We characterised the Chinese Revolution as the second greatest event in world history, after the Russian Revolution of 1917. It had an enormous effect in the subsequent development of the colonial revolution. But this revolution did not take place on the classical lines of the Russian Revolution in 1917 or the Chinese Revolution of 1925-27. The working class played no important role. Mao came to power on the basis of a mighty peasant war, in the traditions of China. The only way Mao was able to win the civil war of 1944-49 was by offering a programme of social liberation to the peasant armies of Chiang Kai-shek, who was armed and backed by American imperialism. But the Stalinist leaders of the peasant Red Army had no perspective of leading the workers to power as did Lenin and Trotsky in 1917. When Mao’s peasant armies arrived at the cities, and the workers spontaneously occupied the factories and greeted Mao’s armies with red flags, Mao gave the order that these demonstrations should be suppressed and the workers were shot. Initially, Mao did not intend to expropriate the Chinese capitalists. His perspectives for the Chinese Revolution were outlined in a pamphlet called “New Democracy” in which he wrote that the socialist revolution was not on the order of the day in China, and that the only development that could take place was a mixed economy, i.e. capitalism. This was the classical “Two Stage” Menshevik theory which had been adopted by the Stalinist bureaucracy and had led to the defeat of the Chinese Revolution in 1925-27. But our tendency understood that under the concrete conditions that had developed that Mao would be forced to expropriate capitalism.
—Ted Grant and Alan Woods, Marxism and the Struggle Against Imperialism: Third World in Crisis (June 1998)
Various Works by Leon Trotsky, Ted Grant, and Alan Woods on China/Chinese Stalinism/Mao/Deformed Workers’ States/Stalinist and Maoist Bonapartism
An Introduction by Ted Grant:
It is evident that the Chinese movement draws its viability from the ‘innermost needs of the economy.’ However, while a genuine revolutionary, Trotskyist leadership in a backward country would draw its strength from the proletariat, welding the peasant masses behind it, Mao rests on the peasantry and not only bases himself on the passivity of the proletariat at this stage, but ruthlessly suppresses any proletarians who dare to take measures against the bourgeoisie on the basis of independent class action. At a later stage, Mao will lean on the proletariat when he needs it against the bourgeoisie, only later to betray and ruthlessly suppress it. In this it would be far more correct to say that Mao, as Tito, is a conscious Stalinist, adopting consciously many of the Bonapartist manoeuvres which Stalin was forced to adopt empirically.
The Revolution Betrayed (1936) (*—Chapter IX)
Provided below is closing material taken from Chapter IX of Leon Trotsky’s extraordinary work, The Revolution Betrayed, as recounted in Part I of Alan Woods’ piece, China’s Long March to Capitalism, citing where Trotsky, in several oft-neglected passages of astounding insight from 1936, astutely — and rather brilliantly — explains and predicts that the eventual — perhaps inevitable — return of capitalism in a bureaucratic regime of a degenerated workers’ state as being entirely possible:
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The Chinese bureaucracy did not view differentials in the same way as the Bolsheviks had done. Wage differentials after the Chinese revolution were not seen as a temporary “bourgeois” compromise imposed by the isolation of the revolution and the underdeveloped nature of the economy, but as the consolidation of the wealth and privileges of the bureaucracy. Bureaucrats lived well above the conditions of ordinary workers. Implicit in such a situation was the possible restoration of capitalism at some stage.
Insofar as the planned economy guaranteed them their power, income, privileges and prestige, they defended it. But, as Trotsky had pointed out in the Soviet Union, the bureaucracy would not be happy to simply benefit from privileges based on their administrative position in society, they would want to be able to pass these on to their children. For this to become possible property relations would have to change. He explained in Chapter 9 of The Revolution Betrayed:
"Let us assume to take a third variant ‑ that neither a revolutionary nor a counterrevolutionary party seizes power. The bureaucracy continues at the head of the state. Even under these conditions social relations will not jell. We cannot count upon the bureaucracy’s peacefully and voluntarily renouncing itself in behalf of socialist equality. If at the present time, notwithstanding the too obvious inconveniences of such an operation, it has considered it possible to introduce ranks and decorations, it must inevitably in future stages seek supports for itself in property relations. 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.”
And he went on:
"To define the Soviet regime as transitional, or intermediate, means to abandon such finished social categories as capitalism (and therewith “state capitalism”) and also socialism. But besides being completely inadequate in itself, such a definition is capable of producing the mistaken idea that from the present Soviet regime only a transition to socialism is possible. In reality a backslide to capitalism is wholly possible. A more complete definition will of necessity be complicated and ponderous.
"The Soviet Union is a contradictory society halfway between capitalism and socialism, in which: (a) the productive forces are still far from adequate to give the state property a socialist character; (b) the tendency toward primitive accumulation created by want breaks out through innumerable pores of the planned economy; (c) norms of distribution preserving a bourgeois character lie at the basis of a new differentiation of society; (d) the economic growth, while slowly bettering the situation of the toilers, promotes a swift formation of privileged strata; (e) exploiting the social antagonisms, a bureaucracy has converted itself into an uncontrolled caste alien to socialism; (f) the social revolution, betrayed by the ruling party, still exists in property relations and in the consciousness of the toiling masses; (g) a further development of the accumulating contradictions can as well lead to socialism as back to capitalism; (h) on the road to capitalism the counterrevolution would have to break the resistance of the workers; (i) on the road to socialism the workers would have to overthrow the bureaucracy. In the last analysis, the question will be decided by a struggle of living social forces, both on the national and the world arena.
"Doctrinaires will doubtless not be satisfied with this hypothetical definition. They would like categorical formulae: yes-yes, and no-no. Sociological problems would certainly be simpler, if social phenomena had always a finished character. There is nothing more dangerous, however, than to throw out of reality, for the sake of logical completeness, elements which today violate your scheme and tomorrow may wholly overturn it. In our analysis, we have above all avoided doing violence to dynamic social formations which have had no precedent and have no analogies. The scientific task, as well as the political, is not to give a finished definition to an unfinished process, but to follow all its stages, separate its progressive from its reactionary tendencies, expose their mutual relations, foresee possible variants of development, and find in this foresight a basis for action.”
As we can see, in Trotsky’s perspectives the return to capitalism was a concrete possibility. He pointed out that the nationalised planned economy was not safe in the hands of such a bureaucracy and this implied the threat of capitalist restoration at some stage.
A deformed workers’ state is by definition a transitional regime between capitalism and socialism, which will either be overthrown by political revolution or slip backwards to capitalism. Historically it first came into existence on the basis of the degeneration of the Russian Revolution. It is an unnecessary phase in the development of the productive forces. It was not an inevitable phase or necessary social form. Had the Russian revolution spread to the advanced countries in the 1920s, Stalinism would never have come into being.
In spite of their limitations, however, these regimes did develop the means of production to an unheard of extent. In that sense they had a progressive content. This flowed from the state ownership of the means of production and the planned economy. Trotsky analysed this in the Revolution Betrayed and made a prediction: so long as this regime could develop the economy of a backward country, it could achieve some success. But the more sophisticated the economy became, the more the bureaucracy would become a fetter on its development.