(1) From the vantage point of orthodox Marxism, the peasantry was viewed as a politically backward class, and it needed to be directed by a proletarian vanguard. As formulated at the Second Congress of the Communist International in 1920: “Only the urban, industrial proletariat, led by the Communist Party, can free the rural working masses from the yoke of capital and the holders of large-scale agricultural property” (La Internacional Comunista, 2010:138).
Mao Zedong, however, began in 1925 to formulate a different understanding, on the basis of his organizing work among poor peasants. He came to believe that the peasants, who held resentments against the landholders, could be organized in a class struggle against the landholding class. He conceived an agrarian revolution, in which the peasantry would form the basis of the armed forces of the people. In 1927, in the aftermath of a brutal repression of the Chinese Communist Party by the Chinese Nationalists, Mao formed a guerrilla force in the mountains. It grew in numbers through the recruitment of peasants, who were attracted by its program of agrarian reform. It proceeded to control significant territory, such that in 1931, the Chinese Soviet Republic was proclaimed in the southern province of Jiangxi. On the basis of this achievement in practice, Mao’s view of the revolutionary peasantry became the prevailing view in the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party. In practice, the revolution was unfolding as a popular armed struggle in the countryside, in which the peasants were in the overwhelming majority. The process included extensive political education, and it was directed in practice by Marxist intellectuals from the Chinese petit bourgeoisie, who were adapting Marx to the semi-colonial and economically backward conditions of China (Díaz, 2016:28-36).
(2) Orthodox Marxism believed that socialism must be constructed in stages, and that socialism could not be established until the bourgeois revolution is completed. Accordingly, the prevailing view in the socialist world was that, when popular revolutions triumph in places where the bourgeois revolution had not been completed, the socialist state ought to focus on the development of heavy industry, as had been done in the Soviet Union. Mao, however, favored an alternative road that included rural industrial development, in which rural labor would be mobilized to develop labor-intensive, light, and small-to-medium industry connected to agricultural production. Lacking support for his heretical view in the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, Mao launched a divisive political campaign, which resulted in the removal of his opponents from the Central Committee, enabling him to proceed with his vision in the form of the Great Leap Forward. The Great Leap resulted in economic chaos and tragedy, and it was a political disaster for Mao (see “The emergence of Maoism” 1/18/2018).
(3) The orthodox Marxist view is that the triumph of a socialist revolution ends the class struggle. Mao, however, believed that bourgeois consciousness continues to survive after the triumph of the popular socialist revolution, so that the proletarian class struggle must continue. In 1965, he maintained that high officials in the party and the state possessed bourgeois consciousness, and he called upon the people to identify and bring down high members of the Party and the government who were taking the capitalist road. The result was the Cultural Revolution, a period of intense political conflict and tragedy, which unfolded primarily from 1966 to 1968 (see “The Cultural Revolution in China” 1/25/2018).
Since 1981, the Chinese Communist Party has maintained that the first heresy of Mao established the foundation for, first, the independence of China from the penetration by imperialist powers; secondly, the liquidation of the landholding class and the far more limited national bourgeoisie; and thirdly, the subsequent modernization of the economy. At the same time, the Party has judged the second and third heresies of Mao to have been ultra-Leftist political errors (see “Mao’s ‘ultra-Leftist’ political errors” 2/1/2018).
(4) The orthodox view is that a market economy is inherent to capitalism, and a planned economy inherent to socialism. Departing from this view, China in the period of 1978 to 2012 pursued a program of “Reform and Opening,” based on the concept of a socialist market economy, which overcomes the separation between planning and market. In a socialist market economy, economic planning is primary, and the market plays an auxiliary role, which is defined by the plan. Public property is the pillar of the economy (Díaz, 2010:78-79, 84-86; 2016:75). As expressed by Wu and Wang, in a socialist market economic system, markets “play a fundamental role in the allocation of resources under macroeconomic regulation and control” (2014:150).
Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping were the principle formulators of the Reform and Opening, with Deng serving as the de facto ruler of China from 1978 to 1994. We will be reflecting on this stage of the Chinese Revolution in subsequent posts.
(5) In 2012, the XVIII Congress of the Chinese Communist Party approved a “New Reform,” which is a new vision of the Reform and Opening. The New Reform continues with economic growth and modernization, and it seeks to expand further the space for private capital. However, it intends to place greater emphasis on the expansion of domestic consumption, with less dependency on exportation and foreign investment. Moreover, it plans to give greater emphasis to social equality and to the protection of the environment (Díaz, 2016:vii, 2-6, 119-21; Wu and Wang 227).
The New Reform has been formulated principally by Xi Jinping, current President of the People’s Republic of China and General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party. His public discourses appeal to national pride, and he credits the Chinese Communist Party with overcoming the humiliations inflicted on China by imperialist powers in the past and with leading the people toward mastery of their own destiny (2016:6). He speaks of the attainment of the Chinese dream of the great revitalization of the Chinese nation. This constitutes the fifth heresy in the history of the Chinese Revolution, in that orthodox Marxism promoted a form of internationalism that disapproved of national pride and patriotism. We will be reflecting on Xi’s speeches in future posts.
Conscious of the heretical character of its socialism, the leaders of the Chinese Revolution have continuously proclaimed that they are developing a socialist road with Chinese characteristics. The gains and success of the Chinese socialist road is evident, and they have been attained on the foundation of the wisdom of the first, fourth, and fifty heresies; and on the lessons learned through the political errors of the second and third heresies.
Díaz Vázquez, Julio Aracelio. 2010. China: ¿Otro Socialismo? (LX aniversario). La Habana: Editorial de Ciencias Sociales.
__________. 2016. China: Economía y democratización. La Habana: Editorial de Ciencias Sociales
La Internacional Comunista: Tesis, manifiestos, y resoluciones de los cuatro primeros congresos (1919-1922). 2010. Madrid: Fundación Federico Engels.
Wu Li and Wang Lei. 2014. China, 1949-2014. Beijing: Beijing Times Chinese Press.