Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Revolutionary Communist Party

Teng and Hua Duke It Out

Revisionist Infighting: How Best To Attack Mao?

First Published: Revolutionary Worker, No. 68 (Vol. 2, No 16) August 22, 1980.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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As the RW reported in July (issue No. 62) Hu Yaobang, who is Chinese CP General Secretary and Deng Xiao-ping’s (Teng Hsiao-ping) right hand man, blazed open new paths for the Chinese revisionist rulers by attacking Mao by name. This was the first public statement by the Chinese revisionists (four years after the 1976 coup) in which Mao is so openly blasted. You could almost see Teng pulling Hu’s strings as he declared: “Mao made mistakes especially in his later years. These mistakes brought great misfortune to the Chinese Party and the people.” As for Mao Tsetung Thought, “Some of his writings on socialist construction and economic theories were not so rich in content and some theoretical points are no longer applicable.” What this means in concrete terms as Hu revealed, is that Volume 5 of Mao’s Selected Works–already edited once by the revisionists when it appeared in 1977 will be withdrawn and further revised in the near future. And in a thinly disguised attack on Mao and the tremendous prestige and influence he commanded, Hu said, “China is now developing a system of collective leadership, so that future leaders cannot exercise so much power like the late Chairman Mao.” In a further slander on Mao, Hu said this was to avoid “a hall where one man’s word rules.” Since Hu made these remarks in late June, there has been a virtual torrent of abuse aimed directly at Mao.

July 26–In an interview with a NY Times reporter, Li Xiannian (Li Hsien-nien, old spelling), vice premier and vice chairman of the CCP, “put the blame for the Cultural Revolution on Mao and, by implication, blamed him for having put his radical associates (the so-called “Gang of Four”–RW) in power.”

Early August–In a highly publicized move, authorities take down four large portraits of Mao from Peking’s Great Hall of the People and one from the Museum of Chinese and Party History. This was followed by a Central Committee directive, splashed across the August 12 front page of the official People’s Daily, which reads in part: “In the past, too many of Chairman Mao’s portraits, quotations and poems were displayed at public places. This is politically improper and should be gradually reduced to necessary levels.” And they’re not stopping with Mao either. Portraits of Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Stalin have also been taken down from Tienanmen Square. They couldn’t have thought of a more graphic way to show why attacking Mao means unravelling the whole fabric of Marxism-Leninism.

August 10–Chinese Premier and Chairman of the CCP Hua Guofeng (Hua Kuo-feng), breaking his silence on the subject, tells Yugoslav reporters that “since Mao was the chairman, he must bear responsibility” for the mistakes made during the Cultural Revolution.

The revisionists are also pulling an old trick out of the hat by comparing Mao to a feudal emperor. An August 4th People’s Daily article titled “Feudal Authoritarian System and Dictatorship of Eunuchs” describes how in feudal China eunuchs controlled emperors who were old, sick or plain dumb. Anyone even slightly familiar with how historical analogy is used in Chinese politics can see that the picture they want to give is that of a sick and feeble Mao being manipulated by the Four. This is part of a recent series of articles in the People’s Daily which claim that remnants of feudalism are now the main obstacle in China, and that the term “capitalist restoration” is not an accurate formulation. By implication, capitalism is no longer something to be struggled against, in fact it’s progressive. Of course, this goes straight up against Mao’s analysis that in socialist China, the fundamental contradiction is between the bourgeoisie and proletariat. Again, proving that this attack on Mao is not just on the individual but on Marxism-Leninism as a whole, the article that attacks the concept of capitalist restoration (People’s Daily, July 17) flagrantly distorts, even attacks, Lenin’s thesis that throughout the whole historical period from capitalism to communism exploiters hope to restore their rule and transform this hope into action. The article says that Lenin only meant this to apply to the period right after the October Revolution and that he could not foresee the conditions after the completion of socialist transformation.

Perhaps even more far-reaching is a document now being prepared by the Central Committee–a balance sheet on the Cultural Revolution and Mao’s role. This document promises to clarify point by point exactly what were Mao’s “mistakes”, including his connections with the “Gang of Four.” No doubt, this balance sheet will be overloaded on the red column–and to the revisionists red definitely means minus points.

This recent gearing up of attacks on Mao comes at a time when the revisionists are planning a series of important meetings: a session of the National People’s Congress in late August, the trial of the Four in September, a plenary session of the Central Committee, and finally, the 12th Party Congress slated for next spring. Each of these steps will bring fresh and deeper attacks on Mao, culminating in the 12th Congress which will make a complete and open break with the line of revolutionary China under Mao. On the agenda is a revision of the Party programme and constitution and a reassessment of Party history.

It’s not hard to see the reason behind this flurry of activity. The Chinese rulers are feeling the heat from the increasing world contradictions, and they are stepping up from a jog to a full run to prepare ideologically, politically and economically. In doing this, dealing with the question of Mao is of primary importance.

Splits Appearing

But as the revisionists get more brazen in their attempts to attack Mao, some deep rifts within the ruling clique over tactical questions are surfacing. This was most apparent in Hua’s Aug. 10 interview, published in Peking Review No. 33. Of course, the main thrust of Hua’s windy nonsense was still an attack on Mao. “Mao,” Hua said, “was a human being, not a god, and therefore could hardly avoid making mistakes.” But whereas Hu Yaobang blamed Mao directly for the “mistakes” (“Mao made mistakes, especially in his later years. These mistakes brought misfortune to the Party and the people.”), Hua, on the other hand, lays the blame mainly on the Four (“Mao was very ill in his later years.. .the ’Gang of Four’ used this to carry on conspiratory activities. . .Mao was deceived by the ’Gang of Four’ and in his later years he was not the primary force behind the Cultural Revolution.”). And in a jab at Deng’s old hero, that recently politically revived corpse Liu Shaoqi (Liu Shao-chi), Hua said that “Liu also made mistakes.” That two top officials came out with such opposing views on a cardinal question like Mao reveals the serious nature of the struggle between the opposing forces. In an apparent counterattack from Deng on Hua, the above-mentioned Aug. 12 Central Committee directive also says there should be “less propagating (in the newspapers) of an individual leader’s unimportant activities and speeches.”

From the marked contrast in tone between Hu and Hua’s approaches to attacking Mao, we can get a picture of the struggle among the revisionists, especially around the drafting of the “balance sheet.” Hu, representing Deng, wants to make it very clear that the “Gang of Four” was actually the “Gang of Five” with Mao as the ringleader. Hua would rather imply this, while maintaining the public fairy tale that Mao was too sick and feeble to do anything in his later years, and that the Four “duped” Mao into supporting them. While the forces led by Deng, who was twice overthrown from seats of power by mass struggles initiated by Mao, has everything to gain from stamping out Mao’s legacy as quickly as possible. Hua wants to keep the outer shell of Mao’s legacy as intact as possible: after all his source of power comes from his bogus claim that he is Mao’s chosen successor and true upholder of his Thought.

Overall at this time, Deng’s forces are on the offensive and Hua is being forced to retreat. Hua’s forced retirement from the premier post has been rumored for months and is now almost certain to happen. Although Deng announced that he too, will retire from his post as vice-premier, he will still exercise great power through his understudies Zhao Ziyang, Hua’s replacement as premier, and Hu, in charge of the Party’s day to day affairs. One question here is: since it is really Deng who is pushing for speeding up attacks against Mao, why hasn’t he come out himself? For one thing, he doesn’t have to. Hu is Teng’s star pupil, and it’s clear Hu is voicing Teng’s sentiments in his blast at Mao. But also, being a slick political escape artist, Deng also wants a little cushion in case a reaction from the Hua forces, or from the masses, seems too strong.

Meanwhile Dazhai (Tachai), a commune upheld by Mao as a model of class struggle and made famous by his call “In agriculture learn from Tachai,” is now under renewed attack, one of the charges being that the commune has been falsifying production figures for years. There was already a campaign against Dazhai last year (see RW No. 35). Dragging it through the mud again is not only a further attack on Mao, but is also a dig at Hua. Hua, while tearing the revolutionary heart out of Dazhai’s lessons, promoted the commune as a model even after the coup. Hua is not yet mentioned by name in this campaign, but the heat is coming down on Chen Yong Gui (Chen Yung-guei) who is not so lucky. Chen, a former Dazhai leader and now a Politburo member, is associated with Hua. In an Aug. 13th People’s Daily article, Chen, referred to as the former main responsible person in Xiyang County (where Dazhai is located), is accused of carrying out an ultra-left line and being the cause of 141 unjust deaths.

And in another sneak attack, the New China News Agency, in an early August article about developments in Shanghai, slipped in a remark that the Cultural Revolution lasted from 1966 to 1977 (previously, the Cultural Revolution had been put to an “official end” in 1976, immediately after the coup).

Why 1977? For a year after the coup, Hua built himself up as the “true upholder” of Mao and the Cultural Revolution. It wasn’t until 1977 that Deng was officially rehabilitated and named vice-chairman and vice-premier. Get the connection?

However, Hua is certainly not alone. There are forces within the revisionist circles allied with him, or at least in contradiction to various degrees with Deng. Deng himself has blurted out publicly on several occasions that there are significant forces within the Party who don’t go along with his version of the revisionist program. Hua, with his claim to be a “true upholder” of Mao and Mao Tsetung Thought, represents certain forces in the Right who went through the Cultural Revolution unscathed or even got into higher positions of power by maneuvering and making some self-criticisms (like Hua). But as the Cultural Revolution developed, it became apparent these people had not changed their outlook at all. In fact they went right along with the 1976 coup. These are forces Hua is counting on in a showdown with Deng. Ye Jianying (Yeh Chien-ying), head of the National People’s Congress, is known to be in disagreement with the hastiness of the anti-Mao activities, fearing this might upset “unity and stability.” Even more striking is an unconfirmed report that Xu Shiyou (Hsu Shih-yu), former commander of the Guandong Military Region, is organizing an anti-Deng coalition among the military and issued a call to “Uphold the red banner of Mao Tsetung Thought, tightly unite under the leadership of the Communist Party.”

All in Basic Unity

Of course to all these revisionists, including Xu, Mao Tsetung Thought now means something quite different from its real revolutionary meaning. Now any fool can claim that he upholds Mao Tsetung Thought, as Deng proved when, in his eulogy to Liu, he said that Liu’s ideas “were a component of the scientific system of Mao Tsetung Thought.” It would be dead wrong and downright dangerous to assume that people like Hua, Ye or Xu hold any kernel of revolutionary line because they have contradictions with Deng or hypocritically uphold Mao. These rightists are all in basic unity around opposition to Mao’s revolutionary line and his greatest contribution to revolutionary practice, the Cultural Revolution. Xu, for instance, gave protection to Deng in Canton when he was under attack from Mao, and went right along with the revisionist coup and invasion of Vietnam. Last year, Xu said that he’s not opposed to criticizing Mao but doesn’t want it to be like “what Khrushchev did to Stalin.” When some people suggested earlier this year that Mao’s body should be removed from the mausoleum, Ye is reported to have said he doesn’t object but please do it after he dies.

The essence of the dispute over Mao among these revisionists is not whether or not to uphold him but how best to attack him. Deng and his bunch, who have the upper hand, feel that all-out and open attacks on Mao are required to really push through the revisionists’ programme. Hua, Ye, Xu and some others owe some of their positions to Mao’s prestige but even more than that they feel that Hiding their revisionism behind a mask of Mao is necessary to preserve order and unity–in other words, ultimately, to keep the Chinese masses from overthrowing these revisionists altogether. Hua & Co.’s strategy is a time-worn one, well described by Lenin while writing in The State and Revolution about the capitalists’ treatment of Marx: “During the lifetime of great revolutionaries, the oppressing classes constantly hounded them, received their theories with the most savage malice, the most furious hatred and the most unscrupulous campaigns of lies and slander. After their death, attempts are made to convert them into harmless icons, to canonise them, so to say, and to hallow their names to a certain extent for the ’consolation’ of the oppressed classes and with the object of duping the latter, while at the same time robbing the revolutionary theory of its substance, blunting its revolutionary edge and vulgarising it.”

As Bob Avakian pointed out in 1977: “.. .the Four themselves, before their arrest, made clear (by analogy) in a number of articles that these rightists were not all one solid bloc, but had formed an opportunist alliance in opposition to the continuation of the Chinese revolution.. .there is no doubt opposition among them, based on personal ambition and different notions of how to carry out the revisionist line–after all, while there is only one correct line, there are many different ways to carry out an incorrect line. But these differences among these revisionist leaders are, to borrow from Engels, opposite poles of the same stupidity.” (Revolution & Counter Revolution, p. 79)

Attacks on Zhou Enlai

Exactly because it is an unprincipled alliance between opportunists, there is bound to be backstabbings and double-crossings. An indication of just how far this can go is a report in the July 28 Christian Science Monitor of “widespread” campaign now taking place against none other than Zhou Enlai (Chou En-lai). The fact that the People’s Daily has not carried any major articles on Zhou for quite some time (while articles for Liu abound) tends to support the validity of this report. At first glance, it might seem rather odd that Zhou is under attack by the same revisionists who gushed over “our beloved premier” and claimed to be his successors while scorning Mao In his later years, Zhou was closely associated with Deng and provided cover and respectability for the Right. It’s clear that by the time of Zhou’s death, he was on opposite sides from Mao. A certain Chinese official remarked to a group of American China scholars who went to China recently, “it was shocking to us that Mao never once visited Zhou Enlai while the premier was sick and dying or wrote a message when Zhou died or even went to Zhou’s funeral, though he was fit enough to receive Nixon’s daughter at that time.” (NY Times) But the trouble with Zhou is that Mao, after a fierce struggle, did manage to win Zhou over to go along with the Cultural Revolution to a certain extent against the bloc headed by Liu. Now that Liu has become the revisionists’ new Confucius and the Cultural Revolution is reviled as “ten years of disaster,” it’s no wonder Zhou’s role is being questioned.

What makes this question of Zhou one of great importance, besides giving an idea of the depth of the anti-Mao campaign, is what this might reveal about China’s attitude toward the Soviet Union. Zhou, although sharing much of the same rightist outlook of the Soviet-style revisionists like Liu (a.k.a. China’s Khrushchev), always leaned toward the West. For example, just prior to nationwide communist victory in 1949, Zhou, acting on his own, sent a secret cable to the U.S. asking for aid. Can the criticism of Zhou indicate another move providing a basis for reconciliation with the Russians? This development is possibly of great significance and bears watching.

The revisionists, whether of the Hua or the Deng variety, all share a deep hatred of Mao’s line and utter fear that this line will become a material force among the masses of people and blow them away from their thrones of power. With the quickening pace of world events leading toward world war, they have no choice but to speed up their attacks on Mao and get on with their revisionist program. But the risks involved in doing this means that the contradictions within their camp are bound to sharpen up–and infighting, double dealing, backstabbing–and self-exposure–will be the order of the day.