Jean-Paul Martin

The Eleventh Year of the Chinese Revolution

(April 1960)

From Fourth International (Amsterdam), No. 9, Spring 1960, pp. 33–38.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.


The Chinese Revolution has started its eleventh year. It is of considerable interest to examine the balance sheet of the first decade lived through by this revolution, and to see what its problems and prospects are on the threshold of the second decade now opening.

The International Importance of the Chinese Revolution

It has now become a commonplace to speak of the growing international importance of the Chinese Revolution; but few people yet realize of what this importance consists.

The aspect most easily seized on by the greatest number of international observers of the Chinese Revolution is the impressive awakening to economic, cultural, and military power of this country of 600 million inhabitants, which, at its present annual rate of growth (15 millions), will reach, toward the end of the century, the figure of more than 1,000 million human beings.

The imperialists view with terror the shadow of this giant spreading over Asia and the entire world, and engage in all sorts of “geopolitical” speculations to exorcise “the yellow peril.” The most imaginative among them are already dreaming of a future Sino-Soviet conflict that will simultaneously weaken both the USSR and China, or at least of a rapprochement of the whole “white race” from the Urals to California that will separate the USSR from its alliance with China.

It is known that this speculation has received much attention from both Adenauer and de Gaulle, and even from a man like Adlai Stevenson. It nurtures the “historical prospects” of the imperialists every time that they despair of seeing the workers’ states collapse as a result of the outside intervention of a war that would be more and more risky for imperialism. It is now certain that the Chinese Revolution will carry more and more weight internationally in the second half of our century, and will even dominate it. This will be the result, not of the military action of New China in attacking “Western” or “white” civilization, but of the revolutionary repercussions of China on the under-developed countries and on the other workers’ states.

To the degree that China already points out a valid way, taken by a typically under-developed country, rapidly to reach economic, cultural, and military power, this “Chinese” way threatens to “contaminate” more and more the neighboring Asiatic countries, starting with India, and even the countries of Africa.

The Nehrus and Sukarnos, who already sniff this “danger,” are trying to counter it by staking on the nationalism of backward masses aroused against China’s “aggressions” or “unwarrantable interferences.” In the future, each bound forward that China makes in the fields of agricultural and industrial production, education, and liberation of women, will make the crumbling feudo-capitalist regimes of the Asiatic and African countries, formerly independent or still subjected to imperialism, tremble more than the explosion of a nuclear bomb. The problem of the countries described as under-developed is fated to become steadily more explosive and more insoluble by capitalist methods – both because the gap between the development of the advanced countries and these countries is widening, and because the per capita production of the under-developed countries is lessening even though their global production is increasing, as a result of the fact that their population is increasing even faster.

To overcome these two gaps and get a speeded-up industrialization under way, the underdeveloped countries need to solve the question of investments to the tune of 15% to 25% of a national income already comparable to that of the advanced countries.

Out of their own resources, the under-developed countries succeed in making capital investments of barely 8% of their meagre national income. The rest must come from foreign aid. Now this aid (including that of the USSR), even if it were invested under really productive conditions, scarcely reaches $4,000 million per year, as against the $20,000 million or even $50,000 – $60,000 million per year needed to begin, for the purpose of promoting “in 35 years the doubling of the standard of living of peoples now able to obtain less than $100 per capita per annum (that is, some 1,600 million persons)”! (These are the conclusions of United Nations experts and other even more serious estimates.) The revolutionary experience of China in this field brings daily proof that it is possible – thanks to the capitalization by the state of the surplus-value of the native and foreign capitalists and of the land rent of the feudalists, and to the productive mobilization of millions of men and women whose labor power was previously not fully occupied – to find the means necessary for speeded-up economic development. But the social and political framework necessary for such, a possible development is created only by the social revolution and workers’ and peasants’ power, nationalizing the means of production, planning the economy, and making morally and materially possible the productive mobilization of this immense human capital.

The other revolutionary influence of China operates on the level of the workers’ states. These states, like China itself, are politically ruled by bureaucracies, which have reached varying degrees of numerical and social importance. Therefore the development of these states is deformed; this has its repercussions on their mutual collaboration, which normally ought to be harmonious.

Right now we are very far from that “norm.” For that reason, among the present number of workers’ states inter-bureaucratic antagonisms are beginning to be sketchily discernible; these are of another nature, and involve different consequences, from those among the international Stalinist bureaucracy in the past, when the main antagonisms occurred inside the Soviet bureaucracy, and, to a lesser extent, between it and Communist Party bureaucracies who lacked real power.

Today, however, we have to deal with several workers’ states in which powerful national bureaucracies dominate. These bureaucracies, in their mutual relations, reflect their own special national interests as well as the special national pressures to which they are subjected.

A whole sociology might be written about this new phenomenon inside the system of the present workers’ states. But let us limit ourself for the moment to developing a few guiding lines.

There are already, within this system, three specific and distinct paths “to socialism”: that of the USSR, that of Jugoslavia, and that of China.

That of the USSR is already well-known.

That of Jugoslavia is essentially distinguishable from the Soviet model by three traits:

  1. It has replaced the autarkic economy of the USSR by an economy open to the possibilities of the international market.
  2. It has replaced forced collectivization of agriculture by a collectivization by persuasion, in accordance with the technical and financial possibilities of the workers’ state.
  3. It has turned over the management of the economy and the state at the local and regional levels to a substantial self-administration by the workers in the enterprises and the population of the communities.

As a result of the fact that the Jugoslav economy is being developed with account taken of the possibilities of the world market, it is achieving a growth that is both rapid and harmonious, which benefits the producers, not in some distant future, but immediately. As a result, the social tensions are also less and the solidity of the social and even political regime is considerably greater than in the other people’s democracies. Granted, it is because Jugoslavia profits by its international position intermediate between the two camps, that it is able to follow such an economic policy. The fact remains that its example is the most concrete condemnation, on the economic plane, of the autarkic policy of “socialism in a single country” which certain people – and not only the Stalinists – have accepted as the inevitably exclusive path to socialism.

The fact that the collectivization of Jugoslav agriculture lags behind the advances of its socialized industry is not a valid criticism of the Jugoslav system. For economically Jugoslav agriculture, while still being mostly subjected to the regime of small agricultural property, is prosperous, for the peasants have no reason to sabotage production. Under these conditions the workers’ state can allow itself to extend the time-table for collectivization, and to bring it about along the cooperative path, in accordance with the state’s increased possibilities in matters of technics (mechanization, etc.), and finances (a fair remuneration for agricultural labor).

Meanwhile the danger of the formation of a neo-bourgeois stratum in the rural regions is being fought against by the state’s tax policy, by the limitation of land holdings, and by a whole series of measures. This economic policy of the Jugoslav system is of course seriously strengthened by the substantial self-determination of the enterprises and the communities, an important stimulus to production and a source of attachment to the regime.

As to the Chinese model now being formed, it seems currently to be synthesized in the organization and functioning of the rural and even urban communes. After ten years of groping within the general limits of the Soviet example, China is setting out on a really “new path to socialism” by means of the communes, a network of rank-and-file organizations that are both economic and administrative, subject to the control of the central organs of the state.

Later we shall see within what concrete limits this experiment is currently developing, what are the problems it raises and the prospect that it opens up. For the moment, however, let us limit ourselves to pointing out the existence from now on of a “third model” for the building of socialism, perceptibly different from both that of the USSR and that of Jugoslavia. It is clear that, under these conditions, the ferments arising from the de facto competition among these three different models will more and more work among the masses of the workers’ states, and in the bureaucracy.

The Jugoslav example cannot in the long run leave public opinion indifferent in the USSR, the other people’s democracies, and China itself. Nor can the Chinese example be accepted in the Soviet Union without grave repercussions, for the Soviet bureaucracy is tied up with its own model, just as the growing Chinese bureaucracy is currently hitching its fate to the success of the communes. Apart from the repercussions of these fresh models on the relations between the bureaucracy and the masses, it is necessary to take into account the inevitable ideological differentiation within the bureaucracies of the workers’ states which will result from these experiments, each bringing into question the conception of both the economic policy to be followed and the structure of the state.

Alert observers have already noted the coolness, not to say hostility, shown by Khrushchev toward the Chinese communes, as well as various signs of disagreement between the Kremlin and Pekin. It is beyond doubt that to the degree that the economic, cultural, and military power of China accumulates, on another model than the Soviet one, inter-bureaucratic frictions will become aggravated along yet unforeseeable lines.

But one thing is certain: in this field as well, the rise of New China acts on the Soviet bureaucracy not as a stabilizing but as a disintegrating factor. In the last analysis, such a process threatens to turn against the whole of the bureaucracy of the workers’ states, including China itself, for the economic and cultural advances of these states prove to be more rapid and decisive than the reign of a bureaucracy that is subjected to – among other things – antagonisms of its different fractions on the international and national levels.

A Consolidated Balance-Sheet of Ten Years of the Chinese Revolution

The main stages in the economic and social evolution of China since the 1949 victory of the revolution are known: 1949–1952, the years of “economic rehabilitations”; 1953–1957, the years of the First Five-Year Plan; 1958, the year of “the great leap forward” of the Second Five Year-Plan, of the communes.

During the First Five-Year Plan, according to official statements, “the total value of industrial and agricultural production registered an average annual rate of growth of 10.9% (18% for industry, 4.5% for agriculture). The average annual rate increase of total national income was 8.9%.”

In the second half of 1955 the complete collectivization of agriculture was already terminated in the form of “agricultural producers’ cooperatives of the advanced type.” Immediately thereafter, in 1956, the industrial and commercial capitalist enterprises were transformed “into state-private enterprises by whole trades” and the handicraft workers were organized into cooperatives.

“This means,” Liu Shao-Chi concludes in his article on The Victory of Marxism-Leninism in China celebrating the tenth anniversary of the revolution,

that in less than seven years after the founding of the People’s Republic of China, we accomplished in the main the socialist transformation of agriculture, handicrafts, and capitalist industry and commerce, and basically solved the question of “who will win” in the ownership of the means of production.

Naturally, by “socialist transformation” must be understood the administrative statification of all the means of production, including land, as well as the administrative imposition of cooperation. But we know that neither is in reality viable without an adequate material, technical, and financial foundation. Hence Liu Shao-Shi is engaged in wishful thinking when he states that the question of “who will win” is already basically settled in China.

On the basis of the results achieved in 1956 and 1957, the party, beginning with the Spring of 1958, put into practice the general line worked up by Mao Tse-Tung: “going all out, aiming high, and achieving faster, better, and more economical results to build socialism.”

The results of this first year of the Second Five-Year Plan, although highly exaggerated at the outset and corrected later, are nonetheless impressive: “The total value of industrial and agricultural production rose by 48% compared with 1957” (66% for industry, 25% for agriculture), exceeding the total value of the production during the whole period of the First Five-Year Plan. Furthermore, “the national income for 1958 exceeded that of 1957 by an increase of 34%.”

This exceptional rhythm slackened off in 1959, while still remaining at a very high level. According to the official communique published on 22 January 1960 at Pekin, “China’s gross industrial and agricultural output, in terms of value, registered in 1959 a 31.1% increase over that in 1958” (39.3% for industry, 16.7% for agriculture). The national income increased 21.6% compared to 1958. “Thanks to the continued big leap forward in the two years 1958 and 1959,” this same communique states, “we have already reached the major targets originally set for the end of the Second Five-Year Plan (1962), three years ahead of schedule.”

Here are a few examples of this claim:

Steel output reached 13.35 million tons, exceeding the original 1962 target by between 1.35 million and 2.85 million tons; coal output reached 347.8 million tons, exceeding the original 1962 target by between 137.8 million and 157.8 million tons; grain output reached 540,000 million jin, exceeding the original 1962 target by 40,000 million jin.

In only two years steel output (not including that produced by indigenous methods) increased from 5.35 million tons to 13.35 million tons [...] whereas [ – the Chinese leaders proudly noted – ] in the capitalist world it took the United States 9 years, prewar Germany 13 years, France 33 years, and Britain 34 years to raise their steel output from some 5 million tons to over 13 million tons.

In 1958 already, China jumped to seventh place in the world of steel, third place in coal, eleventh place in electric power, and second place in cotton yarn production.

In the nine years between 1950 and 1958 China’s total output value of industrial production rose at an average annual rate of 28%,

and since that time, this exceptional rate has been maintained and is being developed.

Exceptional economic, social, and cultural transformations have marked the country since the revolution. Chou En-Lai, in the Jenmin Jibao of 6 October 1959, writes:

In the ten years of New China, the value of newly added fixed industrial assets amounts to around 45,000 million yuan.

In Old China, after nearly seventy years of power development, power-generating capacity amounted to less than 1.9 million kilowatts by 1949; in ten years in New China the new power-generating capacity added is more than three times that figure. By 1949, after nearly sixty years of development of its iron and steel industry, annual steel-making capacity was less than one million tons in Old China; the new annual steel-making capacity added in ten years of New China is more than ten times that figure.

[China at present produces] about 500 types of steel and 6,000 types of rolled steel, 2,500-ton hydraulic forging presses, complete sets of coal-mining and coking equipment, equipment for big blast furnaces more than 1,500 cubic metres [53,000 cubic feet] in volume, jet planes, various types of motor vehicles, tractors, sea-going vessels with a dead weight of 5,000 tons, 72,500 kilowatt hydroelectric-power-generating equipment, and 50,000-kilowatt thermo-power-generating equipment, complete sets of textile, paper-making, and sugar-refining equipment, and other products.

The advances in agriculture are no less impressive:

In ten years the total value of China’s agricultural output has increased two and a half fold. Grain output went up 130% between 1949 and 1958. In 1949 there were all together 8 million workers and employees in enterprises, public undertakings, and state organs.

This number has risen to more than 45 million by the end of 1958, an increase of 5.7 fold, in which the number of industrial workers grew from 3 to 25.6 million, an 8.5 fold increase.

Since the creation of the communes and the mass liberation of female manpower, the number of workers has grown even further (by nearly 20 million during 1958 and 1959).

As for the material conditions of the workers and peasants, it is difficult to determine them exactly. The regime claims that “the average wages of Chinese office and factory workers more than doubled between 1949 and 1958,” and that “the personal income of the peasants nearly doubled.” What is in any case beyond doubt is that the average level of the great mass of peasants and workers has been raised at the expense of the other formerly more privileged strata, and that, in the fields of education, sanitation, and social security, an exceptional effort has been made.

Chinese Permanent Revolution

“China’s development in the past ten years,” Chou En-Lai writes with pride in the aforementioned article, “has been a process of uninterrupted Revolution.” (Our italics) The Chinese leaders like more and more to use this term, whose content they clearly explain. On this subject, let us once again listen to Chou En-Lai:

As early as at the second Plenary Session of the Seventh Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party held in March 1949, the Central Committee and Comrade Mao Tse-Tung pointed out that the founding of the People’s Republic of China would mark the victory of the democratic revolution on a nationwide scale and at the same time the beginning of the socialist revolution.

The state power of people’s democratic dictatorship led by the proletariat and based on the worker and peasant alliance, as a result of the victory of the Revolution, though including some representatives of the national bourgeoisie, was in essence already a state power of the dictatorship of the proletariat. [Our italics]

It is this power of the dictatorship of the proletariat, according to Chou En-Lai, which carried out the “bourgeois-democratic” revolution and then without interruption tackled the “socialist revolution,” liquidating the aftermaths of capitalism, including the “national bourgeoisie.”

The Central Committee of the Party and Comrade Mao Tse-Tung firmly refuted such bourgeois points of view of certain people both inside and outside the Party as those calling for the “consolidation of the new democratic order,” “long-term coexistence between socialism and capitalism,” and the “guaranteeing of the four great freedoms in the rural areas – freedom of sale and purchase, letting and renting of land, freedom of employing farmhands, freedom of borrowing and lending money and freedom of trading,” and in good time set forth the Party’s general line for the transition period of simultaneously carrying out socialist transformation and socialist construction. [Op. cit.; our italics.]

Let us also listen to Liu Shao-Chi, a theoretician second only to Mao Tse-Tung in the Chinese Communist Party:

... The founding of the great People’s Republic in 1949 [...] is essentially a dictatorship of the proletariat and thus successfully brought about the turn from the democratic revolution to the socialist revolution.

As far as the main question of the Revolution is concerned, i.e. the question of the State Power, the founding of the People’s Republic of China marked the end of the democratic revolution and the beginning of the Socialist Revolution in China.

In the early years following the nationwide victory, although it was still necessary for the Chinese people to carry out the tasks left over from the period of the democratic revolution, mainly the task of implementing land reform over a large part of the country to eliminate the feudal landlord class, the transition to socialism had actually begun in 1949. [The Victory of Marxism-Leninism in China, October 1959. Our italics [1]]

It is evident by what subterfuge the Chinese leaders are trying a posteriori to justify both their behavior after the victory and their previous behavior.

The Stalinist theory of the two revolutions, distinct in the class character of their social regimes, one “bourgeois democratic,” carrying out the “bourgeois democratic” tasks, the other “socialist,” has in fact been abandoned by the Chinese. It is now a question only of one single revolution in two phases, in an uninterrupted process, being carried out under the same social regime, that of the dictatorship of the proletariat. And there we are, smack in the “permanent revolution,” in the meaning given to the term by Leon Trotsky and our international movement.

The “democratic revolution,” distinct from the socialist revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat, has now been relegated by the Chinese to the period preceding the seizure of power, in order to justify the Chinese CP’s past policy of compromising with the Kuomintang and Chiang Kai-Shek, the so-called representatives of an anti-imperialist and anti-feudal “national bourgeoisie.”

The Chinese Communist Party did not open the way to the victory of the only possible revolution, that which it achieved by taking power, until the moment when it was obliged to disobey Stalin’s directives, break with Chiang Kai-Shek, and draw the revolutionary masses under its leadership for the drive for power.

The “democratic revolution” is no longer presented as a stage which is gone through under a regime of the so-called “democratic dictatorship of the workers and peasants,” different from the dictatorship of the proletariat, which solves the “bourgeois democratic” tasks, but simply the period of struggle of the Communist Party, at the head of the revolutionary masses, against Chiang Kai-Shek, which preceded the seizure of power.

This did not prevent Liu Shao-Chi from finding an occasion to attack both

the right opportunists in the Chinese Revolution, like the Russian Mensheviks [who] set up a “Great Wall” between democratic and socialist revolutions, and failed to see the interconnections of the two revolutions, [and] the “left” opportunists, like the Russian Trotskyites [who allegedly] confused the distinction between the democratic and socialist revolutions, would eliminate the bourgeoisie and carry out the tasks of the socialist revolution in the stage of the democratic revolution.

This is naturally the height of confusion. Liu Shao-Chi means that, in the democratic revolution, i.e., in the period which precedes the taking of power, it is necessary to ally oneself even with bourgeois or petty-bourgeois strata opposed to “imperialism, feudalism, and bureaucratic capitalism [of Chiang Kai-Shek].” He calls that one of the “tasks” of the “democratic revolution,” to which, according to him, the Trotskyists are opposed.

The historic reality is, of course, quite different. The Trotskyists were opposed to any conception of a National Front “of the four classes” subjected to the political leadership of the “national bourgeoisie” at a time when Stalin and the Chinese leaders who were carrying out his orders viewed Chiang Kai-Shek and the Kuomintang as the representatives of such a class.

The Trotskyists have never been opposed, on the contrary, to a front, led in practice by the proletariat and its party, at the head of the peasant, worker, and urban petty-bourgeois masses, fighting effectively against imperialism, the feudalists, the compradore bourgeoisie – and for power.

That, in a country like China, “national bourgeois” should at a given moment participate in such a front, accepting the programme and the methods of struggle of the proletariat and its party who are leading the front – what objection could there be to that?

The practical importance of such strata and the reality of their participation in a front really led by the proletariat and its party should not, however, be exaggerated.

When Liu Shao-Chi claims that the line of the Communist Party, including that of the period of the “democratic revolution” that preceded the seizure of power, was always “the revolution of the masses of the people, led by the proletariat (through the Communist Party) to oppose imperialism, feudalism, and bureaucratic capitalism,” and that this policy was the “key” to victory, he is consciously prettying up the past policy of the Chinese CP by referring to the very last period of its struggle, when it had finally broken with the Kuomintang and Chiang Kai-Shek, and engaged in revolutionary struggle for power.

Let us in any case remember the fact that the Chinese leaders are in fact coming back to the theory of the permanent revolution by admitting both the thesis of the accomplishment of the bourgeois democratic tasks under the sole regime of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and the thesis of the uninterrupted development of the revolution into a socialist revolution properly so called.

April 1960

[In our next issue: Chinese conceptions about rhythms and means for economic development in industry and agriculture; differences of opinion on this subject within the Chinese CP; the theory and practice of rural and urban communes; concerning the liberation of women, effective or not, and family and social transformations; the future of the Chinese revolution.] [A]


1. The most advanced clarification, up to the present time, on this question, has been given recently by the Chinese leader Lu-Ting-Yi, alternate member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the CP, in the, for more than one reason, important speech that he has pronounced on the 22 April 1960 at the meeting to commemorate the ninetieth anniversary of the birth of Lenin, in Pekin.

Here are some very significant extracts, related to Permanent Revolution, from this speech:

“Lenin brilliantly applied and developed the Marxist idea of uninterrupted revolution, regarding it as a fundamental guiding principle of the proletarian revolution.

“Lenin set out the principle that the proletariat should obtain the leadership in the democratic revolution and transform the bourgeois democratic revolution without interruption into the socialist revolution” (Hsinhua News Agency, Supplement No. 41, 23-4-60).

For Lu-Ting-Yi, the “democratic” phase of the Chinese Revolution was “a peasant war and an agrarian revolution (under the leadership of the proletariat)” in the process “of uninterrupted revolution turning the democratic revolution into a socialist revolution.”

Lu-Ting-Yi, for this purpose, quotes Lenin, who, speaking of the relationship between the democratic revolution and the socialist revolution, “pointed out: ‘... this first grows into the second. The second, in passing, solves the problems of the first. The second consolidates the work of the first’.”

Note by MIA

A. This article was never written because of Pablo’s arrest for providing material aid to the Algerian national liberation movement.

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Michel Pablo
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Marxist Writers’

Updated on: 26 March 2016