“The Chinese Communist Revolution was the greatest event of the 20th century after the October 1917 Russian Revolution.”
Statements like that were for decades common on the Trotskyist left.
Even among those of us who believed that a new working-class “political revolution” was necessary against the Stalinist regime established over all of mainland China in 1949.
The Chinese revolution was seen as a giant step forward, albeit in a twisted and deformed way, in an ongoing world revolution against capitalism. With China, fully one third of the land mass of the globe was under Stalinist control — and outside capitalist and imperialist control. The countries of the Stalinist bloc were deformed and degenerated workers’ states, the left said.
How do such judgements look now, on the 60th anniversary of Mao’s revolution? It is 30 years since the ruling Chinese Communist Party made its turn towards red-in-tooth-and-claw market capitalism combined with continuing rigid Stalinist political control of the people; 20 years since the Tiananmen Square massacre allowed the watching world to see a small glimpse of the horrors of Chinese Stalinist rule. The judgements look nonsensical now, and they always were.
On the left at the time, in 1949, only the Workers’ Party and Independent Socialist League of the USA said plainly that the Maoist revolution was a reactionary and historically regressive phenomenon. This selection of the contemporary coverage published in the weekly Labor Action was made by Hal Draper, who had edited Labor Action at the time, in 1970. It is a necessary antidote to the nonsense that even now, in the era of Stalinist-state-licensed Chinese capitalism, still washes around the Chinese Revolution on its 60th anniversary.