TROTSKY IN CHINA: How Communism’s Most Controversial Theorist Found An Audience – In China

Pic: Trotsky (PD)

Pic: Trotsky (PD)

This article breaks down how books by Leon Trotsky supported the Chinese ideological shift away from soviet Communism.

via News China

Trotsky’s Views was openly published in China in 1980, two years after the country embarked on its ongoing experiment with Reform and Opening-up, and 40 years after Leon Trotsky, who remains one of the world’s most contentious political thinkers, was assassinated.

Its predecessor was Excerpts of Trotsky’s Reactionary Views, compiled by the Central Compilation and Translation Bureau and printed by the People’s Press, as one of the “Gray Cover” books issued to a limited number of Party cadres in 1964.

 Gray Cover books were classified into three categories. Category C included books by such European socialist thinkers as Alexandre Millerand of France and Otto Bauer of Austria who attempted revisions to perceived orthodox Marxism. These were generally available to Party functionaries, though banned from public sale. Category B covered more controversial works by figures such as Eduard Bernstein and Karl Kautsky, both revisionist leaders of the Second International, and were restricted to higher-level cadres.

Category A covered books published for the exclusive consumption of ranking officials above the ministerial level, and Excerpts of Trotsky’s Reactionary Views fell under this category. The name Leon Trotsky, as it had within the Soviet Union, became synonymous with revisionism in the official ideology of the Communist Party of China (CPC), which, modified by the unique political theories of Mao Zedong, based its core ideology on a Stalinist interpretation of Marxism-Leninism. During Party purges of the 1930s and 40s, branded “Trotskyites” within the Party ranks were purged in their hundreds.

In the early 1960s, the Chinese and Soviet Communist parties began to lock horns over what constituted orthodox Marxism. Nikita Khrushchev’s denunciation of Stalin in his Secret Speech in February 1956 was perceived by Mao as both a personal slight and an attack on the legitimacy of China’s own revolution, leading the CPC to effectively sever meaningful ties with the Soviet Union in 1960, though both nations carefully maintained the diplomatic façade of appearing to be close allies.

Both sides of the debate drew on the Marxist-Leninist canon to defame “revisionists” and “reactionaries” such as Bernstein, Kautsky and Trotsky. While the Sino-Soviet split lasted until 1989, Deng Xiaoping would later admit to the visiting Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev that “both sides did a lot of empty talking.”

The Gray Cover books were part of the anti-Soviet ideological campaign within the CPC, ostensibly printed to allow Chinese officials to “acquaint themselves with the roots of revisionism.” The fact that Trotsky’s works were also lambasted as revisionism within the Soviet Union was largely ignored by CPC ideologues – in their view, his nationality was proof enough of his stranglehold on Soviet thinking.


  • BuzzCoastin

    nice fluff piece from China’s “Newsweek”
    but the backstory on Bo Xilai would have been more current
    and more relevant