For a Leninist-Trotskyist Party!

China on the Brink: Workers Political Revolution or Capitalist Enslavement?

Reprinted from Spartacist (English-language edition) No. 53, Summer 1997

Note: The following article contains a sentence defending an independent soviet Tibet. Subsequently we had an internal discussion and decided to drop this formulation. We refer readers to the Workers Vanguard No. 695 article “‘Free Tibet’: Rallying Cry for Counterrevolution in China” (28 August 1998)

A decisive turning point in the history of the Chinese Revolution is approaching. Whether the increasingly assertive forces for capitalist restoration succeed in destroying the gains of the 1949 Revolution, or whether workers political revolution sweeps away the corrupt Beijing Stalinist bureaucracy, will not only determine the fate of the Chinese people, but will leave a huge imprint on the countries of East Asia and beyond.

The death this February of China’s “paramount leader,” Deng Xiaoping (Teng Hsiao-ping), occasioned countless commentaries from capitalist spokesmen around the world lauding his market “reforms” which led to the privatization of small and medium-scale industries and opened whole areas of the country to foreign capitalist investment. Yet the more farsighted of the bourgeois media also noted that the “reforms” have created conditions for social turmoil. Over 100 million poor and middle peasants, displaced by the liquidation of the rural communes and the return to privately operated agriculture, have poured into the cities and towns searching for work. Meanwhile, there is a growing cleavage in economic development and living standards between the southeast coastal and Yangtze River delta areas—the primary recipients of foreign investment—and the rest of the country, from the rural hinterland to centers of state-owned heavy industry in northeast and central China.

Even as the New York Times praised Deng for the “dynamism of his reforms,” this newspaper of record for U.S. imperialism worried about “how incomplete and therefore tenuous those reforms remain.” No sooner had the official memorial services for Deng concluded than the U.S. and other imperialist powers moved to demand that China slash investment in state-owned industries as a condition for joining the World Trade Organization and “to speed the opening of the country’s economy” (New York Times, 2 March).

In this regard, the reversion of Hong Kong to Chinese control on July 1 after 150 years as a British colony is a signal event. The Beijing Stalinists long ago declared that the takeover would in no way threaten Hong Kong’s capitalist economy, putting forward their “One China, two systems” policy of reintegration of Hong Kong and Taiwan with the mainland on a capitalist basis. This fall, the national congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) may feature an open battle for succession between the sclerotic “Old Guard” of longtime party veterans and a “third generation” of younger officials who mostly seek to enrich themselves in a “free market”—i.e., capitalist—China. This could be the context for a bid for political power by openly capitalist-restorationist elements.

The political heirs of Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung) have brought the Chinese Revolution to the abyss. The 1949 seizure of power by Mao’s peasant-guerrilla army over the Guomindang (Kuomintang) Nationalist regime of Chiang Kai-shek shattered capitalist rule and liberated the country from subservience to Japanese and Western imperialism. The Chinese Revolution created the conditions for enormous gains for workers, peasants and women. The huge defeat the Chinese Revolution represented for the U.S. and other imperialist powers was brought home by the intervention of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in the Korean War of 1950-53, which saved North Korea from being overrun by the American imperialists and their South Korean puppet regime.

But what issued out of the 1949 Revolution was a bureaucratically deformed workers state, ruled by a privileged caste headed by the CCP and PLA leadership. A key factor conditioning this outcome was the atomized state of the Chinese proletariat, which had suffered two decades of deadly repression under both the Guomindang and the bloody Japanese occupation which began with the seizure of Manchuria in 1931 and spread to the major cities in 1937. As well, the Chinese working class had been repeatedly and grievously betrayed by Stalinism, most notably in the defeat of the 1925-27 Revolution. Furthermore, China had undergone a severe economic decline related to the world depression of the 1930s, cutting into the prospects for a revival of even elemental trade-union struggle.

There was a qualitative difference between the 1949 Chinese Revolution and the 1917 October Revolution in Russia led by Lenin and Trotsky’s Bolshevik Party. The Russian Revolution created a state regime of proletarian democracy instituted through the rule of workers, peasants and soldiers soviets (councils). The October Revolution was carried out by a class-conscious proletariat which had undergone long years of political struggle and which saw the seizure of power as the first step in world socialist revolution.

In contrast, the CCP came to power through a military-bureaucratic social overturn. Modeling itself on the USSR under Stalin’s bureaucratic regime, Maoist rule followed the Stalinist dogma of building “socialism” in a single country. Denying the fundamental Marxist understanding that socialism can only be built at the highest level of technology and economy, requiring the extension of socialist revolution to advanced industrial countries, this nationalist schema expressed the material interests of the bureaucratic caste which usurped power in the Soviet Union in 1923-24. Likewise, Mao’s Stalinist regime defended the interests of the CCP/PLA bureaucracy which ruled from the inception of the People’s Republic of China.

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991-92, after decades of military and especially economic pressure from world imperialism, proved the bankruptcy of the Stalinist schema of “socialism in one country” once and for all. But if this dogma was utopian and reactionary under Soviet conditions, it was all the more absurd to claim that China on its own could achieve the advanced state of development necessary for creating a socialist society as the country groaned under the weight of an impoverished peasantry making up three-fourths of its population. Now in the “post-Soviet” world, imperialist pressures on China and remaining countries where capitalist rule and imperialist overlordship have been overthrown—North Korea, Cuba, Vietnam—have increased qualitatively, while the imperialist powers, centrally the U.S. and Japan, are positioning themselves for a fight over the spoils of capitalist counterrevolution.

In response to these pressures, the Beijing Stalinists have tied China even more closely to the world capitalist market, expanding Deng’s “reforms” while maintaining rigid control over the restive population. Thus the “opening” of the economy to capitalist exploiters is accompanied by a further clampdown on political protest. Opponents of the Stalinist regime face not only imprisonment but the state terror of the death penalty—a barbarity also applied with racist vindictiveness by the “free world’s” top cop, U.S. imperialism.

In 1992, Deng staged a well-publicized tour of southern China’s capitalist “Special Economic Zones” (SEZs) and called for extending “free market” enterprise throughout the country. Wary of sinking money into crumbling “post-Communist” societies like Russia, foreign investors responded by signing contracts doubling their investment in China from the year before. The Beijing regime began to talk about the “socialist market economy” as a transition to a full-fledged market economy. In its pursuit of capital investment, the Beijing regime has even rolled out the red carpet to the same bourgeois forces which were overthrown by the 1949 Revolution and who have since that time accumulated enormous wealth in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and elsewhere in the Pacific Rim.

But the dreams of the bureaucrats and bankers of a peaceful, bountiful restoration of capitalism are illusory. The state the Stalinists administer is based on the revolution which expelled the Chinese bourgeoisie and created a nationalized economy. It is on the basis of China’s collectivized economy—a prerequisite for socialist development—that we Trotskyists have always called for the military defense of the Chinese deformed workers state against capitalist forces—including defending its right to a nuclear arsenal. At the same time, we fight for a proletarian political revolution led by a Trotskyist party to remove the parasitic, nationalist ruling caste which stands as an obstacle to the development of a socialist society and which today offers itself as brokers to the imperialists.

The aims of China’s would-be exploiters—centrally to secure the right to buy and sell property and hand it down to their offspring—can only be achieved through smashing the existing state apparatus by one means or another and replacing it with a new one based on the principle of private ownership of the means of production. The one force which can stop the drive toward capitalist restoration is the Chinese proletariat. In 1989, the working people of Beijing, later joined by their class brothers and sisters throughout the country, threw themselves into battle against the discredited, venal bureaucracy in the tumultuous events centered in Tiananmen Square. For two weeks in May-June 1989, the government could not enforce its own declaration of martial law in the face of mass resistance by the “laobaixing” (common people) in the streets leading to Tiananmen. A political revolution was emerging. Eventually, the regime was able to find loyal army detachments which drowned the uprising in blood. This was followed by a vicious wave of repression throughout China, overwhelmingly directed against the working class.

While the proletariat was bloodied by the repression, it was not crushed. And today all of the factors that led to the Tiananmen upheaval eight years ago are present in magnified form: flagrant official corruption, inflation, massive peasant discontent. As the regime aims to “smash the iron rice bowl” of guaranteed lifetime employment and social benefits—deeply cherished gains of the 1949 Revolution—there is growing economic insecurity. Every year since 1991, the number of strikes and protests by workers in both state-owned and private capitalist industries has increased. Unlike the workers of Poland, East Germany and the Soviet Union, who after decades of Stalinist lies were largely lulled into believing Western propaganda that “free market” capitalism would give them a life of plenty, Chinese workers have already experienced the “magic of the marketplace” and know that they will not be among its winners.

The increase in labor struggles inside China indicates that the working class is not about to see its rights taken away without a fight. A most dramatic example took place in Harbin City, Heilongjiang province on New Year’s Day (Hong Kong Economic Journal, 21 January). Entire families formerly employed by state-owned sugar beet and flax industries had gone months without pay under the new capitalist economic “reforms.” Even a meager “livelihood” subsidy was cut off from the Mid-Autumn Festival to the Dragon Boat Festival. Workers “took action to find food and clothing for themselves,” seized control of workshops, opened warehouses and seized stockpiled sugar. These organized acts of working-class self-defense were accompanied by singing of the “Internationale,” whose lyrics in Chinese state, “There are neither heroes nor immortals nor emperors in the world. All things belong to the workers. We should rise to save ourselves.” But by New Year’s Day, some four months had passed without the workers receiving a cent. In an act of desperation, older workers mobilized before dawn to lie down on the railroad tracks, hoping to kill themselves to lighten the economic burdens on their children and grandchildren. As distraught family members discovered what was happening, they also massed on the railway tracks. Soon more than 3,000 Acheng Textile Mill workers staged a sit-in on the tracks, with another 1,000 townsfolk looking on. The sit-in paralyzed rail service on Binsui Railroad, which links Shanghai and Beijing to the south and the Sino-Russian border to the north, for the entire day. Local and national CCP leaders quickly dispatched “negotiators” who achieved a “compromise” with the workers to end the sit-in.

But even such dramatic acts of militancy on the economic plane are not enough to stop the counterrevolutionary tide. It is necessary for the working class to enter the political plane. As Russian revolutionary leader Leon Trotsky wrote in his analysis of the degeneration of the Russian Revolution under Stalinism, The Revolution Betrayed (1937), the question is: “Will the bureaucrat devour the workers’ state, or will the working class clean up the bureaucrat?” We Trotskyists fought for a program of proletarian political revolution led by a Bolshevik party to bring revolutionary socialist consciousness to the working class in order to sweep out the bureaucracy, establish the rule of workers soviets and return the Soviet Union to its role as the headquarters of world socialist revolution.

The program of political revolution is needed in China today if the workers and impoverished peasant masses are to emerge victorious in the class battles that lie ahead. As part of our fight to reforge Trotsky’s Fourth International, the International Communist League seeks to build an egalitarian-communist party based on the program of Lenin and Trotsky’s Bolsheviks and the early Chinese Communist Party. Such a party would link the struggle against the corrupt Stalinist bureaucracy in China with the class struggles of the militant Indonesian and South Korean workers against their capitalist rulers, and with those in the imperialist centers such as Japan. Only through extending socialist revolution to these countries will the threat of capitalist re-enslavement be eliminated once and for all and the basis laid for the development of China in a socialist Asia.

From Maoist Autarky to the “Socialist Market Economy”

The social revolutions which took place following World War II in East Europe, Yugoslavia, China, North Korea, Vietnam and Cuba posed new theoretical problems for the Trotskyist Fourth International, whose ranks and leadership had been decimated during the war years. Faced with the unforeseen victory of Stalinist-led guerrilla forces in Yugoslavia and China and the creation of other deformed workers states throughout East Europe, a revisionist leadership under Michel Pablo and Ernest Mandel posited that the Stalinists could pursue a “roughly” revolutionary course, and that Trotskyist parties were therefore no longer necessary.

This liquidationist line led in 1951-53 to the destruction of the Fourth International as a world party of socialist revolution. The deadly effect of the Pabloite line was borne out in Pablo/Mandel’s tailing of Mao’s CCP. After the Chinese Trotskyists had been systematically rounded up and locked away in Mao’s prisons in 1952, Pablo slandered them as “fugitives from the revolution” and suppressed an appeal on their behalf written by Peng Shuzhi (Peng Shu-tse), a leader of the Chinese Trotskyists who was able to flee the country before the repression hit.

But even among the Trotskyists who fought Pabloite revisionism, there was widespread confusion over the nature of the Chinese Revolution. Thus the U.S. Socialist Workers Party, led by pioneer American Trotskyist James P. Cannon, along with Peng and others failed to recognize the fundamental social overturn that occurred in 1949, later concluding that only after the expropriation of the remnants of the Chinese bourgeoisie in 1953-55 did China become a deformed workers state. This confusion stemmed from a sterile “orthodoxy” which attempted to counter the Pabloite line that the Fourth International was no longer necessary by denying that social overturns occurred with the victory of the Stalinist forces. Absent from this formula was the critical distinction between a workers state such as that issuing out of the Russian October and deformed workers states such as Mao’s China or Tito’s Yugoslavia, which require political revolution against the bureaucratic regimes to defend and extend the gains of those revolutions. (The definitive degeneration of the U.S. Socialist Workers Party was manifested in their uncritical hailing of Fidel Castro as an “unconscious Trotskyist” and rejection of the Trotskyist program for workers political revolution in Cuba. The International Communist League traces its origins to the “Revolutionary Tendency” in the SWP, a faction which fought this Pabloite degeneration, was bureaucratically expelled and went on to found the Spartacist League. This history is documented in our Marxist Bulletin series.)

Summing up the experience of the post-war revolutions, the Spartacist League wrote in our 1966 “Declaration of Principles” that petty-bourgeois guerrilla forces “can under certain conditions, i.e., the extreme disorganization of the capitalist class in the colonial country and the absence of the working class contending in its own right for social power, smash capitalist property relations; however, they cannot bring the working class to political power. Rather, they create bureaucratic anti-working class regimes which suppress any further development of these revolutions toward socialism.” A crucial factor for the creation of the deformed workers states was the Soviet Union, which acted as a counterweight to the imperialist powers. Thus the U.S. Cold Warriors were constrained from carrying out nuclear strikes against China and Vietnam by their fear of retaliation by Soviet nuclear forces.

In the “post-Soviet” world, the Chinese Stalinists seek to further capitalist “reforms” with the intention of placing themselves (and their offspring) among China’s new exploiters. As Trotsky wrote in The Revolution Betrayed:

“One may argue that the big bureaucrat cares little what are the prevailing forms of property, provided only they guarantee him the necessary income. This argument ignores not only the instability of the bureaucrat’s own rights, but also the question of his descendants. The new cult of the family has not fallen out of the clouds. Privileges have only half their worth, if they cannot be transmitted to one’s children. But the right of testament is inseparable from the right of property. It is not enough to be the director of a trust; it is necessary to be a stockholder. The victory of the bureaucracy in this decisive sphere would mean its conversion into a new possessing class. On the other hand, the victory of the proletariat over the bureaucracy would insure a revival of the socialist revolution.”

Thus the party that once conducted spartan guerrilla war against Chiang Kai-shek and the Japanese occupiers now turns out government functionaries riding in Rolls-Royces to meet Hong Kong bankers over meals that cost many times a peasant’s annual income. Revulsion at the official corruption rampant in today’s China has helped spur a certain wistfulness for the time of Mao Zedong. As James Miles, a perceptive observer who spent eight years as the BBC’s China correspondent, observed about the China of the early 1990s:

“Old Maoist songs, usually with a disco beat added to suit modern tastes, suddenly could be heard everywhere too—in trains, in taxis, and in bars and restaurants. By the end of 1991, more than a dozen cassette tapes of such songs were on the market, of which more than 10 million copies had been sold.... According to one Chinese account, probably somewhat exaggerated but nonetheless indicative of the mood, Mao books became more sought after than novels about love or kung fu.”

The Legacy of Tiananmen—China in Disarray (University of Michigan Press, 1996)

For China’s citizens, as Miles noted, “it was a chance to indulge in nostalgia for what they saw as the relatively corruption-free days of Maoist rule.” Such nostalgia serves to misidentify Mao with communism and egalitarianism, portraying his rule as fundamentally different from Deng’s. But while Mao called on the CCP to “serve the people” and Deng pronounced, “To get rich is glorious,” the two represent no more than different poles of the same anti-proletarian bureaucracy.

From the time he seized the CCP leadership in the early 1930s, Mao gave Chinese Stalinism a particular peasant-nationalist cast which barely paid lip service to even formal Marxist concepts. Encapsulating Mao’s anti-materialist revision of Marxism was his 1960 statement: “Lenin said: ‘The more backward the country, the more difficult its transition to socialism.’ Now it seems that this way of speaking is incorrect. As a matter of fact, the more backward the economy, the easier, not the more difficult, the transition from capitalism to socialism.” What Lenin understood is that to achieve socialism—the lowest stage of classless communist society—scarcity must be eliminated, and this can only be done on the basis of the highest possible level of technology. In turn, this requires the combined efforts of many advanced, industrialized countries on the basis of socialist planning. For Mao the messianic nationalist, this was anathema.

Maoist rule was marked by extreme voluntarism and adventurism. Following the collectivization of agriculture, in 1958 Mao unleashed the “Great Leap Forward”—a utopian effort to catapult China to the status of an industrialized country through mobilizing mass peasant labor. The folly of this scheme was epitomized by the “backyard steel furnaces” built throughout the countryside, which to fulfill their steel-making quotas ended up by melting peasants’ pots and pans. The campaign led to extreme economic dislocations and one of the worst famines in history.

In the aftermath of this “Great Leap” backward, Mao lost leadership of the central bureaucracy to a more pragmatic faction led by Liu Shaoqi (Liu Shao-chi) and Deng Xiaoping. In 1966, Mao fought back by launching the “Cultural Revolution.” In the course of “the lost ten years,” as this period came to be known, universities and factories were shut down and scientists were sent to the countryside to “learn from the peasants.” Student “Red Guards” mobilized to weed out Mao’s enemies, who were branded as “capitalist roaders,” wreaked havoc on workplaces and schools until the PLA under Lin Biao (Piao) was called out to corral the students.

Many radical leftists outside China were taken in by Mao’s claim to be waging a mass struggle against “bureaucracy.” These included the ostensibly “orthodox Trotskyist” International Committee headed by Gerry Healy, whose counterfeit brand of Trotskyism is now carried on by David North’s “Socialist Equality Party.” Healy’s British journal Newsline (21 January 1967) trumpeted that “the best elements led by Mao and Lin Piao have been forced to go outside the framework of the Party and call on the youth and the working class to intervene” in this “anti-bureaucratic” fight. The Cultural Revolution was in fact nothing more that a giant faction fight between the Mao/Lin and Liu/Deng wings of the bureaucracy, neither of which merited the least political support from Trotskyists.

The purged Liu Shaoqi died in prison. But Deng Xiaoping survived to be brought back into the leadership fold in 1973 by Mao and his lieutenant, Premier Zhou Enlai (Chou En-lai). In 1978, two years after Mao’s death and the purge of the rabidly pro-Mao “Gang of Four,” Deng took over the party leadership. His initial program was to introduce “market adjustment” to the centralized economy. Over the next several years, a cascade of measures was enacted, breaking up collectivized agriculture and establishing brutally exploitative “special economic zones” for foreign capitalist investment.

Despite the claims of some leftist academics and organizations which revile Deng and uphold Mao as a revolutionary alternative, Deng was in many ways Mao’s logical successor. The aim of Deng’s market “reforms,” which he dubbed “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” was the same as Mao’s: to turn China not only into a modern nation-state but into a world power. Deng and his followers argued that the “reforms” were necessary to carry out the “four modernizations”—industry, agriculture, science and technology, and military defense. Modernizing China remains a key revolutionary task. But the Stalinists have always been die-hard enemies of the only perspective capable of realizing this task: the extension of socialist revolution to advanced capitalist countries such as Japan, which in the framework of international planning can provide the technical resources necessary to modernize China.

The introduction of market “reforms” under Deng follows a pattern inherent in Stalinist bureaucratic rule. To function effectively, the centrally planned economy which is a prerequisite for socialist development must be administered by a government of democratically elected workers councils. But the Stalinist misrulers are hostile to any expression of workers democracy, substituting arbitrary administrative fiat in its place. Faced with the inevitable imbalances of a bureaucratically administered planned economy, Stalinist regimes are impelled to introduce capitalist market measures: loosening economic planning, forcing plants to produce for the market, encouraging private businesses and foreign capitalist investment. Similar attempts at “market socialism” in Yugoslavia and Hungary in the 1970s and ’80s, as well as former Soviet leader Gorbachev’s perestroika reforms, helped spawn domestic bourgeois forces which, with the full support of the imperialist powers, eventually vanquished the workers states. China’s “socialist market economy” has similarly given rise to a nascent internal bourgeoisie, many of whom act as local agents for foreign capital.

China’s Criminal Alliance with U.S. Imperialism

Linking the regimes of Mao, Deng and current Chinese leader Jiang Zemin is the nationalism inherent in Stalinism. Today the bureaucracy proclaims the advent of China’s “superpower” status and extols “traditional” Chinese values. But Mao’s rule was marked by a similar national messianism. An example of the backward nationalism that defined “Mao thought” was his opposition to birth control. Clearly irrational in a poor country with overwhelming population pressures, this position had everything to do with Mao’s base among the peasantry, for whom the family has traditionally been the basic unit of production.

It was over international questions that the Maoist regime most clearly showed its anti-revolutionary nature. In its early years, the CCP regime was allied with the Soviet Union, undertaking a Soviet-style five-year plan in 1953. But later that decade, Chinese complaints over inadequate Soviet aid in the aftermath of the economic dislocation and irrationality of the “Great Leap Forward” led to a split between the Beijing and Moscow Stalinists. Within a few years, Mao was proclaiming that “Soviet social-imperialism” was an even greater danger than the United States, a position neatly dovetailing the U.S. rulers’ strategic goal of destroying the Soviet degenerated workers state. The Soviet-Chinese border soon became one of the most heavily militarized in the world.

The USSR under Stalin and his successors was certainly no paragon of revolutionary internationalism. Under Khrushchev, the Soviet Union even refused to back China in its border war with capitalist India in 1959. But for all Mao’s ringing denunciations of Soviet “revisionism,” Maoist foreign policy was substantively identical to the policies of the Kremlin. Both flowed from the nationalist precept of “socialism in one country,” which led the Stalinists to seek a modus vivendi with imperialism and to embrace any number of anti-Communist bourgeois-nationalist regimes in the “Third World” in the pursuit of trade and diplomatic deals. This was symbolized by the 1956 Bandung Conference in Indonesia, where the Chinese government signed on to a declaration of “peaceful coexistence” pledging “non-interference” in the affairs of the neocolonial bourgeois states.

The most disastrous fruits of China’s non-aggression pact with the bourgeois nationalists were seen in Indonesia in 1965. The Mao regime instructed the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI)—the largest Communist party in the capitalist world, with three million members and many times that number of supporters—to maintain at all costs a political bloc with the “anti-imperialist” regime of Sukarno, an ally of Beijing. Basing itself on the Stalinist schema of revolution in “stages”—first a revolution limited to (bourgeois) democracy, to be followed only later by a fight for socialism—the PKI adopted a policy of “gotong royong” (“national unity”) with the Indonesian bourgeoisie and its military, even to the point of forcing workers to return factories they had seized to the capitalists.

With the workers politically lulled by the misleadership of Beijing and the PKI, the Indonesian military general staff staged a coup led by General Suharto which ushered in a horrific bloodbath. Accompanied by a communalist slaughter carried out by Islamic fundamentalist mobs against ethnic Chinese, the regime slaughtered at least half a million Communists and their sympathizers. Beijing’s response to this catastrophe was to protest the persecution of Chinese nationals and to “deplore” the breaking of friendly relations between the two governments! Not until 1967 was the anti-Communist massacre even mentioned in any Chinese publication.

With the elimination of the “Communist menace” in this strategic Pacific Rim country, the U.S. imperialists felt emboldened to massively escalate the ground invasion of South Vietnam in their efforts to crush the liberation struggle of North Vietnam and the National Liberation Front (NLF) in the South. At the same time, the consolidation of Indonesia as a bastion of “free world” anti-Communism created the conditions for the later development of a wing of the American ruling class which became “defeatist” as the heroic Vietnamese fighters drove them out of Indochina. Even the “hawk” Richard Nixon titled his memoirs No More Vietnams, a reflection of a viewpoint in the U.S. ruling class that the U.S. could safely withdraw from its losing war without jeopardizing its strategic interests in Southeast Asia.

Another example of the criminal results of Stalinist nationalism was seen in the Vietnam War, when Mao’s China blocked passage to Vietnam for Soviet military aid—itself often inferior to the military hardware the Kremlin doled out to bourgeois “allies” such as Nasser’s Egypt. At the height of the Cultural Revolution, when radical leftists around the world were hailing Mao’s China as a revolutionary alternative to the stodgy Kremlin bureaucrats, the Spartacist League insisted that given the Mao regime’s hostility to the Soviet Union, “the danger of an imperialist alliance with China against the Russians cannot be dismissed” (“Chinese Menshevism,” Spartacist No. 15-16, April-May 1970).

This prediction was borne out with the official rapprochement between the U.S. and China signaled by war criminal Nixon’s visit to China in 1972 while American bombs were raining on Indochina. In counterposition, the Spartacist League advanced the call for “Communist unity against imperialism,” which required political revolution against the governments in Moscow and Beijing. During this period, the Spartacist League was able to win to Trotskyism groupings and individuals who broke with Maoism over China’s betrayals of revolutionary struggles around the world.

China’s backstabbing of the Vietnamese was deepened under Deng. Four years after the North Vietnamese Army and NLF sent the U.S. and its puppet regime packing, China decided to “teach Vietnam a bloody lesson” by invading the country. This heinous action was taken in response to the ouster of the genocidal Chinese ally Pol Pot in Cambodia at the hands of Vietnamese troops. Denouncing Beijing’s treachery, we declared: “China: Don’t Be a Cat’s Paw of U.S. Imperialism!” In the upshot, it was the battle-hardened Vietnamese army which taught Beijing a lesson instead. Shortly after its stinging defeat by Vietnam, China threw its support to the reactionary, woman-hating, U.S.-backed Islamic mujahedin in Afghanistan who fought against the Soviet Red Army following its 1979 intervention.

China’s alliance with the U.S., initiated by Mao and Zhou Enlai, helped set the stage for Deng’s “open door” to imperialist exploitation in the next period. Today, Mao’s heirs don’t even give lip service to the goals of socialism, instead openly offering themselves as compradors (agents) of imperialism. But as much as they trumpet the “success” of their economic “reforms,” these measures have created enormous fissures in the society which threaten to blow up into massive turmoil at any moment. Such an upheaval took place in Tiananmen in 1989, and it nearly spelled the end of the rule of the brittle Stalinist bureaucratic caste.

The Spectre of Tiananmen

By the late 1980s, the effects of China’s economic “open door” were being felt throughout the society. Popular anger at corruption was seething, as ever more party officials entering the business world took to plundering state resources and conspicuously flaunting their new wealth. While construction boomed in the “Special Economic Zones” in the southeastern coastal region, the urban population all over China was reeling under high inflation—a shocking new phenomenon in the People’s Republic. The official inflation rate in 1988 was 19 percent, which while understated for city residents was still triple the rate of the year before. At the same time, wages in state industries rose only about 1 percent that year. With workers’ incomes and job security declining, labor actions rose sharply in the years leading up to 1989. In the countryside, grain production was falling, causing food shortages in the cities, while peasant incomes were also stagnating. This helped spur the flight of tens of millions of peasant laborers into the cities.

The social tensions generated by market “reforms” erupted in the spring of 1989 when Beijing’s working people threw their weight behind student protesters in Tiananmen Square, provoking a near-fatal crisis for the Stalinist rulers. The largest public square in the world, Tiananmen is the political center of China. Mao’s mausoleum is on its southern side; the Great Hall of the People, a mammoth government meeting place, is on the western end; in the middle is a monument to the heroes of the Chinese Revolution. A few hundred yards away lies the Zhongnanhai compound, the headquarters of the CCP.

It was in Tiananmen that Mao proclaimed the People’s Republic in 1949. Ever since then, it has been the favored site of official celebrations, rallies and military parades. But it has also on occasion seen massive protest demonstrations. And from mid-April until 4 June 1989, the square was occupied by tens of thousands of students and working people in defiance of the hated Deng regime.

A recent documentary by Carmela Hinton, titled “The Gate of Heavenly Peace,” provides a useful picture of the Tiananmen events. The film includes a brief history of previous demonstrations there, the most significant of which was the 5 April 1976 outpouring of Beijing residents to place wreaths honoring deceased premier Zhou Enlai. Coming at the tail end of the Cultural Revolution, what began as a memorial to Zhou developed into a mass protest against the Gang of Four until it was violently dispersed. In all likelihood, the protests were the work of Deng and his faction, as they fought out a crisis of succession to the ailing Mao. At the same time, the masses who flocked to the square were expressing their desire for an end to the destructive chaos of the grossly misnamed Cultural Revolution.

The 1989 events developed in a qualitatively different direction, even though the occupation of Tiananmen also began with a memorial gathering, this time for former CCP secretary-general Hu Yaobang, who had died on April 15. Hu had been widely respected for the simple fact that he was one of the few leading officials not personally tainted with corruption. Although a protégé of Deng, Hu was forced into resigning his post following student protests in 1986-87 which began to involve workers in Shanghai, China’s largest city and commercial center.

The 1989 Tiananmen events began when students from the Department of Party History at People’s University rode their bicycles in the middle of the night to lay wreaths for Hu at the Monument to the Heroes of the Revolution, the exact spot where Beijing residents had honored Zhou Enlai 13 years earlier. The next day, students from campuses throughout the city joined a march to the square, singing the revolutionary workers’ anthem, the “Internationale.” What followed was a sit-in outside the Great Hall of the People, as students attempted to pressure the National People’s Congress, China’s putative national assembly, to accept a petition. As the offspring of relatively privileged families, including those of top bureaucrats, the students felt they had a certain birthright to raise their demands against corruption and for more student rights. They also called for an official explanation for Hu’s dismissal as party chief two years earlier.

Soon, up to 10,000 people flocked to Tiananmen, including workers and unemployed. By the time of Hu’s funeral on April 22, protests had broken out in provincial centers such as Xi’an in Shaanxi province and Changsha, the capital of Hunan province. Two days after the funeral, students from 21 universities in Beijing called an official strike. Teams of youth took their demands to working-class neighborhoods, repeatedly stressing that they did “not oppose the government or the party.” The regime responded with a threatening editorial in the 26 April People’s Daily denouncing the actions as a “conspiracy” to destroy the socialist system. Still the demonstrations continued to swell and to spread throughout China.

On May 4, 300,000 people flocked to Tiananmen on the 70th anniversary of the “May 4th Movement”—the movement, originating in anti-imperialist student demonstrations, out of which the Chinese Communist Party was born. Following the massive 4 May 1989 protest, student leaders decided to launch a hunger strike to force concessions from the government. Sympathy with the hunger-strikers led to another huge demonstration on May 17, marked by the massive participation of factory workers from around Beijing.

At this point, the regime’s hand was forced, and on May 20 martial law was proclaimed. This marked a decisive turning point. For one month, the Stalinist rulers had allowed a massive display of defiance to unfold before their own eyes. But with working people entering the protests en masse, Deng and his cohorts realized that unless they put down the rebellion, their days were numbered. As we wrote at the time, “It was the beginnings of a working-class revolt against Deng’s program of ‘building socialism with capitalist methods’ which gave the protests their mass and potentially revolutionary nature” (Workers Vanguard No. 480, 23 June 1989).

Subsequent accounts have fully borne out this assessment. When the protests first took place, only small numbers of curious workers dared to venture into the giant plaza. Every account of the workers’ role in the early protests reports that the petty-bourgeois students looked down on them as “uncultured” potential troublemakers. Workers were kept to the western edge of the square, rebuffed by student marshals if they tried to get too close to the center of the action. But as the protests continued and their numbers began to swell, the workers began to effectively organize, raising their own demands and providing the demonstrations with some social power.

Workers’ concerns centered on the galloping inflation rate and the rampant corruption of the “Communist” officialdom. A special target of hatred were the children of Zhao Ziyang (Hu’s replacement as party chief), Deng and other leaders, who were growing fabulously rich from their family connections. James Miles recalls: “One song particularly relished by the demonstrators was one that began with the words ‘Dadao guandao [down with profiteering officials], dadao guandao, fan fubai [oppose corruption], fan fubai,’ sung to the tune of the nursery rhyme Frère Jacques.”

Leaflets issued on April 20 by a group which came to be known as the Beijing Workers Autonomous Federation (BWAF) demanded a wage increase and price stabilization and called to “make public the personal incomes and possessions of top party officials.” A flyer titled “Ten Polite Questions for the CCP” asked: “Mr. and Mrs. Zhao Ziyang play golf every week. Who pays the green fees, and other expenses?... How many residences and retreats do top party officials have spread around the country?” It pointedly concluded: “Would the party be so kind as to explain the meaning and implication of the following terms: i) Party, ii) Revolution, and iii) Reactionary” (quoted in Mok Chiu Yu and J. Frank Harrison, Voices from Tiananmen Square—Beijing Spring and the Democracy Movement [Black Rose Books, 1990]).

The BWAF’s leaders were workers from medium or large-scale state enterprises. Seeing itself as an independent labor organization, the BWAF actually functioned in a broader way. Subdivided into departments for logistics, propaganda and organization, it kept a printing press at a secret location and set up a broadcasting station at the western edge of Tiananmen. This became an ongoing “democratic forum”: every night statements from listeners were aired along with pilfered neibu (internal) government documents—a big hit among the station’s audience. Similar groups soon sprang up elsewhere in Beijing and around the country.

A “workers picket corps” was set up to protect the student demonstrators. “Dare to die” teams—one of them named the “Black Panthers”—were organized to intervene against police arrest of protesters; occasionally the workers won the release of those arrested. One example of the dozens of workers groups which began to spring up was the “Flying Tiger Corps,” composed of hundreds of motorcycle owners. The morning after martial law was proclaimed, the “Flying Tigers” roared through the gates of the huge Capital Iron and Steel Works, distributing leaflets and calling for the workers to strike. As described by Andrew Walder in “Popular Protest in the 1989 Democracy Movement—The Pattern of Grass-Roots Organization” (1992):

“After the declaration of martial law in Beijing, these groups became more numerous...and mobile, shuttling around the city to confront advancing troops or reinforce barricades at intersections. In Beijing, in addition, the resistance to martial law troops was enforced throughout the city by unnamed neighborhood-level organizations.... If soldiers or military vehicles were spotted, the watches would sound the alarm (usually by banging pots and pans from the rooftops) and residents would pour out of their homes to their stations at the barricades.”

For two full weeks, the Stalinist regime was unable to enforce martial law. The first major PLA unit called in to the city, the 38th Army, refused to move against the protesters. In his book, The Deng Xiaoping Era—An Inquiry into the Fate of Chinese Socialism, 1978-1994 (Hill and Wang, 1996) Maurice Meisner describes the resistance within the military brass to the regime’s call to suppress the demonstrations:

“On May 21 seven prestigious retired PLA leaders, including former Minister of Defense Zhang Aiping and Navy commander Ye Fei, wrote an open letter to Deng Xiaoping, addressing Deng in his capacity as Chairman of the Party’s Central Military Commission. ‘The People’s Army belongs to the people,’ they reminded China’s paramount leader. ‘It cannot stand in opposition to the people, much less oppress the people, and it absolutely cannot open fire on the people and create a blood-shedding incident’.... When it was read over the loudspeakers in Tiananmen Square on May 22, it brought forth tearful cheers from the youthful demonstrators.”

Activists spoke with PLA units in the streets about the responsibilities of being in a “people’s army” and invited them to join in revolutionary songs. On May 24, most troops were ordered to withdraw from the city.

By this time, the central government was ceasing to exist. Ministries stopped working and no official pronouncements were made. Even police were reportedly joining the protests. The events in Beijing bore resemblances to the Hungarian workers revolt in November 1956, where demonstrators successfully stopped the first wave of Soviet troops sent to crush them. Workers assemblies proliferated, not only in Beijing but around the country, embryonic formations that could have developed into workers councils such as appeared in Hungary in 1956, as well as in Russia in 1917, where they formed the basis for the proletarian state after the Bolshevik seizure of power.

But the Chinese workers were not able to elevate this exceptional situation to a political struggle to oust the bureaucratic tyrants and seize power in their own name. While workers and youth showed great resourcefulness and heroism, their demands remained partial and inchoate. This points to the need for the intervention of a revolutionary party that would unite all sectors of the working population, youth and women under the leadership of the proletariat mobilized as a conscious revolutionary force and contender for power. In both Hungary in 1956 and China in 1989, the key factor was the absence of a revolutionary leadership such as that provided by Lenin and Trotsky’s Bolshevik Party in Russia in 1917.

Uprisings Follow Beijing Bloodbath

By early June, the regime was able to regroup. It called in new military forces, in particular the 27th Army. At dusk on June 3, some 40,000 troops, complete with armored vehicles, moved into the city and unleashed a bloodbath against people massed in the streets against them. It is reported that when the troops reached Tiananmen in the early morning of June 4, their first target was the workers’ station at the western end. One student leader saw tanks flatten the tents of the BWAF, killing 20 people. In contrast to the war waged against the working people of the city, the students remaining in Tiananmen were allowed to leave largely without punitive actions being taken. Their numbers had dwindled by then to some 5,000. Most Beijing university students had left the square as the hunger strike wore down, replaced by youth from the provinces.

The exact toll of the June 3-4 massacre is impossible to determine, but it is likely that several thousand were killed or wounded. Yet the army’s terror failed to quell the rebellion. In fact, it served to generalize proletarian resistance, as “dare to die” corps erupted everywhere in China. One example was Shanghai’s “Wild Geese Dare-to-Die Corps,” described by Andrew Walder as “an organization comprised of workers who, after hearing news of the events in Beijing, came together to erect barricades, stop traffic, man checkpoints at intersections, and shout slogans in protest of the massacre.” Citizens’ groups controlled the streets of Shanghai and Xi’an for as much as a week after June 4. “People’s Brigades” in Tianjin marched through the streets calling for a general strike, chanting, “Repay the blood debt,” and “Overthrow, overthrow, overthrow all, ’til not a one is left, the more chaos the better.”

Some weeks afterward, authorities staged an exhibition on the protests at the Military History Museum in Beijing. In the courtyard was a collection of burned-out military vehicles. Inside was a map showing the cities where protests had taken place: over 80 were marked, and that was only the official count. The plebeian outpouring drew in unemployed and temporary workers from the countryside, adding a raucous flavor to the protests. One particularly unruly dare-to-die corps, in the northeast city of Harbin, chanted, “Overthrow the government,” “General strike” and “We want to drink beer”! On some occasions, the lack of clear leadership allowed overtly reactionary elements to make their voices heard, including some who raised slogans in favor of the Guomindang.

Even a tiny Chinese Bolshevik organization could have grown to play a decisive role in 1989. The nascent situation of dual power—where working people were beginning to take control of the cities in their own hands—needed to be developed into a fight for political power. This would have meant, among other things, struggling to transform the informal workers assemblies into workers councils open to all except openly counterrevolutionary tendencies, and spreading this type of organization into rural communities and especially the armed forces—forging real links with the soldiers and officers who did not want to fire on their own people. Coordinated nationally, these organizations could have been the basis for a revolutionary regime of workers democracy counterposed to the Stalinists and pledged to fight to the death against capitalist restoration.

The regime’s justification for smashing the protests is that they were an expression of “counterrevolutionary” turmoil. But the protests were anything but that. To be sure, there was a wide range of political and social appetites expressed by the student demonstrators. Socialist aspirations were often mixed with great illusions in the U.S. and bourgeois democracy in general. Occasionally, speakers in Tiananmen would compare the movement to Polish Solidarność, which after its origins as an “independent” trade union rapidly evolved into a counterrevolutionary formation, playing a leading role in the restoration of capitalist rule there in 1988. But from the beginning, the protesters’ demands, centrally for more democratic rights and an end to corruption, were egalitarian in nature. Workers marched into Tiananmen Square carrying pictures of Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, not Chiang Kai-shek.

This held true even when popular hatred for the government reached its peak following the Beijing massacre. For example, the “Red Clan,” a group which sprang up in Xinjiang Auto Assembly Plant No. 3 in China’s far west when news of the killings came out, proclaimed in its flyers that “the ten years of reform have been ten years of corruption, ten years of hardship for the people.” These hardships were particularly acutely felt in China’s interior, far removed from the booming coastal areas. Clearly, the Xinjiang auto workers were not applauding the opening of China to capitalist exploitation.

It is the continued rule of the parasitic, money-grubbing Stalinist butchers which ensures that the forces wishing to foment truly counterrevolutionary turmoil will continue to gather strength. As China now approaches what could be the terminal crisis for this deformed workers state, the necessary condition for victory for the workers and peasants is the forging of a revolutionary, egalitarian-communist party with a program to defend and extend the gains of the 1949 Revolution by sweeping away the bureaucratic excrescence which has provided an “open door” to a future of misery for China’s toilers.

China and the Terminal Crisis of Stalinism

As soon as the Deng/Li Peng government regained the upper hand, it unleashed a vicious witchhunt centrally directed against the working class. While student demonstrators felt little of the repression, dozens of workers around the country were executed for “hooliganism” and other concocted “crimes.” While the regime aimed through its terror to send a signal to the rest of the working class, the repression brought only a shallow “stability.” One indication of this came when workers in state industries in the Beijing area were told to fill out forms indicating their role in the protests. Fifty thousand workers actually admitted to participating. One can only imagine the real number.

Within a few months, events in East Europe broke out which would again shake the Chinese Stalinists. Protests in the East German (DDR) deformed workers state led to the tumbling of the Berlin Wall in November, touching off an incipient political revolution. The East German proletariat took to the streets with demands for genuine socialist democracy, not the hypocrisy and repression of the Honecker regime. The ICL undertook the largest mobilization in our history in a political struggle with the abdicating Stalinist regime over the future of the DDR. Our growing political impact in fighting for a proletarian political revolution in East Germany, the revolutionary unification of a “red Germany of workers councils in a socialist United States of Europe,” was seen in the mass mobilization of a quarter of a million workers in Berlin in a pro-Soviet anti-fascist demonstration initiated by the ICL at the Treptow monument on 3 January 1990. Immediately following this mobilization, the West German capitalists, with the German Social Democrats as their “Trojan horse of counterrevolution,” and the East German Stalinists as willing salesmen of the workers state, accelerated a counterrevolutionary stampede—Anschluss. (For a full analysis, see English-language Spartacist No. 45-46, Winter 1990-91.) The ensuing capitalist reunification of Germany marked the period of the terminal crisis of Stalinist rule in East Europe, culminating in the victory of capitalist-restorationist forces in the Soviet Union in 1991-92.

This was a devastating defeat for the workers and oppressed of the entire world, bringing the horrors of mass poverty, nationalist bloodletting and untold other miseries to the peoples of East Europe and the former USSR, as well as sharpened interimperialist rivalries over who would come out on top in the post-Soviet world. For all of the CCP’s anti-Soviet nationalism, the Beijing rulers realized that they would now face enormously increased pressure from the U.S., Japan and other capitalist powers. Over the next few months, factional fissures appeared in the party leadership, with those around propaganda chief Deng Liqun (known as “Little Deng”) sounding the alarm against “bourgeois liberalization” and the threat of “peaceful evolution,” by which they meant the restoration of capitalism through continuing economic reforms. But “Big Deng” (Xiaoping) won out by pushing the idea that China could avoid the fate of the Soviet Stalinists by plunging even deeper into the free-market sea. He argued that only in this way could they alleviate the poverty of the Chinese people, which he put forward as the real threat to “stability.”

The 14th party congress in October 1992 formally enshrined the “socialist market economy.” A new constitution adopted by the congress did away with the old pro forma rhetoric of “proletarian internationalism” and even dropped the sentence stating that “the socialist system is incomparably superior to the capitalist system.” In the aftermath, pro-capitalist “reforms” were greatly accelerated. The SEZ “free trade” zones have since expanded throughout China, including the Yangtze River delta, China’s richest area.

While foreign investment in China continues to mount, the fastest-growing sector of the economy is the “township/ village enterprises.” While these “collectives” are ostensibly public property, their lines of ownership are in fact cloudy. Producing for the market, these businesses, which range from mines to light-production factories, are extremely exploitative. The death rates in China’s coal mines—some 10,000 per year—can be laid at the door of the “collective” mines, which are virtually unsupervised by any state authority. These enterprises are spawning a growing domestic bourgeois class, often linked with foreign investors and military officers.

State officials have leaped en masse into China’s freewheeling business world as private businessmen, “collective” entrepreneurs and agents for foreign investors. By early 1993, about one-third of all government functionaries had second jobs, often as consultants or in public relations, where their connections in the bureaucracy gave them access to profitable inside information. No one joins the CCP anymore unless it is to advance a career in business. And nowhere is this more evident than in Shanghai, the home base of Jiang Zemin. As a leader of the Shanghai CCP organization department in charge of recruitment recently put it, “Our primary concern is money-making ability.” The current regime dreams of making Shanghai a new Hong Kong, slating the massive Pudong district across the Huangpu River from central Shanghai for capitalist development.

Corruption is rampant among the police, from pocketing “toll” collections on roads to putting police uniforms on sale in streetside markets. Anything goes to make money in this sordid atmosphere. A few years ago, the All-China Women’s Federation, an arm of the bureaucracy which supposedly fights sexual discrimination, was found to have imported Russian prostitutes to work a hotel in Guangzhou (Canton) it jointly owned with a group of Hong Kong financiers!

A key factor behind the counterrevolutionary destruction of the USSR was the development of a generation of privileged, educated offspring of the bureaucracy who increasingly identified with the capitalist West, hoping to secure a life of riches for themselves. These were a good part of the Soviet “yuppies” who flocked behind Boris Yeltsin. A similar phenomenon has taken place in China with the rise of the taizidang (“princes’ party”): officials and relatives of top bureaucrats who have no attachment to even the distorted egalitarianism of the earlier People’s Republic.

As Leon Trotsky noted about Stalin’s USSR: “That which was a ‘bureaucratic deformation’ is at the present moment preparing to devour the workers’ state, without leaving any remains, and on the ruins of nationalized property to spawn a new propertied class” (“Not a Workers’ and Not a Bourgeois State?”, November 1937). In China today, one of the biggest business operators is the PLA, the very core of the state. At first, the military was encouraged to start up businesses to supplement its budget. Now the PLA owns over 20,000 enterprises, ranging from the Palace Hotel in Beijing, one of the country’s most luxurious, to bicycle and refrigerator factories. Its biggest venture is the Poly Group conglomerate, whose main business is arms exports, including airplanes, Silkworm missiles and more conventional weapons taken from army stockpiles.

Among the military brass who staff the PLA Armaments Department, which runs Poly Group, are the sons-in-law of Deng Xiaoping, Zhao Ziyang and former president Yang Shangkun. In 1993, China’s two highest-ranking military officials warned that efforts to strengthen the army were threatened by “decadent capitalist ideology and lifestyles.” Also tearing at the bureaucratic apparatus is the emergence of economic “warlords” who have developed strong regional power bases and are increasingly independent of the central state authority. Often tied financially to foreign investors, they work in league with local military and police officials whom they handsomely pay off.

Aggravating this threat to the national unification of China—an achievement that was finally secured by the 1949 Revolution—is the structure of the PLA, whose component armies are regionally based. A power struggle in Beijing could easily escalate into a civil war among PLA units fought on a regional basis. Capitalist counterrevolution would bring not only economic collapse and immiseration but the danger of a return to warlordism and bloody political chaos.

China, a relatively ethnically homogeneous state with a minority population of only 8 percent, does not face the same kind of threat of nationalist separatist movements which helped destroy the multinational Soviet and Yugoslav workers states. At the same time, the territories inhabited by the Tibetans, Mongolians and Muslim peoples of Xinjiang province are huge and have military significance. While China’s minorities have made great strides in literacy, health and other areas since 1949, they have suffered discrimination at the hands of the Han-chauvinist bureaucracy.

Stalinist national chauvinism has helped open a door for reactionary separatist forces backed by the U.S. and other imperialist powers. For decades, the imperialists have used the demand for independence for Tibet as a battering ram against the Chinese deformed workers state. More recently, in the protests which occurred shortly before Deng’s death among the aggrieved Turkic-speaking Muslims in Xinjiang province, there were indications of involvement by reactionary Muslim separatists based in neighboring Kazakhstan, formerly a Soviet Central Asian republic. A Trotskyist party in China would seek to mobilize the proletariat to defend the rights of national minorities against Han chauvinism. While opposing imperialist-sponsored “independence” movements, we defend the right of independence for a Tibetan soviet republic.

Hong Kong: British Colonialists Out, Capitalism Remains

As much as the taizidang may dream of transforming themselves from social parasites into a capitalist ruling class, the ones who stand to come out on top if counterrevolution succeeds are the overseas Chinese businessmen who have been pumping billions in investment into China. Unlike the 1917 October Revolution, which destroyed the Russian bourgeoisie as a class, the Chinese Revolution essentially chased the Guomindang out of the country to Taiwan, Hong Kong and elsewhere, allowing this bourgeois class to retain cohesion. Today, it is making its comeback through investments. China’s first SEZ “free trade” zone was located in Shenzhen, a farming village next door to Hong Kong which grew into a city of 2 million in just ten years. The vast bulk of investment came from Hong Kong capitalists who built shoe, textile and toy factories exploiting workers at wages far lower than across the border. In recent years, as the SEZs have spread, investment has poured in from Taiwan, Singapore and elsewhere.

For centuries, Chinese merchants played a major role in Southeast Asian commerce, earning the name “the Jews of Asia.” With the last few decades of economic growth in the region, Chinese capital has displaced Japanese as the main source of investment in Asia. The extended families at the center of this phenomenon include some of the richest in the world. With their wealth, kinship links inside China and solid ties with the world’s bankers and top political figures, they form a capitalist ruling class in reserve. One example of these families is the Riady clan of Indonesia, whose financial support to American president Clinton has provoked a nasty bout of “Yellow Peril” racism in the U.S.

The strong pull that this class already exerts on the mainland can be seen in Hong Kong, where 60 percent of foreign investment in China originates. Already, Hong Kong is virtually completely integrated with the neighboring mainland province of Guangdong, with which it shares a common cultural heritage and language (Cantonese). Much of the Pearl River delta has become a huge “free trade” factory belt, with more farmland being handed over to capitalist developers every year. Guangdong officials increasingly answer to the Hong Kong moneymen, not to Beijing. As an old Cantonese saying goes: “The mountains are high, and the emperor is far away.” Hong Kong has also served as the avenue for the enrichment of many mainland government and military officials through their positions in trading companies and dummy corporations which they set up to route money back into China for investment in joint ventures and other capitalist enterprises.

The imminent reversion of Hong Kong to Chinese rule has led to an immensely cynical outpouring of “human rights” verbiage by the former British colonial rulers and the Western media. Ever since seizing the island in 1841 during the first Opium War against China’s decrepit Qing Dynasty, the British ran the colony as a virtual police state, brutally oppressing their Chinese subjects. Hong Kong became a haven for both British and Chinese drug smugglers, Chinese warlords and, later, Guomindang crooks fleeing the mainland in 1947-49. But when Mao Zedong’s guerrilla army approached Hong Kong at the close of the civil war, Mao called off the advance as he searched, in the face of U.S. hostility, for allies among other imperialist powers. Today, the glitz of Hong Kong’s economic “miracle” hides one of the world’s greatest gaps between the rich and poor. Some 10,000 hideously exploited workers and elderly people live in steel cages stacked in twos or threes. In February 1996, 24 homeless people died on one night during a rare cold snap.

The wispy veneer of democratic liberties in Hong Kong, which the imperialists scream are about to be trampled on by China, were only granted after the 1984 agreement on the return of the colony to China. In response to the imperialist outcry over “human rights,” Beijing pointed out that its projected laws for Hong Kong are actually based on Britain’s own colonial-era legislation! This fact alone speaks volumes about the aims of the Chinese Stalinist regime. Beijing has pledged in advance not to lay a finger on Hong Kong’s capitalist magnates, a policy symbolized by the appointment of shipping tycoon Tung Chee-hwa to run Hong Kong for the central government. In return, following the July 1 takeover the nationalist bureaucracy will gain control of the largest container port in the world as well as the world’s largest foreign reserve holdings.

The overwhelming concern of the brittle Stalinist bureaucratic caste is to maintain stability, and to do this it is implementing its own battery of police-state laws enforced by local police and some 10,000 PLA troops to be stationed in Hong Kong. The point of Beijing’s “One China, two systems” policy is not so much Hong Kong as it is Taiwan. By defending capitalist property in Hong Kong, the Stalinists hope to show the Guomindang bourgeoisie—whose forces massacred thousands of Taiwanese in 1947 to solidify its brutal rule over the island—that their property rights will be reliably protected in the event of reunification with the mainland.

Trotskyists can only cheer as the rotted British Empire loses its last major colonial holding with the lowering of the bloody Union Jack and the raising of the five-starred red flag of the People’s Republic on July 1. But as the Spartacist League/Britain wrote in “Britain Out of Hong Kong!” (Workers Hammer No. 109, September 1989), we are for “One country, one system—under workers rule!” We look to the early period of Chinese Communism, before the liquidationist line of Stalin’s Comintern led to the beheading of the 1925-27 Revolution. In 1922, the CCP led a strike of 10,000 Hong Kong seamen. Three years later, the Communist-led Canton-Hong Kong Strike Committee carried out a 16-month strike following the murder by British troops of anti-imperialist protesters in Shanghai. Those communists fought to liberate Hong Kong and the rest of China through mobilizing the working class at the head of the battle for national liberation. Today’s Stalinist “Communist” regime eagerly prostitutes itself to Hong Kong’s capitalist masters, seeking only to reserve a privileged position for CCP bureaucrats as the Chinese bourgeoisie moves to recoup in China what it lost in 1949.

Market Chaos

In reviewing Deng’s “reforms,” James Miles observed:

“Compared with the seemingly disastrous rush toward free market capitalism under way in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, China appeared to have found the right formula.... But China’s economic revolution had its price. Although few observers paid much attention in 1992, it was apparent that China’s explosive economic growth was also expanding the ranks of the disappointed and disillusioned, particularly among peasants and workers in state enterprises whose voices are rarely heard.”

China’s rulers are well aware of the seething discontent at the base of the society. The chief targets of China’s free-marketeers are the network of state industries—still the core of the economy—and the social benefits the workers in these plants have enjoyed. Overseas capitalist interests and “liberals” inside China have been clamoring for the government to cut its subsidies to these industries. Despite some fits and starts in this direction, Beijing still shells out fully 70 percent of its bank loans to keep state enterprises afloat. Why? The answer lies in the dynamic described by Trotsky concerning Stalin’s ruling caste in the Soviet Union: “It continues to preserve state property only to the extent that it fears the proletariat.” Thus, in 1992, a wave of militant labor actions forced the government to abandon its plan to “smash the three irons” of lifelong guaranteed jobs, wages and benefits.

At the same time, central planning—the fundamental economic underpinning of a workers state—has been greatly attenuated. Many state plants have been forced to sell their products directly on the market, while the share of the state sector in the country’s industrial output has fallen to 42 percent last year from 78 percent in 1978. At the same time, while there have been some layoffs in state-owned plants, mass dismissals have been discouraged because the government is legally obliged to find new jobs for those laid off. On the other hand, with credit more tightly restricted, failing state firms are sharply cutting back on benefits like education and health care for workers’ families. And there is not yet any kind of social “safety net” in place for those thrown out of work.

For the first time in “People’s China,” a significant number of city residents, estimated at 15 million, are falling below the official poverty line. The regime’s answer has been to encourage workers to take second jobs or to go into business for themselves, no doubt hoping that this would leave them little spare time to think about politics. But the attacks on workers’ living standards helped spark a rise in strikes and protests over the last six years.

The sources for potential turmoil in China are many and far-flung. The workforce for “collective” enterprises is typically drawn from the huge mass of laborers from the countryside who cannot make a living on the farms. Spawned from the breakup of the rural communes in the early-mid 1980s, this giant “reserve army of labor” was drawn on at first to provide workers for the SEZs. Now it is widely employed throughout China. In the cities they do dangerous construction work and other jobs city residents refuse to perform, while lacking the most basic protections and social benefits. Desperate for housing, the migrant laborers—now known as “Deng’s army”—often live outside city centers in segregated enclaves with others from the same region speaking the same dialect.

By 1994, transients made up as much as 20 percent of Shanghai’s population, while the migrant population in Beijing numbered 3.2 million. The desperate plight of the transients, a major factor behind China’s soaring crime rates, creates social tinder waiting to explode. As a Shanghai newspaper commented in 1993, “If even 1 percent of this enormous mass of people has nothing to live on, there will be social chaos.... If they join forces with the millions of unemployed in the cities, then the consequences will be more unthinkable yet.”

The effects of the dismantling of China’s rural communes have been disastrous for the mass of the peasantry. Home to one-quarter of the world’s population, China contains only about 9 percent of the planet’s arable land. The problems of Chinese agriculture are truly intractable short of the integration of China into an international planned economy, which would provide the machinery, electric power and other ingredients necessary for modern, large-scale farm production. On its own, China could not possibly achieve such a level of technique. But the collectivization of agriculture under Mao at least provided an administrative means to provide the peasantry a livelihood and a basic level of health care and education.

Under Deng, however, the communes were seen as a hindrance to freeing up labor power and encouraging the growth of rural businesses. Farms have now reverted to individually operated plots under the “family responsibility system.” The more successful peasants—or those with the right guanxi (connections)—are encouraged to hire workers and to engage in small private or “collective” businesses. In this way, a rural bourgeoisie is being created, and below it a huge class of poor peasants. Health care and education are now priced beyond the means of most peasants.

Official corruption greatly exacerbates the plight of the peasantry. Local officials are handing over ever-greater chunks of real estate to developers while routinely demanding that peasant households pay bogus taxes or “contributions” for projects that never materialize. A journal reporting on a village in southern China where peasants who couldn’t pay their taxes had their property seized, wrote that residents looked at local officials as “worse than the KMT [Guomindang].” A few years ago, Beijing Daily quoted an older peasant woman in the northeast who denounced the thieving of local bureaucrats, saying, “The peasants really cannot bear it. If officials carry on behaving like this, we will definitely be forced to rebel.” By 1993, the Chinese Academy for Social Sciences reported that “parades, demonstrations, and attacks on local government offices” reached a level unprecedented since the CCP took power.

Among the first to suffer from the Stalinists’ reactionary measures have been the women of China, for whom the 1949 Revolution opened up the possibility of entering social and economic life for the first time. But while the Chinese Revolution made huge inroads in improving the previous slave-like status of women, their social liberation has been circumscribed by China’s poverty and the Stalinist regime’s glorification of the family, in which is rooted the oppression of women.

Today, however, with the reversion to family farming and the spread of corrupt practices everywhere, such prerevolutionary evils as female infanticide and kidnapping of women to be sold as “wives” have re-emerged. In the cities, women workers are often the first to be laid off by cost-cutting managers in state firms who no longer want to pay for maternity benefits. Young women workers predominate in the SEZ plants, where they often slave up to 14 hours a day, with barely a day off per month, for as long as the owners find it profitable. When they lose their jobs, they are thrown out to face a bleak future back on the farms, to toil in the fields without machinery and to slave away in the home, where backward Confucian “family virtues” have made a strong comeback.

At the same time that the regime’s pro-capitalist “reforms” are threatening to wipe out some of the key gains of the 1949 Revolution, they also serve to undercut some of the administrative mechanisms of Stalinist rule. The rural communes, for example, provided not only key services for the peasants, but a framework for party cadres to rein in their charges. One effect of the influx of rural laborers into the cities has been to effectively destroy the system of residency registration which formerly restricted Chinese citizens’ ability to move around the country. And by relieving state industries’ responsibilities in providing basic services to the workers, the regime has also undercut the danwei (work units), a key instrument of bureaucratic control over the workers.

Nationalism and Counterrevolution

One year after the Tiananmen upheaval, Deng Xiaoping, speaking with former Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau, gave vent to the fears plaguing China’s leaders. Deng railed:

“If turmoil erupts again, to the extent that the party is no longer effective and state power is no longer effective, and one faction grabs one part of the army and another faction grabs another part of the army—that would be civil war.... As soon as civil war breaks out, local warlords will spring up everywhere, production will plummet, communications will be severed, and it won’t be a matter of a few million or even tens of millions of refugees—there’d be well over a hundred million people fleeing the country. First to be affected would be Asia—now the most promising part of the world. It would be a global disaster.”

This statement helps explain why the Chinese regime banishes even the mildest dissidents to prison or to the dreaded laogai “labor” camps. Illustrating the bureaucracy’s extreme fear of any type of political expression was its handling of the dispute with Japan over the barren rock outcrop known to the Chinese as the Diaoyu Islands and to the Japanese as the Senkakus. After a group of Japanese rightists laid claim to the islands for Japan, the Chinese government joined with nationalists in Hong Kong and Taiwan in stoking the fires of chauvinist demagogy. But when students in Beijing began to protest the seizure, the Chinese leaders clammed up, posted 100 additional policemen outside the Japanese embassy and forbade any protest demonstrations. As an intellectual told the New York Times (19 September 1996), “The Government is afraid that if they let the students demonstrate against the Japanese, there might be two unemployed workers among the 10,000 demonstrators who would shout ‘Food!’ and ‘We have to live!’ and then the demonstration could be totally transformed.”

The regime in Beijing is so fragile that it can’t allow demonstrations even when they are in agreement with state policy! In its attempts to ward off social unrest, the Jiang Zemin government has in recent years consciously fostered the most rabid nationalist sentiments, preaching that the market economy will propel China to superpower status. A communiqué issuing from a CCP plenum in October announced a “spiritual civilization” campaign aiming to promote patriotism “in a penetrating and sustained manner” and encourage “family virtues” and other aspects of “traditional” Chinese culture.

The dispute over the Diaoyu Islands is indicative of the counterrevolutionary role played by nationalism in the deformed workers states. The stunt pulled by the Japanese revanchists on the rocks, which are unpopulated and have no military significance, in no way posed a threat to China. From a Marxist standpoint, it certainly did not pose the question of military defense of the Chinese deformed workers state. After Beijing put the boot on open protests, the issue was seized upon by rightists in Hong Kong and Taiwan, who dispatched boats flying the flags of both Taiwan and the People’s Republic. Mass demonstrations took place in Taipei and Hong Kong, some of them exhibiting virulent anti-Japanese racism. The right-wing nationalists thus became the champions of anti-Japanese sentiment which was running very high on the mainland on the 65th anniversary of the brutal Japanese occupation of Manchuria.

Having tossed away even the fig leaf of “socialist” demagogy, the Stalinist bureaucracy sees in reactionary Confucian “traditions” and national chauvinism the means to create some ideological glue to help keep the populace in line. As an ideology emanating from capitalism’s emergence from feudal society, nationalism is a false consciousness for the Chinese proletariat. It is, however, the proper ideology of the Hong Kong capitalists and nascent mainland Chinese bourgeoisie. Nationalism was a major political force in the counterrevolutionary wave that swept over the former USSR and East Europe—both the nationalism of the minority peoples, fostered for decades by the U.S. State Department and CIA, and the chauvinism of the ruling caste, which helped spin off elements who looked to capitalist rule as the road to great-power status. Those among the Communist Party of the Soviet Union who claimed to stand for maintaining “socialism” soon found themselves in a “red-brown” bloc with outright fascists. Nationalism is already playing a similar role in China. Thus, in the name of forging a “greater China,” the bureaucracy is inviting the Chinese bourgeoisie back into the country they were tossed out of in 1949.

Both the nationalist bureaucracy in Beijing and many imperialist spokesmen predict that China will become the world’s next superpower by continuing to develop a market economy and keeping an iron heel over the working people. But this is a pipedream. China is certainly no longer the weak, divided country it was before the revolution, when U.S., French, Japanese and other imperialist powers carved out their own “concessions” on its territory. Yet China is still faced with the legacy of centuries of backwardness, particularly in regard to the agrarian question. Today, despite the huge growth of its urban areas, China remains bogged down by a very backward, impoverished hinterland, where according to World Bank estimates about 350 million people—one-fourth of the country’s population—subsist on less than US$1 per day.

A capitalist China would be an arena for intense imperialist rivalry. It was over the “right” to exploit China that the Pacific War between the U.S. and Japan was fought from 1941-45. Today, the two Pacific powers again have their sights set on the untrammeled exploitation of China’s huge proletariat as well as on resource-rich Siberia, reopened to imperialist plunder as a result of the destruction of the Soviet Union. The U.S. remains the dominant military power, with 100,000 troops stationed in Asia, about one-third of them in South Korea. But Japan has become steadily more assertive. At a New Year’s news conference in Tokyo this January, Japanese prime minister Ryutaro Hashimoto warned that the days when Japan could “act, taking peace and prosperity for granted in the international community under the United States wing, have already passed” (International Herald Tribune, 8 January).

A proletarian political revolution in China would immediately face virulently hostile imperialist reaction. It would also send shock waves around the world and decisively encourage the international proletariat which has been politically and economically thrown back by the bourgeois onslaught and triumphalism over the so-called “death of communism” since the 1991 capitalist counterrevolution in the former Soviet Union. A proletarian political revolution in China would also find a crucial source of support in the class struggles of the proletariat of East and Southeast Asia. The demonstrations and strikes which broke out in Indonesia last year against the despised, corrupt Suharto dictatorship pitted militant workers against some of the same capitalist interests who are sinking money into China looking to exploit the workers there. Throughout much of Southeast Asia, capital investment has created a young proletariat with the potential, under a revolutionary leadership, to topple the brutally exploitative capitalist regimes in the region.

What happens in China in the near future will have a huge impact on the Korean Peninsula. The nationwide strikes by militant independent unions which rocked South Korea earlier this year showed the enormous potential of the South Korean proletariat to struggle against its capitalist exploiters. Meanwhile, the dissipated, very deformed workers state of North Korea is on its last legs as the population reels under a severe famine. Yet the criminally venal bureaucracy in Beijing refuses to give desperately necessary food aid to its erstwhile North Korean ally, out of deference to its South Korean business partners. A revolutionary workers and peasants government in China would fight, as we do, for the revolutionary reunification of Korea and mobilize whatever resources it could to relieve the famine across its northeast border, while giving political and material aid to the South Korean workers in their struggle to overthrow the vicious exploiters who seek the unconditional surrender of the North in a reunified capitalist Korea.

For a Leninist-Trotskyist Party!

China is fast approaching a crossroads. Those militants who want to fight the threat of capitalist re-enslavement will have to learn that what they know of communism is at best grotesquely distorted. Since the defeat of the 1925-27 Revolution, communism has either been identified with Mao’s utopian peasant-nationalism or seen as only a cynical appellation for those seeking to use their bureaucratic connections to become exploiters of the working people. The counterrevolutionary destruction of the USSR and the deformed workers states of East Europe completely verified the prognosis laid out by Leon Trotsky in analyzing the degeneration of the Russian Revolution under Stalinism: either the workers would sweep out the parasitic bureaucracy, or the bureaucracy would prepare the ground for the restoration of capitalism. The decisive question is one of revolutionary leadership. A genuine Leninist party must also serve as the collective memory of the working class. Thus the ICL struggles to bring the authentic program of Leninism to the Chinese proletariat, including the suppressed history of the Chinese Trotskyists (see article page 21 this issue).

When a situation of political revolution began to develop in East Germany in November 1989, the ICL threw all the resources it could muster into intervening with a program calling to “stop capitalist reunification” and for “a red Germany of workers councils in a socialist United States of Europe.” In Russia, following Yeltsin’s countercoup against the “Gang of Eight” Stalinist has-beens, the ICL immediately issued a leaflet widely distributed in Moscow calling for workers action to “stop Yeltsin’s counterrevolution!” But although the time had come for the Soviet proletariat to act, the workers, cynical, dejected and atomized after decades of Stalinist lies, did not move. The consciousness of the proletariat which had made the October Revolution had long since been deformed by Stalin’s retrograde nationalism (often masked as Soviet “patriotism,” particularly in World War II, when Stalin used “defense of the fatherland” as the ideology for mobilizing the population to smash Hitler’s Third Reich). The lie and pretext of building “socialism in one country” to justify a counterrevolutionary foreign policy of selling out revolutions internationally to appease imperialism was the antithesis of the revolutionary internationalist program of Lenin and Trotsky’s Bolshevik Party.

From Germany to Russia, the Stalinists became the brokers for the sellout of those countries to imperialism. The collapse of the Stalinist-ruled workers states marked an enormous defeat for the world’s working people and oppressed, ushering in a period of bourgeois triumphalism over the supposed “death of communism.” But while the consciousness of the working people has been set back by this defeat, we Trotskyists say that it is Stalinism that has proven its complete bankruptcy. Communism continues to live in the class struggles of the working people, and in the political program of the ICL as the party of revolutionary Marxists who fight for new October Revolutions.

The counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union has greatly encouraged those who would return China to the days of capitalist slavery and imperialist subjugation. But there is also evidence pointing to tumultuous social struggle in the near future against immiseration and free-market exploitation. What direction will these struggles take? For the working class to seize political power—to build a China of workers, soldiers and peasants councils—requires the leadership of a Leninist-Trotskyist party which acts as the champion of all those under attack by the rush to a free-market economy. Such a party would undertake special measures to organize the superexploited migrant workers, who form a potentially powerful link between the urban working class and China’s vast peasant interior. It would advance the cause of the rights of women, from defending their jobs to ruthlessly fighting the re-enslavement of women to bride-procurers and household tyrants.

To forge an internationalist, egalitarian-communist party requires a political struggle against not only the Stalinist misrulers but also those who would lead the workers into the camp of “democratic” counterrevolution. Some Tiananmen-era dissidents have been engaged in efforts to organize trade unions opposed to the regime’s corporatist All-China Federation of Trade Unions, particularly in the capitalist SEZs. Such activists can be quite heroic, battling for workers’ rights against both the bosses and Chinese police forces. However, as Marxists, we warn against those, like Han Dongfang, who are tied to the pro-capitalist labor bureaucracy in Hong Kong and to the American AFL-CIO, whose leaders have for decades acted as labor agents for U.S. imperialism.

During the anti-Soviet Cold War, imperialism’s labor front men specialized in the call for “free trade unions,” by which they meant anti-Communist fronts for counterrevolution. Today, the Hong Kong-based journal, China Labour Bulletin (January 1997), which claims to fight for “independent” trade unions in China, baldly admits that the Bulletin’s chief editor had been featured on radio broadcasts of the Voice of America and Radio Free Asia—both of them official anti-communist mouthpieces for U.S. imperialism.

In drawing a hard class line in defense of the Chinese deformed workers state against the threat of counterrevolution, we Trotskyists also struggle against those who veil their appeals to capitalist forces with the rhetoric of bourgeois “democracy.” Many who claim to stand in the tradition of Leon Trotsky’s fight against the Stalinist gravediggers of revolution have openly and repeatedly sided with “democratic” counterrevolutionary movements, particularly those arrayed against the former Soviet Union. For example, the United Secretariat (USec), formerly led by the late Ernest Mandel, proclaimed “Solidarity with Solidarność” in Poland even as this fake “union” came out foursquare for capitalist counterrevolution. Today, the USec’s Hong Kong supporters who publish October Review hail all manner of Chinese “dissidents,” including openly pro-capitalist elements.

The International Socialist tendency, led by Tony Cliff’s British Socialist Workers Party and including the U.S. International Socialist Organization, has sided with the capitalist “democracies” ever since the birth of the People’s Republic of China, putting forward the anti-Marxist position that China since 1949 has been a “state capitalist” society. Cliff was expelled from the Fourth International at the onset of the Korean War in 1950 when he openly refused to defend China and North Korea against U.S. imperialism. Since then, the Cliffites have hailed every “anti-Stalinist” reactionary, from Solidarność to the Afghan mujahedin to anti-Communist rioters in Cuba in 1994 who sought to foment counterrevolutionary turmoil at a time of increasing danger to the Cuban deformed workers state in the aftermath of the collapse of the USSR.

Today, the argument that capitalist counterrevolution has already occurred in China has led some “leftists” to link arms with the vilest reactionaries. Thus, the Hong Kong-based “Pioneer” group (formerly “New Sprouts”), an offshoot of the USec’s Revolutionary Communist League, has repeatedly demonstrated with the Guomindang against the Chinese takeover of Hong Kong. In an interview with the Japanese USec newspaper Kakehashi (28 October 1996), a Pioneer spokesman baldly pronounced that the Stalinist rulers of Hong Kong will be “worse than the British colonialists, because a couple of years ago the British implemented democratic reform, civil election law and the law on human rights”!

Similarly, the “Socialist Equality Party” of David North has claimed that “the Chinese state is not, even in the most distorted sense, an instrument for the defense of the working class” (Fourth International, Winter-Spring 1994). More recently, they wrote that “under Deng the bureaucracy has largely completed its transformation into a property-owning bourgeois ruling class” (International Workers Bulletin, 17 March). Yet this supposed “bourgeois ruling class” does not even have the legal right to buy and sell property or to will their “capital” to their descendants. Despite the significant inroads made by both foreign and domestic capital in China, the People’s Republic remains a bureaucratically deformed workers state which must be unconditionally defended against internal and external counterrevolution.

The Northites and their predecessors in Gerry Healy’s International Committee have always been enemies of the Trotskyist program of unconditional defense of the deformed and degenerated workers states. Thus they joined with the rest of the fake Trotskyists in hailing anti-Soviet counterrevolutionaries. Since the collapse of the USSR, the Northites have gone on to both renounce the defense of the remaining workers states and oppose even trade-union struggles in capitalist countries with the argument that the unions have ceased to be any sort of working-class organizations. By equating both the Stalinist-ruled workers states and the trade unions with their reactionary leaderships, the Northites in effect renounce the necessary political struggle against the pro-capitalist misleaders of the working class and find themselves on the side of the exploiters who seek to destroy the unions and overturn the remaining gains of the Chinese Revolution.

A “Perspectives and Tasks Memorandum” adopted by the International Executive Committee of the ICL in January 1996 states:

“The next period is likely to see the breakdown and terminal crisis of Stalinist rule in China as powerful elements in the bureaucracy, directly tied to offshore Chinese capital and actively supported by Western and Japanese imperialism, continue to drive toward capitalist restoration. The Chinese working class, although heretofore limited by police repression to actions at individual workplaces, has in recent years exhibited massive discontent with the social degradation, insecurities and blatant inequalities generated by Deng’s ‘market socialist’ program. The rural economy has experienced the rise of a class of relatively wealthy peasant smallholders while an estimated 100 million landless peasants have flooded into the cities. We can thus foresee monumental class battles leading either to proletarian political revolution or capitalist counterrevolution in the most populous nation on earth.”

International Bulletin No. 38 (Third Edition), November 1996

To smash the threat of capitalist re-enslavement and open the road to a socialist future, Chinese workers must look to the international class struggle. It is by linking their fight for political revolution with the struggle to smash capitalist rule from Indonesia and South Korea to Japan and the U.S. that the Chinese proletariat will form the bridge to a socialist future. Above all, China’s workers must be won to the authentic communism of Lenin and Trotsky and of the early Chinese Communist Party led by Chen Duxiu, which for decades has been trampled on by Stalinism. For a Trotskyist party in China, section of a reborn Fourth International!

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