On January 25th we commemorate the 40th anniversary of the historic show trial of Chiang Ching,Wang Hognwen,Chang Chun Chiao and Yoa Wen Yuan or the’ gang of four ‘ in China. There could have been no better illustration of how after 1978 under Deng Xiaoping China turned into a Social fascist state .The verdict of the trial was the final death blow to the current of Socialist revolution in China. The last nails in the coffin were struck to tear the fabric of a Socialist Society. It is ironic how Marxist revolutionaries were awarded life or death sentences in a society that just a few years before had taken Socialist ideology to its helm. There could no more abject lesson in the need for leaving no stone upturned to confront capitalist roaders within a Socialist state. Revisionism has to be combated at the very backbone. I have no doubt that they were crusaders for liberation till their last breadth.
Since 1978 the policies of China took 180 degrees turn or were in direct contrast to the line and practice chairman Mao adopted leading the CPC from 1949-76.It dismantled all the people’s communes and invited America to build Free Economic Zones. Billionares were created amongst Communist party members with a motto of ‘Get Rich’ propagated amongst the youth. Western intellectuals looked at Chin under Mao with great scorn treating him as a brutal dictator of the Chinese state as an autocratic one. They went out of the way to distort the great strides Socialist China made in the fields of literacy, medicine, agricultural production, housing and revolutionary democracy. Workers and peasants enjoyed rights or power never achieved in a bourgeois democratic state or any third world country. I acknowledge gross errors occurred in terms of excesses in killings ,sectarian approach towards artists and intellectuals ,particularly by the red guard depradations .Even non –Marxists like Edgar Snow praised the magnitude of democratic development within Socialist China in “The Other side of the River.” and ‘The Long Revolution.”Today China virtually functions as a Social fascist state even if it is challenging American hegemony.The army attack on the Tianemen square Student demonstrations was a testimony of this in 1989.It also dealt very harshly with bourgeois democrats in recent years. I recommend all democrats to read the essays written by Moba Gao,Dongpin Hanand Hao Qi which have been compiled in a booklet “Remembering Socialist China 1949-76 by the Research Unit for Political Economy in issue of Aspects of India’s Economy nos 59-60.With living examples they illustrate the democratic significance of the movements of the Cultural Revolution.Pao yu Ching has also done great justice to its’ achievements in her book ‘ Re-thinking Socialism.’The interview of Fred Hengst by Omarkan Ulker in Monthly Review in 2017 is also a must read, where he elaborates the necessity of staging the Cultural Revolution.
Many within the Communist revolutionary camp considered the ‘Gang of four’ to have been anarchist elements who attempted to conspiratorially seize a coup and supported Hua Guofeng in 1976.The majority of Maoist groups only after 1981 in India recognized that China had turned into a Social Imperialist state. They still upheld the three worlds theory unfortunately, attributing it to Chairman Mao and maintained that the ‘gang of four’ were counter revolutionaries. It was only comrades like Comrade Harbhajan Sohi of India ,Chairman Gonzalo of Peru and Bob Avakian of America who supported the ‘Gang of four’ as the true revolutionaries.
In the proceedings of the trial even the bourgeois constitutional norms were not applied which are manifest by parliamentary constitutional democracy. The style of conduct resembled a bourgeois dictatorship with charges trumped up or convicts framed. I would have backed a bourgeois democratic state to release the prisoners in England, and America and arguably even in a third world democracy in India or Latin America. It demonstrated how a Social imperialist state could be even more autocratic or dictatorial than a capitalist Western style democracy or semi-colonial third world neo-liberal state. The trial of Bo XiLaiin 2013 ,even if he favoured liberal reforms, was a further testification of the nature of the Chinese regime.
It was the comrades of this group who combated the capitalist roaders at their hardest point with relentless spirit and tenacity. At the very root or base it invested every ounce of it’s energy to extinguish the poisonous weeds of the revisionists, reminiscent of a surgeon performing an operation. In the deepest depths of despair it ressurected to illuminate the spark of Chairman Mao and strike the enemy at its hardest point. They played a major role in shaping the revolutionary committees, revolutionary operas and many path breaking experiments. The painstaking work of the group was instrumental in the Cultural revolution taking revolutionary democracy to heights of glory. In every rung of society be it the fields, factories, army or schools, their presence was felt.
I recommend readers to refer to the essays by Raymond Lotta on the bios and contribution of the Gang of four, the essay of Comrade Harbhajan Sohi on the return of revisionism in China .as well as the writings of Chairman Gonzalo and Joma Sison.There have also been notable writings by WilliamHinton.Joseph Ball and Usa Patnaik tooth and nail refuting intellectuals like Chang and Halliday or Dikkoterwho treat Chairman Mao and CPC as a monster.
WEAKNESSES AND ERRORS
No doubt the Gang of four made major errors in practice reflecting left sectarian tendencies. It failed to unite the maximum number of people possible in the united front wrongly attacking many elements who could have been incorporated. Bourgeois artists, poets, musicians, scientists and writers were treated very harshly by them. Erroneously they launched a vendetta against premier Zhou En Lai in the ‘anti-Lin Biao and anti-Confucius campaign. The revolutionary Commitees were hardly blossoming at their helm in the period of the Gang, only reviving properly in 1975.Splitting was concurrent in their practice. The Gang was unable to deliver a blow to the enemy at its hardest point or properly implement the line of Chairman Mao, who often rebuked them for their errors. The slogans they formulated and raised often had powerful sectarian currents. William Hinton was critical of their mistakes. I feel the Shanghai textbook written by them lacked a concrete or deep Marxist-Leninist perspective or detached from the essence of it’s ideology. A central reason for the reversal of victory for rightists was the fact that it consolidated a very strong base in the Peoples Liberation army. The ideology of the Cultural Revolution had not adequately penetrated into the army .Chairman Mao’s line was unable to make substantial inroads even after Chang Chun Chiao was appointed head of the PLA.When adressing question of dictatorship of the proletariat he met great resistance from military officers. The key figures in the rightist coup staged were Yeh Chien ying,Hua Guofeng,Wang tu Hsing and Chen His Lien.It is significant that the Shanghai militia confronted the Peoples Liberation Army after the October 6th coup, which had been formed just after the conclusion of the 10th party Congress. It is also significant that Mao did not choose Chang Chu Chiao to replace Premier Zhou because of the relative lack of support amongst the broad masses of the gang of four. It would have caused great resentment amongst the army and old bureaucrats.
Chairman Mao had often rebuked the gang of being ‘splittist’ and not attacking the very enemy within the party. “You are making socialist revolution and don’t know where the bourgeoisie is it’s right in the Communist Party. The capitalist roaders are still on the capitalist road.” In a letter Mao wrote to Chiang Ching “You have been wronged. Today we are separating into two worlds. May each keep his peace. These few words may be my last message to you. Human life is limited, but revolution knows no bounds. In the struggle of the past ten years I have tried to reach the peak of revolution, but I was not successful. But you could reach the top. If you fail, you will plunge into a fathomless abyss. Your body will shatter. Your bones will break.”18Among his last words aimed squarely at the revisionist power holders who wanted to create a rift between them, were “Help Chiang Ching raise the red flag”.
Neverthless In my view the Gang was 70%correct and 30% wrong. Their contribution could compare to the heights of the great Marxist revolutionaries in light of a first revolutionary struggle in a Socialist Society itself. Within a Socialist Society itself they were architects of revolution. Remarkable strides were made in the power workers had at the shopfloor level .The contribution of Chiang Ching and Chang Chun Chiao would be written or inscribed in golden letters. At every juncture when the revisionists gained ascendancy, they launched death defying counter revolutionary blows. They displayed exemplary skill and courage when the capitalist roaders unfurled their lag after the betrayal of Lin Biao.
The venom or dauntless spirit they displayed when countering allegations in the trial was reminiscent of a ship surviving in the stormiest of seas. or a pot of water simmering at its boiling point. Their very words aptly described the nature of the Social-Fascist Dengist regime in China and the revolutionary essence of Mao thought and Socialist China. They were instrumental in devising forms of mass line practice in struggle within a Socialist state. It is noteworthy that it showed great restraint in preventing image of Chairman Mao from turning into a personality cult and the red book turning into a work of ‘magic. ‘I also credit them for not treating Maoism as a seperate entity ,but as an integral part of Leninism. How can revolutionaries ever forget their personal participation in production and their shaping of the revolutionary Commitees.Chiang would rank amongst the greatest ever women comrades with her creation of revolutionary art.Chang was the architect of the first revolutionary Commitee.
The building of the Chaoyang Agricultural Institute in Laoning in 1975 was a major step in incorporating study in rural communes. It’s curriculm sowed the seeds of building a spiritually new Socialist man, promoting the complete integration of teachers, students and peasants in work and study.
Their arrest in a coup in October 1976 illustrated the weakness of proletarian base or institutional power in Socialist China and powerful factional tendencies within it. Immaturity of the working class was instrumental in the setback in 1976 with even a demonstration staged against the gang. It is ironic that within one month of the death of Chairman Mao the Comrades were arrested and the revolutionary movement sabotaged. A genuine Socialist state or Society would not permit such a phenomena.
The proof of the dedication of the gang of four is that Chairman Mao on basis of merit selected them on the basis of their outstanding work in the late 1960’s.With the meticulous skill of a surgeon they combated the peoples Liberation army from imposing command upon the people as Lin Biao advocated.
ZHANG CHUN QIAO(CHANG CHUN CHIAO)
Zhang Chunqiao (张春桥, 1917-2005) was born in Juye County, Shandong Province. Zhang joined the Shanghai chapter of the League of Chinese Left-Wing Writers in 1936 and joined the Party around 1940. During the war against Japan, he was a cadre of communist guerillas operating behind enemy lines in north and east China. After the founding of the PRC he started his career in literary and propaganda work.
He served as deputy director of the East China branch of the New China News Agency (1950), managing director of the PLA Daily [Jiefangjun bao] (1954), member of the Shanghai Party Secretariat (1958) and director of the Propaganda Department of the Shanghai Party branch (1963) .
In October 1966, Zhang became deputy head of the Cultural Revolution Group, headed by Jiang Quingand Chen Boda which directed the developments in the first half of the Cultural Rvolution.. Together with Jiang, Wang Hongwenand Yao Wenyuan , Zhang would form what became know as the Gang of four.
He was one of the initiators of the demonstrations that led to the founding of the Shanghai Commune of which he was the chairman and Wang Hongwen the second-in-command. The organization was reorganized into a revolutionary committee on Mao’s orders, but Zhang remained in charge.
He was arrested along with the other members of the Gang of Four in October 1976, as part of a conspiracy by Ye Jianying.Y and newly anointed party leader Hua Guofeng.
Chang resisted the trial in 1980 with courage defending the revolutionary line like a boulder thwarting a bulldozer. Few comrades in world history could have faced a court trial with such tenacity and ideological commitment.
He virtually did not utter a word. Zhang was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve, together with Jiang Qing, in 1984, but his sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment, and in December 1997 the sentence was further reduced to eighteen years.
In 1998, Zhang was released from prison to undergo medical treatment. He then lived in obscurity in Shanghai for the remainder of his life. Zhang died from pancreatic cancer in April 2005.
Zhang was one of the founding members and principal leaders of the Shanghai Peoples Commune formed in January 1967.Later it became known as the revolutionary committee. His guidance played a major role in it’s successful functioning in accordance with the Maoist line.-the 1st experiment in copying the Paris Commune.
He balanced the role of the party leadership with the masses with mastery of Marxism –Leninism in the most innovative form of economic development ever built in a Socialist Society and one of the most creative forms in the history of mankind.
Never had such depth of proletarian revolutionary control been ever developed. Chang displayed meticulous patience and endurance in holding joint discussions at great personal risk.
In Shanghai in a suburb the rightist forces surrounded a train and Chang Chun Chiao went directly on the scene. He signed the demands of the rebels and demanded that the municipal committee hold a meeting.
He then persuaded the workers on the train to return to Shanghai to implement the struggle. Chang Chun Chiao stated “We used to hold joint discussions. We would ask the rebels to come to our meeting to discuss each problem. One day forty organizations may be represented, the next day hundred. Nobody knew anyone else.
Although we were very busy and in a state of chaos we thought that this kind of thing was liable to happen in a revolution, and this was the way of getting problems solved.”After the Shanghai revolutionary communes formation which later became a revolutionary committee, the building of revolutionary committees took place all over China.
His document on ‘The all round dictatorship of the proletariat over the bourgeoisie was one of the most articulate documents written by any Marxist-Leninist revolutionary.” It made a most incisive analysis of the prevailing conditions and the root cause of revisionism.
Above all he vividly explained Mao’s concept of continuing the dictatorship of the Proletariat and proved that it was an extension of Leninism. It dug most deeply into every aspect from the proletarian party to production, masswork and mass line. In that work he defended the gains of the Cultural Revolution but also elaborated how capitalist conditions still prevailed in the countryside with the need for revolutionary changes and thus necessary continuation of the Cultural Revolution.
He illustrated how figures like Deng Xiaoping or Lin Biao could come back to power and the importance of consolidating the gains of the Cultural Revolution. and how people in production had to undergo continuous transformation.
Another notable fact is that he went into the roots of the ideology of both Marx and Lenin and explained the relation of their ideology with the present struggle. He explained how Lenin himself advocated this very concept of combating the bourgeoisie within the party and morally supported a cultural revolution. He elaborated Marx and Lenin’s experience of stabling the dictatorship of the Proletariat.
CHIANG CHING(Compiled from tribute by journal Revolutionary worker in 1991)
Chiang Ching was born in Shantung Province, East China, in 1914 and joined the Communist Party in 1933 in her late teens. The party sent her to Shanghai where she became a stage and film actress and she worked with the Shanghai Work Study Troupe and taught at a workers’ night school. But Chiang wanted to develop cultural works more closely linked with the revolutionary struggle. And so after a few years in Shanghai she asked to be sent to Yenan — the revolutionary base area that had been established under the leadership of Mao Tsetung. She arrived in Yenan in 1937 and worked with the Yenan Documentary Film Unit, and it was here that Chiang Ching and Mao Tse tung met.
For the next 40 years they would be close comrades in arms, united by their common hatred of the enemy and love for the people.
Mao was intensely interested in plays, concerts, poetry and art. And he admired women artists and actresses who had emancipated themselves. He knew they had to struggle against traditional views that treated actresses as women of “ill repute.” And he united with their recognition of the important role of art and literature in molding public opinion.
Mao’s line was that art should serve the revolutionary cause. And it was on this common ground of art to serve the people that Mao and Chiang Ching met and fell in love. Their marriage gave Mao great happiness and a deeper understanding of the problems of art and literature. And Chiang Ching was to influence him in this sphere throughout his life.
Some of Mao’s enemies inside the party opposed Chiang Ching and her marriage to Mao from the very beginning. But Mao and Chiang were determined to get married and the Political Bureau of the party finally gave grudging consent — but only on the outrageous condition that Chiang not be given any position in the party and be kept out of politics. Even within the revolutionary ranks there were men who held to feudal ideas and were appalled at the idea of a strong revolutionary woman. And from this time on, Chiang had to fight to be recognized as a leader in her own right. She became the repeated target of vicious gossip. And many times when Mao’s enemies wanted to attack him but were afraid to do so openly, they would start some kind of vicious rumor about her.
In 1949 China was liberated. Power was put into the hands of the revolutionary proletariat and the masses of people began to build a whole new society. This was a socialist society with the goal of eliminating all oppression and inequality. A society where millions of people were mobilized to participate in transforming every sphere of life — from economics and politics to philosophy and culture. And as all of society was turned upside down and radically transformed, so too did the struggle for women’s liberation move forward.
For the first time, women in China were given equal rights. The brutal practice of arranged marriages was outlawed and women were given the right to divorce. Men were no longer allowed to treat their wives as household slaves. And women were encouraged to step forward and join the struggle to build a new society. This most radical and earthshaking movement produced and brought forward many women revolutionary leaders. And it was exactly this process that brought Chiang Ching to the fore as a great revolutionary leader.
STORMING THE CULTURAL MUMMIES
“In the world today all culture, all literature and art belong to definite classes and are geared to definite political lines. There is in fact no such thing as art for art’s sake, art that stands above classes or art that is detached from or independent of politics.”
Mao Tsetung, 1942 Talks at the
Yenan Forum on Literature and Art
In the 1960s Chiang Ching spent long periods in Shanghai, recovering from serious health problems. During this time she attended plays, saw films and other artistic productions. And what she discovered shocked and disturbed her. Many of the cultural works she observed were in direct contradiction to the goals of socialist society.
What she saw in the main was a “theater of the dead” — a culture promoting old ideas, practices and habits of the exploiting classes. A stage dominated by forces in society opposed to the elimination of privilege and inequality.
One of the characteristics of socialist society is that classes and class struggle continue. Would China continue along the socialist path or would capitalism be re-stored? Old ideas and practices persisted — if they weren’t hit they wouldn’t fall. And there were party members in high positions who acted as guardians of privilege instead of leaders of rebellion against the old. These were the forces Chiang Ching found guiding the party’s cultural work. She reported:
“Our operatic stage is occupied by emperors, princes, generals, ministers, scholars and beauties, and on top of these, ghosts and monsters…There are well over 600 million workers, peasants and soldiers in our country, whereas there is only a handful of landlords, rich peasants, counter-revolutionaries, bad elements, Rightists, and bourgeois elements. Shall we serve this handful, or the 600 million? The grain we eat is grown by the peasants, the clothes we wear and the houses we live in are all made by the workers, and the People’s Liberation Army stands guard at the fronts of national defense for us and yet we do not portray them on stage. May I ask which class stand you artists take? And where is the artists’ `conscience’ you always talk about?”
Chiang Ching gave voice to a new generation of theater-goers and actors who made urgent demands on the arts. A whole new consciousness was developing among the people and they wanted plays, ballets, music and other artistic works that reflected the new society. They wanted cultural works that exposed the old society they had fought so hard to overthrow. And they wanted a culture that would support and push forward the continuing struggle to radically transform society — not stand in the way. Chiang Ching united with this sentiment and was instrumental in developing a new revolutionary culture that was widely taken up by the masses.
From Peking to Shanghai, she stirred up trouble and earned the hatred of the conservative forces who headed up the party’s cultural work. Throughout the 1950s Chiang had been investigating and studying the art and literature scene. So by the 1960s she was ready to blast out with full force against revisionists like Chou Yang, head of the Ministry of Culture, who stubbornly opposed staging operas with revolutionary themes.
Chiang actively led and sparked this struggle. She visited artists, actors and musicians, encouraging them to carry out Mao’s line on literature and art. She went boldly into the theatres and ballet troupes, speaking directly to performers. And she did this over the heads of their superiors, inciting them to criticize “bourgeois art” and those party leaders who promoted it. In the China Peking Opera Theater and the Peking Opera Theater of Shanghai, in the ballet schools in Peking and Shanghai, and elsewhere she encouraged talented young artists to go up against tired, conservative leaders and stage new productions.
There were many times when Chiang Ching had to “go against the tide.” Her work was sabotaged, she was personally attacked and slandered. And there were times when she and Mao’s other close comrades were clearly in the minority. But Chiang Ching had great faith in the masses and she relied on them to wage the struggle for a new revolutionary culture. In developing a method for creating good, modern plays, she was the first to suggest the “three-in-one combination.” What she developed were leading groups made up of three components: leadership cadres, playwrights and the masses. The leadership would first set the theme and the playwrights would then consider it and go out to gain experience of that subject in real life. When the play was written, the masses, who knew about the play’s theme from actual experience, would review, discuss and give opinions on it.
Model works were developed in this way, like the famous “Red Detachment of Women.” And they were then performed not only by big professional companies, but by all kinds of smaller amateur groups in the cities and countryside. This whole “three-in-one” method was later used as a model for the Revolutionary Committee — the new form of leadership organization developed during the Cultural Revolution.
REVOLUTIONARY PEKING OPERA
One of the things Chiang Ching is best known for is her role in creating a new revolutionary Peking Opera. This was one of the earliest victories of the Cultural Revolution — an opening shot in a struggle that pitted Mao’s supporters against the “capitalist roaders” in the party who wanted to bring back capitalism. The stakes of this battle were great. Chiang Ching knew that if Mao’s enemies were able to maintain control of the propaganda and cultural departments this would give them a lot of power to promote their ideas and rally forces to their side. If “emperors and princes” were allowed to dominate the culture, this would eventually undermine the social and economic structure of socialist society.
Peking opera had its roots in centuries-old folk art, but it was a product of feudalism and reflected an elite class in society. Even under socialism this art form had been resistant to change. What distinguished Chiang’s revolutionary model operas was that these plays took up topical political themes in modern dress, even though they used many of the artistic elements of classic opera. In developing the Peking Opera Chiang Ching found ways to give the traditional music more strength and power. Western instruments were added, including a full range of wind instruments, along with the kettle drum, the piano and the harp. And this gave the music a greater capacity to express the full range of human emotions.
The prominent characters in these works were the masses of people and revolutionary heros and heroines. All this was an example of integrating the rich cultural heritage of China into new socialist art. As Mao had said in 1963, “Operas should develop what is new from what is old, rather than what is old from what is old.” High party officials in charge of culture tried to block these efforts by Chiang Ching. They rejected the work of young workers and peasants, claiming they were “technically inferior” or “unknowns.”
New productions were harassed and sabotaged. There would be no vacant theaters, no place to rehearse, and no publicity. And there were repeated attempts to silence Chiang Ching’s leadership. For instance, at an opera festival in the fall of 1964 Chiang Ching delivered a major speech on the revolution of the Peking Opera. But this speech went unreported until three years later, in 1967.
The intense struggle in the cultural realm tested and trained Chiang Ching for even bigger battles. The question was up: would the proletariat hold on to state power or would power be grabbed by those in the party who wanted to take China down the capitalist road? Mao understood this problem could not be solved by just kicking out a few enemies in the party. And he called on the masses in their millions to take up this struggle.
In the midst of this unprecedented upsurge Chiang Ching came forward as a leader in an all-around way. Chiang Ching helped deliver what Mao called “the signal” for the beginning of the Cultural Revolution. Under Mao and her leadership an article was written criticizing the play “Hai Jui Dismissed from Office,” which was a thinly disguised attack on the revolution.
And it was this article that sounded the call for the masses to expose and kick out those in the party taking the capitalist road.
Chiang Ching was also instrumental in writing the May 16th Circular — a very important statement of principles which set out the goals and methods for the Cultural Revolution. On May 25, 1966, students at Peking University put up a big character poster criticizing the head of the university and other high-ranking party officials.
Mao supported this and asked that this “first Marxist-Leninist big character poster” be broadcast on the radio and printed in the newspapers. Mass struggle broke out on campus and quickly spread to other schools. Chiang Ching recognized the significance of this upsurge and decided to go to Peking University. She wanted to talk to the students herself and investigate the situation firsthand.
What she found was that the party “work teams” that had been sent from Peking to “guide” the struggle were really trying to put down and derail the rebel students. Chiang Ching became identified with the youth and enjoyed enormous prestige among them.
When the Red Guards first appeared she defended and encouraged them. She was appointed First Deputy Head of the Cultural Revolution Group, the group of party leaders entrusted with the task of leading the Cultural Revolution. And in this capacity she attended seven of the eight mass Red Guard rallies in Peking.
Later an ultra-left line developed among the students that threatened to sabotage Mao’s line by advocating the use of violence to resolve differences among the people.
And Chiang Ching played a key role in combating this trend. She told the students,
“Don’t hit others and beat them. Struggle by force can only touch the skin and flesh, while the struggle by reasoning things out can touch them to their very souls.”
Chiang Ching also assisted and gave support to the workers when they seized power from party leaders who had been exposed as “capitalist roaders.”
She encouraged workers in the takeover of the Trade Union Federation in December 1966, one of the first of these power seizures.
As the Cultural Revolution deepened, right-wing forces in the party continued to oppose the revolutionary changes being made in the economy, health, education and culture.
Chiang Ching played a leading role in mobilizing the masses to combat these efforts to put so-called experts back in command and undercut the new socialist ways of doing things.
And when people like Deng Xiaoping promoted the idea that China should open its doors to Western capitalism, Chiang Ching helped to expose and oppose this plan to sell out China’s soul.
While providing overall leadership to the Cultural Revolution, Chiang Ching continued to play a key role in the struggle to develop revolutionary culture.
In November 1966 she became the cultural adviser to the People’s Liberation Army and called on the masses of soldiers to take up pen, paint, baton and camera and join the struggle to develop art to serve the people.
In one of her statements at the trial Chiang Ching says that while in prison she prepared herself physically for the trial, so that she could do her best in court to defend the Cultural Revolution. “Every day at the cock’s crow, I got out my sword”, referring to a well-known general readying himself for battle.
She prepared a 181-page statement slamming the revisionists with their own indictments: if the Left “framed up” veteran leaders, what are you doing now? What’s wrong with the Cultural Revolution overthrowing the capitalist headquarters of Liu Shao-chi and company and restoring the true face of the Party? She got right to the heart of the matter:
“I’m not going to admit to any crimes, not because I want to cut myself off from the people, but because I’m innocent. If I have to admit to anything, I can only say I lost in this struggle for power.
“You have power now so you can easily accuse people of crimes and fabricate false evidence to support your charges. But if you think you can fool the people of China and worldwide, you are completely mistaken. It is not I but your small gang who is on trial in the court of history.”
This is exactly what her testimony did in the trial itself, which started November 20th, 1980, and went into January 1981. Unlike Wang Hung-wen and Yao Wen-yuan, who capitulated before the court, admitting everything they were charged with in exchange, they hoped, for a lighter sentence, Chang Chun-chiao remained defiantly silent (except when he rejected the indictments), refusing to recognize the court of some 35 judges and its jeering, hand-picked spectators and televised spectacle.
Chiang Ching showed nothing but contempt for her would-be executioners and boldly turned the fire of interrogation right back at them:
“Most of the members of the court present, including your president Jiang Hua, competed with each other in those days to criticize Liu Shao-chi.
If I am guilty, how about all of you?”
She drew out clearly the link between her actions and Mao’s revolutionary line, again silencing her judges, who of course could not prove otherwise and were reduced to telling her to “shut up” again and again.
“Since you won’t let me speak”, Chiang Ching would then retort, “why don’t you put a clay Buddha in my chair and try it instead of me. I was Chairman Mao’s wife for thirty-eight years…. I followed Mao’s line and the Party’s line. What you are doing now is asking a widow to pay her husband’s debt. Well I’ll tell you, I am happy and honoured to pay Chairman Mao’s debt!”
And in one dramatic moment, she repeated a well-known statement of Mao’s that true revolutionaries are bound by neither heaven nor law.
The authorities could stand no more. As she was dragged from the room she shouted, “It’s right to rebel! Down with the revisionists led by Deng Xiaoping! I am prepared to die!” Shaken, the revisionists postponed their frame-up for a few days to decide what to do.
Wang Hongwen intervened on the scene much later. He gained his political baptism as a worker in a textile mill in 1964.With great diligence he defended Mao’s line within the municipal party commitee .Wang had been appointed as head of the security work in the factory, which included physically guarding the plant from sabotage and intrusion, and most importantly handling personell questions. In 1966 Wang putout character posters understanding the significance of the Cultural Revolution, by questioning the leadership of both the Municipal party Commitee and the central govt.In September 1966 Wang participated in a meeting at the East China textile institute and led an organised city wide criticism of the Mayor,mayor,Tsao Ti Chu.By November Wang was in the leading group of a city wide organization of Mao’s followers in Shanghai’s factories, educationa l,cultural and administrative units. They decided to unite with the Red Guards from several Peking organisations and form the Shanghai Workers Revolutionary rebels general headquarters. Wang’s work had become such a thorn in the flesh for the rulers that he was labelled a ‘counter-revolutionary’ by the mayor and first party secretary. In March 1967 Wang became vice-head of the Shanghai revolutionary Committee .With the meticulous precision of a surgeon he dissected the anti-marxist essence of the line of Liu Shao Chi.He attained great prestige amongst the workers as well as intellectuals. Mao held Wang in such esteem that after Lin Biao’s fall he appointed him Vice chairman of the Central Commitee.Earlier most tenaciously resisted Lin Biao in a central commitee meeting at Lushan.
It was strange that Wang was chosen above Chiang,Chang and Yao.This could mainly be attributed to the fact that as he was a young man or newcomer he could be more easily dismissed or discredited in the immediate struggle for successors’ post after Mao’s death. Secondly he was not associated with Lin Biao having not worked with the party center unlike Chiang,Chang and Yao.
YAO WEN YUAN
Yao Wen Yuan gained his political baptism on the cultural front in Shanghai when he joined Chiang and Chang.Being attached as a literary critique to the Shanghai writers union he launched a scathing criticism of the political line of Chou Yang,Hsia Ten,Yang Han-sheng and Tien Han.Yao had the firm conviction that they were violating Socialist standards.
Yao Wen-yuan was an architect in making Mao’s line public as well as directives .His major contribution was an article titled “On the social basis of the Lin Biao anti-party clique’ in 1975 .This document at the very root analyses the conditions that sowed the seeds for revisionists like Lin Biao to sprout. With great insight and dialectical dissection it summed up the dual tasks of detecting the emergence of the new bourgeoise in time and at the very base cut out the poisonous weeds.
Article written with reference to ‘Mao’s Great last Battle “ by Raymond Lotta, ‘Revolutionary worker ‘1991 article on Chiang Ching.and other intellectuals.
Harsh Thakor is a freelance writer who travels around India, particularly Punjab to report democratic events. Written extensively on Maoism and Nagi Reddy line in India, Maoism in China and democratic revolutionary struggles in Punjab on blogs like Democracy and Class Struggle and Ottos War Room as well as Frontier weekly journal.