A Unity of Opposites: The Dengist and the Red Guard


greene.douglas@...
 

According to Mao Zedong, the principal law of materialist dialectics is the unity of opposites. Thus, it is quite fitting to observe that we can find the unity of opposites on display in evaluations of Mao himself as represented by Domenico Losurdo and Alain Badiou. For Losurdo, Mao is praised for his realism, nationalism, and attention to economic modernization. By contrast, Alain Badiou sees Mao as an eternal rebel, a symbol of the communist idea, and a universalist. These positions could not be more opposed. Even in their judgements of what Mao did wrong in the Cultural Revolution, both provide different answers. On the one hand, Losurdo condemns Mao for going too far with mass rebellion; while on the other, Badiou faults Mao for not going far enough. Yet as we shall see, even though Losurdo and Badiou form a yin and a yang, they both end up short when it comes to Mao.

https://mronline.org/2022/08/19/a-unity-of-opposites-the-dengist-and-the-red-guard/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-unity-of-opposites-the-dengist-and-the-red-guard&fbclid=IwAR2Ev1AAxUos4w9GM1VsxEZsGOOAd_h2um8K70_nc_dGZzk-apVxigLFtFE


Michael Meeropol
 

VERY VERY interesting --- 

Is it possible, though, that Mao (like Stalin) once in power came to believe that HE (because of his superior understanding??) possessed all that was necessary to direct the transition through "socialism" to "communism" --- and I know I am speculating from a rather negative position of 20-20 hindsight --- to an "l'etat c'est moi!" position of total authoritarianism ...??

This is a question --- not a rhetorical device --- I am a VERY poorly read "Marxist" ...

Democratic rights were smashed in the Soviet Union even before Stalin took over --- and one can argue that the same process occurred in China long before Mao launched the cultural revolution.

If this approach even is partially right, then the detailed discussion of how Mao utilized the two competing "schools" of Marxism and flitted between them may be un-necessary.  There may be a simpler explanation utilizing Occam's Razor ...

(or I just don't know the literature well enough ... perhaps a more obvious answer!) 



Andrew Stewart
 

Greene is a very detailed thinker but he misses some rather basic sociological matters that fundamentally deflate all of these intellectual somersaults.
Mao was playing a shell game and hoodwinked millions the world over. He had been marginalized in the aftermath of the Great Leap Forward because his attempt to transpose Stalin’s industrialization campaign mechanically into China had been a disaster. The Chinese people were far more aligned with Chinese nationalism than Marxism Leninism and wanted to see their country rise from the ashes of wars and imperialism that had created such misery. Mao was able to do what he did because of being a great military leader. But once he was gone, the Gang of Four were ousted overnight and the “revisionist” market socialists were quickly brought to power. There was no midnight military coup that ousted the Gang, it was almost instantaneous and had mass support. Greene conveniently ignores that “contradiction.”


Charlie
 

Philosophy is not a good way to do history. But you might find philosophy in history. For example, from an essay, "Socialism Is a Series of Communist Projects:"

After nearly 25 years of people’s war, China was liberated in 1949. The Chinese communists promptly set to work on the relations of production. The peasants had individual plots of land, the landlords being eliminated as a class in the late 1940s and first years after 1949. The communists encouraged increasing levels of cooperation, from a few families to larger units. They shared the harvest at first according to both labor and the animals and tools contributed, then more by labor alone.

Agrarian advances in the relations of production seemed like the Soviet path. This changed with the Great Leap Forward in the late 1950s. The Leap was badly done, partly because of mistakes by Party cadre, and, according to William Hinton, because the capitalist-roaders in the Party rammed it to exaggeration. The Communist Party of China during its long armed liberation struggle had attracted a number of sons of well-to-do people. They helped liberate the country from imperialism and landlord oppression. After 1949 they expected to ride at the top of a big modernization project.

Nonetheless, the Great Leap Forward earned eternal credit in history for creating the people’s communes. In its final form, the commune was a three-tier organization: the commune as a whole, the production brigade, and the production team. They roughly encompassed what had been, respectively, the market area around a sizable town, a group of several villages, and a village. Within this structure, the activities and rewards of production could be averaged over larger organizational units and made more egalitarian as conditions permitted. The communes also launched workshops and industries. A peasant might farm part of the year and work in a factory part of the year. The prospect was that the rural-urban divide and the difference between peasant and worker could be narrowed.

From https://www.idcommunism.com/2021/09/socialism-is-series-of-communist.html


Andrew Stewart
 

The Great Leap Forward failed because of the vast difference between the Soviets after the end of the Civil War and the Chinese after their Civil War. Besides certain resemblances in their experience (a World War followed by Civil War), the two could not have been more different. The Bolshevik inheritance of the Tsarist empire meant they came into possession of some of the largest raw material, precious metal, and fossil fuel reserves on the planet. The Chinese by contrast were trying to industrialize by having peasants smelt scrap metal in home furnaces, which does not produce the same kind of iron and steel the Bolsheviks were outputting in the 1920s. The Chinese didn't have agronomists versed in the technicalities of 1950s agricultural science, meaning that the peasants were being asked to rapidly adapt without guidance to yield expectations that created a famine.
One notable difference between the two? Lenin and the Bolsheviks had an NEP over several years that utilized capitalist markets to accumulate and build their productive capacity. By contrast Mao wanted to skip that part. I'm by no means a fan of Deng, particularly owing to his grotesque foreign policy that aligned with American imperialism repeatedly, but he wasn't simply a "capitalist roader," he had been trained at the Comintern by Bukharin during the Russian NEP and observed that impact upon the development and success of the USSR.


Michael Meeropol
 

Thank you LOUIS for creating this link and thank you ANdrew for demonstrating its use --

I NEVER KNEW that Deng was trained by Bukharin --- (when I was an undergraduate I took lectures from Charles Feinstein a South AFrican exile in Britain who lectured on Russian (and Soviet) Economic Development  --- one of the sections of those lectures was about the debates between Preobrazhensky and Bukharin which I found fascinating ...)

So thanks again, Andrew --

("You learn something every day!")


f Deng, had been trained at the Comintern by Bukharin during the Russian NEP and observed that impact upon the development and success of the USSR.
_._,_._,_



gilschaeffer82@...
 

The Great Leap Forward was not primarily an economic policy at all but part of China's crash program to develop nuclear weapons after the USSR broke off its nuclear technology sharing agreement with China. Looking at Mao as primarily concerned with ideology and domestic social policy is a huge mistake. He was most concerned with avoiding a nuclear attack by the US. The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was aimed at avoiding Chinese involvement in Vietnam and offering the US a way out of war in Asia so that it could concentrate on its real interests in Middle Eastern oil, a switch in US strategy that was consummated with Nixon travelling to China to meet Mao. See Franz Schurmann's The Logic of World Power. still the best book on Mao and Communist China.


Andrew Stewart
 

On Sat, Aug 20, 2022 at 02:49 PM, <gilschaeffer82@...> wrote:
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was aimed at avoiding Chinese involvement in Vietnam and offering the US a way out of war in Asia so that it could concentrate on its real interests in Middle Eastern oil, a switch in US strategy that was consummated with Nixon travelling to China to meet Mao
But if that were solely the case, how dos one account for Maoism creating havoc in Southern Africa and Cambodia?


gilschaeffer82@...
 

Nothing is just solely the case. It was just the primary motive at the time. The deal with the US after 1972 also entailed the abandonment of support for anti-US anti-imperialist movements. China became more nationalist and cynical as time went on.


Andrew Stewart
 

On Sat, Aug 20, 2022 at 04:27 PM, <gilschaeffer82@...> wrote:
The deal with the US after 1972 also entailed the abandonment of support for anti-US anti-imperialist movements. China became more nationalist and cynical as time went on.
The operative reality is that China's disruptive actions were impacting the South Africans way before Nixon took office, Gerald Horne writes about issues beginning to emerge in the latter 1960s.


Michael Yates
 

Andrew, you really should read Zhun Xu's very fine book on the Chinese agricultural communes. Deng reversed course, Zhen Xu arguing, doing great harm to peasants a agriculture alike. So, it wasn't just Deng's foreign policy. I don't see how someone can align with US imperialism and be a champion of peasants and workers at home.


Michael Yates
 

Isn't Horne a CPer. I didn't know he was a China expert, and I have edited four of his books. 


gilschaeffer82@...
 

Replying to Andrew: OK, so China may have been doing things to curry favor with the US before Nixon. My point was about the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution being driven more by Mao's conception of national security issues than the usual "Mao was a utopian megalomaniac" kind of explanation.


Andrew Stewart
 

On Sat, Aug 20, 2022 at 04:58 PM, Michael Yates wrote:
Deng reversed course, Zhen Xu arguing, doing great harm to peasants a agriculture alike. So, it wasn't just Deng's foreign policy. I don't see how someone can align with US imperialism and be a champion of peasants and workers at home.
Well Michael I wasn't saying that I endorsed or approved of his domestic policies either, not from a Communist viewpoint. But that's just not the same thing as the fact that Chinese nationalism, and particularly the strand inflected by regressive Great Han National Chauvinism, was far more powerful and compelling to the Chinese people than Mao's attempted coup under the rubric of the Cultural Revolution. The facts are so utterly plain and speak for themselves much more loudly than anything else:

-Mao was able to tap into what was high reverence for him as a cofounder of the People's Republic and the great military tactician of the Civil War in order to build a force that would try overthrowing a the market socialist wing of the Chinese Party (and just to be clear, this was not an isolated group, Khrushchev in Russia and Tito in Yugoslavia likewise were trained by Bukharin and embraced his argument for a 'snail's pace to socialism' via an extended NEP-style use of markets within the confines of a Marxist-Leninist government). All the rhetoric and stage productions were a cover for this coup.
-The Cultural Revolution proved to be a complete debacle for numerous reasons and the majority of the Chinese were just DONE with all the Maoist theatrics, austerity, struggle sessions, and social chaos. The thing that a lot of Anglophone Reds of the anti-Stalinist/anti-Revisionist camp don't want to accept is that there's a kind of false tautology built into 20th century Communist projects, that the liberation of an oppressed minority (Chinese, Slavs, Eastern Europeans, et al) implemented by Communists automatically meant that the people were buying the whole Leninist package. As was shown from 1987-2000 (last case being the implosion of Yugoslavia during the Clinton years), it just wasn't true. The sick irony is that many of the places where these Marxist Leninist states existed have now ended up being places where a very efficient and powerful clique of bourgeois/petit bourgeois nationalist gendarmes have been created to be the most effective and successful operators of the most rapacious and shameless form of free market capitalism.
-The Gang of Four, who absolutely lacked the high esteem of Mao or Zhou Enlai, were overthrown in a matter of weeks. It wasn't some midnight military coup a la Pinochet and it wasn't a series of street battles, it was a seamless and straightforward ouster of a ruling clique who had become a complete nuisance and lacked legitimacy in the eyes of the people.

Now, what was done afterwards by Deng...very complicated and nasty in all directions. Within the year after America stopped bombing Vietnam, China started! They openly collaborated with the American blockade of Vietnam while helping preserve the Khmer Rouge! Alex Cockburn had a great few lines at the time of the Tienanmen Square protests in 1991:
I hope Deng goes down and his whole crowd with him. They promoted market relations within an authoritarian state, which is fascism. At least Gorbachev is going at it the other way round.The past decade has spelled long-term misfortune most Chinese peasants and workers. Thatcherization in the countryside has led, as William Hinton observed in the Monthly Review  for March, to a dispersal of social assets so great that “it is doubtful if, in the history of the world, any privileged group acquired more for less.” The privileged in this case are those-mostly party functionaries urged to the pillage by the leadership-best positioned to loot the public economy.
As for alignment with imperialism while supporting the peasantry... Every heard of the (undeniably institutionally-racist) agricultural policies of the American federal government?


Chris Slee
 

Charlie says:  "The Leap was badly done partly because of mistakes by Party cadre, and, according to William Hinton, because the capitalist-roaders in the Party rammed it to exaggeration".

Uncritical admirers of Mao often try to shift the blame for the "mistakes" and "exaggeration" during the Great Leap Forward onto other leaders, the so-called "capitalist roaders", particularly Liu Shaoqi.

In my view they are mistaken.  Mao was primarily responsible for the voluntarism of the Great Leap Forward.


Certainly at times Mao sounded a note of caution. But at other times he issued calls that encouraged voluntarist attitudes.  Australian academic Bill Brugger comments that Mao's position was "marked by considerable ambivalence".  [Brugger, China: Liberation and Transformation 1942-1962, p. 196]

Furthermore, it should be noted that Liu Shaoqi at times also expressed the need for caution.  For example, in May 1958 he said:  "Leaders...must combine revolutionary enthusiasm with business-like sense.  They must be able not only to put forward advanced targets, but also adopt effective measures in time to ensure the realisation of the targets.  They must not engage in empty talk and bluff.  The targets we put forward should be those which can be reached with hard work.  Do not lightly publicise as plan that which is not really attainable lest failure dampen the enthusiasm of the masses and delight the conservatives".  [Brugger, p. 184]

Brugger comments that "...it is difficult to discern any marked difference between Liu's position and that of Mao".

Mao and Liu share the blame for the voluntarist policies of the Great Leap Forward.  However they drew different conclusions from its failure.


Liu and Deng Xiaoping emphasised the need to increase production through material incentives.  Mao was critical of these policies.  Sidelined after the Great Leap Forward, he launched the Cultural Revolution to make a comeback.  He used egalitarian rhetoric, but this was hypocritical given the privileged lifestyle of the bureaucracy, of which Mao's faction was a part,


The Cultural Revolution ended in a compromise between the factions.  Both factions agreed on the turn towards collaboration with US imperialism, symbolised by Nixon's visit to China.


For more detail, see my pamphlet:


http://links.org.au/capitalism-workers-struggle-china


Regarding the communes, I look forward to reading the book by Zhun Xu, which Michael Yates has recommended.  William Hinton has said that collectivisation of agriculture was carried out well in some areas, badly in others, depending on the quality of the local leadership and the strength of its links with the peasantry.  This would probably have had a lasting effect on how well the communes functioned.


Chris Slee




From: marxmail@groups.io <marxmail@groups.io> on behalf of Charlie <charles1848@...>
Sent: Sunday, 21 August 2022 3:18 AM
To: marxmail@groups.io <marxmail@groups.io>
Subject: Re: [marxmail] A Unity of Opposites: The Dengist and the Red Guard
 
Philosophy is not a good way to do history. But you might find philosophy in history. For example, from an essay, "Socialism Is a Series of Communist Projects:"

After nearly 25 years of people’s war, China was liberated in 1949. The Chinese communists promptly set to work on the relations of production. The peasants had individual plots of land, the landlords being eliminated as a class in the late 1940s and first years after 1949. The communists encouraged increasing levels of cooperation, from a few families to larger units. They shared the harvest at first according to both labor and the animals and tools contributed, then more by labor alone.

Agrarian advances in the relations of production seemed like the Soviet path. This changed with the Great Leap Forward in the late 1950s. The Leap was badly done, partly because of mistakes by Party cadre, and, according to William Hinton, because the capitalist-roaders in the Party rammed it to exaggeration. The Communist Party of China during its long armed liberation struggle had attracted a number of sons of well-to-do people. They helped liberate the country from imperialism and landlord oppression. After 1949 they expected to ride at the top of a big modernization project.

Nonetheless, the Great Leap Forward earned eternal credit in history for creating the people’s communes. In its final form, the commune was a three-tier organization: the commune as a whole, the production brigade, and the production team. They roughly encompassed what had been, respectively, the market area around a sizable town, a group of several villages, and a village. Within this structure, the activities and rewards of production could be averaged over larger organizational units and made more egalitarian as conditions permitted. The communes also launched workshops and industries. A peasant might farm part of the year and work in a factory part of the year. The prospect was that the rural-urban divide and the difference between peasant and worker could be narrowed.

From https://www.idcommunism.com/2021/09/socialism-is-series-of-communist.html
_._,_._,_


anthonyboynton@...
 

I have always been intrigued by the connection between Deng's ideas and those of Bukharin, but it is very difficult to find good sources, at least in English and Spanish. I pruchased the book reviewed here, but it is in the pile of books sitting on my desk, still unread. Nevertheless, it looks promising. If anyone has any other suggestions, please post them.

https://andrewbatson.com/2015/10/29/the-russian-origins-of-chinese-economic-reform/

Anthony


Andrew Stewart
 

Alexander Pantsov and Steven Levine coauthored a biography of Deng that describes the intellectual genealogy adequately. The training under Bukharin was only half of the equation. The other, cited in this biography, was the book by Stephen Cohen, Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution, which was a sensation within certain sections of the Communist parties once translated. Cohen’s book makes a significant case for the market socialist policy framework and an NEP lasting decades over the course of a “snail’s pace to socialism.” (Regrettably, Cohen embraced his own false tautology, that market socialism meant there would be a reduction of Stalinist terror politics and repression, which we all know was not the case.)
Some excerpts:
Deng was in fact a better Marxist than Mao, who tried to build communism at a breakneck speed in defiance of economic laws. Yet Deng still believed that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had successfully constructed socialism in a backward China, a notion that Marx would have scorned. Like Mao, Deng acknowledged that he did not really understand economics; yet also like Mao, he still imposed his economic views on the party and society. The theory of reform and opening that Deng developed several years after Mao's death, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, did not originate with him. It was rooted in the Russian Bolshevik Nikolai I. Bukharin's interpretation of Lenin's New Economic Policy aimed at developing a market economy under the control of the Communist Party. Deng studied this concept in the mid-1920s in Moscow during his sojourn as a student at a Comintern school and began implementing it as soon as he solidified power…
Deng focused on the [Communist University of the Toilers of the East] university’s Chinese translations of the works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, and Bukharin.
The environment in Moscow bolstered his good mood. In 1926 throughout the USSR the New Economic Policy (NEP) was in full bloom. Aimed at developing a market economy under the control of the Communist party, its results were visible everywhere. The economy was booming; markets were increasingly filled with goods produced by state and private enterprises. New stores, restaurants, and cafes were opening all the time. “We were never short of chicken, duck, fish, and meat,” recalled one of Deng’s classmates…
[After Deng took power], several academic economists began to think that China should move toward lowering “the level of collectivization that had been achieved earlier, in accordance with the actual state of production forces.” In other words, they began suggesting a return from the people’s communes and brigades with their collective property, not to the contract system but to the New Democratic model of a mixed economy based on the individual peasant household. They called on the leadership of the CCP to heed the historical experience of building socialism in the USSR and other socialist countries, insisting on the need to revisit the Leninist concept of the New Economic Policy.
Back in July 1979, one of the most liberally inclined philosophers and economists, vice president of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), Yu Guangyuan, who was close to Deng and to Hu Yaobang, established a special Institute on Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought at CASS. Researchers there began a serious study of the Yugoslav and Hungarian experiences in building socialism and of Eurocommunism, but their main attention was devoted to the Bolsheviks’ NEP and the works of Nikolai Bukharin, its greatest theoretician. That Bukharin had been repressed by Stalin bothered them not at all. On the contrary, it only increased their interest in his works and in his person. Having lived through the Cultural Revolution, the intelligentsia hated any kind of terror, the Stalinist variety included.
Interest in Bukharin was stimulated by the presence of Yu Guangyuan’s deputy, the well-known historian and economist Su Shaozhi, former editor of the theory department of People’s Daily, at an international conference on Bukharin organized by the Gramsci Institute in Italy and funded by the Italian Communist Party. Su was simply stunned by what he heard in Rome from Western and East European scholars. On his return to China, he informed the leadership of just what a stupendous theoretician Bukharin had been.


Michael Meeropol
 

I of course, was a fan of Preobrazhensky --- and I think his idea of primitive socialist accumulation was actually what STALIN accomplished with forced collectivization.

Preobrazhensky's approach would have focused more on what we might today call "Keynesian" policies --- with redistribution to the commanding heights using macro-economics RATHER THAN the policies of Stalin --- where (I believe) successful industrialization occurred DESPITE collectivization .... 


,_._,_


Michael Pugliese <michael.098762001@...>
 

Gerald Horne, has been mentioned at least twice. I assume this is the
book , being alluded to? I bought a copy a few months ago. His
archival research is impressive. His asides about the Pan-African
Congress and Maoism, are scathing.
"White Supremacy Confronted: U.S. Imperialism and Anti-Communism vs.
the Liberation of Southern Africa from Rhodes to Mandela,"
https://www.intpubnyc.com/browse/white-supremacy-confronted-u-s-imperialism-vs-the-liberation-of-southern-africa-from-rhodes-to-mandela/
.
Much I did not know about US African-American organizations, and
solidarity with not only South African liberation struggles, but, over
the whole
continent, and how various organizations either were linked up with
State Dept. and CIA/NSC agendas , or were opposed.


Michael Pugliese <michael.098762001@...>
 

Andrew Stewart noted the biography by Alexander V. Pantsov & Steven
I. Levine , you can download a copy via Libgen. Bukharin gets
mentioned twenty times.
"Deng Xiaoping: A Revolutionary Life,"
http://library.lol/main/FE13013C78F9B44F309662EE4F61FE19 .
Pantsov and Levine , also wrote, a biography of Mao, that took
advantage of tons of previously inaccessible Soviet era archives, in
the former Soviet Union,
http://library.lol/main/D5C3ADB3D59EFABC54DDBD7573BA664D .
"The Bolsheviks and the Chinese Revolution 1919-1927," by Pantsov,
http://library.lol/main/CE4F8637DBA17AD5AA375F8635B0A4B4 .
"Based mainly on unknown Russian archival sources which have
previously been unobtainable, this book analyses the Bolshevik
concepts of the Chinese revolution and their reception in China.
Issues include the role of the three Bolshevik leaders, Lenin, Stalin,
and Trotsky in trying to lead the Chinese Communists to victory, the
real nature of the Trotsky-Stalin split in the Comintern, and a
dramatic history of the Chinese Oppositionist movement in Soviet
Russia"
According to Pantsov and Levine, starting in 1981 there was a burst
of articles by Chinese scholars on Bukharin. Not only Cohen's bio of
Bukharin, but , the publication of Medvedev's ,"Let History Judge,"
played a role. See page 371 , in particular.
See Yin Xuyi and Zheng Yifan, “Bukharin in the People’s Republic of
China,” in Theodor Bergmann, Gert Schaefer, and Mark Selden, eds.,
Bukharin in Retrospect (Armonk, NY: Sharpe, 1994), A TOC is here,
https://www.taylorfrancis.com/books/edit/10.4324/9781315490052/bukharin-retrospect-mark-selden-theodor-bergmann-gert-schaefer-mark-selden
.