George Thomson

From Marx to Mao

Harsh Thakor

[George Thomson, one of the founders of the British China Study Group, was the author of “From Marx to Mao Tse-Tung” (London: China Policy Study Group, 1971). 2023 was George Thomson’s 120th birth anniversary and 50 years since he wrote ‘From Marx to Mao Tse Tung’.]

Though written over 50 years ago and a compilation in major part, this is a most comprehensive, incisive and lucid, study of revolutionary dialectics of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse Tung Thought. No book in that era, better defended and preserved the skeleton of the polemics or added meat to the bones of Marxism-Leninism. Subtitled, “A Study in Revolutionary Dialectics”, it most surgically grafts or dissects quotations from Marx, Lenin, Mao and others, all organised to manifest the coherence and integral link of MLM theory. It was translated in many languages and received a wide circulation in the international communist movement.

This is a Marxist interpretation of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Chinese Revolution of 1949, constructed to illustrate their unity and continuity as two successive stages in the world socialist revolution. It paves the way for the reader to transcend the path of the two revolutions traversing the minds of those who led them, and at the same time they provide him with an insight into the basic principles of dialectical and historical materialism; as that theory can only be analysed in the context of the revolutionary struggles out of which it has sprung and in which it finds its fullest and most vivid personification.

Its chapters comprise the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, From the Bourgeois to the Proletarian Revolution, The Proletariat and the Peasantry, The National Question, Socialism in one country, The Party, the First Socialist State and the Proletarian Cultural Revolution.

Thomson most illustratively projects the symmetry and continuity between the teachings of Marx, Lenin, Stalin and Mao Tse Tung.

In very lucid language and congealed expression he sums up why Marxism is the most progressive philosophy in history and the weapon for the liberation of the oppressed.

Thomson formulates or explains the co-relation between diverse factors and conditions, which the teachings of Marx, Lenin and Mao, integrated.

Dwelling into history of pre-revolutionary and post-revolutionary Russia and China, he traced how Marxism evolved or how history shaped it. Thomson in all spheres demonstrated how in both Russia and China revolutionary democracy touched heights untranscended in history and the sheer futility of bourgeois parliamentary democracy.

He encompassed the methods of Lenin in confronting reactionary or un –Marxist elements and illustrated how Lenin waged fierce struggle against right opportunism, tracing the Bolshevik war against Mensheviks.

Thomson summarised how Lenin combated alien trends of Bernstein, Kautsy and Leon Trotsky or constructed 2- line struggle within the Bolshevik party, how Stalin confronted reactionary elements like Zinoviev and Bukharin and how Mao Tse Tung waged 2- line struggle against capitalist roaders.

Most logically or dialectically Thomson reflected on how both in Russia and China it was not crimes that were performed against humanity, but enemies of genuine democracy that were eliminated, basically.

He synthesised how Mao advocated the role of the peasantry in a revolution, thus being the founder of peasant- based revolution, and how he assessed the nature of the Chinese bourgeoisie, to formulate concept of ‘New Democratic Revolution.’

Thomson illustrated how in the realm of philosophy all the great Marxist teachers, overshadowed contemporary philosophers, in role of human liberation.

In a most balanced manner he appraises Stalin, highlighting major achievements and errors. He stressed how Stalin failed to permeate democratic movements from below and solely relied on using secret police to counter forces of reaction, thus negating mass-line.

Thomson denoted how the creation of the Leninist party was the turning point in history and even the CCP created by Mao was in essence a Leninist party.

Thomson dealt with aspects of proletarian democracy and mass-line, illustrating how they constituted the principles of Marxist theory, and how Marx, Lenin and Mao left no stone unturned in showing in practice that they were not mere idealistic concepts.

He traced instances of Trotsky violating Leninist ideology and why it was imperative for Lenin to perform acts like signing the Brest Litovsk treaty, calling for New Economic Policy and outlawing reactionary parties.
Due focus was given on sprouting of revisionism in USSSR under Khrushchev, and how and why dictatorship of the proletariat was toppled.

He elaborated how Mao constructed his formula of People’s Democratic Dictatorship, professing the alliance of working class, peasantry, petty bourgeoisie and national bourgeoisie.

Thomson summed up the imperative need for a Cultural Revolution, which Mao Tse Tung foresaw, unlike Stalin, and analysed the blunders or gross errors of Stalin, in dealing with opposition. He illustrated how China was on the road of revolutionary experiments in proletarian democracy, at heights never reached.

Thomson negated or paid scant attention to subject of democracy within a proletarian party or scope of dissent within a Socialist State. In truth, he initiated no criticism of the bureaucratic practices of the Soviets under Lenin, errors of the Chinese Communist Party in mass-line or negation of proletarian ideology in Socialist Construction period and Great Leap Forward. If anything Thomson over- estimated transition of Communism in China from Socialism. This was illustrated by the reversal or toppling of the Socialist state in 1976.

Back to Home Page

Vol 56, No. 32, Feb 4 - 10, 2024