The Sino-Soviet Split as Revisionism versus Global Race War

 …the second world conference of Communist parties was held in Moscow in November 1960. Though its proceedings were secret, enough information leaked out afterward to make clear this was a vituperative, no-holds-barred fight between the Soviet and Chinese representatives and their respective supporters. The Peking representatives denounced the attitude of the Soviet government toward their country and the Soviet support for India. They accused the Soviet Communist party of fostering a political line that encouraged surrender to the imperialists. They demanded greater militancy and willingness to take risks, arguing that talk of peaceful coexistence [which the USSR was pursuing the US] was useful only to secure the moral disarmament of the capitalist peoples and the material disarmament of their governments. The Chinese struck out at Khruschev’s criticism of Stalin’s “cult of personality” and accused him and his followers of revisionism and opportunism. Khruschev and his supporters gave as good as they got. Khruschev called Mao Tse-tung a “megalomaniac warmonger” and accused the Chinese of failing completely to understand the nature of modern war and its dangerous consequences. The Soviet representatives accused the Chinese of trying to disrupt various Communist parties and slandering Khruschev and seeking to have him purged from his posts in Moscow. This was clearly the bitterest and stormiest meeting in the history of the world Communist movement. The document that emerged from it as the platform of world Communism was a compromise so worded that each side could point to it and claim that its own position had been vindicated and supported. This document was a device aimed at avoiding an open break, not a means for healing the chasm that had developed.


Finally he [Khruschev] came to the nub of the matter. “The left sectarian disorder is fed by nationalism, and in turn it feeds nationalism.” By this statement he really accused the Chinese of serving their own national interests under the guise of being ultra-revolutionary Communists.

The Chinese point of view was expressed in a number of lengthy statements. Here we shall present only the key points made by Peking in these declarations.

First, Peking made clear that it regarded the struggle in the underdeveloped countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America as the center of all revolutionary activity in the world, declaring that to further this struggle it was necessary to be prepared to take risks of a spark setting off a general conflagration. The Soviet effort to curb the militancy of revolutionaries in these countries was denounced bitterly. Later Moscow was to charge that by this line the Chinese were trying to make themselves the heads of an Asian-African-Latin American bloc based on racism—on a struggle of non-whites against whites—rather than on Marxist principles of class struggle between workers and employers.

Without naming the Chinese directly, a Soviet commentator writing in the spring of 1963 described the Chinese policy at the Afro-Asian Peoples Conference held in Moshi, Tanganyika in February 1963, a meeting where the right of Soviet delegates to participate was contested on the ground that they came from Europe not Asia:

Some of the more chauvinistically-inclined leaders would like to direct the solidarity movement not against imperialism, colonialism and its agents, but against all white people. They are ready to sacrifice the truth, as they did, so far cautiously, in Moshi, and to shrug their shoulders at the participation (even though only partial) of international organizations such as the World Council of Peace. … They sacrifice the truth because they pretend the liberation of Asia, Africa and Latin America is possible even without the participation of progressive organizations throughout the world, without those white people who because of their views actively fight against imperialism and its colonial attributes.


The Russian reply of March 30, 1963 was a lengthy and mildly worded exposition of the Soviet ideological position. … This letter was written after the Afro-Asian Solidarity meeting in Moshi, Tanganyika at which the Chinese had shown they had looked on the Russian as whites having no place in Asia. Hence, in one of the most significant sentences of the Soviet letter, the men in Moscow warned: “The militant call ‘Workers of all countries, unite!’ formulated by Marx and Engels means that at the basis of this unity lies anti-imperialist class solidarity and not any principle of nationality, color or geographical location. The German magazine, Christ und Welt, reported on July 5, 1963 that Chinese delegates at the Afro-Asian Journalists Conference in Djakarta in the spring of 1963 declared that Russia would have to return the former Chinese areas of Siberia if it wished to be welcomed at Afro-Asian meetings. The Chinese called the delegates from Soviet areas in Asia ‘marionettes of a white imperialist power.’”

On June 14, 1963, they [the Chinese leaders] sent the Soviet leaders their answer to Moscow’s March 30 letter. …

On the major policy issues dividing the two sides, the Chinese broadside repeated the customary demands for greater militancy, the old skepticism of peaceful transition from capitalism to socialism, the usual advocacy of reliance on armed revolution and the like. But it was on the issue of the struggle in Asia, Africa and Latin America that the Chinese laid down their harshest dictum, one which came close to accusing Premier Khruschev of being an advocate of continued colonialism and white supremacy. The passage merits quotation:

The various types of contradictions in the contemporary world are concentrated in the vast areas of Asia, Africa and Latin America; these are the most vulnerable areas under imperialist rule and the storm centers of world revolution dealing direct blows at imperialism…

The anti-imperialist revolutionary struggles of people in Asia, Africa and Latin America are pounding and undermining the foundations of the rule of imperialism and colonialism, old and new, and are now a mighty force in defense of world peace. In a sense, therefore, the whole cause of the international proletarian revolution hinges on the outcome of the revolutionary struggles of the peoples in these areas who constitute the overwhelming majority of the world’s population. Therefore, the anti-imperialist revolutionary struggle of the people in Asia, Africa and Latin America is definitely not merely a matter of regional significance but one of overall importance for the whole cause of proletarian revolution.

Certain person’s now go so far as to deny the great international significance of the anti-imperialist revolutionary struggles of the Asian, African and Latin American people and on their pretext of breaking down the barriers of nationality, color and geographical location, are trying their best to efface the line of demarcation between the oppressed and oppressor nations and between oppressed and oppressor countries and to hold down the revolutionary struggles of the peoples in these areas. In fact, they cater to the needs of imperialism and create a new ‘theory’ to justify the rule of imperialism in these areas and the promotion of policies of old and new colonialism. Actually, this ‘theory’ seeks not to break down the barriers of nationality, color and geographical location but to maintain the rule of the ‘superior nations’ over the oppressed nations. It is only natural that his fraudulent ‘theory’ is rejected by the people in these areas.

Here the Chinese were hitting the Soviet leaders at an extremely important and sensitive point. The Chinese demand could be read as urging that the Communist movement concentrate not only against Western imperialism, but also against the Russian position in Asia, against rule by the “superior” Russian nation over the Uzbecks, the Turkmens, the Bashkirs, the Yakuts and the numerous other Asian nations incorporated in the Soviet Union.


The Soviet reply to the Chinese was published on July 14 [1963]…. The next long section of the letter deals with the Chinese demand for primacy of revolution in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Before taking up this issue, the Soviet statement had already thrown out broad hints that the Chinese were really anti-white racists, declaring, for example, that the Chinese

…came out against the participation of representatives…of the European socialist countries in the Third Afro-Asian Conference in Moshi [Tanganyika]. The leader of the Chinese delegation told the Soviet representative that ‘there was nothing for whites to do.’ At the journalists’ conference in Jakarta, the Chinese representatives followed a line against allowing Soviet journalists full participation on the ground that the Soviet Union is not an Asian country!

The Soviet letter also points to the racist implications of the favorite Chinese slogan, “The wind from the East will prevail over the wind from the West,” noting that slogan was one “lacking all class content.” But it is in the refutation of the Chinese demand for a special position for Asia, Africa and Latin America that the Soviet statement makes the sharpest accusations that the Chinese have deserted Marxism-Leninism for a racist approach. Peking, the Soviet letter charges, is trying “to win popularity among the peoples of Asia, African and Latin America in the easiest way.” The Chinese, by insisting on the national liberation movement as the decisive force in the struggle against imperialism, are actually “isolating the national-liberation movement from the international working class and its offspring, the world system of socialism.” The Chinese are violating the Leninist injunction that the working class must head the struggle against imperialism, the Soviet letter charges, and “the Chinese comrades want to ‘correct’ Lenin and prove that it is not the working class but the petty bourgeoisie or the national bourgeoisie, or even ‘certain patriotic-minded kings, princes and aristocrats,’ who should be the leaders of the world struggle against imperialism.” And this hinting that racism rather than Marxism animates the Chinese, the Soviet letter asks darkly:

What is the explanation for the false tenets of the Chinese Communist party leadership on the vital problems of our time? Either the complete estrangement of the Chinese comrades from actual reality, a dogmatic bookish approach to the problems of war, peace, and revolution, a lack of understanding of the concrete conditions of the modern epoch: Or do other goals, having nothing in common with revolution, hide behind the deafening noise about ‘world revolution’?


On October 1, 1963, another bitter Chinese article assailed the Soviet leaders as “apologists of neocolonialism.” It accused them of having failed in their obligations to the Algerian revolution and of working with the United States to use the United Nations to put down the Congolese people’s armed struggle against colonialism. The Soviet leaders’ policy and purposes in giving aid to newly independent nations was declared “open to suspicion” since these leaders “often take an attitude of great power chauvinism and national egoism in matters concerning aid to newly independent countries, harm the economic and political interests of the receiving countries, and as a result discredit the socialist countries.” But the most serious attack came on the subject of racism. The Soviet leaders were accused of emulating German Kaiser Wilhelm II in his strictures a half century ago about the “yellow peril.” The motives of Soviet leaders in attacking alleged Chinese racism were described in these terms:

When they peddle the ‘theory of racism,’ describing the national liberation movement in Asia, Africa and Latin America as one of the colored against the white race, the leaders of the Communist party of the Soviet Union are clearly aiming at inciting racial hatred among the white people of Europe and North America, at diverting the people of the world from the struggle against imperialism, and at turning the international working class movement away from the struggle against modern revisionism.

The Chinese summed up their case in October by declaring Khruschev had joined in a new “Holy Alliance” with President Kennedy against the people of the world, hinting broadly that the goal is a Soviet-American condominium over all mankind.


On October 1, 1972, China celebrated the twenty-third anniversary of its Communist regime. … The occasion was marked in Moscow, too. A statement of congratulation to the Chinese people was issued, a statement that included a reference to the “complete theoretical incompetence of Maoism and its incompatibility with scientific socialism.”

= = =

Harry Schwartz, Tsars, Mandarins and Commissars: A History of Chinese-Russian Relations, Revised Edition (Anchor: Garden City, NJ, 1973); 200; 210–11; 219–20, 223, 230–31; 233, 238–40; 256–57; 282

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