Book Comparison Of The Rise Of Communist Parties: Soviet Union And China
The first half of the twentieth century were the breeding years of Communism. The books Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini by Bruce F. Pauley and China in Transformation by Colin Mackerras both deal with the rise of Communism, the former in the Soviet Union and the latter in China. Although one book deals with the rise of Communism in the Soviet Union and the other book deals with the rise of Communism in China, both authors have similar abstract ideas about the elements necessary for a Communist takeover, such as the importance of “revolution, reform, change, and reaction”. (Mackerras, 2) One can see that what both these authors agree on, when looked at abstractly, is that for a “Communist victory” to occur, the course of events must happen in that sequence.
What Pauley and Mackerras agree on, as an obvious element necessary for the rise or victory of Communism, is the presence seemingly qualified leader. In the Soviet Union, it was Lenin (later Stalin); in China it was Mao Zedong who finally brought the Communists to power. “An eloquent, charismatic or powerful leader” is the key to any type of government takeover.
An underlying element necessary for the rise or victory of Communism would have to be a certain state of being that the country would have to be in at the time of the takeover. Although the full takeover of the Soviet Union by the Communist Party happened earlier than in China, many similarities can be seen in the political, social, and economic sectors of the countries in the years directly preceding the takeover.
Since the Communist takeover in the Soviet Union happened earlier than in China, as mentioned above, one should read these books in sequence; Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini first, and China in Transformation second. Not only will one be able to make a cross comparison between the Soviet Union and China, one will be able to compare and contrast the rise of the fascist totalitarian regimes (Germany and Italy) as well. Also, since the Communist takeover happened later in China, one might be able to see certain aspects of Soviet Communism in Chinese Communism. One would think that China would be able to learn from the mistakes of the Soviet Union.
This paper intends to make a cross comparison of the Communist rise to power in the Soviet Union and in China. Also, this paper intends to examine the necessities required for a Communist takeover to be successful, such as the sequence of events, an apt leader, and the installation of fear to keep the power one has acquired. The evidence in the books written by Pauley and Mackerras can make these comparisons.
Obvious Necessities for a Communist Takeover
As stated before, any takeover, Communist or otherwise, needs a leader. For the Soviet Union, they were lucky enough to have two distinguished leaders, Lenin and Stalin. In 1920, Soviet Socialism was only three years old. But already, under the name of “War Communism”, Lenin’s Bolsheviks had nationalized industry, done away with market prices and wages, and declared the end of a money economy and had introduced a plan for the formation of a centrally directed command economy. One might ask, “How did he get there?”. Lenin’s “energy, organizational skills, speaking ability, and ruthlessness” enabled him to enrapt the masses and secure his legitimacy. (Pauley, 15) In China, the leader that finally brought about Chinese Communist victory was Mao Zedong. Mao was noted for having a “profound influence on the young”. (Mackerras, 38)
The idea of having a leader in a Communist takeover would have sounded absurd to Carl Marx, the “father” of Communism. Communism calls for the rule of the working class, and later, the class would step down and the state would “wither” away. Communism does not call for one person to rule. Although a leader is always needed in any type of takeover, in a Communist takeover, the leader should step down, not rule like a dictator – that defeats the whole purpose of Communism.
Nonetheless, this is still an obvious fact of a Communist takeover. Communism is a mass movement. That should be quite obvious. And although the Bolsheviks started out as part of the Mensheviks (minority) Lenin and Stalin enabled the Communist movement to become a mass based movement. And that in itself is the key to any successful takeover.
Underlying necessities for the victory of Communism
As mentioned before, one of the most important, yet overlooked, necessities for a Communist takeover are the sequence of events. Mackerras mentioned it as the importance of “revolution, reform, change, and reaction” happening in that sequence. In the years directly preceding the Communist takeover in the Soviet Union and China, these countries economic, political, and social aspects of the country are startlingly similar. The Soviet Union was suffering from an unstable economy, and the country itself was in turmoil because of war. Pauley made the argument that all totalitarian parties that come to power are aided by crisis in the political or economic sector of that country. The group that was in power when the economic or political disaster occurred is often blamed and ultimately loses their legitimacy. The resulting group or individual that comes into power is looked at as a savior or hero, thereby adding to their legitimacy.
This can be seen in the case of the Soviet Union, where Lenin came to power during a time of inner turmoil within the Soviet Union. Lenin was able to end the war, thereby getting the support of the army, and ultimately looked at as a hero for bringing peace. This can be applied in the case of China, where Mao Zedong was the establisher of the People’s Republic of China; he was looked at as a hero for “stabilizing an unstable nation”. (Mackerras, 70)
Thus, we can see the two most important, but not always the most evident, elements necessary for a Communist takeover. Always necessary, is the capable, impressive, and sometimes fearful leader. Always necessary is the correct sequence of events, and a political or economic crisis going on in the country to help bring the party to power and add to legitimacy.
Among many approaches to evaluating the first half of the twentieth century in China, one consideration that can be made is the significance of this period. In the first place, the extent of change was greater than any earlier half century in Chinese history. Secondly, this was the period of the overthrow of the monarchy. Thirdly, this period saw the first traces of Chinese modernism. Finally, the period of 1900-1949 saw three major political revolutions: the overthrow of the monarchy, the Nationalist Revolution of 1925-1927 which brought Chiang Kai-Shek’s National Government to power, and the Communist Revolution which led to the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in October 1949. Although Soviet Socialism does not exist today on a major level, it was able to survive many challenges to its regime.
There have been many revolutions and many historians who have described revolution. Perhaps one of the most correct definitions of revolution would be the one said by Mao Zedong. He said, “A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence whereby one class overthrows another”. And the perfect examples of that would be the Communist Revolutions in the Soviet Union and China
Mackerras, Colin, China in Transformation 1900-1949;New York: Addison Wesley
Longman Limited, c 1998
Pauley, Bruce F., Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini; Illinois: Harlan Davidson, Inc, c 1997
Word Count: 1224
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