–Peking Review, March 19, 1971 [ Extract of first three sections-Signalfire] l.
The Principles of the Paris Commune Are Eternal
March 18 this year marks the centenary of the Paris Commune. Full of profound feelings of proletarian internationalism, the Chinese Communists and the Chinese people under the teaching of their great leader Chairman Mao warmly celebrate this great “festival of tho proletariat” together with the proletariat and the revolutionary people throughout the world. One hundred years ago the proletariat and the broad masses of the people of Paris in France staged a heroic armed uprising and founded the Paris Commune. This was the first proletarian regime in the history of mankind, the first great attempt of the proletariat to overthrow the bourgeoisie and establish the dictatorship of the proletariat.
The Paris Commune abolished the army and police of the reactionary bourgeois government and replaced them with the armed people; the gun was in the hands of the working class. The Paris Commune broke the bourgeois bureaucratic apparatus enslaving the people, founded the working class’s own government, adopted a series of policies to safeguard the interests of the working people and organized the masses to take an active part in running the state. In the fight to found and defend the proletarian regime, the heroes of the Paris Commune displayed extraordinary revolutionary initiative, soaring revolutionary enthusiasm and self-sacrificing heroism, winning the admiration of the revolutionary people generation after generation. Although the Paris Commune failed as a result of the military onslaught and bloody suppression carried out by butcher Thiers in league with Bismarck, its historical contributions are indelible.
As Marx said: The glorious movement of March 18 was “tho dawn of the great social revolution which will liberate mankind from the regime of classes forever”2 While the battle was still raging in a Paris darkened by the smoke of gunfire, Marx declared: “But even if tho Commune is crushed, the struggle will only be postponed. The principles of the Commune are eternal and cannot be destroyed; they will declare themselves again and again until the working class achieves its liberation.” What are the revolutionary principles that Marx and Engels, the great teachers of the proletariat, summed up on the basis of the practice of the Paris Commune? In a word, “the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery, and wield it for its own purposes.”4 The proletariat must use revolutionary violence to “break” and “smash”5 the old state machinery and carry out the dictatorship of the proletariat.6
In expounding this principle, Marx stressed: The first premise of the dictatorship of the proletariat “is an army of the proletariat. The working class must win the right to its emancipation on the battlefield.”7 Only by relying on revolutionary armed force can the proletariat overthrow the rule of reactionary classes and go on to fulfill its whole historical mission. Marx also said: The state of the dictatorship of the proletariat “will be a working, not a parliamentary, body, executive and legislative at the same time.” 8 As Lenin said: “One of the most remarkable and most important ideas of Marxism on the subject of the state” is “the idea of the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat” (as Marx and Engels began to call it after the Paris Commune).” 9
To persist in revolutionary violence to smash the bourgeois state machine and establish the dictatorship of the proletariat, or to maintain the bourgeois state machine and oppose the dictatorship of the proletariat this has been the focus of repeated struggles between Marxism on the one hand and revisionism, reformism, anarchism and all kinds of bourgeois and petty-bourgeois ideology on the other, the focus of repeated struggles between the two lines in the international communist movement for the past hundred years.
It is precisely on this fundamental question of the dictatorship of the proletariat that all revisionism, from the revisionism of the Second International to modern revisionism with the Soviet revisionist renegade clique as its center, has completely betrayed Marxism. A century’s history has proved to the full that the Marxist theory of the proletarian revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat is invincible. Forty-six years after the Paris Commune uprising, the proletariat of Russia, led by the great Lenin, won victory in the October Socialist Revolution through armed uprising, opening up a new world era of proletarian revolution and proletarian dictatorship. Lenin said: On the path of breaking the old state machine, the Paris Commune “took tho first world-historical step. . . . Tho Soviet Government took the second.” 10
Seventy-eight years after the Paris Commune uprising, the Chinese people, led by the great leader Chairman Mao, won victory in the revolution. Chairman Mao blazed a trail in establishing rural base areas, encircling the cities from the countryside and finally taking the cities. He led the Chinese people through protracted revolutionary wars in overthrowing the reactionary rule of imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat-capitalism, in breaking the old state machine and bringing about in China the people’s democratic dictatorship, that is, the dictatorship of the proletariat. Since then Chairman Mao has been leading the Chinese people in continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat and advancing triumphantly along the socialist road. Fighting bravely, advancing wave upon wave and supporting and encouraging each other in the past century, the proletariat, the oppressed people and oppressed nations of the world have been promoting the socialist revolution and the national democratic revolution and have won most brilliant victories. As Comrade Mao Tsetung points out: “This is the historic epoch in which world capitalism and imperialism are going down to their doom and world socialism and people’s democracy are marching to victory.” 11
The cause of the Paris Commune is spreading far and wide at a higher stage in the new historical conditions. The world has undergone an earth-shaking change. In commemorating the tenth anniversary of the Paris Commune, Marx and Engels, with jubilant revolutionary feeling, told the European working class: “Thus the Commune which the powers of the old world believed to be exterminated, lives stronger than ever, and thus we may join you in the cry: Vive la Commune!”12 Today, the flames of the revolutionary torch raised by the Paris Commune- are ablaze throughout the world, and the days of imperialism, social-imperialism and all reaction are numbered.
In celebrating the centenary of the Paris Commune at such a time, the Marxist-Leninists, the proletariat and the revolutionary people the world over have all the more reason to shout with unbounded confidence: Long live the Commune! Long live the victory of the proletarian revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat! In commemorating the Paris Commune, we should study the Marxist-Leninist theory of the proletarian revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat, learn from historical experience, criticize modern revisionism with the Soviet revisionist renegade clique as its center, adhere to the Marxist-Leninist revolutionary line, and unite with the people of the world to win still greater victories.
II. It is of the Utmost importance for the Revolutionary People to Take Hold of the Gun
The historical experience of the Paris Commune has fully demonstrated that taking hold of revolutionary arms is of the utmost importance to the proletarian revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat. Explaining the experience of the Paris Commune, Lenin referred to Engels’ important thesis that the workers emerged with arms from every revolution in France and that, therefore, the disarming of the workers was the first commandment for the bourgeois, who were at the helm of the state. On this conclusion of Engels’, Lenin commented: “The essence of the matter also, by the way, on the question of the state (has the oppressed class arms?) is here remarkably well grasped.” l3
The Paris Commune was born in the fierce struggle between armed revolution and armed counter-revolution. The 72 days of the Paris Commune were 72 days of armed uprising, armed struggle and armed defense. The very fact that the proletariat of Paris had taken hold of the gun struck the greatest terror into the hearts of the bourgeois reactionaries. And a fatal error of the Paris Commune lay precisely in the fact that it showed excessive magnanimity towards counter-revolution and did not march on Versailles immediately, thus giving Thiers a breathing space to muster his reactionary forces for an onslaught on revolutionary Paris.
As Engels said: “Would the Paris Commune have lasted a single day if it had not made use of this authority of the armed people against the bourgeois? Should we not, on the contrary, reproach it for not having used it freely enough?” 14
Comrade Mao Tsetung has concisely summed up the tremendous importance of armed struggle and the people’s army and advanced the celebrated thesis “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”15 He points out: “According to the Marxist theory of the state the army is the chief component of state power. Whoever wants to seize and retain state power must have a strong army.” 16 Violent revolution is the universal principle of proletarian revolution. A Marxist-Leninist party must adhere to this universal principle and apply it to the concrete practice of its own country. Historical experience shows that the seizure of political power by the proletariat and the oppressed people of a country and the seizure of victory in their revolution are accomplished invariably by the power of the gun; they are accomplished under the leadership of a proletarian party, by acting in accordance with that country’s specific conditions, by gradually building up the people’s armed forces and fighting a people’s war on the basis of arousing the broad masses to action, and by waging repeated struggles against the imperialists and reactionaries. This is true of the Russian revolution, the Chinese revolution, and .the revolutions of Albania, Vietnam, Korea and other countries, and there is no exception.
On the other hand, a proletarian party suffers in the revolution if it fails to go in for or gives up revolutionary armed. force, and there have been serious lessons: Some parties failed to take hold of the gun and were helpless in the face of sudden attacks by imperialism and its lackeys and of counter- revolutionary suppression, and as a result millions of revolutionary people were massacred. In some cases where the revolutionary people had already taken up arms and their armed forces had grown considerably, certain parties handed over the people’s armed forces and forfeited the fruits of the revolution because they sought official posts in bourgeois governments or were duped by the reactionaries. The proletariat must use the gun to seize political power and must use the gun to defend it.
The people’s army under the leadership of a Marxist-Leninist party is the bulwark of the dictatorship of the proletariat and among the various factors for preventing the restoration of capitalism it is the main one. Having a people’s army armed with the Marxist-Leninist ideology, the proletariat can deal with any complicated situation in the domestic or international class struggle and safeguard the proletarian state. The contemporary liberation movement of the oppressed nations is an important component part and a great ally of the proletarian world revolution. The national democratic revolution and the socialist revolution are related to each other and at the same time distrnct from each other; they represent two different stages and are different in character. However, to win complete victory in the national democratic revolution, it is likewise necessary to get prepared for a trial of armed strength with the imperialists and reactionaries. For the oppressed nations, it is likewise most important to take hold of the gun.
Since World War II, imperialism, colonialism and neo-colonialism headed by the United States have incessantly launched wars of aggression and resorted ever more frequently to such means as military intervention, armed subversion and invasion by mercenary troops to suppress the countries and people that are fighting for or have already gained independence. Incomplete statistics show that U.S. imperialism has engineered and launched armed intervention and armed aggression .on more than 50 occasions in the past 25 years. As for U.S.-engineered armed subversion, examples are too numerous to be counted. Therefore, in order to win liberation and safeguard their national independence and state sovereignty and effectively combat aggression and subversion by imperialism and its lackeys, a1l the oppressed nations must have their own anti-imperialist armed forces and be prepared at all times to counter wars of aggression with revolutionary wars. The war against U.S. aggression and for national salvation waged by the people of the three countries of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia has set a brilliant example to the oppressed nations and people all over the world.
The struggles against aggression and subversion waged by the people of many other countries and regions in Asia, Africa and Latin America have likewise provided valuable experience. In his solemn statement “People of the World, Unite and Defeat the U.S. Aggressors and All Their Running Dogs!”, Chairman Mao points out: “A weak nation can defeat a strong, a small nation can defeat a big. The people of a small country can certainly defeat aggression by a big country, if only they dare to rise in struggle, dare to take up arms and grasp in their own hands the destiny of their country. this is a law of history.”l7
As Comrade Lin Piao says, “people’s war is the most effective weapon against U.S. imperialism and its lackeys.”18 The proletariat and the oppressed people and nations the world over will all change from being unarmed and unskilled in warfare to taking up arms and being skilled in warfare. U.S. imperialism and all its lackeys will eventually be burned to ashes in the fiery flames of the people’s war they themselves have kindled.
III. Revolution ls the Cause of the Masses in Their Millions
The historical experience of the Paris Commune tells us that to be victorious in the proletarian revolu- tion and the dictatorship of the proletariat it is imperative to rely on the revolutionary enthusiasm of the masses in their millions and give full play to their great power as the makers of history. Lenin said: “The autocracy cannot be abolished without the revolutionary action of class-conscious millions, without a great surge of mass heroism, readiness and. ability on their part to ‘storm heaven’, as Marx put it when speaking of the Paris workers at the time of the Commune.”l9 Marx, the great teacher of the proletariat, highly valued the revolutionary initiative of the masses of the people and set us a brilliant example of the correct attitude to adopt towards the revolutionary mass movement.
In the autumn of 1870, prior to the founding of the Paris Commune, Marx pointed out that the conditions were not ripe for an uprising by the French workers. But when the proletariat of Paris did rise in revolt with heaven-storming revolutionary heroism in March 1871, Marx, regarding himself as a participant, promptly and firmly supported and helped this proletarian revolution. Although he perceived the mistakes of the Commune and foresaw its defeat, Marx considered the revolution the most glorious exploit of the French working class . For he regarded this movement “as a historic experience of enormous importance, as a certain advance of the world proletarian revolution, as a practical step that was more important than hundreds of programs and arguments.”20 In a letter to L. Kugelmann at that time, Matx expressed his fervent praise: “What elasticity, what historical initiative, what a capacity for sacrifice in these Parisians!” “History has no like example of like greatness!’ 2l Lenin saw in this letter a gulf between the proletarian revolutionaries and the opportunists and hoped that it would be “hung in the home of every literate Russian worker.” 22
Contrary to the Marxists, all the opportunists and old and new revisionists oppose the proletarian revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat and they inevitably have a mortal fear of and bitter hatred for the masses, and they deride, curse and sabotage the revolutionary mass movement. When the Russian armed uprising of December 1905 failed, Plekhanov stood aloof and accused the masses, saying: “They should not have taken to arms.” . Lenin indignantly criticized Plekhanov’s aristocratic attitude towards the revolutionary mass movement and denounced him as an infamous Russian renegade from Marxism. Lenin pointed out that without the “general rehearsal” of 1905, victory in the October Revolution in 1917 would have been impossible.
In 1959, when our great teacher Chairman Mao denounced the Peng Teh-huai Right-opportunist anti- Party clique for slandering and opposing the revolutionary mass movement, he sharply told these anti- Marxist renegades: “Please look and see how Marx and Lenin commented on the Paris Commune, and Lenin on the Russian revolution!” “Do you see how Lenin criticized the renegade Plekhanov and those ‘bourgeois gentlemen and their hangers-on,’ ‘the curs and swine of the moribund bourgeoisie and of the petty-bourgeois democrats who trail behind them? ff not, will you please have a look?” 23 Chairman Mao used this historical experience as a profound lesson to educate the whole Party and urged our Party members and cadres to follow the example of Marx and Lenin and take a correct attitude towards the revolutionary mass movement.
“Revolution is the main trend in the world today”. 24 All round the globe, the people are thundering: Down with the U.S. aggressors and all their running dogs! The strategic rear areas of imperialism have become front lines in the anti-imperialist struggle. The victorious development of the war of the three peoples of Indochina against U.S. aggression and for national salvation has pushed the worldwide anti-U.S. struggle to a new high. The struggle against the doctrine of the hegemony of the two superpowers is gaining momentum.
The national liberation movement in Asia and Africa is shooting forward as violently as a raging fire. The struggle of the people of Korea, Japan and other Asian countries against the revival of Japanese militarism by the’ U.S. and Japanese reactionaries is daily surging ahead. The Palestinian and other Arab people are continuing their advance in the fight against the U.S.-Israeli aggressors. Revolutionary mass movments on an unprecedented scale have broken out in North America, Europe and Oceania. The workers, students, black people and other minority peoples in the United States are daily awakening and rising in a revolutionary storm against the reactionary rule of the Nixon government and its policy of aggression.
In Latin America, the “backyard” of U.S. imperialism, the long-suppressed anti-U.S. fury in the hearts of the people has now burst forth, and a new situation has emerged characterized by joint struggle for the defense of their national interests and state sovereignty. The revolutionary struggle of the people in certain East European countries against social-imperialism is in the ascendant. The spring thunder of revolution is sounding even in hitherto relatively quiescent areas. Reacting on and encouraging each other, these struggles have merged into the powerful torrent of the world ‘people’s revolutionary movement. In the face of the present great revolutionary movement, every revolutionary party and every revolutionary will have to make a choice. To march at the head of the masses and lead them? To trail behind them, gesticulating and criticizing? Or to stand in their way and oppose them? Genuine Marxist-Leninist parties and all revolutionaries must warmly support the revolutionary actions of the masses, firmly march at the head of the mass movement and lead the masses forward.
The political parties of the proletariat and all revolutionaries “ought to face the world and brave the storm, the great world of mass struggle and the mighty storm of mass struggle”25; They must share weal and woe with the masses, modestly learn from them, be their willing pupils, be good at discovering their revolutionary initiative and draw wisdom and strength from them. Only by plunging into the mighty storm of the mass movement can a political party of the proletariat temper itself and grow in maturity. And only through the practice of the masses in class struggle can a correct program or line be formulated, developed, tested and carried out. The mainstream of the revolutionary mass movement is always good and always conforms to the development of society. In the mass movement various trends of thought exert their influence, various factions emerge and various kinds of people take part, This is only natural. Nothing on earth is absolutely pure: Through their practice in struggle and repeated comparison, the broad masses of the people will eventually distinguish between what is correct and what is erroneous; they will eventuality cast aside revisionism and all that is erroneous and accept and grasp the revolutionary truth of Marxism-Leninism.
A proletarian party must go deep among the masses and work patiently, painstakingly and for a long time, so as constantly to raise their political consciousness and lead the mass movement forward along the correct road. The question of first importance. for the revolution is to distinguish between enemies and friends, to unite with our real friends and attack our real enemies. The development of the revolutionary mass movement calls for the constant strengthening of unity within the revolutionary forces and the smashing of the plots to split and sabotage hatched by the imperialists, revisionists and reactionaries. The people, who constitute over 90 per cent of the population-the workers, peasants, students and all those who refuse to be oppressed by imperialism invariably want to make revolution. In order to defeat U’S. imperialism and all its running dogs, it is imperative to form a broad united front, unite with all forces that can be united, the enemy excepted, and carry out arduous struggle.
Comrade Mao Tsetung points out: “Direct reliance on the revolutionary masses is a basic principle of the Communist Party.” We must rely on the masses and launch mass movements when we fight for political power. We must likewise rely on the masses, launch mass movements and adhere to the mass line . in all our work when we engage in the socialist revolution and socialist construction after the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat. “As long as we rely on the people, believe firmly in the inexhaustible creative power of the masses and hence trust and identify ourselves with them, no enemy can crush us while we can crush every enemy and overcome every difficulty.”27