Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Revolutionary Workers’ Headquarters

Red Papers 8: China Advances on the Socialist Road: The Gang of Four, Revolution in the US, and the Split in the Revolutionary Communist Party

Chou En-lai Was a Revolutionary Communist

The role of Chou En-lai is a central one in the arguments put forward by the current CC. In order to try and bestow the revolutionary mantle of Mao on the counter-revolutionary Gang, they have to bend every effort to attack and discredit the reputation of Chou.

More than 5 full pages of the mimeographed original were devoted to this underhanded effort. The treatment of Chou En-lai is one of the most glaring examples of the a priori and subjective method of the entire paper, and far from discrediting Chou, fully discredits the author.

The paper never ceases to whine about reversing verdicts. In the section on Chou En-lai, we are presented with a revisionist reversal of the correct verdict and line of the RCP, and a total abandonment of Marxism-Leninism, Mao Tsetung Thought.

The old CC of the RCP responded to the death of Chou with a sum up of his life and role in the Chinese Revolution. Our Party said then, in January of 1976, that all communists should learn from Chou En-lai:

To be a revolutionary Communist all of one’s life. To maintain one’s bearings in the face of difficulties and set-backs. To aim high and persevere in step-by-step struggle and according to changing conditions. To be firm in principle and good at uniting with others. To stand, ever, with the surging masses; to learn and to lead. To be conscientious in preparation and bold in execution. To uphold the Red Flag against all enemies within and without.”[1] But this correct summation of Chou does not fit in with the purposes of the current CC. In fact, it stands as a real roadblock that they must attempt to deal with.

There is no way they can continue to put forward this correct stand. The Gang of Four had made Chou En-lai the main target of their attack at least from early 1974, because he was–after Mao–the main obstacle to their seizing dominant positions in the Communist Party. To uphold the Gang, it is necessary to uphold their conclusion that Chou En-lai was a revisionist and a capitalist roader. More, to uphold the Gang as a “Gang of Five,” including Mao, it is necessary to show that Mao and Chou were on “opposite sides” and that Mao too thought that Chou was a revisionist and a capitalist roader.

In response to this [the task of cleaning up the Lin Piao mess–ed.] Mao and Chou En-lai had significant differences, though like all contradictions these differences went through a process of development, which ended up with Mao and Chou in fundamental opposition to each other.(see page 130)

What pseudo-Marxism! All contradictions develop. But all contradictions do not develop with people winding up on opposite sides. Mao and Chou worked together for some 45 years, and what differences they may have had did not “develop” in the straight line way that the CC paper offers. This view of how line struggle takes place runs through the entire paper, and runs through the entire way that the current CC conducted the China struggle within the RCP.

What happened to Mao and Chou to put them on “opposite sides?” All the bulletin can do is repeat the point, each time with more emphasis. “It seems very clear to me that by the time of Chou’s death, Mao and Chou had come into clear and sharp conflict.” ... “But beyond that, it is obvious that Mao and Chou were on opposite sides for some time before Chou’s death, if we stop and think about how things developed over that period.” ... “Everything points to the obvious fact that Mao and Chou En-lai were basically not in unity but on opposite sides for several years and increasingly so in the period right before Chou’s death.” (see page 132) All this on one mimeographed page and they emphasize the “obvious” lest we try to really look at the situation. And finally, on page 35, we are told when Chou En-lai went bad. ”Chou En-lai in particular did go along with the Cultural Revolution after Mao struggled with him at the start, and during the early stages of it–up to the time of the Lin Piao affair–he played a good and important role, overall. But after the Lin Piao affair, Chou’s role turned into its opposite.”

The paper lays out its view not only of the issues around which there were differences between Mao and Chou, but also decides where each stands. But what we are really given is a re-writing of history to give Mao the Gang’s line.

In substance, Chou felt the only thing to do was bring back many people who had been knocked down during the Cultural Revolution and were bound to be strong opponents of Lin Piao, while Mao, agreeing probably to bring back some, did not want to go as far with this as Chou did.

And besides bringing back people, Chou wanted to push policies that would reverse the momentum of the Cultural Revolution and the continuation of the revolution. In substance, he wanted to put stability and unity and pushing the national economy forward as the main things. And Mao?

With some of this, I believe, Mao agreed, because he agreed it was necessary in the short run. But not all of it, even in the short run, let alone in the long run...In short, Mao did not agree that everything should be subordinated to stability and unity and pushing the national economy forward–and specifically not that correct verdicts of the Cultural Revolution should basically be reversed. (see page 130)

And furthermore, “Chou thought that Teng was basically good but had made some mistakes; Mao, I am convinced, did not trust Teng and recognized that upon returning to office, Teng was likely to resume his old ways.” And this right after we have been [told that “I believe that Mao and Chou agreed that it was necessary to bring back Teng at this time–his return began in 1972 very shortly after Lin Piao crashed.” (see p.130)

This is not a comparison between the line of Chou and the line of Mao. It is nothing but a single assumption, that Mao was closer and closer to the Gang as time went on, stated and restated with “I believe” and “probably,” to substitute for concrete analysis. And the assumption is not true.

Did Chou En-lai and Mao have differences over these points, key questions of how to build and develop socialism, including how to push the economy forward, on what basis to stabilize and unite, cadre policy and the direction of political campaigns? It is inconceivable that they did not, and probably even sharp ones. But not one shred of evidence is offered to support the characterizations offered by the CC of what these differences were, and none at all to support a conclusion that they wound up on “opposite sides.” This is only the wishful thinking of the current CC, aping the futile 4 year struggle of the Gang to set Mao against Chou and knock down Chou.

But even more underhanded is the attempt to imply that Mao and the Gang were in fundamental unity. On the very points mentioned, it was with the Gang that Mao had very sharp differences. On the necessity of stability and unity and pushing the national economy forward, it was the Gang who in fact stood in the way of these correct thrusts by metaphysically opposing them to “revolution” and “class struggle.” Mao said “stability and, unity don’t mean writing off class struggle,” not that stability and unity can wait until we finish the class struggle. The policy of liberating cadre knocked down in the Cultural Revolution was Mao’s policy, which did not begin with the question of the Lin Piao affair, though that speeded up the process through the new necessity. This policy was a concrete application of Mao’s view of how contradictions are resolved. And now we are even being told that the foreign policy of Mao and Chou over the past period was not really Mao’s. A crack for worms to crawl in, so that soon they can attack the Chinese foreign policy and say that they are not attacking Mao. A springboard from which to leap headlong into the Trotskyite chorus of those who bewail China’s foreign policy as “nationalist” and “reactionary.” They can say what they like, but the truth is the opposite.

The paper of the CC advises us that the correct method to judge these questions is to compare and contrast the different lines. Even if they will not allow this to take place in the RCP over the question of China, it must be done.

How Chou’s Correct Line “Proves” He Was A Revisionist

Where are the incorrect lines from Chou En-lai that we are supposed to compare with the lines of Mao or the Gang? Where is the statement from Chou that shows he is violating Mao Tsetung Thought, that he is standing against the Cultural Revolution? Where is Chou’s revisionism?

There is none. Not one quote, or even a fragment. Not even a statement taken out of context like we find through the rest of the paper. But the current CC does not pause even for a moment after failing to find any bad lines from Chou. No, they plunge ahead to explain away all the good things he said.

The paper quotes Chou often, especially his reports to the 10th Party Congress and the 4th National People’s Congress. But both of these reports put out the correct line on the situation in China and the tasks coming out of this situation. Both represent Marxism, and both are Mao’s line. The only explanation we are offered is that Chou was secretly against them and that Mao made him say all these good things. Here Avakian is trying to have his cake and eat it too. If you grant that Mao was in a position to lay down the exact wording of the speeches Chou delivered on, say, the Criticize Lin Piao and Confucius Campaign, the implication is clear that he approved the general thrust of both the speeches –the one at the 10th Party Congress which signalled China’s transition into a new period and the one at the 4th National People’s Congress which laid out in detail some of the key tasks of that period. Furthermore, there is no reason to postulate Chou delivering speeches he didn’t go along with himself. The facts are clear. Chou agreed with the line of the 10th Party Congress and the 4th NPC and worked to implement it. It was the Gang of Four who consistently opposed this line.

Raising the spectre of Lin Piao is a vain attempt to cloud the issue through innuendo and bourgeois analogy. The CC says ”look at Lin Piao’s report to the 9th Congress, and now we can look back and see with whom and what Chou was increasingly aligned after Lin fell.” (see page 130)

Lin Piao was forced to change the revisionist draft he and Chen Po-ta cooked up to deliver as the main report to the 9th Party Congress. Even in the generally correct report he was compelled to give, he smuggled in as much of his garbage as he could get away with–like the “genius” theory and slighting the need to study Marxist-Leninist theoretical works. These rotten lines and others Lin pushed “have been thoroughly exposed and criticized by the Chinese people.

Chou’s reports to the Party and People’s Congresses have no such garbage smuggled in. The report to the 10th Party Congress is a Marxist work, whose basic thrust has been confirmed by the events following it and by Mao’s issuing of the 3 (yes, 3) directives in response to the situation coming out of it and in preparation for the 4th NPC of January 1975. His line was correct, it was Mao’s line, and the gang were the ones who diverted from it. It will not be long before the current CC finds itself forced to repudiate the reports to both the 10th Party Congress and the 4th National People’s Congress.

The paper tells us to check out how Mao forced Chou to put going against the tide into his report. If this is true, then Mao forced Chou to deal a heavy blow against the metaphysics of the gang and the current CC. What did Chou (and Mao, if you will, “for who else would both want to and have the ability to get this into the 10th Party Congress document?”–what a subjective view of line struggle again) really have to say about going against the tide?

Chairman Mao has constantly taught us: It is imperative to note that one tendency covers another. The opposition to Chen Tu-hsiu’s Right opportunism which advocated ’all alliance, no struggle’ covered Wang Ming’s ’left’ opportunism which advocated ’all struggle, no alliance.’ The rectification of Wang Ming’s ’Left’ deviation covered Wang Ming’s Right deviation. The struggle against Liu Shao-chi’s revisionism covered Lin Piao’s revisionism. There were many instances in the past where one tendency covered another and when a tide came, the majority went along with it, while only a few withstood it. Today, in both international and domestic struggles, tendencies may still occur similar to those of the past, namely, when there was an alliance with the bourgeoisie, necessary struggles were forgotten and when there was a split with the bourgeoisie, the possibility of an alliance under given conditions was forgotten. It is required of us to do our best to discern and rectify such tendencies in time. And when a wrong tendency surges towards us like a rising tide, we must not fear isolation and must dare to go against the tide and brave it through. Chairman Mao states ’Going against the tide is a Marxist-Leninist principle.’ In daring to go against the tide and adhere to the correct line in the ten struggles between the two lines within the Party, Chairman Mao is our example and teacher. Every one of our comrades should learn well from Chairman Mao and hold to this principle.[2]

This was said in the 10th Congress Report. It is not just a point of Marxism in general, but directly related to the situation in China then, a thrust that is missing in the CC bulletin. The bulletin reduces this to a simplistic tactic, saying “It is clear that the tide that was gaining momentum then was that represented by people like Teng Hsiao-ping–and ultimately Chou En-lai– who were bound to gain from the whole campaign to clean up right after the Lin Piao affair (Criticize Lin Piao and Rectify The Style of Work.)” And later we are told that Mao warned against “the right, the right, the right.” (see page 131) How easy it all is to the current CC idealists!

The truth is far more complex and very different. The 10th Congress began to lay out the task of pushing the economy forward, and strengthening the Party. The stress on economic development and unity grew, not against Mao’s line, but as Mao’s line. And the struggle to deepen the ideological and political defeat of the Lin Piao headquarters and its effect on the masses was continuing. Both these factors–the new tasks and the fact that many of Lin Piao’s crimes had been “left” in form and even tarnished the Cultural Revolution to some extent–meant that it was necessary to watch for right errors and bourgeois rightists arising. Yet the campaigns of political and ideological education the Party launched– to criticize Lin Piao and Confucius, aimed at feudalism, capitalism and revisionism; and to study the theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat–should have been a most powerful force against such tendencies. But the Gang’s distortions of these campaigns which ostensibly directed them at “rightism” actually provided cover for their ultra-“left” tendency. The strategic guidance given by Chou at the 10th Congress leading up to the smashing of the Gang, “to discern and rectify such tendencies in time,” was both correct and prophetic, much to the dismay of the Gang and their supporters who tried to sneak into power behind “opposing” the right.

Further Into the Realm Of Fantasy

All of the quotations from Chou do not discredit him, but do in fact deal blows to the Gang. So the paper has to come up with another method to smear Chou. The Chou section stands out as a model of subjectivity in a subjective paper.

“I believe.” ... “Mao, probably agreeing.” “With some of this, I believe, Mao agreed.” ... “But not all of it.” ... “Here, I believe, are the seeds.” ... “I believe.” ... “I am convinced.” ... “It is obvious.” ... “It seems very clear to me.” ... “I believe it is indisputably clear.” “This is probably true and the reason I think so is.” ... “Clearly in my opinion.” ... “But I don’t think so.”

All of this in the space of just the Chou pages. Phrases like this are the heart and soul of the entire Chou argument. It is obvious and clear that the CC “believes” all this trash. This shows something of what the struggle is all about. Unlike them, communists demand proof.

To bolster this profession of faith, Avakian retreats again to bourgeois logic. Mao and Chou couldn’t have been in basic agreement, he argues, because then the Gang would have fallen earlier and the struggle would have been very different. This reduces class struggle to simple power politics at the very top. Nowhere is there a serious discussion of class forces and the conditions, including the mood and understanding of the masses, that shape the necessity and freedom of the proletariat. Nowhere is there an analysis of the actual contradictions that different class forces were lining up around.

A brief look at the Cultural Revolution or the struggle in China at any period shows that things never develop or go down in this simplistic and easy a manner,, precisely because many contradictions are at work and conditions have to be created, within the Party and among the masses, for ideological and political and organizational struggle. In fact this simplistic and idealist notion of the class struggle and the two line struggle has led the current CC to seek a scapegoat within the Party rather than engaging in the far more difficult and principled task of answering the actual questions and contradictions we confront. And so they tried to deal with the question of China, all questions within the US and the supposed “revisionist headquarters” in one organizational coup. This is the opposite of Mao’s line, methods of struggle and outlook, which enabled the Chinese Party to successfully wage 11 major line struggles without degenerating into either revisionism or Trotskyism.

Once more rewriting history is used to say that the campaign against Lin Piao and Confucius was led by Mao and aimed at Chou. The truth is quite otherwise. From the beginning the Gang distorted the Lin Piao/Confucius campaign to try and aim it at Chou and the veteran cadres and at the masses. They did this through innuendo, and they did this through adding such contradictions among the people as “going through the back door” to the struggle against class enemies Lin Piao and Confucius. The Gang may have wanted to aim at Chou, but what they did was aim at Mao and the CCP. Mao told them to stop it, to stop weakening the campaign. The Gang separated the conduct of the Lin Piao/Confucius campaign from the tasks of the 10th Party Congress. This was another attack on Mao and the Party. Far from supporting them, Mao replied “Metaphysics is rampant” and directed the Gang to criticize themselves before the Party Center. The current CC says that the Gang’s line was Mao’s line. Mao and the Chinese Party said it was not.

Much has been made of the nature of Chou En-lai’s funeral services. They took place in the context of sharp struggle over the question of succession, over who would take over the post of Premier of the State Council and inherit at least much of the mantle of Chou. The question of blocking the rightist forces from using the death of Chou En-lai to advance their position was a real one confronting Mao, and must be taken into account in evaluating the form of the services.

Other facts are known and must be considered. Mao did in fact visit Chou in the hospital before his death, not once but several times, even to the point of spending entire days and nights by the bedside of his old comrade. This even though Mao himself was quite sick and weak at the time. The current CC might want to believe that he went there to struggle with Chou to “get up off his line,” but this only shows how far from human reality they have traveled.

The funeral services at the center were not the only ones in China. The entire Chinese people mourned Chou as a revolutionary leader and hero. This was an obvious fact. This was not because the Chinese are backward and Confucian and anti-Mao, but just the opposite. The outpouring of grief at the death of Chou was a reflection of the masses’ commitment and determination to continue on the road to socialism.

This situation forced the Gang to get even further out there with their line. Yao Wen-yuan forbade publication of all but a handful of articles on Chou’s life and the mourning for him. On January 14, 1976, the day memorial activities came to a climax, the front page of People’s Daily did not even mention Chou and featured a banner headline “Big Changes Brought About by Big Debate in Tsinghua University.” Setting the commemoration of Chou in opposition to the line struggle on the education front could only serve to anger and split the masses and weaken the Party.

For its part, the right tried to use the masses’ feelings for Chou and hatred for the Gang to divert criticism from themselves. The Gang’s response to this was to step up the attacks on Chou and by implication the masses who mourned him. They set themselves above the masses as saviors protecting China from the right.

Going against the sentiments, the knowledge and in fact the interests of the masses, the Gang of Four found that the anti-right deviationist wind campaign, which they were counting on to help clear their way to power, was going nowhere among the masses. So they heated things up with more active sabotage in the form of pseudo-revolutionary phrase-mongering and increasingly open attacks on Chou.

Right before the April day of mourning, the Gang openly attacked Chou in the Shanghai press for several days running, prompting the masses in Shanghai to poster an entire Peking-bound train in protest.[3] The Gang was helping set the conditions for serious disturbances on the day of mourning.

The situation reached a critical point with the Tien An Men incident. This saw a tremendous outpouring of anti-Gang and pro-Chou sentiment. Anti-socialist reactionaries of various stripes stepped into this volatile situation. Some hid within the crowd and tried to make the demonstration an attack on Mao Tsetung and Mao Tsetung Thought. The Gang sent its supporters to the square to denounce Chou and attack the masses assembled there. This provocation helped trigger further unrest and violence.

Taking advantage of the shock of Chinese Party members and working people at this outbreak of fighting in the capital city, the Gang and the media they controlled went all out to portray it as an entirely counterrevolutionary incident and a virtual coup attempt. Once again the point that mourning Chou En-lai was a backward action by the masses came through clearly. Far from leading this struggle against the right, as the current CC would have us believe, the Gang was an obstacle, a real fetter on the Party and the masses.

The Gang tried to paint Chou as a revisionist before and after his death to show the masses that they were the only real followers of Mao. Instead, they showed the masses that they were against Mao and the Party. Now, two years later, the current CC does the same, setting themselves against the line of Mao, the CCP, and the Chinese people.

More “Genius” Theory and More Slanders

The portrait of line struggle that comes out clearly in the Chou section of the bulletin is idealist and recreates the genius theory that Lin Piao failed to put over. Chou and all other Chinese leaders are painted as reluctant revolutionaries who sooner or later go bad unless Mao personally stops them.

”Chou En-lai in particular did go along with the Cultural Revolution after Mao struggled with him at the start.” Chou “wavered” on the Great Leap. Mao tried to get Chou to “get up off his line.”

Mao is portrayed not as a Marxist-Leninist but as someone who has it all together, and constantly has to get all the other waverers to line up behind him. The paragraph in parentheses on page 145 where Avakian finally tells us all about the hard times of being a Chairman is a masterpiece of a distorted ego and a subjective idealist line.

Condescending saviors and geniuses do not make revolution. The current CC has thrown away analysis of class forces, thrown away the concepts of advanced, intermediate and backward. They have abandoned the method of dialectics with its interpenetration and relations between things. The paper has not one word on how the line develops in constant struggle, on mass line within the Party and among the masses, on the movement from confusion to clarity and from one-sidedness to all-sidedness. All this is missing. You get the impression that they think Mao didn’t need it, so why should they. That is how they interpret Mao’s statement that often he was in a minority, even a minority of one. This is a rank attack on Mao and Mao Tsetung Thought, and represents a consolidation of opportunism in our Party.

What are the facts? The paper distorts the role of Chou in the Cultural Revolution to further this view of line struggle. In fact, Chou first played a leading role in the Cultural Revolution just 20 days after the publication of Yao Wen-yuan’s “signal” article. He got it published in Peking, Peng Chen’s ”watertight kingdom” within the Party and a key base for Liu Shao-chi. And this was before the Cultural Revolution had even become one. The same distortion of lines and role extends to Hua Kuo-feng, who did not disappear late in 1966 as the bulletin suggests, but in fact played a leading role in his province in consolidating the Cultural Revolution against attacks from the Right and ultra “left.” His reports on the struggle there were circulated by the Central Committee throughout the country.

Or watch how they try to make Yeh Chien-ying into an enemy of the Cultural Revolution. A line from a speech of his in Peking Review 43 of 1977 is quoted: “’The third comparatively major setback (in the Party’s history) took place immediately after we had settled accounts with Liu Shao-chi’s revisionist line.’” (Avakian’s emphasis and parenthetical note.) This is then interpreted as an attack on continuing the Cultural Revolution after Liu’s fall: “At the very most Yeh is saying that by 1968 the Cultural Revolution had turned from a good thing into a bad thing.” (see page 134) Now let’s look at Yeh’s quote with the following sentences: “The third comparatively major setback took place immediately after settling accounts with Liu Shao-chi’s revisionist line. Our Party suffered from sabotage by a bunch of anti-Marxist swindlers– Lin Piao and the ’Gang of Four.’ This resulted in the greatest damage and the most harmful influence in the history of our Party. Wielding that portion of power they had usurped, they wantonly tampered with Marxism, sabotaged the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and deceived many of our comrades.”[4] This is not hatred for the Cultural Revolution after it knocked down Liu Shao-chi, but saying what is true, that it did not end there and in fact other counter-revolutionary headquarters developed, caused damage and had to be dealt with.

All of these facts are and were readily available to the CC. They were presented to them but they are ignored. Why? There is only one explanation. The facts don’t fit the conclusion, so the facts have to go. This is not the Marxist method, and it should not be the method of the RCP.

Uphold the Correct Verdict on Chou En-lai

Comrade Chou En-lai died on January 8, 1976. The current CC says that it was obvious by that time that he was not a revolutionary but a revisionist. They say it is obvious that the Lin Piao-Confucius campaign had been directed at Chou. They say it is obvious that tendencies toward rightism were supported by Chou and riding high. They say it is obvious that Chou was heading one camp and Mao was heading another. None of these charges are new. The bourgeois press was filled with them all through 1974 and 1975. They saw China as a shaky alliance between the “moderates” and the “radicals.” It was all obvious to veteran China watchers stationed in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

But the RCP did not stoop to follow the bourgeoisie in January of 1976. We made an analysis of the situation in China, and we made it on the basis of Marxism-Leninism, Mao Tse-tung Thought. On that basis we put forward the truth and organized meetings of workers around the country to do so and draw out lessons about socialism and revolution.

The RCP said then about Chou En-lai, in the January 15, 1976 issue of Revolution; “Yet today, even as they are forced to make reference to Chou, they try to present him as a ’moderate,’ or a ’pragmatist’ as if his accomplishments were due to the fact that he was not really a communist when, in fact, the opposite is the truth.” Who is the “they” that distorted the life of Chou? It was the bourgeoisie, then and now. The article goes on to say:

”What the bourgeoisie slanders as ’pragmatism’ is precisely the step by step application of Marxism-Leninism to advancing the cause of the working class in China and throughout the world. For Chou and all communists, ’Marxism is not a dogma, but a guide to action,’ a tool in the hands of the oppressed to make revolution and build a new world.” This verdict on Chou En-lai and on Marxism-Leninism is correct. It must be upheld. The CC report must be overthrown.


[1] “Chou En-lai 1898-1976,” statement by the Central Committee, Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, Revolution, vol.1, no.4, January 15, 1976, p.3

[2] Chou En-lai, “Report to the Tenth National Congress of the Communist Party of China, The Tenth National Congress of the Communist Party of China (Documents), Foreign Lanuages Press, Peking, 1973, p.18

[3] Chi Hsin, The Case of the Gang of Four, Cosmos Books, Hong Kong, 1977, p.31

[4] “Vice-Chairman Yeh’s Speech” (at the inauguration of the Central Party School, Peking Review, vol.20, no.43, October 21, 1977, p.12