Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Charles Elias

A break from Cultural Revolution: China restores Liu Shaoqi’s name

First Published: The Call, Vol. 9, No. 11, March 17, 1980.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.

In a major development in China’s continuing efforts to solve the problems caused by the gang of four, the Communist Party of that country has made changes in its leadership, structure and laws and has rehabilitated former President Liu Shaoqi (Liu Shao-chi).

The decisions were reached at the Fifth Plenary Session of the Communist Party’s Central Committee Feb. 23-29.

Newly elected to the Party’s now-expanded Standing Committee of the Political Bureau are Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang. These promotions are part of a restructuring which is based on the system of leadership instituted at the Eighth Party Congress held in 1956 and includes the establishment of a secretariat to coordinate the Party’s work on a day-to-day basis.

Behind the decisions are deepening criticism of the Cultural Revolution which disbanded the secretariat and many other parts of the Party structure in favor of roughly-defined “Revolutionary Committees.” Under the gang of four’s influence, the Party’s leading bodies were viewed primarily as breeding grounds for a “new bourgeoisie.”

The new secretariat will enable more collective decision-making and is a break from one person or a small group having a dominant role as has been the case in the past.

The appointments of Hu and Zhao are also viewed as part of a life-and-death effort to develop somewhat younger successors who can carry on and maintain the continuity of the struggle once the older veterans are gone.

Zhao Ziyang is 61 years old and is respected for his energetic style and capable leadership. Since 1975 he has been regional Party leader in Sichuan, China’s largest province, where he led the struggle against the gang of four. Hu Yaobang is 65, a veteran of the Long March, who has worked successfully since the gang’s defeat in the Party’s center as head of its organizational and propaganda departments.

The meeting also accepted the resignations of four Political Bureau members–Wang Dongxing, Ji Dengkui, Wu De and Chen Xilian. The four were said to have resisted efforts to make a thorough-going break with doctrinairism and ultra-“leftism”, although they united with the effort to topple the gang of four. While the four were removed from their leadership posts, they haven’t been openly criticized by the party. The resignations appear to be aimed more at strengthening the unity and common will of the Party rather than opening a new campaign of inner-Party struggle.

The posthumous rehabilitation of Liu Shaoqi is the most recent example of what is perhaps the most significant sign of the deepening critique of the Cultural Revolution–the massive rehabilitation of thousands of people, including the bulk of the pre-1966 leadership, who were either arbitrarily jailed or removed from their posts or otherwise punished for their dissenting ideas.

Liu, formerly China’s head of state and vice-chairman to Mao Zedong, was the main target of the Cultural Revolution. He was branded a “renegade, traitor and scab” by the Central Committee and expelled from the Party for life following his disagreements with Mao and others over the direction of the Cultural Revolution among other things.

Actually, many of Liu’s ideas, including those regarding material incentives, the pace of collectivization and the stress on advancing production rather than on continual political upheaval, are being implemented today. In regard to the struggle over Mao’s appointment of Lin Biao to replace Peng Dehuai as leader of the army, Liu Shaoqi’s view in support of Peng has been upheld by the Party, while Lin Biao later was exposed as the real traitor to the cause of socialism.

As to Liu’s errors, they must now be summed up in light of the experience of the Cultural Revolution. The main criticisms of Liu had been his bureaucratic style of work which put him in increasing contradiction with Mao Zedong in the early ’60s. At that time, Mao was trying to combat the bureaucratic and elitist tendencies he saw in the Soviet Union, tendencies he connected with the restoration of capitalism in that country.

Liu strongly united with Mao in the anti-revisionist struggle. But as the internal debate over what approach to take to this struggle sharpened, the two leaders came into increasing conflict.

While some argue that the rehabilitation of Liu is a further blow to Mao’s standing, this is only true in the sense that the former chairman was often seen as infallible. What is being rejected is the idea that all those who came into conflict with some of Mao’s ideas or who were even totally wrong should be condemned to political purgatory. Rather their whole lifetime of contributions should be considered.

This appears to be the spirit in which all the derogatory labels have been removed and Liu has been officially restored to the stature of a “great Marxist-Leninist”. His political fall and ensuing death in prison are now being attributed to “the biggest frame-up our party has ever known in its history...” Further reports detailing the investigation of Liu’s case are expected to be published soon.

The gang is accused of being the main source of Liu’s persecution. But the Party itself is also being criticized for its “entirely wrong” and “groundless” appraisal of the situation on the eve of the Cultural Revolution.

This appraisal said that a so-called “bourgeois headquarters” existed in the Party headed by Liu. Since the end of the Cultural

Revolution a campaign has been waged against the view that any and all differences within the party are the product of “revisionist” or “counter-revolutionary” lines.

Finally, another product of the turbulent ’60s was criticized by the meeting. This was a section of the State Constitution which read: “Citizens have the right to speak out freely, air their views fully, hold great debates and write big-character posters.” The Central Committee has proposed that the National People’s Congress delete this statement from Article 45 of the Constitution which would then read as follows: “Citizens enjoy freedom of speech, correspondence, the press, assembly, association, procession, demonstration and the freedom to strike.”

While the Western press is billing this recommended change as an “attack on free speech”, in reality free speech and other democratic freedoms are still very much guaranteed by the law of the land. What is being hit at is the promotion of this particular form of struggle {i.e., the Cultural Revolution), now summed up negatively from the Chinese people’s own experience.

What the actual results of this proposed wording change in the Constitution will be remains to be seen. According to the meeting’s communique, “these practices [great debates, big-character posters, etc.] as a whole never played a positive role in safeguarding the people’s democratic rights, but on the contrary hampered the people in the normal exercise of their democratic rights.” This refers to the right of people to attack others using the now-famous wall posters, without necessarily any evidence. Many people were politically isolated and attacked without any trial or hearing simply on the basis of an anonymous charge.

In summary, the decisions of the Fifth Plenary of the 11th Central Committee have hammered home the verdict that the Cultural Revolution itself was in the main repressive and violated the rights of many Chinese.

While it is too soon to tell how these decisions will be implemented and what effect they will actually have, it is hoped that they will bring the Party into a more unified and stable condition, clearing the docket of past wrongs so as to concentrate on the campaign to modernize socialist China.