Saturday, October 8, 2016

Mao Holds Up Half the Sky

“Maoism & the Chinese Revolution, a Critical Introduction,” by Elliot Liu, 2016

Liu is a counsel communist who has written a short and concise critique of Maoism, centered on both ideological and historical highlights of the Chinese Revolution.  He is sympathetic to the revolution but hampered by a vague and idealistic understanding of what ‘state capitalism’ is.  Nevertheless this is a valuable book that allows the weaknesses of Maoism to be evident.

Mao Zedong in Feb 1952
Given the majority of people in the world now live in cities; that ‘guerilla warfare’ as a mode of social revolution is now very limited; that ‘national liberation’ for the most part has been formally won; that China itself has the largest working-class in the world, Maoism as a complete ideology of guerrilla war, national liberation and a mostly peasant base has very little future.  Even Maoism’s recent victory in Nepal is chastened by that government’s embrace of neo-liberal methods under the guise of what they might call ‘new democracy.’  The course of the revolution in China to this day also serves as a profound example of its contradictions. 

The thread that runs through the whole book is that Mao Zedong's ideas of socialism and class struggle was always dependent on control by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) – and that anything that got outside of its control had to be ultimately squashed.  This contradictory strategy ultimately allowed a bureaucracy in the Communist Party to strangle the activity of the working class and substitute itself, instead of leading that struggle.  This, as we have seen from counter-revolutions in the USSR and Eastern Europe and the recent trajectory of the CCP, results in the strengthening of capitalism, even within a workers state. 

Liu traces a direct line from Stalin's bureaucratic ideas derived from the USSR to Mao’s adoption and also rejection of some of those same methods and ideas.  In essence Liu understands that Mao used Stalinist methods to critique bureaucracy and Stalinism.  This is especially seen in the experiences of the 1949 military victory, the “Great Leap Forward,” the “100 Flowers” campaign and the Cultural Revolution itself. 

Mao broke with the flawed strategy of the USSR after the Comintern’s representative, Mikhail Borodin, forced the CP to make a popular front with the Kuomintang (“KMT”), the party of the Chinese bourgeoisie, in the 1920s. The KMT was even inducted into the Comintern!  This led to the slaughter of the cream of the Chinese working class in Shanghai in 1927 by the KMT. This was depicted in the book “Man’s Fate” by Andre Malraux and included the destruction of many Trotskyist cadres.  After that awful defeat, Mao made his turn to the peasantry, declared independence from the KMT and perfected guerilla war.  As Liu notes, the CCP that Mao built at that time was only made up of 1% working-class cadre.  This essentially changed a key class component of the CCP. 

Liu critically discusses  Maoist ideas like ‘new democracy,’ the ‘mass line,’ the ‘united front,’ guerilla war, his flawed struggle against bureaucracy and Mao’s idealist version of dialectics.  Liu especially discusses the ambivalent practice towards women's liberation by the CCP.  Mao’s concept of ‘new democracy’ meant uniting with the ‘progressive’ or ‘patriotic’ elements of the capitalist class to govern society.  His concept of the ‘united front’ was not a unity of proletarian, middle class or peasant forces, but also included the same elements of the Chinese bourgeoisie.  These were essentially cross-class ideas that grew out of the war against the Japanese invasion of China, but also existed before that – just as Stalin had moved to the same position, really called the ‘popular front.’  The CCP prevented land and factory takeovers and the formation of Soviets or counsels by the militant Chinese working class and peasantry.   In the process of the national liberation war against Japan, the CCP had to militarily fight the KMT as well, showing another flaw in the theory.   This was similar to the Stalin's method in Spain, which resulted in the victory of counter-revolution there.   

The revolution in 1949 was won under the banner of 'new democracy' but the CCP did nationalize the majority of capitalist enterprises, thereby breaking that compact.  Liu compares the 1950s “Great Leap Forward” to the forced collectivization seen under Stalin, especially as it relates to the mass blood and damage caused. 
Shanghai Commune - Independent of CCP
The most interesting parts of the book are events during the 1960s Cultural Revolution – a failed attempt by Mao and the ‘Gang of Four” to restrain bureaucracy in China (which Liu calls ‘state capitalists’).  Liu describes a mass workers Commune that formed in Shanghai in 1967, to Liu a form of ‘dual power.’   Mass working class and peasant organizations developed in various parts of China, especially in Hunan, led by the “Red Flag Army,” “Xian River Storm” and a united front called ‘Shengwulian.’  However these were outside the direct control of the CCP and so Mao opposed them, and came up with a plan that all control should involve the CCP, the Army and representatives of the workers or peasants.  Of course, any vote would be lost by the latter in these ‘committees of three.’  And so the Cultural Revolution was buried by its author.  Liu saw it as an attempt to build one wing of the CCP – Mao’s - not ultimately to ‘correct’ the bureaucracy. 
In 1971 Mao decided the USSR was the ‘main’ enemy of the world’s working classes and began blocking with the U.S. after the Nixon visit.  Chinese support for international revolutions were paltry to non-existent during this period, given their theory they could build socialism in China alone.  After Mao died in 1976 the conservative bureaucratic faction of the CCP took over, led by Deng Tsiao-ping, and have retained power since.  The Chinese working class is still massive, restive and able to organize.  However they have been consistently demobilized by the CCP majority.  Without that class coming into actual direct power, hopefully with a wing of the CCP coming along, the descent of China into full counter-revolution and full capitalism is far more possible. 

Other valuable books on this topic:  Problems of the Chinese Revolution” by Leon Trotsky; “The Tragedy of the Chinese Revolution” by Harold Isaacs & Liu Renjin.

Other books on China reviewed below:  The Rise of China and the Demise of the Capitalist World Economy,” “The Fall of Bo Xilai & the Chongqing Model,” “The End of the Revolution. 

And I bought it at Mayday Books!
Red Frog
October 8, 2016

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