M. Luftmensch on counter-revolution in china

Rubyg580 at aol.com Rubyg580 at aol.com
Sun May 5 11:04:51 MDT 1996

In a message dated 96-05-04 00:05:33 EDT, you write:
>>What are your sources for this claim--that the masses were forbidden
>>from participating in the decision-making process?

>Top-down decisions, in which the masses are elected to execute
>policy (by the Communist Party) has been one tradition of Mao
>Thought that Deng has assiduously followed.
>The beginning and end of the Great Leap Forward, the Hundred
>Flowers Campaign, the beginning and end of the Cultural Revolution,
>the purge of Deng by the Gang of Four, the purge of the Gang by Hua,
>the return of Deng, the economic reforms - all have this in common:
>the mass line was implemented from the top down. None of the major
>changes in the mass line were made through the participation of the

This is a totally unfounded charge.  The hallmark of Mao's line was
indeed the mass line, and implementing this mass line thru mass
movements, where the workers and poor peasants particularly were
mobilized to figure out the problems and solutions, with the help of the
science of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetund Thought (as it was called
at the time).

This was no top-down operation.  There's no way it could have been.
You simply cannot mobilize nearly a billion people to wipe out diseases
like schistosomiasis (river blindness caused by a parasite in snails) by
top-down management.

 The peasants actually lowered the water level in some affected rivers,
and picked the snails out of the river bank by hand to eliminate the disease.

There's not enough police or army in China  to force people to do that.
They were motivated, not by fear of the gun-toters, but by the opportunity
to finally get rid of a plague that litterally crippled in some villages a
proportion of the population.  They could not have organized the kind of
mass effort in a system where the feudal lords "owned" the  rivers (or even
where a capitalist government  owned the waterways) or where their every
productive hour had to be spent working to fulfill the work or grain
that had to be paid to the feudals.

In the more direct "decision-making" vein, the Revolutionary Committees,
the governing bodies that were initiated in the Cultural Revolution to
everything from individual managers of factories and workshops to traditional

mayors and city councils in cities, were a creation of the masses themselves.

It was only after they were created in one or several places that Mao used
his position as party leader to push for the party to adopt the policy of
encouraging their formation wherever possible.

That was the case with the rural communes also, in the late 50's.
Implementation of these decisions was not always smoothe or even--
different conditions in different parts of the country meant that there was
not always the basis to implement the new way of doing things right away;
and sometimes efforts to do away with the old methods of governing and
decision-making were sabotaged by those, like Deng Xiaoping and Liu
Shaochi who in fact wanted to KEEP whatever they could from the old

>Remember that Mao Zedong was prepared to plunder the peasants  -
>even during a time of severe famine - in order to amplify the national
>power under his command by building a nuclear warfare state. (In doing
>so, he believed he was securing the Chinese people's right to an
>alternative path of development. But in effect,  Mao thereby placed
>China in a position of having to "catch up".)

Huhh??? where are you getting this stuff?  In what way was Mao
"prepared to plunder the peasants" in order to build a "nuclear warfare
state"? For one thing, China never became anything even bordering on
a "nuclear warfare state".  Yes they built and tested a few nuclear bombs,
which they had every right and reason to do, since their sworn enemies
in the imperialist world had such weapons, and the US had even USED
such weapons in warfare very close to their border in 1945. But they never
built up any kind of major stockpile of nuclear weapons the way the US
and USSR did.

China had to "catch up" from the very beginning, not because some
major expenditure on armaments had depleted the treasury, but because
imperialist exploitation dating back more than a century had bled the
country dry before 1949.  They used to call China "the sick man of Asia"
because it was so economically depressed.  Millions of people used to
be addicted to opium, which the British fought a WAR to impose on China
in the last century.  Whole areas of the country were treeless because the
people had no other way to cook and keep warm in the winter than to cut
down the trees.  China's nuclear program was not started until all these
things just mentioned had already been remedied, or at least the remedy
(like reforestation) was well underway.

>The above is the most extreme form of top-down decision making in
>revolutionary China, but it is far from unique. It is bound up with the
>essentialist politics of the mass line.
>In the words of Mao Zedong, this meant: "Take the ideas of the
>masses (scattered and unsystematic ideas) and concentrate them
>(through study turn them into concentrated and systematic ideas),
>and then go to the masses and propagate and explain these ideas
>until the masses embrace them as their own, hold fast to them
>and translate them into action, and test the correctness of these
>ideas in action"
>(On the Mass Line).

And what do you find wrong with this? Here is the whole passage as quoted
in the Red Book.  The original is in "Some Questions Concerning Methods of
Leadership" (June 1, 1943) Selected Works, Vol.3, p. 119:

     Ïn all the practical work of our Party, all correct leadership is
'from the masses, to the masses.'  This means: take the ideas of the masses
(scattered and unsystematic ideas)  and concentrate them (through study
turn them into concentrated and systematic ideas), then go to the masses
and propagate and explain these ideas until the masses embrace them as
their own, hold fast to them and translate them into action, and TEST THE
concentrate ideas from the masses and once again go to the masses so
that the ideas are persevered in and carried through. And so on, over and
over again in an endless spiral, with the ideas becoming more correct, more
vital and richer each time.  Such is the Marxist theory of knowledge.
(emphasis added)

How can the scattered and unsystematic ideas of the masses be studied
and concentrated without an organization such as the Communist Party?
How can the ideas of the masses--gained through their daily efforts in
production, scientific experiment and class struggle--be made part of the
decision-making process without a party following this method of leadership?
 Are the ideas of the masses part of some other leadership process you
know of?  Are they part of the US political system?  Are they part of the
Chinese system today?

>"To be rich is glorious" - is one example of how this can operate.
>In fact, the politics of the mass line - which places the party rather
>than the masses in control - are such that both Liu Shaoqui and Lin
>Biao both "applied the mass line" during periods in which they held
>substantial power.

Please dear sir explain your logic in this.  Certainly one section of the
masses will take up the idea that "to get rich is glorious" but that is not
the outlook of the broad masses of the people; it is fundamentally the
idea of the bourgeoisie or other exploiting classes--for the simple reason
that it is only by exploiting others that it has ever in the history of the
(and maybe even of any other inhabited planet) to get rich.

The ideas of the masses have to do with how to increase production of
the necessities of life; how to improve community relationships; how to
educate children better; how to safeguard the environment and natural
resources; how to maintain health and wellbeing; how to care for the sick,
the  elderly and the young children---you get the picture.  That's what the
mass line means by the ideas of the masses; not ideas that come from
and serve the exploiters that may be taken up by a section of the masses.

>The active participation of the masses in the decision-making
>process itself - a democratic aspiration Mao voiced prior to the
>establishment of the republic and again, in the sixties, at the time of
>the launching of the Cultural Revolution - was blocked by the
>institutionalization of the Communist Party & PLA, which depended
>on hierarchy and secrecy, and around which the resurgence of class
>struggle in China evolved.
>This was the contradiction that Mao could not overcome and which
>came to threaten the socialist rights achieved by the working class in
>the national revolution.

In fact, Mao very clearly recognized that the new bourgeois forces were
concentrated in the highest levels of the party.  That was the reason for
launching the Cultural Revolution. When he said "Bombard the Headquarters!"
he meant to launch a mass movement that would educate the masses as
to how to distinguish programs and proposals that strengthened the capitalist

aspects of the economy and therefore reversed the motion toward communism,
 and programs and proposals that furthered the motion toward classless
society, and thus continued on the socialist road.  Then, with that
understanding, the masses demanded the demotion of Liu Shaochi and
Deng Xiaoping  whose programs were definitely on the capitalist road, as
can clearly be seen today since those programs have been implemented
for the last nearly 20 years.

But that is the contradiction inherent in class society.  You cannot make
the transformations toward classless society without a communist party in
the lead, yet that very communist party will be the place where forces
determined to hold back that transformation and reverse it when possible
will be concentrated.  That is why the theory and practice of the cultural
revolution is such an important historic contribution to the science of
Marxism-Leninism-Maoism; why Maoism is, like the PCP states, the new,
third and higher stage of the ideology of the proletariat.

The question of the institutional army is also a real question.  In China
there were also people's militias, and they did take up arms at the time
of the coup against the "Gang of 4", the arrest of Mao's closest comrades
and successors after his death.  But they were defeated by the armed
forces under the control of the clique led by Deng.  The PCP's thesis of the
militarization of the party is part of the effort to learn from this historic
and put into place the means to overcome it.  I urge people interested in
question to study the PCP document "Line of Construction of the Three
Instruments of the Revolution" accessible at http://www.blythe.org/peru-pcp

>By the time Mao was mummified, China had embarked down the
>capitalist road of national development, after had Mao resolved the
>contradictions among the people in favour of national interest. The
>coup d'etat decided which clique would come to the fore to oversee
>the process.     >Michael

Exactly what are you describing as the "capitalist road of national
development"?  What processes?  What development projects? What
policies?  How were these on the capitalist road?  There was constant
struggle between the two roads during the revolutionary period, and as
Mao himself pointed out, the final outcome was not decided yet.  However,
the main direction China was moving in was toward Communism, not
back toward capitalism, until significantly AFTER Mao was mummified
by those who he had led the masses to defeat while he still lived.


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