Internet Statement 2006-69


Unforgettable Cultural Revolution

Hartmut Dicke     

40 years ago, in May, 1966, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution started in China, bound to become a cornerstone in the development of the entire 20th century. It had been preceded by a struggle of already 10 years, since the CPSU had made several fundamental changes in its political line and China under Mao Zedong increasingly rendered an unequivocal criticism of the Soviet Union and the CPSU. In fact this period, too, had been preceded by a long struggle which already in the thirties had begun with the Long March [1] and the Communist Party of China’s maintaining its autonomy vis a vis the CPSU and avoiding certain mistakes, which otherwise would have been forced upon it by the Communist International. During the summer of 1966 until into August the Cultural Revolution lived through its first peaks.

A great deal of the subsequent events of the ending 20th century were rightly predicted in the Cultural Revolution in China. It was postulated that the US’ hegemonic claims would suffer a heavy defeat, what turned out true for some time, and it was contended that, if the CPSU did not step back from its revisionist policy and did not bring about fundamental changes in the Soviet Union, the collapse of this formerly communist country would become inevitable. The capitalist and bureaucratic-capitalist degeneration of the Soviet Union had started fully already in the 60ies. Without varnish and unmistakably, this process was unmasked in the Cultural Revolution, leading to a worldwide resonance of the Cultural Revolution.

 The most fundamental moment, though, was that the Cultural Revolution aimed at the prevention of degeneration and of a new emergence of exploiters , in China, who were even more shameless than the traditional capital. It was in the minds that, if this line of the Cultural Revolution, elaborated in a long struggle, would not succeed or would be overthrown by some kind of a military coup, then China would follow the capitalist path, which for its part contained various possibilities. On the one hand there existed the possibility of a complete decay with a renewed dependence from the great powers. On the other hand the possible emergence of a new ambitious capitalism from China had to be envisaged, which the Chinese bourgeoisie previously had not been able to create by its own efforts. So, the possibility was seen that China would become a great power, a new superpower that could start competing with the existing superpowers [2] of then and even replace them. Previously, Chinese capitalism had not been capable of a sweeping autonomous development; upon a certain level, socialism was a vehicle for it. For their further development, however, the capitalist forces needed an overthrow of the social order, the annihilation of all socialist fundaments and the abolishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Contrary to that, these revolutionary fundaments were explicitly pursued during the years before the end of 1976, the danger of an overthrow was envisaged, which had shown in particular since 1956. Quite different goals were erected: China must contribute to human history to the maximum, contribute to the revolution, to the development of the productive forces and the sciences as well as to the social development, but China shall not strive for becoming a superpower. These were the principles of then. The danger,  hypothesized then, that China, too, could develop into a great power bossing others around, is reality today.

In the Cultural Revolution it was attempted to put through the communist principles and goals. If the Cultural Revolution is summed up in its essence, then it was about the concrete  realisation of the dictatorship of the proletariat and about making fundamental strides in bringing forward the social goals of communism, primarily also in the minds of people. Although it is a matter of fact that the Cultural Revolution has proved correct in many points, it is nevertheless painted extremely black by almost all of the bourgeois forces in the world. It is, so to say, the most unspeakable event of the whole 20th century, if we were to follow the bourgeois press, follow the Chinese party. It speaks of “ten awful years”, that is to say of 1966 – 1976, and up to now has completely condemned the Cultural Revolution.

In 1967, one of the Cultural Revolution’s protagonists in the early days, Chang Chun-chiao [3], gave an important speech, officially speaking for the Communist Party of China, in which he talked about a world-shaking movement of the Red Guards having risen in the Cultural Revolution. This characterization, however, is true of the whole Cultural Revolution which for the first time made China and the Chinese revolution radiate into the whole world. Friend or foe, nobody was able to deny this. All over the world it led to encouragements, to the formation of communist parties and to the adoption of principles and teachings of the Communist Party of China. [4]

It was a worldwide political earthquake of the highest significance. And if today it is painted in deep black by almost all of the political forces, we have to recall the fact that the French revolution, too, was depicted as a monstrous event 30 to 40 years after, and nevertheless its principles have held sway. Quite similarly, the October revolution is called a putsch, too, the worst event of the 20th century and the like, and yet it is beyond any question that in spite of all shortcomings and mistakes the proletariat achieved a fundamental breakthrough there.

The „turnaround in the political development“ mostly mentioned today is believed to refer to the year 1989, in which capitalism is said to have been victorious. Well, it still has to show if this is a victory in actual fact. In reality, this overthrow started in 1976, and above all after 1979, ten years earlier. During the eighties China laid its labor force open to the capitalists of the whole world, and an industrialization of China started via a certain connection between new Chinese and old Western capitalists, which today shows the corresponding results. Even if the Cultural Revolution was condemned, the radical capitalist transformation was pursued with a “cultural-revolutionary” verve. Mao Zedong had seen this possibility of the development, pointing in the case of Deng Xiaoping to the fact that this man had not only revisionist mistakes but also, in a certain way, big revolutionizing capabilities. All of us are affected, we know that today’s worldwide dislocations of production have their most important stronghold in the new industrialization of China upon this political fundament.

The Cultural Revolution, so, is cornerstone of our development, and not only for us  but for many organisations in the whole world this political earthquake  was the  starting point,  being so remarkable in a political-seismological sense, when it went round the world in the middle of the sixties.

It is all the more important, therefore, that the public picture of the Cultural Revolution’s character and essence is corrected, and it is dealt with objectively. 

It is the typical method of defamation that in the case of such an event as the Cultural Revolution, which then comprised 800- 900 millions of people in China and was the largest mass movement ever, details, marginal episodes and certain exaggerations and over-intensification are put into the center, whereas the essential revolutionizing effects in the people are swept under the rug. There were fighting units of Red Guards, which sometimes fought bitter struggles against each other in single cities, there was chaos in certain cities, as it is to be found in every revolution, there were people who completely thoughtlessly flung accusations against certain people, there were the fashions of would-be-revolutionaries who excelled in one-sidedness. Finally, there was a completely excessive personality cult [5], furthered also by certain forces with ulterior motives, there was a putsch within this Cultural Revolution, which, however, failed miserably although it had united supreme cadres in its ranks.

Yet another charge, which is to incite prejudice, spells: the Cultural Revolution wasted the forces of the intelligentsia, sending them to the countryside to make them join with the laboring peasants. Here an important pedagogical effect is overlooked. It matters if intellectuals stay connected with the hard physical work and know what it means. A different subject, though, is the disrespect for intensive scientific work, which in fact occurred at single points.  

Finally it has also to be stated that during the Cultural Revolution there were only few forces around the globe to condemn the Cultural Revolution, as for example the revisionist Soviet Union, the regime of Chiang Kai-shek behind US warships on the tiny residual piece of China, Taiwan, where he had fled, some forces in the US and some die-hard extremely rightist forces in the European countries. At that time very many, even bourgeois forces, in particular those who visited China, acknowledged the extraordinary vitality and transformation of China. Putting the communist principles into practice based on a true mobilization and conviction of the masses – in fact, that attracted the interested open-hearted and progressive people all around the globe. Also there were quite a lot of bourgeois politicians, amidst the second phase of the Cultural Revolution, who tightly followed each other visiting Beijing. Completely wrong is the depiction that China was isolated then. China achieved the UN membership in 1971, in the middle of the Cultural Revolution, succeeded in breaking the US’ blockade – the visits of Kissinger and Nixon in 1971/72! Many bourgeois politicians, among them Helmut Kohl, Helmut Schmidt, furthermore Franz-Josef Strauß in particular, strove to come to China and to have talks with the leaders of the Communist Party of China. In the middle of the Cultural Revolution China had gained tremendous weight, contrary to today’s depiction that China had been thrown back for ten years. The development of an autochthonous industry, too, made strides forward in the Cultural Revolution.

The Cultural Revolution consisted of several epochs, the actual start of the Cultural Revolution from 1966-1969, during which the mass uprising against revisionist authorities within the Communist Party of China was carried on, of phases of consolidation and of the struggle against Lin Biao, who had attempted a putsch in 1970-71. Initially he had played a certain role of pressing ahead with the Cultural Revolution, in order to finally prove to be an adherent of ultra-rightist theories under ultra-leftist phrases, too. In the continuing phase of the Cultural Revolution of 1971-76 important campaigns were led, which changed the thinking in China. A profound campaign for the criticism of Confucius was initiated in this time, and it started to attack the reactionary prejudices that by force of millennia-old traditions had been seating in the heads in China. A campaign for spreading Marxism belongs to it, which especially during 1974-76, clearer than ever, formulated the dictatorship of the proletariat and summed up the experiences. In the final phase of the Cultural Revolution from the end of 1973 app. to Sept. 1976, it came to a differentiation of the various directions, to a mushrooming of metaphysics, as Mao Zedong called that. None of the successor persons or groups succeeded in really connecting the domestic class struggle with the international tasks. Not the least ground for that is to be found in the fact that China did not achieve true connections with international forces supporting her. In all of the organs concerned with the international connections, of the party as well as of the state apparatus, the adverse direction had strong positions. On the other side, the subversion against the new Marxist-Leninist movement worked by all means to connect China to rotten forces.

 The epoch of 1974-1976 needs a separate extensive consideration.

Even after Mao Zedong’s death the leaders of the Communist Party of China like Hua Guo-feng and even Deng Xiaoping were still forced for two years to keep saying that they wanted to continue the Cultural Revolution, that they stuck to the principles etc. and that they were not at all intending to overthrow it. But in this time they already had been seen through. Formally, they walked about pretending to acknowledge the principles, but in fact they were working on the capitalist overthrow or were tolerating it, which later, in the end of 1978 and the spring of 1979 was completed.

If the Cultural Revolution had attracted  all kinds of politically interested people around the globe in the time from 1966 to 1976 and had inspired the formation of revolutionary Marxist-Leninist parties, it came to an extremely sharp rupture after the Cultural Revolution.

Long ago these parties had been criticized by us and by many others. Already in their phase of emergence and the intensification of the situation in the time of 1970-72 some facts about them had become clear, that they were double-sided associations which wove many dedicated people into their activities, and on the other side left holes for rightist and revisionist forces to slip in. As long as the People’s Republic of China had existed as a revolutionary state, they had largely played to her, but now it came to a 180° about-face against the previously represented.[6]

Who had been watching these people more closely had in fact been able to see the essence of the matter and describe the development in advance. Here people were active in the leaderships who only superficially had adapted themselves, or even worse.

This new movement was such a challenge that in various countries the security organs had to make all efforts to split these innumerable organisations and to keep the international connections to China under the exclusive control of the bourgeois forces. Already then, in 1970-71, we stated that the bourgeois forces, the states, become active, even in creating parties themselves, and attempt by all means to penetrate this texture of parties and fight it from within. In the meantime it has been proved by official statements that in certain countries so-called Marxist-Leninist parties were created as products of secret agencies, sometimes purposefully and consciously deceiving individual people and using them for these richly financed machinations.  Several parties were of a half-and-half, ambiguous character, for a longer period they were really bridled and organized thousands of people decided to do revolutionary work in their ranks, and wore them out. [7]

On the other side, there were forces remaining in very many countries after the Cultural Revolution who defended these principles and carried on the struggle and the revolution under adversary conditions over decades. This, too, proves the vitality of the ideas connected to it.

The abruptness of the treason, the 180° about-face of the Party of Labour of Albania stands out here as an especially important international example. Unsurpassed the hymns of praise for the Communist Party of China, in the view of the PLA everything seemed correct in it, at least in the confessions, until it plunged into the absolute opposite with the overthrow from 1977 onwards. Everything the Communist Party of China had achieved since 1935 was now said to be the result of a wrong line. Obviously that was completely separated from reality and represented a rotten political idealism. An inevitable consequence was that the PLA very soon afterwards became submerged in the most rightist morass.

After the Chinese overthrow had succeeded, a certain part of the movement was bound, in some way in a set pattern, to precipitate as deeply into the opposite direction as it previously had jubilantly participated. Who understands matters only superficially and does not dig deep, is destined to such a fate – to put it in general terms, at first.

So, what was it all about in the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution? It was about the implementation of the dictatorship of the proletariat from the base, in particular from the youth. It was an entirely new youth, without precedent in the history of this country, as it had grown up in the seventeen years of the People’s Republic of China under completely changed conditions of socialism and New Democracy. It embodied the will to materialize the socialist and communist goals concretely. When the People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949, the Communist Party of China under Mao Zedong had leaned on a very broad coalition of all the forces that stood against Chiang Kai-shek and US imperialism and condemned the domestic reaction. China under the republic of people’s democracy at first went through a renewal, it became, if you like it like that, a modern civil state with a socialist fundament, which pulled China out of the squalor of centuries of stagnation. Although in the West there was at first a big hue and cry about “blue ants” and “the most horrible communism ever”, soon many achievements had to be admitted. Nation-wide school education, education for everyone, the systematic development of agriculture in the whole of China, the abolishment of hunger and the construction of an independent industry in China, which was also bound to become the fundament for the later tremendous upsurge.

Under these conditions of radical change, of a breakthrough unprecedented in the Chinese history, a youth grew up which now under the close guidance of the Communist Party of China and above all of Mao Zedong wanted to push through the ideals in all realms of China. But in the party as well as in the official administration as in the factories there were many who had trimmed their sail to the wind and in fact represented capitalist directions, new forms of exploitation. Concretely, China’s old culture was frequently praised and practiced, an arbitrary system of marks was practised in the universities, which was a means of suppression.

In the economic base, special privileges were created in this or that way for functionaries or factory directors, and the suppression was continued in spite of the formal acknowledgement of the communist ideology and state doctrine. These were objective fundaments which instigated to fight and object.

Later on it was alleged that Mao Zedong made a coup, but this is nonsense, as the broad movement in China showed that the objective social interest existed in this direction, and the Communist Party of China from its leadership merely gave the ignition spark of this objective conflict, against those in the party and the administration who represented those old conditions. For more than four years, the Communist Party of China had gone through a fundamental inner struggle about the direction to take; at the Beidaho conference Mao Zedong had given a lecture about the necessities of the proletarian line. A great deal of the measures envisaged, concerning e.g. the implementation of the proletarian line in the superstructure, had been blocked. Therefore, the escalation of the struggle was a prepared one, and when revisionism plunged into a conflict with the masses, it was the consequential next step to fight on a higher level.

The Cultural Revolution was immediately preceded by the years of the so-called Great Polemics [8], in which the Soviet Union had been dealt with. In the final phase, 1964, the inner structures of the Soviet Union were dealt with, where a black underground capitalist element, characterized by brutality and new forms of exploitation, was steadily expanding. Today, all of us know that in 1989 these brutal conditions turned outward and definitely reestablished capitalism in Russia. But in fact this was criticized already 25 years before, in the decisive documents at the time of the Great Polemics (“On Khrushchev’s phoney communism and its historical lessons for the world”). By this polemics, by this proposal for a general line the Communist Party of China attempted on a world-wide level to create a new initiative for a revolutionary line, which strove to separate itself from a number of mistakes of the past, in the first place from what had emerged in the CPSU and the parties working closely with it after the XX. Party congress, but also from several mistakes that for example had nested already at Stalin’s time. Criticized was the Soviet revisionists’ participation in neo-colonialism, example Congo, criticized was that they collaborated with the US as accomplices (joint nuclear blackmailing, preparation of the so-called Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty), the joint efforts of the US and the Soviet Union to blackmail China and to thwart the other revolutionary beginnings on the globe. This criticism is perhaps the most significant document of the communist movement in the second half of the 20th century. It sent correct suggestions into the whole world and set standards.

Naturally there are also limitations inherent in the polemics. This we don’t want to conceal. For example, it does not work up the defeat of the labor movement against fascism in Europe, in particular the important German questions were touched upon only very marginally. Neither are the ideas of Mao Zedong all-embracing or a fundamentally new theory for the whole communist movement. The term “Maoism” is objectively wrong and illegitimate, it was also rejected by the Communist Party of China. It is necessary, too, to see the limitations to the work of Mao Zedong and the Communist Party of China, it was derived, in particular during the first decades, from the fundament of Marxism-Leninism in connection with the practice in China. Other essential questions, pertaining e.g. to the defeat against fascism in Germany and, being of international import, equally demanding a deep scrutinization, could not be expounded by the Communist Party of China, and they cannot be accused of that. Today’s revolutionaries are bound to do the necessary perusals and the further development of theory themselves, by their own strength, likewise in connection with practice. There were important, even fundamental suggestions of international relevance by the Communist Party of China, though, which emanated without doubt from this significant theoretical struggle.

Basically, general correct postulates were put in the polemics, e.g. also about the bourgeois character of social democracy and about the entire character of modern revisionism, which correctly was seen as the main danger for the whole world movement by the Communist Party of China. The centre of these activities was the CPSU itself and not the CP of Yugoslavia, which was an important forerunner of this development, but did not form the center in the final view.

In connection with the criticism of the CPSU in the polemics, it was also grasped that the refusal to go into several principles of Marxism-Leninism, although it formed the own point of reference, must have deep roots in the history of the CPSU and the Soviet Union itself. The Russian chauvinist great power policy that in hidden forms had existed in the CPSU since long and showed especially openly after the XX. Party congress, was increasingly criticized. In certain remarks, the discontent with the expansionist and chauvinist policy, which had shown also already in the Second World War in very essential features, outcropped clearly.

The public polemics and the criticism of the Soviet Union compelled the downfall of Nikita Khrushchev in the fall of 1964, who was the main representative of this direction. After a new leadership under Leonid Breshnew and Alexey Kossygin was established, the question arose how to further proceed.

Without harboring illusions about this new leadership, the Communist Party of China’s leadership under Mao Zedong chose the approach that this new leadership was at first to explain and to show by its behavior what it intended. The communist parties do not consist only of leaderships but of large numbers of members who want to be convinced by means of facts. Moreover, there is a worldwide movement for which the same holds true.

Later on it was one of the typical hostilities against the Communist Party of China by the Albanian party and its followers like the Roter Morgen to deliberately construct a reproach from that. The Communist Party of China’s approach had been unjustified, it was contended. Certainly it was not that way, as under the then conditions all communist parties were obliged to make attempts for unity, to make the best out of the situation and at first also to suppose that there is at least the possibility of a change. If subsequently it has to be stated that things are different, one is in a more secure position than if this had been negated from the onset. It was to turn out that the new leadership of the CPSU represented the same as Nikita Khrushchev, if only under somewhat different phrases. The revisionist overthrow in the Soviet Union went on and on, the Soviet Union became a social-imperialist power.

The unity of the communist movement, for which one had wrestled for years, could not simply be declared completely uninteresting. A few weeks later it was already clear in public how the new leadership under Breshnev would proceed, not only with the same course but an intensified course of revisionism and Soviet hegemonistic policy already looming. In this year, 1965, several outstanding articles were published, describing the role of the new Soviet leadership.[9] [10]

And against Mao Zedong the pressure in China, too, began to intensify. The Soviet Union could not tolerate the criticism. By all means they worked on the overthrow of this revolutionary centre, also from within. After all, there had been contacts to many members and organisations in the Communist Party of China. Essential for the outbreak of the Cultural Revolution was, after the international policy of the CPSU had further discredited itself, the further intensification of the question: in which direction do we want to go, do we want to knuckle to the pressure of the domestic bureaucratic bourgeoisie and go in the same direction as the CPSU, or do we want to go another way.

The call of the Communist Party of China of May 16, 1966, raised the storm. Cultural questions had long since been debated in China, but now there was the will to transform the superstructure, the state apparatus and the communist movement itself in earnest.

The supreme exponent of the direction in the Communist Party of China that represented the revisionist line in China and wanted to give up the independence of the revolutionary policy was Liu Shao-chi, who subsequently was resolutely attacked in the Cultural Revolution together with his followers. In the time after 1956, Mao Zedong himself had had to strive to get the majority of the Communist Party of China and its closer following on his side and to win them over politically for his convictions. Not always had he had the majority. If the forces around Liu Shao-chi had succeeded in isolating and suppressing Mao Zedong, something similar to the events in the Soviet Union would have happened in China, leading to the complete liquidation of the People’s Republic of China.

In the years to follow, it was the Soviet Union which oddly enough said that the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution were precipitating China into the abyss and were irreconcilable at all with communism. Today we know that the country where the conditions allegedly were so orderly, where no class struggle existed and everything was picobello very well, the Soviet Union, was exactly the country to sink in the biggest chaos, whereas the country that had gone through the Cultural Revolution has experienced, albeit in different forms, a tremendous rise. It can be seen here, that revolutions do not ruin states, as all revisionists, clerical lackeys and bourgeois reactionaries unswervingly assert. In fact, revolutions are the locomotives of history and bring things forward. This is true also of the great Cultural Revolution in China.

Today, out of a time 30 or 40 years later, such judgements can be given. Now the concrete development has already brought out the truth in many points, which then were deduced in a general form or were at least presaged.

Against Liu Shao-chi’s direction the struggle was led in the first large epoch of the Cultural Revolution. Liu Shao-chi had in many points contradicted the principles developed by Mao Zedong in the Chinese revolution and had pursued the exact opposite. Whereas Mao Zedong had declared that the revolution is learned in practice and the revolutionary theory, too, is acquired in connection with practice, Liu Shao-chi essentially taught to study in private “how to become a good communist”, giving tutelage for how to educate oneself. That alone already marked clear differences in the whole approach. Mao Zedong had discovered the independent revolutionary war as the fundament of the proletarian revolution; Liu Shao-chi represented, similarly to the communist leaders of other parties, a way of more or less abandoning the independent position and of closely leaning against the Soviet Union. These positions had to collide. In China, there had to be a definite decision one way or the other, and this question, this first battle was decided in favor of Mao Zedong from May 1966 until January 1967.

Besides Liu Shao-chi’s direction there existed the direction of Deng Xiaoping, who represented a more independent development of China, though, not so much groveling before the Soviet Union, but a much stronger independent development of China’s capitalist elements, which he in fact brought to a certain unfolding later on. Mao Zedong always took a position, as already mentioned, which emphasized the contradiction in Deng Xiaoping’s character. This, too, was later on tentatively used as a point for attack. In actual fact it was not possible to deal with Deng Xiaoping in a different way. The further development of the People’s Republic of China under Deng Xiaoping in the eighties and nineties shows in fact that Mao Zedong was right in this regard, as - although this was all about a capitalist building-up which betrayed much of the fundaments of the Chinese revolution – this capitalist building-up comprises many grandiose and world-overturning elements, so that it cannot be denied a certain revolutionary character. These contradictory sides in Deng Xiaoping’s policy were seen in the Chinese party leadership under Mao Zedong, so that it was even spoken about a “Deng Xiaoping question”.

The allegedly hesitant behavior towards Deng Xiaoping was later on interpreted by certain ultra-leftists as a ‘sign of revisionism’ from the part of Mao Zedong. They just show that they don’t know the first thing. In China, certain parts of the bourgeoisie and the bourgeois intelligentsia had to be included into the construction, whereupon the contradiction with this class was to intensify successively and to assume an antagonistic character.

The Cultural Revolution went on. It was bound to show many weaknesses, too. There were forces which in actual fact, under the ultra-leftist guise, pursued the smashing of the Communist Party of China in the total sense and of all fundaments of the People’s Republic of China. Anarchist, ultra-leftist forces rose and had to be fought, too. It must not be forgotten that the Chinese people had no more than just 17 years of socialism behind itself and at best 40 years of revolutionary development, at least in parts of China. The customs which over millennia have crept into the mentality of a country are not overcome in such a short period. God-like adoration of this new Cultural Revolution, a spirit of obedience to this new leader were mistaken developments, which now were used by certain ultra-leftist forces. If Liu Shao-chi was fought because he had demanded obedience and groveling  before the bourgeois “authorities”, certain forces immediately practiced the same under signs reversed. So, further struggles were imminent.

In this phase of the Cultural Revolution, 1967-1968, there were representatives in many other communist parties questioning in public: What the hell is Mao Zedong doing over there? He is smashing his own party! Or even: this is counterrevolution.

Smashing his own party? First of all, this is not correct, as large parts of the Communist Party of China supported the Cultural Revolution themselves. And secondly: a party is no sanctuary, and single party organizations aren’t sanctuaries a fortiori. A party is not a purpose in itself, it can and must be smashed if it contradicts the cause. And this very teaching that from the people itself the party is scooped anew, that there must be mobilization from the people in case of aberration, is a fundamental teaching, bound to play a very important role yet in the further development of the communist movement, which is still very far from its end.

One of the fatal mistaken developments was that certain over-assiduous forces now accused all kinds of cadres of the Communist Party of China “to walk the capitalist road”. People who had for decades worked for the Communist Party were accused of goodness knows what, and completely minor matters were put into the centre. A lot of things which developed badly in that way were, however, revised already in the Cultural Revolution, and a good many of those criticized subsequently took part in the Cultural Revolution themselves.

Most of the capitalist leaders abroad and particularly the Soviet revisionists were completely upset: goodness gracious, what happens in China! How abominable, how is it possible to fall into such a folly! Partly, they are still talking that way today, although their whole Soviet Union was blown up. They have not grasped that revolutions cannot be orderly events directed from above, but that in the evolvement of the self-developing forces from below the measures are to be found which initiate the new historical movements.

The People’s Republic of China did not at all isolate itself. In fact, the Soviet Union began to frame principles that resembled those of the US more and more and increasingly earned her the same contradictions, too. For example, there was the theory of “limited sovereignty”, by which even so-called fraternal socialist countries could be made to see reason by military means. By its diplomacy, the People’s Republic of China also managed to isolate the Soviet revisionists and thus to make impossible a military action in China.

In the middle of the Cultural Revolution the People’s Republic of China succeeded, too, in the further development of the nuclear technology, to explode the second nuclear bomb and to make big efforts for independence in the sector of machine construction. To be sure, there were also mistaken developments/aberrations and one-sidedness, as they had occurred in the Great Leap Forward, for example. Then, too, it was about to bring the people in China, who in many cases were completely separated from the industrial developments, up to industrial thinking and industrial production. Although the many single little steel furnaces were no real success in the economic sense, important goals were in fact achieved in the transformation of man. From that point of view, this also was a success. The same is true for the Cultural Revolution. Many people were brought up to the class struggle and to self-reliance, and in this way a great deal of elements of negative Chinese mentality of the past were broken, such as too much acquiescence in the face of despotism and hierarchy, as taught e.g. by Confucianism. It was a precondition for Deng Xiaoping’s later march through capitalism to world success, that especially these negative features had been fought. He was a profiteer from the development of the Cultural Revolution, which he himself condemned, comparable to Napoleon I. who was a profiteer from the revolutionary intensification of the French revolution.

The teachings of the Cultural Revolution spread from China, led millions of activists to pursue these new principles in the communist movement, and caused panic, fear and horror among the capitalist forces of the whole world. In the Federal Republic of Germany, for example, a country pretending that all of these events have been completely minor matters, the elements of the dislocation of production, of the country’s transformation into a services society were prepared exactly at that time of 1968-1974. On a large scale, the reduction started in 1974. Nothing caused greater fear than that these revolutionary new principles might amalgamate with a large working class in the country. Even if the working class was living in relative prosperity, as compared with international conditions, the history of the labour movement in this country and the high degree of socialization were too critical for feeling secure. Quite contrary to the official views, these new attempts for the party were feared like the devil fears the holy water, and fought. And this way it was in many countries. Every means was employed for creating splits and decomposition from within, particularly for spreading corruption. This lead to the frequently negatively coloured term “Achtundsechziger” [people of ‘68] which is inadmissibly equated with the corrupted elements of the former movement.

In many countries, specifically in Germany, there also were campaigns centered around a so-called “terrorism”, in which a public hysteria was fuelled, actually in order to fight the new revolutionary forces by all means. An imaginary enemy was fought, supposed to possess goodness knows which strength, whereas in actual fact quite different objectives where on the agenda, not at all immediately connected to that.

The Cultural Revolution was not anti-technology either, as it is stressed again and again. In the Cultural Revolution, the nuclear technology was defended, and the nuclear self-defence of the countries was advocated. The so-called Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was immediately condemned in the strongest terms. Not at all by chance it was concluded on July 1, 1968, still intended to be a means of pressure against the People’s Republic of China and against new rebellions of all kinds of states and revolutionary forces on the globe against the hegemony of the two superpowers. It was the naked threat against all of these forces.

Not only did new communist movements arise under the influence of the Cultural Revolution, but also the world of states differentiated itself even more. The two superpowers became more and more isolated, especially the Soviet Union.

The People’s Republic of China attempted, e.g., to argue also the German Democratic Republic out of the completely subservient attitude to the Soviet Union and at least to inspire her to take an independent course. This failed, in particular because the party leadership of Honecker since 1971 strictly refused it. All of us know the way things ended. If the German Democratic Republic had freed itself from certain historical elements of ballast and begun to lead an independent struggle, working up also the German revolution, a different fate would have been attributed to her. Without that, though, she only could march into doom jointly with the Soviet Union.

The Soviet Union increasingly attempted to break up the isolation in her own way and banded together with the most reactionary forces in the world. The Chiang gang on Taiwan became a virtual ally, and also with Israel she entered into close factual relations, hoodwinking the Arab states. She attempted to draw the Federal Republic of Germany closer to herself and put her on the “détente” rail, which became her special hobby. The politics of détente, that is to say the bringing together of the most various capitalist and reactionary forces in the world, became the main enemy and point of attack for those interested in the continuation of revolutionary work. All of us know where this so-called politics of détente ended.

Time and again, there has also been the reproach that the People’s Republic of China of that time had too strongly fought the Soviet Union, that finally she had lashed out exclusively at the Soviet Union and ignored that the capitalist forces in the background were pursuing also the overthrow in China. The danger of an overthrow in China was not ignored. In all of the diplomatic measures of then, it has to be recognized that they essentially were motivated by reasons of tactics and political strategy. Nixon’s visit to China, for example, was at no point in time used to dispense with the own revolutionary politics. The whole period of 1971 to 1976 is linked to permanent attempts to deepen the class struggle in China. However, the subversion in the diplomatic apparatus of the People’s Republic of China went on, too,  jointly with the Western side, in order to pursue the overthrow in China in its interest. This is a matter of fact. Studying the single processes of then in detail will help along here, but this has to done mainly from within China using the inner documents existing there.[11]

Now what about capitalism itself, though, which after undermining the Soviet Union and after the evolvement of a bureaucratic open capitalism there and after undermining the People’s Republic of China and the evolvement of an autochthonous capitalism under outwardly socialist-communist signs here seems first of all to have attained its goal?

What was the dictum in the beginning of the nineties? Several writers contended that the end of history was reached, that capitalism had become the winner of the development. And what is the reality? Capitalism has indeed developed the most radical forms of capitalism ever on earth and is continuously developing them further. And what does it bring about? It is undermining itself like mad and will create new forces directed against itself, in spite of all efforts to take away the dynamics of capitalism, to install brakes to growth and to overexploit and ruin the population. A new communist movement will develop, tying up to the previous intermediary achievements of the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China and other nations. Exactly therefore, we must be aware of the positive and negative sides of the Soviet Union as well as of the People’s Republic of China.

Among the capitalist directions of today that theory must be mentioned, too, which is propagated throughout the world by all the apologists of capitalism, the theory of the so-called catastrophe of the whole ecology, resp. the danger of apocalypse by damages to the environment, and the ensuing theory that the industrial development has to be kept under control, the energy costs have to be increased and the labor costs diminished, in order to arrive at an even more radical and brutal capitalism. This direction, which we call ecologism, was, by the way, recognized in its beginnings also by the People’s Republic of China. In articles of then of the Cultural Revolution’s time the cultural pessimism, e.g., or the negation of sufficient energy resources in the future are clearly criticized and the chances of the technical development of nuclear energy are pointed at.

Today’s development of capitalism, its radicalism, the way it is playing off the working classes of the different countries against each other, stopping at nothing, shows what capitalism means and how it must be fought. Whole continental regions are released from industrial labour in order to create a new proletariat in different geographical centres and to exploit it for the time being – and if the capitalists are not able to make headway there any longer, they will move on into other countries. Perhaps they return to those countries where they created their devastation and deprivation of social rights, in order to resume exploitation under these conditions. The spirit of the Cultural Revolution fits such a capitalism like the fist fits the eye. How radical capital is and how it acts under the laws dominating it, is showing today. To stick to this realization, that is where the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, in the last analysis, fixed its demands to.

Very certain it is, too, that it is not possible to stop at the Cultural Revolution and, for instance, to consider the People’s Republic of China as the ready-made model for the communist movement of the future, like some people do, propagating “Maoism” as the fundament for the time to come. As already mentioned, there is a series of problems of the communist movement in Europe, there are theoretical questions, we also have to analyze negative sides, e.g., of Lenin, the great power chauvinism of the Soviet Union has to be uncovered in all of its consequences as a mistaken development which has been reproducing itself underground, we must realize that in many instances the People’s Republic of China hardly got beyond the beginnings of the criticism of the Soviet Union, that we have to go deeper than it was the case formerly. It would be completely wrong, indeed, to assume that the theoretical achievements of 30-50 years ago would suffice for the future.

Therefore, the limitations of the Communist Party of China as well as of the Cultural Revolution have to be realized. That interim it came to a personality cult getting out of hands was not by chance either. It contradicts the goal of the emancipation of man from any rule of exploitation whatsoever.

It will be of great avail if important documents of the Cultural Revolution are discussed again in the future and the concrete reality of the Cultural Revolution is dealt with stronger than up to now. To all intents and purposes, single mistaken developments like campaigns of denunciation and mistaken developments of the ultra-leftist kind must be criticized. At the same time, however, the actual substance of the Cultural Revolution has to be defended.

The great strength of the Cultural Revolution shows also in the fact that even the heaviest disturbances were not able to topple it. In 1970-71, Lin Biao, who held the position of first deputy chairman, attempted a kind of overthrow, leaning above all on certain forces of the air force. This was really a coup, which because of extreme isolation was doomed to fail, though. The core of his political intentions was, under different outer labels, the restoration of the old revisionist line. Around him, a clan had developed, which, riding on the broad wave of support for Mao Zedong, attempted to introduce an uncritical, blind obedience to him and to bring itself into the first position. For that purpose they attempted to displace Mao Zedong from the role of practical leadership. As it can be seen from documents published later, he believed that he could make age-old principles of obedience and “rites”, as laid down in Confucianism, the fundament again.

If the official explanations of the People’s Republic of China published in the time after his attempted coup are followed, he condemned the break with Confucianism and preached indirectly the system of black underground capitalism which was already in full sway in the Soviet Union. Completely, however, this attempted coup has not been cleared up yet.

In the following phase after 1971-72 it was attempted to consolidate the situation by reintegrating certain people into the party’s work, who previously had been criticised, but loyally backed the People’s Republic of China and also the new course, for instance Deng Xiaoping, who soon took over a leading government position again and in 1973 declared to support the criticism exerted against himself in the Cultural Revolution. Often it is asserted that Deng Xiaoping had been was rehabilitated. This is wrong. Nowhere had the Communist Party of China attested that the criticism of Deng Xiaoping in the time of 1966-69 had been wrong in its substance. Rather had Deng Xiaoping declared from his part that he was aware of his mistakes and wanted to try to loyally participate in the work now. Although he, too, took part notably in the international work of strengthening the People’s Republic of China, after some time he started again to walk the same capitalist road he had been criticized for several years ago. This lead to one of the struggles from 1974 till the beginning of 1976.  

Particularly crucial for the failure of the Cultural Revolution after Mao Zedong was the fact that it was not achieved to tie up this new movement in China to an international movement of an authentic character. Too many of the parties presenting themselves as alleged representatives of the Cultural Revolution and Mao Zedong’s line were basically lie and deception, or at least parts of these parties have to be evaluated to be of that kind. The People’s Republic of China was not able to overcome with a single stroke the setbacks the communist movement had undergone in the thirties and forties in large parts of the world.

The campaign for the criticism of Lin Biao and Confucius, for instance, which was in force in 1971-75, could only hit the inner reaction in China itself. Quite different approaches would have been necessary with regard to the Communist International, its policy and the development of revisionism in the West.

The final phase of the Cultural Revolution, app. from autumn 1974 to autumn 1976, is an extremely complicated process, connected not only to processes in China itself but also to the international connections of the Chinese revolution. Its explanation would go beyond the scope of this article.[12]

The representatives of the so-called Gang of Four were not able to get the majority in their country on their side, because they themselves pursued a top down policy, a policy of denunciation and one-sided condemnation, which finally contributed to their complete isolation. Then, the other way round, the defeat of the Gang of Four was used to ruthlessly denounce all leftist forces in China and to finally attack the Cultural Revolution itself. Without this condemnation of the so-called Gang of Four and its own isolated policy the overthrow against the Cultural Revolution would not have succeeded.

Many forces also contended that the forces of the Cultural Revolution were not able to hold their ground after 1976, Mao Zedong’s death, and did not resist. Rather, resistance against the revocation of the revolutionary policy was offered from the most different Chinese provinces for more than two years. The rightist forces, though, who finally laid the ground for the capitalist development, had the advantage of having all the international connections in their hands, and of commanding a good deal of power in the headquarters. This struggle, though, has not come to its end yet. For the international debate about capitalism, which leaning on the development of capitalism in China itself has so manifestly expanded, will inevitably have a part to play also in the social conflicts in China, and the former phases will be worked up, regardless of the consent or dissent of the present Chinese leaders. Even if they attempt to shut the Internet against a possible criticism of their policy, this will not help them in the long run.

The West on its part wants to use the uncertainty in China for bringing a totally rightist direction to power, such as it expresses itself, for instance, in the Falun-Gong movement [13] or similar “human rights” movements. If that were to succeed, China would plunge into the darkest hole ever. Compared to that, even the present Chinese government is a tremendous progress. These people would flatly propagate that there are much too many Chinese, and ultimately work at the murder of a part of their population.[14] With this acrimony these forces have to be looked at. It would be attempted to undo the whole Chinese revolution and to turn back the hands of time for one hundred years. It’s folly, but such attempts from the part of capitalists are inevitable; we know, for instance, also the “ecological movement”, the “anti-nuclear-power-plants” movement and other reactionary movements, which in the final analysis are expressions of such efforts. To have a backward orientation is a product resulting from the bourgeois position itself, it must occur inevitably, but is also doomed to fail. It depends also from the communist movement and the communist parties, though, who must attack this reaction in its substance, but not skirt it or even adapt to such directions.

Translation from the German original, published Sept. 8,  2006

Translator: wgr



1    The Long March Oct. 1934 –1935 – The CPCh ran several major base areas in South China, regions in which the revolutionary state power of the soviets already existed. Starting point were the peasants’ leagues, which since the twenties had become an instrument of the revolutionary rule of the peasants over the large landlords.

This was some kind of democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry, which constituted the large majority of the population. The agrarian reform, the establishment of the peasants’ rights, education for all, abolishment of hunger and development of the activities of the masses were the social goals of these base areas, which were successfully run there for several years. Several encirclement campaigns by the counterrevolutionary Chiang Kai-shek, who was supported by the imperialists and had led a military coup against the communist party in the cities in 1927, failed. Simultaneously there were several mistakes by the then leadership of the CPCh. At the end of 1934 the opinion prevailed that the bases could not be held in the long run against the military pressure, and that therefore it was necessary to break out in order to found new base areas in China’s North-West under more favourable conditions.

From that the Long March originated, which the CPCh and the revolutionary people’s army bore out under considerable losses but heroic commitment. At the beginning of the Long March Mao Zedong did not belong to the inner leadership of the CPCh. But in its course he prevailed and became chairman of the CPCh at the Dsunyi conference in January, 1935.

2    Superpower – this term stands for a predominant imperialistic power with ambitions for world hegemony, such as it definitely emerged by the Second World War in the form of the US and later in the form of two of such “superpowers”, the USA and the Soviet Union.

3    Chang Chun-Chiao (1917-2005) gave the speech on the new constitution of the People’s Republic of China at the People’s Congress in Beijing 1975, and in the beginning of 1975 gave a speech on the all-round dictatorship of the proletariat. Later on he belonged to the so-called Gang of Four and was “sentenced” as one of those chiefly responsible by the so-called tribunal of 1980. This “tribunal” discredited itself right from the start. In 1976, the members of the so-called Gang of Four were arrested by force, directly in their official functions, under the accusation of thwarting the line of chairman Mao Zedong, in particular also the line of the Cultural Revolution, and four years later they were sentenced by the capitalist usurpers because of initiating the Cultural Revolution. In the entire 20th century there was no “tribunal” more ridiculous than this one, being celebrated simultaneously by the capitalist and revisionist mob of all countries, as it was to sanction the suppression of the proletarian revolution.

Cf. also the current explanations of then, Neue Einheit 1980, #3/4 and 1981,#1 about this subject.

Concerning the criticism of the so-called Gang of Four, the direction of which was criticized by us as ultra-leftist in 1976: see several others of our documents. The mistakes of this group do not in any way, though, justify the pressurizing, the measures and the terror against the revolutionary members of the CPCh, which started in the autumn of 1976.

4    Speech by comrade Chang Chun-Chiao on Behalf of the Delegations of the Revolutionary Committees in Four Provinces and One Municipality - -At the Rally to Inaugurate and Celebrate the Peking Municipal Revolutionary Committee, April 20, 1967 (In “Great Victory for Chairman Mao’s Revolutionary Line”, Peking 1967, S.67):

“You have contributed the first Marxist-Leninist big-character poster in the whole country and initiated the world shaking movement of the Red Guards.”

5    The method of fighting a cause not only directly but also by destroying it by exaggeration is not quite a new one. A personality cult which does not describe the objective role of a certain person who drives the cause forward, but credits him with in a way miraculous qualities, so that he cannot be but obeyed, thwarts the Cultural Revolution completely. If the majority accepts such an “authority”, if an individual is put in the place of the forward-driving role of the people, then somebody may just occupy that place or inherit it in order to erect the dictatorship against the masses, the bourgeois and bureaucratic-bourgeois dicatorship. Such a personality cult thwarts the critical and independent thinking, the furthering of which was the true intention of the Cultural Revolution. An essential result is that this attempt of such an adverse line as Lin Biao’s has failed.

6    This concerns the parties KPD/ML (Roter Morgen), KPD (previously KPD/AO) and KBW. It was especially blatant in the case of Roter Morgen, which was the biggest striver for the so-called Chinese acknowledgement, especially obtrusively walking about with this supposed acknowledgment, in order to subsequently denigrate the entire policy of the People’s Republic of China. The so-called “Kommunistischer Bund” (KBW), from which later on particularly numerous members of the government originated, was for quite a long time active in running Mao Zedong down, in particular his later foreign policy, while formally acknowledging him.

Additional notes    (taken from IS 2006-06 “On Yao Wenyuan’s Death”), inserted by the translator, on the three abovementioned organisations:

Roter Morgen (Red Morning) – Marxist-Leninist periodical, founded in the summer of 1967 unmistakably under the impression of the Cultural Revolution and its radiation all over the world. Beginning with its first issue it stood closely leaning on the Communist Party of China under Mao Zedong (former spelling Mao Tse-tung) . The founder of this journal, Ernst Aust, had published the journal ”Blinkfuer” until 1964, which up to then had been characterized also by sallies against the Peoples’ Republic of China and revisionist propaganda. On Dec. 31, 1968, the KPD/ML (Communist Party of Germany/Marxist-Leninist) was founded after some preparations, the Roter Morgen becoming its initially undisputed central organ. After 1970, this journal stood for the direction represented by Ernst Aust within the KPD/ML and the entire ML-movement, and it stands also as a synonym for the KPD/ML (Roter Morgen) as different from, e.g., Zentralbuero-Rote Fahne and Neue Einheit (NE).

KPD/AO – an organization founded in 1970, its leading circles stemming mainly from the former students’ movement. From 1972 on this organization officially adopted the name KPD, thereby raising a particular and unjustifiable pretension. During the seventies the organization with the strongest public appearance. In this organization, too, were hundreds of people committed to the cause. Several leaders of this organization had been decided opponents of the Marxist-Leninist party concept before 1970, but when the ML-movement became stronger and stronger in the end of 1969, they conducted a 180 º-turn, which they carried through again, in the reverse direction, in 1978/79, when the overthrow in China was accomplished. Especially from the circles of this organization massive attempts were started in 1969-72 to prevent even the first beginnings of our organization. We are using the token ”AO” (for ”Aufbauorganisation”, organisation for building the party) also for the later phase, in order to have a possibility for distinguishing.

KBW – Kommunistischer Bund Westdeutschlands (Communist League of Western Germany), 1973-1985, an organization with a Trotskyite element, was able to accomplish its foundation at the end of 1972 when the first parties and formations connected to the KPD/ML were weakened. This organization was the strongest in terms of membership in Western Germany. It conjoined in a particularly strong way with the movement against nuclear energy plants. Even after 1980 it was still a decided supporter of the Peoples’ Republic of China after the overthrow. In 1985, the most part of this organization dissolved into the Greens, corresponding to the suggestions by the higher forces of the state (’best kept there’).

About the KABD (Kommunistischer Arbeiterbund Deutschlands – communist worker’s league of Germany, since 1982 under the name of MLPD – Marxistisch-Leninistische Partei Deutschlands -Marxist-Leninist party of Germany) cf. several other statements of ours, as one of the latest IS 2006-28 in particular.

7    As especially weighty examples in terms of numbers the KPD/AO and the KBW have to be mentioned here. Thousands of interested and active people went through the KBW alone.

8    ‚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: ”Khrushchev’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.

9    The following articles may document that:

A comment on the March Moscow meeting. By the Editorial Departments of Renmin Ribao (People’s Daily) and Hongqi (Red Flag), March 23, 1965. Peking : Foreign Languages Press, 1965

Carry the struggle against Khrushchev revisionism through to the end : on the occasion of the second anniversary of the publication of “A proposal concerning the general line of the International Communist Movement.” By the Editorial Departments of Renmin Ribao (People’s Daily) and Hongqi (Red Flag), June 14, 1965. Peking : Foreign Languages Press, 1965

Fan, Hsiu-chu. A struggle between two lines over the question of how to deal with U.S. imperialism. Peking : Foreign Languages Press, 1965

Refutation of the new leaders of the CPSoviet Union on “united action”. By the Editorial Departments of Renmin Ribao (People’s Daily) and Hongqi (Red Flag), November 11, 1965. Peking : Foreign Languages Press, 1965

10    An incident of exceptional import in this context is the assault on the CP of Indonesia of Oct. 1965, which entailed the bloodiest and most brutal counter-revolution of the second half of the 20th century. It should have jolted the entire communist movement, but this did not materialize, and so here is need for inquiries.

11    The experiences of 1990, when the German Democratic Republic was dissolved, are to be mentioned here. How hastily did the US, in particular, strive to get hold of the documents about the subversion, primarily in the former Federal Republic of Germany, and to clean and control them at her discretion. This is the case of the so-called Rosenholz files, which were pilfered immediately after 1989 in the GDR and taken to the US. Years later they were finally handed over to the officials of the FRG. In the case of turmoil in China there will be similar attempts to cover the tracks.

12    On this, however, see the already existing statements from our side:
Lastly, mainly the articles “On Yao Wenyuan’s Death” (IS 2006-06, Jan. 21st , 2006) or “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” (IS 2004-41, July 26th, 2004) .

13    Falun Gong – an extremely rightist movement, directed against the entire Chinese revolution, appearing under the cover of a Chinese school of meditation and motion. It is closely connected to US imperialism, but also to other reactionaries and was, at least temporarily, promoted by the Western media. On the whole, weapons are being forged in order to intervene in China in the case of inner unrest. The abovementioned Falun Gong sect has also connections to other “human rights” organizations.

14    The accusation that Mao Zedong’s epoch because of its social improvements produced “so many people” is one of the top reproaches raised by black forces of the various shades.