III. The Revolutionary Committees as Organs of Power of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat Are Being Abolished - 1. The Revolutionary Committees Arise in the Cultural Revolution as New Organs of Power of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat

The revolutionary committees were established on personal instruction of Chairman Mao Zedong in all areas and at every level of society during the Cultural Revolution in 1967. This essential achievement of the Cultural Revolution had arisen spontaneously in the struggle of the masses of the people against the new bourgeoisie. The revolutionary committees became organs of power of the dictatorship of the proletariat. In these the masses directly took part in the exercise of state power. The decision of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party concerning the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution states:

“The cultural revolutionary groups, committees and other organizational forms created by the masses in many schools and units are something new and of great historic importance.

These cultural revolutionary groups, committees and congresses are excellent new forms of organization whereby the masses educate themselves under the leadership of the Communist Party. They are an excellent bridge to keep our Party in close contact with the masses. They are organs of power of the Proletarian Cultural Revolution.

The struggle of the proletariat against the old ideas, culture, customs and habits left over by all the exploiting classes over thousands of years will necessarily take a very, very long time. Therefore, the cultural revolutionary groups, committees and congresses should not be temporary organizations but permanent, standing mass organizations.” (Important Documents, p. 146 – emphasis added)

The revolutionary committees were not only established in schools and institutes but also in factories, mines, other enterprises, as well as in residential districts and villages. They were composed according to the principle of the “three-in-one combination” of Party members, members of the People’s Liberation Army, and representatives of the workers and peasants.

This three-in-one combination embraced leadership, executive and control functions. The representatives of the workers and peasants formed “the fundamental forces,” the representatives of the army formed “the strong support” and the revolutionary Party cadres formed the “leadership core.” All three groups should express the concentrated power of the working class. The members of the revolutionary committees were elected, at the suggestion of the Party, by the masses and were liable to account to them. They could be publicly criticized anytime and also be deposed in case of severe offenses. So the revolutionary committees were three things:

– they served the purpose of self-education, of active and responsible commitment of the working class under the leadership of the Communist Party;

– they were a bridge of the Party to the masses of workers and small peasants;

– they were organs of socialist power in the hands of the working class.

In the Cultural Revolution the former system of administration was smashed and the revolutionary committees took the place of the old administrations everywhere. Today the Deng/Hua clique describes this as follows:

“Prior to the Cultural Revolution, these units [factories, schools, etc. – the editors] practiced a system of division of responsibilities with factory directors, school principals and college presidents, directors of research institutes, managers in commercial companies, etc., taking charge under the leadership of the respective Party committee; that is to say, a system that combined the collective leadership of the Party committee with a division of personal responsibilities. This system of leadership, which was supported by Chairman Mao Zedong and has proven effective, was eliminated for a while at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution under the influence of Lin Biao and the ‘gang of four’, who called for people to ‘question and tear down everything’. It was under these circumstances that revolutionary committees as provisional organs of power, modelled after the local organs of state power of the provinces, counties, and people’s communes, were set up in these units.” (Beijing Rundschau, No. 20, 1979, p. 23 – our translation from the German; emphasis added)1

What an utterly guilty conscience towards the Chinese popular masses must Mr. Deng, Mr. Hua and their like have, how shaky must their position be that they find themselves constrained to come up with such barefaced lies and misrepresentations! Yes indeed, you revisionists, the old system was really very “effective” – effective for the bourgeoisie! And how much Mao Zedong “supported” the old system of administration we can see most clearly in his directive concerning the revolutionary committees, quoted in the Report to the Ninth National Congress in 1969:

“The revolutionary committee should exercise unified leadership, eliminate duplication in the administrative structure, follow the policy of ‘better troops and simpler administration’ and organize itself into a revolutionized leading group which maintains close ties with the masses.” (Important Documents, p. 46)

In what follows we will confine ourselves to the revolutionary committees in the factories, because here the participation of the workers in administration and management is most distinct and because especially the factory revolutionary committees as the workers’ organs of power were smashed by the new revisionists around Deng Xiaoping.

At the First Plenary Session of the Ninth Central Committee of the CPC on 28 April 1969, Mao Zedong described the situation in the factories before the Cultural Revolution as follows:

“It seems that it won’t do not to carry out the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, for our foundation is not solid. Judging from my observations, I am afraid that in a fairly large majority of factories – I don’t mean all or the overwhelming majority of them – leadership was not in the hands of genuine Marxists and the masses of workers.” (Quoted in: Peking Review, No. 14, 1975, p. 7)

Before the Cultural Revolution, the state enterprises were managed by solely responsible directors, who were supposed to be subordinated to the respective Party committee. Most enterprises were organized along the lines of the constitution of Magnitogorsk, a Soviet iron and steel combine. This model constitution had the following features:

  • In management it relied solely on the experts; the workers were excluded from management.
  • It gave priority to production before politics.
  • The principle for the enterprise was “put profit above all.”
  • Technology was more important than the working people.
  • There was a very comprehensive system of material reward; bonuses had first priority.

The resemblance to capitalist enterprises is striking. Such a system fosters bureaucratization, bloating the administrative apparatus. The management is enthroned unreachably high above the workers. Profit thinking and acquisitiveness are promoted through material reward and undermine real solidarity and socialist consciousness. The workers are not the masters of their enterprise, even though they work in a state-owned enterprise. They are excluded from the administration and their only task is to produce. Although workers are represented in the factory Party committees, even there the directors and ‘experts’ usually call the shots.

In the Cultural Revolution the workers rebelled against this revisionist system of factory management. They severely criticized the bureaucratic factory managers and created the revolutionary committees as their own organs of power in the factories. The old system of factory management was smashed. Thus the workers exercised the dictatorship of the proletariat over the new bourgeoisie in the factories.

In March 1960, after conducting a series of studies at the base, Mao Zedong worked out the “five fundamental principles for running socialist enterprises well.” This “Constitution of the Anshan Iron and Steel Company,” which we quoted in Revolutionärer Weg, No. 19 (W. Dickhut, State-Monopoly Capitalism in the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), Vol. II, p. 560), was an important victory of the proletarian line in the factories.

1 The special feature on “China’s Structure of State Power” in Beijing Review, No. 20, 1979, pp. 18ff., otherwise identical with the German edition, does not contain this passage.