Trotsky and China

Dan Axtell daxtell at
Thu Feb 15 17:58:09 MST 1996

I posted this reply to Louis P. earlier, but didn't go through.  Pardon 
the lack of continuity.

>By 1925, the Comintern had come under complete control of the 
>Bukharin/Stalin faction. This faction pursued a policy domestically of 
>placating the Kulaks and internationally of building alliances with 
>"progressive" capitalists. Sun Yat-sen, the classic "patriotic" 
>bourgeois, who was immune from Moscow's criticism. 
>Stalin and Bukharin tied their support for the KMT to the theory that socialist 
>tasks were not on the agenda in China. A bourgeois-democratic 
>revolution was on the agenda and was on the agenda was the 
>vanguard. Once the patriotic bourgeoisie and its proletarian and 
>peasant allies completed this stage, the workers would take center 
>stage and complete the next stage: socialism.

>For those who have studied Russian history, you will recognize this 
>theory as being identical to that held by the Mensheviks. Stalin and 
>Bukharin had revived the bankrupt and discredited two-stage theory of the 
>Mensheviks and dressed it up in new "red" clothing.

In fact, Mao's theory of new democracy was a theoretical advance
shaped by the political experience of the Chinese revolution that
addressed this.  There is a need to distinguish between the national
bourgeoisie, fettered by imperialism, and the comprador bourgeoisie, which
Chiang Kai-Chek represented.  The KMT elements of both, which is why it
later split.  The PCP in Peru, following Mao, makes room in its united front
for the national bourgeoisie.

>Today we observe Quispe and Godena denouncing leftists in Peru for 
>being agents of Fujimoro. However, they have a different standard 
>when it comes to Stalin's bullying tactics in China, don't they? Stalin, 
>the great revolutionary, pressured the Communists into turning over 
>these names. Would Quispe and Godena, members of the Stalin fan 
>club, have been applying pressure on the Chinese Communists as well 
>had they been around in those days?

There are in fact "leftists" who have abandoned all principles to work
with the dictatorial regime as snitches or by adopting comfortable
government posts.  This is quite common if we look at the history of
the Left in Latin America and elsewhere.  Look at Jay Lovestone in the

>Once again the CP leader Chen Tu-hsiu called for open conflict with 
>the KMT. Bukharin characterized this as "ultraleftism". He urged 
>patience since the tasks of the democratic revolution required the 
>participation of the bourgeoisie. All of the anti-imperialist forces, from 
>workers and peasants on the bottom to the national bourgeoisie at the 
>top, had to unite themselves in struggle. This formula, of course, is 
>identical to Comrade Gonzalo's of the Shining Path.

Chen Tu-hsui is not the great leftist we are led to believe.  See my
post on this.  As for the idea that all anti-imperialist forces need
to unite (despite different class interests) to defeat imperialism,
this is a theory that has proven correct in all successful revolutions
in semi-colonial countries.  President Gonzalo has written on the Front
and its application in Peru, and so far it seems like a correct strategy.

>The blood of these workers was on the hands of Stalin and Bukharin's 
>Comintern. It was a decisive blow to proletarian revolution in China. 
>The setback had long-term effects. It, of course, did not have to end 
>this way. If the CP had simply functioned as an open Communist 
>Party, there is every possibility that China would have become socialist 
>in 1926 or 1927.

In point of fact, the blood of the Chinese workers was on the hands of
Chinese reactionaries.  Did Stalin and Bukharin give bad advice?  I am
sure they did.  But it is instructive that Mao, who had to lead struggles
in the Party against the "Moscow line", did not abandon the Party like
Chen did, but forged the correct strategy.  It is not too surprising that
China's inexperienced revolutionaries would have listened to the Comintern's
advice, as the USSR had a lot of prestige as the only successful
revolutionaries.  But it is very telling to me that after Stalin's death,
Mao and many CPC leaders did not jump on the anti-Stalin bandwagon (and
they had personal reason to do so--Mao lost his first wife in child in
the 1927 massacre).  Mao defended Stalin as 70% correct (presumably that
includes the expelling of Trotskyists), and did a PRACTICAL analysis of
the problems of Stalin and the USSR in building socialism.

>A socialist China would have relieved pressure on the USSR. It might 
>have even led to victorious revolutions in other parts of Asia, such as 
>Indochina. The combined power of a socialist USSR, China and 
>Vietnam might have had profound effects on the rest of 20th century 
>history. As Marxists in 1996, we need to come to terms with our 
>history. There is no reason to assume that just because Mao was at the 
>leadership of a powerful revolution that liberated China after WWII 
>that this was the only variant that was possible. We have to exercise 
>our imagination a little bit. Other paths did exist.

All kinds of revolutions COULD have happened this century (well-known
ones like Germany in 1918, little known ones like Bolivia in 1952).  We
can learn much from these lost opportunities.  Proyect seems to want
to go further, to "prove" that the victory in the Chinese revolution
could have been sooner or better, and will probably "prove" that it
wasn't a victory at all!

>I plan to pursue these questions for some time to come.

Please do so, it will keep you out of the way of those whose principles
lead them to solidarity with the People's War.

I just don't "get" the attraction to Trotskyism.  People say, "Read
Trotsky", as if his amazing theoretical insight will change my life.
I see that generations of scholars and activists have doing that, and
what has been accomplished?  History is a harsher judge than any
"Stalinist".  The only places I know of where Trotskyism has had any
meaningful impact have been Bolivia and Argentina, and it doesn't seem
to have helped the revolutionary movements much.  I am not a big fan
of Stalin, but I can see that he and other Bolshevik leaders faced
tough decisions and were able to defend socialism and defeat fascism.
American Trots seem to spend their lives second guessing history and
attacking those who actually make revolutions.  As American Marxists,
we have a special duty to stop U.S. imperialism from intervening against
insurgencies in "our" backyard.  The PCP is doing what other insurgencies
have failed to do: develop a strategy and practice that goes beyond
anti-imperialism and "democracy", but that is committed to the building
of a classless society.  We should learn from them.

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