by Harsh Thakor, Mumbai, India
On January 8th the Revolutionary world bows in memory of the Great Comrade Zhou En Lai, on his 30th death anniversary. His life story is a legacy in revolutionary history. Today the reactionary revisionist regime on China hypocritically use his name to discredit the Cultural revolution. The Chinese revisionists particularly utilized his name when they were carrying out the 4 modernisations programme.
Sadly, today in the Maoist Revolutionary Camp several organizations discredit Comrade Zhou and term him a capitalist roader in Mao's time. The Revolutionary Communist Party of United States of America, is the chief promoter of this and in all their journals on the Cultural Revolution period blame comrade Zhou En Lai for the defeat of the Maoist forces. Similarly the 'World to Win' terms Premier Chou as a revisionist. In this article I will not only throw light on the life of Premier Zhou but also refute the false allegations of this great revered comrade.
Comrade Zhou was brought up in a large family household within which he and his parents constituted only one sub-unit, to ensure collective security for everyone. However, within those boundaries, Zhou suffered some heartbreaking losses and rejections, firstly by his natural parents who gave him up when he was only a few months old, then by his adoptive father dying even before he could come to know him, and later at the age of ten, his 2 mothers died in quick succession.
Zhou first came to national prominence during the May Fourth Movement of 1919 when he led a raid on a local government office during the student protests against the humiliating Versailles Treaty. In 1920 Zhou moved to France where he was active among radical Chinese students. In 1921 he became a member of the French Communist Party and spent the next two years travelling in Europe.
Upon his return to China, he served as the chairman of the political department at the Whampoa Military Academy in Guangzhou when it was founded in 1926 (Whampoa's Soviet Comintern sponsors saw this posting as a way to balance Chiang Kai-shek's right-wing nationalism).
After the Northern Expedition began, he worked as a labour agitator. In 1926 he organized a general strike in Shanghai, opening the city to the Kuomintang. When the Kuomintang broke with the Communists, Zhou managed to escape the white terror. It has been said that he had been captured and released on the orders of Chiang Kai-Shek, to repay a debt from an occasion when Zhou had saved Chiang from violent leftists in Guangzhou. Zhou eventually made his way to the Jiangxi base area and gradually began to shift his loyalty away from the more orthodox, urban-focused branch of the CPC to Mao's new brand of rural revolution, and became one of the prominent members of the CPC. This transition was completed early in the Long March, when in January 1935 Zhou threw his total support to Mao in his power struggle with the 28 Bolsheviks Faction.
In the Yan'an years Zhou was active in promoting a united anti-Japanese front. As a result he played a major role in the Xi'an Incident, helped to secure Chiang Kai-shek's release, and negotiated the Second CPC-KMT United Front, and coining the famous phrase "Chinese should not fight Chinese but a common enemy: the invader". Zhou spent the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) as CPC ambassador to Chiang's wartime government in Chongqing and took part in the failed negotiations following World War II.
Zhou was educated in the Dr Zhang Boling's Nankai School with Western help and then went around Japan, France, Belgium, Germany and the Soviet Union. He was active in the May 4th Student meetings. To evade the attention of Chinese opponents he made effective use of the tiny pockets of Western rule on Chinese Soil. During the May4th Student meetings he lodged at his mother-in-laws house in the French concession in Tinajinb in 1919, 8 years later after revolutionary plotting he took refuge in the same French concession. After the historic Nanchang uprising Zhou took refuge in the British flag at Honkong.
Zhou's path to becoming a leading member of the Communist Party started with a series of refusals to accepting leading positions in the party - a trait of humility that remained with him till his last days. At the 5th Congress he had surprised his friends by deferring to Chen Duxiu instead of going along with his latter critics. He went on to support Li Li San (non-Maoist who totally supported Stalin's urban based Bolshevik line), and in 1930 supported Wang Ming. Her again when people wanted to make him president over Mao Zedong, he refused to accept.
Comrade Zhou's life took a historic recourse when he backed Mao Tse Tung in the historic conference at Tsunyi in 1935 after the historic Long March. From being Mao's critique and superior he became Mao's servant and supporter. Earlier Zhou had made a criticism of Mao's line but in the Ningdu conference of 1932 his showed that even if he differed with Mao his criticisms were always balanced, and he always praised Mao when he could.
What was historically most significant that Zhou, in the later phase of the Long March Zhou backed Mao against Zhang Guotao. He could easily have ditched Mao once the guerrilla methods had served his turn. During the rectification campaign similarly Zhou opposed Wang Ming, who was a major contender for power and one time Zho En Lai's collaborator. This loyalty Zhou showed to Comrade Mao was something that lasted lifelong. From comrade Mao he learned the importance of peasant-based revolution in contrast to urban-based revolution. Here he displayed his utmost humility as a Communist always bowing before Mao like a pupil bowing before a teacher.
After the Peoples Republic was formed Zhou was instrumental in implementing Mao Tse Tung's policies as an administrator. He supported Mao against the capitalist roaders Liu Shao Chi and later Lin Biao. Chou backed Mao against Liu when supporting the 'Hundred Flowers Campaign in 1957 and the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in 1966, and finally supported Mao when Lin Biao attempted to oust him from power and oppose Mao's line. (Lin favoured alliance with the then Soviet Union and discontinuing of Cultural Revolution) Lot of Western critiques state that Zhou opposed the Great Leap Forward but this is incorrect. Zhou highlighted certain serious errors but basically supported Mao and his communisation policies. Comrade Zhou never formed a separate faction in the party. He never had a small clique of his own in party politics, though he did have a large, loose following. Simply out of admiration and gratitude for Zhou's past teachings many people professed loyalty to the premier. Of all the men who had been senior to comrade Mao in the party hierarchy Zhou was the only person to continuously support comrade Mao. This is a tribute to this veteran leader who understood that the essence of Communism in his country would come from a rural leader who knew the minds and day to day lives of the peasants. (Specific information from Dick Wilson's biography of Zhou En Lai) In turn Mao needed a diplomat who could represented the movement in China to the world. Zhou never flattered Mao and skilfully respected his leader. That complemented each other in an almost perfect manner.
Comrade Zhow as a great international leader who magnificently represented his Country. In the 1955 Bandung conference he played a major role in highlighting China's foreign policy of peaceful co-existence and superbly handled the Indo-China War dispute. He never exhibited big brother chauvinisms when addressing revolutionary contingents from other countries and always with utmost humility told other delegation that they must not blindly copy the Chinese revolutionary experience. (With Indian comrade Souren Bose he stated that it was wrong that Indian Communist Leader Charu Mazumdar called China's Chairman 'our' chairman'.) Although being brought up in an upper-middle class style and being educated in France comrade Zhou lived a life of utmost humility.
Today the Revolutionary Communist Party of U.S.A, has no credibility in their claiming that Zhou En Lai was not a Maoist and a supporter of the Deng Xiaping clique. They claim that it was Chou En Lai's group that thwarted the Maoist Gang of 4 and endorsed Deng Xiaoping's orientation. Chou controlled the violent incidents and left sectarian depredations during the Cultural Revolution movements. True Zhou was not a part of the radical gang of 4 but the veteran was an administrator and had to play a key role in running the state. Left Sectarian tendencies were often reflected in comrade Zhou being attacked. Such comrades forgot the role of administration in a Socialist State. Zhou never supported Nixon, but he endorsed Mao's policy of Peaceful co-existence as a revolutionary tactical mean.(The Chinese State would support all revolutionary movements but recognize bourgeoisie and reactionary states. This was a revolutionary tactic for survival. It is wrong to state that China here was reactionary by making friends with U.S.A.) Zhou's tactical handling played a major role in prevailing calm in the Sino-Soviet border disputes. After Lin Biao's revolt and conspiracy to assassinate Mao Comrade Zhou played a major role in bringing China back to normalcy and even continuing the Cultural Revolution. Such false stories that Mao never attended Zhou's funeral are simply means of denigrating such a great leader. Zhou never used any means of raising his personality cult and after his death it is a tribute that his badges and portraits were highlighted to a far greater extent. In 1989 Chinese Workers in protests carried comrade Zhou's posters with those of Chairman Mao's. It is really sad that the Revolutionary Communist Party seriously claims that Comrade Zhou as a revisionist. Was it not Premier Zhou who stood up and supported comrade Mao till his death?
In his lifetime Premier Chou wrote famous documents including, 'On the relationship between the Chinese Communist Party and the Kuomintang from 1924 to 1926' which explains the lessons from the period of Kuomintang Communist Co-operation." On the 6th Congress of the party' is a document that explains the major problems of the party before the 6th Congress. This has great relevance to the Mass line when he states that though the line was basically correct there wee many mistakes on specific and practical questions. In his view the party's line or left sectarianism was not the cause of the mistakes. The Bolshevization of the party began with the birth of Mao Ze Dong. Although there were wrong tendencies that had an influence on the formation of the Li Li San line and the emergence of sectarianism, they were not the direct cause. 'On the United Front' explains the development of the anti-Japanese United Front and the party's United Front work during the Democratic Revolution. In 'Learn from Mao Zedong' Zhou explains that Mao Tse Tung was not an immortal and was a product of the people's revolutionary movement. Mao was no born leader, chance leader, divine leader or a leader impossible to emulate. Mao Zedong Thought is a combination of universal truth of Marxism with the actual practice of revolution. In other articles comrade Zhou wrote about the founding of the Red Army, building of revolutionary bases, revolutionary work in the Kuomintang areas peace negotiations, work in literature and Art Etc.
Let us all pay homage to this great Comrade who laid down his life to serve such a great section of humanity. No person from such an upper-middle class background has done so much to serve the Communist Movement in China. With Comrade Mao Premier Zhou EnLai was the architect of Socialist China (1956-1978), a Third World Country which made such strides in the last century exhibiting greatest revolutionary democratic functioning ever seen in history.
Background: Please refer to article on Critique of Mao Tse Tung Thought by the same author. Read about the Long March, Great Leap Forward, Cultural Revolution etc on this website.
References: Zhou En Lai by Dick Wilson