Maoism: Our Rallying Cry for Proletarian Power III

We publish a unofficial translation of part III of an article series published on Yeni Demokrasi. We have previously published part I and part II.

With the beginning of the capitalist restoration in the USSR at the end of the 1950s, Mao further developed the theory and practice of the dictatorship of the proletariat and took it to a higher level. The socialist struggle for power, which culminated in the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, is a great merit that Maoism added to the science of revolution. The fact that we have fallen far behind socialism today only reminds us that we must take stronger action against the bourgeoisie.

In fact, the theoretical framework of the Great Cultural Revolution begins with the struggle against the “theory of the productive forces”. The basis of the philosophical break with the theory of the productive forces was explained by Mao many years ago in his article “On Contradiction”: “True, the productive forces, practice and the economic base generally play the principal and decisive role; whoever denies this is not a materialist. But it must also be admitted that in certain conditions, such aspects as the relations of production, theory and the superstructure in turn manifest themselves in the principal and decisive role. When it is impossible for the productive forces to develop without a change in the relations of production, then the change in the relations of production plays the principal and decisive role”.

The realisation that the class struggle must continue uninterruptedly and relentlessly under socialism was undoubtedly also present in the founding fathers of Marxism, Lenin, and Stalin. We have known since Marx that the dictatorship of the proletariat is necessary for the realisation of a classless society. However, it cannot be said that these masters knew the concrete forms, means and mechanisms of class struggle under socialism. Although it is known at the ideological level that the class struggle will continue under socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat will be realised, it is a different stage to apply the laws of class struggle to the solution of practical questions and thus to demonstrate ideology in practice. On this issue, we know that Comrade Stalin fell into metaphysics, that he was subjective, that he underestimated or essentially neglected the role of the latter in the relationship between the material basis of the class struggle and its theoretical and political scope. In Çakıroğlu’s article1, this is explained as follows:

“In fact, in the period of the 2nd International it was a widespread misconception that in the relationship between the relations of production and the productive forces, the productive forces were the decisive and primary aspect in all questions. In concrete terms, this deviation was systematically realised by the opportunists of the 2nd International. It was at this time that Lenin developed the theory of imperialism and the proletarian revolution and dealt a heavy blow to the theory of the productive forces. The thesis that the proletarian revolution would develop most strongly in those countries where the productive forces were most developed was precisely the expression of the theory of the productive forces under the then prevailing conditions. This accusation was invalidated by the success of the October Revolution. However, Lenin’s views on this subject were not sufficiently realised. Later, under Stalin, the ‘theory of productive forces’ became the basis of the official policy of socialist construction. Due to this fundamental misunderstanding, Stalin declared in 1936: ‘… All exploiting classes have now been eliminated’, implying that class struggles between antagonistic classes had disappeared. At the same time, this was an assertion that the changes in the relations of production necessary for socialist construction had already taken place. The task of the CPSU was now to develop the productive forces. The mistake in all these points (which all feed on the theory of the productive forces) was to allow the development of the bureaucratic capitalist class by Soviet power itself and to abandon the task of consciously developing and leading the class struggles under the dictatorship of the proletariat.”

Ideologically, in the struggle against the bourgeoisie, that is, in the idea of the necessity of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the firm stance and determination of Comrade Stalin are appreciated by the communists. However, determination alone is not enough to bring about a solution. It is necessary to explain what the bourgeoisie means under socialism and how it is embodied. This requires a scientific investigation and theoretical expansions at a level that serves as an orientation for practice. Ideology must be concretised under new conditions and transformed into science. Comrade Stalin did not succeed on this scientific level. We said that Lenin’s struggle against the revisionism of the 2nd International was the defence of Marxism under new conditions, but more than that it was the development of Marxism. After Lenin, Mao Zedong undertook the same defence and development in the field of the relationship between the productive forces and the relations of production and succeeded where Comrade Stalin failed.


At this point, it is worth pointing out the following important thesis: The basis of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism is social practice. However, progress in the field of class struggle has also led to progress on other levels. This also means the following: The fundamental class struggle is the struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. The philosophical studies in MLM have developed on this basis. Neglecting the class struggle completely narrows our understanding… Mao Zedong was fully aware of this and paid more attention to the study of philosophy than his predecessors, clearly realising that this would serve the class struggle. The great importance he attached to the class struggle within the Party is reflected in his articles On Practice and On Contradiction. He did not carry out these studies to make a “contribution to philosophy” but, in accordance with the above thesis, to develop the class struggle within the party in favour of the proletariat in order to achieve successful results against the bourgeois conceptions within the party and the bourgeois organisations (such as factions or cliques) that are the natural result of this. This feature should not be overlooked when referring to Mao Zedong’s “Contributions to Philosophy” as an “academic work” or under the name of “philosophical studies”. It should never be overlooked that the study of philosophy in Marxism-Leninism-Maoism is a continuation of the class struggle. This is the source of the scientificity of proletarian ideology. It is undoubtedly related to the material process. Social practice, the development of the means of production and the process of changing the relations of production are the main sources of knowledge. The fact that this is done in the interests of the proletarian class does not obscure this characteristic. If there is a shadowing, an “ideological” deviation in this respect, the problem of producing for the interests of the bourgeoisie arises. This is the reason why Marxism-Leninism-Maoism has always developed and realised itself in the struggle against the bourgeoisie.

In his article “On Contradiction”, Mao emphasises the role of consciousness in the basis of the class struggle. The role of consciousness, one of the most important weapons of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie, has been underestimated because serious deviations have occurred in this field. With this work, Mao emphatically establishes for the proletariat the weapon of “the decisive role of the superstructure/the indispensability of proletarian consciousness in the class struggle”:

“While we recognize that in the general development of history the material determines the mental and social being determines social consciousness, we also–and indeed must–recognize the reaction of mental on material things, of social consciousness on social being and of the superstructure on the economic base. This does not go against materialism; on the contrary, it avoids mechanical materialism and firmly upholds dialectical materialism.” (Mao)

Here Mao strikes a blow against the bourgeois views that restrict revolutionary theory.

This approach was effective both in the Chinese revolution and in the building of socialism, especially in the Cultural Revolution, to unleash the revolutionary power of the masses in the class struggle. Mao’s continuation of the class struggle under socialism, which relies on the masses and strengthens their revolutionary initiative, is the continuation and further development of the proletarian attack on the “theory of productive forces”, which had reached a higher level with Lenin. At the same time, “the Marxist understanding of the role of consciousness was further developed” (Çakıroğlu, ibid.).


Mao had already identified the contradiction between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat as the main contradiction in Chinese society after the New Democratic Revolution. The revolution had resolved the contradiction between feudalism and the broad masses of the people, and the proletariat was faced with the task of leading a “new” revolution. Immediately after the revolution, a conflict arose over this contradiction. Everything that had previously served the “new democratic revolution” had to serve the “socialist revolution”, the party had to begin to organise the socialist revolution. Undoubtedly, this was not a revolution that could be realised in one fell swoop; but the revolution had to begin, the socialist revolution had to be defined, a clear stand had to be taken on the contradiction between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. The Marxist-Leninists, led by Mao, were guided by the slogan of the “socialist road” and held the flag high against the capitalist roaders who claimed that there were no conditions for socialism and that it was necessary to adhere to the New Democratic Revolution. According to the “Theory of Productive Forces”, the capitalist roaders postponed socialism to a much later date. However, Mao was aware of the need to prepare for the construction of socialism from the revolution onwards. About those who preferred the capitalist road, Mao made the apt remark: “After the success of the democratic revolution, some of them paused” and “not realising the changed character of the revolution, they continued their ‘new democracy’ instead of embarking on socialist transformation”.

In the name of “consolidating the New Democratic Revolution”, they argued that effective co-operation between the different sectors of the economy was necessary and that this co-operation had to be maintained for a long time. In reality, the aim was to ignore the “main contradiction” for a while, that is, to postpone the class struggle. “After all, power was in the hands of the party of the proletariat, the proletariat!”, “There was no reason to be relentless and persistent in the class struggle.”

Mao contradicted this on the basis of the above-mentioned thesis. For him, everything could only be a continuation of the class struggle. Giving capitalism the leading role in overcoming the country’s backward economic conditions could mean nothing other than siding with the bourgeoisie in the class struggle. Of course, socialism could not be built immediately, and after the New Democratic Revolution the various enterprises of the bourgeoisie, of private capital, would only be permitted to a limited extent, since the proletariat did not yet have the economic power to take possession of them all. However, this should be the orientation, the authorised private enterprises and thus the development and expansion of private capital should not be encouraged. This question led to very serious conflicts and purges within the party, in short, to a struggle for the conquest of party power. The Marxist-Leninists under the leadership of Mao, who followed Marxism-Leninism, eventually won. Marxism-Leninism was followed, but the struggle was conducted on a “new” level.

There are such phases in the development of science. There is a development in practice, things are achieved that were not possible before. Nevertheless, no name is mentioned, no theoretical breakthrough is presented. These were the developments in this “new” period under Mao’s leadership. It was believed that this new process, which began with the successful development of the Chinese revolution, was the pursuit and application of Marxism-Leninism. However, Marxism-Leninism was not only defended, but also and above all further developed. In the course of the New Democratic Revolution, the role of imperialism in the semi-feudal countries, the definitions of comprador and bureaucratic capitalism, the war line, the understanding of the party and the mass line were developed. Philosophy came after the class struggle. The ideology that guided the process undoubtedly had a philosophy. It was precisely this philosophy that was in a stage of development and evolved in the process in question. Under socialism, the theory of class struggle also developed step by step. If Mao Zedong had not been sufficiently equipped ideologically, the ideas that had emerged by then would undoubtedly have been implemented and would have served the development of capitalism in China with its backward economic conditions. It is precisely at this point that Mao’s special characteristic manifests itself. He viewed the class struggle from the point of view of the interests of the proletariat. The New Democratic Revolution had been successfully completed and it was now necessary to turn to the socialist revolution in the interests of the proletariat; the proletariat needed socialism, not capitalism… At the 7th Party Congress of the CPC, this dispute arose and Mao’s plan of “dangerous and utopian socialism” for the bourgeoisie, i.e. the development of agriculture through mutual aid troops, semi-socialist co-operatives and collectivisation through progressive co-operatives, was adopted.

This was in the first period after the revolution, when the immediate class struggle soon turned into a fierce struggle for power. Mao’s success here is no ordinary success. It is a success that requires superior equipment.

Mao defended the construction of socialism in a country like China, which lacks developed productive forces and where the level of productivity is low, with an unexpectedly strong apparatus. He defined the construction of socialism as a stage to be completed at the end of a gradual transition. The aim is to gradually change the relations of production. Without a change in the relations of production, the productive forces could not be developed on a large scale. This was Mao’s clear distance from the theory of the productive forces. If we look at his criticism of the Soviet economy in the person of Comrade Stalin, we see that he took a clear stand on this issue. Mao rejected the path of first mechanisation and then cooperation, which frustrated the Chinese capitalist roaders. Small-scale production in China, the multitude of enterprises based on backward technology, individual and dispersed production were not in contradiction with cooperation and collectivisation. For Mao, the decisive element of collectivisation was the masses, not the means of production, not advanced industrial production. The rest could and should follow. There was no doubt that the masses had to be convinced. To do this, they had to be constantly reminded that the party must lead the masses, that is, the class struggle must continue uninterrupted. The 7th Congress was a great victory, but of course only the beginning. The struggle was difficult, and time and again the bourgeoisie and those who defended the interests of the proletariat clashed over the same contradiction. Those who insisted on not giving up the goal of consolidating the New Democratic Revolution soon came up with a new packaging, the theory of the “single economic base”.

At the second session of the 8th Party Congress in 1958, the following sentence was adopted: “In building socialism, we will strive with all our might to achieve greater, faster, better and more economic results by pursuing higher goals”. This line, which began to be realised with the slogan “Great Leap Forward”, included the organisation of people’s communes. These communes were to ensure the integration of industry, agriculture, the army, education and trade into the social structure. The communes played a role in China as organisations of administration at the grassroots level. It is a well-known example of a bourgeois attack to deny the achievements of the General Line while emphasising some important mistakes in the years of the Great Leap Forward. The Great Leap Forward is a historically important developmental step that also conditioned the success of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and strengthened the self-confidence of the masses.

From this perspective, Mao Zedong fought the various versions of the theory of productive forces in the process of building socialism and further developed Marxism-Leninism. The result was the social ownership of the means of production. This time, the counter-revolutionary movement began to speak of the “contradiction between the advanced socialist system and the backward social productive forces” as the main contradiction of Chinese society, and once again put forward the theory of productive forces. Under socialism, the “bourgeoisie within the party” must constantly resort to this theory, which denies the class struggle, downplays the role of revolutionary consciousness and rejects ideology in practice. For this theory seems to be faithful to materialism and to strive for the development of the economy in the hands of the proletariat. Obviously, the assertion of the “development of the economy” contained in this theory is a reality. The development of the productive forces develops the economy. But Marxism teaches us from the outset not to turn to “political economy” but to the class struggle. Mao Zedong represents the highest stage of this view. Every condemnation of the theory of the productive forces in socialism is the consolidation of this level. This level is not only instructive for the continuation of the class struggle under socialism, but also for the revolutionary struggles of today. This is ultimately a question of understanding the revolution. To base oneself on political economy means to base oneself on the “economic progress” of imperialism, to consider this “progress” as the realisation of the interests of the proletariat. To repeat: Communists cannot ignore the development of the means of production. After all, Capital is a book that analyses the development of the means of production. But it is by no means a book of political economy. It is a book that illuminates the path of the proletariat in the class struggle and criticises political economy in this respect. This is its fundamental characteristic. We argue that this basic feature has reached its highest level in Maoism. It is the root of our conception of imperialism, our specific definition of bureaucratic capitalism and the basis of the class struggle in the struggle for the New Democratic Revolution and socialism.

In his “Critique of Soviet Economics”, Mao also dealt a heavy blow to the “theory of the productive forces”. “As Mao pointed out in his Critique of Soviet Economics, the change in the form of ownership of the means of production is only one aspect of the change in the relations of production. Both the relations between the producers themselves, especially the relations between the ruling cadres and the producers, and the entire distribution system are aspects of the relations of production that must be subjected to fundamental changes. Although these aspects of relations of production are part of the base, changes in this area are possible above all through constant ideological struggles. The ideological struggle in the superstructure is therefore closely linked to the changes in the base, which makes it difficult to draw artificial distinctions between base and superstructure” (Çakıroğlu, ibid.).

As is well known, the critique of the Soviet economy deals with the economy of Comrade Stalin’s era. However, the scope of the critique expands as the bourgeoisie that ruled the Soviet Union embarked on the restoration of capitalism. We are aware that the critique expressed here is directed at some dynamics, even some fundamental dynamics, of the process of the restoration of capitalism that developed in the Soviet Union. The book should rather be read from this perspective. The “theory of productive forces”, which became popular under Khrushchev, involves turning away from “classes and class struggles in favour of talk of ‘increasing production'”.

“Khrushchev even began to define communism as a ‘society of abundance’ (Khrushchev’s famous goulash), disregarding the fact that communism was a classless society in the hope that this understanding would prevail” (Çakıroğlu, ibid.)


“The legal socialisation of the means of production objectively leads to the concentration of the means of production. But this kind of socialisation or concentration objectively leads to the centralisation of political power. It is this objective power in the political plane that makes possible the establishment of social-fascist power in countries where there is a legal centralisation of the means of production. To prevent such a development, an integrated line and strategy is necessary to support the real socialisation of the means of production as well as the relations of production and the product of these relations, production and the production process. This is inseparable from the general level of the broad labouring masses” (Çakıroğlu, ibid.).

Mao saw all this clearly, and his line for solving this problem was realised in the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. The most important link in Mao’s strategy was the creation of a mass political movement. The transfer of power to the masses and the commitment of the Communist Party to lead this process were the most important principles of his strategy.

The leadership of the class struggle by the party or (party) representatives on behalf of the masses means that the increased means of production and control over production are exercised by certain strata. The same is true in reverse. This leads to a continuous and intensive breeding of the bourgeoisie within the party itself. Thus, while Mao made the exercise of political power by the broad masses of labourers the basis of his line, he also made it clear that the control of production and the leadership of the class struggle by the masses themselves is the only way to advance towards communism” (Çakıroğlu, ibid.).

Mao often called on the masses to learn to “divide one by two” in order to make them aware of the contradictions in socialism and the existence of antagonistic classes. Socialism does not consist of a contradiction-free whole. Socialism as an intermediate society has two paths, two possibilities: the relapse into capitalism and the ascent to communism. At the class level, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, the representatives of these two paths, are confronting each other in all areas. In this confrontation in all fields, Mao called on the masses to climb the peaks, realising that the struggle of the masses against the bourgeoisie was decisive for the defeat of the bourgeoisie. His particular concern was that the masses should concretely grasp the delicate and temporary situation beneath the surface, that they should recognise dangers and challenges that are not (or no longer) necessarily visible to the eye.

Part IV will follow….

1Note by translator: referrers to “The Third Great Guiding Light and the Apogee of the Proletariat: Mao” by Ali Çakıroğlu, referred to in the previous parts.

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