Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

China’s Victory over Teng Hsiao-ping

Taking the Capitalist Road

First Published: The Call, Vol. 5, No. 3, May 17, 1976.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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In trying to understand the current struggle in China, some people have asked, “Why did Teng Hsiao-ping become an enemy of socialism and take the capitalist road? How could a leader of the Communist Party of China like Teng turn against the revolution?” To understand the struggle against Teng Hsiao-ping it is necessary to learn something about the nature of the class struggle under socialism and something about the history of Teng Hsiao-ping himself.

Teng Hsiao-ping joined the Communist Party during the New Democratic stage of the Chinese revolution which preceded the present socialist stage. During that stage the main contradiction was between the masses of Chinese people, including workers, peasants, the petty-bourgeoisie and the national bourgeoisie on the one side and foreign imperialism, feudalism, and bureaucratic capitalism on the other. Until this stage of the revolution was completed, it was impossible for the Chinese people to take on the tasks of building socialism.

At that time, many people joined the revolution and the Communist Party because the party was playing the leading role in the fight against the imperialists and the landlords. Many of them adopted the minimum program of the party but failed to accept or fully understand its maximum program, that is, the winning of communism, a classless society.

Following the victory of New Democracy in 1949, the revolution entered its socialist stage. The principal contradiction changed to one between the working class and the bourgeoisie. The tasks of this stage of the revolution were: 1) To replace the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie with the dictatorship of the proletariat; 2) To fight for socialism in a long, difficult struggle against capitalism; and 3) To gradually create the conditions where the capitalists and capitalism would no longer exist. This would be a classless society or communism.

Many of the revolutionary-minded democrats, who earlier had entered the party, transformed themselves and came to adopt the tasks and program of the party in the socialist stage. They studied the teachings of Marxism-Leninism and integrated themselves closely with the masses of working people. In this way, they came to play active and leading roles in the building of socialism.

Others, however, failed to transform their outlook and came to oppose the revolution as it moved beyond its democratic stage. Because they had achieved high positions and a relatively comfortable life, they grew complacent and came into opposition to those new revolutionary things that were developing. Teng Hsiao-ping was just such a person.

Socialist society is a society where classes and class contradictions still exist. Remnants of the overthrown capitalist and landlord classes still exist for a time, as well as large numbers of petty-bourgeois elements and bourgeois-minded intellectuals. The force of habit and old ideas can also provide fertile soil for those bent on restoring capitalism. The existence of a large peasantry and the peasant-type of production also engenders capitalism continuously.

Most importantly, throughout the whole period of socialism, inequality exists in the system of distribution based on the amount of work a person does and as a result of exchange through money. While private ownership of the factories,, farms and mines has in the main been done away with and turned into socialist ownership by the whole people or collective ownership by the laboring people, “bourgeois right” still exists.

Bourgeois rights are the inequalities that still exist under socialism. Contradictions between mental and manual labor, between town and country and between workers and peasants continue to give rise to inequalities in wages, living conditions, working hours, etc. The gap between these inequalities can only be narrowed and restricted, not fully abolished until the communist stage is attained.

Because of this, the class struggle is the key link in building socialism, and everyone must take part in the struggle to restrict bourgeois right while raising their political consciousness. But Teng Hsiao-ping, and those like him such as Liu Shao-chi and Lin Piao, opposed the revolution and used their positions to defend and expand, rather than to restrict these differences under socialism. They tried to suppress the revolution under socialism, downplay the study of communist theory and promote all types of capitalist thinking such as individualism and self-interest.

During the first 16 years of building socialism, Teng Hsiao-ping was a follower of the renegade Liu Shao-chi. They opposed the agricultural cooperation movement in the ’50s which was aimed at getting the peasants to pool their land and resources that were won when the landlord class was overthrown. This meant educating the peasants in the spirit of socialism and combatting their spontaneous small-owners mentality.

A few years later, Teng worked against the rise of the people’s communes, saying that these advances in collectivization were moving ahead “too fast.” Later in the 60s, when China was facing agricultural problems due to sabotage by the Soviet revisionists as well as by natural disasters, Teng advocated a return to individual farming as the remedy. Some 200,000 farmers cooperatives were destroyed as a result of this line.


During the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, the camp of the capitalist readers came under sharp attack. Led by Chairman Mao Tsetung, the people smashed Liu Shao-chi’s reactionary headquarters and loudly repudiated the revisionist line. Teng Hsiao-ping came under sharp criticism as the Cultural Revolution targeted everything reactionary in education, art, literature and other parts of society which went counter to China’s socialist economic base. Teng, who openly defended everything old and reactionary, was met head-on by the masses, criticized and ousted from his posts.

Seeing that the capitalist headquarters was under fire, Teng made a lengthy self-criticism of his old ways and promised to accept the verdicts of the Cultural Revolution and follow the party’s line. On this basis, he was allowed to return to a position of leadership in the party and the state in 1974. This was in accord with Chairman Mao’s approach to criticism and self-criticism–“curing the illness to save the patient.”

But in fact, Teng Hsiao-ping hadn’t broken from his old ways and his old bourgeois class stand. Last summer he came out with his “program” for development in China over the next 25 years. In this program he launched an attack against all the revolutionary achievements of the Cultural Revolution and in fact tried to reverse the very verdicts he swore to accept.

In his “program” he directed his main fire at Chairman Mao’s line of “taking class struggle as the key link.” In place of class struggle, Teng’s program promoted economic development as the key link. This was the same theory which Teng and Liu Shao-chi had used to hold back the development of collectivization 20 years earlier. It was the same “theory of the productive forces,” placing production ahead of revolution, that Lin Piao had used to attack the socialist revolution in 1971.

All this experience has shown the people of China that socialism is a period of protracted class struggle. These lines of Teng, Lin Piao and Liu Shao-Chi represented the interests of a certain class, the bourgeoisie. It is the old and new bourgeoisie who use people like Teng as their spokesmen and representatives within the party.

It is within the party that the capitalist roaders are the most dangerous because it is there that they can achieve power and implement their reactionary program. Since liberation, the Communist Party of China has had to wage sharp struggle against different types of capitalist roaders. Some were hidden agents of the reactionary Kuomintang or foreign imperialism or other alien class elements and renegades who had sneaked into the leading positions. Still others are bourgeois democrats whose world outlook has remained unchanged. Teng Hciao-ping is one of these.


The most important thing about this struggle against Teng is the role that the masses are playing and the lessons they are summing up. With the leadership of Chairman Mao and the party, they are getting a rich education in class struggle under socialism and valuable instruction on how to fight the bourgeoisie.

In a recent statement Chairman Mao pointed out: “With the socialist revolution they themselves (capitalist-roaders like Teng Hsiao-ping–ed.) come under fire. At the time of the co-operative transformation of agriculture there were people in the Party who opposed it, and when it comes to criticizing bourgeois right, they resent it. You are making socialist revolution, and yet don’t know where the bourgeoisie is. It is right in the Communist Party-those in power taking the capitalist road. The capitalist-roaders are still on the capitalist road.”

Teng Hsiao-ping is one of these capitalist roaders still on the road to capitalism. The socialist revolution can only move forward in the course of an all-around campaign against those who want to keep history’s wheel from advancing towards communism.