, they proceeded in such a way as to mercilessly criticise the contents, but not to defame the persons. 8

In the course of the evening a vehement discussion developed about questions of the debate with modern revisionism, at last! During the further course some of the core questions which had moved the communist movement during the past decades were discussed more extensively. At the end of the evening there was an unanimous mood prevailing that this discussion must be continued. Hopefully this will be sticked to, as , of course, this is not by chance that this discussion had been evaded for such a long time. There are strong forces in the camp of revisionism and in capital itself which want and have to  prevent this important key discussion.

How are, however, the subjects touched?

In the article "Wie weiter? Einige Thesen zur Situation der kommunistischen Bewegung" Michael Opperskalski takes stock, from his point of view, of the present situation. There are some starting points in it, which for once do not evade those questions mentioned above; so we want to pursue them. About the development of the international communist movement it is said here:

”Crisis and decay of the communist world movement are – in spite of several exceptions (!) – closely tied to the role and development of revisionism,. which created the preconditions for the counter-revolution in the socialist countries and led the decomposition of the communist parties' political and ideological basis alike.”   (Translations of all quotations are ours)

This is in many respects correct. We want to say about it that it is our basic opinion that revisionism’s take over means the bourgeoisie’s seizure of power in the country. If this power is consolidated, this state has changed political ends. Such a process may, of course, be protracted; socialist structures may continue to exist in a country which put up resistance; there may be a longer to and fro which restricts revisionist usurpers. But in its essence this process must be seen as such. The counter-revolution is started with revisionism itself and not only after many decades when revisionism leads to the complete decay and  society is finally completely adapted to the interests of other imperialists, for example the interests of Western imperialists.

”The Chinese comrades were not willing to follow the orientations of the XX. party congress and, in the subsequent years, started public, Marxist-Leninist polemics against its decisions. This position was followed only by a minority in the communist world movement, part of which finally was also willing to publicly take sides with the Chinese comrades and to carry out -  in whichever way -  an organisational break-up with the ‘other camp’.”

This is a statement largely agreeable. However, it must not be forgotten that there was also a number of large parties which supported the Marxist-Leninist position. It is all too often forgotten that until 1965 the Communist Party of Indonesia had existed, which was butchered down by a merciless counter-revolution with the US at the bottom. Already then the US summoned everything in order to block this large party’s way. It started with methods of provocation and continued with the instigation of Islamism, and finished in Suharto’s brutal military-bureaucratic dictatorship. And with regard to all countries it  must be stressed here, what has already been mentioned: the extraordinary pressure exerted against all those who attempted to criticise revisionism.

Let us move on:

”If from the side of the Beijing-led ‘camp’ of the communist world movement  there were only few left-sectarian tones to be heard in the beginning, they intensified during the following years, and with the emergence of Maoism as an ideological concept they became the dominant ideological-political factor of this ‘camp’. Finally the Maoists were even willing, on the base of  theoretical concepts like ‘theory of social fascism’, ‘Three-Worlds-Theory’ etc., which had meanwhile been established, to side with US imperialism in its struggle against the ‘Soviet social imperialists’, what included the open support for counter-revolutionary forces. Any possible resistance against this development was smashed within the CPCh in the course of the so-called ‘cultural revolution’. Up to today, a Marxist-Leninist analysis of this phase in its development has been missing in the CPCh, as well as its comprehensive critical incorporation, and consequently the Chinese party has not returned so far to consistently anti-revisionist, Marxist-Leninist positions. On the contrary, after the abortion of the ideological concept of Maoism, as advocated by Mao Zedong, a development of classical revisionist positions can be observed in the CPCh.”

Here some casual theses about different periods are dropped without further ado. Nothing is treated concretely, there is no discussion of the Polemics 9 and its fundamental commentaries. These theses are wrong, and no reasons are given. True is that modern revisionism itself is of a counter-revolutionary character.

On the question, which kind of left-sectarian tones had occurred, it was answered that this was still to be elaborated, they did not  know yet. Now we wait for the assessment of the last commentaries, for example the ninth commentary of the Great Polemics, and where the left-sectarian tones are to be found there. Grounds are required for this, indeed. We think that this has to be looked upon differently and that all those who give thoughtless judgements about the Cultural Revolution  need to consider other points.

About the role of the Communist Party of China

The CPCh under the leadership of Mao Zedong led three revolutionary wars: the first civil war until 1937, the complicated anti-Japanese war in a coalition with Chiang Kai-shek and the simultaneous resistance against his attempts to crush the communists, finally, the large second civil war (1945-49), in which to the surprise of many people the CPCh under the leadership of Mao Zedong proved to be a truly gigantic force, which expelled Chiang Kai-shek, who was supported by the Western imperialists and got every kind of weapons in large quantities, from the mainland, so that he could not do anything but to hide behind the US warships on the island of Taiwan. In particular this last revolution was pushed ahead by the CPCh’s own forces. The support by the Soviet Union existed, however,  inasmuch as it beat the Japanese army of more than one million soldiers out of Northern China, the province of Heilungkaing (Manchuria), where it had entrenched itself, during the last phase of the anti-Japanese war (1945), and moreover inasmuch as it strengthened the proletarian revolution as a general force.

The CPCh, which because of the objective conditions had to lean on the peasants as the principal mass force and on  a relatively – in terms of  percentage – small proletariat, internationally it also leaned on the leading Soviet force, too, of course. If this leading force changed its fundamental policy towards revisionism, then there is no need to comment that also the revolutionary forces in China itself were enormously weakened.

From 1956 on, Mao Zedong had to deal with massive attempts to drive him out of the concrete leading activity of the CPCh, as well as other revolutionaries, in order to push through a bourgeois revisionist policy also in China, either in a creeping manner or openly, and all the strength of the revolutionaries was needed to smash the base of revisionism in China, which existed there exactly as it did in other socialist countries.  Based on the fact that Mao Zedong had lead the revolutionary war in China for many decades, and therefore was of extraordinary importance for the revolution, what goes also for the political leadership surrounding him, they were able to summon great abilities and finally to vanquish revisionism in their own country.

With every right and very masterfully the CPCh attempted to bring the CPSU back on the right track in the beginning. The first documents ”About the historical experiences of the dictatorship of the proletariat” 10 of 1956 are completely characterised by these attempts. Likewise the efforts to compromise at the large international congresses  in Moscow 1957 and  in Bucharest 1960 were characterised by this striving. This has to be cited also for the reason that certain forces, e.g. the KPD/ML (Roter Morgen) 11 after its 180-degrees-turn 12 in 1977/78 after Mao Zedong’s death, attempted to use exactly this necessary strive for compromise to assert in a defamatory way that the CPCh had not fought consequently Khrushchov’s revisionism. This was closely tied to the role of the Party of Labour of Albania which, completely breaking with its previous declarations, likewise started a  massive assault against the CPCh of Mao Zedong’s epoch, as soon as the latter had died and a change in China had created different conditions. When they were unable to deny the important contributions of the CPCh, they attempted to present them as something which the CPCh had done only on the surface, whereas in reality it had pursued a different policy. This idealistic-obscure explanation and other similar ones did not use the CPCh’s practice as the standard for the assessment of its policy. These attacks were characterised by treason, attempting to abuse the efforts the CPCh of the time had made for the unity of the communist movement, and must likewise be rejected. This additional remark is necessary here.

The accusations that the CPCh had only reluctantly criticised Soviet revisionism must be rejected. It was necessary to make compromises in the attempt to avoid a split in the communist movement with all its consequences. And only later when the impossibility was proven, when Khrushchov’s revisionism stubbornly carried on in its revisionist direction, only then, the fight which in fact had been started by revisionism itself had to be taken up.

Emphasis has to be made that the articles of the so-called ”Small Polemics” 13 of 1962 to 1963, which dealt with positions of communist parties, e.g. of comrade Togliatti, with Browder’s positions, with the positions of the Czechoslovakian communist party under Antonin Novotny and his defamations against Marxism-Leninism, that all of these comments defended Marxism-Leninism at that time, and that they here already developed to a large extent the criticism on the positions of modern revisionism, e.g. on the nuclear question or on the question of the importance of appreciating the revolutionary war. This criticism was once again, in a compact and summarising manner, explained in the ”Great Polemics”, with the ”Proposition for the General Line of the International Communist Movement” of June 14, 1963, in the following commentaries until autumn 1964. Not every question could be clarified. The Stalin question was raised in several essential points, but it was clear that here are still historical questions which need more exact investigation. In other questions, as for example the question of war and peace or the question of the position vis a vis the new colonialism, the question of the policy of the so-called ”socialist market economy”, the CPCh was able to give a very profound and far-reaching criticism. Especially this has, in our opinion, to be acknowledged by the international communist movement. If there are parties viewing this position of the Polemics critically, they should express it openly.  It is the right of every party to analyse faulty positions and to uncover their falsehood with as many details and grounds as possible.

This the CPSU definitely did not do then. It went on a course to massively defame the CPCh and all those who supported this direction. At the side of the CPCh, also the Party of Labour of Albania (PLA) exerted a criticism of modern revisionism, although it was not as far-reaching and comprehensive as the CPCh’s, which went much further in the historical dimension, e.g. in the context of the criticism of Browderism, the nuclear questions, etc. During that time the CPCh was being defamed immensely. Together with certain forces in the West, tales were spread, as for example that Mao Zedong wanted to provoke a war between the Soviet Union and the US in order to create Chinese hegemony, that he wanted to bring on the ”doom of the white man”, and similar things. This is a kind of ideological  subversive and rubble-rousing propaganda which in no way corresponded to the true practical or theoretical meaning of this policy. Such a rubble-rousing propaganda has always been perpetrated against revolutionary forces. The revolutionaries are painted as something completely dark and terrible, in order to escape the necessity of material and rational arguments.

The uncovering of modern revisionism by the Great Polemics, however, did not yet decide or finish this struggle. Mao Zedong was aware that the driving forces for modern revisionism were active in his own country, too, and that, only if the class struggle in the socialist period was carried through in China itself, it was possible to achieve, at least for a certain time, the prevention of the revisionist usurpation. As always in the concrete emergence of a political strategy, it exists at first as an abstract truth,  solidified out from the practice of the previous epoch. In China, too, there were lots of bureaucraticism, of revisionist forces which only half-decidedly had taken part in the revolutionary war, especially from 1946 to 1949, and instead rather had preached capitulation.

A lot of bourgeois people who during the victorious revolution had changed ends now found themselves on the side of people’s democracy and socialism. All of them formed a potential to which the revisionists could tie in the attempt to bring about an overthrow also in China. Such endeavours not only came along openly in the clothes of modern revisionism but also in the form of ultra-leftist appearances, which, however, were likewise bound to capitulate in front of Soviet revisionism and US imperialism.

China found itself squeezed in between two dominant nuclear powers. On the one side US imperialism, which was not able to accept in any way the defeat from the Chinese revolution and now brooded over how to manage the overthrow from within. Tens of thousands of former Chiang people were certainly still available in the mainland, if not hundreds of thousands or even millions. It was calculated that an overthrow could be brought about if these contacts were reactivated. And if in this situation the modern revisionists, which also made deals with the US imperialists and partly competed with them, having likewise numerous contacts and working for an overthrow, would put pressure on China from the other side, a revolutionary strategy was imperative indeed in order to prevent such an overthrow.

About the Cultural Revolution

In the GPCR it happened that the new generation brought up in the China of people’s democracy and socialism expressed its demands for socialism and real socialist construction, as for example already had been represented in the SU by the Subotnik movement, and went into opposition against quite a few people who approached a bourgeois way of life within socialism and thus formed a base for revisionism.The Cultural Revolution is nothing else but the eruption of this movement against the revisionists in the own country, borne by the youth, the communist youth, mind you, and it was an hour of extreme decision that Mao Zedong and others in revolutionary China supported this opposition and immediately grasped it to be a mass movement against the revisionist camp. Out of this the Cultural Revolution developed.

The Cultural Revolution divides itself into several stages and cannot be wiped off with simple notions as e.g. ”ultra-leftist”, ”Three Worlds Theory” or similar ones. In the first stage from 1966 to 1969, the ”classical” revisionist position as represented by Liu Shao-chi, Deng Xiao-ping and others was attacked. In the course of this, it came to ”ultra-leftist” exaggerations  at many points in the huge country, and even to chaotic situations in certain provinces. That’s just the way a revolution goes.

It came to exaggerations which today may seem silly to us, to an exaggerated personality cult, which itself, as it yet was left to turn out, partly belonged to the political agenda of ”ultra-leftist” forces, which calculated to attack the revolution from the other side. One has to take into regard, however, that at that time already for thirty years China had been under the leadership of Mao Zedong, had achieved huge victories unlike ever before in the previous history of the country, and had achieved acceptance on the international level. China had begun a new life, and therefore the acknowledgement for Mao Zedong had reached an extraordinary degree with the vast majority in China, from the ordinary peasant, the inhabitants of remote regions to the urban population. This counts all the more for the youth which had grown up in this society and acknowledged it. It was full of true socialist striving. If in such a movement rather a lot of one-sidednesses appeared, we should not wonder in such a country. The conditions and ways  of life being so different there, the search and the strive for socialism must produce a lot of inconsistencies, too. People who warned against the chaos, who talked about the will to mould socialism, that is to say class struggle, according to a plan, deserve nothing but to be laughed at or, under certain circumstances, to be thrown out of the party. At least of revolution they have no idea.

Much more important is, in fact, what was really achieved by it. After the downfall of Liu Shao-chi the struggle intensified even more. After the experience of the Soviet Union’s intervention in Czechoslovakia it had to be assumed that the SU could make use of its position at the northern flank against China and in case of an inner overthrow perhaps attempt the occupation of important key positions, possibly in agreement with the US. Under today’s circumstances it is impossible to still deny China its right to be suspicious against anything of this kind. If a revisionist power wants to throttle a revolutionary country, not only by economic but also military means, it is only right and proper to isolate such a power by a neutralising policy against certain enemies. And exactly to this the policy of the CPCh amounted from approx. 1971 on.

The US, too, of course, watched the development of the contradiction from their point of view, very certainly with the goal of adding fuel to the fire, to additionally exacerbate the conflict, to deal with both parties and to force its control upon them. In 1972 Nixon did not only travel to China but also to Moscow in order to ”make an arrangement” about the matter there.

Now we read in Michael Opperskalski’s article:

”Finally the Maoists were even willing, on the base of theoretical concepts which had meanwhile been established, like the ‘theory of social fascism’, the ‘Three-Worlds-Theory” etc., to side with US imperialism in their struggle against the ‘Soviet social imperialists’, what included the open support for counter-revolutionary forces.”

This must decidedly be rejected. Until 1976, China never had sided with US imperialism in the meaning of taking parts for its international hegemonism, as it was the case with Khrushchov. This must be said clearly. The policy amounted to neutralising the US imperialists and to keeping them out of the struggle in the case of a purposeful overthrow and an attack from the part of the revisionist Soviet Union. Such a policy was possible because of the fact that US imperialism was suffering several defeats in those years and therefore was willing – albeit only temporarily and of course with afterthoughts – to do without the immediate blackmailing against China. As far as they were concerned they calculated with an overthrow in China.

The rightists in China like Deng Xiao-ping, by the way, used this situation of the time. After their downfall in times of the Cultural Revolution they offered the CPCh to co-operate loyally as defined by this new policy and to work in the CPCh, e.g. on the diplomatic level as well as in the concrete leadership of production. Deng Xiao-ping, for example, acknowledged the results of the IX. party congress and all the more those of the X. congress and was ready to be at the CPCh’s disposal under these new conditions. Even if some people suspected that he could make use of that for subversive endeavours, the CPCh had to attempt under the conditions of then, concentrating the largest possible unity, to reintegrate such forces, too, into the revolutionary policy.

There is, for example, talk about a so-called ”Three-Worlds-Theory” at the times of the revolutionary China, as if this was an isolated theory, standing for itself. Such a ”Three-Worlds-Theory” does not exist at all. It is as nonexisting as, for example, a ”theory of reform” in revolutionary politics. Which relation does a reform have to the class struggle, on which base does it stand? This question is valid for every reform. If in diplomatics it is attempted to isolate the two hegemonistic main powers, both of which are also the main nuclear powers and in doing so to combine very different forces forming an intermediate field between the revolution and these international main counterforces, in order to further support exactly the revolutionary advance and all international developments which are favourable for the further development and spreading of the revolution, then this is something different compared to the domestic strangling of the revolution and the attempt, using a so-called ”Three-Worlds-Theory”, to create a fundament for a chauvinistic hegemonic strategy of China, as Deng Xiao-ping did after the overthrow. 

A ”Three-Worlds-Theory” separated from the class struggle, standing alone for itself,  taken as the fundament for the strategy, has a counter-revolutionary character. A theory of intermediate regions, however, as well as a Three-Worlds-Scheme which serves to isolate certain forces, is worth to be discussed and justified, indeed, under certain concrete conditions.

All of the Marxists-Leninists who criticised modern revisionism did acknowledge this difference at that time, the Party of Labour of Albania included, and, in spite of this, it was exactly the slogan ”Three-Worlds-Theory” what was used after the death of Mao Zedong to blacken his policy in the worst way. The foreign politics of the People’s Republic of China from 1971 to 1976 can, however, be explained exactly by the defence against the aggressive modern revisionism. Therefore, the people who give such judgements today must at first deal with the question of which position the Soviet revisionists did actually take towards the CPCh, and how they assessed the revolutionary liberation wars of China until 1949. Numerous writings were published in the SU as well as in the German Democratic Republic, which disparaged most massively the whole revolution in China since 1935, since Mao Zedong had the leadership, and slandered the revolution  just the way as for example the entire Stalin epoch was painted exclusively in black by Khrushchov’s report at the XX. party congress. Surely no comment is required that this was the ideological preparation, paving the way for blackmailing China, re-conquer it and incorporate it into modern revisionism. To fight against  these actions is simply right.

Finally, what is the ”theory of social fascism”? Does this exist as a unified term which covers everything? That fascism and Social Democracy are connected to each other is a fact which had been proven already since the very beginning of the armed suppression of the revolution in Germany. Noske 14 and rightist fascist elements with swastikas at the steel helmet marched hand in hand already in the counter-revolution of 1919, and they did so also later. And the theory of fascism and Social Democracy being brother and sister was in fact designed by the SU itself in the beginning of the twenties. Something different, of course, is it to stick to the assessment of Social Democracy as the principal enemy even  when Nazi fascism is advancing as a dangerous, counter-revolutionary trauma threatening to overturn the whole country. It is something different to keep up a sweeping language about social fascism even then, misregarding other factors, although the necessity to prevent the counter-revolutionary, anti-civilisational­­ policy of Nazi fascism demanded an opposite action.

So we have to analyse the concrete situation then also with regard to fascism and Social Democracy. Neither the connections of Social Democracy to fascism are to be denied, nor is a policy to be admitted which by a sweeping theory drives all of the bourgeois forces into one single adversary camp. That is to say, when such sweeping notions as ”theory of social fascism” are used as an accusation, in order to add the assertion that the People’s Republic of China had sided with the US imperialists, this is completely the wrong way and does no real investigation of the questions.

Now there is still a quite different essential aspect: after Mao Zedong’s death and after the Cultural Revolution Deng Xiao-ping is known to have seized the leadership in China, although for some time Hua Guo-feng 15 was formally still the chairman of the CPCh. Which position was taken in the time from 1976 to 1979? Then the ”Three-Worlds-Theory” was declared the basic strategic line of the CPCh and even of the communist movement, what amounted to its own liquidation. Deng Xiao-ping and his people pursued a so-called ”Anti-Moscow” policy which amounted to a most cordial alliance with the US. But this was after the Cultural Revolution, after Mao Zedong’s death, after the overthrow in China itself.

And with the very same Deng Xiao-ping the SU, later,  under Leonid Breshnew, Andropow, Tshernenko and Gorbachev took up close and friendly relations, as our organisation, by the way, had predicted already in 1977. The leadership of the GDR, e.g.,  under Erich Honecker and his surroundings, attacked Mao Zedong vehemently, but they defended Deng Xiao-ping during the eighties almost unconditionally, although it was just he who had pursued the ”Anti-Moscow” policy. There can we see, that modern revisionism and these representatives did in fact rigorously and furiously speak out against the Cultural Revolution and the continuation of the class-struggle in the socialist period, and inversely were not ashamed to become the closest friend of people like Deng Xiao-ping, who basically had made an anticommunist policy. This is the flagrantly dishonest aspect of the whole behaviour which must disappear. There is need for real analyses, for working with concrete facts about the single epochs, and only in this way it is possible to arrive at a consistent judgement. Everybody is free to refute, e.g. these points made by us, using concrete opposite examples, but it is impossible to give sweeping judgements like these, even if the intention is only to give theses. We want to take these theses, just because they are widespread, and because we want to question them here by a counter demonstration.

If one says that the theory of Soviet social imperialism catches up in a way with the support for counter-revolutionary forces, one positions oneself in defence of modern revisionism. Already the modern revisionism of Khrushchov 1962, which amounted to the closest leaning against US imperialism and the collaboration with it, which went so far as to threaten, jointly with the US, all revolutionary forces not to provoke a nuclear war, if they only made revolution anywhere, was counter-revolution and had to be answered decidedly. Khrushchov’s policy contained already social-imperialistic elements, too, even if that was not yet attacked by the Chinese policy to its full extent at that time, because one always proceeded very cautiously. At the later moment of the years 1968 to 1972 it was in any case justified to raise these accusations, and the vast majority in the world had the same view.

And there is a lot of people from the former GDR who know exactly how strong the Soviet influence was, which crushed many positive economic initiatives in the GDR, too. This is also an aspect of social imperialism, although the GDR never touched upon it in that way. About the reasons one should perhaps talk on other occasions. Hegemonism and presumptuous patronage are notions understandable for many people who devotedly worked for socialism in the GDR, and they know which role it has played in the destruction.

Adding to the critic of the Cultural Revolution it still has to be said that it was not achieved to go deeper into the problems of the communist movement, for example in Europe, although the movement had an important key link position in the development. To go into the problems, e.g. the defeat against Nazi fascism, was rightly a subject discussed in the Marxist-Leninist movement. We needed fresh impetus not only for the then ”Third World”, but also for the developed capitalist countries. Perhaps there was an incapability in China to discuss these political questions on the international level, or it was sabotaged by certain rightist leaders. Whatever the reason, it is a shortcoming that during the further Cultural Revolution the critical movement referred only to inner Chinese factors. By criticising Lin Biao and Confucius there were attempts to attack the Chinese reactionary traditions from within. But it would have been necessary to go into the international questions, too, in a much deeper going manner. This, for example, would be a criticism we have of the CPCh during the period of the continued Cultural Revolution. Finally, the CPCh under Mao Zedong was decidedly weakened by the fact that treacherous organisations like the so-called KPD/ML (Roter Morgen) or the KPD(AO), which basically had only a whitewash of Marxism-Leninism upon their parties, or the so-called KBW with completely open rightist ambitions, pushed themselves between authentic revolutionaries in Europe and the CPCh by the means of worming themselves into acknowledgement, in order to hit out at the CPCh all the more furiously later, when the colour was changed, as we have experienced.

It is a valuable element of Michael Opperskalski’s contribution to also demand the fusion of the scientific potentials of the Marxist-Leninist parties. Indeed it is impossible to be content with the assessment once acquired. This is valid for ourselves, too. Although we defend our position vehemently, because after all we have tested it during many decades and also have checked it always at the single steps, we are ready to check it, too, if essential strategical things arise at this or that point, which put into question single points.

The Soviet Union’s policy itself could not be perfect already since Lenin. Parties as the Russian Social Democracy, from which the Bolsheviki emerged, had their characteristics and restrictions, too, which they transferred to the revolution. It is quite in Lenin’s sense to realise that a critical retrospect of the working conditions and the development of a party is necessary. The whole Marxist-Leninist movement and the revolution, starting with the October revolution, and all the later revolutions, the CPCh’s included, of course also have some historic weaknesses. The CPCh under Mao Zedong  at best has only given some starting points for overcoming them, in fact further investigations are necessary. The continuation of the revolution also requires to further develop the theory  with the scientific standards of today. The communist movement’s defeat in Europe has not yet been incorporated critically up to today. Although it can be realised generally, as we have stated already at an earlier moment, that in a certain way it marks the transfer of the revolution to the East, to China, Vietnam, Korea, this is only its historical position which we thus analyse. It is not possible to start out from an unavoidable development which under any circumstances must have lead to the defeat against fascism. Much is left to be investigated here, for example the policy of the Communist International, which anyway was not correct in every respect.

Without doubt, the Chinese revolution has  a number of restrictions. The peculiarities of the analysis of the Chinese society, as for instance we have hardly found to be taken into consideration in the Marxist-Leninist writings of  Mao Zedong, but doubtlessly the Chinese culture, which developed over millennia, carries its own moulding, also in the people’s way of thinking. True internationalism means to elucidate this, too, mutually and scientifically. If for example the Chinese criticise the Europeans and the Europeans the Chinese, then without doubt further important progress is made.

It is necessary indeed that the Chinese Right is criticised. The Chinese revolution adopted the character of the broadest people’s revolution in the course of the development from 1948 on, integrating very diverse forces on the side of the revolution and thus making the victory over Chiang Kai-shek and the US inevitable. As China  could not develop the bourgeois way, it is in a way logical that bourgeois representatives themselves backed the socialist revolution in order to later overthrow it, no matter if they did so consciously or unconsciously. Therefore it may well be possible, that also in the period before 1976 at this or that point, e.g. in foreign politics, things have happened which were not correct. The case of Angola, for example, is quoted again and again. About this we would have to investigate the different positions the CPCh had then, and the concrete situation of Africa, and then it will be possible to define more precisely in a common discussion, how things were then. Perhaps it will not be possible immediately to arrive at a consensus, but it will be possible to define these different points. At any rate it has to be taken into consideration that there were Chinese rightists, too, who could interfere in this or that question. And it would be fatal if people who for a long time were basically content with these Chinese rightists, who even until recently still defended these Chinese rightists as the representatives of the only socialist state, attempted to disparage the entire former policy before 1976 because of one single point, Angola.  This cannot be correct already from its principle. At the assessment of such occurrences as the campaign against the rightists 1956/57 in China or the Great Leap Forward or the Polemics or the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976, one must keep one’s eye on the principal and essential points and not on the minor ones. With peripheral points it is possible to run down every revolution, of course also the Soviet one. Nothing else is the bourgeois propaganda’s non-stop business.

Problems of  Construction

Concerning the tendencies of the reconstruction of the international communist movement, Michael Opperskalski describes for example the Portuguese PCP, the Belgian PTB or the Swedish KPML(r), the Greek KKE as model parties, although  immediately afterwards he is forced to make strong restrictions with regard to these parties.
This is the wrong way, also principally. We think that the Marxist-Leninist forces have to start a scientific and common discussion along a wide front. Our initiatives follow this direction. That today many want to criticise modern revisionism, gives good preconditions, even if there is no unity about this or that strategical action of the SU or the socialist China.

About the Italian Rifondazione 16, e.g., Michael Opperskalski explains that it forms a very important starting point for the – in his view – new generation of the communist movement, and that simultaneously Trotskyite positions and representatives are present in it.

Here again it occurs that certain parties which are to be seen in a – however restricted – connection with the Chinese revolution, are immediately called counter-revolutionary. With the MLPD 17, for example, our organisation has led tough struggles and vehement polemics, at least from our side, even if the other part preferred the method of concealing. This party has indeed in many respects characteristics of a sect, parts of which fell upon us in the most hateful way. But we oppose that this party is here written off by the notion ”counter-revolutionary Maoism”. This is unjustified in several respects.
Firstly it cannot be admitted, that some people leave out the truly counter-revolutionary matters of the defamation of the revolutionary line by the DKP and the whole question of the foundation of the DKP, as described, and that simultaneously another party, the mistakes of which were even similar to those of the DKP in quite a few aspects and which was time and again criticised by us because of its revisionism, is immediately and in a sweeping way called counter-revolutionary. There are indeed points within the MLPD which had quite a special rightist alignment, like the linkage to the trade union leaders, to be observed again and again. Time and again during its history this party has emerged with attacks against those who criticised the trade union leaders, with real defamations as for example that we wanted to dismiss every functionary of the trade unions as counter-revolutionary. On the other hand its position is especially negative towards the GDR in its entire history, a fact which probably causes the all round disapproving position of the DKP.
This is no practicable way. About the MLPD it has to be kept in mind that it also still is the party which probably has the most people in the factories. Our organisation again and again has given a very clear criticism of the KAB/ML and the later MLPD. Notwithstanding all the criticism which is necessary against Dickhut, the founder of the MLPD, it has to be stressed that he, as a former leader of cadres of the KPD in North Rhine-Westphalia 18 has attached extraordinary importance to the construction of operating groups in the factories and invested a large part of his work there. At any rate we cannot exclude parties of the movement from the discussion, condemning them from the start in a sweeping manner. This is valid although important leaders of exactly this organisation strove to exclude us from the discussion. One should criticise that very specifically. By entitling  the MLPD of all the parties ”Maoist” with all  its peculiarities, it is simultaneously Mao Zedong who is to be attacked.

The same counts for the parties of the so-called ”Revolutionary International Movement” (RIM), which, in our view, are to be criticised in strong terms. This alliance of parties closely leaned against the Sendero Luminoso 19 and thus took a way which almost lead itself to the verge of being smashed. Here, without doubt, Trotskyite influences exist which are absolutely in discord above all with the Chinese revolution. One of the leading ideologists of this grouping, the American revolutionary Bob Avakian, wrote an article in 1981 20 which probably was meant as an accusation against Marxism-Leninism in the national question. He listed everything the Marxists-Leninists had done over the years concerning the national question, starting from the co-operation of the SU with Germany during the Weimar Republic,  to the cases when Marx’ and Engels’ had mentioned and supported just struggles of nations, ending in critical annotations to the whole Leninist position towards the national question. In spite of this, we oppose that these comrades are excluded from the international debate.

It must be realised that all of these forces are based on material class forces. If you take the MLPD, for example, it is conspicuous that it has never really accepted the theory of labour aristocracy as formulated by Lenin. For a long time – still earlier under the name KABD – it was really aligned to the elevated workers and did not acknowledge the corruptive imperialist influence upon this working class. For the North-American party, which contributed decidedly to the foundation of the RIM, the fact doubtlessly plays a role, that there is a large pauperised proletariat in the cities, strongly influenced by the culture of these imperialistic centres. This, in some way, finds expression in the parties. Instead of giving such judgements as ”counter-revolutionary forces”, one should better go into the class bases of the single parties which in fact give them their coloration. With this approach we are set to make progress, in my opinion.

It does not make either sense to reproach the Sendero Luminoso, the policy of which must be criticised in completely different spheres, of allegedly having once committed an attack on the Cuban embassy. It should be realised, the other way round, that Cuba for years has supported modern revisionism in its worst excesses. It is pointless to line up such charges, as quite different possibilities will exist to reproach the parties of modern revisionism for what they have done.

Why, now, are such organisations named ”Maoists”? The MLPD has strong disagreements with the line of the CPCh under Mao Zedong. The way the question of the labour aristocracy and of Social Democracy is dealt with by the MLPD (KABD) is not at all typical for the CPCh under Mao Zedong. When the CPCh pursued the defence against the influence of Soviet revisionism from 1971 to 1976 and went so far as to isolate it also in military terms, the KABD was one of the few organisations outside the DKP to contradict this policy, expressing its displeasure.
This organisation since its first days has indeed taken a different position to the events of the 17th of June, 1953, in the GDR. They rather shared the opinions of, e.g., the writer Stefan Heym, who judged this to be a ”workers’ uprising”, and refused to realise that the fundamental character was counter-revolutionary. One should analyse an organisation in its different elements and not give superficial sweeping judgements. Nothing is to be proved only by the fact  that the MLPD publishes the ”Red Book” of Mao Zedong and has acquired the copyright, and occasionally (only rarely yet) defends Mao Zedong’s policy.

A special subject is formed by Trotskyite organisations. Something similar also applies to the position towards such parties like SAV or Linksruck. In their statements many point to the bourgeois character here. Also here the class base is to be looked at. Especially Linksruck is doubtlessly oriented to Social Democracy and, in the final analysis, sees its task in generating a left swing in the SPD. But shouldn’t we realise the strong petty-bourgeois movements, the strong share of those employed by the state and the service sector? And just here Linksruck and even more the SAV have a remarkable recruiting effect, and quite a few representatives are working with quite a  commitment for these parties. Both organisations draw considerable remarkable numbers of young people. There are many people here who struggle for socialism, even though with vague ideas.  Here, too, we shall develop a dialogue, if possible; what does not mean that we won’t unequivocally criticise.

The same, again, applies to the Worker Communist Party of Iran, which Michael Opperskalski likewise dismisses as counter-revolutionary. It may well be possible that the CIA is massively engaged in the infiltration of this basically half liberal, half Marxist party. It must not be forgotten, however, that this party, supposedly as the only one, has criticised theocratism in the strongest terms, whereas other parties like, e.g., the so-called Tudeh Party have at that time hailed the theocratic overthrow and thus made themselves guilty of crimes which they themselves and many communist organisations have paid dearly for. Logically, US imperialism in its endeavour to ”democratically” transform Iran  (in his sense) attempts to make use of this party as well as of other parties. Just for this reason sharp debates can be expected in this party. Exactly because of the upsurge against theocracy, US imperialism must by all means attempt to gain a foothold in the whole opposition.

One has to begin to look at things in their  many-sidedness, firstly to try to unify the Marxist-Leninist forces, and secondly to include also other forces in the debate (also) about questions of the communist movement, and then to practice unity of action as well as criticism, and in this way to get the numerous people, who want to commit themselves to socialism here, off the shallow things. Michael Opperskalski’s explanations, however, amount to brick up the way towards unity with one-sided sweeping judgements, whereas the own revisionism is not criticised.

This Iranian party  indeed is not a Marxist-Leninist party. But using the dialogue with these people, giving a criticism of their liberal views and the reproaches they raise against Leninism as well as against Trotskyism, against Stalin’s teachings as well as against Mao Zedong’s ideas, surely here, too, accesses to communists can be reached.

We are predominantly working for the restoration of the proletarian internationalist character, which was distorted in particular by modern revisionism, above all by the modern revisionism of the CPSU, by certain variations of social chauvinism. The fact that one party declares itself, so to say, the ”father party”, is fundamentally irreconcilable with Marxism-Leninism. Proletarian internationalism requires that all parties, whatever their power and size, basically subordinate themselves to the dictate of the international proletariat’s general interest. From this base the discussion with all other forces must be led, taking into account the single problems of the national question of a certain country, of the national mouldings or of the national problems of a certain proletariat. To confuse the function of avant-garde with a hegemonic function of certain forces within the communist movement means a complete distortion of the fundamental theory.

If it reads ”acknowledgement of the historic role of the socialist countries, in particular of the SU, and of its undeniable value for the international communist movement”, we can sign this. It was just us who have always defended that. But aside the criticism of mistaken developments, all the more the criticism of modern revisionism and the devastating criticism of modern revisionism and its more than thirty years of practice in the SU belongs to that. 

Hartmut Dicke
(Translator’s note: The author is also known by his long-time pen name Klaus Sender.)

Spring 2004


Published in German the Internet on July 26, 2004


1 ”Offensiv” 6/2003

2 Deutsche Kommunistische Partei (DKP) (German Communist Party). Founded in 1968/69 in Western Germany with the direct support of state authorities. The worry about the uncontrolled development of the revolutionary unrest in the country created among the rulers advocates of a new legal “communist” party. This party was put in the place of the KPD, which remained forbidden. At the time of these efforts for its foundation, the DKP was already under challenge from a newly rising Marxist-Leninist movement and party. Presently, discussions about Marxism-Leninism and the criticism of revisionism were taking place also in this organisation to a certain degree.

3 Frank Flegel/Michael Opperskalski: Die Europäische Antikapitalistische Linke (EAL) und die DKP, ”Offensiv” 13/2003 (The European Anticapitalistic Left –EAL – and the DKP, journal ”Offensiv” 13/2003)

4 PDS:  Partei des Demokratischen Sozialismus (Party of Democratic Socialism). Formed by renaming the SED (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands) PDS in Dec. 1989. Today, the PDS does not refer to Marxism any longer, not even in a formal way. (Translator’s note)

5  Linksruck (Left swing), a Trotskyite organisation with strong relations to the SPD, belonging to International Socialist Tendency. (Tr.’s note)

6 SAV: Sozialistische Alternative Voran (Socialist Alternative Forward), also a Trotskyite organisation, member of CWI - Committee for a Workers' International (Tr.’s note)

7 Kurt Gossweiler:  formerly a famous historian in the German Democratic Republic. Since the middle of the 90ies he wrote interesting detailled publications on the internal discussion of Khrushchov’s revisionism within the SED, the leading party of the GDR. (Tr.’s note)

8 This also counts, by the way, for the debate with Bakunin, concerning which it has often been insinuated, that Marx led an annihilating criticism. The things having emerged under Bakunins leadership were so horrendous that criticism in the strongest terms was inevitable. If certain forces made deals with Czarism, as it occurred with Bakunin and his surroundings, then this had to be said mercilessly. Marx cannot be accused of an annihilating criticism here. The objective circumstances forced him to act like that, and actually there is not a single para, where he exaggerated in a personal respect. Marx was forced to go into the czarist backgrounds which unfolded in Bakunin’s surroundings. Only in the case of very direct proof did Marx and Engels accuse single persons of the connection with reaction, e.g. in the case of Karl Vogt.

9 Polemics: ”A Proposal Concerning the General Line of the International Communist Movement. The Letter of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China in Reply to the Letter of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union of March 30, 1963”.

Belonging to this, nine fundamental commentaries were published until July 1964, the last one under the title: ”Khrushchov’s Phoney Communism and its Historical Lessons for the World”. The whole work is, in most cases, shortly named ”Polemics”, it is the most important and significant reckoning with modern revisionism from that time.

10 ”About the historical experiences of the dictatorship of the proletariat”, ”More about the historical experiences of the dictatorship of the proletariat” Beijing, 1956

11 KPD/ML (Roter Morgen) (Communist Party of Germany/ Marxist-Leninist <Red Morning>) One of several organisations which existed after the splits of 1970 in the  Marxist-Leninist party and movement. See also note 12. Some basic information about the party history is to be found at Decision to alter the organization's name or The 25th Anniversary of 1st of May, 1972, in Berlin (Tr.’s note)

12 The KPD/ML (Roter Morgen), which from 1970 on was strongly criticized by our organisation, among others, because of its provocative appearance, protected itself for years against the criticism by strong efforts to get a so-called official acknowledgement by the CPCh. It did not, however, get that acknowledgement. In 1975 it was invited to China by the then member of the Politburo, Yao wen-yuan, with the decisive participation of the CPCh’s Central Committee’s department for international relations. Our organisation acted strongly against these efforts, realising that the adoption of some correct fundamental positions was only a façade, behind which the possibility of massive treason was hidden. It criticised the promotion of the KPD/ML (Roter Morgen).

From 1977 on, the overthrow in China hardly had begun, the ”Roter Morgen” in connection with the Party of Labour of Albania headed for the confrontation with the whole Chinese revolution, defamed the whole development from 1935 on as ”Maoism”, and the allegedly hundred per cent followers turned into likewise hundred percent enemies. In doing this they attacked fundamentally the foundation of the KPD/ML itself, too, as it had been most closely connected to the CPCh’s struggle against modern revisionism and the Chinese proletarian cultural revolution. Also in the former activities of the ”Roter Morgen” from 1970 to 1977 lay a strong element of suppression of revolutionary Marxism and Leninism.

13 ”Small Polemics”: collection of articles from the press, which debated modern revisionism. ”Proletarians of all countries, unite against the common enemy!”, published in  China in 1963 – about the position of the CP of Italy, of the CP USA, the CP of Czechoslovakia etc.

14 Noske, Gustav, the “bloodhound”, surpressor of the German revolution in 1918/19,  member of the Social Democratic ”Rat der Volksbeauftragten” (”council of people’s representatives”), a kind of assumed provisory government of Germany in 1918/1919, which was supported, among others, by the dominant forces of the German bourgeoisie, the US etc. after Germany’s defeat in World War I. Within this ”Rat”, Noske was  the military organiser of the armed suppression of the German revolution, who collaborated in that position with former imperial military generals and new-formed ultra-rightist volunteer corps. This stood at the beginning of the bourgeois Weimar Republic in Germany of 1919-1933. (Tr.’s note)

15 Hua Guo-feng: by the decisions of April 7, 1976 first deputy chairman of the CPCh. According to the decisions, he was bound to a policy of continuing the criticism of Deng Xiao-ping’s policy as well as keeping distance from the ultra-leftist deviation, which had likewise been criticised. He organised, however, the crackdown on the so-called gang of four, that is four leading members Chiang chun-tjiao, Wang Hong-wen, Djiang Tjing and Yao Wen-yuan, who in part were closely connected to the cultural revolution, in other parts had been criticised because of ultra-leftist deviation and fractional self-isolation. Under the guise of action against them, Deng Xiao-ping and his followers were then swiftly and without any critical incorporation of their mistakes reinstated into their functions, under Hua’s responsibility and against the valid decisions of the CPCh, and under the pretence of continuing Mao Zedong’s policy, the revisionist overthrow was initiated. It was immediately pushed through with great radicalism against the revolution in China and ended in the restoration of capitalism in China.

16 Partito della Rifondazione Comunista, party of the re-foundation of the Italian communists.

17 MLPD: Marxistisch-Leninistische Partei Deutschlands (Marxist-Leninist Party of Germany), founded in 1982 as the successor organisation of KABD (Kommunistischer Arbeiterbund Deutschlands – Communist League of Workers of Germany), which initially was named KAB/ML (Kommunistischer Arbeiterbund/Marxisten-Leninisten – Communist Workers’ league/Marxists-Leninists). Willi Dickhut (1904 - 1992), metalworker by profession, a former cadre of the KPD in North Rhine-Westphalia, 1969-1970 editor-in-chief of "Revolutionärer Weg", the theoretical organ of the KPD/ML, and since 1970 inspirator of KAB/ML-KABD-MLPD and their theoretician. (Tr.’s note)

18  North Rhine-Westphalia: the largest of the federal states of the Federal Republic of Germany in terms of population, formerly the decisive industrial centre of Germany (Tr.’s note)

19 Sendero Luminoso, short name of the Partido Comunista del Peru, which temporarily bore the epithet ”Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) of José Carlos Mariategui”

20 Bob Avakian, ”Conquer the World - The International Proletariat Must and Will”, Revolution, Special Issue  50, Dec. 1981