Socialism Is Much Better Than Capitalism and Communism Will Be a Far Better World
Part 8: Mao's Advance — Breaking with the Soviet Model
Revolution #032, January 29, 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
Part 7: Mao's Breakthrough — The Revolution Comes to Power
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.
Mao Zedong aimed to create a socialist economy based on social cooperation and social ownership:
- An economy that would meet the material and social needs of the people.
- An economy that would solve China's historic problem of endemic hunger, malnutrition, and recurrent famine.
- An economy that would foster mutually supportive relations between industry and agriculture, instead of soaking resources from the countryside.
- An economy that would contribute to reducing and ultimately overcoming the gaps between city and countryside, and regional inequalities.
- An economy that relied on and promoted the collective understanding and the collective mastery of the masses over the processes of production.
- An economy that could stand up to imperialist attack.
Such an economy would not--and could not--be dependent on imperialism for loans or aid, or answer to the demands of the capitalist world market.
The Maoist revolution set out to develop an educational system that would serve the broad needs of the population and contribute to revolutionizing society. It set out to develop a new culture and to combat the old ways of thinking.
All this was led by communist ideology, by the goal of reaching communism: a society without classes and any form of oppression.
A new state power based on the worker-peasant alliance made it possible to move decisively to change the terrible conditions that had existed.
The scourge of opium addiction was wiped out through mass treatment and education. Mass campaigns were launched to clean up the cities. Cholera and other epidemic diseases were eliminated or brought under control. New factories and housing for workers went up. Hospitals and medical schools were constructed. By 1965, China had trained 200,000 regular doctors.
A new countrywide educational system was created. Mass literacy campaigns were launched--and by the end of the 1950s most peasants had acquired a basic reading knowledge.
Breaking with the Soviet Model
These were incredible achievements. But there was struggle within the Communist Party over the path forward. One of the biggest issues was how to develop and modernize the economy.
One section of leaders of the Communist Party advocated a program of rapid industrialization. Their approach was to concentrate resources on big and modern factories and advanced technology. They wanted to build up the urban areas. Development, in their eyes, would then trickle down to the countryside. These leaders said that you needed a big centralized planning apparatus in order to run the economy and that you needed to train vast armies of experts and specialists to staff the new economy and administrative organs. They argued that the way to motivate people and the staff of enterprises was to rely on wide wage differentials and financial incentives.
This program reflected the influence of the Soviet Union, which was very strong in China in the 1950s. But Mao saw problems with this model--both as it was practiced in the Soviet Union and as it was being applied in China in the 1950s. This path of development elevated technique and expertise over the conscious initiative and activism of the masses. He rejected the model of subordinating agriculture to serve urban-based industrialization. And if China was going to be able to withstand imperialist attack and invasion, it had to decentralize industry and not concentrate development in the vulnerable cities and coastal areas.
Mao was striving to forge a different road of economic and social development. Another way of putting this is that after countrywide victory in 1949, Mao was struggling against two legacies. First and foremost, he was struggling against the legacy and continuing pressure and influence of capitalism and Western imperialism. Second, he was breaking with the Soviet developmental legacy.
Part 9: The Great Leap Forward
"The Great Leap is often vilified as an irrational utopian experiment. But it made enormous economic and political sense…from the standpoint of liberating people and productive capabilities."