China: the Struggle Within: Revolution vs. Restoration China's Internal Struggle (Part 2)

Stakes in China's Internal Struggle
(Part 2)

Revolution vs. Restoration/Dual Power

February 3, 1967


During the course of every genuine popular revolutionary upheaval, there ensues a temporary period of widespread political confusion and bewilderment, when literally millions are preoccupied with the issue of "who is in authority." When this happens, it is an indubitable sign that elements of the old authority are being broken down or shattered and a new authority is in the process of emerging. Such a period is invariably accompanied by high political tension and bitter conflict. It is a distinct sign of deep social crisis and indicates that the hitherto stable equilibrium of hostile and competing social classes has either been gravely disturbed or is on the verge of being destroyed.

The political form that has characterized such a crisis in previous historical epochs of revolutionary upheavals is known as dual power -- a transitional period which must inevitably lead to the definitive victory of one power center or the other -- that is, either to the further development and stabilization of the new authority or, as the case may be, toward restoration of the old.

In any event, it is a period marked by extraordinary conflicts of exceptional sharpness and intensity, dislocation of the social order, sometimes utter chaos. And by the very nature of this period, it can only be of a relatively short duration.

Such a situation prevails today in the People's Republic of China. "Certain people in authority -- those that are taking the capitalist road" are being unceremoniously removed by large masses of militant revolutionary young people whose authority to do these things is being challenged by others, whose authority in turn, was hitherto unchallenged.


The elements of dual power in China, while still in the process of formation, have nevertheless emerged clearly enough to be positively identified. On the one hand there is the existence of the Red Guards, a mighty, several million-fold organization of youth, drawing from the student, proletarian and poor peasant masses. It is not an artificially created or artificially fostered organization as the ruling class press at the beginning tried to make us believe.

More recent reports from imperialist sources make clear the validity and authenticity of the Red Guard organization. Such, for instance, are the dispatches from Bill Baggs (distributed by Associated Press, January 21 and 22, 1967, carried in the Miami News and New York Post) which stress the spontaneous beginnings of the Red Guards. And the testimony of Minoru Amori, a Japanese correspondent, who in his efforts to probe the identity of the Red Guards during his stay in China reported in the January 28, 1967, New Republic that he found the Red Guards consisted mainly of "the offspring of revolutionary leaders -- those killed in the early struggle, poor agrarian families and industrial workers. This convinced me that the 'cultural revolution' is a real proletarian revolution."

Alongside the Red Guards there have sprouted up in response to the call of Mao Tse-tung and the Central Committee, innumerable organizations and committees in all fields of social life, and they are spreading rapidly throughout the country. These are in turn buttressed by the PLA (People's Liberation Army).


A great deal of valid speculation has arisen in the capitalist press about the loyalty of the PLA. The army in any society is a reflection of the class relations in that society. The PLA has always been a profoundly dedicated and revolutionary army. There is no solid basis for believing that this has changed. The abolition of rank during the tenure of Defense Minister Lin Piao must have done much to strengthen the ties between the rank and file and the leading military cadres and between the army generally and the mass of the people.

The Red Guards, the various new committees, the PLA, and the party rank and file are in turn supported, encouraged, and led by Chairman Mao Tse-tung and Defense Minister Lin Piao and the Central Committee. These constitute the revolutionary elements in the equation of dual power.


On the other side of the equation are the now world-famous "handful of persons within the party who are now in authority and are taking the capitalist road." Who are they?

We believe them to be a substantial section of the party apparatus and officials of high as well as low rank who are exercising a vast amount of political authority. They in turn reflect the aspirations and strength of what has been called, for want of a better name, the "managerial class" -- a conglomerate privileged grouping constituting the new officialdom -- the social grouping on which the bourgeoisie, their agents and allies the world over, bank their hopes for a return to power in China. This is the reactionary element in the equation of dual power.


Secretary of State Dean Rusk declared on January 26th "that neither he nor Mao could make out what was going on in China today." Aside from the gratuitous inclusion of Chairman Mao's name, Rusk's remark is extremely revealing. "While not knowing what is going on in China," he, nevertheless, has a firm position in the struggle. He is one hundred percent against Chairman Mao Tse-tung and his revolutionary government and would welcome practically any other regime as an alternative. This is not merely the attitude of an individual representative of the bourgeoisie. It is universally true of the entire ruling class. For them, the situation may not be clear but their class attitude to the protagonists in the arena of struggle is absolutely beyond question.

Would that many progressives who "cannot make out what is going on in China today" also take a parallel attitude but in the opposite class direction!

Dual power has appeared as a characteristic of all the great social revolutions of the modern era. This is just as true of the Great October Socialist Revolution as it was true of the bourgeois revolution in Eighteenth Century France and Seventeenth Century Britain. The appearance of the Red Guards in the current Chinese revolution is a Twentieth Century proletarian version of the "sans culottes" of the French Bourgeois Revolution and the "Ironsides" army of the Cromwellian Revolution.


The wrath which the contemporary ruling classes and the revisionist and social democratic allies have heaped on the heads of the brave and dedicated youth in the Red Guards recalls the abuse poured out by the arrogant representatives of the ancien regime on the sans culottes and the howls of righteous indignation of the representatives of the decadent British aristocracy against the Cromwellian army.

To this very day, the bourgeois historians deliberately confuse and bewilder the readers by the distortions and in many cases outright falsifications of the true character of their very own revolutions which brought them to power. Should anyone then be surprised by the hysteria raised against the cultural revolution -- a revolution which aims to raze to the ground the last vestiges of bourgeois authority as well as ideology?


That the present stage of the Chinese Revolution is characterized by the emergence of dual power, that dual power exists, is clearly shown by the widespread use by the leadership of the revolution of the exhortative maxim: "In the last analysis all the truths of Marxism can be summed up in one sentence: 'To rebel is justified.'" For what other reason would a government leader employ a maxim which preaches rebellion against his own government if it were not for the existence of dual power, a condition which denotes the existence in the state structure of two basically incompatible political groups -- one espousing "the revolutionary proletarian line" and the other "taking the capitalist road"?


The current revolution in China has revealed a totally new phenomenon, a phenomenon that has not appeared in any of the socialist countries in the contemporary epoch, except for the early stages of the October Socialist Revolution. What is the new phenomenon? It is a conscious effort by the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party -- Chairman Mao and Defense Minister Lin Piao to project the popular masses onto the political arena and to induce them by their own efforts and creative initiative to radically reconstruct the fabric of Chinese society along the "lines of the principles of the Paris Commune."

This is one of the key, if not the key element of contention in the struggle. The Paris Commune has always been regarded as the model for a genuine proletarian dictatorship, ever since Lenin wrote his celebrated book, State and Revolution. Excluded in this concept, of course, is the mechanical transfer of the peculiarly local or national features of the Commune. What is regarded as the quintessence of the Paris Commune type of state is the thoroughly democratic and genuinely revolutionary control by the popular masses over the machinery of the state -- by the workers and peasants as against the privileged officialdom. A thought long ago forgotten by the leaders of other socialist countries!


But it has always been recognized in official pronouncements in all the socialist countries. And in one form or another the overthrow of the old social order was based on the recognition of the historical validity and relevancy of the Paris Commune as a model for the new socialist regimes. However, the gap between word and deed has over the years become all too apparent and the degeneration which has set in is in no small part due to an abandonment of any effort to follow the prototype of proletarian dictatorship -- the Paris Commune.

The Paris Commune type of state, it can now be seen more clearly than ever before, and must be categorically restated, is the real answer to the rule of the neo-bourgeois restorationist stratum which has grown up in the socialist countries.


It is thus refreshing and highly gratifying to read in an editorial in Renmin Ribao, December 26th (reprinted in Peking Review No. 1) that:

"A system of general elections must be instituted in accordance with the principles of the Paris Commune. Full deliberations must be carried out by the masses and the election conducted in a serious way. The members can be replaced through election or recalled by the masses at any time."

Furthermore: "The masses of workers have the right to set up every kind of revolutionary organization," and these organizations are "urged not to set up a bureaucratic apparatus or acquire a mass of equipment which divorce them from the masses."

Finally: "Members of these organizations must not be appointed from above nor should there be behind the scenes manipulations."


There are those who assert that all this should be regarded as just another programmatic document -- that it is a mere declaration of intention.

There is no reason whatsoever why full faith and credence should not be given to the pronouncements of the revolutionary leadership of the Chinese people in the context of present historical circumstances. The possibility for making them a living reality seems highly favorable and in any case such efforts are a healthy antidote to the regressive social tendencies in other socialist countries.

One of the striking features of the crisis in China is the character of the inner party struggle. Why has the struggle been conducted in the Party against unnamed persons or groups? And why has it turned from what originally appeared to be a Party discussion of fundamental questions of policy into what is now called "an all-around test of strength between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie and its agents in our Party"? (Renmin Ribao and Hongqi, January 1, 1967, reprinted in Peking Review No. 1)


Certainly, it would be preferable to have an open, leisurely discussion of fundamental policy in the party and in the public organs of the party on the basis of minority and majority, and to embody the essential differences in resolutions subject to further discussions and vote by a party congress. However, serious party discussions are not just mere discussions. Party controversies over serious issues generally reflect the influence and interest of the classes in society.

Basic class interests, however, cannot be resolved by minority and majority resolution even in the most revolutionary party. Classes generally do not permit the fate of their role in society to be determined by parliamentary mechanisms or even by validly constituted political organisms. The leaders of the proletarian revolution in China certainly could not permit the fate of their revolution and the destiny of China to be determined on that basis.

However, it should be noted that Chairman Mao Tse-tung and Defense Minister Lin Piao represent the Central Committee of the Party and that it was the validly constituted plenary session of the Central Committee in August which passed the momentous decision on the cultural revolution.

Whatever decisions this body has taken are binding under the Party's constitution, pending convocation of a Party congress. If the class struggle has broken out into the open in the meantime then the only recourse is to prosecute the struggle in behalf of the revolutionary line of the proletariat to a victorious conclusion.

Main menu Book menu