Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Workers Congress (Marxist-Leninist)

Deification of Mao Exposed

First Published: The Communist, Vol. V, No. 7, February 19, 1979.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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As the movement to expose and criticize the Gang of Four has deepened over the last two years there has predictably been increasing distortions in the bourgeois press in this country about what this struggle is all about.

If we are to believe the accounts in the press the exposure of the Gang of Four is actually an attack on the dictatorship of the Proletariat and a turn toward revisionism by the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC).

A particular aspect of this confusion being spread by the bourgeoisie about the actual events and struggle unfolding in the People’s Republic is the insinuation that Chairman Mao Zedong is himself under attack.

According to the bourgeois press the initial shot in this attack on Mao was the “unprecedented criticism” launched against the Little Red Book of Mao Zedong quotations. One major newspaper account called “the attack” a “... further move by China’s new leadership to bring Mao down to human size and relieve China from the ideological bonds of the past historical decade.”

Quoting the Peking People’s Daily that “ ... the Chinese revolution created a large group of authoritative and experienced leaders, of whom, Mao was the most outstanding”, the article implies that the CPC under the leadership of Hua Guofeng no longer considers Mao Zedong Thought a further development of scientific socialism.

So what is the truth behind this so-called attack on Mao and the effort “to bring him down to human size”? The facts lie in the history of the cultural revolution – its strengths and weaknesses.

The Cultural Revolution was a glorious struggle launched by Chairman Mao himself in the mid 1960’s. At that time the Party was under the influence of powerful right opportunist and revisionist forces which threatened to take the party and the country down the road of capitalist restoration. The Cultural Revolution was a great campaign that relied on the masses of Chinese people to expose and criticize those leading China down the capitalist road.

The main such revisionist in the party was Liu Shao-chi. But he was not the only one. In fact, history was to show that Lin Biao and the Gang of Four were to also become dangerous enemies of the Chinese evolution. At the time that the cultural revolution began, however, they were in a much weaker position than Liu Shao-chi. As they saw this great mass movement grow, as well as the masses’ ability to expose right opportunism, they knew that they would never get their way by openly putting forward a right opportunist line. As a method of gaining the power and influence they needed to pursue their right opportunist line they joined the opposition to Liu Shao-Chi.

Within the forces of the Cultural Revolution, Lin Biao and the Gang of Four immediately began to take up the pose as the “most revolutionary” of the revolutionaries as a way of hiding their counter-revolutionary conspiracy. Using this “most leftist” pose they were able to take advantage of the spreading flames of the cultural revolution and Mao’s prestige to sneak into powerful positions in the party and state.

They immediately began to create confusion and obstruct the tasks of the cultural revolution by using their domination of the mass media to convert revolutionary slogans into deceptive “leftist” slogans. In other words their basic tactic for pursuing their right opportunist line was to use the red flag to defeat the red flag. For example, they characterized the Cultural Revolution as basically having no shortcomings. Lin Biao once stated it this way, “The achievements of the cultural revolution are the greatest, greatest, greatest. The losses are the smallest, smallest, smallest.”

It is totally unrealistic to believe that such a great unprecedented mass movement would be without any serious errors. Mao himself evaluated it as 70% achievements and 30% errors and he made it clear that while all achievements should be affirmed, all errors had to be pointed out.

Thus what the “most revolutionary” pose by Lin Biao and the Gang of Four meant in practice was justifying and promoting the errors made in the Cultural Revolution. In this way they were using the negative effects to undermine the generally positive character of the mass movement; they used the Cultural Revolution to attack the Cultural Revolution.

There were numerous ways that Lin Biao and the Gang of Four used their ultra “leftism” to undermine the Cultural Revolution. One of these was the deification and promotion of a “personality cult” around Mao Zedong.

The Red Book is one of the most clear examples of this. In 1966 a religious fervor developed around the Little Red Book (selected quotations from Mao’s writings and speeches) which was edited by Lin Biao. In some places as people struggled to overcome old ideas, old culture, old customs, and old habits as they joined the great proletarian cultural revolution, they would take down images of Buddha and replace them with portraits of Mao and put the precious Red Book beside it as part of the movement against the “four olds”. This was replacement of one superstition with a new one. And it was instigated by Lin Biao saying “Read Chairman Mao’s works 99% of the time.” The Gang of Four publicized that “.. whatever Chairman Mao says – every sentence is the truth; one sentence equals ten thousand.”

Cadres in China now tell how during the cultural revolution before eating they had to read some work of Chairman Mao. If it happened to be cold weather, their food would get cold by the time they finished reading. While the Chinese people really loved Chairman Mao, respected him, and listened to him we can see how his deification could only undermine this love and respect under the cover of promoting him.

The attempt by Lin Biao and the Gang of Four to establish a Mao cult was reflected in education, culture and art. For example, a common feature of posters out of that period was to show a group of people with one person who is obviously a cadre standing apart from the rest, often holding a red flag or Red Book. The image of the cadre is often mystical, the hero without flaws, while the masses are passive and worshipful. What greater ideological distortion of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, one of the greatest mass movements of our time, could there be?

Mao himself had no illusions about his infallibility and was disgusted with Lin Biao’s “personality cult”. Years earlier he had said,

last year, I discussed my shortcomings and mistakes I asked the comrades to convey what I said to the provinces and localities.

I found out later that many localities were not informed. It’s as if my mistakes could or should be kept hidden. (Talk at an Enlarged Working Conference Convened by the CC of the CPC in 1962, PR 27, 1978)

The criticism that has unfolded in China around the Little Red Book and the overall exposure of Mao’s deification is no attack on him or Mao Zedong Thought. It is, in fact a necessary part of defending Mao Zedong and his contributions to scientific socialism. For as Lenin once pointed out, there is no more sure way of discrediting a new and correct idea than to exaggerate it or carry it beyond the limits of its actual applicability on the plea of defending it.

This is exactly how Lin Biao and the Gang of Four set out to attack Mao Zedong Thought. All the Red Book passages and sentences quoted by them became, irrespective of time, place and historical conditions, “absolute laws and decrees”.

In this way they undermined Mao Zedong Thought by fragmenting it into hundreds of pieces. The genuine truth of Mao Zedong Thought lies in its inner connections and comprehensiveness. This is because Mao Zedong Thought explains the laws of the objective world which is a comprehensive system. Just as you could never explain or understand some part of the objective world if you look at in isolation and apart from the whole, so Mao Zedong Thought loses its value and truth when it is broken up into hundreds of phrases and sentences.

Mao never tried to explain a complex contradiction such as that between being red and expert, between revolution and production, or politics and economics with one sentence. Mao would always approach such an objective contradiction from many different angles and different aspects, and only after summing it all up could the truth about the contradiction be learned.

Mao Zedong Thought is based on the method of seeking truth from facts. Anyone who tries to explain a part of the objective world with a quote without regard to the event in which it was historically and concretely developed and applied is. not using Mao Zedong Thought. Such a person is denying the fact that a correct understanding can be arrived at only after repeated cycles of practice, knowledge, practice again, knowledge again.

As for Lin Biao and the Gang of Four, who were seeking their own ends, this every sentence by Mao “is truth” approach was a vicious method of attacking Mao Zedong Thought. Under the guise of being the most ardent supporters of Mao Zedong Thought they reversed the relationship of theory and practice. They put forward the revolutionary teacher as someone who knows the objective laws of things from the start. Because of Mao’s great contributions and his prestige this was much more effective than to come out in open opposition to Mao Zedong Thought.

The correct view toward Mao and his contributions has been expressed quite well by Zhou Enlai:

... why Mao Zedong deserves our respect and how we should learn from him ... . Friends present here should not regard Mao Zedong as a demigod or as a leader you could never hope to emulate in doing propaganda work among the young people of the country or when you are learning from him. If you saw things that way, accepting him as our leader would be empty talk. If one could not learn from him, then Mao Zedong would be isolated from us, wouldn’t he? Wouldn’t we be regarding Mao Zedong as a godhead, something apart from the rest of us? That would be the kind of leader publicized in the propaganda in feudal and capitalist societies. Our leader is born of the people, has flesh-and-blood ties with the Chinese people and close ties with the country and soil of China. In other words, the birth of a leader such as Mao Zedong in Chinese society is not accidental; he is the child of the revolutionary movements of the past hundred years and a people’s leader born of the long years of experience and lessons of China’s revolutionary history. In learning from Mao Zedong, it is therefore necessary to learn from him in a comprehensive way, learn from him in the light of his historical development – not merely look at his great achievements today and ignore his growth in the past...Chairman Mao does not indulge in empty talk about truth, but integrates truth with practice and turns it into something concrete. This is the way we have achieved our present victory. (Learn From MTT, PR #43, 1978).