Remembering the Chinese Revolution

In Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the

Chinese Revolution



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 Part Two

Socialist Construction


(A) From New Democracy to Socialism

(1) Rehabilitation of the Economy

(2) Socialist Transformation

(3) Class struggle during period of transition

(B) Socialist Consolidation and GPCR

(1) The Great Leap Forward (1958-60)

(i) The Communes

(ii) Walking on Two Legs

(iii) Education

(iv) Class struggle

(2) Liu Shao-chi’s New Economic Policies (1960-65)

(3) The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution


The economy inherited by the CPC in 1949 was in shambles. Centuries of feudalism and decades of warlordism (since 1911) had wrecked havoc on the Chinese peasantry. Ravaged by the Japanese fascist marauders and 20 years of civil war at the behest of Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang, China had been totally devastated. Dams, irrigation systems and canals were in a state of disrepair. Rail lines had been cut and re-cut by contending armies. Industries were few and mostly controlled by the imperialists in alliance with the ‘Big Four Families’. Enormous causalities caused by both man-made and ‘natural’ disasters had left the people of China half-starved and exhausted. Between 1946 and 1948 prices doubled 67 times and then rose 85,000 times in six months. Money had become worthless scraps of paper, and China had been pushed back to a barter system.

But within the space of a few years the vast Chinese population was turned from a sea of misery into a turbulent ocean of joy and growth. From a life under feudal tyranny, backward superstitions ideas, and a hand-to-mouth existence, the Chinese people were able to enjoy the security of food, clothing, shelter and occupation for all; education and scientific thinking; sports and a lively culture; cooperative living and care for the old and weak.... Disease, theft, banditry, prostitution, gambling, and all evils associated with the bourgeois system disappeared. From feudal ownership where 10% owned 80% of the land, the vast 30 crore peasantry acquired a plot of land in the land reform movement that was completed by 1952. Simultaneously, the huge rivers were harnessed, involving the vast labour resources for building dams, canals, reservoirs, etc... Instead of floods and droughts, irrigation raised productivity by leaps and bounds.

Here we shall divide the period of socialist construction into two sections. The first stage is the rehabilitation of the economy and its step-by-step transition from new democratic to a socialist economy. This basically covers the period from 1949 to 1956. The second period is that of socialist construction which continued, with its ups and downs, till 1976. While analysing both we shall look at the economic transformation and the nature of the class struggle that accompanied it. Finally, we shall take a brief look at the reversal.

(A) From New Democracy to Socialism

This can be divided into two phases. The first from 1949 to 1952 entailed rehabilitation of the economy on a bourgeois (New) democratic basis. And the second, its transition to an embryonic socialist economy from 1953 to 1956.

(1) Rehabilitation of the Economy

The quick rehabilitation was particularly facilitated by the selfless assistance of the Soviet Union. In 1949 the Soviet Union, China and the other People’s Democracies formed a powerful and united socialist camp headed by the Soviet Union. In December 1949, Com. Mao visited the Soviet Union, and by February 1950 a number of agreements were signed between the two countries.

But, in June 1950 the US launched a war of aggression against neighbouring Korea. The Chinese people fought shoulder to shoulder with the Korean’s People’s Army against the aggression. Until the defeat of the US aggressors in May 1951, inspite of their shattered economy, China whole-heartedly supported the Korean people’s war effort displaying a true spirit of international solidarity.

According to the Common Programme, the basic political system of the country was a system of democratic People’s Congresses, elected by universal franchise. Until the local democratic institutions could be spread throughout the country it was decided that the People’s Political Consultative Conference would exercise the functions and powers of the future National People’s Congress. During the first three years after liberation, people’s representative conferences were convened and established in various provinces, municipalities, counties and townships throughout the country.

In the rural areas, by the end of 1952, agrarian reform was basically completed in the whole country, with the exception of areas inhabited by the minority people. As a result of the reform, 12-crore acres of land were distributed amongst 30 crore peasantry and over 3 crore quintals of grain, which formerly went to the landlords annually as rent, were now appropriated by the peasants for their own use. Mutual aid teams also began to grow and by 1952 there were 4000 cooperatives. The agrarian reform abolished the feudal system which had ruled China for over 2,000 years, eliminated the landlord class, and liberated the rural productive forces, thus paving the way for the industrialisation of the country.

In the same period, transformation of industry and commerce was also carried out after the confiscation of the capital of the imperialists and the bureaucrat capitalists. The transformation centred around three basic questions : the relations between public and private interests, between capital and labour and between production and marketing; all of which required adjustment.

The readjustment of relations between public and private interests meant that the private economy should have a chance to develop under the guidance of the state economy. In this respect, the policy followed by the government was to help those privately-owned factories which were able to maintain themselves and which were beneficial to national welfare and the people’s livelihood by placing orders with them for processing and manufacture or by some other means, encouraging them to produce what was required by the national economy, and allowing them to make such profits as were regulated by law. By placing orders with them for processing and manufacture, the state strengthened the leadership of the state economy over private enterprises, and solved a number of problems that confronted private enterprises, such as the supply of raw materials and the marketing of products. At the same time, private enterprises were not debarred from making reasonable profits. By June 1952, state orders for processing, manufacture and purchase amounted to 80% of the total volume of business transacted by private-owned factories in Shanghai.

In the relations between capital and labour, it was necessary to induce the capitalists to recognise the workers’ essential democratic rights and the benefit that the development of production would bring to the people’s economy. The tension between capital and labour was eased by consultation, and the relations between them normalised by contracts.

To readjust the relations between production and marketing, all the private and public sectors of the economy were urged to strengthen their planning, overcome blindness and anarchy in production and keep a balance between production and marketing.

In this period the government undertook massive construction works by mobilising millions of people and diverting the bulk of their funds for these projects. Most of it went towards irrigation and transport.

In these first three years, the people’s government organised the repair of the greater part of the 42,000 kilometres of dykes in the country. In addition the Huai River Project and the Chingkiang Flood Diversion Project were truly unprecedented in Chinese history, both in the magnitude of their scope and in the speed of their execution. Altogether, during these three years over 1,700 million cubic metres of earthwork (using local implements, with minimum capital costs) were completed in water conservancy — equivalent to the digging of 10 Panama canals. The threat of floods which haunted the people for thousands of years was largely eliminated and the restoration of agricultural production and the security of the inhabitants in vast rural areas was ensured.

Also the government allocated large sums for the construction of new railways which greatly helped the development of the backward south-western and north-western provinces.

By end 1952, industrial and agricultural production had not only been restored but had surpassed the pre-war peak level — what is more, it was more equitably distributed. Its total value in the year was 77.5% up from the 1949 figure, while the output value of modern industry was up 278.6%. Besides, with systematic planning and balanced budgets, by the end of this period prices were fully stabilised.

Economic rehabilitation, the balancing of revenue and expenditure of the government and the stabilisation of commodity prices laid a solid foundation for large-scale economic construction and socialist transformation.

(2) Socialist Transformation

In transforming an agriculture based on a small-peasant economy into a modernised agriculture, two roads were open to the Chinese people — the capitalist road or the socialist road. The capitalist road would have hastened the polarisation process among the peasants into a kulak and agricultural proletariat class, pushing the mass of peasantry into exploitation and poverty. The socialist road consisted in uniting the individual peasant households into advanced cooperatives with new techniques, thus enabling the peasant masses to lead a life that was steadily improving in both material welfare and culture. Since the CPC could not allow the rural small-peasant economy to grow spontaneously into a capitalist economy, the only possible course was to carry out the socialist transformation of agriculture.

In 1953 the Central Committee decided to push ahead with the transformation of the mutual aid teams in the villages into cooperatives. In the fall of 1953 the CC decided in the unified purchase of grain by the state; a state monopoly on the buying and selling of grain.

This was probably the single most powerful step taken to restrain petty commodity production in agriculture at this stage, because it quite simply eradicated the peasant’s own control over the disposition - and most particularly, over the marketing - of the crop that was harvested. Land reform had sharply limited the profit to be made by renting out land, Mutual Aid Teams made it more difficult to make profit with hired labour .... Credit Corps and low-interest government loans were, at the same time, making it harder to make much money from lending money; and now, sales quotas and set prices were to make it virtually impossible to do any better than any one else in the market place. This created conditions in which the only alternative to increase income was to increase output ... Unified purchase and supply in effect decisively closed off what was in most cases the last significant option available to peasants for getting rich through independent action, and consequently made cooperativisation much less of a sacrifice (for the middle peasants) than it otherwise would have been.

There were two stages in the formation of the cooperatives. In the lower-level cooperatives, there was only land-pooling. In order to bring in those with more land, groups divided 60% of the crop on the basis of land contributed to the common pool, while only 40% went to cover work-points earned.

But it was the transition to the higher level cooperative which was more difficult as it meant giving up all private land and getting rid of land markers and also selling one’s personal livestock to the cooperative. During the first stage (lower) of cooperation, crops obliterated the property lines but nobody removed the stone markers — as land still remained private property. But now the coop members planned to pool the land in perpetuity. They would call in tractors and they would plant rows in any direction. They had to move the markers and liberate the fields .... The coop committees decided that each family should remove their own markers. Also selling ones livestock was difficult for a peasant who normally develops a close attachment to it.

The prices for cooperativisation entailed giving share capital by each household, besides the land pooled. This financial arrangement made sure that those with more property did not suffer unduly through pooling, and those with little property also ended up owning a share, a material stake in the cooperative. All the animals and large implements to be pooled had to be appraised and the total value of this productive capital would be divided by the total labour power available to the group. This calculation determined what each family, based on the units of labour power supplied, had to pay into the capital fund in the form of capital shares.

By June 1956, 92% of the Chinese peasant households had joined the cooperatives and the biggest bulk of them had joined the advanced cooperatives. Also the handicrafts were organised into cooperatives.

The way of transformation of capitalist industry and commerce was through state capitalism. Private capitalism could be guided into the channel of state capitalism by means of control exercised by the administrative organs of the state, the leadership given by the state-owned economy and supervision by the workers. State capitalism had three forms; the elementary form consisted in the exclusive buying and marketing of the products of a private enterprise by the state; the intermediate form, in placing state orders for processing and manufacture with private enterprises; and the advanced form in joint state and private ownership and operation.

During the first few years in the socialist transformation of capitalist industry and commerce, most of the private enterprises took the intermediate form of state capitalism by accepting government contracts for processing and manufacture of goods. Beginning from 1954 the state had systematically transformed capitalist industry through a form of joint state-private enterprises. It was now not only individual factories and shops which made the change-over, but whole trades of industry and commerce. This placing of whole trades under joint state-private ownership was a new form in the socialist transformation of capitalist industry and commerce (Note : this state ownership is in no way comparable to nationalisation in countries like India — here the state represents the comprador big bourgeois, feudal and imperialist classes and nationalisation serves their interests).

Besides, with the development of the form of joint state-private ownership, the method of redemption changed. Before the change-over to joint state-private enterprises by whole trades, redemption took the form of profit distribution. After the change-over it took the form of fixed interest — fixed in June 1956 at 5%. This too was a transition to full take-over by the state. Now the owner could not assume direct control of the joint enterprises, nor could they sell them. Thereby the means of production came under the direct control of the proletarian state. This transformation of the enterprises was combined with ideological remoulding.

Beginning from January 1956, the movement for socialist transformation of capitalist industry and commerce in the country surged forward at an amazing speed. Within a few months, all the private industrial and commercial enterprises in large and medium-sized cities throughout the country had become joint state-private enterprises, and all handicrafts in these areas had formed cooperatives.

By end 1956 the CPC, proclaimed that the socialist transformation in the ownership of the means of production was, in the main, completed in the country.

(3) Class Struggle during the period of transition

With the seizure of power in 1949, the principal contradiction in Chinese society changed into that between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie.

Immediately after taking power the party adopted the following policy against the class enemies: those owing at least 3 "blood debts" were executed; others given prison sentences together with re-education through labour on farms. Those who had not committed serious crimes were left enough land for themselves and their families to cultivate without hiring labour.

The class struggle during this period had two aspects : first against remnants of the old system, who were needed in commerce, industry and government due to the backwardness of China and lack of educated personnel under the influence of the CPC; the second was, to counter the bourgeois world outlook within the movement and party.

To tackle the first, the party unleashed the ‘san fan’ and ‘wu fan’ movements in 1951-52. The ‘san fan’ movement was against the three evils of corruption, waste and bureaucracy. The ‘wu fan’ movement — against the five evils of bribery of government personnel, tax evasion, theft of state property, cheating on government contracts and stealing economic information — was carried out amongst industrialists and businessmen.

The ‘san fan’ movement helped cleanse the government organs, helped establish closer ties between the government and the masses, helped strengthen discipline and efficiency in government work, and greatly reduced government expenditure. The ‘wu fan’ movement curbed substantially the illegal activities among the capitalist industrialists and businessmen and brought capitalist industry and commerce within the orbit of state plans.

On the second point, Mao had urged all party members on the eve of victory to enhance their political vigilance and keep a cool head, and an unassuming attitude and a working style that defied all hardships and difficulties. He warned that, after the smashing of all armed enemies, there would still be enemies who carried no arms, and they would inevitably put up a desperate struggle in a hidden way. Therefore, these enemies should by no means be underrated. Members of the party were also called upon to maintain constant vigilance against the bourgeoisie’s "sugar-coated bullets", otherwise they would be weakened or corrupted by their unprincipled flattery. He urged cadres "to remain modest, prudent and free from arrogance in their style of work" and to "preserve the style of plain living and hard struggle" (Report to the second plenary session of the 7th CC of the CPC; March 5, 1949).

During this period a campaign was launched for ideological remoulding of intellectuals. The campaign took the form of a mass movement, which relied on the educational method of criticism and self-criticism for the self-education and self-remoulding of intellectuals. In this campaign imperialist, feudal and bureaucrat-capitalist influences on the intellectuals were thoroughly exposed and largely swept away, bourgeois and petty-bourgeois ideas were criticised and the question "whom should intellectuals serve ?" was given a correct answer. Most intellectuals became supporters of the socialist system, studied Marxism-Leninism .... and some became communists.

But the most important struggles were against bourgeois ideology and culture within the party. Throughout this period, there was a strong trend that sought merely the consolidation of the bourgeois democratic system and opposed transition to socialism. This was particularly reflected in culture; it was also reflected in the views put out by some top leaders like Liu Shao-chi and his associates.

In the 1950s Mao had criticised the rightist trends in culture in his "Give serious attention to the Discussion of the Film ‘Life of Wu Hsun’ " (May 1951) and his "Letter Concerning studies of the Dream of the Red Chamber" (October, 1954).

In 1949 itself Liu Shao-chi put forward the theory of "cooperation among the five sectors of the economy (i.e., state-owned; cooperative, the individual economy of peasants and handicraftsmen, private capitalist and state-capitalist) to consolidate the new democratic system."

In fact in 1953, when there were fewer than 14,000 cooperatives in China, certain party organisations under Liu’s influence dissolved hundreds of them on the grounds that they were shaky and could not be consolidated. In 1955, after party committees had organised several hundred thousand cooperatives, they suffered a second drastic reduction. Members dissolved tens of thousands of newly formed cooperatives on orders from ‘above’.

The struggle at the central committee level over the pace and scale of the cooperative movement in the countryside was in reality only one facet of a more fundamental struggles concerning the whole course of the revolution. Mao and Liu disagreed on the basic question of what stage the revolution had reached. Liu Shao-chi said that the New Democratic stage must continue for long, perhaps several decades, before the eventual transition to socialism. He said that the mixed economy of public, joint public-private, collective and private ownership would extend many years into the future, and with it the political coalition — the four-class alliance. He projected a rapid economic buildup under the New Democratic framework — the industrialisation and mechanisation of the country. This was Liu’s famous thesis, later summed up, as far as the countryside was concerned, as "mechanisation before cooperation."

Mao on the other hand said that the victory over the Kuomintang, represented the final victory of the New Democratic Revolution and the beginning of the Socialist Revolution. Mao said that, even though the ‘Four Freedoms’ (freedom to buy, sell or rent land; freedom to hire labour for wages; freedom to lend money on interest; freedom to set up private enterprises for profit) had to be allowed for a while, even though for some time private entrepreneurs had to be allowed to develop their industry and commerce, the socialist revolution designed to abolish capitalism once and for all, had begun. The thesis of Mao’s was proved by the fact that during the peak of the ‘Four Freedoms’ policy in 1952, there was a big spurt in the spontaneous growth of capitalist forces — rise of rich peasants, speculators, traders etc. This was brought under control by the process of cooperativisation in the rural areas and the socialist steps in industry and commerce. Mao felt that the process of cooperativisation of the petty produce — peasants, shop-keepers, handicraftsmen and tradesmen — would complete the process for the embryonic socialisation of the economy. After a period of development the socialist economy would be able to supply the technology and machinery for a technical transformation of agriculture and thus introduce a third great revolution in the countryside — mechanisation. This famous thesis of Mao was summed up as "cooperation before mechanisation".

By 1956 the first step of transition to socialist ownership of the means of production was completed and so in 1958 Mao launched the Great Leap Forward — a mass campaign to take technology to the backward peasantry.

(B) Socialist Consolidation and the GPCR

The phase of socialist construction, until the reversal in 1976, can be divided into three periods : First, the Great Leap Forward from 1958 to 1960; second, the rise of Liu Shao-chi’s New Economic Policies in the period 1960 to 1965, and third, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution from 1965 to 1976. Throughout this period the class struggle progressively intensified with the capitalist roaders increasing their attacks against the socialist consolidation of Chinese society. This finally burst into open conflict in the GPCR.

It is during this phase, that Mao’s contributions to further developing the laws of socialist construction, have been truly epoch-making. Faced with the increasing domination of the revisionist line within the party and with the rise of Khrushchev’s modern revisionism internationally, in February 1957, Mao wrote his historic work "On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People". It is this major work that set the direction for socialist construction in China and is, itself, an important contribution to the Marxist-Leninist classics.

Mao’s theoretical contributions for continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat, has become an important guideline for the entire international communist movement. It is not possible to build socialism in any country of the world (underdeveloped or developed) without applying the Maoist methodology to the specific country.

It is not surprising, that it was this phase of Mao’s contribution (post 1956) that has come under the most intense attack by the Teng revisionists; and is either ignored or shelved by those who merely pay lip-service to Mao. It is no wonder that the new revisionist Chinese leadership has not published Mao’s post-1957 writings and has sought to suppress and destroy this gigantic contribution. Let us now look at these three phases of socialist construction and the development of Mao’s proletarian revolutionary line which is inseparably linked with the changes taking place.

(1) The Great Leap Forward (1958-60)

The Great Leap Forward is organically linked with two major policies : in agriculture, the formation of the communes; in industry the policy of "walking on two legs". This was summed up in 1959 with Mao’s statement to take "Agriculture as the foundation of the economy and industry as the leading factor."

(i) The Communes

From 1957 itself, in some places, notably in Hunan Province, communes were formed by merging cooperatives; and on the basis of this new, large-scale organisation, a great leap in production was launched. In other places, in order to join the production movement that was already sweeping the country, the people quickly formed communes, through mergers. The two movements stimulated each other and re-inforced each other. Between them, they fanned up a nationwide re-organisation of rural society and a nationwide movement to harness nature, build industries throughout the countryside, and smelt iron and steel everywhere.

In the winter of 1957-58 the party launched a big drive to bring water to hitherto dry lands, especially in Honan. With all the peasants of that province already organised in higher stage coops, it was thought that the rural people had already found an organisational form with the strength to carry out whatever tasks needed doing. But as the drive developed it became clear that the small scale of the cooperatives, each containing from 100 to 200 families, stood in the way of national progress. There were too many conflicts of interest between groups over land use, rights of way and water rights, and there were too few people under coordinated command. It was in order to resolve all these hurdles in the way of further growth, that the rural masses welcomed the call to form Communes.

Very quickly the idea of the commune developed far beyond a simple association for carrying on capital construction in the land. Since the communes were as big as townships and sometimes as big as counties, they soon took over the functions of government. They became responsible not only for agricultural production, but for small industries also; then widened their powers to direct all administration, trade, banking, education, medical care and culture. In the end they took over military affairs; the organisation and direction of the militias.

"In the present circumstances", said the Central Committee resolution of August 1958, "the establishment of people’s communes with all-round management of agriculture, forestry, animal husbandry, side occupation and fisheries; where industry (the worker), agriculture (the peasant), exchange (the trader), culture and education (the student) and military affairs (the militia) merge into one; is the fundamental policy to guide the peasants to accelerate socialist construction, complete the building of socialism ahead of time, and carry out the gradual transition to communism."

The Sputnik Commune, Honan, led the way with the merger of 27 cooperatives forming a commune of 9,000 households. Members pooled not only all the productive property of their original collectives but also such rich private holdings as garden plots, house sites and trees, distributed income through a monthly wage system instead of seasonal division of the crop, and guaranteed each individual a free supply of grain. They organised public dining rooms, nurseries and sewing teams to take over women’s work, thus freeing women to join production. To facilitate capital construction on the land and building of industries, they pooled and put under unified control all material and financial resources and all man power. The commune soon merged with the township, so that the (people’s) congress delegates, council members, chairman and deputy chairman of the township assumed equivalent posts in the commune.

By September 1958, 7½ lakh cooperatives had become organised into 23, 384 communes embracing 90% of peasant households. Their size varied from 5,000 to 70,000. By the end of 1958 the peasants had already pooled their major items of property — mainly farm tools and draft animals; but, at first, in most cases, the communes did not involve the pooling of small private agricultural plots. Later this was done; yet in 1959 about 20% of the general income of the village (a village — equivalent to the earlier cooperative — was basically the organisational unit of the commune, now called a production brigade) was still taken up by the small individual garden plots. Initially the commune was made the accounting unit, but this led to over-equalisation between unequal brigades .... so later, the brigade was made the accounting unit. The commune, though, continued to retain ownership of industrial plots and controls over relations with state organs.

The big advantage of the commune was that it could mobilise spare time labour for massive irrigation projects. In the three years 1958-60 an additional 2.8 million acres of land were brought under irrigation. The application of labour by reorganisation of the division of labour converted human labour directly into physical assets on a spectacular scale. The year October 1957 to September 1958 saw the removal of 58,000 million cubic metres of stone and earth — the equivalent of digging 300 Panama canals.

Besides reservoirs, land reclamation consisted of the extensive terracing of hills otherwise unsuitable for cultivation. The feats of minute terracing work and care, plus afforestation, paid off in higher yields.

(ii) Walking on Two Legs

This policy sought to bring about a dialectical balance between heavy and light industry and away from the Soviet model of over dependence on big industrial projects. The industrial policy of "walking on two legs" aimed at tapping the sources of industrial growth in widely spread, easily mined coal and iron ore deposits, and small-scale indigenous technology, by the rapid advancement of small and medium industry in the interior of the country, both within and without the communes. Besides, the mass campaign to smelt iron in the ‘backyard’ not only brought much needed iron to the commune door-step and help speed-up the process of mechanisation .... it also brought technology to a backward peasant population.

Vast numbers of small enterprises sprouted at the local level. For example, in Chekiang province 900 small power stations were constructed between 1958 and 1968. In Hopei province new small coal mines amounted to 66% of total new capacity. In Kiangsi, 1000 new mines came up. In Harbin, 2,800 chemical plants were set up in the first six months of 1960. Inner Mongolia was producing its own consumer goods in 3000 factories by 1961.

Most of the small factories or workshops in the communes catered to the mechanical needs of their own members. The small-scale factories and workshops often functioned when labour was not required for agriculture during the off-season. Thus, if necessary, at busy time, during spring planting and harvesting, they could be shut down and restarted in the off season.

The policy embraced many branches of the ‘heavy’ field, previously identified in Soviet literature as requiring large-scale investments and large-scale, capital-intensive plants in the coal, iron and steel, chemical and machine-building industries. The policy of "walking on two legs" involved industrial decentralisation to communes and provinces, which supervised the effective mobilisation of manpower in projects that were labour-intensive.

In 1957, 80% of the previously state-controlled enterprises were transferred to provincial authority. This meant that the bulk of medium and small industry was transferred. The centre retained control over the major producer goods industries — oil, power, steel, transport and communications. This is borne out by the changes which occurred in just the two years 1957 to 1959 :

Decentralisation of Industry





Central Control (%)




Local Control (%)




Mao called this : "centralised planning, decentralised control".

An important drive for building the communes was a desire for self-sufficiency, to be able to ‘make-do’ without extensive demands from the state. It is this motivation (later epitomised in Tachai and Taching) that contributed to the stimulus to improve public works projects and to the communal labour effort to improve facilities and increase yields.

Out of a total product (of a brigade), about 5.6% was paid as agricultural tax to the state (the proportion was reduced if the harvest was poor); 5–6% was allocated to the public welfare fund of the brigade for the support of the old and the sick who could not work; another 5-10% was allocated to the public accumulation fund of the brigade for the purchase of tractors, farm machinery and other equipment; the remainder 78-85% was distributed among the members of the production brigade. Work-points were assessed by the members themselves — a full grown man would tally about 10 workpoints per day; a 14-year old about 5 to 6. Ofcourse, there continued to remain substantial differences in earnings between brigades, depending on its soil, fertility, water, etc.

(iii) Education

Though this does not only cover this period it is important to outline here the party’s policy towards education as it has an important bearing not only on development policy in the decade after liberation but also on the on-going class struggle. The policy can be summed up in the slogan adopted in the year of the Great Leap Forward - "Educate students for overall development, with equal emphasis on mental, moral and physical training." The aim was to make every student a worker, and to make students from workers.

At the time of liberation only 10% of the population was literate. The party put enormous emphasis on education which was done on two levels — the formal school, college education and the informal (primarily by the trade unions). In the first decade after liberation, primary school annual enrollment increased almost four times, the number of middle schools by 10 times and the number of higher institutions by about 7 times. The number of engineers created during this period was over two lakhs. In 1958/59 about 35% of all university students were in teacher training courses; 31% in Engineering; 6-9% in agriculture and forestry, 10% in medicine and 0.5% in fine arts. In 1959, 50% of college students came from families of peasants and working-class origin.

The central government budget allocated about 9% of their total expenditure to education and science which was 50% more than their military budget. Factories, communes and other enterprises spent about an equal percentage of their local budgets on education ... so the total invested may well have amounted to 15 to 20% of the national income.

In education importance was given on practical utilisation of studies and on socialist values and outlook. Respect was developed for the value of labour, through actual participation, and in the classroom, about one hour in ten, was devoted to socialist education — both in the basic Marxist texts and in lectures.

Field labour, of 3 to 4 months in the year, actually meant field practice. Engineering students worked on construction projects, etc; geology students did prospecting or field analytical work; medical students worked in clinics or hospitals; chemistry students may help in a chemical factory....

In middle schools, students do 8 to 10 hours labour weekly and primary school students get in 4 to 6 hours a week at school shops or chores assigned by the teacher.

But what was even more interesting was the ‘informal’ education particularly by the trade unions. This is what a senior official of the central trade union said :

"Under socialism the Union’s main task is education. We operate almost as many schools as the Ministry of Education. You might call the Trade Union Federation a ministry of part-time education. Our schools have two main purposes. The first is to provide political education — i.e., education in socialist history and principles, in Marxism-Leninism, in the theory and practice of Mao Tsetung and in state policies and contemporary affairs. The second purpose is to provide technical and cultural education. The end objective is to prepare men and women who are politically, technically and culturally fitted to manage the national economy."

Also the trade unions ran clubs, with sports, recreational facilities, cultural activities, amateur drama and opera groups; and also operated rest homes and sanatoria. There was free medical care, accident insurance and old-age sickness insurance for all members.

(iv) Class Struggle

At the Eighth Congress of the CPC, held in 1956, it was Liu Shao-chi’s line that dominated. The official line passed at the Congress put forward the theory of productive forces. After the Congress, the attack continued. At the central committee meeting in November 1958, Mao was ‘prevailed upon’ to resign as Chairman of the Republic and he was replaced by Liu Shao-chi. At the July 1959 Lushan central committee meeting Peng Teh-huai, Defence Minister, launched a massive attack on Mao saying it was he and the Great Leap Forward that was responsible for the big calamities that had struck China that year (unprecedented harvest failures due to drought combined with the withdrawal of Soviet aid resulted in acute hardship). Peng Teh-huai was a strong supporter of Khrushchev’s line, opposed to the removal of ranks within the army and opposed to the PLA’s participation in production. He was in favour of building a typical bourgeois army and not a people’s army. Though Peng was described by the CC in September 1959 as a right opportunist and replaced by Lin Piao, Mao’s role at the centre was reduced.

During the Great Leap Forward and commune formation, Liu and his followers launched an all out ideological attack on Mao’s line. In practice they took the Leap and commune formation to extremes which led to failures and thereby sought to discredit it. In the sphere of ideology Liu Shao-chi accused the party of "subjective idealism" which "exaggerated man’s conscious dynamic role..." in trying to "prematurely" push the Leap Forward and communes. Mao’s policies were even attacked at the ideological plane by putting forward the theory that "there is no identity between thinking and being" in order to deny man’s conscious role in socialist construction and give further weightage to the theory of productive forces.

In 1958 itself, Mao formulated the general line of going all out, aiming high and achieving greater, faster, better and more economic results in building socialism. He issued the call to do away with all fetishes and superstitions, emancipate the mind and carry forward the communist style of daring to think, speak and act. Again and again he stressed that we must persevere in putting politics in command and give full play to the mass movement in all work.

(2) Liu Shao-chi’s New Economic Policies (1960-65)

In the three years 1959 to 1961, China faced enormous economic hardships. Three successive years of drought had devastated the countryside. Added to this, the Soviet revisionists overnight pulled out their assistance taking away not only their personnel but also the blue-prints of the projects under construction. Taking advantage of this situation and the control that Liu Shao-chi and company had over the government and party apparatus, they aggressively went about reversing all earlier policies and replacing them with capitalist oriented policies. No doubt, in this they were egged on by the Soviet revisionists.

One of their first moves was the gradual reintroduction of a free market in the rural areas. Later there appeared Liu Shao-chi’s policy of "san zi yi bao" which involved : (a) the restoration of private plots, (b) the use of the household as the main accounting unit (instead of the brigade) in the commune, and (c) the assumption by enterprises in communes of sole responsibility for profit and output quotas.

In addition a black market was encouraged. Already in 1961 while the official price of cooking oil in Shanghai was 0.61 yuan per half-kg, the ‘free market’ price was 30 yuan. ‘Free’ rice price was three times the official price. Trade and speculation in farm produce grew apace. A kulak peasant class began to appear.... the contribution of private plots to production was extended. By 1962 the private grain harvest in Yunnan was larger than the collective harvest. Open markets for agricultural products developed, as official policy relaxed the administrative regulation of market prices, and indicated that the level of profits should be made the criterion for operating even the state farms. On the communes, new opportunities were given for peasants to engage in "sideline" production such as growing of pigs and vegetables. All this added upto a recovery programme, the kind advocated by Bukharin in the 1920s in the Soviet Union. In the communes the new slogan was not politics in command, but work points in command.... creating a competitive atmosphere for individual progress through piling on work-points, legitimately or illegitimately.

Another directive of the Ninth Plenum of the 8th Congress was to allow small and medium firms to buy raw materials directly from the market, rather than through the wholesale cooperative. There was a redirection of China’s industrial sector to consumer output after 1961, designed as part of a programme of relying on material incentives, bonuses and prizes to encourage productivity in manufacturing. Most significant was the shift from output targets to profit targets within the enterprises; and the change-over in the focus of power, from control by trade-union and party committees to control by managers, professional staff and technocrats. Above all, the modus operandi shifted from ideological (political) incentives to material incentives. With this came the re-emergence of intellectuals, technocrats and managers - all with close connections with Regional party bosses. "Expertness" rather than "redness" was what counted in making economic decisions.

In vast numbers of factories Liu’s industrial charter — the "seventy sinister points" — was already regulating industry as at the 555 Clock factory. Here the Director and his deputy, had increased the administrative staff enormously, a technocracy was created in the factory and management regulations became bureaucratic and complicated prizes and bonuses abounded .... and more the prizes, the greater was the tension amongst workers.

Slowly, profit rate became the ethos to measure performance of firms. Of course, all these changes were accompanied by a shift in political power at the top. Managers, technocrats and university professors were appointed to regional and municipal party committees.

Even in the realm of culture a vicious attack was launched on proletarian art. A conference on literature and arts in 1962, was the climax in the cultural workers attacks on Mao, seeking a ‘liberalisation’ of the arts. At the conference, many writers said that the very hard times had come to the peasants due to mistakes in Mao’s general line on the people’s communes and the Great Leap Forward. Chou Yang, vice-Director of the Propaganda Department of the Central Committee encouraged these dissenters.

The New Economic Polices of Liu Shao-chi in this period stimulated a large number of cultural workers to express their ideas, ranging from straight criticism of socialist realism in art, and of proletarian culture, to support for a modified capitalism with pluralist elements in political life. In 1961 prominent leaders of the Peking Municipal Committee of the CPC wrote a number of articles to criticise the party line of ‘interference’ in culture and to demand more pluralism in political and ideological life.

In 1962 at the tenth plenary session of the 8th Central Committee Mao launched a counter attack. Though he no longer had any control in the government, he still continued as Chairman of the party. It is here that Mao coined the slogan "Never forget class struggle." He added that : "throughout the historical period of proletarian revolution and proletarian dictatorship, throughout the historical period of transition from capitalism to communism, there is class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie and struggle between the socialist road and the capitalist road. The reactionary ruling classes which have been overthrown are not reconciled to their doom. They invariably attempt a comeback. At the same time, bourgeois influence, the force of habit of the old society, and the spontaneous tendency towards capitalism among sections of small producers all continue to exist. Consequently there are still some people who have not yet undergone socialist remoulding. They constitute only a tiny fraction of the total population, but they always try to depart from the socialist road and turn to the capitalist road whenever the opportunity arises. Class struggle is inevitable under these circumstances."

On May 20, 1963, Mao called for a Socialist Education Movement among all cadres and party members that would "strengthen their proletarian class stand and correct mistakes running counter to this stand, so that they may correctly lead the overwhelming majority of the people in class struggle and in struggle between the two roads." He added that : "The present struggle is one to reeducate people. It is to reorganise the revolutionary class forces for waging a sharp tit-for-tat struggle against the capitalist and feudal forces which are brazenly attacking us, in order to crush their counter-revolutionary arrogance and ferocity and to transform the overwhelming majority of persons involved into NEW PEOPLE. It is also a movement in which the cadres take part in productive labour and scientific experiment together with the masses, to make our party more correct, greater and more glorious and our cadres into really good cadres, who are both politically good and professionally efficient, who are both ‘red and expert’, who are not bureaucrats or lords floating above the masses and isolated from them, but cadres who are at one with the masses and supported by them."

In early 1964, Mao raised two new slogans : "In agriculture learn from Tachai"; "In industry, learn from Taching", eulogising the efforts of the peasants in Tachai Brigade who selflessly built a prosperous agricultural community; and praising workers of the Taching Oil Field for their herculean efforts expended without financial reward. The Tachai Brigade in North Shensi operated in the worst possible conditions — strong hills and eroded gullies. The brigade painfully and successfully terraced the hillsides and filled them with desperately scarce soil. In 1963 a deluge destroyed the terraces. However, the brigade refused state aid (to which it was entitled) and rebuilt its cultivation plots, achieving very high yields. As the report, to the Third National People’s Congress (1964) stated "the principle of putting politics in command and placing ideology in the lead, the spirit of self-reliance and hard struggle and the communist style of loving the country and the collective, in all of which the Tachai Brigade has persevered, should be vigorously promoted."

Yet again in 1964/65 Liu Shao-chi and his accomplices hit back on Mao’s proletarian line : in the sphere of ideology; in vulgarisation of the Socialist Education Movement; and to slander Tachai and present an alternative commune as an example.

In the realm of ideology Yang Hsien-chen concocted the reactionary theory "combine two into one" in opposition to Mao’s revolutionary dialectics "one divides into two." That year, 1964, the class struggle was very acute. Acknowledging that "one divides into two" means acknowledging the existence, in socialist society, of class struggle. But the theory of "combining two into one" was aimed at reconciling contradictions, liquidating struggle, negating transformation and opposing revolution. In essence, it wanted to "combine" into "one" the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, revolution and counter-revolution.

While Mao had maintained that the Socialist Education Movement was aimed at uniting the 95% cadres and people against the handful of bad elements; the central cadres influenced by the Liu Shao-chi’s line, used minor errors of local cadres to victimise and harass the majority in order to protect the few. Liu’s new directives of ‘4 cleans’ versus ‘4 uncleans’ sought to sabotage the Socialist Education Movement. Here, Liu’s supporters diverted the class struggle directed at bourgeois policies, towards major attacks on petty mistakes.

Regarding Tachai, the Liu supporters whipped up a rumour that Tachai figures were exaggerated and promoted the ‘Peach Garden Experience’ popularised by Liu Shao-chi’s wife, Wang Kuang-mei. The Peach Garden experience entailed a party bureaucracy at the local level, which sought to increase production through massive doses of funds from the state. Yet, it was a miserable failure due to the lack of a mass line, with the bureaucracy crushing the initiative of the peasants.

It was then that Mao, in January 1965, while attacking the Four Clean movement as ‘Left’ in form but Right in essence produced the document, "Some Current Problems Raised in the Socialist Education Movement in the Rural Areas".... commonly known as the 23-Point Document. This can be said to be the first salvo fired of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.

Mao for the first time openly stated, who the main target of the movement was to be : "Party members in leading posts who take the capitalist road". The target, then, was not simply grafters, not simply bureaucrats, not simply people with mistakes, but party members in power who followed a bourgeois line, promoted careerism, individualism, private enterprise and private gain, and undermined the socialist system of ownership and the socialist system of production and exchange.

All the elements of the strategy that later emerged in the Cultural Revolution are there in the 23 points : party members in leading posts, taking the capitalist road; mass organisations of the rank-and-file to be mobilised to rectify the party; a two-line struggle between the working class and the bourgeoisie, that will determine the fate of the revolution.

(3) The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution

An editorial in the PLA newspaper, Liberation Army Daily (November 3, 1966) gave one of the clearest expressions of the GPCR. It said : "Conducted mainly in the ideological field, fundamentally it is a great revolution to destroy the thousands of-year-old concept of private ownership and establish the socialist concept of public ownership .... Ideas, culture, customs, habits, political views, legal concepts, views on art, and so on, are all ideological forms in society, which generally go under the name of culture. Why must we carry out a cultural revolution in the period of socialism? The reason is that the economic base of society has undergone fundamental change. It is a fundamental principle of Marxism-Leninism, of Mao Tsetung Thought, that mental springs from the material, and social consciousness arises out of social being, out of the socio-economic base and the social system of ownership. Social consciousness is secondary, at the same time it has a tremendous influence and impact on the social base. In China, the socialist transformation of the ownership of the means of production has already been effected and the socialist economic system of public ownership has been established. Since the economic base has changed, the ideological superstructure must change accordingly to keep step with it. Otherwise it will obstruct the forces from developing, lead to the loss of the already-won fruits of revolution, and give rise to revisionist rule and restoration of capitalism, causing our country to go back to the old colonial or semi-colonial and feudal or semi-feudal road...."

But the Cultural Revolution was not a mere academic debate, it was a revolution targeting the main perpetrators of these bourgeois views — i.e., those in authority taking the capitalist road. Peking Review (January 19, 1966) declared : "The overthrown bourgeoisie, in their plots for restoration and subversion, always give first place to ideology, take hold of ideology and superstructure. The representatives of the bourgeoisie, by using their positions and power, usurped and controlled the leadership of a number of departments, did all they could to spread bourgeois and revisionist poison through the media of literature, the theater, films, music, the arts, the press, periodicals, the radio, publications and academic research and in schools, etc; in an attempt to corrupt people’s minds and perpetrate "peaceful evolution" as ideological preparation and preparation of public opinion for capitalist restoration".... and then as the ‘Red Flag’ (November 3, 1969) editorial said : "Proletarian revolutionaries must fully understand that the struggle to seize power, and counter-seize power, between us and a handful of persons within the party who are in authority and taking the capitalist road, is a life-and-death struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie."

But Mao did not see the aim of the movement as to merely purge the handful of persons in authority taking the capitalist path. This he could easily have done given the prestige he wielded. He was of the opinion that a social basis must exist for the incorrect bourgeois ideas within a section of the leadership. And unless these ideas are eradicated from their very roots, they will continue to prop up within the party and deflect it from its socialist course. So the Cultural Revolution was primarily a revolution of the masses to eradicate , not only those corrupt leaders, but also age-old values, bourgeois thinking and the predominance of ‘self’ over the collective. These backward ideas acted as a major stumbling block to change the production relations and bring it in tune with the developing productive forces in the cooperatives, communes, state enterprises etc. And so, they acted to retard the development of the productive forces and, in fact, allowed for revisionists to bring about a reversal from collective back to private ownership.

This need to revolt against bourgeois thinking was reflected in the People’s Daily Editorial (reprinted in English in Peking Review No. 42; October 13, 1967) entitled "Combat self interest, Criticise and Repudiate Revisionism". In a highly scientific way, the phrase ‘combating self-interest and criticising and repudiating revisionism’ summerised the basic content of the GPCR and of ‘criticism and repudiation of the bourgeoisie’ during the entire historical period of socialism. The article stated, "In what does the oldness of the old ideology of the exploiting class lie ? It lies essentially in ‘self interest, which means looking at the world from the view point of everything for one’s self, for self-interest. The selfishness of the exploiting classes is natural soil for the growth of capitalism, an important factor that generates revisionism, an ideological virus that disintegrates the socialist publicly-owned economy and subverts the dictatorship of the proletariat... If we do not combat self-interest and make revolution against ourselves, we cannot do a good job of criticising and repudiating revisionism; we may become blind to what is revisionism or even fall into the quagmire of revisionism." As Mao said in March 1967 to "fight self.... touches people to their very souls and aims at solving the problems of their world outlook."

As we have already seen in the years preceding the Cultural Revolution not only had Liu Shao-chi pushed his bourgeois line at the 8th Congress of the CPC, not only did he control a majority in the party and government, not only had he ousted Mao from the post of Chairman of the People’s Republic of China and taken over the position himself;(another capitalist roader Teng Hsiao Ping was general secretary of the party) he had, over the prior five years, to a large extent, reversed the socialist transformation process in both the rural and urban areas. And in line with these capitalist policies, technocrats, bureaucrats and ‘professor despots’ were put in key positions throughout the party structure. China was all set to go the Khrushchev way. The slide into capitalism was sought to be stemmed by the Socialist Education Movement... but this too was sabotaged and did not achieve the desired results. Finally, Mao discovered the form for a new type revolution — the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.

Notwithstanding the errors of ‘left’ extremes and, at times, the anarchy that prevailed, it was a gigantic discovery to take mankind towards communism. The world had never seen a revolution of this kind. No doubt the flaws in this first ever experiment of its kind can be refined by future communists, but its essence is an invaluable weapon not only for future revolutions, but also for ongoing ones.

What then happened in these years of turmoil ?

It first began in the sphere of culture in November 1965 with an article from Shanghai by Yao Wen-yuan, on the play ‘Hai Jui Dismissed from Office.’ This play, written by the vice-Mayor of Peking, was a subtle attack on Mao for having dismissed ex-Defence Chief, Peng Teh-huai in 1959. Meanwhile the CC formed a Cultural Revolution (CR) Group of 5 with Peking Mayor(and PB member) Peng Chen as its head. But this group, except for Kang Sheng, was packed with Rightists. On February 6, 1966 Peng Chen issued a circular on ‘socialist culture’ which also contained an attack on Yao Wen-yuan. With Liu Shao-chi’s assistance, this got the stamp of the CC and was known as the February 6 circular and distributed throughout the country. Chang Chun-chiao and Yao Wen-yuan (both to be members of the so-called ‘Gang of Four’) from Shanghai disregarded the directive and continued criticism of the play ‘Hai Jui’.

On May 16, the Central Committee issued a circular repudiating Peng Chen’s February 6 Report. This circular approved by Mao, for the first time refers to "those like Khrushchev who nestle beside us." The circular also dissolved the CR ‘Group of five’ and appointed a new group; it openly condemned Peng Chen for manipulating to get the Report published in the name of the CC; it attacked the Report’s bourgeois approach that ‘Everyone is equal before the truth’ saying that "For decades the old-line social democrats, and for over ten years the modern revisionists, have never allowed the proletariat equality with the bourgeoisie." The May 16 Circular also attacks the Report’s concept that ‘without construction, there can be no real and thorough destruction’ saying that "Chairman Mao often says that there is no construction without destruction. Destruction (here) means criticisms and repudiation, it means revolution. It involves reasoning things out, which is construction. Put destruction first, and in the process you have construction." The Circular opposes the Report’s attack on the Left, referring to them as ‘scholar tyrants’. It asks "if proletarian academic work overwhelms and eradicates bourgeois academic work, can this be regarded as an act of ‘scholar-tyrants’ ?" And further adds "obviously, its (Report’s) aim is to label the Marxist-Leninists ‘scholar-tyrants’ and thus to support the real, bourgeois scholar-tyrants and prop up their tottering monopoly positions in academic circles." The Circular attacks the Report’s call for a ‘rectification campaign’ against the Left. Finally, the Circular condemns the Report’s attempts to put curbs on the ongoing CR by calling for conducting the struggle only ‘under direction’, ‘with prudence’, ‘with caution’, and ‘with the approval of the leading bodies concerned’....saying that : "All this serves to place restrictions on the proletarian Left, to impose taboos and commandments in order to tie its hands, and to place all sorts of obstacles in the way of the proletarian cultural revolution."

In effect this circular was the clarion call for the CR and to ‘Bombard the Headquarters’ — a big character poster put up by Mao on August 5, 1966. Meanwhile, on May 25 a group of 7 philosophy students put up a big character poster accusing Lu Ping (President of Peking University and member of the Peking Party Committee) of suppressing the mass revolutionary student movement in order to protect the seniors in the Peking Party committee. Though Mao got this poster propagated all over China, within the university the work team sent to ‘investigate’ created factional feuds amongst the students and whipped up opposition to this new student movement.

When Mao returned to Peking in end July he found that the CR had been partially smothered. It was clear that the masses were being attacked and Liu Shao-chi and company was relying on their control over the party mechanism to fight the revolutionary trend and the people’s discontent.

On August 8, 1966 at a meeting of the Eleventh Plenary session of the Eighth CC, the party officially promulgated its "Decision Concerning the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution". This historic document known as the 16 Point Document, exhorts cadres at various levels to put daring above everything else, to support the putting up of big character posters and the holding of great debates, to trust the masses, to rely on them, respect their initiative and encourage them to criticise the short-comings and errors in the work of those holding responsible positions. The decision specifies that "at present, our objective is to struggle against and overthrow those persons in authority who are taking the capitalist road, to criticise and repudiate the reactionary bourgeois academic authorities and the ideology of the bourgeoisie and all other exploiting classes, and to transform education, literature and art and all other parts of the superstructure not in correspondence with the socialist economic base, so as to facilitate the consolidation and development of the socialist system."

With this, the method of utilising centrally sponsored ‘work teams’ to investigate problems and lead the Socialist Education Movement was withdrawn and the initiative was passed on to the hands of the committees for the Cultural Revolution whose members were democratically elected at the local level.

Ten days later, Mao joined a one million rally in Peking. It was at this meeting that the Red Guards were first made known to the world when a detachment of them ascended the rostrum at Tien An Mien Gate and Mao himself put on their armband. Within three months some 20 million youth formed themselves into Red Guards, organised in the educational institutions. At a mass rally in Peking they were reviewed by Mao and enjoined to be the standard-bearers of the revolution, to pay attention to state affairs, to criticise those in authority and to propagate the CR in society — to destroy old ideas, culture, customs and habits and foster new ones, to integrate with the peasants and workers, to eschew violence and concentrate on reason...

Though Mao, utilising his enormous prestige passed the policies on the cultural revolution, he was still a minority at the top. Of the seven-member standing committee of the CC only three stood with the proletarian revolutionary line — Mao, Lin Piao and Chou En Lai. The president of the People’s Republic was Liu Shao-chi; the General Secretary of the party was Teng Hsiao-ping; in Peking control of the press and the propaganda department of the central party apparatus was in the hands of Rightists; and powerful provincial party leaders like former First Secretary of the Centre South Bureau (embracing 20 crore people) and Li Cheng-chiu, "local patriot" of the enormously rich and powerful Szechuan province, not only built up semi-autonomous "feudal kingdoms" but also supported Liu Shao-chi.

The sixteen Points document was disseminated throughout the country urging millions to study it. It is doubtful if any document ever received such intensive perusal as did this "magna carta" of the Cultural Revolution. During 1966 the centre of the CR was Peking where students in their millions and Red Guards led the massive upsurge against capitalist roaders. In the process though, petti-bourgeois impetuosity led to much factional strife. No doubt part of this was also instigated by the Rightists who sought to divert attention from themselves by widening the framework of attack. But soon the centre of the CR shifted to the main working class town, Shanghai.

The struggle now took on a new form, with a call to smash the bourgeois headquarters (the Shanghai Municipal Party Committee) and for setting up of Paris Commune style organs of power in the cities and provinces. The opposition sought to hit back by aggressively mobilising thousands and by enticing workers with sudden payments of bonuses, raised wages and gifts. The Shanghai party committee in fact suppressed details of the August 8 CC meeting; Mao’s poster ‘Bombard the Headquarters’.... knowledge of which was brought to the people of Shanghai by the Red Guards.

But October 1966 at a meet of the CC, Lin Piao (now Vice-Premier) and Chen Po-ta (editor of the party journal, Red Flag) had become the most powerful leaders of the CR, while Liu and Teng made a self-criticism which was not accepted.

In Shanghai the Municipal Party Committee leaders Chen and Chao, organised the Red Militia Detachment which instigated violence against the rebels; they bribed the workers, disrupted production and even went to the extent of cutting off electricity, water and transport to the city to create chaos and discredit the CR. But through these measures they got more and more discredited in the eyes of the workers. The workers in the docks and railways then began to realise the necessity of seizing power.

In January 1967, began the offensive to seize power. The rebels first took control of the two major daily papers; then they took control of the railway, the water and electricity supply and the banks; the business of municipal government was taken over by the Operational Headquarters of the rebellion. The rebel organisations (38 of them) issued an "Urgent Notice to the People of Shanghai" to resist economism (i.e., bribery of the workers) and rally to the rebel Headquarters.

Meanwhile, leaders from the centre sought to form a Great Alliance of the rebel organisations before taking over full control. In February 1967, after four earlier attempts, the Great Alliance of 38 organisations came into being and a Revolutionary Committee was formed — comprising three elements : leading cadres; members of the PLA units stationed there; and members of the rebel groups that grew up spontaneously in the movement.

From April 1967 a new phase of the CR was begun by the criticism of China’s Khrushchev ... an indirect reference to Liu Shao-chi (though he was not named) and more importantly his political line. In Shanghai debates continued over seizure of power and by July 1967 some of these turned violent. The reasons for the violence was that the capitalist roaders instigated one against the other; bad elements and ex- landlords etc infiltrated the rebels seeking revenge and anarchy and also the lack of maturity of many of the young rebels added to the chaos. Yet, as per the Sixteen Points, to "grasp revolution and promote production" production in the factories was only slightly disturbed.

From October 1967 a new situation developed following a call by the Central Revolutionary Group to "combat self-interest and eradicate revisionism from our own minds." With this the CR went deeper into the nature of transformation. Everyone had to accept a new orientation and remould their way of thinking to eliminate self-interest. The CR could not be consolidated without the remoulding of the ideology of the people. If the seed of self was not eliminated, capitalism and revisionism may sprout again.

Meanwhile by end 1967, the Great Alliance had seized power in 90% of Shanghai’s factories and Revolutionary Committees had been set up in 60% of them. Similar was the situation in most parts of the country.

The New Year of 1968 opened with the spread of the "three-in-one" revolutionary committees. The stage was now set for taking the CR further by setting up new forms of organisation in every enterprise, university and state organ. By April 1968, not only had the proletarian headquarters around Mao seized power in 23 out of the 27 regional governments, but an attempt was being made to run the economy on "moral incentives" and "mobilisation of the masses" with profound effects on attitudes, incentives, organisation, production and efficiency. This latest phase of the CR was featured, above all, by the overthrow of and elite group of party bureaucrats, managers, technocrats and "academic despots."

The "three-in-one" committees comprised revolutionary cadres, representatives from the army and delegates elected from mass meetings. Revolutionary committees, as the new organs of power, began immediately to fulfill the state plans; "grasp revolution and promote production"; replace material incentives with moral incentives; and study classes for workers became an integral part of factory life.

From July 1968 great attention was paid to education. Mao said "It is essential to shorten the length of schooling, revolutionise education, put proletarian politics in command and take the road of the Shanghai Tool Plant in training technicians from among the workers. Students should be selected from among the workers and peasants with practical experience and they should return to production after a few years."

In the second half of 1968, there were the launching of the stage of the movement for "struggle-criticism-transformation" and the increasing role of the working class in political organisation and administration of production. The aim of the "struggle-criticism-transformation" was two fold : to ratify the method of study classes as a way of implementing the injunction to "fight self, repudiate revisionism. Second, to follow through Mao’s instruction issued in early 1968 that "the most fundamental principle in the reform of the state organs is that they must keep contact with the masses", and the earlier injunction "to grasp revolution and promote production." In fact, the ‘struggle-criticism-transformation’ aimed to achieve one of the main goals outlined in the Sixteen Point Programme - i.e. to transform all parts of the superstructure "not in conformity with the socialist economic base.", and to consolidate that economic base by curbing capitalist attitudes and tendencies.

In 1968, millions were involved in the overthrow of the rule of provincial authorities, factory directors, technocrats, "academic despots" and "bourgeois intellectuals". The CR had now moved from the superstructure to the economy and the political power which derives from the organisation of the economic system. Now, the factories were no longer managed by directors/manager, no longer did technocrats dominate policy within the factories.... these were all taken over by workers’ committees each of whose members, by rotation, also worked on the factory floor.

While the main focus of the GPCR is of historical significance some negative trends developed within it. The first is a somewhat anarchic factionalism; the second is disruption from the ultra-left.

An example of this was the conspiratorial group, May 16, which put up a big character poster on the 1st anniversary of Mao’s poster, entitled ‘Bombard Premier Chou-En-lai.’This died down only when open opposition came from the central CR group. By the time of the 9th Congress a number of the top ultra-left elements in the party and army had got exposed and were removed. But the two top leaders of the CR, Lin Piao and Chen Po-ta, were later shown to be themselves linked to these factions.

In September 7, 1968 the last take over of power occurred and in October 1968 the Twelfth Plenum of the Eighth CC officially confirmed two points : Liu Shao-chi as ‘hidden traitor, renegade and scab" was declared stripped off all his functions and expelled from the party; and Lin Piao became CPC’s new deputy Chairman and successor to Mao.

At the Ninth Party Congress of the CPC which opened on April 1, 1969 the new CC elected comprised only 40% from the earlier one with a large number from the peasants, soldiers and workers.

Though the cultural revolution was over, the party had to continue the fight against ultra-left tendencies, commandism, bureaucracy etc. This was done by introducing the rota system within the revolutionary committees. The rota system involved one-third of the Revolutionary Committee being active in a leadership capacity, one third carrying out their customary jobs, and another one-third studying or in residence at a May 7 cadre school at any one time. Also a major focus was directed towards remoulding the party at the grass-roots level and asserting its leadership over the Revolutionary Committees and the Army.

On September 10, 1970, the People’s Daily published the final communique of the second plenary session of the Ninth CC. This Plenum brought out the intrigues of the ‘Left’ to get Lin Piao as President of the Republic of China, a position left vacant after the removal of Liu Shao-chi. Though Lin Piao and his coterie of army generals were not yet exposed Chen Pota got exposed, his ultra-left demagogy criticised and he was removed from the party and a campaign conducted against his type of ‘political swindlers’. It is then that Mao put forward the statement of "waving the red flag to oppose the red flag." After this plenum a campaign was commenced against ultra-left dogmatism and the Mao cult which was regarded as having gone too far.

This was the beginning of an attack on Lin Piao who was the main promoter of the Mao cult, and the theory of genius. Simultaneously a campaign was begun against the May 16 conspirators and an even more thorough campaign against the ultra-left who were still responsible for disruption in many places. Also now it was not Lin Piao but Chou En Lai who more prominently appeared in public affairs and also with Mao. Besides, Lin Piao’s influence in the army was sought to be cut, by replacing some of the ultra-leftists from key positions. In addition training of the people’s militia was started again, which had been suspended by Lin Piao in the cultural revolution.

In April 1971 a special meeting was held, attended by senior army and party members, at which self-criticism was demanded from Lin Piao. The meeting was chaired by Chou En Lai.

Meanwhile, by August 1971 the party had been reconstituted with the setting up of the last provincial party committee. First came the reconstruction of the party cells at the lowest levels (agricultural work teams, workshops in industry, villages and districts), then the purging of bad elements and the recruitment of new members, the formation of election committees, the election of higher party organs in the communes, the districts and finally in the provinces. A similar process took place within civil and military institutions, and within both old and new people’s organisations.

At the third plenary session of the 9th CC, the question of presidency of the Republic again came up. But this time the discussion was towards scrapping the post and instituting collective leadership. In fact Chou openly went on the offensive saying : "the inclusion of Lin’s name as Mao’s successor in the party statutes of 1969 had drawn the ridicule of the nations and fraternal parties of the world." He added : "the party regulations of the Ninth Congress had a perversive feudalistic colouration; and if the successor is also written into the Constitution it will supply anti-Chinese and anti-communistic elements with even more pretexts."

Finally, with Lin Piao seeing all possibility of his ambitions to take over the leadership of China coming to naught he planned to assassinate Mao and seize power through a coup. This got exposed and he died when his plane crashed in Mongolia while trying to flee to the Soviet Union. At the 10th Congress in August 1973, the top leaders of the Cultural Revolution (later called the Gang of Four) were all elected to the party’s Polit Bureau.

During the anti-ultra-left campaign Teng Hsiao-ping was rehabilitated in 1975. But he continued with his revisionist theories saying "I don’t care whether a cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice." In other words, increased production is the important question, it does not matter whether it is through capitalism or socialism. Later, two months before the death of Mao, he was once again stripped of all posts.

But even before Mao’s death a right trend was again visible. At the basic level the revolutionary committees began to wither and then stopped functioning. The principle of revocability of the committee members by the masses, and their periodic re-election was respected less and less, the authority and responsibility of these committees began to overlap with the newly constituted party committees. The same process of withering affected other organs that came up during the Cultural Revolution, like the workers’ management groups.

The step back did not happen "by itself." It resulted from class struggle, from the resurgent influence of the bourgeoisie, and above all the bourgeoisie present in the machinery of the state and of the party, who were tending to strengthen their authority, to "free themselves" from supervision by the masses. The struggle against these wrong trends suffered a major setback with the death of five communist stalwarts of the Chinese revolution in just one year — Mao, Chou En Lai, Chu Teh, Kang Sheng and Tung Pi-wu (one of the party’s founders) all passed away around 1976.



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