Introduction

Submitted by cathy n on 8 October, 2009 - 3:16 Author: Hal Draper

Original introduction to the 1970 edition

The articles that follow were written and published while the events themselves were still unfolding, during the crucial 1948–9 period when the Maoist party was still conquering China. Without benefit of 20–20 hindsight, without benefit of documents and research that became available only afterward, Jack Brad called all the shots.

Their contemporaneity gives these articles a sense of immediacy and vividness which historical contemplation cannot provide. But that alone would not be enough reason to publish them in 1970. The point is that, after two decades, they still provide a unique analysis of the meaning of the events and, above all, of the social nature of the Communist party and state power. The fullest discussion of this central question is in Chapter 11, “What Is Chinese Stalinism?”, but we have brought together, usually in abridged form, other articles by Brad which contributed to the total picture. We have omitted purely reportorial material, in order to concentrate on the analytical; but of course, in such explain-as-you-go articles the two aspects are often well-mixed.

All of these articles originally appeared in the independent socialist weekly Labor Action, with the exception of the above-mentioned Chapter 11, which was published in the New International; and they appeared between September 1948 and October 1949, except for the last one (included here as a kind of appendix) which came in 1950.

There are two distinctive aspects of the point of view which Brad develops, both characteristic of the independent socialist approach. One is its opposition to both the old oppressing power (Chiang Kai-shek and the Kuomintang) and the new oppressing power (Mao and his national-Stalinist machine). There was no chance of Brad’s falling for the then common belief that the Chinese Communists were at bottom simply “agrarian reformers” a belief fostered by the Communist propaganda mill of course, but earnestly accepted by all kinds of well-intentioned liberals and leftists who needed to believe that they were a beneficent alternative to the regime of the warlords and Kuomintang butchers, whom Washington supported. Nor did he fall backward into the camp of establishment anti-Communism — that is, of support, for the “nationalist” Chiang out of fear and hatred of Stalinism. The programme of proletarian revolution in China meant revolutionary opposition to both of these rival oppressors — that is, the programme of building a Third Camp alternative.

The second aspect is the analysis of Chinese Communism (Maoism) not simply as a sinister or devilish bogy but as the carrier of a social system of its own, the social order of bureaucratic collectivism — the rule of a new exploiting class. Without such an analysis, Maoism is a mystery. With this analysis, it was possible for Brad to explain clearly, immediately, what it has taken years for some to grasp only dimly. Precisely because it is a question of a social system, and not of political figures, there was no difficulty in understanding the existence of national antagonisms within this social system (Chinese national interests vs. Russian national interests within the context of bureaucratic collectivism). National antagonisms exist not only under capitalism; they spring inevitably to birth under any exploitive social system, including the new type of social system ruled by a new class.

But in these articles Brad’s approach is concrete: not the imposition a theory on the facts, but the task of making sense (i.e. theory) out of the facts. This is needed now as it was then.