The Regime in China

Events have moved rapidly, and sometimes bewilderingly, in China since the death of Mao Tse-tung. However it can now be said that some degree of stability has been reached among the top echelons of the “Communist” Party and state apparatus, with the confirmation of Hua-Kuo-feng as the new Chairman and the arrest of the so-called radical “gang of four” including Mao’s widow Chiang Ch’ing. The personal in-fighting and struggle for power have had undeniably sordid aspects, with each side claiming to be the true successors to Mao’s line, but it seems that the “moderates” have won a conclusive victory.


The radicals, whose power base was China’s largest city Shanghai, had earlier this year been strong enough to achieve the dismissal of Teng Hsiao-p’ing, formerly purged during the Cultural Revolution but since restored to favour and indeed appointed Vice-Premier. Now the same fate has befallen the gang of four: they have been accused of having been over-ambitious and of making an attempt to seize power, of having been “ultra-rightists” who plotted to “restore capitalism”. It is reported that they are at present being closely questioned as to their “anti-party” activities, which allegedly stretch back over a great many years.


This is what always happens when a top Chinese politician falls from power: he or she is immediately depicted as a blackguard of the worst possible sort who has for years — undetected, apparently — been plotting counter-revolution, opposing Mao’s policies and trying to betray China’s interests abroad. Sometimes the charges are just plain ludicrous, such as that Chiang Ch’ing tried to have her husband moved as he lay desperately ill, against doctor’s orders. It has not yet been explained, though, how she managed to trick Mao into marrying her.


Right from the early days of the CCP, leaders have been removed and then calumniated. Ch’en Tu-hsiu, for instance, was the Party’s first General Secretary, in 1921. But in 1927 he was dismissed, as a scapegoat for the disastrous failures of Stalin’s policies, and is now stigmatized with perhaps the worst swearword of all, “Trotskyist”. His successor was Ch’u Ch’iu-pai, whose name is also anathema in China nowadays. Right down through the anti-Japanese war and since the conquest of power in 1949, Party and state leaders have been cast aside and denounced as “rightists” and “counter-revolutionaries”. Only a small number of top leaders, such as Mao and Chou En lai, survived unscathed. It is almost more secure to be a football manager than a top member of the Chinese ruling class!


What is the exact nature of the disagreements thus revealed? Has the CCP really been consistently unlucky in the men it has appointed to high office, that so many of them have been secret enemies of the Party line? Sometimes issues of policy genuinely are at stake, at others it is merely a matter of personal conflicts and opposing power-groups — though the victors will dress the latter cases up to look like the former. But the policy differences do not concern “left” versus “right”, “the mass line” versus “counter-revolution”, instead they represent different views on how best to develop capitalism in China. It is quite natural that within Chinese ruling circles there should be disagreements as to how much emphasis state plans should give to industry and agriculture and to the various sections of these, as to the importance of material incentives in the wages system, as to the role of literature and art, and as to how best to pursue China’s interests in foreign policy. In China these differences are argued out in vague references in newspapers and journals, and behind the closed doors of the Politburo and State Council. Normally the losers will submit, but sometimes they will fight and matters will be brought to a head. But all sides in the disputes are concerned with the development and planning of a modern capitalist system and with the most efficient exploitation possible of Chinese workers and peasants.


It is these very peasants and workers whose support for the new leadership is at present being sought — apparently with success, for even in Shanghai there have been demonstrations against the gang of four and less important “radicals” in the city’s administration. One significant indication of Hua Kuo-feng’s consolidation in power is that portraits of him are now being distributed throughout the country — it will be interesting to see if these replace or stand alongside the ubiquitous pictures of Chairman Mao. The leadership tussles having been decided over their heads, the workers are presented with the face of their new master.


It is high time that the workers of China and all other countries realized that whoever rules over them will continue to serve the interests of only one section of society, the capitalist class. In Socialism there will be no ruling class and no working class, just free and equal human beings who will run society’s affairs communally and democratically. Socialist society will serve the interests of all.


Paul Bennett