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Build a Theoretical Force for Combating and Preventing Revisionism

by Yuan Ching

[This article is reprinted from Peking Review, #9, Feb. 28, 1975, pp. 15-19.]

IN the excellent situation in which we are continuing to broaden, deepen and persevere in the movement to criticize Lin Piao and Confucius, the whole Party is redoubling its efforts to build a Marxist theoretical force in accordance with the directives of Chairman Mao and the Party Central Committee. A review of the history of struggles on the theoretical front since the founding of New China, particularly since the start of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, will help us better understand the importance of strengthening the building of such a force and the proper way of doing the job, so as to grasp it firmly and well as a really crucial matter for the coming generations in combating and preventing revisionism and consolidating the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Struggles on Theoretical Front Since Birth Of New China

The struggles on the theoretical front have always been an important aspect of class struggle. Under the conditions of socialism, theoretical struggles invariably centre around the question of consolidating or subverting the dictatorship of the proletariat and the question of struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie and between the socialist road and the capitalist road. Chairman Mao has pointed out: “We advocate ‘letting a hundred schools of thought contend,’ and in every branch of learning there may be many schools and trends; in the matter of world outlook, however, today there are basically only two schools, the proletarian and the bourgeois.” (Speech at the Chinese Communist Party’s National Conference on Propaganda Work.) The struggle of the proletarian world outlook against the bourgeois world outlook, including the struggle against revisionism, is a basic task in the struggles on the theoretical front for a long period of time.

Classes and class struggle still exist in socialist society. “There are still remnants of the overthrown landlord and comprador classes, there is still a bourgeoisie, and the remoulding of the petty bourgeoisie has only just started. The class struggle is by no means over. The class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, the class struggle between the different political forces, and the class struggle in the ideological field between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie will continue to be long and tortuous and at times will even become very acute.” (Mao Tsetung: On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People.) Such a state of affairs is bound to find expression on the theoretical front. The landlord and capitalist classes, which vainly try for a comeback, and their representatives within the Party invariably take advantage of their positions in the sphere of ideology to create counter-revolutionary public opinion and use all sorts of bourgeois and revisionist theories, trends of thought and slogans to deceive the people and to oppose and sabotage the socialist revolution.

When the socialist transformation of ownership began in the early 1950s, Liu Shao-chi brought out the bourgeois slogan: “Consolidate the new-democratic order.” After the basic completion of this transformation in 1956, he and Chen Po-ta came up with the reactionary theory that “the contradiction between the advanced socialist system and the backward forces of social production” was the principal contradiction in socialist society. During the socialist education movement in the cities and countryside in the early 1960s, Liu Shao-chi distorted the principal contradiction in socialist society and publicized such fallacies as “the contradiction between four cleans (i.e., clean things up politically, economically, organizationally and ideologically) and four uncleans” and “the intertwining of the contradictions inside and outside the Party.” These absurdities were all intended to obliterate and distort this basic fact: The principal contradiction in our socialist society under the dictatorship of the proletariat is the class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie and the struggle between the socialist and capitalist roads, and inner-Party struggles between the two lines are a reflection in the Party of class struggle in society. The above-mentioned fallacies and slogans betrayed Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought, opposed our Party’s fundamental theory and practice in the socialist period, the Party’s basic line and the dictatorship of the proletariat over the bourgeoisie. They were all designed to restore capitalism.

Pinpointing Liu Shao-chi’s revisionist trash, Chairman Mao again pointed out in January 1965: “Class contradiction, the class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie and the struggle between the socialist road and the capitalist road exist throughout the transitional period. We shall go astray if we forget this fundamental theory and practice of our Party over the last dozen years or so.” Conscientiously putting into practice this teaching of Chairman Mao’s over the last decade, we have upheld the Party’s basic line, smashed the bourgeois headquarters of Liu Shao-chi and of Lin Piao, refuted, exposed and criticized their counter-revolutionary rumours and sophistry, thus winning tremendous victories in the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and other work and consolidating the dictatorship of the proletariat.

All the other major theoretical struggles in the political and ideological spheres carried out since the founding of the People’s Republic of China were linked with the question of upholding or opposing the Party’s basic line for the socialist period. These struggles included the criticism of the reactionary film The Life of Wu Hsun1, the criticism of bourgeois idealism in the study of The Dream of the Red Chamber2, the criticism of the Hu Feng counter-revolutionary clique3, the struggle against the Rightists4, the criticism of the reactionary metaphysical fallacy that “two combine into one.”5 Every step forward in the socialist revolution is always accompanied by a struggle between Marxism and revisionism and between the proletarian and bourgeois world outlooks. This is determined by the law and characteristics of class struggle in the socialist period.

The resounding victory of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution has brought revolutionary changes to the realm of the superstructure, but classes and class struggle still exist, capitalist forces and influence are still there and the struggle between Marxism and revisionism on the theoretical front remains sharp and complex. After the downfall of the bourgeois headquarters with Liu Shao-chi as its ringleader, the Lin Piao anti-Party clique took over Liu Shao-chi’s counter-revolutionary cause and continued the trial of strength with our Party and people politically and ideologically. In leading the entire Party and the people of the whole country to fight against the Lin Piao anti-Party clique, Chairman Mao again and again exposed and criticized its anti-Marxist theories, trends of thought, slogans and tendencies, thereby setting right for us the socialist orientation and guiding us to win one new victory after another on the theoretical front.

To usurp supreme power in the Party and state and oppose dialectical materialism upheld by Chairman Mao and his many instructions, the renegade Lin Piao racked his brains to get “nourishment” from the garbage heap of the doctrines of Confucius and Mencius, capitalism and old and new revisionism and patched together counter-revolutionary theories. At the Second Plenary Session of the Party’s Ninth Central Committee held in August 1970, the Lin Piao anti-Party clique trotted out the “theory of genius” which was its anti-Party theoretical programme in the service of its plot for a counter-revolutionary coup. They used idealist apriorism to oppose the materialist theory of reflection, used the idealist conception of history to oppose the materialist conception of history and resorted to rumours and sophistry in creating theoretical frauds. Some comrades for a time were duped because they did not study Marxism-Leninism well enough to distinguish materialism from idealism. It was at this crucial moment that our great leader Chairman Mao with great insight saw through the intrigues of Lin Piao and his followers and in good time warned the whole Party not to be deceived by those persons who professed to have understood Marx’s works but actually did not have an inkling of them. This was a telling blow to the Lin Piao anti-Party clique’s plot to stage a counter-revolutionary coup and a great victory of Marxism over revisionism.

The Lin Piao anti-Party clique raised a variety of reactionary slogans in a futile attempt to split our Party. The slogans had one thing in common, that is, they denied that the struggle between the two classes and the two roads is the principal contradiction in socialist society, negated the dictatorship of the proletariat and opposed continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat. They distorted the serious class struggle and two-line struggle as contradictions between “this section of people” and “the other section of people” in the vain hope of hoodwinking some people. Doing everything possible to attack and vilify the socialist system under the dictatorship of the proletariat, they slandered the Party leadership as a “feudal autocracy,” fruitlessly trying to negate our Party’s democratic centralism and our Party’s using Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought as the theoretical basis to guide its thinking. Thanks to Chairman Mao’s teachings, the Party membership enhanced its consciousness of the line, resolutely safeguarded the unity of the Party, and completely smashed Lin Piao’s splittist scheme.

The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution has pushed the socialist cause forward. The prevailing excellent situation is getting still better and better. But the struggle over the question of affirming or negating the excellent situation has always been very intense. Because of their counter-revolutionary nature, Lin Piao and his followers and the handful of class enemies at home and abroad they represented invariably attacked one particular point without considering the situation as a whole, and described the excellent situation in our country as pitch dark. This was not strange. Prompted by their counter-revolutionary class nature, they were bound to use the bourgeois viewpoint to oppose and undermine the socialist economic base and superstructure. On the other hand, some of our comrades sometimes are not quite correct in viewing the excellent situation; this is because they do not have a good grasp of materialist dialectics. In this case, Chairman Mao has once again taught us to employ the Marxist-Leninist method to analyse the political situation and size up the class forces, thus clarifying the muddled ideas of some comrades regarding the situation and enabling us to understand that under the guidance of the correct line the situation is always excellent and that achievements always make up the main aspect, and consequently to have full confidence in the certain victory of the socialist cause.

Similarly, the movement to criticize Lin Piao and rectify the style of work and the movement to criticize Lin Piao and Confucius also involve a struggle on the theoretical front. Criticism of Lin Piao and Confucius itself is a struggle in the superstructure through which the proletariat defeats the bourgeoisie and Marxism triumphs over revisionism. Over the past three years, Chairman Mao, by continuously indicating the course we should take regarding theoretical problems, has guided us to deepen our criticisms of Lin Piao’s revisionist line, the doctrines of Confucius and Mencius and the reactionary ideology of worshipping the Confucian school and opposing the Legalist school and to keep strengthening our revolutionary unity. He has also guided some comrades to correctly understand such problems as the relationship between individual character and general character and whether the criticism of Lin Piao should be directed at his ultra-Rightist nature of betraying the Party and country and trying to restore capitalism or at ultra-“Leftism.” A review of all this will enable us to see the importance of arming our minds with Marxist theory.

A Vast Marxist Theoretical Force Needed

Class struggle on the theoretical front in the last two decades and more tells us that the opposition between materialism and idealism, between dialectics and metaphysics and between Marxism and revisionism will exist for a long time. So long as there are classes and class struggle, especially at the crucial moments in class struggle and in the course of revolution, anti-Marxist trends of thought and schools of all descriptions, the distortion and revision of the basic theories of Marxism by revisionism and the erosion and contamination of proletarian revolutionary principles by bourgeois ideology will inevitably emerge. The socialist system under the dictatorship of the proletariat cannot possibly be consolidated in the absence of a persistent struggle against the bourgeoisie and revisionism. Neglecting the study of revolutionary theory and taking theoretical struggle lightly, many people failed to differentiate between genuine and sham Marxism, with the result that for a time they supported certain erroneous viewpoints and wrong tendencies as correct and followed the wrong trend. Such cases have occurred many times in the course of class struggle and two-line struggle. Practice in struggles has brought home to us the danger of losing our bearings theoretically. We must soberly keep this serious lesson in mind.

The facts of class struggle on the ideological and theoretical fronts also show that we must have a vast theoretical force capable of using Marxism to make criticisms in order to repulse the attacks by bourgeois and revisionist trends of thought and to consolidate the dictatorship of the proletariat. Precisely because of this, Chairman Mao, proceeding from the high plane of combating and preventing revisionism, has on many occasions stressed the importance of building a Marxist theoretical force and held that the proletarian revolutionary cause cannot be fully consolidated without forming such a force. He also has paid great attention to and shown deep concern for the new emerging forces on the theoretical front, always wholeheartedly cherishing and supporting the “nobodies” who dare use Marxism to criticize the bourgeois world outlook and various anti-Marxist tendencies. Prior to the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, certain areas and units had trained a number of people in theoretical study, but because of the interference and sabotage by Liu Shao-chi’s revisionist line, quite a number of them followed the wrong orientation and thus failed to play the militant role expected of them in theoretical struggles, and some even sank into the quagmire of revisionism. Such experience and lessons have enabled us to profoundly realize that in building a Marxist theoretical force, first of all it is necessary to grasp problems concerning the orientation and line. Only when both are correct can members of our theoretical force become daring fighters in theoretical struggles who are not afraid to charge forward and take the enemy’s ideological strongholds. The reason why some theoretical workers have been able to do much work and make some contributions in the struggle of criticizing the revisionist line of Liu Shao-chi and Lin Piao since the start of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution is that they have firmly implemented Chairman Mao’s proletarian revolutionary line and persisted in making theoretical work serve present-day class struggle and two-line struggle.

With the deepening of the movement to criticize Lin Piao and Confucius, theoretical contingents have been mushrooming and growing in strength in various areas and units. As a result, there has emerged an excellent situation characterized by the mass study of the history of the struggle between the Confucian and the Legalist schools and of class struggle as a whole, with these theoretical contingents as the backbone. This is a revolutionary new thing worth supporting. The criticism of Confucius is more difficult than the criticism of Lin Piao, but once the masses rise in action and carry out criticisms, Confucius is toppled in no time. Needless to say, we must fully understand that theoretical work is not a matter of studying one or two problems, nor is it something that covers only one or two years, but is a long-term fighting task. Theoretical contingents are confronted with a host of problems to be studied. It is necessary to continue taking firm hold of the criticism of Lin Piao and Confucius, and on no account should we relax our fighting will just because of the successes already achieved. Much remains to be done in this respect. It is imperative to conscientiously study the theory of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought on the dictatorship of the proletariat and make efforts to further enhance our consciousness of persevering in continued revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat. Lenin pointed out: “The essence of Marx’s teaching on the state has been mastered only by those who understand that” the dictatorship of the proletariat “is necessary ... not only for the proletariat which has overthrown the bourgeoisie, but also for the entire historical period which separates capitalism from ‘classless society,’ from Communism.” (The State and Revolution.)

We must have a better understanding of the question of strengthening the dictatorship of the proletariat over the bourgeoisie and sum up the experience in carrying out Chairman Mao’s directive that “the proletariat must exercise all-round dictatorship over the bourgeoisie in the realm of the superstructure, including the various spheres of culture.” Not only must we study and sum up the experience of past and present class struggles in our country, but we must also pay attention to studying the various problems cropping up in class struggle in the international arena, including the contention between the two hegemonic powers and the economic crisis of capitalism. To fulfil this task, it is necessary to continue the work of popularization guided by the raising of standards, and constantly raise the standards on the basis of popularization. It is necessary to give first place to assiduously studying works by Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin and by Chairman Mao and strive to have a good grasp of the basic theories of Marxism. An important way of raising the standards of theoretical contingents is to combine serious reading and study with actual struggles. Only thus can Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought really become a weapon in our hands in fighting the bourgeoisie and revisionism. Taking into consideration the characteristics of the contingents of professional theoretical workers and those of part-time worker-peasant-soldier theoretical workers, many places have gained valuable experience in raising their Marxist theoretical level, which should be summed up and popularized.

Carry the Struggle of Combating and Preventing Revisionism Through to the End

An important aspect in building a Marxist theoretical force is to learn to use Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought to differentiate various kinds of theories, trends of thought and slogans and distinguish between what is correct and what is wrong. As socialism enjoys a superior position in the ideological struggle and the basic force of political power is in the hands of the working people led by the proletariat, bourgeois and revisionist theories, trends of thought and slogans of all descriptions that appear in society invariably disguise themselves in order to deceive people. But so long as we master Marxism which serves as our telescope and microscope, we will be able to discover that they are all products of a given economic base and that they reflect the interests of a particular class, and we will be able to expose their reactionary class nature. By employing the fundamental viewpoint of dialectical materialism and historical materialism to examine the answers of various kinds of anti-Marxist theories, trends of thought and slogans to basic philosophical problems and look carefully at their attitude towards the law of historical development, we will be able to see that the ideological and political line they push is theoretically based on idealism and metaphysics and is “characterized by the breach between the subjective and the objective, by the separation of knowledge from practice.” (Mao Tsetung: On Practice.) Their aim is to try to turn back the wheel of history and restore the old relations of production and social system. Present-day struggles are a continuation and development of those in the past. All anti-Marxist trends of thought that appear in society today have their historical origins. To discern them, it is necessary to link present-day struggles with those in the past and trace the “stream” to its “fountain-head,” so as to study how they go back to their “predecessors” and how they inherit those viewpoints that have already been overcome and put on a new farce of counter-revolutionary restoration by invoking the dead souls of history. We must strive to master this method of materialist, dialectical and historical analysis in the course of struggle. If, after learning some Marxist theory, we should lose our ability to criticize when faced by erroneous ideas and tendencies, it shows we have not studied well. An important criterion for judging whether or not the level of a theoretical contingent is high and its fighting power strong is whether or not it can discern various kinds of anti-Marxist trash in the course of theoretical struggle and carry out an unremitting struggle against them.

The struggle against the bourgeoisie and revisionism is a long-term task on the theoretical front. The deepening struggle of criticizing Lin Piao and Confucius is of far-reaching significance to consolidating the dictatorship of the proletariat, developing the socialist cause and preventing capitalist restoration. Worshipping the Confucian school and opposing the Legalist school, Lin Piao attacked Chin Shih Huang (see Peking Review, No. 50, 1974), and he used the doctrines of Confucius and Mencius as his ideological weapon in his attempt at a counter-revolutionary restoration. We should apply the Marxist-Leninist stand, viewpoint and method to study the history of the struggle between the Confucian and the legalist schools, expose the reactionary and deceptive nature of Confucianism, do away with the distortions by reactionaries in the past against the Legalist school, scientifically sum up the experience and lessons of c1ass struggle in history and absorb what is useful to the proletarian revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat, all in the service of present-day struggle of combating and preventing revisionism. We are deeply convinced that through tempering in actual class struggle and two-line struggle, a vast Marxist theoretical force is bound to grow in strength at a faster pace to seize still greater victories in the struggle of criticizing Lin Piao and Confucius and carry the great struggle of combating and preventing revisionism and consolidating the dictatorship of the proletariat through to the end.


1.   The Life of Wu Hsun was a reactionary film publicizing bourgeois reformism and smearing the people’s revolution. Wu Hsun (1838-96), whom the film lauded to the skies, was a diehard defender of feudalism and an extremely despicable worshipper of the Confucian school. When the peasants’ revolutionary movement was gaining momentum, he obsequiously served the feudal ruling class by raising funds to run schools and feverishly spread feudal culture, for which he was amply rewarded. Under Chairman Mao’s personal leadership, the nation criticized this reactionary film in 1951.

2.   The Dream of the Red Chamber, a famous Chinese classical novel written in the 18th century, mirrored the class struggle in feudal society, exposed the decadent and moribund feudal system and the trend of its inevitable collapse. Initiated and led by Chairman Mao himself, a systematic criticism of bourgeois idealist viewpoints in the study of this novel was carried out in 1954.

3.   This refers to the counter-revolutionary clique of which the renegade Hu Feng was the ringleader and whose members had wormed their way into the revolutionary ranks. In his “My Opinions” written in 1954, Hu Feng advanced a wholesale anti-socialist programme on literature and art, maliciously attacking the Party’s principles for literature and art and the dictatorship of the proletariat. The following year, Renmin Ribao successively published three batches of material on this counter-revolutionary clique. Chairman Mao wrote the accompanying editor’s notes which thoroughly exposed and smashed the clique’s counter-revolutionary schemes.

4.   A reference to the beating back in 1957 of the bourgeois Rightists who had taken advantage of our Party’s rectification campaign to make wild attacks against the proletariat.

5.   The theory of “two combine into one” was a reactionary fallacy of bourgeois idealism and metaphysics openly dished up in May 1964 by the renegade Liu Shao-chi and his agent in the philosophical field, Yang Hsien-chen, in opposition to the Marxist materialist dialectical theory that “one divides into two.” The essence of this reactionary theory lay in deliberately obliterating the fact that the two aspects of a contradiction struggle against each other and are in opposition to each other, negating the struggle and transformation of opposites into each other and spreading the bourgeois theory of the merging of contradictions. Its political aim was to tamper with our Party’s basic line for the historical period of socialism and to subvert the dictatorship of the proletariat and restore capitalism in China.

(A translation of an article in “Hongqi,”
No. 1, 1975. Subheads and notes are ours.)

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