Circular of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China on the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution

May 16, 1966

To all regional bureaus of the Central Committee, all provincial, municipal and autonomous regional party committees, ail departments and commissions under the Central Committee, all leading party members' groups and party committees in government departments and people's organizations, and the General Political Department of the PLA:

The Central Committee has decided to revoke the 'Outline Report on the Current Academic Discussion made by the Group of Five in Charge of the Cultural Revolution' which was approved for distribution on 12 February 1966, to dissolve the 'Group of Five in Charge of the Cultural Revolution' and its offices, and to set up a new Cultural Revolution group directly under the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau. The outline report by the so-called 'Group of Five' is fundamentally wrong. It runs counter to the line of the socialist cultural revolution set forth by the Central Committee and Comrade Mao Tse-tung to the guiding principles formulated at the Tenth Plenary Session of the Eighth Central Committee of the party in 1962 on the question of classes and class struggle in socialist society. While feigning compliance, the outline actually opposes and stubbornly resists the great Cultural Revolution initiated and led personally by Comrade Mao Tse-tung, as well as the instructions, regarding the criticism of Wu Han, which he gave at the work conference of the Central Committee held in September and October 1965 (that is, at the session of the Standing Committee attended also by the leading comrades of all the regional bureaux of the Central Committee).

The outline report by the so-called 'Group of Five' is actually an outline report by P'eng Chen alone. He concocted it according to his own ideas behind the backs of Comrade K'ang Sheng, a member of the 'Group of Five', and other comrades. In handling such a document regarding important questions which affect the overall situation in the socialist revolution, P'eng Chen had no discussion or exchange of views at all within the 'Group of Five'. He did not ask any local party committee for its opinion; nor, when submitting the outline report, did he make it clear that it was being sent to the Central Committee for examination as its official document, and still less did he get the approval of Comrade Mao Tse-tung, Chairman of the Central Committee. Employing the most improper methods, he acted arbitrarily, abused his powers, and, usurping the name of the Central Committee, hurriedly issued the outline report to the whole party.

The main errors of the outline report are as follows:

1. Proceeding from a bourgeois stand and the bourgeois world outlook in its appraisal of the situation and the nature of the current academic criticism, the outline completely reverses the relation between the enemy and ourselves, putting the one into the position of the other. Our country is now in an upsurge of the great proletarian Cultural Revolution which is pounding at all the decadent ideological and cultural positions still held by the bourgeoisie and the remnants of feudalism. Instead of encouraging the entire party boldly to arouse the broad masses of workers, peasants, and soldiers, and the fighters for proletarian culture so that they can continue to charge ahead, the outline does its best to turn the movement to the right. Using muddled, self-contradictory, and hypocritical language, it obscures the sharp class struggle that is taking place on the cultural and ideological front. In particular, it obscures the aim of this great struggle, which is to criticize and repudiate Wu Han and the considerable number of other anti-party and anti-socialist representatives of the bourgeoisie (there are a number of these in the Central Committee and in the party, government, and other departments at the central as well as at the provincial, municipal, and autonomous region level). By avoiding any mention of the fact repeatedly pointed out by Chairman Mao, namely, that the key point in Wu Han's drama Hai Jui Dismissed from Office is the question of dismissal from office, the outline covers up the serious political nature of the struggle.

2. The outline violates the basic Marxist thesis that all class struggles are political struggles. When the press began to touch on the political issues involved in Wu Han's Hai Jui Dismissed from Office, the authors of the outline went so far as to say: "The discussion in the press should not be confined to political questions, but should go fully into the various academic and theoretical questions involved". Regarding the criticism of Wu Han, they declared on various occasions that it was impermissible to deal with the heart of the matter, namely, the dismissal of the right opportunists at the Lushan plenum in 1959 and the opposition of Wu Han and others to the party and socialism. Comrade Mao Tse-tung has often told us that the ideological struggle against the bourgeoisie is a protracted class struggle which cannot be resolved by drawing hasty political conclusions. However, P'eng Chen deliberately spread rumours, telling many people that Chairman Mao believed political conclusions on the criticism of Wu Han could be drawn after two months. P'eng Chen also said that the political issues could be discussed two months later. His purpose was to channel the political struggle in the cultural sphere into the so-called pure academic discussion so frequently advocated by the bourgeois politics and opposing giving prominence to proletarian politics.

3. The outline lays special emphasis on what it calls 'opening wide'. But playing a sly trick it grossly distorts the policy of 'opening wide' expounded by Comrade Mao Tse-tung at the party's National Conference on Propaganda Work in March 1957 and negates the class content of 'opening wide'. It was in dealing with this question that Comrade Mao Tse-tung pointed out: 'We still have to wage a protracted struggle against bourgeois and petty-bourgeois ideology. It is wrong not to understand this and to give up ideological struggle. All erroneous ideas, all poisonous weeds, all ghosts and monsters, must be subjected to criticism; in no circumstance should they be allowed to spread unchecked.' Comrade Mao Tse-tung also said, 'To "open wide" means to let all people express their opinions freely, so that they dare to speak, dare to criticize, and dare to debate.' This outline, however, poses 'opening wide' against exposure by the proletariat of the bourgeoisie's reactionary stand. What it means by 'opening wide' is bourgeois liberalization, which would allow only the bourgeoisie to 'open wide', but would not allow the proletariat to 'open wide' and hit back; in other words, it is a shield for such reactionary bourgeois representatives as Wu Han. The 'opening wide' in this outline is against Mao Tse-tung's thought and caters for the needs of the bourgeoisie.

4. Just when we began the counter-offensive against the wild attacks of the bourgeoisie, the authors of the outline raised the slogan: 'everyone is equal before the truth'. This is a bourgeois slogan. Completely negating the class nature of truth, they use this slogan to protect the bourgeoisie and oppose the proletariat, oppose Marxism-Leninism, and oppose Mao Tse-tung's thought. In the struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, between the truth of Marxism and the fallacies of the bourgeoisie and all other exploiting classes, either the East wind prevails over the West wind or the West wind prevails over the East wind, and there is absolutely no such thing as equality. Can any equality be permitted on such basic questions as the struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie, the dictatorship of the proletariat over the bourgeoisie, the dictatorship of the proletariat in the superstructure, including all the various spheres of culture, and the continued efforts of the proletariat to weed out those representatives of the bourgeoisie who have sneaked into the communist party and who wave 'red flags' to oppose the red flag? For decades the old-line Social Democrats, and for over ten years the modern revisionists, have never allowed the proletariat equality with the bourgeoisie. They completely deny that the several thousand years of human history is a history of class struggle. They completely deny the class struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie, the proletarian revolution against the bourgeoisie, and the dictatorship of the proletariat over the bourgeoisie. On the contrary, they are faithful lackeys of the bourgeoisie and imperialism. Together with the bourgeoisie and imperialism, they cling to the bourgeois ideology of oppression and exploitation of the proletariat and to the capitalist system, and they oppose Marxist-Leninist ideology and the socialist system. They are a bunch of counter-revolutionaries opposing the communist party and the people. Their struggle against us is one of life and death, and there is no question of equality. Therefore, our struggle against them, too, can be nothing but a life-and-death struggle, and our relation with them can in no way be one of equality. On the contrary, it is a relation of one class oppressing another, that is, the dictatorship of the proletariat over the bourgeoisie. There can be no other type of relation, such as a so called relation of equality, or of peaceful coexistence between exploiting and exploited classes, or of kindness or magnanimity.

5. The outline states: 'It is necessary not only to beat the other side politically, but also, by academic and professional standards, truly surpass and beat it by a wide margin.' This concept which makes no class distinction on academic matters is also very wrong. The truth on academic questions, the truth of Marxism-Leninism, of Mao Tse-tung's thought — which the proletariat has grasped — has already far surpassed and beaten the bourgeoisie. The formulation in the outline shows that its authors laud the so-called academic authorities of the bourgeoisie and try to boost their prestige, and that they hate and repress the militant newborn forces representative of the proletariat in academic circles.

6. Chairman Mao often says that there is no construction without destruction. Destruction means criticism and repudiation; it means revolution. It involves reasoning things out, which is construction. Put destruction first, and in the process you have construction. Marxism-Leninism, Mao Tse-tung's thought, was founded and has constantly developed in the course of the struggle to destroy bourgeois ideology. This outline, however, emphasizes that 'without construction, there can be no real and thorough destruction'. This amounts to prohibiting the destruction of bourgeois ideology and prohibiting the construction of proletarian ideology. It is diametrically opposed to Chairman Mao's thought. It runs counter to the revolutionary struggle we have been waging on the cultural front for the vigorous destruction of bourgeois ideology. And it amounts to prohibiting the proletariat from making any revolution.

7. The outline states that 'we must not behave like scholar-tyrants who are always acting arbitrarily and trying to overwhelm people with their power' and that 'we should guard against any tendency for academic workers of the left to take the road of bourgeois experts and scholar-tyrants'. What is really meant by 'scholar-tyrants'? Who are the 'scholar-tyrants'? Should the proletariat not exercise dictatorship and overwhelm the bourgeoisie? Should the academic work of the proletariat not overwhelm and eradicate that of the bourgeoisie? And if proletarian academic work overwhelms and eradicates bourgeois academic work, can this be regarded as an act of 'scholar-tyrants'? The outline directs its spearhead against the proletarian left. Obviously, its aim is to label the Marxist-Leninists 'scholar-tyrants' and thus to support the real, bourgeois scholar-tyrants and prop up their tottering monopoly position in academic circles. As a matter of fact, those party people in authority taking the capitalist road who support the bourgeois scholar-tyrants, and those bourgeois representatives who have sneaked into the party and protect the bourgeois scholar-tyrants, are indeed big party tyrants who have usurped the name of the party, have no contact with the masses, have no learning at all, and rely solely on 'acting arbitrarily and trying to overwhelm people with their power'.

8. For their own ulterior purposes, the authors of the outline demand a 'rectification campaign' against the staunch left in a deliberate effort to create confusion, blur class alignments and divert people from the target of struggle. Their main purpose in dishing up the outline in such a hurry was to attack the proletarian left. They have gone out of their way to build up dossiers about the left, tried to find all sorts of pretexts for attacking them, and intended to launch further attacks on them by means of a 'rectification campaign,' in the vain hope of disintegrating their ranks. They openly resist the policy explicitly put forward by Chairman Mao of protecting and supporting the left and giving serious attention to building up and expanding their ranks. On the other hand, they have conferred on those bourgeois representatives, revisionists, and renegades who have sneaked into the party the title of 'staunch left', and are shielding them. In these ways, they are trying to inflate the arrogance of the bourgeois rightists and to dampen the spirits of the proletarian left. They are filled with hatred for the proletariat and love for the bourgeoisie. Such is the bourgeois concept of brotherhood held by the authors of the outline.

9. At a time when the new and fierce struggle of the proletariat against the representatives of the bourgeoisie on the ideological front has only just began, and in many spheres and places has not even started — or, if it has started, most party committees concerned have a very poor understanding of the task of leadership in this great struggle and their leadership is far from conscientious and effective — the outline stresses again and again that the struggle must be conducted 'under direction', 'with prudence', 'with caution', and 'with the approval of the leading bodies concerned'. All this serves to place restrictions on the proletarian left, to impose taboos and commandments in order to tie their hands, and to place all sorts of obstacles in the way of the proletarian cultural revolution. In a word, the authors of the outline are rushing to apply the brakes and launch a counter-attack in revenge. As for the articles written by the proletarian left refuting the reactionary bourgeois 'authorities', they nurse bitter hatred against those already published and are suppressing those not yet published. But on the other hand, they give free rein to all the various ghosts and monsters who for many years have abounded in our press, radio, magazines, books, text-book, platforms, works of literature, cinema, drama, ballads and stories, the fine arts, music, the dance, etc., and in doing so they never advocate proletarian leadership or stress any need for approval. The contrast here shows where the authors of the outline really stand.

10. The present struggle centres on the issue of implementation of, or resistance to, Comrade Mao Tse-tung's line on the Cultural Revolution. Yet the outline states: 'Through this struggle, and under the guidance of Mao Tse-tung's thought, we shall open up the way for the solution of this problem (that is, "the thorough liquidation of bourgeois ideas in the realm of academic work").' Comrade Mao Tse-tung opened up the way for the proletariat on the cultural and ideological front long ago, in his On New Democracy, Talks at the Yenan Forum on Literature and Art, Letter to the Yenan Peking Opera Theatre after Seeing the Performance of 'Driven to Joint the Liangshan Rebels', On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People, and Speech at the Chinese Communist Party's National Conference on Propaganda Work. Yet the outline maintains that Mao Tse-tung's thought has not yet opened up the way for us and that the way has to be opened up anew. Using the banner of 'under the guidance of Mao Tse-tung's thought' as cover, the outline actually attempts to open up a way opposed to Mao Tse-tung's thought, that is the way of modern revisionism, the way for the restoration of capitalism.

In short, the outline opposes carrying the socialist revolution through to the end, opposes the line on the Cultural Revolution pursued by the Central Committee of the party headed by Comrade Mao Tse-tung, attacks the proletarian left and shields the bourgeois right, thereby preparing public opinion for the restoration of capitalism. It is a reflection of bourgeois ideology in the party, it is out-and-out revisionism. Far from being a minor issue, the struggle against this revisionist line is an issue of prime importance having a vital bearing on the destiny and future of our party and date, on the future complexion of our party and date, and on the world revolution.

Party committees at all levels must immediately stop carrying out the 'Outline Report on the Current Academic Discussion made by the Group of Five in Charge of the Cultural Revolution'. The whole party must follow Comrade Mao Tse-tung's instructions, hold high the great banner of the proletarian Cultural Revolution, thoroughly expose the reactionary bourgeois stand of those so-called 'academic authorities' who oppose the party and socialism, thoroughly criticize and repudiate the reactionary bourgeois ideas in the sphere of academic work, education, journalism, literature and art, and publishing, and seize the leadership in these cultural spheres. To achieve this, it is necessary at the same time to criticize and repudiate those representatives of the bourgeoisie who have sneaked into the party, the government, the army, and all spheres of culture, to clear them out or transfer some of them to other positions. Above all, we must not entrust these people with the work of leading the Cultural Revolution. In fact many of them have done and are still doing such work, and this is extremely dangerous.

Those representatives of the bourgeoisie who have sneaked into the party, the government, the army, and various cultural circles are a bunch of counter-revolutionary revisionists. Once conditions are ripe, they will seize political power and turn the dictatorship of the proletariat into a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. Some of them we have already seen thorough, others we have not. Some are still trusted by us and are being trained as our successors, persons like Khrushchev, for example, who are still nestling beside us. Party committees at all levels must pay full attention to this matter.

This circular is to be sent, together with the erroneous document issued by the Central Committee on 12 February 1960, down to the level of county party committees, party committees in the cultural organizations, and party committees at regimental level in the army. These committees are asked to discuss which of the two documents is wrong and which is correct, their understanding of these documents, and their achievements and mistake.

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