China: the Struggle Within: Why Did China Do It?

Why Did China Do It?

July 30, 1971


Enough time has now elapsed since the announcement of Nixon's projected visit to the People's Republic of China for all to see that this is not an incidental diplomatic maneuver soon to be submerged and forgotten in the welter of international affairs.

What is emerging in general outline is not a mere normalization of relations, but a projected rapprochement between the U.S., and People's China, something more in the nature of a broad agreement.


It is much easier to explain the motivation for the Nixon Administration's undertaking a visit to China than it is to explain why China extended the invitation in the first place.

It can scarcely be denied that the U.S., ruling class finds itself in a virtually impossible situation in Southeast Asia. The crushing defeat handed to U.S., imperialism by the Vietnamese people during the Tet offensive as well as the ill-fated invasion of Laos and Cambodia, have made it plain to the overwhelming majority of the people in this country and to a larger section of the ruling class that the mad adventure in Vietnam is a lost cause. The inability of aggressive U.S., militarism to turn the tide in Vietnam after so many years of stubborn persistence has signalled the end of an era in U.S., imperialist supremacy.

The Vietnam catastrophe of American finance capital symbolizes the general decline of American capitalism and its inability to solve its fundamental contradictions, either at home or abroad. The most crying contradiction for the ruling class is the spectacle of the Nixon Administration daily promising to "end the war soon" while continuing the bombing and rejecting the offers of the NLF (National Liberation Front) and the DRV (Democratic Republic of Vietnam) to seriously discuss withdrawal.

Under these circumstances it is quite understandable why the Nixon Administration would undertake some new way to help salvage and refortify the U.S., imperialist position.

This is what motivated Nixon to undertake his projected visit to China. It is not "a journey for peace" but a new method to achieve the same objective: to refurbish the tarnished image of the U.S., ruling class and to strengthen its diplomatic and military position.


What, then, motivated China to extend the invitation at a moment when the fortunes of American imperialism seem to be at its lowest ebb? It is necessary to examine this from two points of view: from the point of view of its international significance as far as the revolutionary liberation movements and the world working class are concerned, and secondly, from the point of view of how it will affect the national interests of China as a workers' (socialist) state.

Insofar as the revolutionary forces in the liberation movements and the working class movement generally are concerned, the invitation certainly came as a colossal disappointment. Its very suddenness and particularly the secret character of the negotiations, cannot but be viewed with apprehension.

To prepare such a sharp turn and in total secrecy is completely alien to the Leninist conception of conducting international relations with imperialist powers.


Was this not what the Chinese CP objected to in Khrushchev's diplomacy? Lenin made public all the secret treaties of the Czar and conducted diplomatic relations with the Germans, the French and the British openly. Never for a moment was the revolutionary vanguard in doubt as to the world revolutionary orientation of the Soviet Republic, that it put the interests of the world revolutionary movement ahead of the interests of the Soviet Republic.

"Open treaties, openly arrived at" was a slogan mouthed by Woodrow Wilson, but only the Soviet Republic under Lenin's leadership put it into practice. Secret diplomacy keeps the imperialists informed and the masses in the dark.

There can be no getting away from the fact that this venture into secret diplomacy by the Chinese leaders has caused a serious setback to the revolutionary movement of the world, and the ruling class has, at least temporarily, gotten a psychological lift as well as a diplomatic one. Its morale and outlook have been improved, even if it is only temporary.

In sum, as the Chinese leaders have so often said and done, the goal of the revolution is not only to raise the consciousness of the masses, to give them confidence in the struggle against the class enemy, but also to uphold the principles of proletarian internationalism. Judged by these criteria, the irresistible conclusion is that the Nixon invitation is a setback to the revolutionary movement.


One of the highly objectionable elements of Khrushchev's diplomacy with the U.S., during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 was the failure of the Soviet leaders to consult with the Cuban leaders during the negotiations.

Scarcely anything could have been more important than to have mutual consultations on how to confront the imperialists during such a great crisis. Nonetheless, the government of Premier Fidel Castro was informed of the outcome of the negotiations through the capitalist press. What a humiliation! The Chinese CP attacked the Soviet leaders for doing thus, as we did and others too.

It is very clear now that the announcement of Nixon's projected visit to Peking, let alone the long negotiations between Kissinger and Premier Chou En-lai, were not coordinated with the DRV and NLF, who are fighting against the genocidal war conducted against the Vietnamese by the Nixon Administration.


It is no wonder that Nhan Dan, the official newspaper of the DRV, made it abundantly clear that it was opposed to a "compromise between the big powers in an attempt to make smaller countries bow to their arrangements."

Who could they mean in this context but China and the U.S.? To make absolutely certain how they regard the Nixon visit, Nhan Dan said that Nixon "has been running about wildly in search of a way out. But he has gone to the wrong place. The exit door has been opened, yet he has tumbled into an impasse."

Certainly it cannot be doubted that what the DRV and the NLF want is for Nixon to negotiate with them on the question of the war, that the place is either Paris or Hanoi, not Peking, and that the subject is the withdrawal of the U.S., imperialist forces and their satellites from the territory of Vietnam.

Of course, China has supported the seven-point program of the NLF and the DRV and has continually supported their struggle. But this doesn't obviate Kissinger's long negotiations with the Chinese leader and the fact that the Vietnamese were not consulted.

It is very clear that one of the objective effects of Nixon's diplomacy is not only to widen the rift between the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China, but to utilize any eventual agreement that may come out of the negotiations to the detriment of the Soviet Union.


The Soviet leaders have only themselves to blame in the event of such an outcome. It must be remembered that the substance of the ideological struggle between China and the Soviet Union was particularly over the attitude toward imperialism. The Soviet revisionists were trying hard for an accommodation with the imperialists, to the detriment of the revolutionary movement. In fact, so far and deep has the process of Soviet accommodation with the imperialists, particularly the U.S., gone that in the eyes of the Chinese CP, the Soviet Union was only in words preaching socialism but in effect had degenerated to imperialist practices. China has been denouncing the Soviet leaders, not only for collaborating with the imperialists, but for having made a virtual alliance with them against the People's Republic of China.

Certainly the whole course of the last decade is abundant proof in that direction. We have previously written about this in this newspaper and have attacked the Soviet leaders for their course.


For several years now we have felt that the ultimate result of the Soviet policy in relation to China might be just such a development as we are now witnessing in the turn of Sino-U.S. relations.

As long ago as the 1966 Labor Day Conference of Workers World Party, held at the Cornish Arms Hotel in New York City, we said:

"If the ideological struggle between the Chinese party and the Soviet revisionists deepens and becomes a struggle between states, then it is possible that People's China may make a pact with the U.S., against the USSR."
In response to comrades at the 1966 Labor Day Conference who asked if such a development might change our attitude to People's China itself, we explained that "the eventuality of such a pact would in no way affect our class loyalty to the Chinese socialist republic. We would defend it against imperialism even though we disagreed with the pact -- just as we defended the USSR, even during the Stalin-Hitler Pact."

Certainly Nixon's efforts in personal diplomacy are very much akin to Hitler's. Hitler, too, maintained that the pact with Stalin was in the interest of peace. The pact at that time had a demoralizing influence on the revolutionary movement. Many people in this country were so outraged by the pact that they completely lost their moorings and declared that the Soviet Union was an imperialist state.

It was further explained at the Conference that:

"What we opposed in Stalin at that time, was not the principle of his right to enter into an agreement with an imperialist nation. What we opposed was the way it was done -- the secrecy, the shock to the proletarian forces, his painting up of the enforced agreement as a great thing and his softening of his previous position against Hitler as a result."

This explanation, given at our Conference in 1966 holds true for today in the wake of the new turn in Sino-U.S, relations.

The turn of Chinese foreign policy in relation to the U.S. cannot be explained solely as a response to Soviet revisionist policy, however. That has a great deal to do with it, of course, but China's new turn in foreign policy cannot be wholly explained by this alone.


The deeper cause lies in the failure of the Chinese Revolution to spread to the rest of Asia, as it did to Vietnam and Korea. The inability of the Chinese party to win large and influential communist parties away from revisionism and toward a revolutionary position is a key factor in the situation. In this sense, it is correct to contrast the course of the Chinese Revolution to the early days of the Russian Revolution. From the very first day of the victory of the October Revolution, hundreds of thousands of revolutionary socialists throughout the world immediately split from the Social-Democratic Parties (Second International) and, by 1919, were rallying around the Communist International as the vanguard of the world revolution.

The decisive sections of the revolutionary proletariat came over to communism as against social democracy.


The Chinese CP has been unable, for various historic reasons, to win over large constituted revolutionary parties in the same way that the early Leninist policies won over large and decisive sections of the world revolutionary movement. The Soviet Union at that time became not only the inspiration for revolutionary struggle, but its guide in theory and practice.

The Chinese Revolution, like the Russian Revolution, evoked a series of revolutionary situations abroad, which unfortunately were defeated. The big defeat in Indonesia in 1955, however one explains its causes, was a setback to the Chinese Revolution in the same way that the defeat in Germany, in Italy and in Hungary in the early 1920s set back the Russian Revolution and ushered in a policy of retreat from world revolutionary goals.


This policy of retreat is not only due to the failure of the Indonesian Revolution, however. It is also explained by the re-emergence of Japanese imperialism. The strong and numerous Japanese proletariat has been unable to develop a strong revolutionary Marxist party capable of challenging Japanese imperialism. All this, together with the encirclement of the People's Republic of China by a multitude of imperialist puppet regimes, plus the hostility of the Soviet leaders, has caused China to retreat to a position, at least for a period, of "national" socialism of taking care of the national interest in such a way as to subordinate the interests of the international revolutionary movement.

In this way the Chinese leaders hope to defeat U.S. plans for its isolation, to strengthen its international contacts in commerce and trade, and also to participate in the world power struggle along with the Soviet Union and the U.S.

But the question for revolutionaries is, again, how and in what manner will this policy affect the world movement of the oppressed and the working class in general.


In the immediate sense, the ruling class here hopes that a concrete result of the Sino-U.S. negotiation and the projected visit of Nixon to Peking will result in an amelioration of its catastrophic position in Southeast Asia.

The Wall Street Journal, which speaks for a large section of the ruling class, said in its lead editorial of July 22, that a concrete deal between the U.S. and China lies somewhere between Washington giving somewhat on Taiwan and China giving somewhat on Vietnam.

"The new thaw," says the editorial "if it proves more than momentary, is likely to have its effect on the speed and shape of the war's conclusion. It's even possible to see the hazy outlines of some kind of a deal, since the Americans want help in ending the war in some reasonably honorable way, and the Chinese want some movement on the issue of Taiwan."

The Wall Street Journal continues a little further on:

While anything so overt is only a remote possibility, the President's China trip is bound to have at least an indirect impact in Vietnam, and it's hard to conceive that his impact will be anything but favorable.

Such are the calculations of the ruling class in general, to one degree or another. They are banking on a projected Sino-U.S. agreement which would pull them out, or at least partially improve their desperate situation in Southeast Asia. But this is only a projection.

For one thing, they are not counting on the intransigence of the Vietnamese people, an error they have been making for almost a quarter of a century. As we noted above, the Vietnamese are only too well aware of what they call "big-power politics" and they are not likely to be a passive object in any U.S.-China rapprochement which concerns their interests.


Of course, no rapprochement between China and the U.S. is likely to materially affect the internal social structure of the People's Republic of China. It is much too late in the day for that. The Chinese Revolution is one of the greatest triumphs in modern times. During the decade of the fifties, it consolidated the power of the socialist state and laid the foundations for socialist construction. In the period of the sixties, it opened an immense campaign to drive back and crush the neo-bourgeois restorationists' influence in the party and in the government. At rock bottom, that was the real significance of the Cultural Revolution. It saved China from a bourgeois restoration and set back the forces of bureaucratic degeneration.

China set a revolutionary example by fighting bourgeois restoration on the home front and its political ideology, revisionism. It opened the road for genuine mass participation of the workers and peasants in the socialist transformation of China.


In this respect, there is scarcely a bourgeois observer who has not attested to the success of the People's Republic of China. Instead of fostering and encouraging the growth of a parasitic bureaucracy, the Cultural Revolution drastically cut them down. Our opponent political tendencies in the radical movement here, such as the SWP and the CP, were opposed to the Cultural Revolution, although from different points of view, they say. We supported it wholeheartedly. The Cultural Revolution is a lasting monument to the socialist transformation of a quarter of the human race.

Whatever subsequent political exigencies may impel China toward an erroneous course on international relations, the fundamental achievement of the Cultural Revolution remains a formidable obstacle to any internal regression. In this respect, China also stands way above the Soviet Union, where an entrenched, ever-growing bureaucratic apparatus is daily encouraged by the leadership, and moves further away from socialist norms even as it continues to develop technologically and economically as a deformed socialist state.

While we regard Soviet revisionist policy as growing fundamentally out of the very nature of the privileged bureaucracy which dominates the socialist state, the same cannot be said of China. It is for this reason that we view the projected Sino-U.S. rapprochement as a temporary departure and not as growing out of a congenital need of the social system of China.


For this reason the imperialist bourgeoisie cannot count on any long-lasting agreement with the Chinese People's Republic that would fundamentally disavow or appreciably alter the socialist direction of the Chinese workers' state.

There is no peace in the world today, nor will there be any, as long as imperialism exists. At best, peace is merely an interlude between imperialist wars. It is in this light that we should view the turn in Sino-U.S. relations.

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