China: the Struggle Within: On the Sino-Soviet Negotiations

On the Sino-Soviet Negotiations

November 13, 1969

The Sino-Soviet talks that are now in progress in Peking could exercise a profound influence on the course of events not only in Asia but throughout the whole world. The negotiations in Peking probably figure in the calculations of Washington as the most important international factor in relation to its war of aggression against Vietnam.

It should be as clear as crystal that if the Sino-Soviet negotiations end in an agreement to "disengage by withdrawing from, or refraining from entering all the disputed areas along the border," it would constitute a singular blow against the hopes and aspirations of imperialism for war between the two largest socialist countries. It would free both China and the Soviet Union not only to concentrate more on peaceful socialist construction, to assist other socialist countries in these very same tasks, but also to firm up the anti-imperialist front. It need scarcely be added that even the most bellicose elements in the Pentagon would have to take notice of this development.


Indeed, has not the border war between the Soviet Union and China been a cardinal element in the schemes of the monopolist war-makers to expand their war in Southeast Asia, the Middle East and elsewhere?

It would be difficult for a class-conscious worker, let alone a genuine Communist, to see anything but a progressive development in a successful conclusion of the Sino-Soviet talks on the basis that both the People's Republic of China and the Soviet Union would regard as mutually satisfactory.

Only the imperialists, led by the U.S. can lose by such an agreement.

All the more interesting is it to read what purports to be an editorial in the October 1939 issue of Challenge, organ of the Progressive Labor Party, which regards itself as a Marxist-Leninist organization. "They (the Soviet Union) are trying to maneuver the Chinese into ill-conceived negotiations, as they have the Vietnamese."

"Furthermore," the editorial rushes to add, "the Soviet Union is a new imperialist power. It wants to negotiate with socialist China in order to legitimize its imperialist position in the Middle East," and finally concludes that "even if fighting continues to flare up, and the Chinese continue to criticize the Soviet bosses -- negotiations will eventually lead to accommodation with revisionism. What can the revolutionary Chinese discuss with the counter-revolutionary Soviets? Chinese-Soviet negotiations would eventually lead to the sacrificing of a revolutionary line and revolutionary actions by China."


As anyone can see from the reading of these quotations, the leaders of the Progressive Labor Party have no confidence in the revolutionary capacity of the Chinese leaders to conduct negotiations with the Soviet leaders except on the basis of the Chinese leaders accommodating themselves to revisionism. Even if the Chinese leaders continue to criticize the Soviets, that would not satisfy the high standards set by PLP. What, after all, can the revolutionary Chinese discuss with the counter-revolutionary Soviets? This question is asked by them in all seriousness.

Assuming, but not conceding, that the Soviet Union is an "imperialist state," is "thoroughly counter-revolutionary," etc., etc., what is wrong with conducting talks for the purpose of settling a border dispute with an "imperialist" power?

Had not the People's Republic of China been conducting ambassadorial talks over a period of many years in Warsaw with the U.S.? Or isn't the U.S. an imperialist power? Or is the virus of revisionism so powerful that mere talks with its representatives will result in a capitulation?


It is almost half a century since Lenin wrote Left-Wing Communism, in which he explained the necessity of agreements with real imperialist powers, not just a revisionist bureaucracy, wherever the demands of the situation make it proper. Thus the Brest-Litovsk Treaty with the Germans was made in the interest of saving the revolution by dividing the imperialists. It did not result, as the anarchists and ultra-lefts in the Soviet Union at that time feared, in an abandonment of revolutionary principles and practices. On the contrary, it strengthened the revolution and permitted it to continue to struggle against the other imperialists with renewed vigor and revolutionary determination.

After the termination of the war, the Bolsheviks began a whole series of agreements with imperialist powers and also resumed contacts and discussions with the leaders of the Second International, even though they continue a most resolute and irreconcilable struggle against counter-revolutionary Social Democracy.

More than anything, China needs to free itself from military encirclement and to avoid war on two fronts. What could be more helpful in that respect than a more or less definitive settlement of the border issue which would relieve both socialist countries of the necessity of concentrating huge military forces against each other, rather than having them in combat readiness against the imperialist powers? It is impossible for anyone but an incurable dogmatist to arrive at any other conclusion.


Revisionism as an ideology and opportunism as practice has long been dominant in the Soviet Union. It antedates the split with the Chinese CP. But the conclusion that Soviet society has undergone a basic transformation in the sense that a new possessing class has taken firm hold of the reins of society and is running it on the basis of imperialist, that is, bourgeois private property interests in the epoch of imperialist decay is a falsification of history which will not long withstand the test of time.


The Soviet bureaucracy has many traits in common with imperialist politicians. But it also is the representative of a developing social system, although it is burdened with many retrogressive features which are all too obvious. It needs peace for further development, whereas the real imperialists need war for sheer survival. The difference between the Soviet and imperialist systems is of fundamental concern to the world proletariat even if the political policies pursued by the current Soviet leadership are in the main erroneous and a departure from Marxism-Leninism.

There are many reasons why the talks in Peking may blow up. And the political character of the Soviet leadership is probably the most important obstacle to a mutually satisfactory agreement. But the art of conducting a revolutionary policy in the field of relations between states lies precisely in analyzing the social contradictions in each of the states with which a revolutionary government has to deal: in the case of the Soviet Union, the contrast between the Soviet bureaucracy and the Socialist system of the USSR.


The government of the People's Republic of China has stated that it has taken the initiative in starting these talks. On Oct. 7, 1969, the People's Republic of China said, "The Chinese Government has never covered up the fact that there exist irreconcilable differences of principle between China and the Soviet Union and that the struggle of principle between them will continue for a long period of time." The phrase "irreconcilable differences of principle" is an oblique allusion to the existence of the ideological struggle on a party-to-party basis, which would be totally irrelevant in a diplomatic document if the Chinese CP somehow, in the back of its mind, did not still regard the Soviet Union as a socialist state rather than an imperialist power. Otherwise, why allude to the ideological question? These are carefully chosen words. They are an absolutely correct statement of the Marxist-Leninist approach regarding the ideological struggle between the leadership of the People's Republic of China and the Soviet Union.

"But this," continues the document "should not prevent China and the Soviet Union from maintaining normal state relations on the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence. The Chinese Government has consistently held that the Sino-Soviet boundary question should be settled peacefully, and even if it cannot be settled for the time being, the status quo of the border should be maintained and there should definitely be no resort to the use of force. There is no reason whatsoever for China and the Soviet Union to fight a war over the boundary question," the statement concludes.

This statement completely coincides with the views expressed by Workers World Party at the outbreak of the hostilities between China and the Soviet Union and contained to the March 20, 1969, edition of Workers World.

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