The magnificent movement of the Chinese workers and students over the last few weeks has inspired the working class internationally. Demonstrations, first in support of the movement, and then in opposition to the brutal military suppression, have taken place from San Francisco to Sydney, from London to Berlin and in many other major cities.

The huge demonstrations, hunger strikes and the occupation of Tiananmen Square in Beijing, showed the determination to end the corruption of the ruling clique. On June 4 the bureaucracy demonstrated, in the most barbaric fashion, that it will not listen to pleas for reform. The need for a political revolution to overthrow the bureaucracy, as argued in the pages of Militant, is now written in the blood of thousands on the streets of China’s cities.

At present the ‘hardliners’ have consolidated their control of decisive sections of the armed forces and are moving to carry out mass arrests. Despite this, none of the underlying problems of Chinese society have been solved. Whatever the immediate developments, one thing is certain; China will never be the same again.

The task now confronting the movement in China will be to work out a clear program for political revolution that can avenge their martyrs. A key to this is understanding the origins and character of the present regime in China. In this pamphlet we are publishing several articles which give invaluable background to the present situation. For an analysis of the developing situation, we refer the reader to the regular reports in Militant.

The first two articles are edited transcripts of speeches given by Peter Taaffe at a Marxist education school in 1980, covering the 1925-7 and 1944-9 revolutions. The 1925-7 revolution, a movement of the young working class, shows the rich traditions of the Chinese working class – traditions clearly not lost today as the singing of the Internationale while facing tanks clearly showed.

The 1944-9 revolution resulted in the overthrow of capitalism and the coming to power of Mao. But, in contrast to 1925-7, this struggle was not waged with the working class to the fore but by a peasant-based guerilla army. However, without democratic control of the running of society, which can only be provided by the organizations of the working class, the regime which came to power was based from the outset on a mirror image of Stalin’s regime in Moscow.

The third article is a major extract from the January 1949 issue of Socialist Appeal. The foresight of the article is especially remarkable as it was written 10 months before Mao had completed his victory over Chiang Kai-shek, at a time when over 50 percent of the Chinese population still lived in areas controlled by Chiang. This article is part of a substantial collection of Ted Grant’s writings, The Unbroken Thread, which has just been published. We recommend this collection, which contains several other articles on the Colonial Revolution, to every reader.

The next article was written at the height of the events known as the ‘Cultural Revolution’. These events were neither cultural nor a revolution. Their aftermath demonstrated how, under pressure, sections of the bureaucracy will zigzag between reform and repression, even striking blows at other wings of the bureaucracy itself. They will at times speak in very radical terms, but then will always move back to reassert control once a movement threatens to get out of control.

The final item is an extract from a longer review written by Lynn Walsh in 1986 which explains the post-cultural revolution maneuverings within the bureaucracy which led to Deng Xiaoping consolidating his position.

The ruling bureaucracy will maneuver, at times make concessions, it will do anything except allow the working class to rule society. It is from this that the tasks today flow – of the need for a political revolution to overthrow the bureaucracy. In 1917 Lenin, leader of the Russian revolution, outlined the fundamental conditions for the inception of workers’ democracy which is the basis for the socialist transformation of society:

  • All officials to be elected and subject to immediate recall
  • No official to earn more than a skilled worker
  • Workers to rotate administrative duties, to combat the growth of a bureaucratic caste
  • No standing army but an armed people

None of these conditions exist in China, the USSR or other Stalinist states. They remain the central objectives of the political revolution to end bureaucratic rule and establish workers’ democracy in these countries.

Today Marxists also call for:

  • An end to the one party state, for the freedom to form political parties
  • For the formation of independent trade unions and democratic workers’ parties

Kevin Ramage, June 10, 1989