Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Workers Congress (Marxist-Leninist)

Deng Xiaoping Cleared of False Charges

First Published: The Communist, Vol. V, No. 7, February 19, 1979.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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During Deng Xiaoping’s recent visit to the US he was entertained by a children’s choir which sang for him in Chinese a song called “We Love Tien An Men Square”. The song had a special significance because of controversy over the incident in that public square in Peking in April 1976 and also over Deng’s role in that incident. In fact, the controversy around Deng goes even beyond that one incident.

The bourgeois media have consistently portrayed him as a “pragmatist” who is opposed to the revolutionary line of Mao Zedong. They do so to try and convince the US people that Deng and China have departed from the revolutionary road, away from leadership of the worldwide proletarian revolution. They would like to believe that themselves.

The same view is held by different forces in our movement, many of whom are honest but confused and some of whom are really on the road to revisionism, like the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP). Within China itself, in late 1975 and 1976, the Gang of Four led an unjust attack on Deng, who was a leading member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CCP). To divert attention from their own counter-revolutionary activity, they stirred up a lot of noise, calling Deng a “revisionist” and a “capitalist roader” (party members in power who seek to restore capitalism in China).

The fact is that Deng had made serious errors of right opportunism in the past, and because of those errors he was dismissed from his posts in the party from 1966 to 1973. It is also a fact that Deng made a self-criticism of his errors in 1966, and after several years of work among the masses, was restored as a member of the Central Committee in 1973 at Mao’s recommendation. Today, as a veteran cadre of every stage of the Chinese Revolution since he joined the party in 1925, Deng is again playing an important role in both the domestic and foreign policy of the People’s Republic of China. As with any leader, his practice in the continuing class struggle in China will be the ongoing test of Deng’s grasp of and commitment to Marxism-Leninism and the revolutionary line of Mao Zedong.


The historical roots of the Tien An Men incident go back to the 1950’s and the basic question of what line would guide socialist construction in China. In the late 1950’s Mao put forward a fundamental line in several documents, the most important of which was “On the Ten Major Relationships”. But powerful right opportunist forces within the party itself threatened to turn China onto the road towards the restoration of capitalism. With Mao’s guidance, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) mobilized the masses to defeat the right revisionist line.

As the Cultural Revolution went on, the Gang of Four became part of a counter-revolutionary force which often used a “left” line to cover for practice that was essentially revisionist also. For example, they used revolutionary-sounding logic to justify interference with production and the stifling of democracy within the party and among the masses of people.

In the course of the struggle against the right opportunist forces the Gang of Four rose to influential positions on the Central Committee of the CCP. After the Tenth Party Congress in 1973, they became more bold in their attempts to seize power in the party and the state.

Meanwhile Deng had been restored to the Central Committee in 1973 and in 1974 he presented Mao’s Theory of the Three Worlds in a major speech at the United Nations. In early 1975 Zhou En-lai announced the goal of China’s modernization in agriculture, industry, science and technology and defense by the year 2000. At that same time Zhou became seriously ill and Deng assumed responsibilities for the day-to-day work of the Central Committee. The Gang of Four’s attacks became directed at Zhou, Deng and other leading members of the Central Committee who were carrying out Mao’s revolutionary line.

Zhou En-lai died in January, 1976. He was a revolutionary hero to the Chinese people, a leader of the CCP from its earliest days and a respected representative of China around the world. Because they viewed Zhou as a “capitalist roader” the Gang of Four used their influence to forbid any sign of mourning or memorials by the Chinese people themselves. But almost two million people gathered at Tien An Men Square with wreaths, poems and militant action in early April 1976 to honor Zhou and denounce the Gang of Four. The forces around the Gang of Four responded with arrests, beatings and trumped-up charges.

After this incident, the Gang of Four fabricated a report to the Central Committee. This was the “Counter-Revolutionary Political Incident at Tien An Men Square” printed in Beijing Review No. 15, 1976. This report claimed that Deng was behind what they described as an attack on the Central Committee itself. They used this report to get Deng removed from his posts in the party and to fuel a big public campaign to criticize him.

Under the leadership of Hua Guofeng, the Gang of Four were arrested in October, 1976 just as they were about to attempt a coup d’etat. Following their arrest the Central Committee began a broad movement to expose and rectify the many errors made under the influence of the political line of the Gang of Four.

In July 1977, the Central Committee formally cleared Deng of any connection with the Tien An Men incident, and restored him again to his posts on the Central Committee. In their view, Deng had been attacked unfairly as part of the Gang of Four’s plot to seize power in the party and the state. Hua declared that, “all of the Gang’s untrue statements made about Deng should be retracted.”

In that spirit we want to clear up what the Workers Congress said about Tien An Men in 1976. At that time we reprinted the Beijing Review article “Counter-Revolutionary Incident at Tien An Men Square” in THE COMMUNIST (V.2 #8, May 1976). Our purpose, which we stated then, was to clear up the distortions being made by the media here in the U.S. Now the Chinese have shown us the distortions in the article itself. We retract our support of that reprint, and in this issue of THE COMMUNIST we are reprinting a recent article from Beijing Review #47, 1978, which describes the true character of that incident. A fuller account of the Tien An Men incident appears in Beijing Review #48.


One lesson that we can all learn from this struggle is that the party of the proletariat must always fight against both right and “left” errors. As Mao summed up in an earlier period, “Broadly speaking, in the last seventeen years our Party has learned to use the Marxist-Leninist weapon of ideological struggle against incorrect ideas within the Party on two fronts – against right opportunism and against “left” opportunism.” (MSW, V.2, p.205)

Both kinds of errors result from being one-sided and they both undermine the accuracy of Marxism-Leninism in practice. At any point in time there will be one tendency, right or “left”, which is more dangerous than the other and thereby becomes our main target. Which of the two is the main target or main danger is determined by the concrete conditions facing a revolutionary movement. But overall, it is the Marxist-Leninist method to guard against both right and “left” tendencies for both steer us off the revolutionary road.


The Chinese recently began using the Chinese phonetic alphabet in the English translation of Chinese names and places. These changes will appear from now on in the pages of THE COMMUNIST. For example, it is now “Beijing Review” not Peking Review, “Mao Zedong” not Mao Tsetung, “Zhou Enlai” not Chou En-lai, “Hua Goufeng” not Hua Kuo-feng. The Vice-premier who has been visiting the United States now spells his name in English “Deng Xiaoping” not Teng Hsaio-ping.