Polemic Against the Gang of Four: ‘Grasping Revolution, Promoting Production’

This polemic against the political line and practice of the ‘Gang of Four’ (Jiang Qing, Zhang Chunqiao, Yao Wenyuan, and Wang Hongwen) during the Cultural Revolution in China is from Class Struggle (Winter, 1976-77, #6), the theoretical journal of the October League / Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist). It represents the line of Hua Guofeng, who followed Mao Zedong as the Chairman of the Communist Party of China. The document isn’t perfect, and is itself somewhat ultra-left, but it is being posted here to help look at some of the political problems of the Cultural Revolution in China:

‘Grasping Revolution, Promoting Production’
An exposure of the ‘Gang of Four’ and their attempt to restore capitalism in China

 The following article, written by Jen Ping, first appeared in the Nov. 14, 1976 issue of People’s Daily, organ of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. Entitled “A Gang of Vermin Noxious to the Country and the People,” it deals with one of the major questions distinguishing Marxism-Leninism from revisionism, the so-called “theory of productive forces.” It exposes how the “gang of four,” the anti-party clique headed by Wang Hung-wen, Chiang Ching, Chang Chun-chiao and Yao Wen-yuan, distorted a correct understanding of this question so as to further their plot to seize power and restore capitalism in China.

Basing himself on the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism, our great leader and teacher Chairman Mao summed up the experience in the socialist revolution and socialist construction and laid down for our party the great principle of “grasping revolution, promoting production.” This principle is a scientific reflection of the dialectical relationship between revolution and production, between superstructure and the economic base, and between the relations of production and the productive forces. It shows the only correct road for the rapid advance of the national economy in the socialist direction. In order to usurp party and state power, subvert the dictatorship of the proletariat and restore capitalism, the anti-party clique of Wang Hung-wen, Chang Chun-chiao, Chiang Ching and Yao Wen-yuan did their utmost to tamper with and oppose the principle. They spread a host of fallacies and did many evils to undermine revolution and production and to endanger the country and people. The crimes they committed were outrageous.

The “gang of four” don’t know how to work a machine, grow a crop or fight a battle. They lack truth and mass support. Only by bludgeoning and labeling people did they manage to get along. They did not engage in production and opposed those who did. Should anyone talk about production or do something to promote it, they would fly into a fury and indiscriminately condemn him as a follower of the “theory of productive forces” on the pretext that he talked only about production and not about revolution. Is the effort to promote production synonymous with the “theory of productive forces”? No! The “gang of four” completely reversed right and wrong on this question in order to create confusion.

The theory of productive forces is a revisionist theory that one-sidedly exaggerates the decisive role of the productive forces, but negates the powerful reaction of the relations of production on the productive forces and that of the superstructure on the economic base. It negates taking class struggle as the key link, putting politics in command, the proletarian revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat. Chairman Mao pointed out: “Class struggle is the key link and everything else hinges on it.” “Moreover, ideology and politics are the commander, the soul.” Lenin pointed out: “Politics cannot but have precedence over economics. To argue differently means forgetting the ABC’s of Marxism.” The relationship between revolution and production represents the unity of opposites.

Of the two, revolution is the principal aspect of the contradiction and plays the leading role. It determines the line guiding the development of production and is at the same time a powerful motive force in this development. The relationship between revolution and production and between politics and economics is one between the key link and the subordinate links, between the commander and the commanded. It is wrong either to reverse this relationship or to take an eclectical attitude towards it.


In the historical period of socialism, there are still classes and class struggle, and only when we persevere in taking class struggle as the key link, effectively grasp revolution and continue to readjust the inharmonious portions of the relations of production and the superstructure can we push the social productive forces forward rapidly, consolidate the dictatorship of the proletariat and prevent the restoration of capitalism. While criticizing Liu Shao-chi’s counter-revolutionary revisionist line, Chairman Mao said explicitly: “Political work is the life-blood of all economic work.” We must at all times persevere in giving first place to revolution and putting proletarian politics in command.

Teng Hsiao-ping was entirely wrong he preached “taking the three directives as the key link” and stated that “white or black, so long as the cast can catch mice, they are alright.” We are opposed to the theory of productive forces at all times, past, present, or future. But this can in no way be construed as opposing promoting production. The “gang of four” deliberately confused the two different concepts and equated the theory of productive forces to the effort to promote production; they brought insolent accusations against people so that no one would dare or be able to promote production. Their criminal aim was to undermine both production and revolution.

By stressing the commanding role of revolution, we do not mean that production is unimportant, still less, do we mean it is dispensable. Marxists regard man’s activity in production as the most fundamental practical activity and material production as the basis for the subsistence and development of mankind.

Chairman Mao teaches us: “Class struggle, the struggle for production and scientific experiment are the three great revolutionary movements for building a great socialist country. These movements are a sure guarantee that communists will be free from bureaucracy and immune against revisionism and dogmatism, and will forever remain invincible. They are a reliable guarantee that the proletariat will be able to unite with the broad working masses and realize a democratic dictatorship.”


In the period of socialism, only by taking class struggle as the key link, developing production actively and building socialism successfully can we provide a solid material basis for consolidating the dictatorship of the proletariat, build up a powerful national defense, support the world revolution better, improve the material and cultural life of the working people step by step, and prepare the material conditions for the gradual elimination of the three major differences, for the triumph of socialism over capitalism and the realization of the ultimate goal of communism. There, striving for the expansion of socialist production and building socialism well is a basic task of the dictatorship of the proletariat and a glorious duty of the working class and other laboring people.

The “gang of four” advocated metaphysics frantically. With ulterior motives, they opposed revolution to production, politics to economy, class struggle to the struggle for production and the dictatorship of the proletariat to socialist construction. This would not only impede the expansion of production, but inevitably undermine the great cause of the proletarian revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat. According to their logic, when “the satellites go up into the sky,” the red flag would inevitably “trail in the dust”’ if the 800 million people want to “make revolution,” they should feed themselves only with northwest wind. Is it not a monstrous insult to Marxism to pass such “theory” off as Marxism?

We the proletariat want both to keep the red flag flying from generation to generation and send satellites up into the sky; we want to ensure that our country will never change its political color and will grow prosperous and strong.

The “gang of four” asserted that “production will go up automatically when revolution is carried out well.” By this they meant to negate party leadership and throw production into chaos so that the socialist economy would “automatically” fall into an anarchist state and capitalism would be restored.

The struggle for production hinges on class struggle. To develop production, we must first of all grasp class struggle and the two-line struggle well. Facts have always shown that if revolution is not done well, production will certainly suffer and go astray. A really good job in making revolution  will surely spur production. To develop socialist production, however, we must also study Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought conscientiously and strive to grasp the laws governing production and solve the contradictions arising in the course of production.

We must strengthen party leadership, rely whole-heartedly on the working class and the masses of the people, establish and improve rational rules and regulations, do a better job of economic accounting, lower production costs, increase the accumulation of funds, carry out technical innovations and technical revolution, launch socialist emulation, raise labor productivity, and so on. Economic work must be done with increasing carefulness. How can production go up automatically without an enormous amount of hard work being done and specific problems solved? Socialist production needs leadership; it must develop proportionately in a planned way and in the socialist direction.


The “gang of four” indulged themselves in revisionist, splittist and conspiratorial activities. What they dreamed of day and night was how to usurp party and state power. They did not care a fig for the development of production or the safety of the people. After the strong earthquake in Tangshan, Chairman Mao and the party central committee showed great solicitude, and Comrade Hua Kuo-feng himself visited the quake-affected area to express sympathy for the people there. But the vicious “gang of four” said that “the earthquake affected only a few hundred square kilometers of land; it is only a matter of a few months” and, compared with their “great cause” of counter-revolutionary restoration, only a matter of minor and “partial” importance. After the Tangshan earthquake, leading comrades in charge of anti-quake and relief work pointed out that it was necessary to work well in order to insure the safety of Chairman Mao, the party central committee and the people. But the “gang of four” outrageously slandered these comrades, alleging that they “ignored politics and class struggle.” What kind of “politics” did these rascals want? Living on expensive beds designed to protect them in the event of an earthquake, they hummed such poems as “watching and waiting at ease for the mountain to fall and the earth to split” and quoted lines from an old poem “the earth turns round to herald a new world; the sky whirls for the establishment of an everlasting new regime” as an expression of their counter-revolutionary pipe dream for “ruling all the rivers and mountains” and the restoration of capitalism.

In the name of “revolution” the “gang of four” poked their nose into everything and created trouble everywhere. “Don’t be afraid to stop production or work,” they shouted, so as to undermine the national economic plan and the strategic policy of “be prepared against war, be prepared against natural disasters, and do everything for the people.” Wherever they went, they brought bourgeois factionalism and splits to undermine management of enterprises, disrupted government financial and economic policies and whipped up an evil wind of economism. They incited people to engage in beatings, smashings and robberies, supported such actions and used the reactionary slogan of “attack by reasoning but defend yourself by force” to oppose Chairman Mao’s instruction (when there is a debate) “it should be conducted by reasoning, not by coercion or force.” With their reactionary slogan, they created fightings which hit the national economy and brought serious losses in some areas. In short, the “gang of four” would be elated if they could destroy the socialist economy and topple the dictatorship of the proletariat. What sinister designs they harboured!


The “gang of four” are typical counter-revolutionary double-dealers. They masqueraded as heroes against “dictatorship by the ministries,” but actually tried hard to enforce a kind of dictatorship with the “gang of four” at the core. They clamored against “material incentives,” but in fact resorted to “material incentives” themselves. They abused others as advocating “slavish comprador philosophy” while they themselves worshipped things foreign, fawned on foreigners, maintained illicit foreign relationships and engaged in flagrant activities of capitulationism and national betrayal. They chanted loudly about “restricting bourgeois right” while they scrambled even more frenziedly than the capitalists for more bourgeois right. They appropriated at will the fruits of labor of the people, spent money like dirt with an unsparing hand and led a decadent and dissolute life, indulging in eating, drinking, pleasure-seeking, hunting, riding and watching old operas and vulgar films. They are out-and-out bourgeois elements sucking the blood of the workers.

Since the anti-party “gang of four” was smashed, the people in their hundreds of millions have shown unprecedented enthusiasm for socialism. The revolution is forging ahead, and production is taking on a new look. Many factories and mines have topped their production quotas every day, and their output is at an all-time high. In those places and organizations, which suffered seriously from interferences and sabotage by the “gang of four,” the situation in revolution and production has rapidly turned for the better, and the people there are determined to work most energetically to make up for the losses caused by the “gang of four.” The situation there is excellent and inspiring. All this is eloquent proof that revolution is the locomotive of history and the power motive force for the development of production.

Chairman Mao formulated for us the Marxist-Leninist principle of “grasping revolution, promoting production” and hoisted the two bright red banners of Taching and Tachai as examples for us to learn from and catch up with. We must rally most closely around the Party Central Committee headed by our wise leader Chairman Hua Kuo-feng, adhere to the party’s basic line, and penetratingly criticize and thoroughly settle accounts with the “gang of four” for their counter-revolutionary crimes.

We must uphold the general line of going all out, aiming high and achieving greater, faster, better and more economical results in building socialism, deepen the mass movements to learn from Taching in industry and learn from Tachai in agriculture, do still better in implementing the charter of the Anshan Iron and Steel Company, take the road of being both red and expert, work energetically and in high spirits to seize victories in both revolution and production and strive to fulfill or overfulfill the national economic plan.

The working class, the poor and lower-middle peasants and the masses of people of China have high aspirations and confidence and the ability to surmount difficulties and push forward the national economy at an even faster pace, and strive to further consolidate the dictatorship of the proletariat, accomplish the comprehensive modernization of agriculture, industry, national defense and science and technology and build China into a powerful socialist country before the end of the century and realize the ultimate goal of communism.

11 responses to “Polemic Against the Gang of Four: ‘Grasping Revolution, Promoting Production’

  1. i think this article is full of labelling also. i’d rather read a detailed historical account supplemented with their line and policies which will give support that these so called Gang of Four are really revisionists. I appreciate this post for exploring the issue on the Gang of Four. I guess there really should be a thorough investigation and debate not only on the status of the Gang of Four but for the general assessment on the status of China after the death of Mao Zedong.

  2. I think it is a good thing to reprint this article so folks can read some of the debates that were going on at the time.

  3. Clearly the Gang of Four made serious errors in the latter part of the Cultural Revolution, and I appreciate that this polemic from the heat of the struggle at that time is trying to get at what those errors were. But I ultimately find this lacking politically.

    The main claim of this polemic seems to be that the Gang of Four were the actual capitalist roaders, and their devious method for trying to restore capitalism was to cause chaos in production so that socialism would fail.

    Frankly I don’t find that convincing. It seems clear enough to me that the Gang of Four were honest communists. They were trying their best to build socialism and advance to communism, but they ultimately consolidated around an erroneous line for doing so that led to errors. Those errors expressed themselves as ultra-leftism, commandism, defining the enemy too broadly, separation from the masses, things like that. It would seem to me that by the early to mid 1970s their methods were further from the mass line, and they lost touch with where the majority of the masses were at politically.

    Where I think this polemic is on point is that they were one-sidedly focusing too much on ideological battles to the detriment of production. They kept trying to mobilize the advanced in sharp political campaigns, when the mood among the intermediate (and probably many advanced) of the masses was likely at that point more yearning for some stability and consolidation. Hence the popular support for Chou Enlai and even Deng around the 75-76 period and when Mao died.

    At the same time, I have read accounts that the claims of chaos in production during the GPCR are overblown, and in fact healthy economic growth continued during the Cultural Revolution. That said, it’s indisputable that something drastic needed to be done particularly in agriculture to spur rapid economic growth, and it wasn’t until the reforms that started in the late 1970s that there started to be some real, sustained economic growth in the countryside (not that those changes in the countryside were all good or without contradiction, but significant progress was made on the key problem of modernization and economic growth in the countryside).

    So while I think the Gang of Four made errors, I also think this polemic has some errors. I don’t think it’s right or helpful politically to say the Gang were actually double dealing capitalist roaders. I just haven’t seen any evidence of that anywhere, and this polemic certainly doesn’t provide me with anything concrete. I don’t think calling them capitalist roaders helps us understand their actual political errors (which I think are errors made by honest revolutionaries) so we can learn from them and avoid similar errors.

  4. This polemic did not age well, did it?

    Hua hits out at his rivals to the left and the right, mainly the left. But by carrying Deng’s water in sidelining the Gang of Four, Hua then allowed himself to be subsequently crushed like a bug by the capitalist-roaders, alongside the iron rice bowl and so on and so forth. The rest is history!

  5. I think Jen Ping gives a generally correct Marxist-Leninist account of the relations between socialist politics and economics. But I agree with other comments that Jen Ping’s case against the “Gang of Four” is inconclusive. Even if everything said against them is true that’s not enough to prove they wanted to restore capitalism. Let’s compare the case against Khrushchev.
    Soon after the death of Stalin he began to circulate notions of “peaceful transition to socialism.” Then he denounced Stalin, a great proletarian revolutionary, with his notorious “secret speech” at the 20th Congress of the CP of the Soviet Union in 1956. These things were far more serious than Jen Ping’s accusations against the “gang of four.” It still took time and events to reveal what Khrushchev was up to.
    Khrushchev’s words led to the abandonment of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Within a few years central planning was ended and control of enterprises, including control of wages, was turned over to managers.
    By 1970 worker authority over managers through the Communist Party was ended; managers could hire and fire workers as they saw fit; means of production could be bought and sold by enterprise managers; control of agriculture and industry were separated. In other words, markets in labor power and means of production were established with their necessary consequences, dominance of commodity-money relations. Now that’s “taking the capitalist road!”
    By the Khrushchev standard the case against the “gang of four” falls short. One-sidedness in ideology and lounging in luxurious beds, etc., are not enough to make them capitalist-roaders. What did they DO, for crying out loud?
    Likewise a statement like “it doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white so long as it catches mice” must be looked at in context. Trying out one course of socialist development instead of another is one thing. Re-establishment of family farming, which can never be socialist, opening up “special economic zones” for capitalist industry, opening a country up to the penetration of imperialist investment capital, etc., etc., is another thing altogether.

    • “What did they DO, for crying out loud?” David asks.

      Good question. This polemic doesn’t answer it. It doesn’t answer it because it is taken out of context. This was originally an article in People’s Daily which appeared following the arrest of the Gang of Four. To anyone reading the article at the time the answer would have been common knowledge.

      Just to be clear, I don’t find the legal critique of the Gang of Four to be terribly intersting. Just as in the case of the Moscow Trials in the Soviet Union, I think it is important, but the ideological and political critique of the lines of Trotsky and Bukharin are much more important for us. The Moscow Trials are attacked by Trotskyites and revisionists to bolster the stories of “totalitarian crimes,” and so they deserve attention from the angle of putting those distortions to rest.

      But I think this article presents the ideological critique fairly well concerning the principal political errors of the Gang of Four. Here’s an answer to the question of what they did, at least so far as I understand it, nonetheless.

      Mao Zedong died on September 9, 1976. On Sept. 11 and 12, according to MacFarquhar’s and Schoenhals’ study of the Cultural Revolution, Mao’s Last Revolution, the Gang attempted to achieve a coup by setting up a new Center, telling a number of party committees to communicate only with Wang Hongwen instead of with whomever they normally were supposed to communicate concerning “all matters of importance that called for central involvement.” This was done without the knowledge or consent of Chairman Hua Guofeng, making it a very peculiar violation of democratic centralism. When Chairman Hua got wind of these suspicious irregularities, he took action to have the Gang of Four arrested. There was then an investigation followed by a public trial that lasted from November 1980 to January 1981, where they were found guilty of forming a counter-revolutionary clique in an attempt to seize power. All were given a chance to speak in their own defense. Jiang Qing did so. Zhang Chunqiao said nothing. Yao Wenyuan and Wang Hongwen confessed to the charges.

      What do you think of the verdict of this trial? Do you have any information that should cast its verdict into doubt?

      • Certainly the ideological and political critique is the heart of it. I have no basis to question the accuracy of charges against the “Gang.” But they lost out. After that point it becomes a question of the ideological and political line of Hua Guofeng, Deng Xiaoping, and their successors.

      • Yes, that’s true, and I think it is reasonable to assert that, following the ultra-left errors of the Cultural Revolution, especially those of Lin Piao and the Gang of Four, there was a rightist backlash that found its clearest expression the “bourgeois-liberalization” line of the ultra-rightist Hu Yaobang (who followed the leftist Hua Guofeng as the leader of the Party after Chairman Hua was isolated), Zhao Ziyang and the counter-revolutionary uprisinging of 1989. Fortunately, this right-liquidationist line was defeated by Deng Xiaoping.

        By the way, there is a very good book on the Gang of Four called The Case of the Gang of Four by Chi Hsin which I would suggest folks check out if they want to look more deeply into this question.

      • “This was done without the knowledge or consent of Chairman Hua Guofeng, making it a very peculiar violation of democratic centralism. ”

        Hua was not chairman in September 1976 for one thing, and that is an important thing. Just because he was first vice chairman does not mean that he somehow automatically became some sort of “acting chairman.” That is not according to party laws.

        And even if this were true: who is it that actually DID carry out a coup? It was not Chang, Chiang, Yao, and Wang. They were locked away, along with many other leading comrades. Do you believe that Wang Dongxing, Hua, Chen Xilian, and others communicated “all matters of importance that called for central involvement” with the entire political bureau or even its entire standing committee? No! Chang, Chiang, Yao, and Wang were plotted against and arrested as part of a conspiracy. It is more than a little ironical that you criticize them for this very activity.

  6. It’s indeed interesting and well written article. The most basic question, what came into my mind is, that how much those four actually knew about Marxist theory? For me it seems, that all of them lacked the real knowledge of Marxism, and their contributions to the nation, was only scanty and purposedly twisted phrases from Mao. In my opinion, the The Gang of Four did not have specific ideology or theory of their own, and that led into widespread chaos and terror. All the benefits from that era culminates into Mao. So far i’ve read that Jiang Qing did not open many Marxist books, and i think that’s the case with Yao, Zhang and Wang as well. They were political opportunists, trying to seize the power. They were just operating under mandate from old and ill Mao, who was unable to really deal with it anymore, until it was too late. Whats the reason to attack against all, when you have nothing own and new to the country? Overthrow order, and bring anarchy? In that sense, i argue, that it was needed to bring back more pragmatist leaders back into business, Hua’s rapid rise and fall, then Deng’s firm grip on helm. I think that making Hua as successor, Mao really wanted to stabilize the China after chaos made by Shanghai Clique. It’s known that “revisionists” tried to lobby Deng into premier in February 1976, and GOF tried to give that title to Zhang Chunqiao. In that sense, Hua Guofeng was compromise.

    And regarding the Gang of Four as politicians, im not convinced. As Zhou Enlai said during the GPCR “Its damn hard to operate this country, as two best men are grounded” meaning mayor Peng Zhen and Luo Ruiqing.

    Theres no use for a word “counterrevolutionary” in the late 70’s or 80’s China, in Deng’s eras. It has no meaning, as the trial of GOF proves. In my terms, id like to use that word during and on the eve of the revolution, no inside it, during the socialism period.

    If you look at the history of the China in the 70’s, it shows clearly that name calling was in those days. All was pretty much summed up, using different terms, and policy was really a name calling one, as Mao wanted it never be, or atleast he was against it.

    Summa summarum, actions of GOF was mainly due to Jiang Qing’s, decades long frustration to her life. She was surrounded by right people, and rolling snowball effect was applied. Adding there Lin Biao’s fanatical idealism in army command, all was pretty much served for her.

    This is my short analysis of actions by GOF. Please comment if you differ from me.

  7. This article is part of a broader campaign of subterfuge to neutralize large numbers of proletarian revolutionaries in China, fooling them into believing that the new leadership was committed to upholding Comrade Mao’s line, the GPCR, continuing the revolutionary under the proletarian dictatorship, and persisting in criticizing Deng and the attempt to reverse correct verdicts.

    By the end of the year – 1976 – the FLP edition of Hua’s eulogy to Comrade Mao actually was edited to OMIT the numerous references to criticizing Deng! This is an important fact.

    What I would venture to say, is that the leading members of the GPCR left, the “four,” along with others operating at the center like Mao Yuanxin, did not do enough to forge alliances with centrists like Wu De, Ji, Chen Xilian, Chen Yonggui, and even Hua Guofeng, especially after he was promoted to premier and first vice chairman. The most important thing should have been to isolate the “bourgeois democrats to capitalist roaders,” the likes operating in the manner of the Duke of Zhou, such as Ye Jianying, Li Xiannian, Deng Yingchao, Qin Jiwei, etc. etc… Hua, and his allies including what was later called the “small gang of four,” were not main enemy of the left and Mao’s revolutionary line.

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