The complete failure of the 1957 offensive of the Chinese capitalist class against the Communist Party of China and the new-democratic state – an offensive made along openly rightist lines – had shown that in the existing conditions in the People’s Republic of China, such an offensive had no possibility of success unless it were camouflaged under a “leftist” cloak.
Basically the same social reasons had determined that the offensive against the Soviet Communist Party and state in the period up to 1927, that led by Trotsky and others, should exhibit a similar “leftist” character.
As Stalin said at the 7th Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Communist International:
What do all these facts show?
That ’left’ camouflage of opportunist actions has been one of the most characteristic features of all the various opposition trends in our Party during the period since the seizure of power. What is the explanation of this phenomenon?
The explanation lies in the revolutionary spirit of the proletariat of the U.S.S.R. the profound revolutionary traditions that are deep seated in our proletariat. The explanation lies in the downright hatred in which anti-revolutionary and opportunist elements are held by the workers of the U.S.S.R. The explanation lies in the fact that our workers will simply not listen to an open opportunist, and that therefore the ’revolutionary’ camouflage is a bait designed to attract, if only by its outward appearance, the attention of the workers and to inspire them with confidence in the opposition. (J.V. Stalin: “Once More on the Social-Democratic Deviation in our Party”, in: “Works”; Vol. 9; Moscow; 1954; p. 18-19).
The “leftist” propaganda campaign to prepare the road for the counter-revolutionary offensive was opened by Mao Tse-tung himself in 1962.
At the Tenth Plenary Session of the Party’s Eighth Central Committee in 1962, our great leader Chairman Mao issued his call to battle: ’NEVER FORGET CLASS STRUGGLE’. (”From the Defeat of Peng Teh-huai to the Bankruptcy of China’s Khrushchov”, editorial in “Hongqi” (Red Flag), No. 13, 1967; in: “Peking Review”, No. 34, 1967; p.20).
It will be noted that Mao does not call upon the working people of China to prepare themselves to wage class struggle against the capitalist class in order to oust the representatives of the capitalist class from the new-democratic state, in order to liquidate the capitalist class. For the revisionist faction led by Mao had long been saying that the Chinese capitalist class was a class which supported socialism and that the new-democratic state was the “dictatorship of the proletariat”. This vague slogan of Mao’s – “Never forget class struggle” – left open against whom this not-to-be-forgotten class struggle was to be waged. But this was made clear later.
The next step in the strategical plan came in May 1963 when the Central Committee adopted Mao Tse-tung’s call for a “socialist education movement” an ideological movement directed at “preventing the growth of counter-revolutionary revisionism”.
The ’Decision of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party On Some Problems in Current Rural Work (Draft)’, that is, the first ’Ten Points’ mapped out under the personal direction of Chairman Mao in May 1963, issued the great call for the launching of a socialist education movement. In this extremely important document, Chairman Mao told the whole Party and the entire Chinese people that if the existence of classes and class struggle in socialist society were forgotten, ’THEN IT WOULD NOT TAKE LONG, PERHAPS ONLY SEVERAL YEARS OR SEVERAL DECADES AT MOST, BEFORE A COUNTER-REVOLUTIONARY RESTORATION ON A NATIONAL SCALE INEVITABLY OCCURRED, THE MARXIST-LENINIST PARTY WOULD UNDOUBTEDLY BECOME A REVISIONIST PARTY, AND THE WHOLE OF CHINA WOULD CHANGE ITS COLOUR. COMRADES, JUST THINK OF IT – WHAT A DANGEROUS PROSPECT! (“A Theoretical Weapon for Making Revolution under the Dictatorship of the Proletariat”, editorial, “Hongqi” (Red Flag), No. 10, 1967 in: “Peking Review”, No.26; 1967; p.28-29).
In this passage the essentials of the counter-revolutionary strategy – the strategy of the thief who calls “Stop thief!” – are revealed. The counter-revolution was to be waged under the false banner of “preventing counter-revolution”.
In his report on the work of the government to the National People’s Congress in December 1964, Premier Chou En-lai referred to this new movement as the “cultural revolution” and as “the socialist revolution on the ideological and cultural fronts’’, describing its aim as to bring ideology and culture into line with “the socialist economic base and political system”.
Speaking on the tasks of the cultural revolution, the Premier pointed out that in the period of socialism the overriding task on the ideological and cultural fronts is thoroughly to combat capitalism, to promote the proletarian ideology and eradicate the bourgeois ideology ... It is necessary to bring about a radical transformation of all bourgeois, feudal and other ideology and culture which are not suited to the socialist economic base and political system, and to carry the socialist revolution on the ideological and cultural fronts through to the end. (Chou En-lai: “Report, on the Work of the Government” In: “Main Documents of the First Session of the Third National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China”; Peking; 1965; P. 29).
Of course, there was not yet in the People’s Republic of China a “socialist economic base and political system”, as Chou En-lai demagogically asserted. And in these circumstances a “cultural revolution” against bourgeois ideas could not be effective.
For Marxist-Leninists understand that ideas are not primary but are a reflection of, a product of, the material world.
Matter, nature, being, the physical is primary, and spirit, consciousness, sensation, the psychical – is secondary. (V.I. Lenin: “Materialism and Empirio-criticism”, in: “Selected Works”, Vol. II; London; 1943; p.208)
Thus, the origin of bourgeois ideas is – the bourgeoisie. To liquidate bourgeois ideas it is necessary first to liquidate their source – the bourgeoisie. Then, and only then, can a cultural revolution to liquidate those ideas be successful since their material source has been liquidated.
Nevertheless, it was difficult to see how a “cultural revolution” against bourgeois ideas could be harmful, and in so far as it could be regarded as in ideological preparation for the socialist revolution it could indeed have been useful. It was this latter motive that many Chinese Marxist-Leninists supported the “cultural revolution” in its initial phase.
However, in January 1965, Mao Tse-tung made it clear that, so far as the counter revolutionary faction headed by him was concerned, the main target of the “cultural revolution” was not bourgeois ideas at all.
’Some Current Problems Raised in the Socialist Education Movement in the Rural’ Areas’, that is, the ’23-article document’ drawn up under the personal guidance of Chairman Mao in January 1965, ... CHAIRMAN MAO PUT FORWARD FOR THE FIRST TIME THIS VERY IMPORTANT THEORY: ’THE MAIN TARGET OF THE PRESENT MOVEMENT IS THOSE WITHIN THE PARTY WHO ARE IN AUTHORITY AND ARE TAKING THE CAPITALIST ROAD.’ (“A Theoretical Weapon for Making Revolution under the Dictatorship of the Proletariat” op. cit.; p.30).