[This article is reprinted from Peking Review, #5, Feb. 4, 1972, pp. 16-19.]
WRITTEN by Karl Marx 96 years ago, the Critique of the Gotha Programme is a programmatic work of Marxism which is a model for uncompromising principled struggle against opportunist lines.
In it Marx penetratingly criticized Lassalle’s opportunist line and further explained the principle of proletarian revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat. In carrying out education in ideology and political line, re-reading this brilliant work and learning the historical experience in the struggle between Marxism and revisionism enables us to increase our ability to distinguish genuine from sham Marxism, deepen our criticism of the revisionist fallacies of the Soviet revisionist renegade clique and Liu Shao-chi and other swindlers, and heighten our conscious implementation of Chairman Mao’s proletarian revolutionary line and policies.
Paragraph by paragraph and sentence by sentence, Marx criticized the Gotha Programme which abounds with reactionary Lassallean fallacies. Lassalle was a traitor and scab hidden in the ranks of the German workers’ movement. He claimed to be a disciple of Marx but was in redlity the most vicious enemy of Marxism. He vigorously spread such opportunist trash as “equal right,” “fair distribution” and “undiminished proceeds of labour” in a vain effort to deceive the proletariat and replace the proletarian programme with a bourgeois programme, to change the nature of the proletarian party and lead the proletarian revolution down the foul road of reformism so as to safeguard the capitalist system. Lassalle’s opportunist nonsense was beaten to a pulp by Marx’s criticisms and tossed on the rubbish heap of history long ago.
However, the struggle between Marxism and opportunism has never stopped in the past century. The renegade, hidden traitor and scab Liu Shao-chi and his gang are exactly the same as Lassalle. They rave that socialism is just “bigger distribution” and “getting more” and, like the Soviet revisionist renegade clique, they misrepresent socialism as “welfarism.” Turning their backs on class struggle and the dictatorship of the proletariat, they talk in the abstract about distribution without going into the question of who owns the means of production. In fact, they are apologists for the exploiting classes and want the landlords and capitalists to “get more” and obtain a “bigger distribution” while the labouring people live in poverty and privation.
Marxism holds that a certain system of distribution relies on a certain mode of production. To observe and handle the distribution question, one cannot depart from ownership of the means of production and the nature of the social system. In Critique of the Gotha Programme, Marx scientifically explained the relations between distribution of the means of consumption on the one hand and the ownership of the means of production and the social system on the other. He pointed out: “Any distribution whatever of the means of consumption is only a consequence of the distribution of the conditions of production themselves. The latter distribution, however, is a feature of the mode of production itself.” In other words, the kind of ownership of the means of production determines the system of distribution of the means of consumption. The decisive question is which class controls the means of production.
In the conditions obtaining under capitalism, the means of production are in the hands of the landlords and capitalists, so the power of distribution of the means of consumption is in their hands. The social wealth created by the proletariat and other labouring people is seized by the landlords and capitalists. The system of private ownership of the means of production is the root cause of the poverty of the proletariat and other labouring people. Only by abolishing private ownership of the means of production can the proletariat and other labouring people get out of their poverty-stricken position of enslavement and exploitation.
Contrary to the Marxist viewpoint, historically, “vulgar socialism (and from it in turn a section of the democracy) has taken over from the bourgeois economists the consideration and treatment of distribution as independent of the mode of production and hence the presentation of socialism as turning principally on distribution.” Its representatives, and Lassalle was one of them, maintain that “the capitalist mode of production is very good and can continue to exist but the capitalist mode of distribution is very bad so it must wither away.” Lassalle trumpeted that with “fair distribution,” the labouring people would be able to do away with poverty. This is a reactionary fallacy to fool the labouring people, cover up class exploitation, safeguard capitalist private ownership and oppose proletarian revolution.
Under the conditions of the dictatorship of the proletariat, Liu Shao-chi and other swindlers again came up with this reactionary theory in a disguised form, asserting that “contradictions between the relations of production and the productive forces in a socialist society are mainly manifested in the question of distribution.” This was a futile effort to use the so-called “contradiction in distribution” to negate class contradictions and class struggle. Openly negating the fundamental differences between the socialist system and the capitalist system, they put forth the reactionary programme of “making the people rich and the country strong”—a programme which had been in operation many times in the period of the dictatorship of the landlords and the bourgeoisie, and opposed the socialist principle of distribution, the socialist system of ownership and the dictatorship of the proletariat, thus creating public opinion for the restoration of capitalism.
In this brilliant work Marx pointed out: “Between capitalist and communist society lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. There corresponds to this also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.” After long years of struggle, the Chinese people, under the leadership of our great leader Chairman Mao and the Communist Party of China, overthrew Chiang Kai-shek’s reactionary rule and established the socialist state under the dictatorship of the proletariat. Socialist ownership, i.e., state ownership and collective ownership by the labouring people, has replaced private ownership by the landlords and the bourgeoisie, and fundamental changes have taken place in the people’s position in production and in their mutual relationships and the mode of distribution. From slaves in the old society, the proletariat and other labouring people have become masters of the country. Exploitation by the landlords and the bourgeoisie has been eliminated and the socialist principle of distribution—“from each according to his ability, and to each according to his work”—has been realized. The socialist system has opened a broad vista for the growth of the productive forces and made possible the rapid development of China’s industrial and agricultural production at a rate never known in the old society. The material and cultural life of the proletariat and other labouring people has been improved step by step on the basis of the development of production and it is getting better and better. This is a far cry from the old society in which they could not keep body and soul together. Facts have eloquently proved that “only socialism can save China” and that “the present social system of our country is far superior to that of the old days.” (On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People.)
Standing things on their head and vilifying and cursing China’s thriving socialist construction, Liu Shao-chi and other swindlers trotted out the slogan of “making the people rich and the country strong” to oppose the socialist revolution and socialist construction. Their aim was to completely negate the necessity and superiority of the socialist system under the dictatorship of the proletariat and deny that the establishment of our socialist system has opened the road leading to the ideal society of the future, thereby invoking the dead soul of the old system under which the toiling people were fleeced. They wanted to take a road diametrically opposed to socialism, that is, the capitalist road.
“Making the people rich and the country strong,” talked about so much by Liu Shao-chi and other swindlers, has always been a slogan of the exploiting classes. To cover up the evils of the exploitation system, the landlords and the bourgeoisie invariably describe their wealth accumulated through exploitation as the “people’s wealth.” In Chinese history, theoreticians serving the landlords and the bourgeoisie put forward political propositions similar to that of “making the people rich and the country strong” to meet the needs of the reactionary ruling classes, Some bourgeois reformists in the late Ching Dynasty also talked about “Making the people rich,” meaning increasing the wealth of the bourgeoisie. Chiang Kai-shek, the political representative of the landlords and comprador-bourgeoisie once shouted that he wanted to build “a prosperous, strong and happy country.” By “prosperous, strong and happy,” he meant suppressing and exploiting the labouring people by bloody reactionary rule and building and maintaining the shameful and rotten landlord-bourgeois “paradise.” This series of fallacies of “making the people rich and the country strong” has always represented the interests of the landlords and the bourgeoisie, serving them in building and safe-guarding their rule.
During the period when they were in the ascendant, the landlords and the bourgeoisie used such a slogan to win their ruling positions and consolidate their ownership of the means of production. After they had gained this position, the slogan was again used to cover up their exploitation, benumb the people and quell their resistance. By talking about “making the people rich and the country strong” they meant instituting private ownership of the means of production, making the exploiting classes richer and richer and ruthlessly exploiting and suppressing the proletariat and other labouring people. And this they, described as the “way of ruling the country.”
Picking the reactionary shop-worn slogan of “making the people rich and the country strong” out of all rubbish of the feudal landlords and bourgeoisie about the “way of ruling a country,” Liu Shao-chi and other swindlers vainly tried to fundamentally change our Party’s basic line and policies throughout the historical period of socialism, to change the socialist system, overthrow the dictatorship of the proletariat and restore capitalism, thus returning our country to the old semi-feudal and semi-colonial road.
To slander the socialist system and advocate the reactionary slogan of “making the people rich and the country strong,” Liu Shao-chi and other swindlers also opposed accumulation under the socialist system. This represents an anti-Marxist viewpoint aimed at destroying the socialist system of ownership.
In criticizing Lassalle’s fallacy of “undiminished proceeds of labour,” Marx penetratingly explained the principle of distribution of the total social product, pointing out that distribution is not “undiminished,” but must be preceded by deductions. Marx said: From the total social product must be deducted: First, cover for replacement of the means of production used up. Secondly, additional portion for expansion of production. Thirdly, reserve or insurance funds to provide against accidents, dislocations caused by natural calamities, etc. In addition, before the remaining part of the total product, intended to serve as means of consumption, is divided among individuals, the following deductions have to be made: First, the general costs of administration not belonging to production. Secondly, that which is intended for the common satisfaction of needs, such as schools, health services, etc. Thirdly, funds for those unable to work, etc. Distribution of consumer goods among individuals is possible only after making all the above-mentioned deductions. Here, Marx advanced the principle of the distribution of the total social product and explained the truth that accumulation is the source of expanded reproduction. Deductions must be continuously made from the total social product to increase social accumulation if production is to continue and develop and society to advance. If the total product is distributed and “the most important progressive function of society, accumulation, is taken from society” (Anti-Duhring), then not only will it be impossible to expand reproduction but even to maintain simple reproduction will also be impossible, and the life of the society will come to a standstill.
Opposing accumulation under the socialist system and a series of our Party’s policies of ensuring socialist accumulation, such as practising strict economy, combating waste, hard work and arduous struggle, and building our country through diligence and frugality, Liu Shao-chi and other swindlers were extremely reactionary. They completely turned class relations upside down and negated the distinction between socialist and capitalist accumulation and social systems which are totally different in nature. Capitalist accumulation is used by the bourgeoisie to preserve its reactionary rule and further exploit the proletariat so that it can make maximum profits. Such accumulation is built on the extreme poverty and the corpses of the proletariat and “comes dripping, from head to foot, from every pore, with blood and dirt” (Capital).
Absolutely contrary to capitalist accumulation, socialist accumulation belongs to the proletariat and other labouring people themselves. It means that “what the producer is deprived of in his capacity as a private individual benefits him directly or indirectly in his capacity as a member of society.” Socialist accumulation in our country has fully demonstrated the superiority of the socialist system.
Thanks to our adherence to the principle of socialist accumulation under the leadership of Chairman Mao and the Central Committee of the Party, the cause of socialist construction in China has made rapid headway. In a period of two decades or so, semi-feudal and semi-colonial old China, a backward country which suffered poverty and disaster, has been transformed into a vigorous great socialist country which has taken its first step on the road to prosperity. From their, own experience, the proletariat and other labouring people deeply realize that only by continuously and gradually increasing social accumulation in accordance with the Party’s policies can the country be prosperous and the people well off and improvements made in the life of the individual. It is bad for the exploiting classes when the proletariat has abolished the system of exploitation and possesses its own social accumulation. But this is excellent for the working people. While sabotaging state property and socialist accumulation, Liu Shao-chi and other swindlers distorted historical facts in a futile effort to negate the 700 million Chinese people’s great achievements in socialist construction and to attack the socialist system. This was nothing but the cry of vampires wailing over the unsuccessful attempts to restore exploitation by the landlords and the bourgeoisie.
Chairman Mao long ago clearly pointed out: “The general policy guiding our economic and financial work is to develop the economy and ensure supplies.” (Economic and Financial Problems in the Anti-Japanese War.) “On the question of the distribution of income, we must take account of the interests of the state, the collective and the individual.” (On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People.) Chairman Mao’s teachings are the only correct principle for correctly handling the relations between production and distribution and between accumulation and consumption. They are in complete accord with the Marxist principle expounded in Critique of the Gotha Programme and diametrically opposed to all revisionist fallacies. They embody both the interests of the state and the collective and take into account those of the individual; they reflect the long-term interests of the masses of the people and take into consideration their immediate interests. But Liu Shao-chi and other swindlers were against the socialist principle of distribution. They opposed socialist accumulation by advocating from the Right that socialism means “bigger distribution” and “getting more.” At the same time, from the “Left” they obstructed the implementation of the Party’s policy of from each according to his ability and to each according to his work. What will be the result if their reactionary logic is acted upon? It will be the liquidation of the personal savings of the labouring people. Liquidation of accumulation by the state and the collective is bound to lead to the emergence and growth of private accumulation of a capitalist nature, which in turn is sure to lead to the degeneration of the socialist system of ownership. The result will be that members of the bourgeoisie will be “getting more,” and have a “bigger distribution” and “more enjoyment” while the labouring people will again be flung into poverty by the restoration of the capitalist system. Quite obviously, what Liu Shao-chi and other swindlers advocated was in fact intended to undermine the economic base of socialism and create conditions for their restoration of capitalism.
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