Socialism is Much Better Than Capitalism and Communism Will Be A Far Better World
Part 7: Mao's Breakthrough--The Revolution Comes to Power
Revolution #031, January 22, 2006, posted at revcom.us
Editor's note: Revolution is serializing the speech "Socialism Is Much Better Than Capitalism, and Communism Will Be A Far Better World" by Raymond Lotta.
Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: Communism and Socialism
Part 3: The Bolsheviks Lead a Revolution That Shakes the World
Part 4: The Soviet Experiment: The Social Revolution Ushered in by Proletarian Power
Part 5: The Soviet Experiment: Building the World's First Socialist Economy
Part 6: The Soviet Experiment: World War 2 and Its Aftermath
Lotta is on a national speaking tour as part of the Set the Record Straight project. Information on upcoming speaking dates and related materials are available at www. thisiscommunism.org.
On October 1, 1949 Mao Tsetung spoke to millions assembled in Tiananmen Square in the capital city of Beijing. He had led the Chinese people in 20 years of armed struggle to overthrow their landlord oppressors and to drive out foreign imperialism. At this victory celebration, Mao told the crowd and the world: "The Chinese people have stood up." The crowd roared. But Mao, while sharing their great joy and sense of victory, also looked beyond the moment. The heroism and sacrifice that had led to this celebration were, he said, "but a beginning...only a brief prologue to a long drama."
For Mao, the revolution wasn't stopping. It was entering a new stage of socialist transformation of the economy, the creation of new political institutions, and the forging of new values of working for the common good. The ultimate goal was communism, a world without classes. But others within the Party leadership saw the situation very differently. For them, the seizure of power in 1949 basically marked the end of the revolution. As they saw it, the task now was to build China into a modern power. This was part of the complicated and challenging situation faced by Mao and the masses.
The overthrown landlords and capitalists were not reconciled to their fate. Neither were the imperialists who had dominated China.
Less than a year after the communists came to power in China, the U.S. launched war in Korea. They carried the war ever closer to China and threatened to attack China with nuclear weapons. China sent military aid and volunteers to Korea and fought the U.S. to a standstill. But the cost was high. China lost over 200,000 people in the conflict and total casualties ranged as high as 900,000.
The U.S. confronted revolutionary China with a network of military bases in Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan along with its Naval Sixth Fleet. For two decades, China was also prevented from carrying on trade with large parts of the world as a result of an economic embargo put into effect by the United States and Western countries. This was the hostile international environment that the revolution faced.
Why There Was a Revolution
A new anti-Mao book has just come out-- Mao: The Unknown Story by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday. In typical anti-communist fashion, it claims that the Chinese revolution was the product of Mao's evil machinations. It talks as though things were just fine before the revolution--or that social oppression took care of itself. But let’s look at what China was like before the revolution.
The vast majority of China's people were peasants who worked the land but had little or no land to call their own. They lived under the dominance of landlords who ruled the local economy and people's lives. Peasants desperately scratched out survival. In bad years, they had to eat leaves and bark, and were forced to sell their children. Agriculture was plagued by endless cycles of floods and droughts. China suffered on average one major famine a year and hundreds of thousands died in the famines of 1921 and 1943.
For women, life was a living hell: beatings by husbands, the painful binding of feet, arranged marriages, and young women were forced to be concubines to landlords and warlords.
By practically any measure, the economy was near the bottom of the scale of development. It had little industry. For example, Nanjing had a population of 700,000 and 200,000 people worked as servants, waiters, bar girls, prostitutes, rickshaw drivers and other such trades. Yet there were only 16,000 industrial workers.
In Shanghai's textile mills, young women were locked in at night. People lived crowded together in one-room hovels on the narrow, dark, and dirty side streets and alleys, or on the street itself. An estimated 25,000 dead bodies were collected from the streets each year by municipal sanitation teams. Meanwhile foreign-controlled districts of the city were built up with fancy hotels and nightclubs.
While in pre-revolutionary China there was widespread practice of traditional medicine, it was also the case that in a country of 500 million, there were only 12,000 doctors trained in Western medicine. Four million people died each year from infectious and parasitic diseases. China had 90 million opium addicts.
This is why people made revolution and seized power. And under the leadership of Mao and the Chinese Communist Party, the Chinese revolution immediately set out to change these conditions.
The Revolution Brings Decisive Change
When the communist-led Red Army took control of the big cities, it seized hold of the big banks, factories, and other businesses. It put these productive assets in the service of a new economy. The party led people to reorganize production. Child labor was abolished. The working day was reduced from 12-16 hours to 8 hours.
When the revolutionary army defeated the U.S.-backed Chiang Kai-shek's armies and local landlord forces, the feudal system was quickly overthrown. Overthrowing oppressors had actually begun in the liberated areas during the revolutionary war. Work teams led by the party went into villages, carried on political education, and held meetings with the peasants about their conditions and problems. They encouraged and led the peasants to rise up, to organize themselves, and to seize the land.
After victory in 1949, land reform became law and swept across China like a river bursting a dam. Throughout China, peasants divided up the land, tools, and animals. In a country where women had never been treated as equals, not just the men but women got land.
Women lifted their heads. In 1950, a new marriage law put an end to child and arranged marriages. The new law guaranteed the right to divorce for women as well as men. But for Mao the revolution was about more than new laws. It had to change people's thinking. It had to change the old oppressive social relations and challenge the backward ideas and values that rested on these relations and that were common among the people.
The hysterical anti-Mao biographies say Mao was drunk with power. But what these slanderous accounts are really objecting to is that the revolution overthrew the old power of landlords, big capitalists, and foreign dominators and established a new power. This was a form of the dictatorship of the proletariat. It empowered the workers and peasants to start to rule society and to suppress old and new exploiters.
We are told that Mao wantonly killed millions of people. But in fact, hundreds of millions were liberated, and untold lives were saved, by the new economic and social system that the Maoist revolution created. The oppressed had been treated throughout history as no more than a pair of laboring hands. Now they had the right and capacity to stand up. And they had the backing of a people's liberation army.
Think about what it would mean in a future society in what is today the U.S. if the oppressed had a state power that served their interests. Instead of the police brutalizing people in the oppressed communities, the state would be aiding people in uprooting the legacy of discrimination. In Maoist China, the former nobodies had the freedom and power to transform economic, political, social and cultural life.
NEXT WEEK: Social Transformation and The Great Leap Forward