The Communist Party of China and the 20th Congress of the C.P.S.U.

British & Irish Communist Organisation

With this article we publish the sixth in the ongoing series on the origins of modern revisionism which has focussed on the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The study takes up the issue of the responses of the CPC to the Twentieth Congress of the CPSU and the rise of soviet revisionism. it poses the question: whether the CPC and its leadership had on adequate understanding of the rise of Khrushchevism and whether it undertook the theoretical analysis and exposure of soviet revisionism in a manner analogous to that of Lenin's defence of Marxism from Kautskyite opportunism in 1914. The stands of the CPC on the questions of Yugoslavia, the Twentieth Congress, Stalin, and the continuation of class struggle under socialism are subjected to close examination. The study concludes that the public statements and actions of the CPC between 1955 and 1960 were not such as to suggest that the CPC understood the implications of the Twentieth Congress and the rise of modern revisionism. On the contrary, the analysis argues, the CPC and Mao mistook the development of Khrushchevite revisionism to be a further development of Marxism-Leninism and assisted Khrushchevism to achieve dominance in the international communist movement in the meetings of the Communist and workers' parties in 1957 and 1960. Though this study was first published thirty years ago it retains its significance for the communist movement today.

1. The question of Maoism or Mao Tse Tung’s Thought is one of considerable importance for the anti-revisionist movement. The Ninth Congress of the Communist Party of China has made it necessary to investigate this matter and to establish whether the writings of Mao constitute a comprehensive theoretical development of Marxism which gives adequate guidance to the international communist movement in the present period, as the writings of Lenin did after the split of 1914.

This document analyses the relation of Mao, and of the C.P.C. leadership as a whole, to the rise of Khrushchevism in the middle and late fifties. Further developments will be dealt with in a subsequent document.

The rise of Khrushchevite revisionism in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the unchallenged supremacy which it achieved in the international Communist movement in the middle and late fifties, was a catastrophic defeat for revolutionary working class politics, comparable only to the collapse into opportunism of the European social-democratic movement.

2. In 1914 Lenin upheld the revolutionary Marxist position against the Kautskyite degeneration into opportunism. He made a thorough and concrete Marxist analysis of all the questions at issue, and thereby drew clear and definite lines of demarcation between Marxism and Kautskyism. He furthermore clearly distinguished the Marxist position from the position of revolutionary tendencies which, while being subjectively opposed to Kautskyism, hesitated to make a clear theoretical and organisational break with it - the tendencies of Rosa Luxemburg and Trotsky. Once Kautskyite opportunism emerged as a definite position, and a very powerful one, Lenin analysed and exposed it. He did not allow himself to be inhibited from making a principled exposure of Kautskyism by any considerations of tactics or expediency. Tactical expediency was beneath consideration when it was a question of clarifying the antagonism between opportunism and communism. Gains made by ‘tactical’ manoeuvres are meaningless if they involve strategic losses, and even loss of basic principles.

Because of Lenin’s theoretical exposure of Kautskyism in 1914 the massive working class reaction against opportunist social democracy a few years later was able to express itself in the development of a thorough communist political movement, whereas it would probably have resulted in political confusion and organisational fragmentation if the necessary theoretical and propaganda work done by Lenin had not been done.

3. Following Lenin’s death Stalin maintained that, because of Lenin’s comprehensive defence of the Marxist position against social democratic opportunism, and because of his considerable development of the Marxist position on the questions of proletarian revolution, the proletarian dictatorship and party organisation, the science of Marxism should be called Marxism-Leninism. And it is undeniable that Lenin’s contribution to the development of Marxism was so comprehensive that Marxism-Leninism is an appropriate name.

Stalin himself defended the Leninist position comprehensively against Trotskyism, Bukharinism and other opportunist positions which developed in the Bolshevik Party following Lenin’s death. He gave effective leadership in the first actual construction of a socialist economy. His military and political leadership of the defence of the Soviet Union against the Nazi invasion was outstanding. After the war he guided the development of the East European states in a situation of great complexity, and during the period of his leadership these states maintained a united opposition to world imperialism. Furthermore, he exposed Titoite revisionism, drew sharp dividing lines between it and communism, and led the communist movement into a position of theoretical and practical antagonism towards it.

But despite Stalin’s very great theoretical and practical contribution to the Communist movement the term Stalinism was not adopted to describe it by the CPSU or the international Communist movement. Stalin described himself as a disciple of Lenin who had defended positions established by Lenin, and who had guided the implementation of a programme which had been drafted in its essentials by Lenin. And this was in fact an objective assessment of his activity.

4. If a further development of Marxism in the form of Mao Tse Tung’s Thought exists, it must exist as a comprehensive defence of Marxism against contemporary revisionism, and a comprehensive Marxist analysis of the main features of the present international situation (i.e. of the main features of contemporary capitalism, contemporary socialism, and their inter-relationship.)

5. We quote from Lin Piao’s Report to the 9th Congress of the C.P.C. on the history of the struggle between modern revisionism and the modern anti-revisionist movement:-

‘Chairman Mao has waged a tit-for-tat struggle against modern revisionism with the Soviet revisionist renegade clique as its centre, and has inherited, defended and developed the Marxist-Leninist theory of proletarian revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat. Chairman Mao has comprehensively summed up the historical experience of the dictatorship of the proletariat both in the positive and negative aspects and, in order to prevent the restoration of capitalism, has put forward the theory of continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat.’ (Part i)

‘When Khrushchov revisionism was just beginning to emerge, our great leader Chairman Mao foresaw what serious harm modern revisionism would do to the cause of world revolution. Chairman Mao led the whole party in waging resolute struggles in the ideological, theoretical and political spheres, together with the Albanian Party of Labour led by Enver Hoxha and with the other genuine Marxist-Leninists of the whole world, against modern revisionism with Soviet revisionism as its centre. This has enabled the people all over the world to learn gradually in struggle how to distinguish genuine Marxism-Leninism from sham Marxism-Leninism and genuine socialism from sham socialism and brought about the bankruptcy of Khrushchov revisionism. At the same time. Chairman Mao led our Party in resolutely criticising Liu Shao-chi’s revisionist line... All this was done in fulfilment of our Party’s proletarian internationalist duty.’ (Part 7)

6. These statements by Lin Piao are in contradiction with the historical facts of the public response of the C.P.C. to the rise of Khrushchevism.


7. The first major triumph of Khrushchevism in the international communist movement was the ‘reconciliation’with Titoism in 1955.

In 1948 the world communist movement had broken with Titoite revisionism after it had been exposed by the Cominform on the initiative of the Soviet leadership, but it later became clear that there were strong Titoite elements in the leadership of many Parties who were only biding their time. Between 1948 and 1953 exposure of developments in Yugoslavia was maintained in the Cominform newspaper ‘For a Lasting Peace...’. Since this period has since been covered in obscurity we will give some quotes from the Cominform newspaper:

‘...the logic of economic laws is stronger than the ignorant reasoning of the ‘theoreticians’ Tito and Kardelj. Economic laws are inexorably forcing Yugoslavia’s economy into the mainstream of the capitalist system of economy, and subordinating it more and more to the interests of imperialism.’ (July 1, 1949)

‘The state sector of the economy is no longer public property. State capitalism predominates in industry, and private capital is tightening its grip in the towns and especially in the countryside... The restoration of capitalism in Yugoslavia is accompanied by shameless demagogy to the effect that all this, if you please, is building Socialism, and so on.’ (Sept. 1, 1949)

‘In the sphere of economy, the fascist Tito-Rankovich clique took the line of restoring capitalism in town and countryside.’ They base themselves ‘on the urban bourgeoisie which receives from the fascist Tito-Rankovich clique the means of production wrested from the people, and the kulaks in the countryside. In order to facilitate the restoration of capitalism...the Yugoslav fascists undertook the so-called ‘decentralisation’ of the entire national economy, abolished State management of industry, planned production and planned distribution of raw materials and goods. From the pronouncements of Tito, Kidric and other Belgrade chieftains it follows that the basic law of Yugoslav economy is the capitalist law of ‘supply and demand’.’ (April 6th, 1951)

‘At the end of August, the Tito-Rankovich clique...announced ‘new economic laws’ which signified nothing more than the complete transition to open restoration of capitalism, open transfer of Yugoslavia’s national riches to the American and British imperialists.’ (Oct. 12, 1951)

Exposure of Titoism was maintained unabated until Stalin’s death in March 1953, and for a few months after. By the end of 1953 it had become noticeably blurred and softened. By January 1954 an article appeared declaring that the choice before Yugoslavia was between remaining ‘in the grip of the foreign monopolies’, or ‘restoring the ancient bonds with the fraternal peoples of the countries of peoples democracy’. The class nature of the Yugoslav government and ‘economic reform’ was glossed over.

In December 1954 an official statement from Moscow was published, declaring:

‘The strained relations which obtained between Yugoslavia and the U.S.S.R. during the past few years were only to the advantage of the enemies of both countries... Consistently pursuing a peace-loving policy, the Soviet government put forward a proposal to the Yugoslav Government to normalise relations between the two countries.’

In June 1955 a joint declaration of the Russian and Yugoslav Governments was issued after negotiations held in Yugoslavia. The negotiations ‘were conducted in a spirit of friendship and mutual understanding... The negotiations made manifest the sincere desire of the Governments of both countries for the further development of all-round cooperation’. The principles which would guide this cooperation were:

‘mutual respect and non-interference in internal affairs for any reason - whether economic, political or ideological’; and ‘cessation of any and all forms of propaganda and misinformation and also other activities which sow distrust and in one way or another impede the creation of an atmosphere favourable to constructive international cooperation.’

In short, criticism of Titoism was off. The Titoites were to be allowed to continue to develop their ‘workers control’ capitalism without fear of exposure. Titoism was to be allowed to represent itself as a trend in Communism. And the blame for the disruption of relations between the international Communist movement and Yugoslavia was to be attributed to the Stalin leadership:

‘The abnormal, unhealthy relations that arose after 1948, resulting from the provocations of Beria and Abakumov have been ended.’

(Pravda, July 16, 1955. In 1953/56 Beria was shot without trial after Stalin’s death as the source of all ills in the Communist movement while the ground was being prepared for the attack on Stalin.)

8. The C.P.C. gave its full support to these developments:

‘...a shadow had once been cast over Soviet - Yugoslav relations. Now it is clear that the temporary disruption of relations between the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia and other Peoples Democracies ran counter to the fundamental interests of the socialist peoples. It was harmful to the international working class movement... Our regret about that unhappy episode in Soviet-Yugoslav relations is paralleled by our great satisfaction with the restoration and rapid development of Soviet-Yugoslav relations now.’ (People's China, July 14th 1955)

Stalin ‘gave certain wrong advice on the international communist movement, and, in particular, made a wrong decision on the question of Yugoslavia.’ (‘On the Historical Experience’ etc., April 1956.)

Certain differences connected with the Hungarian events arose between the C.P.C. and the Titoites late in 1956, but in the document ‘More on the Historical Experience of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat’ (December 1956), while certain criticisms are made, Titoism is still treated as a trend in Communism, and it is reasserted that the Cominform exposure of Titoism was wrong:

‘It is understandable that the Yugoslav comrades bear a particular resentment against Stalin’s mistakes. In the past, they made worthy efforts to stick to socialism under difficult conditions. Their experiments in the democratic management of economic enterprises and other socialist organisations have also attracted attention. The Chinese people welcome the reconciliation between the Soviet Union and other socialist countries on the one hand, and Yugoslavia on the other, as well as the establishment and development of friendly relations between China and Yugoslavia.’ (p.l7)

9. In May 1958 a Resolution adopted by the second Session of the 8th National Congress of the CPC took a more critical position on Titoism, while still disagreeing with Stalin’s handling of the affair:

‘The 8th National Congress of the CPC...considers as basically correct and necessary the criticism made in 1948 by the Information Bureau of the Communist and Workers’ Parties in its resolution ‘Concerning the Situation in the C.P. of Yugoslavia’ in regard to the fact that the Yugoslav C.P. departed from the principles of Marxism-Leninism and took the wrong road of bourgeois nationalism, although there were defects and mistakes in the methods adopted at that time in dealing with this issue. Our Party agreed with and supported the criticism. The second resolution concerning the Yugoslav C.P. adopted by the Information 1949, however, was incorrect and it was later withdrawn by the C.P.s which took part in the Information Bureau meeting. Since 1954, the C.C. of the C.P.S.U., headed by Cde. N.S. Khrushchev, initiated improvement of relations with Yugoslavia and adopted a series of measures to this end. This was entirely necessary and correct. This initiative of the C.P.S.U. had the approval of all socialist countries and the C.P.s of various countries. We also took steps parallel to those of the Soviet Union and established relations between China and Yugoslavia and between the Chinese and Yugoslav Parties.’

The 1948 Cominform Resolution pointed out the opportunist and nationalist policies of the C.P.Y. leadership, and warned that persistence in these policies ‘can only lead to Yugoslavia’s degeneration into an ordinary bourgeois republic, to the loss of its independence and to its transformation into a colony of the imperialist countries.’ It called on the C.P.Y. ‘to recognise their mistakes openly and honestly and to rectify them; to break with nationalism, return to internationalism; and in every way to consolidate the united socialist front against imperialism.’ If the existing C.P.Y. leadership should prove incapable of doing this, the Yugoslav Communists should ‘replace them and... advance a new international leadership of the Party.’

The publication of this Resolution forced the Titoites into the open. Being no longer able to operate their opportunism discreetly under a Communist front, and not being prepared to adopt a genuine Communist position, they developed their revisionist position rapidly and extensively in the year following the Cominform Resolution. To carry this line they relied heavily on Tito’s war-time reputation. There was mass imprisonment of Communists. Decisive bourgeois political and economic measures were taken. A hysterical, and more or less trotskyist, campaign was whipped up. They lined up with the imperialists internationally and began to receive imperialist economic ‘aid’.

The 1949 Resolution stated: ‘Whereas the June 1948 placed on record that the Tito-Rankovich clique had abandoned democracy and socialism for bourgeois nationalism, in the period that has elapsed since that meeting...this clique have definitely passed from bourgeois nationalism to fascism and outright betrayal of the national interests of Yugoslavia.’ They ‘have subordinated their country economically and politically to the American and British imperialists’... ‘Thousands of Yugoslav patriots devoted to Communism have been expelled from the party and incarcerated in prison and concentration camps, while many have been tortured and murdered in jail or nefariously assassinated, like the well-known Yugoslav Communist Arso Jovanovic.’ And ‘the doors of the party have been thrown wide open to bourgeois and kulak elements’.

‘An essential condition for Yugoslavia’s return to the socialist camp is active struggle of the revolutionary elements both inside and outside the Y.C.P. for the resurrection of a revolutionary, genuinely Communist Party of Yugoslavia... The forces of Yugoslavia loyal to Communism, being unable under the present savage fascist terror to come out openly against the Tito-Rankovich clique, have been compelled to resort to the same means of fighting for the cause of Communism as are employed by the Communists in those countries where legal activity is debarred them.’

The 1958 Resolution of the C.P.C. does not state why it considers the 1949 Cominform Resolution to be incorrect, nor does it say what the ‘mistakes in the methods’ adopted in 1948 were. An explanatory article in People’s Daily, June 4, 1958, says that in 1948 ‘the leading group of the Y.C.P. had not yet systematised its revisionist views. Nor did it, after the socialist countries resumed relations with Yugoslavia, state them as systematically as it has done’ (i.e. in its Programme adopted in 1958). ‘When the leading group of the Y.C.P. was drawing up this programme nobody accused them of being modern revisionists’. And even after the adoption of a systematic revisionist programme: ‘It would be incorrect to return to the pre-1954 position’.

In fact, however, the decisive qualitative change in the Yugoslav Party leadership and government took place in 1948, and not in 1958. A comprehensive revisionist position was developed in 1948/9, from which all subsequent developments followed logically.

10. The 1963 document, ‘Is Yugoslavia a Socialist Country?’ says that ‘the Tito clique is a special detachment of U.S. imperialism for sabotaging the world revolution... The Tito clique has invariably played the role of a lackey of U.S. imperialism in the major international events of the past ten years and more.’ It mentions Tito’s sabotage of the Greek revolution in 1949 by closing the Yugoslav border to Greek revolutionaries. It states that capitalism has been restored in agriculture and industry, and in this connection gives examples dating from 1950 onwards.

Regarding the Yugoslav state, it says: ‘While the dictatorship of the proletariat is indeed no more, the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie not only exists, but is a brutal Fascist dictatorship at that.’ Now, the main fascist activity of the Titoites was carried out before the 1954 ‘reconciliation’, and subsequently there was a very gradual evolution of bourgeois democracy. And, in fact, the main example of fascist activity given in this document dates from 1948: ‘The betrayal of the Tito clique met first of all with strong resistance inside the Party. To suppress this resistance, the Tito clique used its power to expel and purge from the Party a great number of Communists loyal to Marxism-Leninism. In the period from 1948 to 1952 alone, more than 200,000 Party members, or half the original membership...were expelled. Taking action against the so-called Cominform elements, it arrested and slaughtered large numbers of Marxist-Leninists and revolutionary cadres and people, the number of Communists and active revolutionaries arrested and imprisoned alone exceeding thirty thousand. At the same time, the Tito clique opened the door wide to counter-revolutionaries, bourgeois elements and careerists...’

This is in substance a reversal to the position of the 1949 Cominform Resolution, but neither that document, nor the earlier C.P.C. view that it was ‘incorrect’, are mentioned. Regarding the 1954 reconciliation, it is stated:

‘In 1954, when Khruschev proposed to improve relations with Yugoslavia, we agreed to treat it as a fraternal socialist country for the purpose of winning it back to the path of socialism, and watching how the Tito clique would develop. We did not entertain very much hope for the Tito clique even then.’

The Twentieth Congress

11. The Khrushchevite revisionist position was comprehensively and publicly stated at the 20th Congress of the C.P.S.U. in February 1956, (with appropriate ‘Greetings’ from Tito). In many Parties there was very strong disagreement with the new policies on the part of the working class membership. But the Khrushchevites won over most of the leadership, in which the intelligentsia were very influential, and despite the widespread, but disorganised and theoretically inadequate, working class opposition, the Parties came under the control of Khrushchevism. But under the influence of the reconciliation with Titoism, the 20th Congress, and the Hungarian events of October 1956, many thousands of the best working class communists left the communist parties.

The sweeping triumph of Khrushchevism in 1956 was made possible by the fact that not a single communist party opposed Khrushchevism or gave a lead to the working class opposition to it. Not a single Party, not a single influential Communist leader, did in 1956 what Lenin did in 1914.

12. The C.P.C. view of the 20th Congress was published in two pamphlets which exercised widespread influence in 1956: ‘On the Historical Experience of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat’ (April 1956) and ‘More On the Historical Experience...’ etc. (December 1956). The first of these states:

‘The 20th Congress of the C.P.S.U. summed up the fresh experience gained both in international relations and domestic construction. It took a series of momentous decisions on the steadfast implementation of Lenin’s policy in regard to the possibility of peaceful coexistence between countries with different social systems, on the development of Soviet democracy, on the thorough observance of the Party’s principle of collective leadership, on the criticism of shortcomings within the Party, and on the Sixth Five-Year Plan for development of the national economy.

‘The question of combating the cult of the individual occupied an important place in the discussions of the 20th Congress. The Congress very sharply exposed the prevalence of the cult of the individual which, for a long time in Soviet life, had given rise to many errors in work and had led to ill consequences. This courageous self-criticism of its past errors by the C.P.S.U. demonstrated the high level of principle in inner-Party life and the great vitality of Marxism-Leninism’ (p.3).

This view was repeated in the second pamphlet, which was issued in connection with the Hungarian events of October 1956.

13. The line of the 20th Congress was formally approved of, and accepted as the guiding line of the socialist countries, in the Declaration of the Communist Parties of the 12 Socialist countries which was issued after a meeting in Moscow in November 1957. (The delegation of the C.P.C. was led by Mao.) The Declaration states:

‘Contrary to the absurd assertions about a so-called crisis of Communism, the Communist movement is growing and gathering strength. The historic decisions of the Twentieth Congress of the C.P.S.U. are of tremendous importance not only to the C.P.S.U. and the building of Communism in the U.S.S.R. They have opened a new stage in the world communist movement and pushed ahead its further development along Marxist-Leninist lines. The results of the Congresses of the C.P.s of China, France, Italy and other countries in recent times have clearly demonstrated the unity and solidarity of the Party ranks... This meeting...testifies to the international solidarity of the Communist movement.’

Support for the revisionist line of the 20th Congress was re-asserted in the Statement of the 81 Communist Parties (including the C.P.C.) which met in Moscow in November 1960. The Statement asserts:

‘Today the restoration of capitalism has been made socially and economically impossible not only in the Soviet Union, but in the other socialist countries as well...

‘Imperialist, renegade and revisionist hopes of a split within the socialist camp are built on sand and doomed to failure.’ (Revisionism here refers merely to Titoism. Differences arising from the Hungarian events of November 1956 brought about a temporary worsening of relations between Khrushchevite and Titoite revisionism.)

‘The C.P.s have ideologically defeated the revisionists in their ranks who sought to divert them from the Marxist-Leninist path... The C.P.s have unanimously condemned the Yugoslav variety of international opportunism, a variety of modern revisionist ‘theories’ in concentrated form...

‘The Communist and Workers’ Parties declare that the C.P.S.U. has been and remains the universally recognised vanguard of the world Communist movement... The historic decisions of the 20th Congress of the C.P.S.U. are not only of great importance for the CPSU and communist construction in the USSR but have initiated a new stage in the world Communist movement, and have promoted its development on the basis of Marxism-Leninism.’

14. There are differing views in the anti-revisionist movement as to whether the pamphlets ‘On the Historical Experience’ expressed Mao’s position or were issued despite his opposition. There is no evidence for the view that he opposed the line of these pamphlets: the line of wholehearted support for Khrushchevite revisionism. And there is indisputable evidence that he supported Khrushchevite revisionism. In his Opening Address to the 8th Congress of the C.P.C., held six months after the 20th Congress, Mao said:

‘After the October Revolution, Lenin put forward the task of study and again study, before the CPSU. Our Soviet comrades and the Soviet people have acted according to this behest of Lenin. The time has not been long, but the achievements have been extremely glorious. At its 20th Congress held not long ago, the CPSU formulated many correct policies and criticised shortcomings which were found in the Party. It can be confidently asserted that very great developments will follow this in its work.’ (‘People’s China’, Oct. 1, 1956)

At a speech made in Moscow on November 6, 1957, almost two years after the 20th Congress, Mao said:

‘The creative application of Marxism-Leninism by the CPSU in tackling practical tasks has ensured unbroken success in the Soviet peoples’ construction work. The fighting programme put forward by the 20th Congress of the CPSU is a good example. The wise measures taken by the Central Committee of the CPSU on the questions of overcoming the cult of the individual, developing agriculture, reorganising the administration of industry and construction, extending the power of the union republics and local organisations, opposing the anti-Party group, consolidating unity within the party and improving the Party and political party work in the Soviet army and navy, will undoubtedly promote still further the consolidation and development of all undertakings in the Soviet Union.’

‘While in Moscow, on November 17, Chairman Mao met and addressed some three thousand Chinese students and trainees in the Soviet Union... It was an event of great significance, he said, that the Communist and Workers’ parties of 68 countries attended the celebrations... It showed the solidarity of the Communist and Workers’ parties the world over. The socialist camp must have a leader and .that leader is the Soviet Union, Chairman Mao added. The Communist and Workers’ Parties of all countries also must have a leader and the leader is the CPSU. The two facts - the unity of the international communist movement and the launching of the two Soviet artificial satellites - marked a new turning point in the relative strength of the two major camps.’ (‘People’s China’, December 16, 1957)

A communiqué issued after talks between Khrushchev and Mao in Peking in August 1958, refers to ‘the unshakeable unity’ of the CPSU and the CPC.

15. The 1963 document ‘The Origin and Development of the Differences between the Leadership of the CPSU and Ourselves’, states:

‘...the whole series of differences of principle in the international communist movement began more than seven years ago. To be specific, it began with the 20th Congress of the CPSU in 1956’ ... ‘The errors of the 20th Congress brought great ideological confusion in the international communist movement and caused it to be deluged with revisionist ideas. Along with the imperialists, the reactionaries and the Tito clique, renegades from communism in many countries attacked Marxism-Leninism and the international Communist movement.’

This is clearly a reversal of the public estimate of the 20th Congress made by the CPC in 1956, and repeated in its support for the Declaration of 1957 and the Statement of 1960. But the document maintains that there has in fact been no change in the CPC estimate:

‘From the very outset we held that a number of views advanced at the 20th Congress concerning the contemporary international struggle and the international communist movement were wrong, were violations of Marxism-Leninism’ ... ‘The CPC has always differed in principle in its view of the 20th Congress of the CPSU, and the leading comrades of the CPSU are well aware of this. On many occasions in internal discussions after the 20th Congress...leading comrades of the Central Committee of the CPC solemnly criticised the errors of the CPSU leadership’. Referring to the two 1956 documents ‘On the Historical Experience’ etc., it says that they ‘tactfully but unequivocally criticised the erroneous propositions of the 20th Congress.’

However, ‘for the sake of unity against the enemy and out of consideration for the difficult position the leaders of the CPSU were in, we refrained in those days from open criticism of the errors of the 20th Congress, because the imperialists and reactionaries of all countries were exploiting these errors and carrying on frenzied activities against the Soviet Union, against communism and against the people, and also because the leaders of the CPSU had not yet departed so far from Marxism-Leninism as they did later. We fervently hoped at the time that the leaders of the CPSU would put their errors right. Consequently we always endeavoured to seek out positive aspects and on public occasions gave them whatever support was appropriate and necessary.’

Regarding the 1957 Declaration, which declared ‘the historic decisions of the 20th Congress’ to be ‘of tremendous the building of Communism in the USSR’, and to ‘have opened a new stage in the world Communist movement’, the document says:

‘The erroneous views of the 20th Congress on many important questions of principle were rejected and corrected by the 1957 meeting of fraternal Parties.’

Explaining why in that case the Declaration had actually hailed the historic importance of the 20th Congress, the document says:

‘...we did not agree with the reference to the 20th Congress... and suggested changes. But out of consideration for the difficult position of the CPSU at the time, we did not insist on the changes’. This concession was made ‘out of consideration for the larger interest’. A concession on the formulation on peaceful transition was made ‘only out of consideration for the repeatedly expressed wish of the leaders of the CPSU that the formulation should show some connection with that of the 20th Congress.’

Again at the 1960 meeting:

‘...we differed on the questions of the 20th Congress...and on the forms of transition from capitalism to socialism, but out of consideration for the needs of the CPSU and certain other fraternal Parties we agreed to the inclusion of the same wording on these two questions as that used in the 1957 Declaration. But we made it plain at the time to the leaders of the CPSU that this would be the last time we accommodated ourselves to such a formulation about the 20th Congress.’

The Stalin Question

16. The development of modern revisionism has always gone hand in hand with criticism of the Stalin leadership of the Communist movement in the period 1936-53. This was the case with Titoism as well as with Khrushchevism. Criticism of Stalin was at the core of the 20th Congress, and was supported and repeated by the CPC. ‘On the Historical Experience of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat’ stated:

‘The Congress very sharply exposed the prevalence of the cult of the individual which, for a long time in Soviet life, had given rise to many errors in work and had led to ill consequences’, (page 3) ‘The CPC congratulates the CPSU on its great achievements in this historic struggle against the cult of the individual’ (p.l3). It asserts that ‘During the latter part of his life, Stalin took more and more pleasure in this cult of the individual’ and as a result he ‘became conceited and imprudent’, and ‘subjectivism and one-sidedness developed in his thinking.’ He ‘erroneously exaggerated his own role and counterposed his individual authority to the collective leadership’.

CPC criticism of Stalin was further developed in ‘More on the Historical Experience of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat’ (which was published six months after the release of Khrushchev’s ‘secret speech’ by the US government). It repeats the allegation that Stalin became conceited and subjectivist: ‘A series of victories and eulogies he received in the latter years of his life turned his head. He deviated partly, but grossly, from the dialectical materialist way of thinking and fell into subjectivism. He began to put blind faith in personal wisdom and authority: he would not investigate and study the complicated conditions seriously or listen carefully to the opinions of his comrades and the voice of the masses... He often stubbornly persisted in carrying out... mistaken policies over a long period and was unable to correct his mistakes in time’, (page 14).

Here is a list of the mistakes attributed to Stalin in these documents:

He ‘broadened the scope of the suppression of counter-revolution; he lacked the necessary vigilance on the eve of the anti-fascist war; he failed to pay proper attention to the further development of agriculture and the material welfare of the peasantry; he gave certain wrong advice on the international communist movement, and in particular, made a wrong decision on the question of Yugoslavia.’(‘On the Historical Experience’, p.10).

In ‘certain fields and to a certain degree, he undermined democratic centralism and the leadership of the Party’. (‘More on the Historical Experience’, p. 23) He ‘displayed certain great-nation chauvinist tendencies in relations with brother parties and countries.’ (p. 26)

Furthermore: ‘After the elimination of classes, the class struggle should not continue to be stressed as being intensified, as it was done by Stalin, with the result that the healthy development of socialist democracy was hampered. The CPSU is completely right in firmly correcting Stalin’s mistakes in this respect.’ (p. 21)

Even though it was stated that ‘We should view Stalin from an historical standpoint, make a proper and all-round analysis to see where he was right and where he was wrong’, no such analysis was undertaken by the CPC. Its criticism of Stalin remained merely a list of alleged errors, for the most part vaguely formulated, and entirely without historical substantiation.

17. The 1963 CPC document, ‘On the Question of Stalin’, states that ‘The CPC has invariably insisted on an overall, objective and scientific analysis of Stalin’s merits and demerits by the method of historical materialism and the presentation of history as it actually occurred.’ Unfortunately, though it had said that the Stalin question should be approached in that manner, that was not how it approached it.

The 1963 list of mistakes is: ‘In his way of thinking, Stalin departed from dialectical materialism and fell into metaphysics and subjectivism on certain questions and consequently he was sometimes divorced from the masses. In struggles inside as well as outside the Party, on certain occasions and on certain questions he confused two types of contradictions which are different in nature, contradictions between ourselves and the enemy and contradictions among the people, and also confused the different methods needed in handling them. In the work led by Stalin of suppressing the counter-revolution, many counter-revolutionaries deserving punishment were duly punished, but at the same time there were innocent people who were wrongly convicted: and in 1937 and 1938 there occurred the error of enlarging the scope of the suppression of counter-revolutionaries. In the matter of Party and government organisation, he did not fully apply proletarian centralism and, to some extent, violated it. In handling relations with fraternal Parties and countries, he made some mistakes. He also gave some bad counsel in the international Communist movement.’

A number of items mentioned in 1956 are omitted in 1963. Stalin’s theory of intensifying class struggle is not included in the list of errors. He is not specifically accused of having made a wrong decision on Yugoslavia. He is not accused of having deliberately fostered the personality cult for his own subjectivist gratification. The Khrushchevite struggle against the personality cult is no longer supported: it is in fact represented as a camouflage for counter-revolution.

18. In another CPC document issued in 1963, ‘On the Origin and Development of the Differences’, it is stated that:

‘The criticism of Stalin at the 20th Congress...was wrong both in principle and in method’... ‘In April 1956, less than two months after the 20th Congress, in conversations...with Cde. Mikoyan..., Cde. Mao Tse-tung expressed our views on the question of Stalin. He emphasised that Stalin’s ‘merits outweighed his faults’ and that it was necessary to ‘make a concrete analysis’ and ‘an all-round evaluation’ of Stalin... On October 23, 1956, on receiving the Soviet Ambassador to China, Cde. Mao Tse-tung pointed out, ‘Stalin deserves to be criticised, but we do not agree with the method of criticism, and there are some other matters we do not agree with’... On November 30, 1956, on receiving the Soviet Ambassador to China, Cde. Mao Tse-tung again pointed out that the basic policy and line during the period when Stalin was in power were correct and that methods used against enemies must not be used against one’s comrades... In their many internal discussions with comrades of the CPSU, leading comrades of the C.C. of the CPC also systematically set forth views on the international situation and the strategy of the international communist movement, with direct reference to the errors of the 20th Congress ...’ ... ‘The fact is that at no time and in no place did the CPC... agree with the complete negation of Stalin’.

19. It is true that in 1956 the CPC expressed public disagreement with the ‘complete’ negation of Stalin. But this referred to Tito and not to Khrushchev. It stated its agreement with the position of the CPSU on Stalin. ‘On the Historical Experience’ states that: ‘the CPSU while affirming the great contributions of Stalin, deemed it necessary to sharply expose the essence of his mistakes’. And despite the release of the ‘secret speech’ in the interim, ‘More on the Historical Experience’ restates CPC support for the Khrushchevite position on Stalin. (And it is a fact that the ‘secret speech’ did not express any complete negation of Stalin. It expressed general agreement with Stalin’s position up to 1934. Thereafter it expressed disagreement on certain essential matters which it was necessary to negate in the interest of the counter-revolution).

Two matters of basic theoretical importance in particular were negated by the 20th Congress. Stalin’s ‘Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR’, in which the theory of commodity socialism was refuted and in which the economic developments necessary to carry the revolution forward were outlined, was declared to be erroneous. Secondly, Stalin’s theory (or his re-assertion of Lenin’s theory) that the class struggle continues, and even intensifies, throughout the historical period of socialism, was declared to be erroneous.

The CPC supported the negation of ‘Economic Problems’ by implication (i.e. the statement in ‘More On the Historical Experience’ that Stalin should have developed ‘democratic methods of...managing enterprises’ and established closer ‘links between the State organs and the bodies administering various enterprises on the one hand, and the broad masses on the other’; and Mao’s approval in November 1957 of the ‘wise measures taken by the CC of the CPSU’ for ‘developing agriculture’ and ‘reorganising the administration of industry and construction’.

In the concrete circumstances of the time these statements can only have functioned as support for the extension of market relations (usually described as ‘democracy’) in the Soviet and E. European economies. By the time of Mao’s 1957 statement the theory of market socialism was highly developed and considerable market reform had taken place.)

As we have seen, the theory of the intensification of the class struggle was specifically condemned in ‘More On the Historical Experience’.

20. In 1956/57 the CPC publicly supported the Khrushchevite position on Stalin. What was said by CPC leaders in private discussions with representatives of the CPSU was apparently at variance with the public statements of the CPC. In the politics of the class struggle it is public statements that count.

(In Moscow in 1957 Mao stated his support for Khrushchev’s measures against the ‘anti-party’ group of Molotov, Kaganovich, etc., which was a belated movement of some of the survivors of the leadership of the Stalin period to obstruct Khrushchevism.)

21. After the launching of the cultural revolution the main CPC criticism of Stalin continued throughout the period of socialism: ‘In theory, Stalin failed to admit that classes and class struggles exist throughout the historical period under the dictatorship of the proletariat’. (Reference Material for Study of ‘A Great Historic Document’, 1967).

This is the opposite of the 1956 criticism of Stalin in this respect. The 1956 criticism, though incorrect, at least referred to Stalin’s actual position. The theory of the subsidence of the class struggle, attributed to Stalin in 1937, was never put forward by him. He categorically rejected it in his report to the CC of the CPSU in 1937. And in the conflict with Titoism it was again repeated that the class struggle continued in the Soviet Union.

22. It is clear that the public statements and actions of the CPC during the critical years of 1955-60, on the major issues of reconciliation with Titoism, the nature of the 20th Congress, and the Stalin question, cannot be reconciled with Lin Piao’s assertion in his Report to the 9th Congress of the CPC that:

‘When Khrushchev revisionism was just beginning to emerge, our great leader Chairman Mao foresaw what serious harm modern revisionism would do to the cause of world revolution. Chairman Mao led the whole Party in waging resolute struggles in the ideological, theoretical and political spheres, together with the Albanian Party of Labour led by Enver Hoxha and with the other genuine Marxist-Leninists of the whole world, against modern revisionism with Soviet revisionism as its centre.’

Class Struggle Under Socialism

23. Lin Piao asserts:

‘In view of the rampancy of revisionism in the international communist movement and the new trends of class struggle in country, Chairman Mao, in his great work ‘On the Correct Handling of Contradictions among the People’, called the attention of the whole Party to the following fact:’ (i.e. that the class struggle still continued in China). ‘Thus, for the first time in the theory and practice of the international communist movement, it was pointed out explicitly that classes and class struggle still exist after the socialist transformation of the ownership of the means of production has been in the main completed, and that the proletariat must continue the revolution.’

24. It is not the case that the continuation of the class struggle after the socialist transformation of the economy was ‘pointed out explicitly’ for the first time by Mao in 1957. In his report to the CC of the CPSU in March 1937 Stalin said:

‘We must smash and cast aside the rotten theory that with every advance we make the class struggle here must subside, the more successes we achieve the tamer will the class enemy become.

‘This is not only a rotten theory but a dangerous one, for it lulls our people, leads them into a trap, and enables the class enemy to recuperate for the struggle against the Soviet government.

‘On the contrary, the further forward we advance, the greater the successes we achieve, the greater will be the fury of the remnants of the defeated exploiting classes, the more ready will they be to resort to sharper forms of struggle, the more they will seek to harm the Soviet state, and the more will they clutch at the most desperate means of struggle as the last resort of the doomed.

‘It must be borne in mind that the remnants of the defeated classes in the USSR do not stand alone. They have the direct support of our enemies beyond the frontiers of the USSR. It would be a mistake to think that the sphere of the class struggle is limited to the frontiers of the USSR. One end of the class struggle operates within the frontiers of the USSR, but its other end stretches across the frontiers of the bourgeois states surrounding us. The remnants of the defeated classes cannot but be aware of this. And precisely because, they are aware of it, they will continue their desperate sorties.

‘This is what history teaches us. This is what Leninism teaches us.’

This is a perfectly explicit statement of the continuation of the class struggle under socialism. In making this statement Stalin was not developing a new theory. He was merely re-asserting a Bolshevik position which had been established by Lenin.

The criticism of Stalin made by the CPC in 1956 is relevant to this point:

‘After the elimination of classes, the class struggle should not continue to be stressed as being intensified, as it was done by Stalin, with the result that the healthy development of socialist democracy was hampered. The CPSU is completely right in firmly rejecting Stalin’s mistakes in this respect.’ (‘More On the Historical Experience’, p. 21)

If Stalin held that the class struggle continued after the elimination of classes that would indeed have been absurd. But Stalin did not agree that classes had been eliminated in the Soviet Union. It was in the light of the continuing existence of classes, both internationally and in the Soviet Union, that Stalin held the theory of the intensification of the class struggle.

In recent years, especially since the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, the CPC made the contrary criticism of Stalin to that expressed above: i.e. that he failed to see that the class struggle continued in the Soviet Union after the mid-1930s. In fact the theory of the subsidence of the class struggle was specifically rejected by Stalin, as we have seen, in 1937. The CPC, however, supported this theory in the first years of the Khrushchevite period.

25. Lin Piao’s statement, that Mao’s ‘On the Correct Handling of Contradictions’ was produced ‘in view of the rampancy of revisionism in the international communist movement’, is not supported by the document itself, or by the response to the document by the international revisionist movement. There are no signs in the document that Mao was then aware of the revisionist nature of Khrushchevism. The document does not criticise Khrushchevite revisionism. And the document was generally welcomed by the Khrushchevites, and seen as support for their position in 1957.

Nor is it accurate to state that (leaving aside the fact that the theory had already been established by Lenin and Stalin) in the document ‘it was pointed out explicitly that classes, and class struggle still exist after the socialist transformation of the ownership of the means of production has been in the main established’. Mao’s statement on the continuation of the class struggle which is quoted by Lin Piao refers specifically to China, where the old bourgeoisie, and the remnants of the comprador and landlord classes, still existed. Lin Piao’s quote reads:

‘In China, although in the main socialist transformation has been completed with respect to the system of ownership...there are still remnants of the overthrown landlord and comprador classes, there is still a bourgeoisie, and the remoulding of the petit-bourgeoisie has only just started.’ (The clause omitted by Lin Piao reads: ‘and although the large-scale and turbulent class struggles of the previous revolutionary periods have in the main come to an end’.)

‘The question which will win out, socialism or capitalism, is still not really settled.

‘The class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, the class struggle between the different political forces, and the class struggle in the ideological field between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie will continue to be long and tortuous and at times will even become very acute.’

(Mao further remarks that: ‘Ideological struggle is not like other forms of struggle. The only method to be used in this struggle is that of painstaking reasoning and not crude coercion. Today, socialism is in an advantageous position in the ideological struggle’.)

The passage quoted by Lin Piao refers specifically to the conditions existing in China, where the old bourgeois and petit-bourgeois classes, and even remnants of the landlord and compradore classes, still existed, and where collectivisation and socialist industrialisation had only just begun. (In the Soviet Union, when Stalin re-emphasised the theory of the intensification of the class struggle in 1937, the old landlord and capitalist classes no longer existed, in the sense that they did not have control of the means of production, and only the peasants existed as a class, properly speaking, beside the proletariat.)

Mao’s observations do not constitute a statement that the class struggle still continued in the Soviet Union, and they do not contradict the CPC statement made at the same time that classes had been eliminated in the Soviet Union, and that Stalin had erred in putting forward the theory of the intensification of the class struggle.

26. The CPC document, ‘Leninism or Social-Imperialism?’, issued to mark the Lenin centenary in April 1970, says:

‘Far back, when Khrushchev began to reveal his revisionist features, Cde. Mao Tse-tung acutely pointed out:

‘I think there are two ‘swords’: one is Lenin and the other Stalin. The sword of Stalin has now been abandoned by the Russians’. ‘As for the sword of Lenin, has it too now been abandoned to a certain extent by some leaders of the Soviet Union? In my view, it has been abandoned to a considerable extent. Is the October Revolution still valid? Can it still be the example for all countries? Khrushchev’s Report at the 20th Congress of the CPSU says it is possible to gain political power by the Parliamentary road, that is to say, it is no longer necessary for all countries to learn from the October Revolution. Once this gate is opened, Leninism by and large is thrown out.’

The source for this is a speech at the 2nd Plenary Session of the 8th Central Committee of the CPC, November 15, 1956. Inquiries to the Hsinhua News Agency, which published the document in which the quote is given, revealed that the speech is available neither in English nor in Chinese. It is therefore not possible to assess its significance. But a year later in Moscow Mao stated unequivocally that the CPSU was the vanguard of the international communist movement. He would not have done this if, as the above quote suggests, he had realised the significance of the 20th Congress and the real nature of Khrushchevism.)

27. In establishing Stalin’s actual views on the continuation of the class struggle in the period of socialism we are not raising a dead issue with a view to fostering confusion in the anti-revisionist movement. This is a question which has been made an issue of by the CPC on two major occasions since the death of Stalin (though it was not made an issue of before his death). In 1956 the CPC along with the Khrushchevites, alleged that Stalin’s theory of the continuation of the class struggle under socialism was erroneous and was the source of serious mistakes and setbacks in the development of socialism. In the mid-sixties the CPC alleged that Stalin’s failure to recognise that the class struggle continued under socialism was the source of serious mistakes and facilitated the development of Khrushchevite revisionism.

Both of these conflicting criticisms are incorrect. The first is incorrect because the class struggle did actually intensify in the Soviet Union from the late thirties to the fifties. The second is incorrect because Stalin clearly recognised and pointed out the continuation and intensification of the class struggle in this period.


The facts which are stated in this document have been investigated and discussed by the B&ICO since its inception in 1965. The B&ICO has availed of every opportunity since then to discuss them with Maoist groups in Britain and Europe. None of the groups with which we have held discussions had made any independent investigation of the 20th Congress and the response to it in the international communist movement. When the B&ICO stated its view of the matter (essentially as is detailed above) it was never faulted with regard to the facts. The general reaction was a feeling that this period should not be investigated too closely.

It did not seem to the B&ICO five years ago that the anti-revisionist movement could develop if it refused to investigate the development which made it historically necessary (i.e. the rise of Khrushchevite revisionism to dominance in the international communist movement), and if it retreated from the solid ground of historical reality to the swamp of illusion. Five years of practical experience has borne out the correctness of this view. Of all the anti-revisionist groups that were in existence in Ireland and Britain in 1965 the B&ICO is one of the very few which still survives, and it is the only one which has grown stronger both theoretically and organisationally throughout this period. It could not have been otherwise. Communism does not thrive on illusions. All over Europe and America during the past year the organisations based on illusions have been fragmenting and falling into ever great confusion.

What conclusion follows from the historical facts stated in this document? There is only one necessary conclusion. It is that the CPC leadership, including Mao, mistook the development of Khrushchevite revisionism for a further development of Marxism-Leninism, and that it actively assisted Khrushchevism to achieve dominance in the world Communist movement (this dominance being formalised at the meetings of 1957 and 1960).

No necessary conclusion follows from these facts about the subsequent development of relations between the CPC and the CPSU, or about subsequent developments within the CPC. The facts about those questions must also be established by concrete investigation, and will be dealt with in a future document.

Policy Statement No. 3, November 1970. Reprinted January 1972 and January 1973.

Click here to return to the April 2000 index.