Shortly after the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, Liu Shaoqi instigated Yang Xianzhen, his agent in the philosophical circles, to put out a theory of "synthesized economic base," starting a major struggle on China's philosophical front. It was a struggle of principle concerning the road China was to take, the socialist or the capitalist, whether China was to have a dictatorship of the proletariat or a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.
The theory of "synthesized economic base" was actually a variant of the reactionary "theory of productive forces" which is, in turn, an idealist conception of history serving as the common "theoretical basis" of the revisionist trend in China and abroad. Such pseudo-Marxist swindlers as Liu Shaoqi and Yang Xianzhen had all along used such reactionary theory to push their counter-revolutionary revisionist line and shape public opinion for their counter-revolutionary activities of opposing the proletarian revolution, overthrowing the proletarian dictatorship and restoring capitalism.
Product Of The Counter-Revolutionary Revisionist Line
The founding of the People's Republic heralded a new era in China, that of the socialist revolution and the proletarian dictatorship.
In his Report to the Second Plenary Session of the Seventh Central Committee of the Communist Party of China in March 1949, Chairman Mao Zedong made a penetrating analysis of the class relations and economic conditions prevailing in China at that time, clearly pointing out that following the countrywide seizure of power by the proletariat the principal internal contradiction was "the contradiction between the working class and the bourgeoisie." The focus of the struggle remained the question of state power. Chairman Mao called upon the whole Party to continue the revolution, rely on and strengthen the people's democratic dictatorship, that is, the proletarian dictatorship, develop the socialist state economy and carry out step by step the socialist transformation of agriculture, handicrafts and capitalist industry and commerce and socialist industrialization so as to "build China into a great socialist state."
At this turning point of the revolution, Liu Shaoqi waved the tattered banner of the reactionary "theory of productive forces" in hysterically opposing the socialist revolution. To counteract the resolution of the Second Plenary Session of the Party's Seventh Central Committee, he flaunted his counter-revolutionary program calling for "co-operation among the five sectors of the economy to consolidate the new-democratic system." Liu Shaoqi and other such swindlers went about drumming up trade for the development of capitalism, babbling, "Our country's production is undeveloped and backward. Today it is not that there are too many factories run by private capital, but too few. Now, not only must private capitalism be allowed to exist, but it needs to be developed, needs to be expanded." "Socialism in China is a matter for two or three decades later." They advocated preserving the rich-peasant economy for a long time and developing it energetically, called for "consolidating the peasants' private property" and attacked agricultural co-operation as "a kind of wrong, dangerous and utopian agrarian socialism."
Chairman Mao waged a sharp, tit-for-tat struggle against Liu Shaoqi and his gang who mulishly plotted to take the capitalist road. In 1953, in a talk on the Party's general line for the period of transition, Chairman Mao thoroughly discredited their counter-revolutionary program of "consolidating the new-democratic system." He pointed out: "After the success of the democratic revolution, some people stand still. Failing to realize the change in the character of the revolution, they continue with their 'new democracy' instead of undertaking socialist transformation. Hence their Rightist errors." As for the so-called formulation of "consolidating the new-democratic system," Chairman Mao said that it was "harmful" and was "at variance with the realities of the struggle and hinders the development of the socialist cause."
Still these renegades did not give up. At a time when the whole Party was studying and applying the Party's general line for the transition period, Yang Xianzhen, given his cue by swindler Liu Shaoqi et al., refurbished the sinister program of "consolidating the new-democratic system" and came up with the theory of "synthesized economic base." This variety of the reactionary "theory of productive forces" he spread everywhere in his feverish effort to oppose the Party's general line.
However, guided by the Party's general line, the poor and lower-middle peasants' socialist initiative mounted as never before so that the movement for agricultural co-operation flourished; likewise, the socialist transformation of the capitalist industry and commerce accelerated. In their futile attempt to brake the wheel of history, Liu Shaoqi and his like drew up, in 1955, their vicious scheme of "opposing rashness" and set forth their counter-revolutionary policy of "holding up," "contraction" and "checking up" which drastically slashed the number of co-operatives. Yang Xianzhen stepped in at this point and, racking his brains, penned his reactionary screed "On the Question of the Base and the Superstructure During the Transition Period in the People's Republic of China," systematizing his theory of "synthesized economic base" to conjure up a "theoretical basis" for the plot of Liu Shaoqi et al. to oppose the socialist revolution. He sent his scribble posthaste to Liu Shaoqi with a covering letter in which he said, "I hope you will find time to examine it and give me your instructions." Yang Xianzhen himself admitted that concerning his theory of "synthesized economic base," he also had "consulted with" the big careerist swindler who referred to himself as a "humble little commoner." All this proves to the hilt that the struggle started by Yang Xianzhen was a counter-revolutionary political plot which he had worked out hand in glove with Liu Shaoqi and other swindlers.
At a critical point in the grave struggle between the two lines, Chairman Mao made his report "On the Question of Agricultural Co-operation," shattering in theory and practice the revisionist "theory of productive forces" and the counter-revolutionary plot of Liu Shaoqi & Co. An immediate upsurge in the socialist transformation of agriculture, handicrafts and capitalist industry and commerce swept the country, characterized by: Opportunism is falling, socialism is on the rise. China's socialist transformation of the ownership of the means of production won a great victory, while the reactionary theory of "synthesized economic base" met with total bankruptcy.
Reactionary Fallacy For Overthrowing Proletarian Dictatorship
What, after all, was the theory of "synthesized economic base" made of?
Yang Xianzhen asserted: "In the period of transition the economic base of the state power of the socialist type" was of a "synthesized nature," "embracing both the socialist sector and the capitalist sector, and the sector of individual peasant economy as well"; they "can develop in a balanced and co-ordinated way"; the socialist superstructure should "serve the entire economic base," including the capitalist economy, and "also serve the bourgeoisie." This was an altogether reactionary and fallacious theory for overthrowing the dictatorship of the proletariat.
According to Marxism-Leninism, "state power of the socialist type" can only be the dictatorship of the proletariat. It is the concentrated expression of the fundamental interests of the working class and other laboring people, and its economic base can only be "the socialist economic base, that is,... socialist relations of production" ("On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People"). The capitalist economy is a paradise where the bourgeois amass fortunes, while for the proletariat and other laboring people it is a hell on earth. It is the economic base of the bourgeois dictatorship. Capitalist economy and proletarian dictatorship are as incompatible with each other as fire with water. How is it conceivable that the proletarian dictatorship can rest on any so-called "synthesized economic base" which includes the capitalist economy?
Yang Xianzhen's fallacy becomes even more preposterous when viewed against the historical mission of the proletarian dictatorship, which aims at abolishing capitalism and all other systems of exploitation, at ending private ownership. Referring to the economy in the transition period, Lenin pointed out: "As long as private ownership of the means of production... and freedom to trade remain, so does the economic basis of capitalism. The dictatorship of the proletariat is the only means of successfully fighting for the demolition of that basis, the only way to abolish classes...." (Collected Works, Vol. 31). In China, it is precisely by using this means of proletarian dictatorship that the struggle against capitalism is waged. We took a series of measures to confiscate bureaucrat-monopoly capital, carry out socialist transformation of medium-sized and small capitalist industry and commerce, and set up agricultural and handicraft co-operatives in order gradually to abolish capitalism and private ownership and establish a socialist economic base. Only thus can the victory of the revolution be consolidated, can we have the proletarian dictatorship. How can our proletarian state power take as its economic base the so-called "synthesized economic base" embracing the capitalist economy?
In fact, any so-called "synthesized economic base" simply doesn't exist, but is a mere fabrication by Yang Xianzhen and his like. For historical reasons, China's proletariat did face five sectors of the economy after seizing state power, and these boiled down to the socialist and the capitalist sectors. Diametrically opposed to each other, the socialist and the capitalist sectors do not and cannot exist peacefully side by side, as Yang Xianzhen claimed, or combine to form any so-called "synthesized economic base," still less can they "develop in a balanced and co-ordinated way." Lenin said: "This transition period has to be a period of struggle between dying capitalism and nascent communism - or, in other words, between capitalism which has been defeated but not destroyed and communism which has been born but is still very feeble" (Collected Works, Vol. 30). And Chairman Mao pointed out: "The period of transition is full of contradiction and struggle. Our present revolutionary struggle is even more profound than the armed revolutionary struggles of the past. It is a revolution that will for ever bury the capitalist system and all other systems of exploitation."
Precisely so. Events in China's transition period testify to an intense, life-and-death struggle between the two sectors of the economy, socialist and capitalist. One swallows up the other. Either progress towards socialism or retrogress to capitalism: There is absolutely no room for compromise in the struggle between the two classes, the two roads and the two lines. Yang Xianzhen's "synthesization" was a clear case of attempting to "combine two into one," to deny the contradiction and struggle between socialism and capitalism, and allow the latter to swallow up the former. So-called "balanced development" was, in essence, development of capitalism and reversion to semi-feudal, semi-colonial society. Did not Liu Shaoqi & Co., taking as the point of departure their reactionary "theory of productive forces," openly declare that they would work along with the capitalists for several decades and then go in for socialism "when China's industrial production shows a surplus"? The swindler that styled himself a "humble little commoner" but was actually a big careerist also shouted: "In contemporary China the capitalist system of exploitation is progressive," "it has a role to play in industrially backward China," etc., etc. This was what lay at the bottom of Yang Xianzhen's "synthesization" and "balanced development." His preaching of "synthesized economic base," when stripped of all its fancy wrappings, was nothing but an attempt to build China on a capitalist economic base.
Chairman Mao points out that if we do not build a socialist economy, our proletarian dictatorship will become a bourgeois dictatorship, a reactionary, fascist dictatorship. Clearly, Yang Xianzhen concocted and advertised his theory of "synthesized economic base" in order to abolish the socialist revolution, to pave the way for Liu Shaoqi & Co. to usurp state power and establish a reactionary, fascist dictatorship.
Yang Xianzhen said shamelessly that the socialist superstructure should "serve the entire economic base," including the capitalist economy; that it should "also serve the bourgeoisie." What a statement - "it should also serve the bourgeoisie"!
Marxism tells us that superstructure has class character; that state power which is at the very center of the superstructure is an instrument of class struggle, an apparatus with which one class oppresses another. Every state power is a dictatorship by a certain class: either a proletarian dictatorship with which the proletariat and other laboring people oppress the bourgeoisie and other exploiting classes, or a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie and other exploiting classes with which these classes oppress the proletariat and other laboring people. Yang Xianzhen went to the length of trying to make the socialist superstructure "serve the entire economic base," including the capitalist economy, and make our state of proletarian dictatorship "serve the bourgeoisie." What is this if not meeting the counter-revolutionary needs of overthrowing the proletarian dictatorship?
Of course, Liu Shaoqi, Yang Xianzhen et al. did not stop just at words. Hell-bent on "serving the bourgeoisie," they enforced nothing less than a reactionary, fascist dictatorship in the departments where they had usurped power. Politically, they plotted to usurp the Party, military and government power in a vain attempt to reduce China to a colony of imperialism and social-imperialism. Economically, they tried to restore capitalism by large-scale practice of the "four freedoms," san zi yi bao, profit in command, material incentives, technique first, and exclusive reliance on specialists in running factories. Ideologically and culturally, they did their best to peddle the vicious feudal, capitalist and revisionist wares and glorify feudal emperors and princes, generals and ministers, scholars and beauties so as to mold public opinion in favor of their counter-revolutionary activities. Organizationally, they formed an underground bourgeois headquarters by recruiting deserters and renegades, protecting one another and working hand in glove. So their heinous activities certainly went beyond the formula "also serve the bourgeoisie." They are in fact faithful agents, steeped in crime, of the imperialists, modern revisionists and Guomindang reactionaries. As for the theory of "synthesized economic base" it was simply a manifestation, in theory, of the counter-revolutionary attempts at the overthrow of the proletarian dictatorship on the part of these anti-Communist Guomindang elements, renegades and enemy agents.
"Fitting The Character Of China's Productive Forces" Refuted
The principal argument fabricated by Yang Xianzhen to justify his theory of "synthesized economic base" was that the five kinds of production relations in the transition period "fit the character of China's productive forces." This was a gross exposure of Yang Xianzhen and his sort as peddlers of the reactionary "theory of productive forces."
The five kinds of production relations in question covered socialist economy and capitalist economy, and also individual economy. Was it possible that all these "fit the character of China's productive forces"? As early as 1940 Chairman Mao pointed out that the Great October Socialist Revolution changed the whole course of world history, and ushered in a new era. The ideological and social system of capitalism throughout the world resembled "'a dying person who is sinking fast, like the sun setting beyond the western hills,' and will soon be relegated to the museum" ("On New Democracy"). In the 1950s, especially when China had established the proletarian dictatorship and entered the stage of socialist revolution, how could it still be said that capitalist relations of production "fit the character of China's productive forces"? After seizing state power, we proceeded at once to confiscate bureaucrat-capital - the principal part of China's capitalism - and change it into state-owned. Towards the industry and commerce of the national bourgeoisie, we adopted the policy of using, restricting and transforming them, but this never implied that capitalism "fit the character of China's productive forces." On the contrary, it showed that capitalism did not suit the character of the productive forces and that it was necessary to transform it step by step into socialist ownership by the state. In fact, it was inevitable that the bourgeoisie's reactionary profit-seeking nature and the growing contradictions between capitalism and socialism seriously hamstrung the expansion of social productive forces. People still remember the frantic attack the bourgeoisie, aided and abetted by Liu Shaoqi & Co., made shortly after the founding of the People's Republic against the proletariat by spreading the five evils of bribery of government workers, tax evasion, theft of state property, cheating on government contracts and stealing economic information from government sources for private speculation, seriously undermining China's industrial and agricultural production. With all this, how could one say that capitalist relations of production "fit the character of China's productive forces"?
As to the individual economy, it was, as Chairman Mao described, scattered and backward, not much different from that of ancient times. It is true that our land reform had broken the bonds of the feudal system of exploitation and liberated the productive forces in Chinese agriculture, but individual economy afforded very little room for their expansion. In fact, the marketable grain and raw materials supplied by peasants farming individually had, to an ever increasing degree, fallen short of the growing needs of the people and of socialist industrialization. Moreover, individual economy is unstable but engenders capitalism daily and hourly. Such being the case, could individual economy "fit the character of China's productive forces"?
Yang Xianzhen's argument, "fitting the character of China's productive forces," boiled down to this: Because of its backward productive forces, China was destined to develop only capitalism and build a capitalist economic base; it should not, nor could it, carry out socialist revolution and build a socialist economic base. It must then set up a bourgeois dictatorship to serve a capitalist economic base; it should not, and could not, institute proletarian dictatorship. This is the thoroughly revisionist "theory of productive forces."
The "theory of productive forces" is an international revisionist trend that makes a fetish of spontaneity. It absurdly exaggerates the decisive role of productive forces, which it reduces to means of production plus techniques. It completely negates the factor of man and denies the effect of revolution on the development of production, of production relations on productive forces and of the superstructure on the economic base. Such a fallacy would make it appear as if social development were merely the natural outcome of the development of productive forces, that when the productive forces are highly developed a new society would naturally appear, that if the productive forces are not yet highly developed it would be futile for the proletariat consciously to carry out socialist revolution. This fallacy, substituting vulgar evolutionism for revolutionary dialectics, and class conciliation for class struggle, opposes the proletarian revolution and proletarian dictatorship. It is historical idealism unalloyed.
Chairman Mao says: "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" ("On Contradiction"). This highly important scientific thesis, enriching and developing the basic principles of dialectical materialism and historical materialism, clearly points out that in a period of change in the revolution the relations of production and the superstructure can play the principal and decisive role with regard to the productive forces and the economic base. Revolution means liberating the productive forces and promoting their growth. History shows that every revolution is brought about by the development of the productive forces to a certain extent, but this does not necessarily imply that the transformation of the backward relations of production must be preceded by the full development of the productive forces. Rather, the first thing is to prepare public opinion, seize state power, and then solve the question of ownership, after which comes the question of greatly developing the productive forces. Such is the general law of revolution. If, according to the fallacies of Liu Shaoqi, Yang Xianzhen & Co., instead of the backward relations of production being transformed after the seizure of state power, capitalism had been allowed to spread unchecked in the hope of developing the productive forces, China would have become a colony of imperialism and social-imperialism, and there would be no socialism at all.
The "theory of productive forces" trumpeted by Liu Shaoqi, Yang Xianzhen et al. is nothing new, but the same revisionist trash of the Second International which Lenin thoroughly discredited long ago.
Lenin refuted the revisionist "theory of productive forces," exposing the renegade features of Bernstein, Kautsky et al. In his article "Our Revolution," he pointed out that all the "heroes" of the Second International kept harping in a thousand different keys that "the development of the productive forces of Russia has not attained the level that makes socialism possible." This nonsense he repudiated by declaring: "You say that civilization is necessary for the building of socialism. Very good. But why could we not first create such prerequisites of civilization in our country as the expulsion of the landowners and the Russian capitalists, and then start moving towards socialism? Where, in what books, have you read that such variations of the customary historical sequence of events are impermissible or impossible?" (Collected Works, Vol. 33). Lenin mercilessly tore off the pseudo-Marxist mask of these "heroes" with these words: "They all call themselves Marxists, but their conception of Marxism is impossibly pedantic"; they "are afraid to deviate from the bourgeoisie, let alone break with it, and at the same time they disguise their cowardice with the wildest rhetoric and braggartry" (Ibid.).
Doesn't every word, every sentence of Lenin's hit such pseudo-Marxist swindlers as Liu Shaoqi and Yang Xianzhen where it hurts most? To oppose the socialist revolution in the ownership of the means of production, these swindlers had likewise been harping in a thousand different keys on their fallacy, that "due to backward productive forces, China can not go in for socialism."
Refuting The Fallacy: "Contradiction Between The Advanced Socialist System And The Backward Social Productive Forces"
In May 1956, when China had in the main completed the socialist transformation of the ownership of the means of production, and the theory of "synthesized economic base" had been exploded, Liu Shaoqi personally consoled and encouraged Yang Xianzhen, saying, "You're right," private capitalism "is part of the base," "but you needn't talk about this question any more now." Strange! If Yang was right why shouldn't he talk about it any more?
Before long the cat was let out of the bag: "needn't talk about this question any more" was a dodge; the real thing was to mount a feverish counter-attack. Their theory of "synthesized economic base" having gone up in smoke, Liu Shaoqi and other swindlers changed their tactics, now claiming that China's principal internal contradiction was "the contradiction between the advanced socialist system and the backward social productive forces." This so-called "contradiction" was only another expression of the reactionary "theory of productive forces" in the new circumstances. The fallacy of "synthesized economic base" and the invention of this "contradiction" were like two poison gourds on the same vine. Before socialist transformation, these swindlers tried by every means to protect the capitalist relations of production under the pretext that China's production level was low. After socialist transformation, using the same pretext, they insidiously plotted against the socialist system and against continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat.
How can there be such a thing as contradiction between an advanced social system and backward productive forces? Marxism tells us that the productive forces, first and foremost the laborers, are the most active and revolutionary factor in any mode of production, that social development invariably begins with the growth of productive forces. When the productive forces have advanced beyond the production relations, a situation will emerge where the production relations no longer correspond with the productive forces, the superstructure no longer corresponds with the production relations, and it becomes necessary to change the production relations and the superstructure so as to make them correspond. It is only in a relative sense when we say that the superstructure corresponds with the production relations and the production relations correspond with the productive forces, or when we say that there is balance between the two aspects respectively. What is absolute is that the productive forces keep advancing and consequently there is always imbalance, and contradiction will always arise.
Analyzing the basic contradictions in Chinese society, Chairman Mao pointed out: "Socialist relations of production have been established and are in harmony with the growth of the productive forces, but they are still far from perfect, and this imperfection stands in contradiction to the growth of the productive forces. Apart from harmony as well as contradiction between the relations of production and the developing productive forces, there is harmony as well as contradiction between the superstructure and the economic base" ("On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People"). China's socialist relations of production are unquestionably advanced; they are better suited to the development of the productive forces than were the old relations of production and permit the productive forces to develop at a rate impossible in the old society, so that production can expand steadily to meet gradually the ever growing needs of the people.
Of course, contradictions still exist between our socialist relations of production and the productive forces, and between the superstructure and the economic base. These contradictions inevitably find expression in the struggle between the two classes, the two roads and the two lines. They arise because, on the one hand, the bourgeoisie still exists and, on the other, the socialist system has to undergo a continuous process of building up and consolidating. This shows precisely that in socialist society, too, the development of the productive forces runs ahead of the relations of production. Therefore, the "contradiction between the advanced socialist system and the backward social productive forces" does not exist.
One cannot help asking: Why, then, should Liu Shaoqi and other swindlers make up this so-called "contradiction" which is theoretically groundless and actually non-existent, and declare it as China's principal internal contradiction?
Their fabrication of this "principal contradiction" was to create a "basis" for their fallacy of "the dying out of class struggle" in order to negate Chairman Mao's Marxist-Leninist scientific thesis that the principal internal contradiction in China is "the contradiction between the working class and the bourgeoisie," deny the existence of contradictions, classes and class struggle in socialist society, oppose continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat, overthrow the proletarian dictatorship, and restore capitalism.
Chairman Mao exposed in good time and exploded thoroughly the reactionary fallacies of these swindlers. In 1957, in his brilliant essay On the Correct Handling of the Contradictions Among the People, he scientifically analyzed the class contradictions and class struggle in socialist society, laying a theoretical foundation for continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat. Again, at the Tenth Plenary Session of the Party's Eighth Central Committee held in September 1962, Chairman Mao further exposed Liu Shaoqi & Co.'s plot for restoring capitalism.
Still, these renegades did not and would not "lay down their butcher's knives and become Buddhas." During the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, when they reached a dead end and faced their doom, they again waved their ragged banner of the "theory of productive forces" and mouthed such nonsense as "production can promote revolution," etc., trying to make a last-ditch struggle. They desperately opposed Chairman Mao's policy of "grasping revolution and promoting production," in an attempt to suppress revolution in the name of production and thus undermine the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.
But, the dialectics of history is inexorable. No matter how hard Liu Shaoqi and other swindlers struggled and resorted to sophism, the storm of this great Cultural Revolution finally swept them, one after another, onto the garbage heap of history.