Monday, May 16, 2016

Harsh Thakor on the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution : Celebrate 50 Year of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution

This article expresses the personal opinions of Harsh Thakor






The Great Proletarian Cultural revolution was one of the epoch making eras in the history of mankind.

It wrote a new chapter in Socialist History.

There were achievements in that era in al spheres unsurpassed or even unequalled in the history of mankind.

However ultimately the movement was overpowered.

On May 16th we commemorate 50 years since the 1st official document was written proclaiming the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution .

It was this document that explained the very purpose of the Cultural Revolution and the concept of revolution of dictatorship of the proletariat.

It verified that it what was then Mao Tse Tung Thought was an integral part of Leninism and would be non –functional if it divorced itself from the ideology of Marxism-Leninism as a whole.
Without doubt seriously class struggle was implemented in all spheres of life and the proletariat attained revolutionary power as never before. However it’s eventual defeat makes cadres ask many questions.

These include overuse of personality cult of comrade Mao Tse Tung,, lack of sufficient dissent or debate, vanguardist tendency of party towards mass organizations, factionalism, excessive power to Peoples Liberation Army.

Lack of creation of sufficient democratic peoples organs,excesses on intellectuals and maintaining the revolutionary committees.A principal debate was on the question of the leadership of the Leninist party ,allowing of multiple parties.

Every aspect was anlayzed through the prism of Mao Tse Tung Thought. The practice of the Cultural Revolution and not only theory took Marxism-Leninism to its 3rd stage.

Although critical of Stalinism it never claimed to be anti-Stalinist and defended the great comrade’s contribution tooth and nail.

I feel that it eventually developed into a factional struggle.

 I am not denying that the gang of 4 like Chang Chun Chiao and Chiang Ching were crusaders for Socialism but feel that only a faction cannot overhaul an ideology.

Even the dictatorship of the proletariat needs to develop forms of revolutionary democracy checking or questioning the proletarian party.

The broad masses needed an independent forum to revolt .To defeat the roots of revisionism or capitalist reversion the broad masses needed to develop a movement arguably independent of a Communist party which could even question Mao Tse Tung thought.

True Mao’s followers fought to the last tooth against the capitalist roaders but were unable to defeat capitalism at it’s very roots.

There were strong trends of the movement dissipating into one of the Liu Shao Chi capitalist roaders into Mao Tse Tung’s forces. Lenin died early but even in his time he noticed and was self –critical in the bureaucratism of the Soviets.

Mao did not live long enough to develop his own thesis whereby the broad masses and their mass organization and movements could attain greater independence from the Communist party.

No doubt we have to refute concept of multi-party system and factions but alternatively have to be able to build peoples organ’s of revolutionary power.

The movement of the broad masses should have been decisive in the defeat of the capitalist roaders and not only the Communist Party.

The masses should have had ample opportunity to even be critical of the Maoists .No doubt there were strong currents to achieve this goal but finally they all reverted. The manner in which the capitalist roaders seized power after Mao’s death in 1976 reflected this.

Nevertheless we have to tooth and nail defend the Cultural Revolution which practised Marxist-Leninist or Socialist ideology to it’s highest level.

It won unprecedented victories scorning the bourgeois critiques. Systematically we have to refute the lies of the Western media today that run down the Cultural Revolution.

Currents still run within China upholding the policies of Mao.

Although later he fell into the myriad of revisionism or eclectism in the 1970’s and 1980’s more than anyone I admire Bob Avakian’s writings and work defending the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.

In his biography of Mao he brilliantly explained how Mao Tse Tung thought was an integral part of Leninism and defended the gang of 4.Many currents prevalent in the 1970’s rejected the Gang of four unlike Avakian and the R.C.P.,U.S.A for which I salute him.

His book ‘Mao Tse Tung-The greatest  Marxist of our time ‘is a treasure house amongst Marxist-Leninist –Maoist works.

Amongst non-party people I place William Hinton’s writing son the Cultural revolution at the top. I applaud the kasama project for so vehemently upholding the positive aspects of the Cultural Revolution in spite of it’s eclecticsm of treating Maoism as a separate entity from Marxism-Leninism.

Mike Ely has written some of the most insightful pieces whatever deviations from Leninism.

I also salute comrade Scott Harrison of massline for posting all the organs and writings of that period and critically defending the concept and practice of G.P.C.R.

In India I applaud the work of the erstwhile All India Revolutionary Students Federation, especially the A.P.R.S.U in defending the G.P.C.R as all as the erstwhile C.P/I.(M.L.)Naxalbari and now the Rahul Foundation.

No publishing house in India and very few houses in the world have made such an effort to reproduce the Maoist classics of the Cultural Revolution period.

One weakness prevalent was to term it as a new era by forces like erstwhile Maoist Communist Centre. Overall theoretically I find the English China Study group considerably more theoretically sound than American groups like Kasama or MLMSRG.

Although Workers Dreadnought takes eclectical positions it raises some vital points while MLM Mayhem has positive currents.

It is significant that the turn of right deviation within the revolutionary camp in India occurred as a result of taking a wrong stand towards the Cultural Revolution.

The case of C.P.I.(M.L.)Liberation is an ideal example. It is also true that other rightist faction sin India attribute their deviation because of not upholding the line of Cultural Revolution like C.P.I.(M.L.) Red Star group.

Today the Western media .knows no limits in blowing it’s wind against Maoist China ..
It swarms false propaganda maligning the Cultural Revolution as some kind of dictatorial assault by Mao and distorts the true facts.

Worldwide the minds of all sections particularly youth are brainwashed with this propaganda and we have to devise a method of emancipating people from this and breaking this conditioning.

No doubt we have to strike a blow at all the Trotskyites who claim That concept of G.P.C.R was upholding their line of permanent revolution and factions within party or the New Left which rejected concept of vanguard party..

However we need to imbibe ideas or criticisms of intellectuals like Alain Badiou, Gramsci,Louis Althusser or Charles Bettleheim who critically exposed the inherent weaknesses in practice of party-state in Socialist societies like Russia and China

We need to uphold the Leninist-Maoist concept of party but simultaneously throw light on some of the limitations and weaknesses of the conventional vanguard party concept as practiced in erstwhile Socialist societies.

I take a position which although supporting the basic viewpoint of intellectuals like William Hinton and party comrades like Jose Maria Sison and Ajith that even in practising continuous revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat there should be broader debate ,greater dissent ,greater independence of the revolutionary mass organizations from the party, more rational and persuasive approach towards bourgeois artists and intellectuals reduced personality cult and not simply authority of Mao Tse Tung Thought.

No doubt the view regarding abolishing of party- state like that of Alan Badiou or New Synthesis of Bob Avkian have to be systematically fought against.

Whatever Bettleheim’s weakness on Leninist’s theory and upholding of Socialist U.S.S.R.he did great work in assessing and upholding the G.P.C.R. through his book on Writers like Felix Greene,Egdar Snow,William Hinton and Bettleheim illustratively explained how tirelessly,single- mindedly ,creatively and effectively did the Socialist forces lay the roots for a completely pro-people society .

Rather than reading the accounts of forums like MMLRSG or official Maoist publication accounts I suggest all readers to read the writings of authors like William Hinton,Edgar Snow,Felix Greene, Joan Robinson who traversed through every nook and corner of Maoist China and whose living examples of achievements and development of forms of struggle and power refute all the criticisms of the bourgeoisie,Trotskyites,revisionists etc.

The most important aspect is that the concept of the Cultural Revolution did not come from thin air but through hard practice of 17 years after the Chinese Revolution. Above all it made a creative development to the Leninist concept of dictatorship of the proletariat attaining a development no Socialist Society ever did.

In a 1991 speech at Harvard University, Hinton explained the very real obstacles faced by the Cultural Revolution:

In the Cultural Revolution, Mao mobilized millions of citizens to confront powerholders, particularly capitalist roaders, to overthrow the traditional hierarchy from below, and to build a new government structure, starting with revolutionary committees composed of citizens, cadres and soldiers. But every effort in this direction generated a counter-effort from the establishment under attack. 

Core functionaries were able to delay, divert, misdirect, or carry to absurd extremes every initiative from Mao’s side. Far from creating a new, more democratic form of government, the movement bogged down in unprincipled power struggles that exhausted everyone and led nowhere. The failure of the Cultural Revolution laid the groundwork for a great reversal of policy in all fields. (Monthly Review, November 1991, 10)

On the post-1949 period as a whole, Hinton continued in this address about the systematic attempts of the rightist forces to oppose and sabotage every revolutionary initiative taken by Mao and his supporters:

A regular pattern of right-wing obstruction alternating with ultra-left wrecking made it very hard for those building socialism to consolidate any new set of production relations, any new social structure, or any new ideology. For thirty years after 1949, those who were trying to create, develop and consolidate socialism faced fierce opposition from those who wanted to block, undermine, and cripple it in order to pursue a capitalist alternative.

…[A]t no time did Mao and his supporters have a free hand to take initiatives, deepen and consolidate them, learn from mistakes, and move forward. Every step had to overcome not only the inertia of custom and tradition but also the determined opposition of a large, powerful and cleverly led faction of the party itself. “Never forget class struggle” was no idle Maoist slogan. Intense struggle between social classes over basic policy permeated the whole period. That struggle continues to this day. (Monthly Review, November 1991, 13)

Hinton pointed to the devastating consequences for China as it became increasingly integrated into the imperialist-run global economy, and its inevitable return to being a semicolonial country dominated by the Western powers and Japan.

(This period of rapid capitalist expansion internally and abroad is documented by Martin Hart-Landsberg and Paul Burkett in the July-August 2004 issue of Monthly Review, China & Socialism: Market Reforms and Class Struggle.)

While tending to underestimate the ability of China to stave off crisis by garnering export markets with its brutal strategy of low-wage primitive accumulation, Hinton’s analysis has been borne out.

In his speech at the 1999 Socialist Scholars Conference, Hinton eloquently described the necessity, goals, and historical legacy of the Cultural Revolution:

The Cultural Revolution, after generating a tremendous storm, wound down without consolidating its goals. However, the movement as a whole was a great creative departure in history. It was not a plot, not a purge, but a mass mobilization whereby people were inspired to intervene, to screen and supervise their cadres and form new popular committees to exercise control at the grassroots and higher.

The whole idea, that the principal contradiction of the times was the class struggle between the working class and the capitalist class, expressed itself in the party center, and unless it was resolved in the interest of the working class the socialist revolution would founder.

 And the whole idea that the method must be to mobilize the common people to seize power from below in order to establish new representative leading bodies, democratically elected organs of power was a breakthrough in history summed up by the phrase “bombard the headquarters.”

They constituted, in my opinion, Mao’s greatest contribution to revolutionary theory and practice, lighting the way to progress in our time. Had Mao succeeded, I think there is no doubt we would have today a burgeoning socialist economy and culture in China with enormous prestige among the people. The economic advance might be slower than the current one but it would be much more solid and much more useful as a development model for all third world peoples now living in abysmal poverty and exploitation. (Monthly Review, September 2004, 57–58)

An Unprecedented Mass Revolutionary Movement

The Cultural Revolution saw great debate and questioning. There were political demonstrations, protest rallies, marches, and mass political meetings. Small newspapers were published. In Beijing alone, there were over 900 newspapers. Countless mimeographed broadsheets were handed out. Materials and facilities for these activities were made available free, including paper, ink, brushes, posters, printing presses, halls for meetings, and public address and sound systems.

The Red Guards helped spread the movement to the proletariat. And as the Cultural Revolution took hold among the workers, it took a new turn. In 1967-68, 40 million workers engaged in intense and complicated mass struggles and upheavals to seize power from entrenched municipal party and city administrations that were hotbeds of conservatism. Through experimentation, debate, and summation, and with Maoist leadership, the masses forged new organs of proletarian political power.

In its scope and intensity, the Cultural Revolution has no parallel in human history. The routine of daily life was blown wide open. People from every social milieu engaged in broad debate.

Peasants were discussing the ways ancient and reactionary Confucian values still influenced their lives. Workers in factories in Shanghai were experimenting with new forms of participatory management.

Nothing and nobody was above criticism. Political, administrative and educational authorities who had become divorced from the people were called to account. No longer could officials be tucked away in offices just barking out instructions. They had to go down and be part of the situation of the workers and peasants.

The Cultural Revolution stirred deep ideological self-examination. Mao said there could be no revolution if it doesn't transform customs, habits, and ways of thinking. Revolution has to bring forward a new ethos, a new way in which people relate to each other. "Serve the people" was a slogan popularized during the Cultural Revolution. This wasn't the same as the bourgeois idea of the charitable acts of the well-off toward the poor. It is about serving the needs of the great majority of society and the cause of communism worldwide.

It is about challenging the "me-first" mind-set of capitalism.

What Mao was emphasizing is that you can have a socialist economy—but if you are not promoting the spirit of working for the greater social good, then socialist ownership will be a hollow shell.
By the time he came out with The Great Reversal in 1990, Hinton’s view of the Cultural Revolution reaffirmed his position of the early 1970s. He refuted the claims of the new rulers that the Cultural Revolution was a “catastrophe”:

As things have turned out, it seems clear that Mao correctly appraised the opposition in regard to what he stood for and what it wanted to do with power. Since Mao’s death and the dismissal of Hua Guofeng from office, Deng and his group have dismantled, step by step, almost the whole of the economic system and the social and political superstructure built in the first thirty years following liberation, and they are rushing to finish off what remains….

Mao foresaw this, called it the “capitalist road,” and called Liu and Deng “capitalist roaders.” He launched the Cultural Revolution in a major, historically unprecedented campaign to remove them from power and prevent them from carrying out their line. In the end he failed.

The Cultural Revolution unleashed action and counteraction, initiative and counter-initiative, encirclement and counter-encirclement, all sorts of excesses, leftist and rightist, and an overall situation that spun out of anyone’s control. To blame Mao alone for the disruptions caused by this struggle, for the setbacks and disasters that ensued, is equivalent to the Guomindang blaming the Communists for the disruptions of China’s liberation war….(156–57)

                                                         William Hinton

Whereas Hinton in Shenfan was dismissive of the idea of a “bourgeoisie in the party,” by The Great Reversal he had come to a deeper understanding of the decisive nature of class struggle within the Communist Party:

Due to historical circumstances peculiar to China, all the politics of the postwar era—all the forces that mattered, all the issues that counted—tended to concentrate inside the Communist Party.

Thus the struggle took the form of an internal contest for control of the party and through it for control of the country. Mao saw this phenomenon pretty clearly and began a struggle against the opposition very early. As time went on the struggle escalated, reaching a climax in the Cultural Revolution. (158)

Hinton also came to a more balanced understanding of the role of the gang of four. They included two Politbureau members from Shanghai, Zhang Chunqiao and Wang Hongwen, writer Yao Wenyuan, and Mao’s wife, Jiang Qing.

In Shenfan, Hinton wrote approvingly of the arrest of the gang of four by the combined forces of Deng and Hua Guofeng in 1976.

In The Great Reversal, Hinton doesn’t mention the 1976 coup; instead he focuses on Deng’s coup against Hua in 1978 and the subsequent dismantling of socialism.

By the end of the 1980s, Hinton concluded that Liu, Deng, and other leading capitalist roaders had been the most serious threat to the Chinese revolution, not ultra-leftists such as the gang of four.
Nevertheless, Hinton believed that the gang of four helped produce the “virtual stalemate” in which the Cultural Revolution ended:

The result was immeasurably complicated by the ultraleft ideology and activity of the gang of four. I do not subscribe to any “gang of five” theory that lumps Mao with his wife and her three cohorts politically, though he certainly was responsible for their coming to prominence to start with.

They grossly distorted Mao’s policies and directives, carried sound initiatives to extremes that turned them inside out and upside down, and succeeded in wrecking whatever they touched.

Although in previous periods Mao had been able to correct both right and “left” excesses, in the 1960s he found himself on “Liang Mountain” in regard to “leftism”—that is, virtually immobilized by a contradiction with the right that he felt tied his hands in dealing with the “left.” (158)

Below I am reproducing a writing and speech by Raymond Lotta in ‘setting the records. Straight’. Whatever the deviation sin R.C.P,I greatly admire Lotta’s defence of Mao in the GPCR standing like a rock against the blowing wind of all reactionary trends be it the Bourgeois Western media or Trotskyites.

It classically illustrates how the massline was pursued. I was privileged to hear a talk in San Francisco by Lotta in the Set the Record Straight campaign in October 2005..

It was a campaign of great significance towards defending Maoist ideology.

Here Raymond Lotta represents the very essence of the Bob Avakian of the early 1980’s.

One of the major distortions about the Cultural Revolution is that Mao masterminded and manipulated whatever happened. Mao is said to be responsible for every act and struggle that took place. Mao is held responsible for any and all cases of violence. There is a notion that everything issued from a single locus of power and decision-making—from Mao.

Different class and social forces were involved in the Cultural Revolution. There were the genuine Maoists in the party and mass organizations. There were anti-Mao groupings within the party who organized students, workers and peasants. And there were conservative military forces, ultra-left groupings, mass organizations that divided into rebel and conservatives camps, criminal elements, and others. Different social interests and motivations were in play.

Some people used the Cultural Revolution to settle personal grievances. Often, the enemies of Mao within the Party who were coming under political attack would resort to the tactic of pretending to uphold Mao and incite factionalism and violence in the name of the Cultural Revolution.

They would do this in order to deflect the struggle away from them and to discredit the revolutionary movement. The reality was that the Cultural Revolution was a complicated struggle over which class would rule society: the proletariat, which in alliance with its allies who make up the great majority of society continues the revolution to transform society, or a new bourgeois class.

Yet through the course of this struggle, Mao and the revolutionary leadership were able to lead it in a certain direction: focusing the political struggle against the top capitalist roaders, further revolutionizing society, and empowering the masses.

Think about what was happening. Mao was unleashing hundreds of millions to wrangle and debate over the direction of society, and to take responsibility for the fate of society. Nothing like this has ever happened before in history. In the United States and other bourgeois democracies, political life is defined by voting. Once every four years you participate in a ritual that reinforces the status quo and that leaves you passive.

Here in revolutionary China, there was incredible ferment and upheaval--which is a great thing in society. And in this situation things went in all kinds of directions. You had Red Guards that got carried away in their zeal to rid society of bourgeois influences and committed excesses. In this atmosphere, Mao and the revolutionary leaders had to lead the masses to sort things out, to sum up lessons and methods of struggle, and to consolidate gains.

The class struggle in society—whether it would continue on the socialist road, or return to capitalism--was concentrated at the top reaches of the party and the state. In dealing with this, Mao was not trying to grab power for himself, as we are often told.

He could have just had all his opponents arrested. But, as I mentioned earlier, he didn’t do that-- because that would not have solved the problem of preventing the revolution from being reversed. Mao was willing to risk everything by relying on and politically mobilizing the masses to take up the big questions confronting society.

Mao pointed out that the Cultural Revolution was a struggle to overthrow capitalist roaders. But at a deeper level, the Cultural Revolution involved the question of world outlook, of enabling the masses to consciously understand and change the world and themselves.

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