Continuing the Revolution is Not a Dinner Party: Looking Back at Tiananmen Square

(By Mick Kelly, Freedom Road Socialist Organization)

PDF copy available here

We are publishing the paper, Continuing the Revolution is Not a Dinner Party written 20 years ago during the 1989 turmoil in China. Authored by Mick Kelly, a leading member of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, this paper was produced in the context of a major two-line debate in our organization on socialism and China.

We are publishing it now, because with the 20th anniversary of the events at Tiananmen Square upon us, there are already attempts underway to attack socialism, the Chinese revolution, and those that defend it. We do not see this paper as a definitive statement of our organization on the many political movements and great debates that occurred in China since 1949. Rather we think the paper stands as a rigorous effort to use Marxism to understand the near defeat of the Chinese revolution that took place some 20 years ago.

In Continuing the Revolution is Not a Dinner Party, Mick Kelly does a good job of explaining the origins, development, and reactionary reality of the Chinese student movement, as well as its relationship to Chinese society and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in the 1980s. The paper supports Marxism-Leninism and the Chinese revolution while investigating and evaluating the problems faced and errors made by the CCP. The paper is provocative reading for Marxists because it challenges both social-democratic and ultra-left views regarding socialism and continuing the class struggle within socialist countries.

The author defends the leading party’s attempts to develop a modern socialist society, the need to combat revisionism within the party and society, and to beat back counter-revolution and the restoration of capitalism. On the down side the paper was overly hopeful about the outcome of the struggle against revisionism and capitalist restoration in Eastern Europe, and underestimated the growth of the capitalist sector of the Chinese economy in the years to come.

Many issues raised in Continuing the Revolution Is Not A Dinner Party were settled in the early 1990s. For example, some western leftists back then held that the overthrow of existing socialism would lead to a new improved socialism. Those who held this view were soon proved wrong by the counter-revolutions in Eastern Europe and the USSR, where restored capitalism led to mass unemployment, societal decay and wars that continue to this day. As the U.S. ruling class celebrated this, many of the counter-revolutionary Chinese students, hyped as heroes by U.S. corporate media, were able to escape justice, reappearing to make their fortunes in the west. These pro-imperialist reactionaries praised the armed attacks on the People’s Liberation Army and openly expressed their dreams of bringing capitalism to China.

We hope that those interested in revolutionary change today can learn something from this paper. We are now in a situation where Marxism-Leninism is gaining strength and popularity around the world and the socialist countries are modernizing. Proletarian revolutionaries in many countries can make advances while the U.S. economic crisis deepens. Our hope is this paper will help to further the understanding of why supporting socialism and China is important to everyone who is fighting imperialism and to everyone who wants a better way of life.

– Freedom Road Socialist Organization, 2009


Continuing the Revolution is Not a Dinner Party

The recent events in China – the fighting in Beijing, the emergence of a mass “pro-democracy” movement and the decision by the leadership of the Communist Party of China to come down hard on counter-revolution – have caused more than a little debate and dismay among revolutionaries in this country. Many U.S. activists saw the Chinese student movement as a force fighting for the empowerment of the people and a renewal of socialism. Others have come to the conclusion that only “social fascists” would have made use of military force to suppress it.

This paper puts forward a number of views that are controversial. It argues that while the Chinese Party has made its share of mistakes, it nevertheless deserves the support of progressive and revolutionary-minded people. It also attempts to dispel some of the myths which have been propagated by the western media. Continue reading

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised…Nor Will It Be Brought To You By Russell Brand, Oliver Stone Or Noam Chomsky

(By Stephen Gowans)

Not too many years ago, when protesters were running riot through the streets, disrupting meetings of the WTO, G7, and other international organizations, the Canadian newspaper The National Post served up a flattering and generous portrait of young people who had eschewed the streets as a terrain for political struggle and turned instead to what the newspaper considered the responsible and laudatory path of seeking nomination to run as candidates for the mildly social democratic (but in the newspaper’s view, rabidly leftwing) New Democratic Party. This was a curious turn of events, for the National Post, a newspaper founded by the notoriously rightwing, white-collar criminal, Lord Conrad Black, was as likely in normal times to heap praise on anyone associated with the NDP as George Bush was to sing the praises of Kim Il Sung. But these were not normal times. In retrospect it’s easy to see that the protests, demonstrations, and strikes of the time, would fizzle and die, as the Occupy movement would also fizzle and die years later. Lacking a central organizing idea and concrete vision of where they wanted to go, they were too hobbled by anarchist nonsense to achieve much more than to sell a few more copies of Z Magazine and to create a decent phrase about the 1% making off with all the wealth at the expense of the 99%. But it was clear that the editors of the National Post were worried enough to recommend a path other than the streets to those who burned with the desire for political change. That they should recommend electoral politics was predictable. Young people who plowed their energies into the NDP would soon get bogged down in the harmless, ineffectual, routines of political campaigns, and be kept safely off the streets.

The wealthy are keen on electoral politics—when they go their way, as they often do. Elections in capitalist society can be dominated by money, as can the larger political process. Banks, corporations and major investors lobby politicians, fund political campaigns, bribe legislators with the promise of lucrative post-political jobs, place their representatives in key positions in the state, and shape the ideological environment through their control of the media, creation of think-tanks, hiring of PR firms, and funding of university chairs. Those without wealth can hardly compete, except, in principle, by pooling their resources and hoping to tilt the balance the other way against a formidable foe that controls infinitely more resources. The absence of organization and class consciousness, however, routinely assures this doesn’t happen. Moreover, the electoral arena channels dissent into predictable, controllable paths, keeping it off the streets, where it might become unpredictable and therefore dangerous. Additionally, the sway that corporate, banking and investor groups exercise behind the scenes is masked by the egalitarian spectacle of elections. One person, one vote. What could be more equal?

I was reminded of this after reading the Russell Brand-edited issue of The New Statesman [1], not because it was in any particular way an endorsement of capitalist democracy, but because, like the National Post, it defined legitimate political change within parameters favorable to the established order. Of course, Brand wasn’t advocating electoral politics as the National Post was. On the contrary, he spoke out against voting in an interview with the BBC’s Jeremy Paxman, and called for a revolution. But Brand’s New Statesman went further than the National Post. Where the National Post said that those who fight for political change within the established system are admirable, while those who step outside it are not, Brand, as editor, tackled the larger idea of revolution (the only way, he said, he could get interested in politics. ) Mind you, a mass circulation magazine was not about to become a platform to rally the masses to armed insurrection to overthrow the established order. “The revolution,” observed Gil Scott-Heron, “will not be televised.” Nor will it be found in the pages of the New Statesman. Predictably, the outcome of Brand’s editing exercise was the redefining of the entire idea of revolution, or, I should say, the destroying of it altogether, turning it into something vague and difficult to put your finger on, except to say it was good, and true, and safe to bring home to mother. But not at all like what Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Kim Il sung were implicated in. According to the luminaries Brand assembled to hold forth on what revolution means, revolution isn’t the transfer of productive property from one group to another –from, say, private owners to workers, or colonial settlers to those they dispossessed, or even owners who reside outside a country to the people within. Instead, it means many things, but not what you thought it did. [2] Continue reading

World Socialism Forum in Beijing witnesses clash of socialist ideas

(By the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist))

On behalf of the CPGB-ML, Comrades Harpal Brar and Ella Rule recently attended the Fourth World Socialism Forum, organised by the World Socialism Research Centre of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), and the Centre for Contemporary World Studies of the International Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CCCPC).

The theme of this year’s forum was ‘The current situation and the development trend of world socialism and leftist thoughts’. Held on 30-31 October at the conference hall of CASS, it hosted 91 participants, including 22 from abroad.

The general consensus at the symposium was that socialism, being a far superior system to capitalism, had a bright future – indeed, the only future for humanity; that capitalism, far from being the final destination, was merely a transitional stage in the long march of humanity from primitive communism to the higher stage of communism.

There was also general agreement that imperialism, especially US imperialism, was on the decline and that socialism was on the up again after the terrible reverses suffered in the aftermath of the collapse of the USSR and east European socialist countries. It was pointed out that the latest economic crisis, while undermining the legitimacy of capitalism, had served to raise high the prestige of Marxism Leninism; and that the balance of power was definitely shifting away from US imperialism and other imperialist countries and towards the socialist countries and the Brics economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

The only area in which US imperialism still reigns supreme is the military. In 2013, the US spent $633bn on the military, accounting for 5 percent of its GDP, 20 percent of its government budget, and 44 percent of global military spending. But even this colossal outlay is increasingly becoming a source of weakness, since the declining economic strength of the US will not be able to cope for very much longer with this huge military burden.

The present crisis, which began in 2007, marked the beginning of the end of US hegemony – economically, ideologically and politically. Even in the military field, despite its huge arsenal of the most sophisticated weapons ever seen, the US and its junior imperialist partners have lost in the battlefield in Iraq and are losing in Afghanistan.

All in all, there was broad agreement that capitalism was a failed system, fully confirmed by the latest crisis of capitalism, which at the same time served to confirm the validity of socialism and of Marxism Leninism.

For all their generally positive reinforcement of socialism, one of the major weaknesses revealed at the symposium was a lack of clarity and agreement among the participants as to the cause of the demise of the USSR and east European socialist countries. Unless this question is satisfactorily dealt with, however, the working-class movement will not be equipped to make real progress.  Continue reading

1999 Declaration of the International Communist Seminar

Toilers’ Struggle supports this declaration of principles as a fundamental starting point for the unity of communists on the basis of recognizing the basic theoretical principles of Marxism-Leninism and the rich experiences of socialist revolution which inspire and hold lessons for the struggle for socialism in the 21st century. 

Brussels, 4 May, 1999:

1. Today, communists all over the world are summing up the first century of socialist revolution, in order to prepare for greater struggles to come and to achieve ever greater victories. They will exert every effort for the 21st century to become the century of victory on a world scale.

2. The bourgeoisie struggled for three centuries in order to triumph over the forces of feudalism. The socialist revolution aims to put an end to the long reign of the exploiting classes and to eliminate all forms of exploitation of man by man. The final victory of socialism all over the world will take a whole historical epoch.

3. The twentieth century has witnessed great feats of socialist revolution and construction, but also treason and counter-revolution within communist ranks. The twentieth century has been one of dress rehearsal, during which the proletariat accumulated great positive experiences as well as negative and tragic ones. As long as the communist parties remained loyal to the revolutionary principles of Marxism-Leninism, the world socialist revolution followed an ascending course. As soon as the revisionists imposed themselves on a great number of communist parties, the revolution began its downfall.

I A glorious experience

4. A hundred and fifty years ago, Marx and Engels published the “Manifesto of the Communist Party”. The fundamental principles laid down by this great programmatic document remain valid for the proletariat of all countries.

5. Marx and Engels drew the lessons from the Paris Commune, the first revolution to take the path of socialist revolution, the path of the dictatorship of the proletariat. The different forms of power of the working class essentially correspond to the measures taken by the Paris Commune, and later by the Soviets, so as to allow the workers to become the effective rulers of society.

6. Struggling against social-democratic treason, the Bolshevik Party under the leadership of Lenin defended Marxism and developed the strategy and tactics of the socialist revolution, leading the October uprising and wrenching the workers from the barbarism of imperialist wars and interventions. Lenin formulated the general line for building socialism. The October Revolution created a new situation in the world: bourgeois order had to coexist with its opposite, socialist order: the existence of a large socialist country reminded all exploited and oppressed people that the unjust order of capitalism and imperialism could be overthrown. Basically, capitalism’s area of exploitation of both the work force and mineral resources was reduced.

7. Neither the international bourgeoisie nor the opportunists in the Bolshevik Party believed that socialism could last in one backward country alone. It was the Soviet working class and labouring masses, led by the Party with Stalin at its head, who put Lenin’s political principles into practice and built a great socialist power, the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics.

8. The struggle for industrialisation, which mobilised millions of young workers, transformed a backward and feudal country into an industrial power able to stand up to world imperialism. Middle Ages agriculture was transformed, becoming mechanised and collective. Thanks to the cultural revolution, the former country of illiterate moujiks became a country of scientists, engineers and technicians.

9. The Bolshevik Party, under the leadership of Stalin, built the Red Army in a high spirit of initiative and heroism and forged close links between the army and the popular masses. Practically on its own, the Red Army defeated Hitler’s armies.

10. The Soviet Union’s victorious anti-fascist war stimulated the development of the communist movement on a world-wide scale, especially in Europe and Asia. The victory of the Soviet Union over German imperialism gave new impulse to the revolutionary anti-colonial and anti-imperialist movement that shook imperialist domination in Asia and Africa. In several countries, people’s democracy and socialism triumphed.

11. In the wake of World War II, the focus of the world proletarian revolution shifted to Asia, where the most heroic wars of liberation were waged and won under the leadership of the communist parties of China, Korea and Vietnam.

12. By developing the theory and practice of protracted people’s war in the course of the anti-imperialist and democratic revolution in an immense Third World country, the Chinese Communist Party, led by Mao Zedong made a contribution of international importance. He proceeded to transform the democratic revolution into socialist revolution, undertook socialist construction, put forward the theory and practice of continuing revolution to combat revisionism, prevent the restoration of capitalism and consolidate the gains of socialism.

13. At the time of Stalin’s death, the socialist camp and the forces of anti-imperialist revolution enjoyed unprecedented power and prestige. They were on the offensive, the oppressed all over the world could look to the future with optimism.

II The rise of revisionism and the struggle against it Continue reading

China and ‘Market Socialism’: A Question of State and Revolution

Toilers’ Struggle encourages critical discussion of this controversial work and subject. Actually existing socialism, especially in such a country as China with a billion + citizens, is a topic of supreme interest and importance to communists’ struggle in the 21st century.  In the words of Mao, we must consider, first and foremost: “Who are our enemies? Who are our friends?”

(By Return to the Source) 

After the fall of the Soviet Union, most of the socialist countries tragically fell to the onslaught of Western imperialism. Among the horrific blows dealt to the international communist movement, five socialist states resisted the tide of counterrevolution and, against all odds, maintain actually existing socialism in the 21st century.

Though each face very specific obstacles in building socialism, these five countries–the Republic of Cuba, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and the People’s Republic of China–stand as a challenge to the goliath of Western imperialist hegemony. Among them, however, China stands unique as a socialist country whose economic growth continues to supersede even the most powerful imperialist countries.

Though an embarrassing number of Western “left” groups challenge the designation of any of these five countries as socialist, no country raises greater opposition than China. Many Western “left” groups claim that modern China is a full-fledged capitalist country. Owing their ideological heritage to bogus theoreticians like Leon Trotsky, Tony Cliffe, and Hal Draper, some groups argue that China was never a socialist country, claiming instead that the Chinese state is and has been state capitalist. Continue reading

The Political Economy of Decollectivization in China

(By Zhun Xu) 

Decollectivization of China’s rural economy in the early 1980s was one of the most significant aspects of the country’s transition to a capitalist economy. Deng Xiaoping praised it as an “innovation,” and its significance to the overall capitalist-oriented “reform” process surely cannot be overstated.1 The Chinese government has repeatedly referred to the supposed economic benefits of decollectivization as having “greatly increased the incentives to millions of peasants.”2Nevertheless, the political-economic implications of decollectivization have always been highly ambiguous, and questionable at best. Individual or small groups of peasants were frequently portrayed in mainstream accounts as political stars for initiating the process, but this served to obscure the deep resistance to decollectivization in many locales. Moreover, the deeper causes and consequences of the agrarian reform are downplayed in most writings, leaving the impression that the rural reform was in the main politically neutral.

A few works did address the political-economic aspect, but even those works were generally conformist analyses, presenting the usual stereotypes, and in accord with the official history. One of the popular stories was that peasants wanted freedom from collective controls and so they creatively and collectively dissolved their own collectives.3 A typical analysis tends to follow this story line: collective farming caused years of poverty and laziness, so brave and wise peasants signed secret contracts to perform household farming. Due to the powerful incentive effects of decollectivization, agricultural production was dramatically increased. Once this was imitated nationwide with impressive results, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had to accept this institutional innovation from the peasants.

However, increasing evidence has shown that decollectivization did not have its acclaimed effects on efficiency.4 These studies, challenging the consensus in the literature, have important implications. The economic benefits of decollectivization, it now appears, were actually not that large. This suggests that there were perhaps more important factors beyond the efficiency and incentive aspects offered by conventional wisdom. In particular, a class analysis is missing from the mainstream stories.

In what follows it will be argued that decollectivization served as the political basis of the capitalist transitions in China. It not only disempowered the peasantry, but broke the peasant-worker alliance, and greatly reduced the potential resistance to reform. The political significance for the CCP of the rural reform to capitalist transition cannot be overstated, and this was exactly why the CCP officially interpreted decollectivization as spontaneous and purely economic. Continue reading

Socialism with Chinese Characteristics

(Published by Lalkar)

Tienanmen Square: Chinese Counter-Revolution Crushed

In the August/September 1989 issue of Lalkar we wrote an article entitled ‘Chinese Counter-Revolution Crushed’. In this article, we exposed the lies of the imperialist media, and its flunkeys in the working-class movement – the Trotskyites, Revisionists and Social-Democrats – concerning the alleged “massacre” and “bloodbath” in Tienanmen Square, Beijing, on June 3-4 of 1989, by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of the allegedly innocent students demanding no more than “democracy” and an end to corruption.

We proved, by reference to unimpeachably solid imperialist sources, which cannot be suspected of entertaining any but the most hostile views towards socialism, that the Tienanmen Square incidents were nothing short of an attempted counter-revolution aimed at overthrowing the socialist system in China and replacing it with a capitalist system and a capitalist regime. We proved too, again by reference to the most impeccable ‘imperialist’ sources, that this attempt at counter- revolution was well-planned and meticulously coordinated between the local Chinese counter-revolutionaries and their imperialist masters, with the latter rendering every technical, financial, political and ideological help to the former and facilitating a minute-by-minute transmission of every word every message, every communiqué, emanating from this counter-revolutionary rabble.

In concluding that article we asked the question: “How could this counter-revolutionary rebellion have arisen in the first place?” And to this question, we provided the following answer:

“In their effort to modernise China, the Chinese leadership has been trying for nearly a decade to break into the monopoly over technology held by Western and Japanese imperialism, by offering them special economic zones and joint ventures. This, accompanied by the loosening of the centralised economic planning, the dissolution of the communes, wider pay differentials between the masses and managers and intellectuals, have disrupted the socialist economy and led to inflation, unemployment and dislocation of vast numbers of workers and peasants. These economic factors have been accompanied by an ideological relaxation and a lessening of emphasis on the teachings of Marxism-Leninism at a time when an increasing number of Chinese students studying in America and other Western countries were not simply acquiring technical and scientific expertise, but also having their heads stuffed with bourgeois ideology (at present there are 73,000 Chinese students in America and another 250,000 visitors)”.  Continue reading