The Mass Line and the American Revolutionary Movement

34. Bourgeois Views of the Mass Line

No bourgeois writer that I know of can be said to understand, let alone champion, the mass line. But some of them understand one aspect of it (to a degree), and others another aspect of it. Because the mass line is quintessentially a dialectical and revolutionary phenomenon, it seems to be essentially impossible for any bourgeois person to really grasp it as a whole or in its essence.

Although watching bourgeois commentators discuss Marxism is always disgusting and annoying ("How can they view things in such a topsy-turvy way?" "How can they lie like that?!"), sometimes it is also somewhat humorous. Their efforts to interpret Marxism within bourgeois categories and bourgeois concepts are sometimes quite a hoot.

But more than perverse self-torture, more than entertainment, sometimes reading bourgeois interpretations of Marxist theory is instructive. Once in a blue moon they even point out problems in our analysis worth thinking about. However, most of the time the advantages are things like these:

      1) Since bourgeois analysts tend to pounce on things they see as fallacies or weaknesses in Marxist theory, those of us concerned to defend Marxism can learn a lot about where we should concentrate our defense.

      2) For the same reason, those of us concerned to iron out any wrinkles in Marxist theory, to clarify or expand or develop it where that needs to be done, can get some valuable hints as to where our enemies at least think our analysis needs some work.

      3) The bourgeois analysts often lay things out fairly openly from their perspective, and don't try to hide their bourgeois sentiments. This is something that revisionist theoreticians, for example, are seldom willing to do. Thus a frankly bourgeois analysis of a point of Marxist theory is often useful in seeing through, and exposing, the more camouflaged views of revisionists. In comparing a revisionist view and an openly bourgeois view, we can often see that they are in essence the same. Such a procedure may even be of occasional help in analyzing isolated mistakes of people who usually take a revolutionary Marxist position, but err here and there, as of course even the very best revolutionary will do. We should look for similarities, as well as differences, between our own ideas and those of the enemy, in order to help evaluate our own ideas.

In the writings on the mass line of Sinologists, and other bourgeois writers, certain themes recur again and again. The big three are: "The mass line is just a myth or a fraud", "The mass line is just populism", and "Maoism versus Leninism". Let's examine these three themes in more detail.

"The Mass Line is Just a Fraud"

The favorite view of the most ferocious anti-communist commentators is that the mass line is a fraud or a trick or a hoax or a myth. Such people cannot admit that communists could ever really listen to the views of the masses, learn from the masses, act in accordance with the wishes of the masses, or act in the interests of the masses. "Therefore", whenever communists claim to do such things they must be lying, and simply trying to fool people:

Like class consciousness, this mass line has become something of a political myth of the Chinese Communist Party. It is a policy to which almost every Communist Party member refers in almost every speech or writing for almost every occasion. They talk forever about the "harmonious unity with the masses", "the viewpoint of the masses", "wisdom of the masses", "sanction of the masses", etc.... Nothing in Communist China, one can be sure, is or can be divorced from this seemingly sacred doctrine of mass line.
      We must remember that the Communists reject both "commandism" and "tailism" as methods of leading the masses. We must remember further that class consciousness cannot elevate itself automatically. Now, how does this mass line operate? And how is it related to class consciousness and mass persuasion?
      The answer can be found in the Communist formula that "the policy and methods of work of the Party must originate from the masses and go back to the masses". A cynical interpreter of this statement would argue that the Communists try to make the ideas of the Party sound as if they were ideas of the people. It is closer to the mark to say that they attempt to transform the feeling or sentiments of the masses into an idea or notion that, on the one hand, seemingly represents what the masses want, but on the other, expresses what the Party really intends.[1]

Many bourgeois writers say that communists not only fool the people with their mass line talk, they also fool themselves, or at least are seeking to rationalize their own selfish schemes and make them seem democratic:

A second basic precept, the concept of the "mass line", is also a page out of Marxist-Leninist doctrine. In all definitions and interpretations of the "mass line" myth, Communist leaders rationalize their actions or their need to act by attributing such action to popular demand. This kind of rationalization, also typical of the Soviet system, does not always mean that the leadership is trying to popularize its measures, but rather that it sincerely strives to crystallize and construe mass sentiment in such a way that, though it appears to be a mass attitude, it is actually in line with party policy.... Mao Tsetung eloquently places his faith in reliance on the people, stating that as long as the foundations of the regime lie firmly rooted in the "creative power" of the people, it will endure and overcome all obstacles.... Despite these professions of faith in the people as a source of guidance, the regime has shown that it believes, like Lenin, that the masses would never voluntarily participate and therefore must be prodded and guided. It is not clear whether the Communist leaders truly believe in this basic rightness-of-the-people theory or whether they espouse it to further their own ends. [Franklin W.] Houn suggests that they use it for self-justification. They like to believe their movement draws its mandate from the common people.[2]

Whatever real contact the communists have with the masses is entirely for the purpose of indoctrinating them, and getting them to do the party's bidding, these people say:

The [Communist Party] "professionals" must, therefore, necessarily keep "in contact with the masses." The purpose of this contact, however, is not to find out the will of the people, but rather to obtain the support of the masses for the Party's will.[3]

The most charitable interpretation of the mass line by this group of commentators is that using "mass-line techniques [means] getting things done by persuasion rather than by compulsion and implementing policies by working through activists rather than by issuing administrative commands".[4] Of course these two things are true and important, but they are not the essence of the mass line. This interpretation fails to recognize that the party and the masses are working together in a joint enterprise to satisfy the people's genuine interests, nor does it understand that anything is learned from the masses about how to proceed.

Most of these bourgeois commentators insist on viewing the mass line as essentially an "organizational" technique:

[The mass line is] an organizational technique that enabled the Chinese Communists to gain the support of the masses without at the same time giving very much in exchange.[5]

The writers in this camp emphasize the role of Marxist ideology in the mass line, including a class analysis:

"Armed" with the proletarian standpoint, Communists become qualified to analyze the classes of China [they say]. Class analysis is the foundation of the Communist mass line method. Clarity of standpoint combines "objective" determinants of class with "levels" of thought and enables the Marxist-Leninist to identify backward elements, class allies, progressives, activists, and potential Youth League or Communist Party members.[6]

And they insist that though the ideas and wishes of the masses may be surveyed, they are never made the basis for action unless the party is already so inclined:

The mass line places particular emphasis on the points of direct contact between the Chinese people and cadres in order that supervision and guidance may be concrete and flexible. Although the method requires a high degree of alert response to developments within the masses and at the levels of actual work, it in no way stipulates that party leaders should allow the common Chinese workers and peasants to dictate the party's course of action.[7]

What lies behind all this mass line talk, this group of bourgeois analysts say, is a doctrine which falsely identifies the party with the people, and the interests and wishes of the party with the interests and wishes of the workers or the masses:

The working masses are in principle assumed to hold all power. The party, as the vanguard of the working class, exercises leadership as its principal function in the mass line process.... Greater control by the party is considered equivalent to greater control by the working class. The party controls by leading and the masses "control" by participating, and in this theory the "vanguard" cannot have interests differing from those of the masses.[8]

There are indeed people who absolutely identify the party and the people this way. Liu Shaoqi was one of them, as we see in chapter 37. But this is not at all the Maoist point of view. (It is true that you can find in Mao's earlier writings some remarks in this same vein, but that was before the development of his thought during the struggles against capitalist roaders within the Communist Party.)

"The Mass Line is Just Populism"

'Populism', like most terms in bourgeois social analysis, tends to be amorphous and to be used in quite different ways by different people. If all it is taken to mean is "identification with the masses" and "championing of the masses' interests" then we communists can be counted as "populists". However, most often the term 'populism' is taken to mean something substantially different than this, such as "voicing the felt needs and opinions of the masses", or "placing oneself at the head of spontaneous mass movements". Thus, though it is amorphous, the concept of 'populism' has a definite bourgeois connotation to it since spontaneous mass movements tend to be bourgeois.

Populism has a history in China, as in most countries. The ancient philosopher Lao Zi [Lao-tse] said that "The sage has no decided opinions and feelings, but regards the people's opinions and feelings as his own."[9] Whether Lao Zi could actually be regarded as a populist is doubtful, but there have been many peasant revolts and upsurges in Chinese history, whose leaders may generally be regarded as populists of sorts.

A case study in the bourgeois interpretation of the mass line as "populism" is provided by James R. Townsend in his article "Chinese Populism and the Legacy of Mao Tse-tung".[10] Townsend first states that "a Chinese populism has emerged...", and then voices his agreement with another bourgeois analyst's (Peter Wiles) definition of populism:

...the prevailing creed of China today does assert that "virtue resides in the simple people, who are the overwhelming majority, and in their collective traditions."[11]

Townsend recognizes that Mao and his comrades did not accept everything the masses believe:

...Mao and his colleagues have been selective in their populism. They have identified themselves with the cause of the "people", with no reservations about the basic choice of popular over elite traditions. At the same time, their assertion that "virtue resides in the simple people... and in their collective traditions" does not mean they see the entire tradition of the common people as "virtuous". On the contrary, some aspects of this tradition have been opposed as vigorously as anything in the elite tradition. For example, folk religion and superstition...[12]

But already we can see that while recognizing that Maoists find both good and bad in the ideas of the masses, Townsend is off on a basically wrong track. He looks only at the overall, general views of the masses and says that the Maoists accept some and reject others. It never seems to occur to him that perhaps the masses do not speak with one voice, and that perhaps the views of the masses can change and develop. His definition of populism has got him looking for "collective traditions" of the masses as a whole, rather than new ideas that some of the masses may come up with in the course of their struggles.

Townsend attributes "Chinese populism" to a number of sources, including the "Marxist-Leninist legacy", but primarily to Mao who he says "is probably the foremost figure in the emergence of Chinese populism, the one who articulated its ideals most clearly, and the one who, through his personal power and prestige, was most effective in translating these ideals into practice."[13] Townsend does say, however, that "Mao clearly cannot claim sole credit for the rise of Chinese populism"[14]—as if Mao would have wanted to claim such a thing! But nevertheless "Mao Tse-tung leaves behind a populist legacy that is rich and varied."[15]

And then we come to Townsend's discussion of the "populist" mass line theory, which is the focal point of his whole analysis of Mao's "Chinese populism":

      The Mass Line: Mao's main theoretical contribution to populism is the mass line, a principle that presents the most fundamental elements in his philosophy. The mass line covers many aspects of the Party's relations with the masses. In the first instance, it calls for policies that benefit the masses, that serve their interests and improve their conditions. It also prescribes a method or process for enlisting mass support in carrying out Party policies. Described as "coming from the masses and going to the masses," this method tries to solicit grass roots response to policy proposals and then to secure active popular support in carrying them out. Finally, the mass line calls for cadres—that is, officials or leaders—to adopt a work style that will keep them physically and psychologically close to the common people; cadres are urged to get out of their offices, to study and work among the people, and to avoid any separation from or superiority to the ordinary citizen.
      These are very broad principles, but their populist thrust is unmistakable. Mao's contribution to them rests on the fact that he stated them so clearly and forcefully, that he was willing to make them a political issue and place his own power behind them. The best examples of his support for the mass line were his promotion of the Great Leap Forward (1957-1960) and the Cultural Revolution (1966-1969), movements that he undertook, despite substantial political opposition, at least in part because of his belief in the mass line. The effect of his efforts was to establish the mass line as an accepted part of the Chinese political process, and in so doing to make populism an integral part of the theoretical foundations of the Chinese system. To put it another way, Mao legitimized Chinese populism; he, more than any other Chinese leader, was responsible for transforming populism from a rebel or protest belief to a legitimate principle of the government in power.
      Institutions of the Mass Line: Mao's institutional legacy to populism consists largely of organizational forms and practices that he supported in order to make the mass line a working system as well as a theoretical principle.[16]

I won't try to give a line by line critique of the above view of the mass line. If the reader has been with me so far in this essay, most of what I might say is pretty obvious. Let me just make some overall comments.

First, it is clear that Townsend, in common with most bourgeois writers, has a broader view of what the mass line is than Marxists do. To him it is a whole populist philosophy, a whole orientation in the direction of the masses and in relying on them, fighting on the side of the masses, and so forth. In our terminology, he identifies the mass line with a mass perspective.

Second, he recognizes that within all this there is also a mass line "method or process"; but oddly enough his characterization of this method is not that of a bourgeois populist, but more in line with those who view the mass line as a trick, or way of foisting off the party line on the masses as if it were their own: "It also prescribes a method or process for enlisting mass support in carrying out Party policies.... this method tries to solicit grass roots response to policy proposals and then to secure active popular support in carrying them out". On another occasion Townsend stated that

the mass line demands extensive mass participation in the political process, but this participation is designed to produce popular execution of policy rather than popular formulation and control of policy.[17]

Thus despite his emphasis on "Chinese populism" Townsend actually straddles the fence between those bourgeois commentators who view the mass line itself as a fraud and those who view it as populism.

Who among the revisionists does Townsend's interpretation most remind you? For me it is all but identical to Liu Shaoqi's view, lacking only the Marxist jargon. We find the same failure to grasp the essence of the mass line method, and the same confusion between the mass line proper and a mass perspective. Townsend even focuses on the organizational aspect of the mass line like Liu did, in his section on "Institutions of the Mass Line". While in Liu's writings one can not find the faintest appreciation for the role of the mass line method in determining the political line of the party, in our more open and honest bourgeois interpreter, such a role is explicitly denied.

A more consistent populist view of the mass line is provided by Mark Selden. "The mass line politics of 1943", says Selden, are "the essence of the Yenan Way" which "synthesizes the most significant and distinctive features of the Chinese contribution to the practice of people's war, revolution, and the transformation of peasant societies".[18] We see hints of a narrow view here in one sense; the implication is that the mass line may only be of relevance in peasant societies.[19]

The mass line, says Selden, includes "strong populist impulses"[20] and mass line politics is opposed to bureaucracy and commandism. Although Selden recognizes the mass line as a "new leadership conception",[21] and as "the Party's fundamental leadership principle",[22] he usually speaks in terms of "mass line politics", or in other words of a general approach or attitude towards the masses, rather than of a precise leadership technique. Selden himself does not attempt to outline the process involved in the mass line method of leadership, though he does quote the description by Jack Gray, which is one of the best that bourgeois analysts have come up with (and which I will quote later in this chapter).

Selden attributes the mass line and "mass line politics" primarily to Mao, but also mentions Gao Gang [Kao Kang] along with Mao as "the staunchest proponents of mass line politics".[23] This in itself is quite interesting and brings out Selden's bourgeois populist interpretation of the mass line. Gao Gang was an enthusiastic proponent of doing everything the way it was done in the Soviet Union (hardly the mass line way after Lenin's death), a rightist who as Party secretary in Manchuria in the early years of the Peoples Republic "stuck to the rich peasant line and ignored all Central Committee directives for collectivization, which he qualified as 'absurd'",[24] and a schemer who tried to make Manchuria into his own kingdom, and later plotted to seize the leadership of the CPC. I don't know the details of Gao's leadership style in the early '40s, but I can't imagine that such a man could have had much of a grasp of the mass line.

Along with all other bourgeois commentators that I know of, Selden thinks that "the principles of the mass line were fully articulated" by the early 1940's,[25] and does not recognize that Mao continued to develop the theory up until the end of his life. In the 1971 book I have been quoting from, Selden says that

The history of the Chinese Communist movement since the Yenan period, particularly its extraordinary record in carrying forward China's economic development and social transformation, has been shaped in large measure by the enduring commitment to the mass line. Enshrined in 1943 as the Party's fundamental leadership principle, it remains so to this day.[26]

But after Mao died, the wind changed, and the revisionists came to power, Selden changed his evaluation of Mao's later leadership style.

As is pointed out in chapter 37, the current revisionist rulers of China claim that in his later years Mao abandoned his own mass line. This point of view is now echoed by Selden who sympathized with the new revisionist leadership, at least at the beginning.

From the perspective of the early sixties... it is important to emphasize another point, somewhat neglected by Mao in his later years: when "revolutionary" change must be imposed from above because it is at odds with popular needs and perceptions, it is doomed to failure. It was the recognition of precisely this point, summed up by Mao in the principles of the mass line, that had enabled the party to spearhead earlier popular movements for national liberation and revolutionary change.[27]

In response to criticism of the article from which this quotation is taken, Selden says that in the two decades after 1957 Mao and his followers employed "mobilization approaches which abandoned earlier mass-line methods".[28] On the first point, if fighting against a bourgeois restoration of power is not truly in the interests of the people then I don't know what is. On the second point, the Cultural Revolution was nothing if not a mass movement. Indeed this is one of the main bourgeois and revisionist criticisms of the period—that the masses were allowed to "run wild". It therefore seems to me that Selden doesn't have a leg to stand on here. Even many other bourgeois commentators disagree with Selden on this point. Stuart Schram, for example, says just the opposite, that "Mao began to move in 1955 from a Leninist reliance on the elite to a populist reliance on the masses".[29]

Selden does imply his standard bourgeois-populist interpretation of the mass line again, however. For him, no mass movements can be said to employ the mass line if they do not express the overwhelming views of the masses right from the very beginning of the process. Since the Cultural Revolution did not do this, the "mass line" could not have been employed by Mao in leading it.

Generally the bourgeois Sinologists who are most sympathetic to the Chinese revolution lean toward the interpretation of the mass line as populism. Perhaps the ultimate statement along these lines is that of Jerome Ch'en who calls the mass line "extreme democracy".[30] But as the case of Selden proves, having a subjective sympathy for the Chinese revolution on the basis of a bourgeois populist outlook is by no means the same as having a Maoist understanding or outlook.

"Maoism Versus Leninism"

Our last major bourgeois theme on the mass line is that old favorite, "Maoism vs. Leninism". Those who champion this theme are generally also those who view the mass line as a form of populism, who think Mao was a populist, but who think Lenin was an elitist. In bourgeois thought you must either be a populist or an elitist; there are no other alternatives.

(Only a very few bourgeois commentators recognize the roots of the mass line theory in Lenin, and virtually none recognize the earlier roots in Marx and Engels. One person who recognizes a bit of the mass line theory in Lenin is Pat Howard, who remarks that "Elements of the basic concept can be found in Lenin."[31] In a footnote Ms. Howard refers specifically to Lenin's comment "To serve the masses and express their interests..." (LCW 19:409). But it should be noted that she does not view the mass line as populism, but rather as "elitist paternalism". See chapter 28.)

The supposed conflict between Leninism and Maoism is wider than just the mass line, according to many of these bourgeois "experts," such as Maurice Meisner:

...while Mao may have the last word (or at least the latest word) on revolution, it is by no means clear that the words he proclaims are Leninist words. The whole question of the relationship between Leninism and Maoism is filled with ambiguities and the historic tie between the two has become exceedingly tenuous. How, after all, is it possible for "Leninist proletarian revolutionaries" consciously to undertake to destroy the very organizational apparatus which Leninism teaches is the vanguard of proletarian revolution? If the Party is the incarnation of proletarian consciousness, as any good Leninist must believe, then why is it that Maoists attribute true "proletarian" consciousness to individuals and groups completely outside of the Party structure? If Leninists have always regarded the "spontaneous" strivings and consciousness of the masses as not only inadequate but potentially dangerous for the revolutionary cause, why do Maoists so prize the spontaneous revolutionary creativity of the masses? If Leninism teaches that the essential precondition for effective revolutionary action is the discipline and authority of the Party and its organizations, why is it that so much recent Maoist revolutionary action has been directed against this discipline? Indeed, how was it psychologically possible, much less politically and ideologically feasible, for Mao Tse-tung to call for the masses to "rebel" against the Party organization that he himself was largely responsible for building and leading to revolutionary triumph?[32]

The above tirade is basically a slander of Lenin and Leninism, as I would hope readers of this book will recognize. But for the moment, let's give the bourgeoisie back the floor, and let the slander continue:

...Mao has always expressed a faith in the spontaneity and wisdom of the masses that Lenin neither possessed nor expressed. Mao's appreciation of the practical revolutionary efficacy of Leninist principles of organization has been combined with a Populist trust in the elemental revolutionary creativity of the masses and an essentially Populist impulse that all somehow must "merge" into the masses.... Whereas Mao the Leninist has insisted that the Communists are to lead the people and are the vanguard of the revolution, Mao the Populist has declared that "the masses are the real heroes while we ourselves are often ridiculously childish." He has stressed the need for Marxist intellectuals and Party cadres to bring socialist consciousness to the masses, yet has warned that "many who have studied Marxist books have turned against the revolution, while illiterate laborers have often successfully mastered Marxism." He has emphasized (at least until recent years) the indispensable leadership role of the Party, but he has also argued passionately that true revolutionary knowledge ultimately comes from the people themselves and that Party leaders and cadres must therefore "learn from the masses" and "acquire the good qualities of workers and peasants". He has insisted that it is necessary for Marxist intellectuals and cadres to be the pupils of the masses as well as their teachers, and that, indeed, it is necessary to learn from the people before it is possible to teach them.[33]

And further:

This pupil-teacher dichotomy, which in many forms appears so prominently in Maoist writings, is (within a new ideological framework and in the context of different historical circumstances) essentially the unresolved Populist dilemma of the role of the revolutionary intellectual: the dilemma of whether the prime duty of the revolutionary intellectual (or would-be revolutionary leader) is to teach and lead the masses or to learn from and merge with them. Whereas Lenin had no doubts about where the true sources of "proletarian consciousness" resided and decisively resolved this dilemma, Mao has never precisely defined the relationship between the organized consciousness of the Party and the spontaneous consciousness of the masses. For Lenin, in this crucial realm, there was but one cardinal principle: faith in, and obedience to, the Party and its leaders. For Mao, as one can read in "The Little Red Book" (p. 2) there are two cardinal principles: "We must have faith in the masses and we must have faith in the Party.... If we doubt these principles, we shall accomplish nothing."[34]

Well, let's first quickly resolve this "unresolved populist dilemma" of whether the prime duty of the revolutionary leader is to teach or learn from the masses. From our perspective the purpose of having a party of revolutionary leaders is to teach and lead the masses in making revolution. But that is only possible if the leaders are close to and learn from the masses. So you can say that from one point of view the leading aspect of this dialectical contradiction is the teaching, but the logically prior aspect in each step of the process is the learning. Both things are equally necessary, so neither is the "prime duty" in relation to the other. No big mystery here as usual when we address the dialectical puzzles that so baffle the bourgeois mind. (This "dilemma" was discussed in more detail in chapter 10.)

Let me just briefly answer a few of Meisner's other questions, and correct a few of his assertions.

How is it possible for a Leninist to turn against his own vanguard party? It is possible, and necessary, when that party ceases to be a vanguard of the proletariat, starts to change color, and become a party of the bourgeoisie. Nothing anti-Leninist about this.

The party is not the "incarnation of proletarian consciousness" in the sense that all proletarian consciousness originates within it. The party too must learn, and it learns from the masses and their struggles. A genuine proletarian party must constantly develop and improve its proletarian consciousness through struggle.

Leninists have not "always regarded" the spontaneous strivings, consciousness and creations of the masses as "inadequate", but have enthusiastically welcomed the revolutionary moods, actions and creations of the masses, as Lenin himself did in the cases of the 1905 Revolution, the creation of the Soviets by the masses, and the more or less spontaneous overthrow of the tsar in the February Revolution.

Leninists insist on party discipline not absolutely, but only insofar as it is discipline within a genuine communist party, keeping to the revolutionary path. When the party changes color, or perhaps even seriously wavers, then the obligation vanishes. (See chapter 29 on democratic centralism.) Lenin himself tendered his resignation from the Central Committee when the Bolsheviks initially refused to go along with his call for insurrection in 1917.

When the Encyclopaedia Britannica says that Mao's standpoint "is a long way from Lenin and his cool manipulation of social forces and his fear of spontaneity"[35] it mouths the conventional bourgeois wisdom, as does Meisner. But the claim that Lenin did not appreciate the spontaneity and wisdom of the masses is completely bogus, as I believe I amply demonstrated in chapter 9. Both Lenin and Mao had a dialectical attitude towards spontaneity, recognizing that sometimes it is revolutionary and sometimes it is bourgeois; when it is revolutionary they both welcomed it, and gloried in it. The bourgeois picture of Lenin shows they don't know the man, that they have a completely erroneous notion of him. The reason why is obvious—it serves their class interests. They are thus unable to come to really know him, even those few who read very much of his writings. (And they can only come to "know" and "appreciate" Mao too insofar as they distort him and make him into a populist.)

In the course of this book I have provided a great many quotations from Lenin which demonstrate that he understood, as did Mao, that the party must not only teach the masses, but must also learn from them.

I don't dispute that between Lenin and Mao there is some change in emphasis on these points. And as we saw in chapter 32, Mao did raise the theory of the mass line and the general Marxist understanding of the importance of a mass perspective to a qualitatively higher level. But the fact remains that between Lenin and Mao there is no great gulf on these questions, and it is not for nothing that Mao sometimes said that he learned the mass line from Lenin.

We see in the long quotes from Maurice Meisner above that the supposed conflict between Leninism and Maoism goes beyond the mass line proper, but the mass line is nevertheless one of the clearest examples of this conflict according to the Lenin-versus-Mao camp. Here is what another bourgeois commentator, Frederic Wakeman, as to say on this specific issue:

But there was a difference between a Leninist dialectic of party vanguard and masses and the Maoist mass line. The former was approximated by figures like Liu Shao-ch'i, who forged party lines by democratic consultation with the masses and then executed the new policies via central organization. This theory, particularly as elaborated in Liu Shao-ch'i's "On the Party", was certainly not opposed to a mass line. But in "coming from the masses and going to the masses", the more orthodox Leninist wing of the party was convinced both that some mass views could be incorrect and that it alone truly understood the people's long-term interests. Mao did not disagree with that contention altogether; even during the Cultural Revolution he avowed that party members were, by virtue of their affiliation, more conscious of the proletariat than the proletariat itself. But he at the same time underscored the party's entire derivation of legitimacy from the people at large.... Perhaps because China's economic stage did not pose the specter of a labor aristocracy, Mao did not share Lenin's ambivalence toward a people which could so easily undergo a process of embourgeoisement and therefore required a separate party vanguard. As the party was a simple representative of the people, any barrier between it and the masses was a sign that the party—bereft of legitimacy—was in error.[36]

Wakeman is quite correct, and perceptive, to notice that Liu's conception of the mass line is not that of Mao. But, like most bourgeois commentators, he goes completely wrong in calling Liu an "orthodox Leninist". Liu was nothing of the kind. Again, more slander of Lenin. And really, slander of Mao too, viewing him as essentially a populist.

I am not going to bother to give an exhaustive response to all the elements of error and untruth in Wakeman's paragraph. Let me just say first that the (genuine) mass line is based on the recognition of both wisdom and incorrectness among the masses' ideas. To say that Mao did not "altogether disagree" with the fact that some mass views can be incorrect is thus ridiculously lame. Second, it is not exactly because the proletariat may become embourgeoised that it is necessary to form a proletarian party to lead the masses (though there is an element of truth to that assertion). The recognition that the prevailing ideas of any age are those of the ruling class, of course goes back to Marx and Engels, and long predates Lenin—as does the recognition that a proletarian party is necessary. But more basic still is the obvious point that leadership is necessary in order for any large group of people to work together to accomplish complex tasks. Even after the establishment of world wide communist society, there will still need to be leaders, and organization. Third, Mao too recognized quite well that bourgeois ideas influenced the masses, and even develop spontaneously among the masses, both peasants and proletarians. And fourth, what is this "barrier" between the party and the masses that Leninists are supposed to be in favor of, as opposed to Maoists? There is no such barrier between a real Leninist party and the masses, and Lenin himself would have been horrified by the notion.

Finally, we should mention that there are some bourgeois commentators on the mass line who understand things a bit better. Here are some remarks by one of them, Stuart Schram:

To suggest that ordinary people may be a source of the ideas from which correct policies are elaborated, and that they can in turn understand these policies rather than blindly applying them, marks a very great rupture with one of the central themes of traditional Chinese thought. Confucius said, according to the Analects, "The people may be made to follow a path of action, but they may not be made to understand it." This is one of the aspects of Confucianism that Mao has sought to eradicate from the minds of his compatriots ever since the May Fourth Movement, even as he called for preserving what was still progressive and useful in the Chinese heritage. He did not, however, cast doubt in so doing on the Leninist axiom that class consciousness can only be imported into the working class from outside, and more broadly that the Communist Party, as the vanguard of the proletariat, must provide ideological guidance to society as a whole. ...the masses, although taken into the confidence of the leaders of the revolutionary movement, were in the end to be made to embrace ideas which, left to themselves, they were quite incapable of elaborating in systematic form.[37]

Schram is right to mention Confucius here, and you can see why Mao and his followers, as part of criticizing Liu Shaoqi, Lin Biao and their cohorts, launched a campaign against Confucius. Liu's version of the "mass line" was indeed Confucian, not Leninist.

But while Schram does not fall into the idiocy of the writers in the "Mao vs. Lenin" school, he still does not fully understand the deep continuity between Lenin's conception of leadership and Mao's. We will return to Schram later in this chapter.

The RAND Corporation Analysis

One of the more interesting bourgeois discussions of the mass line was written by Harry Harding of the RAND Corporation for the U.S. Air Force.[38] In some ways it is idiosyncratic and way off the mark, and in some ways it is perceptive.

Harding makes a good start by immediately recognizing that Mao and Liu Shaoqi had quite different conceptions of the mass line, at least when it comes to "political, social and macro-economic questions". But then things start to get a little screwy. He describes the Maoist position as the "dogmatic mass line" and the Liuist position as the "pragmatic mass line". Harding, like most bourgeois, is of course more sympathetic to the Liuist version. In a footnote he explains that

As used here, "pragmatic" means that the options under consideration are compared with each other and are evaluated in terms of their outcomes; "dogmatic" means that the options are compared with established doctrine and are evaluated in terms of their conformity to its tenets.[39]

In reality, in concentrating the ideas of the masses, we evaluate the various ideas in light of Marxist theory (that's Harding's "dogmatic" part) and also in light of the objective conditions, in light of the probable results of the various ideas if made the basis for practice, and so forth (that's his "pragmatic" part). Harding recognizes that Maoists would reject his analysis here, though he only mentions one reason why we would reject it (and even that is expressed in the wrong language):

A Maoist would, of course, deny the validity of this distinction. He would argue that, since doctrine is derived from practice and is tested in practice, dogmatic criteria are simultaneously pragmatic. This claim should be considered seriously; certainly "dogmatic" is not employed here in a pejorative sense. Indeed, the two sets of criteria often suggest the same policy choice. On the other hand, the degree of correspondence between doctrine and practice may vary considerably.[40]

But while the above footnote softens things somewhat, in the text he makes wild charges against the "dogmatic mass line", such as:

While the mass-line can be an effective mode of both decision-making and social integration, its dogmatic variant may lead not only to impractical decisions, but also to factionalism and fragmentation. In a purely Maoist society, the only permissible form of conflict resolution is compliance with dogma. Compromise, logical analysis, and even submission to authority are all illegitimate.[41]

Maoists rule out unprincipled compromise, but not principled compromise. (Harding is apparently unaware of the distinction.) The other two claims here are even more ridiculous. Similarly Harding says that Maoists believe that not only are social laws knowable, but all of them are already known and included in Mao's writings, that "Mao's thought has become dogmatized".[42] The only appropriate response to charges of such anti-scientific nonsense is a guffaw!

Harding doesn't really understand the mass line and his concept of how Marxist ideology is employed within it is totally incorrect. To him what "concentrating" or "summing up" the ideas of the masses is suppose to mean is "not at all clear".[43] Nevertheless there is some truth in the distinction he is trying to draw between the Maoist and Liuist views of the mass line. The essential point is that Liu does not understand the role of Marxist theory in the processing step either, and does not employ it (at least properly). Liu's interpretation is in fact pragmatism, not because it supposedly weighs the various options against one another and considers what their various results might be, but because it ignores our overall theory (Marxism) and proceeds as if there were no such guiding theory.

Harding traces the source of Liu's position here to the notion that there are two types of problems, questions of principle—in which Marxism must of course be employed—and "purely practical questions"—in which Marxism is more or less irrelevant. This erroneous theory is probably the major idea that Liu Shaoqi pushed in his writings, especially in "On Inner-Party Struggle". Liu was able to lend it more credence than it deserves by quoting Stalin to the same effect.[44] Harding correctly points out that the Maoist position (and actually the prior Marxist-Leninist position as well—despite Stalin), which was strongly put forth during the Cultural Revolution, is that "no distinction can be made between questions of principle and practical problems", that all political issues are questions of principle to one degree or other, "and that to insist otherwise is to 'negate the class struggle' and to ignore the 'class basis of truth'".[45]

Since, according to Liu (and Deng Xiaoping and the rest of the revisionist bunch), Marxist theory need not be used in processing the ideas of the masses when applying the mass line to "concrete and practical problems", how are we then to choose among the various options? Well, we should choose whatever works, whatever people can come to a bargain on, whatever unprincipled compromise can be reached, whatever seems easiest, whatever does not rock the boat too much,... The correct philosophical word for this is indeed pragmatism, no doubt about it.

It may seem to some that Maoists make too much out of Liu and Deng's "black cat, white cat, whatever works" point of view, but when you analyze Deng's little slogan you find that beneath it is a deep, basic, anti-Marxist (and hence bourgeois) ideology. Why is pragmatism a bourgeois ideology? Well, as already stated, it ignores our guiding Marxist theory. But more fundamentally still, because communists are supposed to be trying to escape the conditions of the present society and build a different society, not accommodate ourselves to what "seems to work" under the present system.

There are three more things about Harding's description of the Maoist "dogmatic mass line" I would like to comment on. First, he says that in the Maoist view:

Every problem has a single correct solution; there is a one-to-one correspondence between problem and solution. Problem-solving is, therefore, less a matter of choice among options than a diagnostic process, the accumulation of sufficient information so that the nature of the problem and the single correct solution become apparent.[46]

This is an interesting point, but he has not stated our complete position here. It is true that problem solving is usually more a matter of a diagnostic process than a simple choice among equally suitable alternatives. You could even say that if it were possible to carry out the diagnosis or analysis sufficiently, essentially all social problems would be found to have a single, optimum solution or indicated course of action. However we are quite aware that complete and exhaustive diagnoses of problems are not always possible. In the real world you often have to act on partial information, and partial analysis. In battle, in one case it may matter a whole lot if an attack is made from the east or the west; in another case it will probably still matter a little bit, but we may not be able to determine in advance which is best, and we may have to simply choose one direction arbitrarily. People must always act with some degree of uncertainty no matter how well diagnosed a problem is. But on the other hand, the better the diagnosis, the fewer the options. The whole point of the diagnosis is to diminish the number of possible options, preferably down to the very best one. There will be times when we still face more or less arbitrary choices, but this will be because a complete diagnosis cannot be made under the circumstances.

Harding seems to be implying that we Maoists are as rigid and foolish as the philosopher Buridan's ass, which is said to have starved to death when placed exactly between two piles of hay, because being equally close to both "there was no reason to choose one rather than the other".[47]

It is true that an arbitrary choice shows the failure of analysis. The fact that arbitrary choices are sometimes forced on us shows that "pragmatism" cannot be escaped entirely. The goal, however, is to minimize it to the best of our ability, not to welcome it and glory in it.

The next item I wish to discuss is Harding's attribution to Maoists of the views in the following passage:

All differences of opinion—even within the Party—are based on class differences. Conversely, those Party members with the same class standpoint and employing the same information will inevitably arrive at the same conclusions. Thus disagreements may arise during policy discussions for two reasons: (1) incomplete or incorrect information, or miscalculation, or (2) different class standpoints. If a disagreement is caused by miscalculation or by incomplete information, it can quickly be resolved. But if the disagreement persists, it must reflect differences in class standpoint.[48]

We Maoists will agree with much of this, but again the views are presented too rigidly, and certain invalid implications from the views stated here have not been ruled out. First of all, there are non-political differences of opinion: I like jazz, you like rock and roll. I take it that nothing here proves there is a difference in our class position.[49] But of course we are talking about differences of opinion on political issues.

Second, there is by no means a sharp boundary between information and calculation (or misinformation and miscalculation), on the one hand, and class ideology, on the other hand. These "two" things usually blend into each other, and it is often impossible for both sides to agree on what the facts of a situation are because of the underlying differences in class perspective. (Facts are only facts in terms of a theory.) From this point of view, Harding does not present the case strongly enough.

It is in fact true that when it comes to significant struggles within the party, there are differing class perspectives behind the opposing views in virtually every case. Mao says that

Opposition and struggle between ideas of different kinds constantly occur within the Party; this is a reflection within the Party of contradictions between classes and between the new and the old in society. If there were no contradictions in the Party and no ideological struggles to resolve them, the Party's life would come to an end.[50]

But as Mao is suggesting here, such struggles within the party—even if they are the reflection of differing class perspectives—are by no means something to fear. They are not something bad, but something good. They allow the party's views to advance, and for proletarian ideology itself to develop and advance.

There is a common, undialectical view of the party membership which needs to be exposed and attacked here; one that we could perhaps call "Stalinist". According to this conception, the party consists of perfect people and imperfect people who are infected with alien class ideas. On the one hand there are individuals who have a pure proletarian point of view, and on the other hand there are class enemies, or at least individuals who are corrupted by bourgeois points of view. "If only we could purge those who are corrupted, we would have a perfect party!"

Actually, if everyone with any bourgeois ideas in the party were purged, there would be no party left. "You cannot live in society and be free of society", said Lenin, and we are all living in bourgeois society. Everybody's thinking is a mixture of the good and the bad.

The Marxist view has always been that the proletariat must change itself as it changes society, and this profound insight of Marx's also holds true for the proletarian party. Nobody in the proletarian party, not even its wisest leaders, has perfect knowledge or even a perfect proletarian point of view. Such things are impossible; do not exist in bourgeois society. But through struggle both knowledge and the proletarian analysis are advanced.

Thus, a more dynamic, less dogmatic, view of intra-party struggle is needed than that presented by Harding. It is often not just a case of the good guys with their preexisting proletarian theory slugging it out with the bad guys with their preexisting bourgeois theories, but rather proletarian theory itself developing through struggle. Not only is proletarian ideology continually created, but so is bourgeois ideology, and both will have their champions. (One divides into two.)

The fact that someone initially takes the bourgeois side in such a situation does not mean that they should be labeled the "class enemy", or treated as such. Only a consolidated bourgeois perspective deserves that. Most of the champions of new bourgeois ideology within the party can eventually be won over to become supporters of the new proletarian ideology that has been created. Only a relatively few die-hard Liu Shaoqi's and Deng Xiaoping's need to be booted out of the party. Irreconcilable antagonism in intra-party struggle is always a possibility, but it should be the exception, not the rule.

And finally, the last item I will briefly discuss in Harding's analysis is his claim that the Maoist "dogmatic mass line" does "not require that the decision-maker possess expertise or advanced training" and therefore "could justify the elimination of experts and intellectuals as a social class in China".[51] This is either blatant misunderstanding, blatant slander, or both. Mao did say (as Harding quotes him) that

To investigate a problem is to solve it.... Just get moving on your two legs, go the rounds of every section placed under your charge and "inquire into everything"... and then you will be able to solve the problems, however little your ability...[52]

But first, Mao is clearly talking about political management and supervision here. This was 1930 and he faced a party made up of ill-educated and ill-trained peasants, primarily, who somehow had to learn how to supervise the revolutionary process. He was not talking to a group of nuclear physicists and telling them that their knowledge does not matter in their work. Second, the whole point of the article was to encourage people who were well aware of their lack of knowledge to not just give up, but to acquire the facts needed in order to make the correct decisions. Just before the above passage, Mao says

You can't solve a problem? Well, get down and investigate the present facts and its past history! When you have investigated the problem thoroughly, you will know how to solve it. Conclusions invariably come after investigation, and not before.[53]

"To investigate a problem is, indeed, to solve it", says Mao, and if you solve it you have become an expert yourself on that question. The more technical the problem, the deeper the investigation which must be made. On very technical sorts of questions you will certainly need some previous training, and many of the masses that you consult with, whose ideas you gather, will themselves have extensive education and training. The goal is not to "eliminate" experts, but to make people who must solve the more technical problems of society red and expert, and to show them that even in technical areas the mass line can and must be used.

A Few of the Better Bourgeois Views of the Mass Line

There are a few other bourgeois commentators on the mass line who seem to have escaped the extremes of either saying it is a hoax or it is populism.

One of these is Stuart Schram, who first of all recognizes very clearly the importance of the mass line, and that it is an important method of leadership of the masses.[54] Schram strongly opposes the populist interpretation of the mass line:

To work with the people did not, however, mean for Mao to lose oneself in them, in some great orgy of populist spontaneity. Nor should the Yenan heritage be romanticized, or sentimentalized, to make of Mao a believer in some kind of "extended democracy" with overtones of anarchism. The classic directive of 1 June 1943 itself, in which Mao first formulated systematically his ideas on the mass line, reflected, to be sure, his concern that policy-makers should listen to those below and learn from experience at the grass roots. His injunction to "link the nucleus of leadership closely with the broad masses", and to "sum up the experience of the mass struggles' was seriously meant. But in the end the aim was to take the "scattered and unsystematic ideas of the masses", turn them into "concentrated and systematic ideas", and then "go to the masses and propagate and explain these ideas until the masses embrace them as their own..."
      In other words, the people were to be made to interiorize ideas which they were quite incapable of elaborating for themselves. There is a remarkable parallel between this last phrase and Lenin's view that class consciousness could only be imported into the proletariat from outside. And yet there were significant differences between Mao's approach to leadership and that of Lenin, as well as in the revolutions they led.[55]

So on the one hand, according to Schram, Mao's mass line method of leadership was really like Lenin's, but on the other hand it was different. Such an assessment cries out for clarification, but Schram seems unable to provide it. Far from being able to resolve this apparent contradiction, he ends up suggesting that the mass line itself is inherently contradictory. He says that the mass line is "an ambiguous concept, which [points] in two directions: toward Leninist elitism, and toward the genuine involvement of people in their own affairs".[56]

Unlike most bourgeois commentators, Schram understands both that the mass line involves listening to the masses and at least sometimes adopting their views, and also that the mass line does not mean the sacrifice of communist ideology. However like all bourgeois analysts he really cannot understand how both things can happen at the same time. So his interpretation of the mass line is that it is ambiguous, that the practitioner simply alternates between one approach and the other. This is what passes for a "balanced" interpretation in bourgeois analysis.

Dick Wilson, another Sinologist, likes Schram's interpretation, but seems most impressed by the "populist" aspect. He says that the mass line

is an excellent consultative-participatory method of leadership of the kind which has excited Western intellectuals, for example in the dramatization of Fanshen by David Hare, the British playwright. But by its very nature it is hard to institutionalize, and in the end all depends on the sensitivity of the individual leaders concerned.[57]

That last sentence is worth thinking about for a moment. The implication seems to be that "Sure the mass line sounds good, but once your Mao is dead it's all over; you won't be able to make it a permanent part of your party's leadership style." In response to this I would say that while it is true that some people will have more "sensitivity" for the mass line than others and will be better at using it, it is possible for a genuine communist party to constantly educate its members in the nature and importance of the mass line, to promote to leadership roles those who demonstrate an ability and desire to use the mass line, and thus to "institutionalize" the mass line as the prime method of leadership by the party. It may be hard, but then nothing in politics is easy, exactly. (This is another reason why a genuine Maoist party should be constantly talking about the mass line.)

Perhaps the best description of the mass line that I have come across by a bourgeois writer is the following by Jack Gray:

[The mass line] is the process by which the politically conscious leadership puts itself in direct contact with the inarticulate, largely illiterate and politically undeveloped mass of the local community, learns from the members of that community what are their aspirations, their sense of possibilities, their doubts and problems; sums up these ideas in terms of the wider experience and responsibilities and of the theory of the leadership; returns them to the masses in an articulate form, and poses new questions; then with the agreement of the majority, puts the consequent decisions into practice, and studies the results in the same terms. The advantages of this political method are that it prevents rule by fiat and elitist pretensions, it involves the whole population in active discussion and explicit commitment to policies, and it forms a process of education by which the mass of the people gradually overcome their inarticulateness, their suspicion of change, their ignorance of modern technical and organizational possibilities, their narrow family and clan outlook, the extreme shortness of their economic perspectives, their ignorance of comparable situations elsewhere, and their ingrained fear of governments. It has had substantial success both in minimizing elitist tendencies and in increasing the articulateness of the population.[58]

But this description still has some problems. There is the implication again that the mass line has its primary application in a backward, illiterate, peasant society. There are still some echoes of the populist interpretation here. And, despite that, there is an insufficient appreciation expressed here for the genuine wisdom and ideas of the masses. As another bourgeois writer correctly expresses it, "The 'mass line' is based on the belief that the common people have great contributions to make, that they have wisdom and ability."[59]

If you want a really good, all-sided description of the mass line you have to forget the myriad of bourgeois commentators and turn to Mao and Maoist writers.

The Development of Bourgeois Views of the Mass Line

More recently, it has been recognized by Sinologists themselves that there have been changes over the years in their dominant perspective on the real nature of the mass line and Maoist leadership methods in general. Marc Blecher restricts his attention to the local politics of the post-Liberation Chinese countryside. But he points out that "scholarship" (i.e., the Sinologists) for a long time showed little interest in the village politics, communist leadership methods, and mass political participation in China.[60] Not only did they not investigate this during the Chinese Revolution itself (to some degree understandably), but even after the establishment of the People's Republic of China they were for a couple decades indifferent and uninterested.

Blecher remarks that "One can only lament the absence of contemporary studies of the grass-roots politics of cooperativization, the Great Leap Forward, or the Socialist Education Movement," but he does not hazard an explanation as to why bourgeois scholars showed so little interest in what turned out to be of such importance. It is pretty obvious though: the bourgeois experts were misled by their own dogmatic misconceptions into simply assuming that the Communists were "forcing" the masses to make the changes the Party dictated, and there was nothing worthwhile to investigate as to exactly how they were doing it.

The Sinologists, I believe, got their wake-up call with the publication in 1966 of the book Fanshen by William Hinton, a staunch friend of the Chinese Revolution.[61] This very important book does not explore the theory of the mass line but it does illustrate the attempts—sometimes fumbling and inept, sometimes much better—to apply this leadership method in one particular Chinese village. The book was written before the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, and tends to conflate the views of Mao and Liu Shaoqi. But despite a few such weaknesses, it remains a valuable work. It is also worth noting that the U.S. government tried to suppress this book by seizing Hinton's notes when he returned from China; it was a long hard struggle to get them back and delayed the publication of the book.

Fanshen also had a significant impact on the rising New Left in this country, including me personally. A graduate school friend of mine read it when it first came out and started calling himself a communist; when Hinton spoke at the University of Wisconsin my friend took me to hear him. I was impressed. Then I read Fanshen myself, and for the first time began to have an idea of what communists were trying to do. It took several more years of dabbling with utopian socialism before I finally began a serious study of Marxism and became a communist myself. But Fanshen was an important step in my education.

Returning to our present theme, however, Marc Blecher comments about the second general view of the Sinologists:

Once Western scholars began to acknowledge the existence of political participation in the Chinese countryside and turn their attention to it, a second view quickly emerged: It amounted mainly to mass mobilization by the leadership around issues defined and controlled by the elites. Consequently, participants engaged in it reluctantly, passively, disinterestedly, and ritualistically. Mobilization was the major theme of James Townsend's work [Political Participation in Communist China (see bibliography)], which set the tone for much thinking and analysis by those who actually began to look at the Chinese grass roots.[62]

This is basically the view I characterized earlier in the chapter as saying that the mass line is just a "shuck" and a "fraud".

But then a third view emerged, largely I believe because many bourgeois experts themselves realized that the "shuck and fraud" theory was at least a distortion of the truth, if not an outright lie. Blecher continues:

A third view emerged out of unease with the elitist theory of Chinese politics that had informed the first view (or nonview), as well as unease with much of the political theory and general analysis then dominant. It had various sources: the new social history's insistence on putting the people back into analysis; the democratic proclivities and convictions of a new generation of scholars, which found resonances in Chinese revolutionary theory and practice; the rise of the pluralist paradigm in U.S. political science; and the published work of Hinton and Myrdal, which suggested a different China in need of further study.[63]

And thus was born the "it's just populism" school of thought. It is interesting to see a bourgeois sociologist himself admit that there are these kinds of ideological trends and developments in what they usually pretend to be impartial social science!

One of this "third view" group of scholars is Blecher's mentor, Tang Tsou of the University of Chicago. Blecher remarks that

Professor Tsou has always emphasized that "an outside observer must take seriously the ideas, viewpoints, perceptions and pronouncements of the participants whose actions he is studying." That qualified Maoist phenomena such as the mass line and the local political practices associated with it as subjects worthy of scholarly analysis, at a time when many Western scholars were dismissing them as mere cant.[64]

From the Maoist perspective however, the funny thing about this is that though people like Tsou and Blecher may not dismiss the mass line as "mere cant", they still do not give what we say about it serious consideration; they still are compelled to grossly "reinterpret" it from their bourgeois sociological perspective. We don't find this strange since we recognize everyone has their own ideological perspective and that they are unable to view things from any other class perspective. It's not strange, but it is humorous at times.


[1] Frederick T. C. Yu, Mass Persuasion in Communist China (NY: Praeger, 1964), p. 15.

[2] James W. Markham, Voices of the Red Giants: Communications in Russia and China (Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press, 1967), pp. 350-1.

[3] Gerhart Niemeyer, in J. M. Bochenski & G. Niemeyer, eds., Handbook on Communism (NY: 1962), p. 83.

[4] Thomas P. Bernstein, "Leadership and Mass Mobilisation in the Soviet and Chinese Collectivisation Campaigns of 1929-30 and 1955-56: A Comparison", China Quarterly, #31, July-Sept. 1967, p. 12.

[5] Richard M. Pfeffer, "Serving the People and Continuing the Revolution", China Quarterly, #52, Oct.-Dec. 1972, p. 623.

[6] John Wilson Lewis, Leadership in Communist China (Ithaca, NY: Cornell, 1963), pp. 54-5.

[7] Ibid., pp. 71-2.

[8] Ibid., p. 75.

[9] Quoted in Rudolf Flesch, ed., The New Book of Unusual Quotations (NY: Harper & Row, 1966), p. 307.

[10] Asian Survey, Vol. XVII, #11, Nov. 1977, pp. 1003-1015.

[11] Ibid., p. 1004.

[12] Ibid., p. 1005.

[13] Ibid., p. 1006.

[14] Ibid., p. 1005.

[15] Ibid., p. 1006.

[16] Ibid., pp. 1006-7.

[17] James R. Townsend, Political Participation in Communist China, New Edition, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969), p. 74.

[18] Mark Selden, The Yenan Way in Revolutionary China (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard, 1971), p. 177.

[19] Later Selden says explicitly that "The mass line was geared to the problems and limitations of a peasant society." (Ibid., p. 275.)

[20] Ibid., p. 205.

[21] Ibid., p. 200.

[22] Ibid., p. 276.

[23] Ibid., p. 205.

[24] Han Suyin, Wind in the Tower: Mao Tsetung and the Chinese Revolution, 1949-1975 (Boston: Little, Brown, 1976), p. 29. This is a good source for information on Gao Gang. (The second edition of this book, which came out later, adopted the viewpoint of the Chinese revisionists on many questions, so look for this first edition!)

[25] Ibid., p. 274.

[26] Ibid., p. 276.

[27] Mark Selden, "China's Uninterrupted Revolution", Monthly Review, Vol. 31, #5, Oct. 1979, p. 30.

[28] "Mark Selden Responds", Monthly Review, Vol. 32, #1, May 1980, p. 60.

[29] Stuart Schram, "The Party in Chinese Communist Ideology", in John Wilson Lewis, ed., Party Leadership and Revolutionary Power in China (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970), p. 184.

[30] Jerome Ch'en, "The Development and Logic of Mao Tse-tung's Thought, 1928-1949", in Chalmers Johnson, ed., Ideology and Politics in Contemporary China (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1973), p. 113.

[31] Pat Howard, Breaking the Iron Rice Bowl (Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, Inc., 1988), p. 20.

[32] Maurice Meisner, "Leninism and Maoism: Some Populist Perspectives on Marxism-Leninism in China", China Quarterly, #45, Jan.-March 1971, pp. 2-3.

[33] Ibid., pp. 26-7.

[34] Ibid., p. 27.

[35] Article by Jack Gray, Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th ed. (1979), vol. 4, p. 385.

[36] Frederic Wakeman, History and Will (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973), pp. 303-4.

[37] Stuart Schram, "The Marxist", in Dick Wilson, ed., Mao Tse-Tung in the Scales of History (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1977), pp. 44-5. The internal quote is from the Confucian Analects, book VIII, chapter IX.

[38] Harry Harding, "Maoist Theories of Policy-Making and Organization: Lessons from the Cultural Revolution", (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, R-487-PR, September 1969).

[39] Ibid., p. 32.

[40] Ibid.

[41] Ibid., p. ix.

[42] Ibid., p. 7. There may have been some ultra-"Leftist" Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution who held such views, but this is still not Maoism.

[43] Ibid., p. 6.

[44] The passage he quotes from Stalin is in: "The Seventh Enlarged Plenum of the E.C.C.I.", Works, Vol. IX, (Moscow: FLPH, 1954), pp. 4-5 especially.

[45] Harry Harding, op. cit., p. 7.

[46] Ibid., p. 7.

[47] I wrote a little piece of doggerel about Buridan's ass. It is posted at:

[48] Harry Harding, op. cit., p. 7.

[49] I am not arguing that a person's class position never has anything to do with their tastes in music. I am only saying that you cannot deduce a difference in two people's class position based on a difference of opinion about jazz or rock and roll. This would be true even if, as may be the case, members of one class might be somewhat more likely to prefer jazz to rock and roll than the members of another class.

[50] Mao, "On Contradiction", SW 1:317.

[51] Harry Harding, op. cit., p. 14.

[52] Mao, "Oppose Book Worship" (May 1930), SR, p. 41.

[53] Mao, ibid., pp. 40-41.

[54] Stuart Schram, The Thought of Mao Tse-Tung (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1989), p. 45.
      In some earlier writings Schram claims that Mao gravitated towards populism at times, as when he says that "Mao began to move in 1955 from a Leninist reliance on the elite to a populist reliance on the masses". ["The Party in Chinese Communist Ideology", in John Wilson Lewis, ed., Party Leadership and Revolutionary Power in China (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1970), p. 184.] But then, Schram thinks the theory of the mass line was complete in 1943, so he evidently does not hold that the mass line itself became more "populist" starting in 1955.

[55] Ibid., pp. 45-6.

[56] Ibid., p. 86.

[57] Dick Wilson, editor's Introduction, Mao Tse-Tung in the Scales of History (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1977), pp. 4-5.

[58] Jack Gray, in Jack Gray & Patrick Cavendish, Chinese Communism in Crisis: Maoism and the Cultural Revolution (NY: 1968), pp. 49-50; quoted in Mark Selden, The Yenan Way in Revolutionary China, p. 275. Gray is one of those who takes the "Mao vs. Lenin" line. In his article in the Encyclopaedia Britannica [15th ed. (1979), vol. 4, p. 385] he says that Mao shows faith "in the effectiveness of spontaneous organization of the people themselves: 'every... revolutionary comrade will be put to the test, to be accepted or rejected as they [the peasants] decide.' It is a long way from Lenin and his cool manipulation of social forces and his fear of spontaneity." His interpretation of both Mao and Lenin here is of course incorrect.

[59] Raymond L. Whitehead, Love and Struggle in Mao's Thought (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1977), p. 19.

[60] Marc Blecher, "The contradictions of grass-roots participation and undemocratic statism in Maoist China and their fate", in Brantly Womack, ed., Contemporary Chinese Politics in Historical Perspective (Cambridge Unversity Press, 1991), p. 130.

[61] William Hinton, Fanshen (NY: Monthly Review Press, 1966). Another book which showed the Sinologists that maybe there was something worth investigating in Chinese local politics was Jan Myrdal's Report from a Chinese Village (NY: Pantheon, 1965). Later on, Hinton's sequel Shenfan (NY: Vintage, 1984), and Vivienne Shue's Peasant China in Transition (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980) reinforced this belated recognition.

[62] Marc Blecher, op. cit., p. 130.

[63] Ibid., pp. 130-1.

[64] Ibid., p. 131. The quote from Tsou is from his The Cultural Revolution and Post-Mao Reforms: A Historical Perspective (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986), p. xv.

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