Maoism and Trotskyism share some similar ideas (by Maoism I am referring specifically to the guiding philosophies of the PRC during Mao's rule, and by Trotskyism I mean the beliefs of Trotsky, not whatever sixth-formers believe right now). Both wanted 'permanent revolution', which Mao attempted to practice with appalling results. Both were very keen on spreading the revolution, as opposed to Stalin's isolationism.

However, Stalin was venerated in China as a way of denigrating Khrushchev. Propaganda-wise, I suppose you can't really have both Stalin and Trotsky as icons. Did the PRC use Trotsky as a hate-figure in their propaganda, notwithstanding the parallels between its own ideology and his, or did they just ignore him?

  • 3
    What does "sixth-former" mean? Wikipedia leads me to believe that are schoolchildren between 12 and 13 years (which I think usually won't have a very clear stance about the nature of the foreign relations between PRC and SU in relation to their different interpretations of Marxism).
    – SJuan76
    Feb 15 '15 at 19:20
  • Just a joke on my part. A sixth-former in Britain is between the age of 16 and 18, in the last stage of school education. Politically they are often (or think they are) followers of Marxism. The serious side was that 'Trotskyism' has a huge number of interpretations, but I am really only interested in the ideologies of people who either held power or were close to holding it. I am not at all interested in whatever Trotskyists believe now, only what Trotsky himself believe.
    – Ne Mo
    Feb 15 '15 at 19:25

Trotskyism, and by extension Trotsky himself (and vice versa) was definitely denounced in early Communist Chinese propaganda. Whether or not he was a "hate figure" depends on what criteria you use for that nebulous phrase. Since the question declined to define it, I'll focus on the government's general attitude instead - though personally, I would say it was protrayed as a minor hate figure.

Until the early 1980s, Communist China officially denounced Trotskyism as an "anti-Leninism and anti-revolutionary" movement. This party line is largely instigated by Stalin as an extension of his domestic factional politics in the 1930s. Thus, the Stalinist Communists have been denouncing Chinese Trotskyists over political reasons, with little attention given to Trotsky's actual ideology.


For example: reform the military, reform the political system, develop popular movements, enact defence education, suppress the race traitor Trotskyists, develop military industries, improve living conditions - should we do these seriously?

- Mao Zhedong, On Protracted War, speeches at Yan'an, 26 May to 3 June 1938

Here we see the Trotskyists demonised as Japanese collaborators, designed to evoke hatred for the group at a time of the Sino-Japanese War. When the People's Republic was founded in 1949, the general hostility has not changed. An anthology of Chairman Mao's Greatest Hits published in 1951, shortly after founding, Trotsky's footnotes read:


Trotsky's group was originally an anti-Leninism faction in the labour movement of Russia. Later it corrupted into a group of completely anti-revolutionary bandits. Now, Trotskyism is not a political faction of the proletariat, but instead a renegade gang of unprincipled, unthinking assassins, saboteurs, spies, murderers. It is a gang which acts on behalf of foreign spy agencies, and the enemy of the working class.

Thus, the official propaganda clearly casts Trotsky and Trotskyism as public enemies. Trostky's actual beliefs were not important, and in fact glossed over as much as possible. It suffices for propaganda purposes to paint him and his followers as treasonous counter-revolutionary criminals. I would consider this to be depicting a hate figure, although since Trotsky was dead the obvious focus was on his supposed adherents in China.

At this point early major Chinese Trotskyists were either dead or exiled, with one defected to the Nationalists. Others (numbering in their hundreds) were rounded up to be "reformed". In reality, they were often no more than victims of internal Communist powerplays. Rehabilitation began in the late 1980s, and the 1991 version of the previous footnote was updated to briefly acknowledge Trotsky's contributions:


Trotstky (1879-1940), after the October Revolutions held positions such as People's Commissar of Military and Naval Affairs. After Lenin died, he opposed Lenin's theory and path of building socialism in the Soviet Union, and was expelled in November 1927. Trotsky engaged in many divisive and destructive sabotage in international Communist movements.

It appears that thee remaining attacks on Trostky were finally removed in the 1999 edition.

  • I didn't define the term hate figure because I thought anyone intelligent enough to answer the question well would know what it meant. You proved me right, good answer.
    – Ne Mo
    Jun 26 '15 at 22:43

Trotsky was denounced as a hate figure within the Chinese communist party as early as the Sino-Japanese War.

Rana Mitta in China's War With Japan, describes purges taking place within the CCP even while they're battling the Japanese (and their Nationalist "allies"):

Wang Shiwei was one of those who feel victim ... first posters appeared denouncing him. Then he was expelled from the party as a Trotskyist and finally detained incommunicado. He was eventually executed in 1947.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.