Jul 19, 2021
Translated from Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group active in France.
The Chinese regime opened celebrations of the centennial of its ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in late June. How can a dictatorship of billionaires that brutally exploits the world’s largest working class call itself communist?
The CCP was founded in 1920 by a small group of intellectuals won over to the ideals of the Russian Revolution—the idea that the capitalist system has had its day and that the working class has to fight for power, including in economically underdeveloped countries like Russia or China at that time.
The CCP’s first period ended in 1927 with a terrible defeat. Thousands of revolutionary workers and communist militants were massacred by the nationalists of General Chiang Kai-Shek. That happened after the CCP leadership followed the instructions of the Stalinized Communist International and told them to support Chiang Kai-Shek.
The CCP, or rather what was left of it, then split in half. The minority followed longtime leader Chen Duxiu, rallied to the theses of Leon Trotsky, and tried to continue to militate at all costs in the working class—and therefore in the cities. Many died under the blows of nationalist repression. The others, including a certain Mao Zedong, withdrew to the countryside in an attempt to build a revolutionary army of peasants.
It took 22 years for Mao to conquer the cities and take power. As eventful as these 22 years were, full of twists and turns and political reversals, one constant held: the working class never intervened, and never again did the CCP led by Mao try to organize it or rely on it to move toward social revolution. In other words, under Mao, the CCP never acted like a communist party. By breaking with the cities and therefore with the working class and going to the countryside, the CCP became a nationalist party. It competed with Chiang Kai-Shek’s party, offering an appearance of honesty in contrast with corrupt and worm-eaten officials. But fundamentally it defended the same bourgeois social order.
In 1949, Mao entered the cities at the head of armies from the countryside, without any working-class mobilization. The fact that his new regime briefly turned toward the Soviet Union owed much more to the hostile attitude of the United States—which shut China out of international trade—than to the will of the new rulers.
In 1972, Mao formally reconciled with U.S. President Richard Nixon. Starting then, China opened itself to investment by the imperialist countries, cautiously at first and then frenetically. It ended up producing for a considerable share of world markets, which gave rise to a plethora of billionaires and exploiters.
Historical circumstances—mainly the delay of the world revolution due to the Stalinist counterrevolution in the Soviet Union—let the Chinese bourgeoisie develop under the wing of a government labeled communist. Once China was rid of its medieval structures, the country’s huge size and breadth of resources and the enormous facilities of the government born with the peasant revolution gave this bourgeoisie the chance to assert itself. The balancing act between China, imperialism, and the bureaucrats of the USSR contributed as well.
However, the Chinese bourgeoisie shares with its Western predecessors the honor of having produced its own gravediggers: the hundreds of millions of Chinese proletarians who form the largest army of the world working class.