Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Class Struggle Key Link in Chinese Revolution

First Published: The Call, Vol. 5, No. 1, May 1, 1976.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The following is a report from a leadership delegation of the October League which recently visited China and offers a first-hand view of the present great struggle developing in that country. This is the first in a series of articles.

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Peking, People’s Republic of China. What is the key link in building socialism? Is it the class struggle or is it the need for stability and the advancement of production and technology? This question is at the heart of the present struggle in the People’s Republic of China.

The struggle gained new prominence last month with the incidents at Tien An Men Square and the dismissal, two days later, of Teng Hsiao-ping. The bourgeois press reacted in a frenzy, vainly hoping that their dream of capitalist restoration in China was at hand. They thoroughly distorted the real facts and lessons of the struggle.

The struggle began last year when certain capitalist roaders and revisionists, led by then Vice-Premier Teng Hsiao-ping, began to stir up attacks on the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and the new revolutionary things that have emerged since its victory. Tsinghua University was the scene of the first reaction to Teng’s reactionary line. In the university, these capitalist roaders launched a rightist campaign against China’s revolutionary education program.

The campaign, named the “right deviationist wind” by the Party, attacked such socialist new things as “open-door education,” which closely integrates classroom learning with practical activity and manual labor. Other socialist new things under attack were giving priority in college entrance quotas to workers, peasants and soldiers as well as the general principle that education must serve proletarian politics and be combined with productive labor.


In August and again in October, Liu Ping, the head of Tsinghua, sent letters to the Central Committee complaining that the standards for students were too low. He said that having so many workers, peasants and soldiers at Tsinghua was holding back the level of academic standards. Liu Ping had backing from Chou Jung-hsin, the Minister of Education. When Liu’s letters were criticized he also claimed to be supported by some “high official” in the party.

It turned out that this official was none other than Teng Hsiao-ping. Teng was a follower of the revisionist Liu Shao-chi during the Cultural Revolution. For this he had been criticized and removed from his posts in the late ’70s. He was allowed to resume a leadership role in 1974 only after making a thorough-going self-criticism and promising that he would never reverse the verdicts arrived at through the struggle.

He did not keep this promise. In education, science, literature and art, and throughout the society, he and his followers began an attack on the Cultural Revolution. The “right deviationist wind” at Tsinghua was no accident. It came at the same time that Teng Hsiao-ping began making speeches and putting forth articles entitled “On the General Program for All Work of the Party and the Country.”

In this “program” Teng put forth the idea that the “Three Directives” issued by Chairman Mao, which stressed study, unity and stability, and development of the economy, were the “key link” in the work of the country. With this revisionist sleight-of-hand, Teng was trying to use Mao Tse-tung’s own directives to negate the essence of Mao Tsetung’s revolutionary line. What is this revolutionary line?

Chairman Mao pointed out: “Never forget classes and class struggle.” He said, “Stability and unity do not mean writing off class struggle; class struggle is the key link and everything else hinges on it.”

Teng and his fellow capitalist roaders also promoted the line in their “program” that economics and the modernization of Chinese society were more important than revolutionary politics. Before the Cultural Revolution, Teng and Liu Shao-Chi said that it didn’t matter whether the peasants organized into cooperatives or promoted individual farming instead, so long as production was increased. In this way they succeeded in holding back collectivization in more than 200,000 cooperatives during the 1950s.

A leading party member at Tsinghua told us that Teng was following the same line today. According to this cadre, Teng said it didn’t matter whether scientific research took the road of bourgeois expertise or not-so long as research advanced. He added that if China followed Teng’s line, the Four Modernizations couldn’t be realized. (These are the need to modernize industry, agriculture, national defense, and science and technology.) Or, he explained, that even if they were realized it would be the same as in the USSR. There the line of bourgeois expertise has meant sending a satellite into the sky while trampling the red flag into the dust.

Teng tried his best to distort the Cultural Revolution through trickery, by posing as an opponent of Lin Piao. Lin was another capitalist roader who tried to derail China’s revolution in 1971. Teng described Lin as an “ultra-leftist.” This was a way of covering up the fact that Lin was a rightist.

In fact, Lin Piao and Teng Hsiao-ping pushed the same “theory of the productive forces.” This theory holds that the growth of technology and production must take first place over politics. This is a rightist line both in form and content. But with ulterior motives in mind, Teng called it “ultra-leftist.” In this way, he tried to misdirect the struggle towards ultra-“leftism” instead of against revisionism, which was and continues to be the main danger.

Teng also attacked the Cultural Revolution as an “ultra-left” mistake, claiming that it harmed “experienced cadres” of the party. In fact, the Cultural Revolution was an unprecedented great mass movement in which the masses themselves had been mobilized as never before to rebel against attempts to restore capitalism. Those “harmed” were those actively trying to sabotage socialist construction and promote capitalism.

The necessity for a cultural revolution exists because classes and class struggle continue to exist throughout the period of socialism. The Cultural Revolution is the form developed in China through which the masses can take part in defending socialism and consolidating the dictatorship of the proletariat.

All capitalist readers up to and including Teng Hsiao-ping have preached the theory that classes and class struggle were “dying out” under socialism. However, while preaching about “dying out of class struggle,” they continued to wage class struggle against the working class.

In response to such reactionary views of the capitalist roaders, the students at Tsinghua rebelled against the right deviationist wind. Upon hearing about the struggle, Chairman Mao initiated a “Great Debate” last November. Under the Party’s leadership, the students, workers, soldiers and party cadre began exposing and criticizing revisionism.


The target of this struggle was Teng Hsiao-ping because he represented the bourgeois class in China. His program reflected the aims of the new bourgeoisie that has arisen on the basis of bourgeois right; that is, the system of unequal distribution still alive within socialism. This inequality can be restricted under socialism, but it cannot be fully eliminated. To criticize Teng and his program, big character posters were put up. Soon the struggle spread to Peking University and then into factories, communes and schools throughout China. The big character posters pointed out: “The capitalist roaders are still taking the capitalist road.” Many posters reflected careful study of the reactionary program of Teng as well as study of the writings of Marx, Engels Lenin, Stalin and Mao Tsetung. The posters criticized the theory of the productive forces and the right deviationist wind in education.

While visiting Tsinghua, we saw many posters which referred to Teng’s previous pragmatist, eclectic statement; “It doesn’t matter whether a cat is black or white as long as it catches mice.” They pointed out that Teng was really saying, “it doesn’t matter whether you promote Marxism-Leninism or revisionism so long as production increased.”

One leading member of the Revolutionary Committee at Tsinghua, a woman who was a Red Guard during the Cultural Revolution, told us the people used to fight capitalist roaders like Teng Hsiao-ping in the Cultural Revolution. She pointed out that then the capitalist roaders were defeated, but now they are trying to reverse the correct verdicts and the masses are having to fight them again.

The present struggle is a further continuation of the Cultural Revolution. In some ways, however, it is different and on a higher level. For one thing, the masses have summed up their experience and learned how to carry out the struggle more effectively. During the height of the Cultural Revolution, in 1966, Liu Shao-chi had succeeded in splitting the party into two headquarters. Under these conditions, the Red Guard fanned out all over China and made contacts with students at other universities and schools, as well as with workers and peasants. During some points of the struggle “fighting groups” were formed and some sections of the masses were misled into fighting other sections of the masses while the capitalist roaders went unharmed, fomenting confusion and rumors. Often it was difficult to tell who the enemy was.

Recently Chairman Mao pointed out: “You are making the 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 readers are still taking the capitalist road.” He also called the masses to follow the leadership of the party and not to establish inter-unit ties or to form fighting groups or factions. Through the course of this present struggle, production has actually been on the rise and important advances are being made in science, education, literature and the arts.

The capitalist roaders have so far been unrepentant. Given the opportunity to put up their own big character posters, they declined. In spite of this unrepentant attitude, Teng Hsiao-ping was allowed to hold his position as Vice-Premier until early last month. Until then, a distinction was being made between Teng and the renegades, scabs, and saboteurs like Liu Shao-chi and Lin Piao. Unlike these alien elements who sneaked into the party, Teng was viewed as a bourgeois democrat who joined the party during the stage of the New Democratic Revolution. At that stage of the bourgeois revolution, these bourgeois democrats played a positive role. But when the stage changed to the socialist revolution, many of them failed to remold their outlook. This was the case with Teng Hsiao-ping.


When they were criticized, Lin Piao and Liu Shao-chi refused to criticize themselves. Teng, on the other hand, criticized himself and then went against his own self-criticism in which he had promised “never to reverse the correct verdicts” of the Cultural Revolution. Still Teng was allowed to remain in his post for months. While all the people we spoke with referred to him by name, the Chinese press referred to him until April 7, only as “that unrepentant capitalist roader.” The purpose of this form of struggle was to give him every last chance to rectify his mistakes and rejoin the revolution.

Finally Teng launched an open attack on the party and instigated the counter-revolutionary incident in Tien An Men Square. This incident changed the nature of the struggle with Teng into an antagonistic contradiction. It was only after this incident that Teng was taken out of all his responsible positions.

The present struggle in China is a great event which is writing a new chapter into the revolutionary history of the working class. Under the leadership of the Communist Party and Chairman Mao, the Chinese people have been armed with the science of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought, which is an invincible weapon. This new and deeper phase of the Cultural Revolution is paving an historic pathway for the future of socialism with class struggle as the main driving force.