Chang Chun-chiao and the oil controversy

Part VI: The suppression of the Left in China

February 1, 1977

It is almost four months since the arrest of Chiang Ching, Chang Chun-chiao, Wang Hung-wen, and Yao Wen-yuan. Their arrest and the suppression of untold hundreds of thousands of the left wing, which continues to this very day, have raised the question of whether there is still the possibility of a swift and sudden leftist comeback, one which might topple the rightist, Thermidorian grouping now in control of the party and the governmental apparatus in China.

Four months in these tempestuous times, and particularly in China, which has been in the throes of revolutionary struggle for decades, may ordinarily be regarded as too brief a time to make any prognosis. However, in these four months there has been no real sign of any progressive -- that is, working-class -- manifestation to support any other conclusion than that the rightists are triumphant and that the instability in the central leadership and the governing circles of the state apparatus is based on a struggle between the rightists and some centrist elements. Such a struggle could not be of decisive significance for the emergence or rather reemergence of a revolutionary left wing.


The world bourgeoisie, which hailed the suppression and could scarcely conceal its delight, as always, finds such steps helpful and valuable but inadequate for their purposes. The triumph of a reactionary grouping within the framework of a workers' state is at best for them only a half-way measure. Only a full-scale counterrevolution would suit their purposes.

At the moment imperialist diplomacy, particularly the diplomacy of the Carter-Vance administration, is to take a cautious view of the situation in China.

The rightward trend of the new leadership in China has also raised the hopes of the leaders of the Soviet Union. They sense a social identity and a common, revisionist outlook regarding their internal situations. This has not stopped the violent stream of invective and abusive epithets by the Peking press directed at the Soviet Union nor has there been any appreciable tapering off of the statements made again and again claiming that the "great danger" between the two so-called superpowers lies with the Soviet Union. All sorts of appeals directly and indirectly for U.S. imperialism to break the so-called detente (does it really exist?) with the USSR have continued unabated.

Nevertheless, the imperialists remain wary and suspicious that all the abusive language emanating from the new Chinese CP leadership may yet prove to be mere diplomatic sleight of hand for purposes of a new, but limited rapprochement between the USSR and China.

Of course, the evidence from the point of view of diplomatic exchanges is overwhelming that the Chinese leadership is unyieldingly bent on a rapprochement with the U.S. imperialists against the USSR, and not the other way around.

Nevertheless, the suspicion and wariness of the imperialists is not based on external diplomatic manifestations of China's diplomacy but rather on the historical and sociological fact of life: that both China and the USSR, notwithstanding the triumph of rightist groupings, are basically committed to the same social system, to a similar mode of social production which no assault by internal reaction, either in the Soviet Union or in China, has been able to overturn. Nor are there any substantial grounds for believing that counter-revolution is a prospect for the immediate future.

Both socialist states have undergone considerable evolution to the right. But as even bourgeois publicists and sociologists are forced to admit, the centrally planned character of their economies and the public ownership of the basic means of production stubbornly persist and have not appreciably yielded to consecutive assaults by internal reactionary forces.

It is not true that a reactionary, bureaucratic, and privileged grouping, such as holds the reins of authority in both the USSR and in China, can at will dismantle the socialist foundations in industry, or even in agriculture, where it is much easier, without an open struggle.

This of necessity imposes the obligation on revolutionary working class friends and observers of social and political evolution in China and the USSR to pay the most meticulous attention, within the framework of what is possible, to developments in both these socialist countries.

For instance, the Jan. 31, 1977 issue of the New York Times reports that "at a series of high-level meetings in Peking last spring, according to an article distributed by the Chinese press agency Hsinhua, Chang Chun-chiao, who was then a member of the Politburo and a senior Deputy Prime Minister, charged that by exporting oil 'China is going for a colonial economy.' " He was alluding, says the dispatch, to the Chinese who once worked as agents for foreign businessmen. Chang charged, " 'There is a comprador bourgeois right in the Politburo.' "

Of course it is well known that there was a serious dispute last spring concerning Chou En-lai's policy of expanding oil exports (to what extent no one knows here) in order to pay for foreign technology and purchase whole plants to speed economic development. What is verifiable is that from 1970 until 1975 oil constituted the main item of export from which China obtained foreign exchange to purchase whatever commodities, industrial or otherwise, were needed.

Chang Chun-chiao's alleged charge, which seems to be wholy in accord with the theme of his essay "On Exercising All-Round Dictatorship over the Bourgeoisie," that "China is going for a colonial economy," may be vastly overdrawn or deliberately fabricated by his victorious factional opponents. It is nevertheless worth examining, for what is at issue in such a dispute is not really the sale of this or that commodity for export, nor the need to obtain sophisticated technology or entire plants.


It is necessary to bear in mind (surely many of the leading communists in China must do so) Marx's observation made in the Communist Manifesto when the competitive phase of capitalism was still in existence: "The cheap prices of commodities are the heavy artillery with which it [the bourgeoisie] batters down all Chinese walls [and] with which it forces [oppressed peoples] to capitulate and adopt the bourgeois mode of production."

That was the classical period of capitalist development and encroachment. Imperialism has since greatly exacerbated these trends to a hitherto unheard-of extent. It does not introduce cheap commodities into the socialist countries through a free market, but it is able to accomplish the same thing through a variety of methods in both economic and diplomatic intercourse.

To be able to accomplish any such feat as is allegedly envisioned by Chang Chun-chiao, certain conditions have to be overcome. Most important is the piercing of the monopoly of foreign trade by imperialist penetration or the relaxing of the monopoly of foreign trade by decentralization through a directive of the Central Committee, which may not necessarily even be made public. However, such a grave matter could scarcely be concealed for long.


The matter of the monopoly of foreign trade by a socialist government, be it the USSR or China, is one of the pillars which sustains a proletarian dictatorship. This battle over the monopoly of foreign trade was one of Lenin's classic struggles against his Central Committee, which incidentally included Stalin.

The Central Committee had, in Lenin's absence, virtually abolished the monopoly of foreign trade but by Dec. 18, 1922, the Central Committee rescinded that resolution and reaffirmed the decision to maintain the monopoly of foreign trade. Trotsky introduced that resolution on Lenin's behalf and Lenin on Dec. 21 sent Trotsky a letter congratulating him on the victory at the Central Committee session. (See Lenin's Collected Works, Vol. 45, Letters to Stalin and Trotsky from Dec. 13 to 21.)

There is no reason to believe that the new ruling group in China, headed by Hua, is bent on opening the gates wide to imperialist penetration via the exchange of oil for technology. Before that could happen, the ruling group would have to modify or abandon in some measure the monopoly of foreign trade.

It could, of course, decentralize the various economic ministries and in that way open up areas of economic attack and penetration by imperialism. This, too, is not at the present moment a foreseeable objective by the Hua group, although the hordes of American businessmen from the transnational corporations are hard at work for precisely such an eventuality

Such a danger always exists in the economic and commercial relations between the socialist and capitalist countries. It is not confined to China alone. Eastern Europe is far more vulnerable and imperialist penetration there has already made deep inroads and is difficult to push back. The Soviet Union is in a far stronger position to resist such penetration, but the same processes are at work.


Trade between the socialist and the capitalist countries is for the most part necessary for the development of the socialist countries and most often an unavoidable necessity. But if the levers and instrumentalities that control the economic and commercial relations with the capitalist countries are firmly under the control of a workers' government, it will not permit a foothold by imperialism in any segment of the socialist economy.

However, as long as the capitalist mode of production is predominant in the contemporary world, as long as imperialism holds sway over the greater portion of the globe, as long as the transnational corporations, controlled by the banks and fused with the capitalist, militarist state machine, dominate the main arteries of commercial and economic international life, so long will economic penetration be a danger to the socialist countries.

The existence of this phenomenon alone proves that beneath all the political and diplomatic maneuvering on the international arena, the struggle at bottom between the socialist and capitalist countries is still a struggle between two diametrically opposed social systems of production -- the system of capitalist imperialism, based on exploitation, pillage, and plunder, and the system based on socialized production and public ownership of the means of production -- a system which is vastly superior to any capitalist state because it opens up unlimited potential for social, economic, and cultural development while imperialism leads to decay, unemployment, and imperialist war.

This makes more urgent the socialist revolution in the capitalist world which would also be the greatest boon to the socialist countries and help weld the socialist commonwealth of this planet.

Index Introduction 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10



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