The Laws of Class Struggle in the Socialist Period
by Chi Ping
[This article is reprinted from Peking Review, #33, Aug. 18, 1972, pp. 7-10.
IN the historical period of socialism, how do class contradictions and class struggle develop and change? What are their laws?
To master the laws of class struggle in the socialist period, we must first understand the main contradiction in China during this period. As far back as 1949, on the eve of the founding of the Chinese People’s Republic, Chairman Mao clearly pointed out at the Second Plenary Session of the C.P.C.’s Seventh Central Committee that, after the seizure of power throughout China and the solution of the land problem, the principal contradiction inside the country is “the contradiction between the working class and the bourgeoisie.” On many occasions since then, Chairman Mao has pointed out that, throughout the historical period of socialism, there exists the struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie and between the socialist road and the capitalist road, and there is the danger of capitalist restoration.
In 1962, at the 10th Plenary Session of the Party’s Eighth Central Committee, Chairman Mao put forward even more comprehensively the Party’s basic line for the whole historical period of socialism and admonished that we must “never forget class struggle.” Leading the Chinese people forward in the struggle of socialist revolution and socialist construction, he has employed the stand, viewpoint and method of dialectical and historical materialism to grasp the main contradiction—that between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, summed up the experience of continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat, and ceaselessly revealed the laws of the class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie.
Class Struggle Is Inevitable
In 1957, Chairman Mao pointed out: “The class enemies will invariably seek opportunities to assert themselves. They will not resign themselves to the loss of state power and of their property. However much the Communist Party warns its enemies in advance and makes its basic strategic policy known to them, they will still launch attacks. Class struggle is an objective reality independent of man’s will. That is to say, class struggle is inevitable.”
All class enemies, all ghosts and monsters will, without fail, come out into the open, this is decided by their reactionary nature. There has never been nor will there ever be a single instance in which the overthrown reactionary classes will leave the stage of history of their own accord without organizing resistance. Their reactionary class nature and idealist world outlook invariably mislead them into overestimating themselves and underestimating the forces of revolution. They mistake the absolute superiority of the proletariat for absolute inferiority. Whenever there is a chance, therefore, they cannot help showing themselves off. Despite severe blows and shameful defeats, they will continue to act according to this law.
Practice in the struggle to consolidate the dictatorship of the proletariat over the past 20 years or more has testified to the correctness of Chairman Mao’s thesis. In the early period after the founding of New China, when the Chinese people were carrying out the movement to resist U.S. aggression and aid Korea, unlawful capitalists ruthlessly engaged in bribery of cadres in government offices and enterprises, tax evasion and other illegal activities to undermine socialism and sabotage the state sector of the economy. They launched a frenzied attack against the proletariat by “pulling out our cadres” and “sneaking into our ranks.” The Hu Feng counter-revolutionary clique vainly attempted to subvert the proletarian power by worming their way into the revolutionary ranks and undermining it from within. In 1955, they came up with a counter-revolutionary “memorandum” running to 300,000 Chinese characters. In 1957, the bourgeois Rightists took advantage of the Party’s rectification campaign, which was meant to overcome shortcomings in the Party, to plot its downfall, negate the socialist system and usurp power themselves. All these and other examples show how the class enemies came out to attack us of their own volition, and this is an objective law independent of man’s will.
Bourgeois representatives who have sneaked into the Party also will not go against this law. They represent the interests and will of the overthrown exploiting classes and all reactionary forces. They will assert themselves stubbornly. All conspirators and careerists from Kao Kang to Liu Shao-chi and other political swindlers, of their own accord, launched attacks against the Party in a vain attempt to usurp Party leadership and seize power and change the Party’s line and policies and the socialist system. Their reactionary class nature and double-dealing tactics and their deep-rooted reactionary world outlook determined that they would be enemies to the Party and the people. It is impossible to stop them from doing so, and nobody could have saved them. When the anti-Party activities of political swindlers like Liu Shao-chi were exposed, out of the largeness of mind of a proletarian revolutionary, Chairman Mao time and again did his best to save them. However, not showing the least repentance, they madly continued their counter-revolutionary crimes and brought about their own destruction. Now, the situation of our socialist revolution and construction is getting better and better, the proletarian dictatorship has become further consolidated and ever fresher fruits have been borne by Chairman Mao’s revolutionary line on foreign affairs. All this has elated and inspired the people of all nationalities in China.
As Lenin pointed out: “Revisionism is an international phenomenon.” (Marxism and Revisionism.) The fact that chieftains of the revisionist line in the Party will inevitably make a show of themselves has its international roots. To subvert China’s proletarian dictatorship, imperialism and social-imperialism will always try to find their agents within our Party. Revisionists and opportunists hidden in our Party, on their part, will always go to them for backing. The anti-Party conspiracies of political swindlers like Liu Shao-chi are not isolated or accidental; they, too, have an international background. The great victory of the movement to criticize revisionism and rectify the style of work has dealt a severe blow to social-imperialism. The facts of class struggle tell us that “it was a case of reactionaries inside a socialist country, in league with the imperialists, attempting to achieve their conspiratorial aims by taking advantage of contradictions among the people to foment dissension and stir up disorder.” (Mao Tsetung: On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People.) Only by using the Marxist-Leninist viewpoint to study class struggles at home in connection with international class struggles can we correctly grasp the laws of class struggle and the struggle between the two lines in the socialist period.
A Major Struggle Every Few Years
There is a law with respect to time governing the development and change of the struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie in the period of socialism. Reviewing the history of our country, we can see that there has been a major struggle at intervals of several years. This is true of class struggle in society and of inner-Party struggle between the two lines. In the early years following the birth of New China when socialist revolution and construction had won initial victory and continued to develop in depth, Kao Kang and Jao Shu-shih rigged up an anti-Party alliance in a futile attempt to seize power. At the 1959 Lushan Conference, Peng Teh-huai came up with an open letter of challenge, attacking the general line for the building of socialism, the great leap forward and the people’s commune in a bid to usurp Party leadership. But his attempt was crushed. Later on, pushing a revisionist line, Liu Shao-chi and other swindlers engaged in intrigue and conspiracy in a big way and set up a bourgeois headquarters in a vain attempt to split our Party and restore capitalism. However, they ended up in even more disastrous defeat.
Why is there a major struggle every few years? This reflects stages of development of the principal contradiction in the socialist period. Chairman Mao has taught us: “The fundamental contradiction in the process of development of a thing and the essence of the process determined by this fundamental contradiction will not disappear until the process is completed; but in a lengthy process the conditions usually differ at each stage. The reason is that, although the nature of the fundamental contradiction in the process of development of a thing and the essence of the process remain unchanged, the fundamental contradiction becomes more and more intensified as it passes from one stage to another in the lengthy process.” (On Contradiction.) In our country socialist revolution has deepened step by step; the basic completion of the socialist transformation of ownership of means of production was followed by socialist revolution on the ideological and political front. Each step forward and every victory gained by us invariably hurt the bourgeoisie and its agents in the Party and was, therefore, strongly opposed by them. Thus in the long process of contradiction and struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, specific stages take shape as the socialist revolution deepens step by step. Like the motion of other contradictions, each specific stage takes on two states of motion, that of relative rest and that of conspicuous change. Under given conditions, it transforms itself from the first into the second state, that is, from comparatively moderate to comparatively intense; the contradiction is resolved through the second state and another new specific stage begins. The struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie in the socialist period, therefore, sometimes rises high and sometimes subsides like the waves. In terms of time, it finds expression in a major struggle every few years. Of course this is only the general situation. As to each particular major struggle, whether it takes place after a comparatively short or a much longer duration depends on the domestic and international situation and on our work.
After each major struggle, the defeated class enemies are compelled to shift from attack to retreat. Out of their reactionary class nature, however, they cannot be expected to wash their hands and turn over a new leaf. But it is also impossible for them to make an all-out counter-attack immediately after a defeat. This is because in each major struggle, they are badly battered, their bourgeois headquarters is demolished, their revisionist programme and line as well as all their reactionary fallacies which they use to deceive and dupe the people are thoroughly criticized, while the handful of counter-revolutionary diehard followers they mustered together have fallen apart under our blows and their double-dealing tactics, seen through by the people, no longer work. In a word, they need a breathing-space. In our country, the prestige of the Party is so high, Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought has taken such deep root in the hearts of the people, the Party, government, army and people are so united and the dictatorship of the proletariat is so rock-firm that the class enemies can only carry out counter-revolutionary preparatory work covertly and clandestinely, and it is very difficult for them to do so. In face of the iron bastion of the dictatorship of the proletariat, they require several years to rally their forces again and have another major trial of strength with us. Needless to say, struggles sometimes intertwine. There was such an instance: some of the chieftains of the revisionist line in this struggle are none other than the actual ringleaders or backbone elements who pushed the revisionist line in the last struggle but had escaped undetected. However, no matter what preparations the overthrown reactionary forces may make or when they will jump forth, nothing but utter defeat is in store for them.
When we say that a major struggle takes place every few years, we do not mean that there is peace and tranquillity at other times and we can sit back and relax. That class struggle rises and falls in a wave-like manner is not tantamount to saying that it now appears and now disappears. Each major struggle is a continuation and development of day-to-day struggles—a process of development from quantitative to qualitative change. This is why we must remind ourselves of class struggle every year, every month and every day. Only by retaining a sober understanding of class struggle and its laws can we take the initiative in waging struggles.
Upheaval Inevitably Transforms Itself Into Order
In the socialist period ghosts and monsters constantly make trouble and the proletariat keeps on wiping them out. Order is achieved after a big upheaval. This is yet another law of the development of class struggle.
Dialectical materialism tells us that upheaval and order constitute a unity of opposites. In the absence of upheaval, order is out of the question; upheaval inevitably transforms itself into order. Chairman Mao has said: “Disturbances thus have a dual character. Every disturbance can be regarded in this way.” (On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People.) It is a bad thing that class enemies come out and make trouble, but once they do so, they expose their counter-revolutionary features in broad daylight. As a result, class alignment becomes clearer than before, and the masses of the people can wage struggles against these enemies in a better way and take actions to annihilate these scoundrels, thereby further strengthening the dictatorship of the proletariat. In this sense, a bad thing can be turned into a good thing. During the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, ghosts and monsters came out to make trouble and in some places there was confusion for a time as if things were really getting serious. But what was the result? The handful of class enemies were ferreted out and the masses were tempered in the struggle. Liu Shao-chi and other swindlers who had formerly put on the appearance of men of integrity unmasked themselves and revealed their ferocious true colours once they came out and plotted to usurp Party leadership. The cadres and people then rose in action to expose and criticize their crimes of opposing the Party, and this has immensely enhanced their ability to distinguish between genuine and sham Marxism. Thus it can be seen that the class enemies are approaching their doom once they come on stage to bare their fangs. Over 95 per cent of the people and cadres will never tolerate their perverse acts.
Marxism holds that class struggle is the motive force propelling the advance of history. It is only in the course of class struggle that socialist society develops. Each time ghosts and monsters make trouble and are defeated by the revolutionary people, the forces of the exploiting classes and all reaction are weakened while the dictatorship of the proletariat is further consolidated. With the forces of the reactionary classes becoming weaker and weaker after repeated tests of strength, the proletariat will be able to finally fulfil the great historical mission of eliminating the bourgeoisie and all other exploiting classes. Of course, each round of upheaval and order does not simply repeat itself, nor does it move in a cycle mechanically, but it invariably has new content. After each struggle, the people’s knowledge is raised to a higher level and the socialist cause takes another victorious step forward. In our country, the dictatorship of the proletariat has been continuously consolidated and the socialist cause has been developing with each passing day precisely because the proletariat has won victory in one struggle after another against the landlord and capitalist classes and against all the reactionary forces and their representatives who constantly made trouble and carried out disruptive activities.
To turn bad things into good things is conditional. Class enemies would not step down from the stage of history of their own accord; upheaval would not of itself transform into order. “In given conditions, each of the two opposing aspects of a contradiction invariably transforms itself into its opposite as a result of the struggle between them. Here, the conditions are essential. Without the given conditions, neither of the two contradictory aspects can transform itself into its opposite.” (On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People.) To transform upheaval into order in our country, it is of key importance to resolutely implement Chairman Mao’s revolutionary line, strengthen Party leadership and unite the broad masses of the people. With this condition, in the sharp and complex class struggle and struggle between the two lines, we are able to see clearly the orientation, draw a sharp line of distinction between ourselves and the enemy, correctly distinguish and handle the two types of contradictions and rally all forces that can be united with so as to hit hard at the class enemies and enable the revolution to advance along the correct path. It is precisely because of the wise leadership of the Party Central Committee headed by Chairman Mao and his proletarian revolutionary line that the various chieftains of opportunist lines failed to destroy our Party over the past decades. Without this condition, upheaval cannot give way to order. Historical development is after all independent of the will of the reactionaries who will surely be overthrown by the people.
Under the guidance of Chairman Mao’s proletarian revolutionary line, we must grasp the laws governing class struggle in the socialist period and step by step carry the proletarian revolution through to the end.
(Abridged translation of an article published in “Hongqi,”