By Vince Copeland

December, 1975

Why does the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) say that capitalism has been restored in the Soviet Union and insist that the Soviet Union — the USSR — is an imperialist state?

Broken alliance

We feel that the answer to this question may be found by tracing the evolution of the Chinese relations with the USSR from earlier times to the present. In doing this, we hope to show that the characterization of the USSR as a virtual fascist country was arrived at pragmatically, under the pressure of the Soviet leadership's uncomradely and even chauvinist treatment (which is in deep contradiction to the socialist system it represents) and under the more subtle but at least equally powerful pressure of U.S. imperialism as well.

What is needed in such an outline is not a new evaluation of the working class character of the USSR, but a more careful analysis of the limitations of its leadership, with special emphasis on its relations with the Chinese. It is not necessary in our view to jettison the social conquests of the October Revolution of 1917 in order to say that the present Soviet leaders are not revolutionary communists and that they treated the Chinese comrades in an insensitive, reprehensible manner.

Before the actual break between the two socialist countries, there had been an ideological split — a debate of titanic proportions with the Chinese taking the revolutionary side of the argument. Such a debate was all the more necessary and welcome in view of the decades of conservatism, not to mention conciliation with imperialism, on the part of the Soviet leaders. And it could not by itself have led to a break in relations between states unless something more than a difference of political opinion was involved.

The ideological debate was at first concerned with the question of how best to defeat imperialism and establish world socialism. But this debate arose not only because of differing points of view but also because of the relations between the two national parties and between the two socialist states themselves. With all the colossal use — or misuse of the present terrible split by U.S. imperialism, the split did have its origins in the Chinese CP's relations with Khrushchev and with Stalin before him and, as the bourgeois historians are so quick to point out, in the successive encroachments on the old Chinese empire by the Czarist ruling class before the workers overthrew it in 1917.

CCP criticizes Stalin

The carefully hidden differences between the Chinese CP and Stalin first came to light in 1956 and 1957, three or four years after Stalin's death. In one of the first public revelations of this, the Chinese said:

"Stalin displayed certain great-nation chauvinist tendencies in relation to brother parties and countries. The essence of such tendencies lies in being unmindful of the independent and equal status of the communist parties of various lands and that of the socialist countries."[1]

In light of the subsequent Chinese repudiation of Khrushchev and reestablishment of Stalin, these powerful words from the Chinese are worth some study. It would appear that Stalin, the author of "Marxism and the National Question," violated the spirit of his own youthful essay, and so much so that the Chinese repeated this criticism several times after his death.

The point, however, is not so much the role of Stalin in particular as it is the question of great-nation chauvinism in general. Every word of the above quotation burns with repressed anger against arrogant treatment and violations of the "independent and equal status" of the persons who wrote it. The fact that it does not specifically mention the experiences of the Chinese themselves is all the more eloquent. How many times more sharply the Chinese must have felt these things considering that they had been members of an oppressed nation and accustomed to the contemptuous treatment of the British and American imperialists over decades and generations!

This charge of great-nation chauvinism runs like a red thread through all the subsequent arguments with Khrushchev, and Brezhnev, too, even when the actual words are not mentioned. The accusation against Stalin arises not from a casual remembrance but from a still burning sense of injustice in the old relationship now projected into the new one.

To show that this great-nation arrogance among the leaders of the Soviet CP had existed for a very long time, let us go back to the year 1922. It was Stalin's idea at that time that all the formerly oppressed nations within the territory of what was once Czarist Russia should simply join the already existing Russian Socialist Federation of Soviet Republics (RSFSR) after the civil war on the principle of autonomy for each.

Lenin strongly objected to this and proposed:

"We recognize ourselves as equal with the Ukrainian Republic and the others, and join the new union, the new federation, together with them and on equal footing."[2]

In accordance with Lenin's advice, the draft was changed, the first congress of the various nations was held on December 30, 1922, and the new Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was founded in equal comradeship by the Russian and non-Russian nations together.

Lenin warns about 'the Russian frame of mind'

About the same time, Lenin bitterly denounced Stalin's narrowness on the national question, particularly in respect to Georgia, Stalin's own homeland:

"I think that Stalin's haste and his infatuation with pure administration, together with his spite against the notorious 'nationalist-socialism; played a fatal role here. In politics, spite generally plays the basest of roles.

"I also fear that Comrade Dzerzhinsky, who went to the Caucasus to investigate the crime of those nationalist-socialists distinguished himself there by his truly Russian frame of mind [it is common knowledge that people of other nationalities who have become Russified overdo the Russian frame of mind]." [3]

(This "nationalist-socialism" consisted mainly of the refusal to incorporate all directives from Moscow into the work of the Georgian Soviet Republic at this time. It was in principle not unlike the position of Tito in 1948, who had not yet approached the imperialist U.S. when Stalin expelled him.)

After severely criticizing another of Stalin's close collaborators, Orjonikidze, for actual brutality on the scene in Georgia and recommending "suitable punishment" for him, Lenin continues:

"The political responsibility for all this truly Great-Russian campaign must, of course, be laid on Stalin and Dzerzhinsky."[4]

And concluding with prophetic clarity about future relations with China, he writes:

"It would be unpardonable opportunism if, on the eve of the debut of the East, just as it is awakening, we undermine our prestige with its peoples, even if only by the slightest crudity or injustice towards our own non-Russian nationalities. The need to rally against the imperialists of the West ... is one thing ... It is another thing when we ourselves lapse, even if only in trifles, into imperialist attitudes towards oppressed nationalities, thus undermining all our principled sincerity, all our principled defense of the struggle against imperialism." [5]

In this short passage Lenin pinpoints not just the uncommunist Great-Russian chauvinism of Stalin, but also the chauvinist failings of a number of others — Lenin's diplomatically designated "we ourselves" — who were to inherit the Soviet Party along with Stalin.

To those who are used to thinking of socialist countries as utopias rather than as historical advances of the working class which still bear the birthmarks from the tortured capitalist past, Stalin's defects and these sharp words of Lenin may be somewhat of a letdown. But even if Lenin's criticism had been twice as sharp, this would not have indicated that the revolution-based USSR was actually imperialist, in spite of the uncommunist "imperialist attitudes" of some of its leaders.

The USSR, like the People's Republic of China and other socialist countries, is not the political expression of a group of individual leaders, but an objective complex of concrete social institutions that emerged from the revolutionary action of millions of people. These millions were under the leadership of a Marxist party, to be sure, but they physically smashed not only the old ruling class, but also its armies, prisons, courts, and property relations. This being the case, a number of "bad" leaders could later put a braking effect upon the full benefits of the new social institutions, including the effect of social backwardness on many questions. But they could not by a mere act of political will turn these institutions back into their opposite, that is, capitalist, imperialist institutions.

Nevertheless, from the point of view of explaining the present Chinese theory of the class character of the Soviet state, we cannot overlook for a second their long experience with great-nation chauvinism as a factor in their present conclusion that an "imperialist attitude" is the same as imperialism itself.

Why should this "imperialist attitude" have led to more chauvinistic acts in substance, even while the Soviet Union was and still is a socialist country?

Let us take the case of Stalin himself. His interference with the Chinese CP at an earlier date did not arise so much from innate feelings of superiority as from caution about breaking the defense treaty (against Japan) with the still powerful Chiang Kai-shek. But the Chinese now interpret this first and foremost as "great-nation chauvinism." And this chauvinism was undoubtedly a factor in Stalin's attitude, since he continually put his judgment about the Chinese revolution (which happened to be wrong anyway) ahead of theirs and imposed it on them.

The fact is that the "imperialist attitude" itself arises from membership in a relatively privileged nationality, even where the individual concerned belongs to a revolutionary party. How much more is this the case when one socialist country is ten times richer on a per capita basis than another, and especially when the first may have sharper inequalities among its own citizens than the second!

The inequalities in Stalin's time were far more advanced than in the time of Lenin, who had already said, "What we really have is a workers' state with bureaucratic distortions." [6] Stalin still further emphasized the imperialist attitude, however unconsciously, because of his lack of faith in the Chinese revolution.

Khrushchev, and later Brezhnev, merely carried this position still further to the right, although with some oscillations to the left. With all three leaders it was in varying degrees a combination of national chauvinism and fear of the power of imperialism while they still governed a country whose advanced, dynamic social system had been established by the greatest revolution in human history.

Thus the Soviet leaders under Stalin at first provided little help for the Chinese CP in the crucial civil war of 1945-1949, [7] partly because they had no faith that it would succeed [8] and partly because they feared the consequences of success (such as a new war). But great-nation chauvinism was also an element in their lack of faith. The Chinese carefully noted Stalin's consideration for Roosevelt and Churchill during World War II and saw that he continued to ally himself with the U.S. puppet Chiang Kai-shek long after their own civil war against Chiang had begun.

Indeed, Han Suyin, an enthusiastic supporter of the present Chinese policies, says:

"Until the very last days of Chiang's regime, the Russians were very scrupulous in fulfilling the pact [with Chiang — VC], and negotiations were carried out with Chiang Kai-shek concerning Russian claims [against China] based on the Yalta agreement well into the spring of 1949 — [that is, nearly four years after the civil war had begun]."[9]

Significantly, Han tries to explain Stalin's maneuvers with Chiang not so much by his lack of faith in the Chinese revolution and his worry about a stable Chinese ally against imperialist Japan, but almost solely by his great-power chauvinism:

"But Stalin's preference for Chiang Kai-shek is not so easily explained unless we suppose that Stalin was already a great-power chauvinist and preferred Chiang who would not be in a position to claim back Outer Mongolia or other interests wrested from China — with U.S. consent — at Yalta." [10]

Chinese CP refuses to give up its arms

In 1945 and 1946, when Chiang proposed (at U.S. prompting) that the Chinese CP join with the bourgeois Kuomintang in a coalition government, Stalin and the Soviet leadership went along with the idea. But it was undoubtedly the Chinese CP that decided to accept the coalition only on the condition that the Communist Red Army keep its weapons and remain intact. [11]

When Chiang refused to agree with this condition, he touched off a civil war — at first somewhat to the surprise and concern of Stalin and the other Soviet leaders.

The Soviet leaders had calculated that Chiang would rule China for a long period after the defeat of imperialist Japan, and Stalin accordingly made agreements with Chiang (as against Japan) at the post-war Potsdam Conference without necessarily consulting the Chinese CP. And of course Stalin recognized the Chiang government as the exclusive representative of China at the formation of the United Nations after the war, even though he was well aware that the Chinese CP already controlled hundreds of thousands of square miles of China and had the allegiance of millions of people.

Stalin apparently thought the fighting was over after eight years of war with Japan. He apparently thought that the Chinese CP would give up its arms and enter the bourgeois government as a "loyal opposition," just as the French and Italian CPs had done.

This did not prevent him from welcoming the victorious Chinese revolution into the Soviet bloc four years later in the middle of the Cold War, in spite of the problems it created for him. Similarly, Khrushchev welcomed the Cuban revolution, although he had a general policy of accommodation with the U.S. — incidentally proving as Stalin did that a non-revolutionary policy does not prove there is a non-revolutionary state.

In addition to all the problems the Chinese CP had with Chiang Kai-shek, they had many with the leaders of the first workers' state. They might have correctly criticized the Soviet leadership for its conduct during the Chinese revolution, while making sure to underline the working class character of the USSR. But in the context of the Cold War such an approach could have been interpreted as a blow against the foundations as well as the superstructure of the USSR. Such a line might have isolated the revolution and the infant revolutionary Chinese state and left it open to penetration by the imperialist United States.

But nevertheless, relations between the two parties were difficult. [12] It was not until after the Chinese CP took power, and even then, not until Mao's trip to the Soviet Union late in December 1949, that relations between the two national parties were really good. [13] (It is noteworthy that this was Mao's first trip to Moscow, while his old opponents in the Chinese CP had gone there again and again, mainly to get support against him.) [14]

There was much imperialist speculation about a break between the two parties — and countries — during the weeks that Mao was in the Soviet Union (December 1949-February 1950) negotiating a treaty with Stalin. And there was a feverish intrigue of U.S. agents in Hong Kong and other places to prevent an agreement from taking place at all.

U.S. accuses USSR of 'imperialism' — in 1950

The U.S. press was full of accusations that the Soviets were going to carve up China in order to make a greater Russia and a "land bridge to the Pacific." Knowing full well that the Chinese had serious feelings about the great-nation chauvinism of the Russians, the U.S. imperialists played this theme to the hilt, one of the most blatant literary examples of it being that of C.L. Sulzberger of the New York Times. In one of several such editorials, he wrote on January 23, 1950, while the negotiations were still going on:

"It is not an issue of ideology nor one of economic needs. It is one of simon pure traditional imperialism.... Can Mao afford to see such areas as Outer and Inner Mongolia, Sinkiang and northern Manchuria slip westward toward a newly imperial Moscow?" [15]

The reactionary Sulzberger, armed with the research of the liberal Owen Lattimore, plunged this "innocent" dagger into the most sensitive vitals of the Chinese national psyche. The USSR never made the predicted drive eastward, and in fact later returned Chinese territory that it had taken from the Japanese imperialists, above all the immense land of Manchuria, which had been for a decade the Japanese puppet state of "Manchukuo."

This vulgar splitting tactic seemed realistic to both the liberal and reactionary imperialists based on their knowledge of previous Chinese experience with the "imperialist attitudes" of the Soviet leaders. But the Chinese were well aware, in this period, of the invaluable support of the Soviet Red Army in Manchuria, and keenly conscious of how different the fate of that land would have been if the United States Army (under the fascist-minded General MacArthur, for instance) had occupied Manchuria instead. They had only to look at north and south Korea to see the difference.

In another article, the Times called upon U.S. imperialism to do what it was already doing — in these blunt and dishonest words:

"In carrying out its long range policy [to destroy the USSR and People's China — VC] the United States might do well to remind Eastern nations that if they believe in the slogan of "Asia for the Asiatics," Russian imperialism is not the answer." [16]

The Soviet leaders, both officially and unofficially, answered all the accusations of "imperialism" and branded them for the splitting tactics they were. The U.S. imperialists in turn admitted and even boasted that of course they were out to split the two countries apart.

"As the Soviet radio charged," said the New York Times of January 29, 1950, "the United States aim indeed is to 'drive a wedge' between the Chinese and the Russians." One virtue of the Cold War was its charming frankness!

Considering this intensive imperialist campaign against Soviet "imperialism," the really imperialist overtures to the Chinese, and the previous differences between the Chinese CP and Stalin, it was somewhat surprising that Mao did go to Moscow and, no matter how cool his reception, did have the discussions and did sign a pact.

U.S. splitting tactics failed — then

"The class bonds between China and the USSR have at least for the moment triumphed over the narrow politics" (of their respective leaderships), said Sam Marcy of Workers World Party, a few months later. "The alliance between the Soviet Union and the Chinese People's Republic is an alliance between social classes having identical social aims."

Referring to the splitting tactics of the U.S., Marcy continued:

"In its [the U.S. bourgeoisie] effort to break the alliance, it is not promoting a "new democratic order in Asia," but is seeking a new form of apostasy among the leaders of the Asiatic revolution, while at the same time preparing to mount a new military offensive." [17]

But Mao did not yield to the "new form of apostasy" at that time. He and Stalin agreed to the Soviet-Chinese Treaty of Friendship, Alliance and Mutual Assistance. While this treaty was world historic in its importance, it called for Soviet aid of $300 million over a period of five years. And relatively small as this aid at first appeared and tenuous as the new alliance seemed, it did take root and was strengthened over the ensuing years.

The liberal China experts well aware of the previous differences between the two leaderships had advised the U.S. State Department to side with the Chinese CP instead of with Chiang Kai-shek in the civil war. (It didn't.) They hoped that the Chinese CP would be pro-American and that Mao Tse-tung would be, in their words, a "Mao Tse-Tito." [18]

It was because this did not happen as much as because of the Chinese CP's success in the revolution itself, that these liberal "experts" were accused of having "lost China." (How "we" managed to "lose China" became a reactionary theme song in the U.S. for a decade.) It was really because the new Chinese People's Republic allied itself to the Soviet Union that the Cold War and the anti-progressive witch-hunt in the United States were so intensified. U.S. imperialism lashed out with the ferocity of a wounded tiger at the now more powerful socialist bloc.

And regardless of all previous speculation, once the treaty was announced, the die was cast, and the Cold War guns were turned against China as well as upon the Soviet Union. Within months the hot war guns were concentrated on the Korean peninsula and in effect against revolutionary China itself.

The height of the practical Soviet-Chinese cooperation was reached in this period, with Soviet MiGs fighting daily against U.S. aircraft, while in late November 1950, a hundred thousand Chinese entered the war on behalf of their Korean ally. [19] U.S. imperialism under the UN banner and with all its UN allies was thrown back for the first real loss that it had ever sustained in a war — and this was more than a decade before Vietnam.

CCP welcomes Khrushchev

After the war ended — in June 1953 — the still beleaguered Chinese devoted their attention to a foreign policy of careful compromise and were still a long way from the world revolutionary line of the early and middle 1960s.

Stalin had died in 1953. But the leadership of People's China did not give the slightest hint of regarding his successors as in any way to the right of him. To the contrary, they closed ranks and soon showed a great enthusiasm for the Soviet reforms after his death, although not all of these were of a leftist character.

By 1956, when the Soviet CP leader Nikita Khrushchev called for a new drive for a non-Leninist form of peaceful coexistence between imperialism and socialism, the Chinese leaders were very receptive, having already made approaches of that kind themselves. Nearly every edition of People's China for that year ran articles calling for "peaceful co-existence."

In discussing international relations, even before the Twentieth Congress, Chou En-lai, then Foreign Minister as well as Premier, said on July 30, 1955:

"The Geneva Conference of the heads of government of the Soviet Union, United States of America, the United Kingdom, and the Republic of France, the first of its kind in ten years since the war [i.e., World War II] has concluded with positive achievements. These achievements will positively contribute to the further easing of world tensions and to the restoring of confidence between nations." [Our emphasis.] "[20]

It was not for several years that the Chinese were to say — very correctly:

"At times this struggle [between imperialists] may grow somewhat less acute, and may result in certain compromises or even in the formation of ‘alliances of groups of states,’ but such relaxation of tensions, compromises or alliances always breed more acute, more intense and more widespread contradictions and struggles among the imperialists." [Our emphasis.] [21]

But in 1955 Chou's line and the Chinese CP's line on international policy and peaceful co-existence closely paralleled that of Khrushchev at the Twentieth Congress the next year.

The importance of Soviet aid

The Chinese attitude to the Soviet Union was exceedingly warm and comradely during 1955, not only because of the common line on co-existence.

There were constant references in the Chinese press to the great amount of technical and economic help the Soviet Union under Khrushchev and Bulganin was giving China, and many stories about the idealism and comradeliness of Soviet technicians and other Soviet visitors. The key words in those days, as in 1956, were "The Great Friendship" and "Unbreakable Friendship," the "Unforgettable Friendship" and "Friendship Farm," etc.

Soviet aid was tremendously stepped up after Stalin's death. Anyone who underestimates the effect of this greater aid in improving relations between the two countries simply has no concept of its magnitude and of the real gratitude of the Chinese people.

Mao Tse-tung declared on February 15, 1955 (two years after Stalin's death):

"I greet the magnificent cooperation between China and the Soviet Union. This cooperation is cooperation to promote the cause of socialism, cooperation to frustrate the aggressive plans of the imperialists, cooperation for peace between nations. ..."

And he added with unconscious prophecy:

"We can all see that, with the magnificent cooperation between China and the Soviet Union, there are no aggressive plans of imperialism which cannot be smashed." [22]

These prophetic words were, unfortunately, verified in the negative rather than the affirmative.

Hailing the Twentieth Congress

One of the greatest points of contention in recent times, from a theoretical point of view, has been the revisionism of the Twentieth Congress held in Moscow in February 1956. At the time it was held, however, practically nothing was said about revisionism. The CPs of the world were greatly shaken by the revelations of (some of) Stalin's real record in Khrushchev's famous "secret speech" — printed in the New York Times and the Daily Worker — at least three-quarters of the CPUSA leaving the Party in the subsequent twelve months. But in the course of the great debate about Stalin's mistakes, crimes, or contributions, the rightward political shift of Khrushchev was practically unnoticed outside the Soviet Union and was all too easily accepted within that country.

Far from branding this revisionist Congress for what it was at that time, as would be appropriate to Marxists — in state power or out — and far from declaring the Soviet Union imperialist for its leadership's right turn, the Chinese CP welcomed the Congress and welcomed it warmly.

People's Daily (Renmin Ribao) editorialized on the event as follows:

"The (Twentieth) Congress has shown the confidence and strength of the Soviet people in a peaceful competition between the two systems and in defense of world peace. ... The holding of the Twentieth Congress of the CPSU is a historic event of world-wide significance." [23]

This was only one of hundreds of such comments that continued for at least three years.

Chairman Mao Tse-tung himself said at the Eighth National Congress of the Communist Party of China:

"To achieve lasting peace in the world, we must further develop our friendship and cooperation with the fraternal countries in the camp of socialism. ... [Applause]

Our Soviet comrades and the Soviet people have acted according to this behest of Lenin.... At its Twentieth Congress held not long ago the Communist party of the Soviet Union formulated many correct policies and criticized the shortcomings which were found in the Party. It can be confidently asserted that very great developments will follow this in its work." [24]

Mao spoke of Lenin several times in this speech without mentioning Stalin once, and he clearly intended to convey the idea to his audience that the results of the Twentieth Congress were highly favorable for the People's Republic of China and for the world.

"We must be good at studying," he said. "We must be good at learning from our forerunners the Soviet Union, [applause] from the fraternal parties in all parts of the world."

This was said in September 1956, more than half a year after the revisionist Twentieth Congress. Mao was obviously willing to support the Khrushchev position at that time, not only in the interest of Soviet-Chinese friendship, but to a large degree on its own merits.

And it must be remembered that the Twentieth Congress had declared that the dictatorship of the proletariat was no longer necessary and the "rule of the whole people" (an impossibility as long as world capitalism exists) was on the order of the day. Khrushchev also projected the idea that the age of violence on the part of the imperialists had changed and therefore the proletariat could find the "peaceful road to power."[25]

'Relaxation' and Hungarian counter-revolution

Thus the most distinctive move to the right — in words, if not in deeds — in Soviet history was dismissed by the Chinese altogether as a reason for breaking party relations, much less relations between socialist countries, or as a reason for labeling the USSR capitalist or imperialist. The Chinese leadership not only did not break relations, not only did not criticize the Twentieth Congress: it embraced it.

Mao must have thought that the new Soviet leaders were now treating the Chinese as equals, that they were dropping the "great-nation chauvinism" of the past. It must have seemed that the Soviets were extremely anxious to patch up relations with China as with all other socialist countries, allowing for more freedom and leeway for independence, comradely criticism, etc.

But at the same time, Khrushchev also advocated "relaxing tensions" with the imperialist powers. The Chinese CP agreed with this, however, and the idea of "relaxing tensions" in reference to imperialist powers is clearly stated again and again in Chinese publications of this period.

The difficulty of accomplishing such a relaxation with imperialism without granting intolerable concessions to it was not apparent to the predominant group of Chinese communists and possibly not even to Khrushchev himself — at that time.

But long before the showdown between Khrushchev and Mao on this score, there came the Hungarian counter-revolution at the end of 1956. And the Chinese stood steadfastly with the Soviet CP. When the Soviet troops put down the rebellion, the world bourgeoisie, petty bourgeoisie, and some sections of the national CPs joined the imperialist hysteria against the Soviet Union and communism. The most forthright and consistent voice of support was that of the government of the People's Republic of China.

The Chinese answered the bourgeois slanders, showed the true class character of the uprising and the inevitable capitalist restoration (given its leadership) that it carried on its bayonets. It must be emphasized, however, that the Chinese were also among the strongest in their condemnation of the bureaucratic faults of the Rakosi regime, which the counter-revolution had overthrown. This condemnation seemed to be very much from the left, however, and made much of the heavy-handedness of the bureaucrats against the workers. But they made it clear again and again that their criticism was within the bloc of Communist Parties and socialist countries.

Far from giving the slightest hint that they thought the Soviet Union was capitalist, imperialist, or even expansionist, the Chinese CP was firm against the world bourgeois outcry and praised the Soviet leaders for intervening under very difficult circumstances.[26]

Chinese CP expects a better deal from Khrushchev

The Chinese had discreetly hailed Khrushchev's denunciation of Stalin, revealing in an oblique way their previous (to 1949) experience with him. But it must be emphasized that the meaning of this repudiation of Stalin was very different to the Chinese CP than to the capitalist West.

They welcomed Khrushchev's speech from the point of view of preserving socialism, not of liquidating it. That is, they welcomed Khrushchev's criticism of Stalin, which included strong objections to his imperious handling of other Soviet nationalities. They looked forward to a better deal from Khrushchev and a more favorable attitude to the Chinese. The question of "peaceful co-existence" was by no means the big issue, or a new issue.

Early in 1957 the Chinese CP published an attack on Tito for his second break with the Soviet bloc — over the Hungarian counter-revolution. Tito had at first backed the Soviet intervention and then retreated under imperialist pressure. In the Chinese article were strong words of solidarity with the USSR up to and including the Khrushchev period:

"During these past 39 years the Soviet Union has been the center of the international communist movement owing to the fact that it is the first triumphant socialist country, the most powerful and experienced country in the socialist camp since its emergence...."

But quoting Lenin on sensitivity to the national question, the pamphlet continues:

"... [I]f in their mutual relationship, one party imposes its views upon others, or if the parties use the method of interference in each other's internal affairs instead of comradely suggestions and criticisms, their unity will be impaired."

Making it clear that they had Stalin's conduct in mind much more than that of Khrushchev, the pamphlet goes on with the words we quoted earlier:

"As we have already said, Stalin displayed certain great-nation chauvinist tendencies in relation to brother parties and countries. The essence of such tendencies lies in being unmindful of the independent and equal status of the communist parties of various lands, and that of the socialist countries." [27]

Looking at this passage with the advantage of hindsight, it is possible to see a veiled warning to Khrushchev himself, telling him not to do as Stalin had done. But in the context it referred to Stalin's treatment of Eastern Europe, including even Yugoslavia.

After 1957 and the relatively minor disagreement of that time, the Chinese continued to go along for years with Khrushchev's opportunist interpretation of "peaceful co-existence" to the exclusion of any call for world socialist revolution.

All through 1958 they hammered on peaceful co-existence with special emphasis on the various meetings Khrushchev was having with other governments, hailing these as great diplomatic successes.

The socialist gains of the People's Republic of China were immense at this time and they were laying the material basis for many "leaps forward." This was in large part due to the comradely aid of the Soviet Union and the Eastern European socialist countries. And the Chinese not only admitted this but stressed and repeated it. Several new Soviet technical, trade and cultural treaties were signed in this period, and as Chou En-lai said in relation to the trade treaty of April 23, 1958:

"Brotherly relations among socialist countries are characterized by mutual assistance, support and cooperation for the common advance of the course of building socialism. The new treaty provides another excellent example of such fraternal mutual assistance and cooperation." [28]

Mao hails USSR for "building communism"

In 1959 Sino-Soviet scientific and cultural cooperation reached new and higher stages. Chou had not exaggerated the value or the amount of this cooperation. Week after week and day after day, the Chinese press pounded on the theme — although more heavily in the first part of 1959 than in the last.

Early in the year the Chinese hailed the Twenty-first Congress of the Soviet CP with a really joyous fervor. A five-member delegation headed by Chou En-lai went to Moscow for the Congress, and on January 28, Chou delivered his speech there and read a message of greetings signed by Mao Tse-tung.

Chou himself said:

"The present Congress shows not only the incomparable strength of the Soviet Union, the most powerful bulwark of world peace, but also the beautiful and magnificent prospects communism has for mankind." [29]

He took the occasion to emphasize China's support for the decisions of the Twentieth Congress of 1956, too:

"Since the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the Soviet people, under the correct leadership of the Central Committee of the Communist Party headed by Comrade N.S. Khrushchev, have achieved great successes in all fields."

And to make his meaning crystal clear, Chou complimented the Khrushchev group for their victory over the "anti-party bloc" — i.e., the Stalin faction after Stalin's death.

Reiterating support for Khrushchev's concept of "peaceful co-existence," he said it would "unite the peace-loving countries and peoples of the world to consolidate peace and" — again the revisionist phrase — "relax international tensions and the danger of war."

Mao's message to the Twenty-first Congress showed even greater support for Khrushchev's line:

"Since the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the Soviet people, under the correct leadership of the Central Committee of the Communist Party headed by Comrade Khrushchev, have achieved a series of great successes in building communism...."

And Mao had so much confidence in Khrushchev and the Soviet leadership at that time that he added:

"The fulfillment of this plan [Soviet production plan of 1959-65] will lay down a firm, material and spiritual foundation for the transition to communism in the Soviet Union and enrich the treasury of Marxism-Leninism with valuable experience gained in building communism." [Our emphasis .] [30]

Why did Mao give such glowing support to Khrushchev at this time? The truth is that the Soviet leader had taken something of a left turn and at the Twenty-first Congress he laid down the most optimistic and apparently realistic perspective of achieving "full communism" surpassing the U.S., producing abundance for all, etc. However mistaken Khrushchev was (as was Mao, too, with his applause for Khrushchev), it is unfair to erase the record and pretend that Khrushchev was a monster in this period. For if that were so we would have to say also that Mao was a fool.

In August of 1959 when the news first came out that Khrushchev was going to visit Eisenhower in the U.S., the Chinese greeted it with the greatest of good wishes. And during the rest of the year they made all kinds of approving statements explaining how this would help bring about world peace and was in fact the "indispensable prerequisite for peaceful coexistence." [31]

The hidden blow

However, only a short time after the Twenty-first Congress and in the very midst of Khrushchev's "summit" diplomacy, the Soviet leaders acted in a very uncomradely fashion, although it was never publicly mentioned by the Chinese.

When the People's Republic was forced to intervene in Tibet in the spring of that year, there was not a word of support or solidarity from the Soviet Union for them as there had been from them for the Soviet Union when the latter intervened in Hungary three years earlier.

This was further compounded later in the year when the first boundary quarrels with India began. India was trying to edge into Chinese territory, egged on, of course, by U.S. imperialism. Behind this Soviet disregard of Chinese interests was Khrushchev's — and later Brezhnev's — diplomatic dealings with the Indian bourgeois government. Khrushchev was aiming at an alliance with India in order to diminish the U.S imperialist influence in Southern Asia and the Indian Ocean. This in itself was progressive, especially insofar as it really checked U.S imperialism and did not inhibit the Indian proletarian revolution.

But the Soviet leader also brushed aside the problems of People's China. This was not a mere oversight. Khrushchev must have known that he could not get an alliance with bourgeois India without infringing at least to some extent upon the interests of India's neighbor, socialist China. And instead of consulting with the Chinese leaders and whittling down his objectives where necessary, he pushed ahead without them — and against them.

Khrushchev tries to pressure the Chinese by withdrawing aid

Shortly after Khrushchev's conference with Eisenhower at Camp David late in 1959, relations between the parties became still more strained. Khrushchev met with Mao before going back to Moscow and although the full story was never told, the meeting must have been very stormy.

One thing is indisputable. Khrushchev did not meet with Mao before going to see Eisenhower. And this alone is evidence of great-nation chauvinism. But in addition to this important error, the Soviet leader must have made several others and have acted, as Lenin said of Stalin, "with spite" and "in a truly Russian frame of mind."

Khrushchev had most likely made some tentative agreement with Eisenhower that entirely bypassed if not actually injured the interests of People's China. Perhaps he consented to let the U.S. perpetuate its occupation of Taiwan; perhaps he agreed to refuse nuclear weapons to China. And if either or both of these were the case, his meeting with Mao was an attempt to get Chinese approval and a go-ahead signal for a U.S.-Soviet summit conference virtually at Chinese expense.

Whatever the actual substance of the conversation, it was soon followed by Soviet withdrawal of engineers, technicians, blueprints and every kind of material aid. This was an uncomradely and indefensible act, whatever immediate provocation the Chinese CP leaders may have given.

But it was by no means a proof of a basic change in the class character of the Soviet state, any more than any number of mistaken policies of Khrushchev or Stalin before him.

The great Chinese left turn

During the period from 1960 to 1962 there were many strong hints in the Chinese press that the Chinese had ideological differences with the Soviet leaders. It was clear that the Chinese CP was moving rapidly to the left.

Why the left turn? One could say that it was what the Chinese always wanted. But the question is: which Chinese? It is very possible that the constant pressure from Moscow against the national as well as the socialist interests of the Chinese, pushed the more conservative members of the Chinese CP and even the left bourgeois elements like Soong Ching Ling [32] into the orbit of the genuine leftists. This would have enabled the party to project a united revolutionary line to the world.

For that and other reasons, at the end of 1962, the Chinese made a clear ideological break with Moscow, although they did not mention Khrushchev or the Soviet Union by name for some time afterward.

The break was a break to the revolutionary left. And it aroused the optimistic enthusiasm of all the truly revolutionary elements in the world. The break was signaled by the publication of The Differences Between Comrade Togliatti and Us — a work which may well have been written by Mao Tse-tung himself.

This was indubitably the most revolutionary statement the Chinese had made about world revolutionary strategy. It revived Lenin's teachings on the state (which the Soviet leadership was saying were out of date). And it took issue with the whole Moscow concept of "peaceful co-existence," explaining that Lenin's concept of that name was only a temporary, necessity-imposed peace, with the aim of helping the world revolution whenever and wherever possible. It called for such an approach beginning immediately, and emphasized the importance of those who need revolution the most — the colonial, semi-colonial and neo-colonial peoples. In this pamphlet and subsequent ones, they reviewed all the main questions of war, peace, and revolution in a way that was closer to Lenin's than that of any leader of state since Lenin's death.

The main enemy

In the ringing manifestos of that period it was made quite clear that not the Soviet Union, not the revisionists, but the ruling class of the United States was the main enemy of proletarian humanity. This, of course, was and still is the case.

"U.S. imperialism is the common enemy of the people of the world," they said on more than one occasion. "It is the international gendarme suppressing the just struggles of the people of various countries and the chief bulwark of modern colonialism."[33]

One of the reasons for making this all too true statement was to call upon the conciliationist leadership to stop its course of trusting the good intentions of the U.S government — and conciliating with it — to the detriment of People's China, the colonial world, and the Soviet Union itself.

And bitterly as the Chinese struggled to set the Soviet line straight on this and other questions, they still understood very well the class character of the Soviet state and fully appreciated the dangers of an absolute split between the two socialist countries They vainly signaled this to the myopic Soviet leaders, especially in the following paragraph:

"... [T]he imperialists are trying to find a way out. They must absurdly pin their hopes on what they call a ‘clash between China and the Soviet Union.’ ... However, these reactionary daydreamers are making far too low an estimate of the great friendship between the people of China and the Soviet Union and of the great strength of unity based on proletarian internationalism. ..." [Our emphasis.][34]

A nuclear pact without China

Only a few months after the above words were written, Khrushchev signed the agreement with the U.S. to stop nuclear testing. This agreement, signed behind the backs of the People's Republic of China, in effect told the imperialists that China should not have nuclear weapons. The Soviet leaders had made their own treaty with the Chinese and against them. (Naturally, it was easier to get a treaty from the imperialists on such a basis!) This doubly enraged the Chinese, both as a fraternal party entitled to fraternal treatment and as a formerly oppressed nation which rightly expected military parity with its sister socialist country.

During 1964 the Chinese Central Committee published a series of letters to the Soviet Central Committee outlining its grievances, with special emphasis on the withdrawal of Soviet aid and the Soviet conciliation to imperialism. But in none of these letters was there any accusation that capitalism had been restored in the Soviet Union.

As late as February 1965, a top Chinese official could say, "No force on earth can possibly undermine the great friendship forged between our two peoples in the long years of revolutionary struggle." [35]

Although the polemics became still hotter during 1965, there was absolutely no mention of capitalist restoration in that year, not to mention social fascism or social imperialism. Quite the contrary, the Chinese emphasized the spineless Soviet bureaucratic tendency to compromise with imperialism, just as labor union bureaucracies compromise with the bosses, while their unions still remain basically instruments of the workers.

"In front of imperialism," they said, "Khrushchev was all civility, showing himself up for a renegade." [36] This is hardly the formula for a new imperialism competing for world hegemony! "The appearance of the 'Johnson Doctrine' is closely connected with the conciliationist lines followed by the modern revisionists," [37] is hardly a description of maniacal "hegemonists" drunk with the pursuit of world power, either.

It was only in 1966, ten years after the Twentieth Congress, that the words, "Capitalist restoration" were used in connection with the USSR. And then only the "road" of restoration, and the "new emerging bourgeois strata," with the very same article proclaiming that "the substance of the bourgeois revisionist line, their pipe-dream and highest aspiration is Soviet-U.S. friendship and cooperation and the establishment of a new alliance. ..." [38]

How very true this second accusation was! Stalin, Khrushchev and Brezhnev have all at different times pursued this revisionist aim of "Soviet-U.S. friendship" at the expense of world revolution. This did not add up to a restoration of capitalism in the USSR. But the extra bitterness of this Chinese statement is contained in the fact that such "friendship" was now directed against China.

USSR uses repressive measures against Chinese demonstrators

It is extremely significant that the first prominent use of the word "fascist" to describe the Soviet Union was on the occasion of a police-like suppression of a demonstration by Chinese students in Moscow about February 1, 1967 — a chauvinist blow at the dignity of the Chinese.

Under the already escalated title, "Hit Back at the Rabid Provocations of the Filthy Soviet Revisionist Swine,"[39] the phrase "fascist rule" was employed for the first time.

The Soviet leaders had once again demonstrated their great nation chauvinism and this time directly on the backs of demonstrating Chinese students. This showed for perhaps the thousandth time that pure socialism has not yet been achieved in the socialist USSR, and that some things must be condemned and corrected. But how understandable it is that when such an outrage is directed at the formerly oppressed Chinese, their reaction should be so furious, and that they should be in no mood to come up with scientifically precise definitions.

The next week, in fact, instead of toning down (in the absence of an apology from the Soviet government), they headlined their statement, "Strongest and Most Vehement Protest Against Soviet Revisionist Fascist Outrage." [40] [Our emphasis.]

In the body of the article, however, there was no contention that fascism had indeed taken over in the USSR, but a declaration that the government was still composed of "Soviet revisionists" or was a "Soviet revisionist ruling clique," which implies a watering down of Marxism on the part of the leaders, but not remotely a counter-revolution in the social system.

The nature of Soviet aid to Vietnam

Now all during this period the Chinese continued their leftist course on the international arena, and particularly their attempt to more deeply socialize the Chinese countryside. The Proletarian Cultural Revolution continued from 1966 to 1969 and it was aimed against bureaucratic privilege, and returned to many of the original goals of the 1949 revolution. In this highly progressive struggle against inequality, the fight against the Soviet leadership was intensified.

It must be emphasized, however, that despite the generally revisionist line of the Soviet leaders, the Soviet government kept giving heavy aid to the heroic struggle of the Vietnamese at this time and continued its massive assistance to socialist Cuba.

The Chinese, in their frustrated drive to get revolutionary allies against revisionism within the Soviet bloc, began to imply that this Soviet aid was harmful. Only the narrowest faction-blinded elements could really condemn this aid. But many did, and some supporters of China even advised the Vietnamese to refuse Soviet aid during this period!

At this point restoration?

It was only on May 17, 1968, that Peking Review definitely stated that capitalism had been restored in the Soviet Union. This was in an article reported to be authored by some oppositionist inside the USSR.

This statement appeared directly after another great-nation chauvinist blow by the Soviet leaders against the Chinese (which we discuss below). But even then, however, the article was accompanied by a quotation from Mao Tse-tung printed in large type at the top of the page, which served as a virtual disclaimer:

"Although the leadership of the Soviet party and state has now been usurped by revisionists, I would advise comrades to remain firm in the conviction that the masses of the Soviet people and of Party members and cadres are good, that they desire revolution and that revisionism will not last long." [Our emphasis.][41]

In saying this during the spring of 1968 when his own Proletarian Cultural Revolution was nearly two years old, Mao obviously was not referring to a social revolution in the USSR against an imperialist ruling class, but a political revolution like the one against his own revisionists in a socialist country who were taking an ultimately pro-capitalist road. Otherwise, how could "Party members and cadres" be "good" if they were the spokespersons for the government of imperialism? It would have been like saying that Nazi party cadres were "good"! And Mao was of course incapable of such a statement.

USSR signs the pro-imperialist "non-proliferation" treaty

But what happened in early 1968 that should have caused the Chinese polemics against the USSR to be so escalated, even with Mao's distinct attempt to moderate them?

On March 17 of that year, just two months before the above article appeared, the USSR made a joint draft with the U.S. to a 17-nation conference in Geneva, calling for an agreement to restrict nuclear weapons to those who already had them. The draft was submitted to the UN on April 24, and passed the Assembly on June 8, finally going into effect on June 26, 1968.

China's Foreign Minister Chen Yi, who had three years previously advocated "The Struggle to Safeguard Sino-Soviet Unity," now characterized this pact as a "major plot to preserve the nuclear monopoly of the big powers." [42] And the Hsinhua News Service charged the U.S. and the USSR with "manipulating the UN Assembly" into approving the treaty. [43]

This open collusion of the leaders of the USSR with the U.S. government, so clearly directed against People's China, was a still further proof that the chauvinist Soviet leaders had no intention of mending their alliance with the Chinese on any equal basis.

But even then, with this further evidence of their great-nation chauvinism and their imperialist attitude toward their sister socialist republic, it was clear to many Chinese communists that the Soviet Union itself was not an imperialist state. The Chinese well understood, for instance, that the Soviet leaders had anything but an imperialist attitude toward the United States, and were in fact proceeding from fear of the really imperialist U.S. and although leaders of a socialist country were conciliating with it because of their inadequacy and revisionism.

As late as July 1968, Mao Tse-tung said that "the revisionist leading clique of the Soviet Union are flunkies and accomplices of imperialism before which they prostrate themselves." [44]

Withering as Mao's criticism may have been, it hardly implied that the Soviet leaders were imperialist in their own right, but rather that they were people in abject fear of the real imperialists and incapable of fighting them.

Czechoslovakia — and the birth of 'social imperialism'

But on August 22, 1968, less than a month after Mao said this, the Chinese CP began calling the Soviet leaders actual imperialists. The occasion of this shift was the Warsaw Pact intervention into Czechoslovakia on that date. But the reason for it was somewhat deeper.

As previously mentioned, the Chinese had been trying for years to get allies for their then leftist opposition to the conservative leaders of the USSR so as to more vigorously promote the world revolution. But through no fault of their own up to that time, they could not do so.

Here the Soviet leaders’ own ambiguous position of conciliationism in program and intermittent leftism in action (in itself a dazzling proof that the Russian Revolution still lives!) was one of the elements in the Chinese frustration. The Soviets, for example, tended to block an exclusive Chinese alliance with Vietnam on the basis of the really tremendous Soviet material aid in that country's struggle against U.S. imperialism. And of course the Cuban Party's political line was closer to the Chinese in the early sixties. But their alliance was with the USSR.

On the other hand, the world bourgeoisie, particularly that of the United States, smashed the promising Chinese alliance with a then leftward-moving Indonesia by the bloody counter-revolution and massacre of 1965.

In this apparent dead end for its world revolutionary policy, the Chinese began to woo the countries of Eastern Europe, and here they found a response. But some of these countries unfortunately were riddled with opportunism and capitalist tendencies far more developed than those in the USSR itself. It is highly significant in this respect that some of the softest, most revisionist CPs of the world — in power or out — tended to support People's China in its defiance of the USSR, and this was obviously not for revolutionary reasons. The Chinese CP's orientation to Eastern Europe, in particular, was to reap a disastrous harvest.

When the Warsaw Pact armies entered Czechoslovakia in 1968, and the world bourgeoisie howled to high heavens about the "violation of democracy and self-determination," the Chinese CP practically joined the bourgeois chorus.

Furiously condemning the Warsaw Pact entry into Czechoslovakia, the Chinese CP nevertheless still referred to the "Soviet revisionists." Khrushchev had been a revisionist at the time the Soviet troops went into Hungary in 1956, but the Chinese CP bravely supported that intervention in the face of an even greater world outcry by the bourgeoisie. But now their political line had changed.

Here is a small example of the theoretical contradictions in which the Chinese found themselves during the Czechoslovak events.

Premier Chou En-Lai declared:

"The aim of the Soviet revisionist leading clique in brazenly invading and occupying Czechoslovakia is to prevent the Czechoslovak revisionist clique from directly hiring itself out to the Western capitalists headed by U.S. imperialism and to prevent this state of affairs from giving rise to uncontrollable chain reactions." [45]

If a relatively conservative national labor union "brazenly" took over a local whose leadership was "hiring itself out" to the bosses, we would support it, even if the methods were arbitrary. How much more vigorously we should support the Warsaw Pact forces in "preventing the Czechoslovak revisionist clique from directly hiring itself out ... to U.S. imperialism"!

In fact, the Soviet revisionists, usually so conciliatory to U.S. imperialism, unexpectedly showed that they were capable of defending the socialist countries of Eastern Europe against imperialism, and that should be a mark in their favor.

Chou En-Lai, however, proceeded to explain — in the same speech — that this move to prevent an imperialist takeover was simultaneously a pro-imperialist action!

"The aggression by Soviet revisionism was carried out with a tacit understanding of U.S. imperialism," he said. [46]

If Chou had meant by this statement that the U.S. did not use the occasion to declare war against the USSR, he would have been right. But if he was implying that the imperialist hullaballoo against the Warsaw Pact intervention was a smokescreen or a fake (which is what he really was implying!), he was wrong.

But Chou went much further than this, and he referred to the Soviet leaders — for the first time — as "social imperialists."

It is clear from the internal evidence of Chou's speech alone that the Chinese position on Czechoslovakia was a sudden switch in the Chinese CP's polemic against the USSR. What makes this still clearer is an article that appeared in Peking Review a week before the actual intervention took place.

This was a reprint of a lead editorial from the Albanian Party paper, Zeri i Popullit (which in the absence of any statement by the Chinese themselves that week, must have signified their approval):

"A revisionist satellite of the Soviet revisionists, Czechoslovakia is now striving to detach herself from the Khrushchevites and to ally herself with the Americans and Western capitalism. The Czechoslovak reactionaries and revisionists have the aid of world capitalism in these efforts." [47]

Thus, within a one-week period the line of the Chinese CP changed from correctly scolding the USSR leaders for their weakness, for their conciliation to U.S. imperialism, and implicitly for their failure to intervene in capitalist-moving Czechoslovakia — to one of condemning them as rival imperialists trying to take over Czechoslovakia and the world just as the U.S. is trying to do.

The Chinese CP condemnation of the Warsaw Pact intervention was also based on an anti-Marxist argument about invasion per se.

When the troops of the Chinese People's Republic went into Tibet in 1959, this was not an "invasion," much as it lacked substantial support from the Tibetan population at the time. It was a necessary act of a socialist country to preserve and defend itself against the intrigues of U.S. imperialism via the feudal Tibetan ruling class.

How this differed in principle from the Warsaw Pact intervention into Czechoslovakia to defend the socialist bloc against "the Western capitalists headed by U.S. imperialism," the Chinese CP never made clear.

Great-nation chauvinism may well have existed in Moscow when the Warsaw Pact army went into Czechoslovakia (as it did at the time of the Hungarian intervention, too!). But that has absolutely nothing to do with the reasons for the intervention, although it may have affected the way the intervention was carried out.

The duty of a Marxist in this case was to subordinate the question of great-nation chauvinism to the question of the defense of socialist Czechoslovakia against capitalist restoration. It was wrong to play upon this great-nation chauvinism in the face of imperialist intrigue and possible invasion in the same way the U.S. played upon Soviet great-nation relations with China.

Blocking with the right against the center

Chou declared in the very same speech quoted above that the Warsaw Pact intervention was like that of Hitler in 1939 and "a typical specimen of fascist power politics." And he said that the Soviet leaders had "long since degenerated into a gang of social imperialists and social fascists."

It must be remembered that these words were said to the Rumanians in the Rumanian Embassy to the CPR. The Rumanians also have reason to be opposed to the great-nation chauvinism of the Soviet leaders, but instead of fighting for a return to the revolutionary politics of Lenin, they had been (and still are) trying to make a rapprochement with U.S. imperialism. They are against even the mildly leftist position of the Soviet leaders in many fields.

Chou was thus appealing to a revisionist tendency that was to the right of the revisionists in the USSR, just as he was backing the Czechoslovak "revisionists" (really capitalist restorationists), who he himself had said were to the right of the Soviet leaders. He was thus blocking with the right against the center. And by labeling the Soviet leaders "social imperialists" he laid the basis for a different kind of opposition to the Soviet leaders than the Chinese CP had espoused earlier. [48]

But the shift in the Chinese CP's theoretical position, that is, in its class definition of the soviet state, was thus the result of a very long process which consisted not so much in basic sociological changes in the class nature of the USSR, as in the great-nation chauvinism of many of its leaders and the "imperialist attitudes" of those who should have been communist comrades. But the deep theoretical error the Chinese CP made in 1968 is nonetheless harmful to the working class of the world, including the Chinese People's Republic. Now, according to the Chinese CP, the USSR was no longer a socialist country with a revisionist leadership, it had changed to an imperialist country — all within one week and even within one speech.

If we compare the modern socialist society with a jet plane and the outlived capitalist society with a two-wheeled war chariot, we would have to say that the present Soviet pilots are often incompetent, unimaginative and lacking in ability, not to say heroism, in the use of their wonderful machine. (We have to note, of course, the great things accomplished and the great distance traveled in this machine even with its pedestrian pilots.)

But if we accept the breathtaking switch described above by the Chinese CP, we would have to say that the Soviet jet plane was transformed within one week to the two-wheeled war chariot — and even more miraculous, that the grey-flanneled, meek "flunkies" Brezhnev and Kosygin, were now transfigured into veritable Caesars and Alexanders, boldly calling upon their armies to conquer the world.

Thus, according to the Chinese CP, the Soviet system went backward, and the Soviet leaders went forward — that is, in courage, boldness, and historic viability as leaders of an authentic ruling class. Instead of being a revisionist, privileged incubus on a socialist state, the privileged "flunkies" of yesterday are the "new Czars" of today.

The border clash

In March of 1969 there occurred an actual border clash between troops of the two socialist countries at the Ussuri — or Wassuli — River and this of course heated up the situation unbearably. The imperialists looked on with glee, the pro-fascist New York Daily News actually saying "Let's you and him fight!," adding that the USSR and People's China should destroy each other with nuclear bombs and the sooner the better. [49]

"If the struggle continues this way," said Workers World newspaper, "and particularly if it widens, it will not matter that the Chinese CP leaders are revolutionary and the Soviet leaders revisionist. If both sides manage to galvanize the mass of the people behind them in their respective countries, the ultimate effect will be to substitute national for class aims. It will reinforce Soviet revisionism rather than weaken it." [50]

The Chinese took the occasion to claim a million square kilometers (nearly 450,000 square miles) of Soviet land on the basis of the Czars' campaigns against the Chinese emperors a century and more earlier. [51]

This position was quite different from that of 1964 for instance. The Chinese CP then said:

"The delegations of our two countries started boundary negotiations in Peking on February 25, 1964. Although the old treaties relating to the Sino-Soviet boundary are unequal treaties, the Chinese government is nevertheless willing to respect them and take them as a basis for a reasonable settlement of the Sino-Soviet boundary question." [Our emphasis.] [52]

To this it should be added that the nations occupying the Asiatic autonomous regions of the USSR are not Russian, but neither are they Chinese. Perhaps there is a great objective need for a number of Chinese to find living space in Southern Siberia, the People's Republic of Mongolia, and the genuinely communist solution may well be for the USSR to share this sparsely settled land with the Chinese.

But the factors preventing this are by no means simply the attitude of the Soviet leaders in Moscow, although they no doubt have answered the Chinese request in a great-nation, chauvinist way. People's China, like the Soviet Union, is a national entity with national as well as socialist drives. And while revolutionaries must defend it as a socialist country and call for the greatest understanding for it and condemn all chauvinism against it, they cannot automatically endorse every manifestation of Chinese nationalism.

The Chinese Communists themselves must be well aware of this, since they have muted their demand for territory while emphasizing the presence of Soviet troops on the border. This, unfortunately, leads many to conclude that the USSR is really plotting to take over a part of China.

Rapprochement with the United States

Although the Chinese CP continued to attack U.S. imperialism during the rest of 1969 and through 1970 and 1971, particularly in relation to Vietnam, they were apparently planning a new turn in foreign policy. In the latter part of this period they held a number of secret meetings with U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger — a fact that was later widely publicized.

When then President Nixon visited China in February 1972, the stage was set for an alliance against the USSR. By now the Chinese CP had a fixed position that the Soviet Union was imperialist and that it was an even more dangerous imperialism than the really imperialist United States. (This idea of "good" imperialists and bad imperialists was presumably meant to justify the new approach to the "common enemy of the peoples of the world," as the Chinese CP had once called the U.S.) [53]

This false position was codified as part of a joint communique with U.S. imperialism after the Nixon visit as follows:

That neither the U.S. nor People's China "should seek hegemony in the Asia-Pacific region, and each is opposed to efforts by any other countries or groups" to do so. [54]

Of course, this was extremely helpful to U.S. imperialism in its effort to gain hegemony over the USSR in the Indian Ocean.

This qualitative change in Chinese relations with the United States sharply raised the following question: If the disagreements between the Soviet and Chinese CPs were over "Titoism" — that is, over conciliation to U.S. imperialism; if they were over the capitulationist concept of "peaceful co-existence"; if they were over the question of solidarity in the socialist camp — and they certainly seemed to be all these things — then why the present Chinese-U.S. accord? How can it be a rational outcome of the great ideological struggle of the 1960s? How can it be based on the old Chinese CP position of world revolution against "the common enemy of the people of the world" when it violates that position in every word?

No, it is not a rational outcome at all. It is in extreme contradiction to the Chinese CP's earlier estimate of the USSR and is really a reversal of it. The present Chinese position could not have grown naturally and logically out of the ideological struggle of the past, but only out of the anti-socialist national side of that struggle — that is, the struggle by the leadership of each socialist country for national ascendancy over the other. And this grew until it reached the stage of absolute split and national enmity.

The fact that the Chinese were originally the oppressed nation, and the fact that the Soviet leaders were guilty of great-nation chauvinism and narrow Soviet nationalism in goading the Chinese CP into the break, are extremely important. But they do not justify a Chinese alliance with imperialism against the Soviet Union. Nor can they overturn our class analysis of the USSR as a socialist country.

The Chinese leadership is now doing just what the Soviet leadership was doing on the field of accords with imperialism that are harmful to the world proletariat. But in addition to that, the Chinese are turning from justified complaints about great-nation chauvinism to all-out attacks on the Soviet Union itself, confusing and disorienting the workers of the world by saying the USSR is a social-imperialist state.

Imperialism planned this outcome for many years — first the more or less pro-Chinese imperialist liberals and now the reactionary anti-Chinese, anti-Soviet maneuverers like Henry Kissinger. Kissinger's whole thesis and his whole reason for being Secretary of State was to win imperialism's war against both the Soviet Union and People's China by playing them against each other for the benefit of U.S. monopoly capitalism. That is of course understood in Peking as well as in Moscow. But the leadership of each of the two socialist states thinks it has enough cards in this deadly game to come out on top. They don't.

We defend the workers' states against the real imperialism

But all of this in no way convinces us that the People's Republic of China has lost its own claim to being a socialist country any more than has the USSR. The foregoing argument has emphasized the line tactics and problems of the leadership and even then only on the negative side. Some of that leadership led the epic struggle to establish the new Chinese state. And the state itself is the historic conquest of the working class of the world.

The revolution remains. The socialization of production is being extended. The communes, once reduced after a necessary retreat, are expanding again. The living standard of the people is being steadily raised in a way that imperialism, being imperialism, could never have done for China.

Regardless of the fact that different factions exist in the Chinese CP, masking their existence from outsiders, speaking always in the name of the whole party but changing the party's line drastically on occasions, there is only one Chinese state, as there is only one Soviet state — both of them victorious achievements of the international working class.

Furthermore, we believe that the revolutionary foundations of both socialist countries will and must in the long run reassert themselves and bring about a new and higher Sino-Soviet unity in spite of bureaucratic, factional or narrow nationalist considerations.

We have always defended the Chinese People's Republic against imperialism. And even though the Chinese government is at this moment collaborating with the modern Hitlers of the U.S. in a de facto alliance directed against the USSR, some new turn in the international situation may drastically change this situation, since U.S. imperialism is by its very nature in irreconcilable conflict with all socialist countries.

We have made this outline wholly in the spirit of class solidarity and in order to demonstrate that the class character of the USSR is a false issue in the China-Soviet conflict. The basis for a new alliance is inherent in the common social system of the two countries, even though the present political course of the government of People's China could lead to still more difficulties in the immediate future.


1. More On the Historical Experience of the Proletarian Dictatorship, Peking, January 1957. [return]

2. An editorial note to Question of Nationalities or "Autonomization," December 1922, V. I. Lenin; Collected Works, Vol. 36, p. 713. [return]

3. Same, p. 606. [return]

4. Same, p. 610. [return]

5. Same, p. 610. [return]

6. Lenin said this in 1920 during his second speech in the Trade Union discussion, when he was explaining that the Soviet workers needed real unions in order to defend themselves, even against their own "workers state." Collected Works, Vol. 32, p. 48. [return]

7. There is a rich literature on this, in both the bourgeois and the proletarian press. Mao himself said, as late as August 1945, although without referring to Stalin directly:

"During the past eight years the people and army of our Liberated Areas, receiving no aid whatsoever from outside, and relying solely on their own efforts, liberated vast territories." (Our emphasis.) Selected Works, Vol. 4, p. 12. See also Red Star Over China by Edgar Snow, New York, Grove Press, 1938. For example, on p. 415: "Actually the financial help given to the Chinese Reds by Moscow or the Comintern during this decade (1927-37) seems to have been amazingly small." [return]

8. Han Suyin says in Morning Deluge: Mao Tse-tung and the Revolution, Boston, 1972, p. 504: "... there is no indication that Stalin ever thought it possible for Mao either to win the war or to unite the country.... Stalin really thought Mao would lose." [return]

9. Same, p. 503. [return]

10. Same, p. 504. [return]

11. The Chinese CP's position is fully documented. Almost the whole of Vol. 4 of Mao's Selected Works, which begins in 1945, is a constant reiteration of the necessity not only of the Communists keeping their arms, but also of keeping the Chinese Red Army intact. In addition to that, it is a fairly open plan for the coming civil war, although couched in defensive terms at the beginning and correctly putting the onus for violence on the class enemy led by Chiang Kai-shek.

There is no evidence whatever of any support by Stalin for this strategy before the year 1947, and very little in that year either. [return]

12. Most of the difficulty lay in Stalin's previous relations with Mao, which were chauvinist enough. But according to Han Suyin, in what appears to be after-the-fact reasoning, the Soviet relations with China itself — i.e., bourgeois China — were of a great-nation chauvinist character.

"The cavalier way in which at Yalta Stalin asked for his share of the booty in China cannot have any other implication than this 'chauvinism' which today the People's Republic of China denounces with such vigour in the present Soviet hierarchy." (Same, p. 504).
Stalin was undoubtedly chauvinist here, but it should be noted in his defense that the demands at Yalta were against the butcher Chiang Kai-shek and everything taken from bourgeois China at this time was later returned to socialist China. Stalin's chauvinism, although based in Russian nationalism, in this case consisted far more in his underestimation of Mao and the Chinese CP {which in turn summed up his lack of faith in the Chinese revolution itself) than it did in designs on Chinese territory. But the theoretical question here is this: If Han Suyin is really right about this, then wasn't the Soviet Union an imperialist country also during World War II? And no Marxist-Leninist could possibly answer yes to that question. [return]

13. Han Suyin says that Stalin remained suspicious of Mao until after the Korean war began in June 1950! (Morning Deluge, p. 522.) [return]

14. See the stories about Li Li-san, Wang Ming, the Forty Returned Bolshevik Students, etc., in such hostile bourgeois books as Mao Tse-tung in Opposition, by John E. Rue; Chinese Communism and the Rise of Mao, by Benjamin Schwartz; also Mao's conversation with Edgar Snow in the latter's pro-Chinese Red Star Over China, especially pp. 167-169, about how Mao had been "dismissed from the Politburo" (in 1927) although he doesn't mention how this could have happened without Moscow's knowledge — and initiative — at the time. Han Suyin deals with Mao's later struggles with Stalin during the 1930s and early 1940s and shows how Mao succeeded against Stalin's agents in those years. But she constructs a thesis of Stalin's "misunderstanding" of Mao's real stature to explain it. [return]

15. Except for Outer Mongolia, these are all provinces of China. In "predicting" that the USSR would dismember China, it should be noted that Sulzberger also added Outer Mongolia, which was not a part of China and for years had been the independent People's Republic of Mongolia, closely connected to the Soviet Union. This provocative reference to it was calculated to frighten the Soviet leaders and at the same time possibly strike a chauvinist chord in the Chinese, because Outer Mongolia had once been a part of the greater Chinese Empire.

The reader should also note that the imperialist New York Times here called the USSR a country of "imperialism" two decades before the Chinese CP did. [return]

16. New York Times semi-editorial in News of the Week section, Sunday, Feb. 5, 1950. [return]

17. Memorandum on the Unfolding War (Sam Marcy, internal document), Oct. 29, 1950. [return]

18. This was a bourgeois prayer enclosed in a joke. It is difficult to find actual quotes of it at this late date. But Han Suyin reveals that Stalin himself had such feelings:

"And now Stalin asked himself (in the winter of 1949-50 — V. C.) whether Mao Tse-tung, who had exhibited such independence, would also turn out to be a Tito. In the West, many hoped so, loudly and repeatedly." (Morning Deluge, p. 511.) [return]

19. So great is the Chinese CP's hostility to the USSR now that they are revising their estimate of the Korean war. Han Suyin even speculates that great-nation chauvinism was the biggest factor in the eruption of that conflict. She says that a U. S. disengagement from Asia at the time the Korean war began — in 1950 — "would have meant more U.S. concentration against Eastern Europe and consequent pressure on the USSR at its more vulnerable flank." And therefore, she speculates, the Stalin leadership wanted the Korean war.

"Some cynics have even felt that the withdrawal of the Soviet delegation from the UN on the ground that it would not stay while Chiang was seated (it returned, she says, after seven months despite the same delegation's presence) was a deliberate move not to block by its vote the UN resolution which made the Korean war possible."

Han carefully adds, "but this may be assuming too much." [return]

20. See Chou's speech on "The Present International Situation and China's Foreign Policy" at the second session of the First National People's Congress, July 30, 1955, printed in Peking Review. [return]

21. "More On the Differences Between Comrade Togliatti and Us," Peking Review, Mar. 4, 1963, p. 27. [return]

22. Mao's speech "Greeting the Fifth Anniversary of the Soviet Treaty of Friendship, Sovereignty and Mutual Assistance," Nov. 1961. Printed later in Peking Review. [return]

23. Quoted in People's China, Mar. 16, 1956. [return]

24. The Eighth Party Congress was held in September 1956. The fact that Mao would say this at an important national congress of the Party — only the eighth in more than a half century — cannot be emphasized enough. It was no casual comment and cannot be dismissed as mere diplomatic window dressing, as for instance might be the case in an anniversary speech. [return]

25. The fact that Khrushchev proclaimed that the dictatorship of the proletariat no longer existed, did not of course thereby abolish it. Although some leftists imagine that such an immense counter-revolution was accomplished by this dubious pronunciamento, Washington and Wall Street with a surer class instinct remain unconvinced. [return]

26. This can be found in nearly every edition of Peking Review for 1957 and 1958 as well as in People's China, January to May 1957. [return]

27. More On the Experience of the Proletarian Dictatorship, 1957. [return]

28. Peking Review, Apr. 29, 1958. It should be noted that Khrushchev was in a much better position to give material aid than Stalin had been in 1950, when he made his modest commitments of aid to China. The Soviet Union was much wealthier in the later fifties and by virtue of the first Sputnik (1957) much more powerful. On the other hand, Khrushchev did for a certain period practice a conscious open-handedness that would have been foreign to the nature of the cautious Stalin. [return]

29. Peking Review, Feb. 3, 1959. [return]

30. Same. [return]

31. Peking Review, Oct. 6, 1959. [return]

32. Soong Ching Ling: Vice President of the Chinese People's Republic representing more progressive elements of the bourgeois Kuomintang (who had split from Chiang Kai-shek); widow of Sun Yat-sen, national revolutionary founder of the Kuomintang. [return]

33. More On the Differences, p. 51. [return]

34. Same, p. 53. [return]

35. Speech of Foreign Minister Chen Yi: "Struggle to Safeguard Sino-Soviet Unity," reported in Peking Review, Feb. 19, 1965. [return]

36. Peking Review, March 5, 1965. [return]

37. "The Johnson Doctrine Is Neo-Hitlerism," Peking Review, May 21, 1965. [return]

38. Peking Review, Dec. 23, 1966. [return]

39. Same, Feb. 3, 1967. [return]

40. Same, Feb. 10, 1967. [return]

41. "Stalin Group in Soviet Union Acclaims China's Great Cultural Revolution," same, May 19, 1968. [return]

42. New York Times, June 11, 1968. [return]

43. Same, June 14, 1968. [return]

44. Peking Review, July 26, 1968. [return]

45. Chou's speech at the Rumanian Embassy in Peking, Aug. 23, 1968, reported in Peking Review. [return]

46. Same. [return]

47. Same, Aug. 16, 1968. [return]

48. Not long after this, the Chinese CP declared that Czechoslovakia was a colony of the USSR. (See Peking Review, Mar. 14, 1969.) Nothing could be so pleasing to the capitalist restorationist elements of Rumania, Poland, etc., not to mention those of Czechoslovakia as such a characterization. Unfortunately these elements will not ally themselves with revolutionary People's China, or if they do, only as a way-station to a different class alliance — with the imperialist United States.

Pursuing this false goal still further, Peking Review of May 30, 1969, featured a story on "Wanton Expansion and Aggression Abroad by Soviet Revisionist Social Imperialism" in which it appealed to East Europe and Outer Mongolia (The People's Republic of Mongolia) against the USSR. And it accused the Soviet Union of "following the beaten track of aggression of British imperialism in Asia and Africa of former days." [return]

49. Editorial in New York Daily News, Mar. 3, 1969. [return]

50. Sam Marcy: WWP Calls for Peaceful Solution of the Sino-Soviet Border Dispute, Workers World, Mar. 20, 1969. [return]

51. Peking Review, May 30, 1969. [return]

52. Letter of the Central Committee of the Chinese CP to the Central Committee of the CPSU, Feb. 29, 1964. (It appears that the Chinese CP also raised the border question earlier. Harrison Salisbury says in his hopefully entitled book, War Between Russia and China, that Mao raised the idea of "boundary rectification" with Khrushchev in 1954 — just after Stalin died.) [return]

53. More On the Differences. [return]

54. Joint Sino-U.S. Communique of February 28, p. 72. This pro-U.S. clause was if anything reinforced during President Ford's December 1975 visit to Peking. At that time, Vice Premier Teng Hsiao-ping repeated almost exactly the same words quoted from the 1972 communique. He declared in his "toast" to Ford on December 1, 1975: "An outstanding common point is that neither should seek hegemony and that each is opposed to efforts by any other country or group of countries to establish hegemony." [return]

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