The Chinese Communist Party 1937-49 – The Unfolding of Historical Necessity: China’s Great Revolution – Part Four

When the Sino-Japanese war began in 1937, the CCP had already been an exclusively rural party for almost ten years. As we pointed out previously, this was an improvisation born out of the party’s confusion at Chiang’s power grab. By 1935, when Mao became the undisputed leader of the party, this improvisation and temporary retreat had been transformed into the party’s raison d’être.

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The Peasants Sans CCP

According to Bianco and Lloyd, the revolutionary decade of 1922-31 saw no significant increase in all types of ‘peasant disturbances’ - from theft of landlords’ property to local uprisings. The fluctuations that do occur seem only correlated to particular years in which there happened to be a good or bad harvest. Furthermore, the type of action taken remained in its traditional form - riots or petitions - and rarely if ever escaped a purely local horizon. Furthermore, they contend that in any case the total number of disturbances remain extremely small (Bianco and Lloyd, Peasant Movements, in The Cambridge History of China Volume 13, pp278-9).

The peasants, without the CCP “would, quite simply, never have conceived the idea of a revolution” thanks to their parochialism “which overrode distinctions of class.” The typical village, to which peasants’ narrow horizons and allegiances were restricted, was a “ socially heterogeneous community that villagers sought to protect against attacks from outside.” This is “attested by the frequent incidence of vertical movements” resembling “wars between different peoples rather than social warfare. As in a national war, the natural enemy is not the privileged member in one’s community but the foreigner” (Ibid, p302).

Bianco and Lloyd give many examples of movements in the early 1930s, around the time the CCP was embedding itself in this milieu, which were based exclusively on opposition to new taxes, not rent, and thereby could unite peasants and landlords, with the latter more often than not initiating and leading the movements. The character of such movements, more common than those aimed against rent and landlordism, are not progressive since they aimed to preserve local privileges in the tax system, chiefly to the benefit of the local landlords. Indeed, “sometimes the wrongs against which the taxpayers rise up are purely imaginary. They suspect any project of fiscal reform...allow[ing] themselves to be incited into a revolt, which is harmful to their own interests, by a handful of large landowners practicing tax evasion on a large scale” (Ibid, p284).

Throughout these movements, what is notable is the lack of a questioning of landlordism by its peasant victims: “the principle of paying rent is almost never called into question” (Ibid, p278). Along with hostility to new tax codes, most peasant disturbances were strictly local in the sense that they pitted one village or ‘Xien’ against another. So one group of peasants, led by their landlord, would frequently fight those with the same conditions of poverty in a neighbouring village, because the latter had, say, dredged rivers to improve their crop, which threatened to flood the other village.

These conflicts, which Bianco and Lloyd argue should be known not as peasant but as rural disturbances due to their ‘vertical’ social character, frequently had an extremely violent character. They were spontaneous, chaotic and unplanned explosions of rage with no political perspective attached to them. They were not prepared and the “rebels do not appear to have had a strategy nor is there any discernable progression in the forms taken by the resistance.” “There was no fundamental questioning of the principle of tenancy, simply a protest against sudden changes in the status quo” (Ibid, pp274-5). Instead of landlords or even local government leaders being attacked, it was usually their ‘underlings’, who were more visible to the peasants. Bianco and Lloyd insist that we cannot even speak of a rural movement (other than the CCP’s army), only local flare-ups of fury.

The theory of Marxism has always explained that the peasantry can be an important ally of the revolutionary working class but can never politically lead. It must be led by a more organised and homogenous urban based class. This evidently applied to 1920s and 30s China, to the extent that Mao’s talk of the ‘Sinification of Marxism’ due to China’s special rural conditions and ‘revolutionary peasantry’ must be rejected entirely. According to the evidence, “the peasants themselves hardly ever take up arms offensively with a view to improving their lot”.

The apparent peasant basis of the 1949 revolution is therefore an outcome not of peasant revolutionary initiative and elan, but of the CCP’s dogged hiding out in its mountain fastness. The peasant revolts had nothing in common with the CCP’s Red Army, which latter had a national political character that the former lacked entirely. They were generally conservative, more interested in rising up to maintain old privileges, against local rivals or the mysteries of the government’s vicissitudes. They “were not inspired by any overall vision of society nor questioned the bases of its organisation” (Ibid, p303). It was precisely this parochialism and passivity that suited the CCP, because in the rural backwaters they were hard to find and suffered no danger of ambitious revolutionary demands from the politically passive peasants the Soviet bases administered. The rural submersion of the party was ideal for launching a military struggle but not a social and revolutionary one.

Wearing the Peasant’s Coarse Garb

As we shall see, the CCP’s approach in the countryside resembled the discredited strategy of the Russian Narodniks of the 19th Century. It is a profound irony that the Chinese offshoot of the Communist International should repeat the mistakes of the Russian forefathers of the Bolsheviks, when it was precisely the learning and overcoming of these mistakes that produced the Russian Marxist organisation that in turn gave birth to the Communist International!

Chinese Farmer 1935When Peng Pai, before he joined the CCP, experimented with a ‘Chinese Narodnism’ in the early 1920s, he was initially, just like the Narodniks, rejected by the peasants as a strange outsider with grandiose and unrealisable goals. He found that he had to change his clothes and speech and “enticed and entertained [the peasants] as a conjuror and magician, taught the children a song of his own composition, had them listen to a gramophone he had brought along, and put on a puppet show” (Ibid, p308) in order to get them to take seriously his ideas of liberation.

Ten years later, the CCP found itself having to perform similar routines each time they settled in a new rural location. Because of the completely rural base of the party, the CCP was obliged to send any workers or ‘intellectuals’ it recruited in the cities to the countryside. Whereas in the cities they would have been able to carry out political work quite naturally, Mao explained the requirements of their work in the countryside: “they should enthusiastically go to the villages, exchange their student’s clothes for the coarse garb of the peasants, start willingly from the awaken the peasants...and fight for the completion of the extremely important task in China’s democratic revolution - the rural democratic revolution” (Mao, < On Coalition Government<, April 1945).

Despite these efforts, the CCP leadership regularly found that the organisations of peasant liberation and awakening they had set up, “when left on their own, frequently pursued policies quite different from the Party line and resented the directions of ‘outsiders’, whatever their politics” (Harrison, < The Long March to Power<, p312). It is quite clear that the contradiction between the self-appointed leadership of the rural revolution in the CCP and the peasants themselves was never overcome. This relationship is in stark contrast to that of a Marxist organisation and the working class, since the aim of the former is always to win the confidence of the workers not by dressing up as them but by being part of and giving voice to the already existing class struggle. Marxists recruit, and themselves often are, workers. They do not parachute in members from elsewhere to occupy and administer workers’ districts!

Indeed the CCP sent vast swathes of its recruits away from the cities in which they were recruited, thus negating any potential they may have presented for building a permanent urban working class base for the party. They used the legal openings gained through the allegiance with the Guomindang not so much to begin building in the cities but to set up within them ‘Communist Liaison Offices’ to “facilitate the emigration of volunteers to Yenan” (Guillermaz, A History of the Communist Party 1921-49 , p348). Peng Shuzi, an early leader of the CCP before being expelled for Trotskyism, stresses that “the CCP did everything possible to encourage the most active elements of the working class to leave the struggle in the cities and join the peasants in the countryside. It was for precisely this reason that while the CCP considerably increased its armed peasant forces during the Resistance War, its influence remained extremely weak among the worker masses of the cities” (Peng, The Causes of the Victory of the Chinese Communist Party over Chiang Kai-Shek, and the CCP’s Perspectives).

The environment into which these workers and urban intellectuals were taken was one of extreme poverty and backwardness. As with the pre-Long March bases in Jiangxi and especially the Jinggangshan, Yenan made an effective base precisely because it was so barren and therefore hard to penetrate and considered strategically irrelevant by the Guomindang. Here CCP comrades, including leaders, were forced to live in caves carved into the cliffs. The area at the time had an “estimated 60% infant mortality rate, 1% literacy rate, the death of up to 2.5m people (one-third of the provincial population), and the migration of another half-million in the catastrophic famine of 1927-30” (Harrison, op cit., p310).

Because the Guomindang suspended its subsidy of $100,000 per month (part of the ‘united front’ agreement) in 1940 due to the above discussed breakdown in the alliance, the CCP was obliged to increase the tax burden on the Shaanxi population it was occupying, “especially of the peasants” (Ibid, p316). In other CCP bases inflation rose to even higher than in Guomindang controlled areas, but this failed to take place in Yenan as the economy was largely a barter one!

As described in more detail our previous series, the bare struggle to survive in these remote conditions absorbed the party’s attention to the detriment of its political and theoretical development - although it must be said that the biggest obstacle in that respect was not the rural conditions but the non-revolutionary programme. As a result the number of leaders with political and moral authority in the organisation remained extremely small for its size (Ibid, p.396). Such a scenario is also the cause of bureaucratic degeneration for a party, for the absence of articulate, trained cadres throughout its ranks makes inevitable a lack of democracy and the overbearing domination of that small layer of experienced leaders.

Of course, Marxists, especially in a mainly rural country like China in the 1930s, would neglect the peasantry and the possibility of armed struggle at their peril. In this respect the example of the Bolshevik’s conduct in the Russian Civil War furnishes a very useful comparison, for it too was a largely peasant country with an armed struggle in the countryside.

Mao often complained about the tendency to “indiscipline and anarchy, localism and guerrillaism,” and even a “roving-rebel” or banditry mentality in the Red Army thanks to its rural isolation. Indeed, leaders of the New Fourth Army in central China even lost all communication with HQ in Yenan for more than two years! Trotsky overcame this problem of indiscipline and ‘heterogeneous detachments’ in a peasant context by buttressing the Russian Red Army with worker-communists trained in Petrograd and Moscow, and political commissars from the central government in Petrograd “acquired the importance of revolutionary leaders, of direct representatives” of the workers’ government (Trotsky, < My Life<). He would hold conferences with representatives of both the army commanders and its ranks, along with leaders of local party organisations, the Soviet government and the trade unions. <

In this way the revolutionary army retained its working class, urban leadership and was inextricably linked to the holding of urban power. As Trotsky said, “The foundation for the successful upbuilding of the Red Army was the proper relationship between the proletariat and the peasantry throughout the country” (Ibid). Lacking that urban, working class orientation, and with a programme of allegiance to the Guomindang and mere bourgeois democratic reforms, we can only conclude that the CCP had become a rural petty bourgeois organisation throughout.<

The Absence of Proletarian Communists

We have already described how the CCP was now in the practice of taking recruited workers from the cities to fight in the countryside, necessarily restricting its urban, working class membership and influence to nothing. As we have also stressed, its non-revolutionary and compromised political programme also restricted its ability to recruit, educate and lead workers.<

This is most graphically revealed when in the period of the alliance with Chiang the CCP

“not only insisted on class collaboration in its propaganda but showed openly in its practice that “the workers should increase production to aid the government in the common resistance against Japan.” It rejected the “exorbitant demands” presented by the workers to the national bourgeoisie, charging that the Trotskyist policy of class struggle was a “policy of betrayal to aid the enemy,” thus slandering the Trotskyists as “traitors.” Naturally, in the workers’ real struggles the CCP was always on the side of the national bourgeoisie and against the workers’ reasonable demands, even sabotaging these struggles” (Peng, op cit.)

Later in the civil war with the Guomindang, after Japan’s defeat, it used its growing influence in the working class as a bargaining chip with Chiang to get the coalition government it was demanding, just like Stalin used the CCP as a bargaining chip in his negotiations with Chiang. Indeed, in the relative freedom immediately after the war many strikes did break out in cities throughout the country (Harrison, op cit. p403), but the CCP’s lack of building and preparation in the cities limited what influence they could gain from this, and the strikes fizzled out.

That lack of building and preparation in the working class is revealed in the fact that the CCP went from having 58% of its members industrial workers in 1927 (before the rural turn) to less than 1% by 1931 (3-4 years after the rural turn) by the party’s own admission! In 1933 the CCP publication Red Flag complained that in Shanghai “There is not a single real workers’ branch” (Peng, op cit).

The Zhengfeng Campaign’s Petty Bourgeois Basis

The total loss of a proletarian basis of the CCP over the ten years since 1927 was in inverse proportion to the rise of its petty bourgeois character, both in membership and ideas. Lacking an ideological grounding in the structures and power of the working class changed and weakened the political authority of the various layers of leadership. Both the responsibility of governing rural areas without recourse to the economic and political leadership of the urban working class, and the political commitment to a united front with Chiang Kai Shek, gave ample opportunity for careerists to infiltrate the party for influence and for local leaders to manipulate their access to administrative and military power as a substitute for gaining the support of the organised working class.

Liu Shaoqi and Zhou Enlai 1939These tendencies are revealed very tellingly in a 1941 article by Liu Shaoqi, who complained of “some comrades who openly avail themselves of and rely on resources outside the Party to engage in the intra-Party struggle and threaten and blackmail the Party. For example, some rely on certain of their achievements, < on the troops they command or their weapons<, on their mass support or certain of  their connections in the united front<, to carry on a struggle against the Party and higher organs and threaten them” (Liu Shaoqi, On the Intra-Party Struggle<, 1941).

Of course the efforts of bare survival in an encircled rural environment, with bases spread around the country and isolated from one another, was in itself enough to fragment the party politically and organisationally, and one would expect each area to be likely to come under different pressures and adapt to them in different ways. However this is only the most obvious problem, far deeper and more intractable questions faced the party.

As we have previously described, around 90% of the party perished on the Long March and during the encirclement campaign of the Jiangxi soviet base that preceded it. If we add to that the fact that the party had already lost the majority of its working class comrades in the repression of the new Guomindang regime, it is obvious that the internal structures of the party by the time of the establishment of the Yenan base in 1935 were dangerously weak.

Further compounding these dangers was the opportunist programme adopted in 1936 of uniting with Chiang, which as we have explained already represents the total loss of any Marxist or revolutionary politics for the party. It in fact represented a petty-bourgeois political line, as it necessarily involved expounding merely liberal democratic goals - national independence, class collaboration and parliamentary democracy.

The combination of this line with the need to rapidly rebuild the decimated party led to a situation where “as of the early 1940s, 90% of the 700,000 to 800,000 members of the newly expanded “party of the proletariat” were of “petty bourgeois” origin, mostly peasant or intellectual” (Harrison, op cit. p323). It is in the very nature of the petty bourgeoisie as a class to be competitive, fragmented and heterogeneous in its political and economic interests. It is a class incapable of forming mass trade unions to fight for collective interests.

In the same document Liu Shaoqi explains the source of all “erroneous, evil tendencies within the Party” as being the non-proletarian classes, such as the petty bourgeoisie, who had “infiltrated the Party”, influencing it in “ideology, living habits, theory, and action”. In particular, their malignant influence was said to express itself in a policy of political opportunism, liberalism and a watering down of the ‘proletarian’ character of the party: “Recently, a great number of intellectual elements and new Party members have entered the Party, bringing with them to the Party strong bourgeois, liberal ideas. Ideologically, politically and organisationally they have not been tempered by the iron discipline of the proletariat.”

Liu, Mao and other leaders frequently emphasise the proletarian character of the party, ‘leading’ the peasant masses. However, with a majority petty bourgeois membership, a petty bourgeois political line which, as we have seen, discouraged strikes as ‘damaging’ to the war effort and united front, and a base of operations miles from any major cities, we can only conclude that this ‘proletarian’ character was a product of wishful thinking.

All of this is asserted, but nowhere do we find an appraisal of who is responsible for such a state of affairs. It is obvious that the existing party leadership was responsible for taking the party into a rural, peasant environment, and in particular for converting the party’s programme into one fit for a liberal organisation: “Evidently some Party members, especially among the new recruits, had interpreted the spectacular shifts of the united front period to mean that the concepts of Western liberalism could be imported into the CCP itself” (Brandt, Schwarz and Fairbank, < A Documentary History of Chinese Communism<, p373).

Proving the point that the party had been led in such a way that would inevitably lead to such a state of affairs by basing itself on the disorganised peasantry, the party’s constitution was in 1945 changed from one where party branches based on the working class were given favourable weighting and priority over those of villages, to one where only 50 members in a village were required to form a party branch with rights, whereas a factory branch required 100 members.

The Party Structures

As Marxists, we base ourselves not on what people say about themselves, but by what they do. There was a layer of ‘old-guard’ comrades who had survived the trials of the Long March and even 1927, who were perturbed by the sheer opportunism and even liberalism of the ‘united front’ strategy. Finding themselves threatened by this overwhelming influx of new, ambitious, liberal-minded members, who by Liu’s account were doubly dangerous because in many cases they led bases and Red Army divisions, the party leadership was obliged to strike a blow to protect their own authority.

Without changing the opportunist line of the party, the leadership leant on the more revolutionary older members, who were anxious for some Marxist content. This is the real character of the much debated Zhengfeng campaign, a precursor to the later Cultural Revolution.  Mao, Liu et al dipped into the deep well of revolutionary anger and stressed, in the abstract, the proletarian, socialist character of the party as a cover for the things they really wanted to achieve, which were primarily to crush any threat to their leadership, be that from more bourgeois, liberal types or indeed those backed by Moscow. Hence we see two key themes in the rhetoric of the Zhengfeng movement - a stressing of the party’s real revolutionary character (though abstract and divorced from its actual activity and programme in the united front with Chiang), and an attack on ‘dogmatic Marxists’ who could only repeat phrases from Moscow, as opposed to Mao’s apparently more nuanced, ‘Sinified’ Marxism.

One very important point that can be, and often is, easily overlooked when analysing Zhengfeng, is the party structures. Much of the talk from Liu and Mao focused around reasserting the party’s internally proletarian character. This they did because a) it gained the necessary support of the more revolutionary party members, and b) it allowed the leaders to assert, for their own reasons, the need for discipline and centralism in the party, thus attacking those ill-disciplined petty bourgeois careerists.

Throughout Liu’s document on the ‘Intra-Party Struggle’ we find an enormous quantity of abstract truisms such as “we must oppose right opportunism and at the same time oppose ‘left’ opportunism. We must struggle against both, and only then will we be able to maintain the proletarian substance of our party” (Liu, < On the Intra-Party Struggle<). These statements never develop into an actual analysis of the contradictions and sources of these twin errors to be guarded against, and thus the vagueness of such statements is little more than an excuse to attack each and every challenge, ‘left’ or ‘right’, to the leadership.

Of particular interest is the absence in the discussion of any mention of members rights to criticise and challenge the leadership. The importance of proletarian self-sacrifice, discipline and party loyalty are constantly emphasised, as in this typical example,

“the test of a CP member’s loyalty to the Party and to the task of the revolution and Communism is his ability, regardless of the situation, to subordinate his individual interests unconditionally and absolutely to those of the Party...He should see that his own individual interests are completely identical with Party interests, to the extent that they are fused...he can without the slightest hesitation or feeling of compulsion submit to Party interests and sacrifice individual interests...if he has no independent, individual objectives separating him from the Party, nor any selfish calculations…” (Liu, < On the Training of a Communist Party Member<, August 1939).

In the abstract, such a description of comradely behaviour is not false - although one can tell from the somewhat over the top emphasis on the lack of individual interests of members that there is something awry here. The stereotype of a Stalinist organisation is indeed one emphasising discipline and loyalty from the ranks to the leadership, however in this respect Stalinism is never consistent. We should bare in mind that while Stalinist organisations stress such discipline and centralism from their ranks, they also exhibited a woeful lack of consistency and unity at the top, with constant zig-zags in policy and, in 1943 (ironically around the same time the Zhengfeng movement took place) the dissolution of the entire Communist International at the stroke of Stalin’s pen.

No surprise then that in the 1945 constitution, there is not a single mention of internationalism as a principle of the Party, evidently a conscious decision since the old document stated that its aim was “to participate in the revolutionary struggle of the international and Chinese proletariat”. Mao “also affirmed the < independence < of his own leadership from Moscow [that is, from a higher, more central body - in direct contradiction, as well shall see in a moment, with his own demands for the Chinese Party]. In May 1943 he used the dissolution of the Communist International as an occasion to hail the independent achievements of his own party” and even praised the Communist International for not ‘meddling’ in the Chinese party’s affairs! (Schram, < Mao Tse-tung<, pp223-4). So much for loyalty, discipline and centralism!

For Marxists, loyalty, discipline and unity are won through genuine democratic freedom of discussion and the right to criticise and change policy. Through such a process, any unity arrived at will be much stronger and more genuine than one abstractly asserted from above. It is no surprise then that in these documents of the Zhengfeng campaign we find no corresponding elucidation of the democratic rights of the members. Certain rights are listed, such as of appeal if action is taken against a comrade, however no means whatsoever are mentioned whereby a comrade may move changes to the political programme of the leadership. If one has problems with the leadership in any way, one is not permitted to discuss this within one’s branch nor any other lay body. All a lay member could do was to petition the leadership.

Undermining any ability to exercise control over the leading bodies was the fact that elections to higher Party bodies had to be approved by the Party’s highest bodies, which negates any real democratic right to determine the makeup of the leading bodies (Harrison, op cit. p290). In line with this is Mao’s description of democratic centralism, in which there is no suggestion of the leadership and the line of the organisation being an outcome of a democratic process where all members have the right to propose policies. Instead we find out that in “democratic centralism...the lower ranks obey the higher ranks, the particular obeys the universal, and the entire Party obeys the CC” (Mao, Correcting Unorthodox Tendencies in Learning, the Party, and Literature and Art , February 1942). Such a line is correct only when preceded by genuine democratic participation and the guarantee of regular congresses in which CC decisions can be reviewed or overturned by all.

But at precisely this time the CCP had no congresses. The first national congress of the Party to take place since the onset of the Zhengfeng campaign happened in 1945, 17 years after the previous one! Here the Party’s central leadership was given enhanced powers to dissolve local party organisation’s electoral decisions. Although the party leadership remained ultimately responsible to the rank-and-file via the national congress, in the new 1945 constitution the Party was only required to call such a congress every three years, as opposed to every year as in the previous document. That means that the central leadership now had three years in which to act with impunity. Additionally, the Central Committee, elected by the congress and with the right to overrule the Central Political Bureau, now only met every six months (as opposed to every three) and only at the convocation of the Central Political Bureau. However, even these changes were a pale shadow of the real centralisation taking place against Party rules - the 1945 congress was as we have said the < first since 1928 and the last one until 1956, which in turn was the last one until 1969!< Indeed, at no point in the Party’s history since 1928 has there been less than four years between congresses.

This stands in sharp contrast to the history and spirit of Bolshevism. The impositions of the rural struggle are no excuse for the lack of congresses, not only because those impositions were a necessary result of CCP policy, but also because of the example the Russian Bolsheviks’ set, as Trotsky explains,

“During the civil war and the blockade, when the foreign delegates had to overcome unprecedented difficulties, and when some of them lost their lives en route , the congresses of the CPSU and of the Comintern convened regularly in conformance with the statutes and the spirit of the proletarian party” (Trotsky, < The Third International After Lenin<)<

In the Zhengfeng campaign, literally hundreds of thousands of comrades were ‘guided’ into making public ‘self-criticisms’ and ‘self-confessions’, in which, < according to Party documents of the time<, the use of torture was widespread (Harrison, op cit. pp341-2). It is thought that around 10,000 were killed in this process. It is rather ironic that those being expelled and killed were alleged Guomindang spies, whilst the Party leadership was at the same time in a formal alliance with the Guomindang itself!

Thus those documents by Liu and Mao we have quoted, in which what seem to be moderately undemocratic statements and rule changes are made, are only a timid expression in thought of the far more oppressive, undemocratic reality in action. One can have a party with the most democratic constitution in the world, but when one in twenty of its members are organised into ‘traitor-suppression committees’, ‘weeding out from the Party’ those it considers ‘spies’ etc., such democratic rights are just marks on paper.

It is interesting to note that throughout these documents authored by Liu and Mao, we find regular references to the need to secure the party’s structures to prevent Trotskyist ‘infiltrators’ gaining influence within the Party. The reality is that the Zhengfeng campaign, although partially a response to a growing petty bourgeois fracturing of the party, was in no way a return to democratic, Bolshevik and proletarian methods, but an assertion of the leadership’s authority against any challengers.

The Emergence of the Mao Cult and Infallibility

In key with the history of Stalinism in the USSR and elsewhere, and as the reader will by now be well aware, the CCP had gone through a great many programmatic zig-zags in its twenty or so years of existence - from independence, to alliance with the Guomindang, to adventurism and ultra-leftism in the late 20s, to rural based struggle, and back into alliance with the Guomindang again in the late 30s. “It is therefore quite possible that a Party member who was thoroughly devoted to the Party line in the Soviet period of the early 1930s, and who stubbornly clings to that line, may find himself a ‘left opportunist’ in the New Democracy period of the early 1940s. Heresies are thus likely to emerge in any quarter. The only ultimate criterion of Party loyalty is the disciplined acceptance of the Party line at any given moment, no matter how that line may shift” (Brandt, Schwarz and Fairbank, op cit, p355).

In this scenario we can see clearly how the extremely repressive character of Stalinism with which we are all familiar is a product of the inconsistent, opportunist and bureaucratic approach to leadership, which relegates the correctness of the political line beneath the upholding of the temporary needs of the party organisation and in particular, its leadership. The political programme ends up being a tool used and swapped by the leading bureaucracy at its convenience. When the line becomes an obstacle because it has been proven totally false by events, or has become inconvenient for winning this or that allegiance, it is discarded, and those who cannot understand this are ‘disloyal’ and ‘undisciplined’.

According to Harrison, throughout Mao’s tenure he held remarkably few high-level meetings and discussions, “Mao wanted ‘discussions’ when it suited him, but, as the subsequent record showed, he tried to force through his decisions on all essential questions” (Harrison, op cit. p400). Even the CCP publication the Shanxi-Suiyuan Daily in 1947 admitted that the Zhengfeng campaign had been “the effort of factions or individuals operating from the top down” (quoted in Harrison, op cit. p416).

In the face of such political instability, where suddenly the previous line was declared totally erroneous and anyone holding it to be a dangerous enemy, the leadership could not lead through genuine moral authority won in open debate. This tendency is the origin then of the ‘cult of personality’ around Mao, and in particular, the declaration of the infallibility of this leader as means to achieve unity without the necessary freedom to criticise and discuss. In the new constitution of 1945, which reflects the spirit of the Zhengfeng movement, the ‘ideas of Mao Zedong’ were declared to be those of the Party. This effectively made Mao infallible from the point of view of the Party, since anything Mao subsequently said represented, by definition, the ideas of Mao Zedong, and thus had to be correct and followed.

Concomitant with this was Mao’s election, in March 1943, as the chairman of the three-man Secretariat of the Party, on which body he had the automatic right to outvote the other two members! (Schram, < Mao Tse-Tung’s Thought to 1949<, in < The Cambridge History of China<, Volume 13 Part II, p861). One can only conclude that such a body was formed to mask Mao’s total control of the Party, for why else have such a committee when a single member of it can outvote the rest every time!