The revolutionary characteristics of Democratic Kampuchea

“The new Kampuchean regime has five distinctive revolutionary characteristics.

One is the continuing and substantial revolutionary secrecy. Although the Communist Party, which led the revolution, publicly revealed its existence last fall, only a small number of its leaders is known. When speaking, Kampuchean Communists habitually use quiet tones, almost a half-whisper.. In our travels from province to province, on our long journey through roadways in unbearable heat, we were efficiently transferred from hand to hand with the help of some secret and barely noticeable communications.

A second significant characteristic of the new regime is the absence of any civil government aisde from the National Assembly. There are no district or provincial assemblies nor executuve organs. Administrative affairs and political mobilization are the respobsibility of the party committees. The size of the party committees does not appear to be proportional to the number of workers in a given establishment or to the number of inhabitants in the locality. One small factory in Phnom Penh has a party committee of seven people for 300 workers. The party committee in the Kampng Som harbor, with about 6,000 workers, has only five members and it is directly responsible to the Ministry of Communications.

With the exception of unions on the factory and enterprise level, there are no cultural, technical, military, sport, humanitarian, professional or other organization in Kampuchea. Our hosts explained that because there are only two classes in the country, peasants and workers, it isn’t necessary to establish special social-political organizations, except for the Communist Party, which directly administers all affairs. Workers are organized in unions, peasants in cooperatives; that is sufficient for the system to function.

The third characteristic of the regime which struck us- probably because we expected a highly-organized system of political indoctrination- is the absence, even in mild form, of political indoctrination. According to our hosts, not one Marxist-Leninist work has been translated into Khmer during the three years since the liberation. There is no time for theory now, they say. We got the impression that ideological-political work is undeveloped at the grassroots level. When asked what political topics they had discussed recently, workers responded that they talked about national defense and fulfilling the production plan.

The political terminology in official use is closest to the Chinese. There is no doubt that Mao Tse-tung’s ideas, particularly in his works written during the Chinese revolution, inspired the political and ideological thought of Pol Pot. It is also certain that the strategy and tactics of the Kampuchean liberation army, especially in the final operations surrounding the cities with the support of the rural population, indicate a significant application of the experiences of the Chinese revolution to the concrete conditions of Kampuchea.

The fourth noteworthy characteristic of this society is the principal of egalitarianism, really ‘collective socialism.’ The absence of commercial relations or of any kind of compensation according to work leads in two directions. There is highly centralized state control which obligates the state to distribute everything from rice to the annual suit of clothes to each of its citizens. At the same time there is a fundamental radicalism in interpreting the concept of relying on one’s own resources.

The Kampucheans have proudly rejected international economic aid because they believe that they can develop their country with their own resources. Within Kampuchea this self-reliance often takes on extraordinary forms. One cooperative destroyed houses in order to recycle the iron stilts customarily used in Kampuchean buildings; in the neighboring cooperative there was an iron junkyard which no one had used yet. Truks filled with bricks for housing construction adjacent to a factory were rolling through the city streets while only a mile or so away there are empty apartment buildings whose former tenants have left for a distant cooperative.

The fith and last distinctive feature of this society- one which explains the necessity for developing utopian visions of the future- is the very evident sense of national pride. It is reminiscent of the behavior of a quiet and introverted person whose opinions were hardly taken into account earlier, but who now speaks out unexpectedly, but invariably passionately.”



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