The Unrevealed Story of the Anti-Spiritual Pollution Drive
--The Reminiscences of an Ex-editor of the People's Daily
1. The Emergence of Humanism
The fate of humanism in China has been full of frustrations.
In the early 1980s, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) conducted an "anti-spiritual pollution" drive which focused on wiping out humanism and the theory of socialist alienation. Although it seems strange that humanism be regarded as a "spiritual pollution," in fact this was not the first time it had been attacked by the Party for being as dangerous as nuclear waste.
Humanism was criticized two times between the founding of the People's Republic in l949 and the start of the Cultural Revolution in l966. It was first criticized from l959 to l960 when the literary critics Ba Ren, Qian Gurong, Hu Feng, and Feng Xuefeng were attacked. The next time was when the movie "February in the Early Spring" came under attack in 1963. During both of these episodes, the highest leader responsible for literature and art, Zhou Yang, emerged to make the conclusive report. In l963 Zhou Yang presented a report "On the Military Tasks of Philosophy and Social Science Workers." This report criticized the revisionism and humanism in the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. Zhou Yang's report was read and revised by Mao, and it was then used as study materials for cadres.
In the "May l6 Circular" of l966 Mao emphasized that the relationship between ourselves and the bourgeoisie was a life-and- death struggle. This was not an equal relationship or a moral or ethical relationship, but rather it was a struggle of one class oppressing another class. The May 16 Circular represents the formal beginning of the Cultural Revolution. Thereafter, a tyrannical persecution movement swept throughout the entire country.
The smashing of the Gang of Four in 1976 marked the end of the Cultural Revolution. People began to draw a lesson from the bitter experience of the previous ten years. By l978 there was growing criticism of the "two whatevers." And in cultural circles a movement was ignited for the emancipation of the mind. After Deng Xiaoping was rehabilitated, he played a decisive role in the 1978 Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Party Congress. It was under such conditions that humanist thought began to emerge.
First "the wounded literature" about the Cultural Revolution was introduced. By the beginning of l978 literary and art circles were discussing such issues as a "common beauty" and its affinity to the people. The majority of people felt that different classes could have shared aesthetic standards, that there was not only a class character to literature and art, but also a human character. More and more love stories began to appear. And by l980 newspapers and journals were discussing the issue of humanism.
Some of those people who had previously objected to humanism began to change their attitudes. At that time Zhou Yang was a consultant to the Department of Propaganda. At a meeting of the Department of Propaganda he confessed that his earlier criticism of humanism was not appropriate. Ru Xin, who was a research fellow in the Philosophy Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), attended this meeting. Even earlier Ru Xin most likely shared Zhou's opinion. But when Zhou Yang made his position public, Ru Xin probably felt encouraged. Before long he wrote an essay entitled "Is Humanism Just Revisionism? -- Rethinking Humanism," which appeared in the People's Daily on August l5, l980. It affirmed the compatibility of Marxism and humanism, thus validating the concept of Marxist humanism. Thereafter, the secretary to Hu Qiaomu, who was the president of CASS at that time telephoned Ru Xin to tell him that Comrade Hu Qiaomu had read his article and thought that it was quite good. Hu Qiaomu had agreed with Ru Xin's point of view and hoped that he would continue such research in the future. The secretary said that originally Hu Qiaomu had planned to write a personal letter to Ru Xin himself, but because he was pressed for time, he had asked his secretary to telephone instead to pass on his message.
Ru Xin then relayed this news to the editorial board of the People's Daily. I was very happy to hear it and suggested that we award Ru Xin with the l980 reporting prize for his article. This incident clearly shows Hu Qiaomu's active support for humanism at that time. No one could have expected that thereafter his attitude toward humanism would change so radically.
Unlike humanism in the 1950s, humanism was now becoming a veritable ideological trend. Although the basic contents of the discussions were the same, in the 1980s they were much more profound and widespread. Theoretically the proponents of humanism traced the roots of their ideas back to Marx's Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, from which they were nourished and grew. From the outset, the 1980 discussion of humanism was related to the problem of alienation. In fact, the issue of alienation had come up even a bit earlier. In l978 Ru Xin remembered that we had worked together in a group headed by Zhou Yang in 1963 compiling a pamphlet to criticize humanism. I had been assigned to write the chapter on alienation. Ru Xin now suggested that I think about contributing this old manuscript to the Collected Studies in Foreign Philosophy for which he was responsible. I took it out of the drawer, reread it, and thought it was acceptable. The only change I made was that I deleted the last paragraph which criticized Yugoslavia.
This article, entitled "On the Concept of Alienation," appeared in the first issue of l979 of the Collected Studies in Foreign Philosophy. Since this was a very professional and academic publication, it did not have a wide readership. But my article still attracted quite a bit of attention. The Xinhua Digest reprinted it and other papers also reported about its publication.
Actually, for a long time I had been considering introducing the concept of alienation to Chinese readers. I had hoped that this concept would become popular. But I also worried that since that the idea was not so easy to understand, it would be difficult for the general public to accept it. But an unexpected opportunity in 1978 confirmed that my worries had been unnecessary.
In June l980 I gave a presentation to the Department of Journalism in the Graduate School of CASS. This was meant to be a discussion of the philosophical problems of Marxism. But one person in the audience asked: "What is alienation? Please explain." The person asking this question said that an American professor teaching a class at their school had mentioned the term alienation, but the students did not understand it. He hoped that I would explain it.
I tried to explain that what is meant by alienation is when a thing originally of our own creation develops and becomes an estranged force out of our control, which then turns around to dominate and oppress us. Put metaphorically, a woman gives birth to a son, loves him passionately, raising and teaching him in the midst of hardship. But after the son has grown up, he becomes a unfilial son. Not only does he refuse to accept his mother's supervision, on the contrary he supervises her, insulting her and mistreating her. This example implies that alienation exists in socialist society: for example, ideologically in the cult of the individual; politically when the public servants of the people become masters lording over the people; and economically in blind construction, the pursuit of high-speed development of heavy industry, which imposes heavy burdens on the nation, or environmental pollution and waste, etc. All of these things are alienation. I found that the audience was very interested in my explanation.
During this talk I made a comparison between Feuerbach's criticism of religion and individual superstition. Individual superstition inverts the relations between the people and the leaders, just as religion does between man and God. Man first created God, then he come to regard God as everything and himself as nothing. The people deify the leaders, with the result that leaders become an uncontrollable force, turning against the people, and producing great suffering among the people. I also noted that the main danger in the socialist countries was not the so-called revisionism, but rather the alienation of the Party. When the Party, which formerly had served the people and was the tool and servant of the people, becomes divorced from the people and becomes an aristocratic overlord, it no longer belongs to the working class but rather becomes an estranged force opposed to the working class. This is similar to the example of the mother and her unfilial son.
A few days later I gave a talk before the editorial board of the People's Daily. This talk was also very well received, so I began to have some confidence.
The tapes of these speeches were compiled and published in issue no. 8 of Xinwen zhanxian (Journalist Front) in 1980. They were also reprinted elsewhere so they ended up having a wide influence. I thought the readers were so receptive because they felt that the concept of alienation could offer a philosophical explanation for many of the actual problems existing in the society.
One graduate student who had heard my speech borrowed the tapes from the Department of Journalism of the Graduate School of the CASS. He gave them to Hu Yaobang's son, Hu Deping. This graduate student later told me that Hu Deping had told him that their whole family had listened to the tapes with great interest.
At that time, the People's Publishing House was preparing to publish a collection of essays on humanism. I was asked to submit a manuscript. So I wrote an article entitled "Man is the Departure point of Marxism." The editors adopted my title as the title of the whole book. There were some important essays in this collection, including two remarkable essays by Gao Ertai on alienation which had been written before my essay. Because they were not a mere stereotypical reflection of the official Marxism, the readers found them both exciting and fresh. After this book was published in 1981, the Central Propaganda Department took note of it. Thereafter, on a number of occasions the Propaganda Department suggested that the heretical proposition that "man is the departure point of Marxism" should be criticized.
During the three years between l980 and l983, more than 400 articles on humanism were published. These included explorations of such topics as Marxist humanism, alienation, human nature, etc. In cultural and educational circles there were also lively seminars and meetings about humanism. Thus spread a popular craze to discuss humanism. There were two important discussions during this period.
The first took place in May l980, when China Youth, a journal under the Communist Youth League, published a reader's letter from one "Pan Xiao." The letter questioned why our way of life was becoming more and more narrow. The author said that in the past she had been full of illusions and yearnings for a glorious life. She liked to read How the Steel was Tempered and The Diary of Lei Feng. And she believed that the aim of one's life was to bring happiness to others. But there was a sharp contrast between what she read in books and what she saw in reality. The world wasn't nearly as attractive as it was described in the books. "So," she wrote, "I asked myself, should I believe the books? Or should I believe my own eyes?" She found that man is basically selfish and there is no magnanimity and altruism in the real world. What she read in books or in newspapers was either fiction or was exaggerated. So she began to feel disillusioned and she developed a new view of life, which concluded that people were intentionally out for themselves, but there still could be some benefits for others. Thus, if everyone persisted in promoting the value of his or her own existence, the development of all of mankind in society would still be inevitable. This viewpoint was quite cynical and although there were some traces of Adam Smith and others, one could be sure that she had not read works by such thinkers.
The editorial board of China Youth journal added a note to her letter, suggesting that the readers discuss the issues raised by Pan Xiao. The title of the note was "What is the Meaning of Life?" As it happened, this letter touched the hearts of thousands and thousands of readers. And in only a few months, about 60,000 letters and contributions had been received by the editorial board of the journal. Not only young people, but members from the entire society became interested in this discussion.
At this juncture, Hu Qiaomu seemed to be quite enlightened. On June l8 he went to the offices of the China Youth journal to listen to reports presented by the leaders of the publication. Afterward, Hu Qiaomu noted: "This discussion has attracted so much attention; I am only one of many who is interested." Mentioning an article criticizing Pan Xiao's point of view, Hu Qiaomu said that when the young people read this, they surely would be angry. He thought that the author should talk about his or her own experiences and not speak in abstracts. "After a while, people will lose interest in such articles," Hu Qiaomu said. "If things continue in this direction, the fire inevitably will be extinguished. Articles should not be like a textbook. There can be common conclusions, but if one writes only with abstract reasoning, I think most people will not be interested in reading such things. Such discussions should result in different conclusions and different answers. In the end, it is not necessary for the readers all to come to just one single conclusion; every person's experiences and perceptions are different, so each of their judgments may be different." Referring to Pan Xiao's point of view, Hu Qiaomu said: "Subjectively every person is out for himself, but objectively he is also helping other people. This is acceptable both legally and economically, so it is not considered a bad thing. The ethical standards for Communist Party members cannot be used to judge the common people."
This discussion lasted one year. In June l98l the editorial board of China Youth published an article summarizing the preceding discussions. It called for society "to respect the value of man.... The collective should respect the value of the individual, and the individual should consciously promote his own self-value according to the needs of the society." The China Youth article noted that this proposal to bring up the issue of the value of man was also the result of a new recognition of Marxism. "Socialist society should make an effort to satisfy both the spiritual and material needs of the individual within the permissible limits of the objective conditions, and gradually to create the objective conditions of all-round development, morally and physically skilled individual characters who will be the genuine masters of the society."
Another discussion involved a long novelette entitled People, Oh People. This novelette was about the life of university students, reflecting on the experiences of a group of intellectuals from the l957 anti-rightist campaign to after the end of the Cultural Revolution. Their lives were full of frustrations. The hero in the story, He Jingfu, was an idealist. In the l950s, because he criticized the secretary of the Party committee, he was labelled a rightist. After he was rehabilitated, he wrote a theoretical book entitled Marxism and Humanism. The Party secretary in the university, condemning this book as a revisionist poisonous weed, used every possible means to suppress its publication. At this time, the heroine, Sun Yue, came out in defense of He Jingfu. After a complicated series of events, the issue of the publication of the book Marxism and Humanism attracted the attention of the higher levels of the Party, leaving some hope that it could be published. At that time, the heroine, Sun Yue, chose He Jingfu as her life companion, that is, her husband.
The woman writer of this story was Dai Houying. In the postscript she wrote: "I write about man's blood and tears. I write about the distortion of souls and the painful cries of mankind, about the sparks of the soul bursting forth in the darkness. I cry out loud, 'Come back, people's soul.' I happily record the recovery of human nature." Dai Houying saw Marxism and humanism as being completely compatible. Marxism was the highest and most perfect form of humanism.
The book People, Oh People was enthusiastically received and the 170,000 copies that were printed sold out very quickly. But on October l7, l981, the Shanghai Wenhui bao published the first critical article about it. The editors of Wenhui bao wrote a note to the article adding that discussion was welcome. So many articles opposed to this criticism appeared very quickly. The discussion continued until December 24 when the editors suddenly announced that it should cease. There was no conclusion whatsoever. But the discussion continued in other newspapers, particularly in the Guangzhou Southern Daily because this novelette had originally been published in the South by the Huacheng Publishing House.
In the course of this discussion, the positive view focused on how to evaluate this work with respect to humanism. These supporters of the novelette maintained that humanism has the right to exist. The critics, on the other hand, claimed that the author had confused Marxism and humanism and was actually propagating bourgeois humanism. In the spring of l982 the discussion drew to an end. On April 29, Southern Daily published the transcripts of speeches given by a number of specialists expressing their varying opinions concerning People, Oh People. The editors did not give their own opinions, but they emphasized that different opinions had the right to be published. However, they noted that the discussion had already lasted a long time, so it was time to bring it to an end.
During this period of excitement over humanism, the works by a number of young writers also attracted quite a bit of attention, for example, among others, the short stories of Zhang Kangkang, essays by Ding Xueliang and others.
Throughout this period, the attitude of Hu Qiaomu toward this issue is revealed by examining an episode which occurred at the grassroots level.
In the spring of l982 I wrote an article for China Youth which was entitled "Marxism is Not Frostlike." In this essay I emphasized that the issue of man occupied an important position in Marxism. Marxist philosophy not only teaches the correct method of thinking, but the meaning and value of life as well. After this article was published, a student at Peking University wrote a long letter to me. He complained that the Marxist education they received in the universities was too dogmatic, stereotyped, and dry, leaving the students with no interest in Marxism. He wistfully commented that there had not been enough written about the Marxist doctrine of man, but he wanted to express his gratitude to me. He wanted to convey to me these ideas because he thought I understood China's youth.
This letter was published in the internal publication of China Youth. After Hu Qiaomu saw it, he instructed the Graduate School of the CASS to reprint it in their internal newspaper. Also he had them send a clipping of the article to the Central Propaganda Department and to the Ministry of Education so the leaders in these organizations would take note of it.
At this time I really wanted to start a discussion about humanism on the theoretical page of the People's Daily. But some of my colleagues in the theory section were worried about doing this. So I suggested that we objectively report about the ongoing discussions. On October l3, l982, Hu Qiaomu came to the People's Daily to listen to our work report. He said: "This is not the correct way for the People's Daily to discuss this problem. Originally this issue was open for discussion, and it could be discussed very well. But it also could be discussed very poorly, giving the readers the impression that our work about humanism has been lacking and that the people should be called upon to rise up to struggle for humanism. If this were to happen, it would contradict the ideas of the Party Center regarding spiritual civilization." These remarks by Hu Qiaomu appeared to be somewhat equivocal and ambiguous, but his tone had certainly changed from that of his previous speech.
Just as the discussion about humanism was about to cool down, on January l7, l983 Wenhui bao published my article "In Defense of Humanism." This article resuscitated the discussions. The subsections of my essay were: "Is humanism only a bourgeois ideology?"; "From Feuerbach to Marx"; "From young Marx to old Marx"; and "Socialism needs humanism." I concluded that the practical implications of socialist humanism for China include "a rejection of the total dictatorship and the cruel struggle for the Cultural Revolution, an abandonment of the personality cult which deifies one human and degrades the people, the upholding of the equality of every person before the truth and the law, and support of the sanctity of personal freedom and dignity." "Socialist humanism opposes the feudal concepts of rank and privilege, capitalist money-worship and the making of people into commodities or simple tools, demanding that people genuinely be seen as people and that the individual's worth be judged on the basis of what he is in himself, and not on the basis of origins, position, or wealth...." The beginning and end of this essay were modelled after The Communist Manifesto, changing "the spectre of communism" into "the spectre of humanism." It ended by describing the "discovery of Man" in China. "A spectre is haunting the land of China. Who are you? I am Man."
After my article was published, the response was very enthusiastic. Many friends and acquaintances asked me to give them copies of the piece. Zhu Guangqian, a famous senior critic and professor, wrote a letter to me agreeing with my point of view. When the People's Daily held its annual meeting of reporters from all around the country, the participants all already knew that this article had been published and they asked the reporters' bureau of the People's Daily to give them copies of it. So I had one hundred extra copies printed and I sent sixty copies to the members of the symposium "On Human Nature and Humanism in Literature." This symposium was being held by the literature and art bureau of the Central Propaganda Department. Although the original purpose of the symposium was to criticize humanism, it had not been successful. After my essay was distributed, the atmosphere of the meeting totally changed.
But the response of a few people who were connected to the higher levels was different. Somebody told me that the vice minister of the Propaganda Department, He Jingzhi, said something to the effect: "If we spread humanism now, in the future people will rebel, and they will raise the banner of humanism to kill the Communist Party members. And at that time some people in our ranks will follow them...." These remarks were filled with such bitter hatred that I was really shocked. How could he think in this way? How could the banner of humanism give rise to murderers? If humanism could really be used to incite people to revolt, then it means that anti-humanism had already been driven beyond the limits of tolerance, and it became fascism.
I guess that these remarks were not made by He Jingzhi himself. Perhaps he was just repeating the words of some other high-ranking officials in the Central Committee because they were representative of their mentality. But very few of the participants at the literary symposium thought in this way. The chairman of the symposium was Chen Huangmei, a famous critic, who told me privately that he agreed with my viewpoint. He Jingzhi did not attend this conference himself, and I do not know whether he ever knew that the criticism of humanism at this meeting was only perfunctory.
Some comrades were worried about me because of the publication of my article, thinking that maybe I had offended some people, especially Peng Zhen, because at a meeting of the Society of Politics and Law he had just given a speech criticizing humanism and the concept of human value. In one place in my article I had written: "Many comrades cast doubt on the concept of human value. This is because they think that the term 'human value' bears the taint of individualism..." This criticism was aimed at Peng Zhen. Although I had no intention of provoking him, there was nothing I could do.
A friend of mine told me that one of the leaders of the Central Committee read my article and got very angry. (I could not ask him who this leader was, so I don't know if it was in fact Peng Zhen.) I heard that the Party Secretariat had discussed this issue and decided to collect my articles to ascertain my point of view. In fact, this already had been done once by the Central Discipline Inspection Commission when they were investigating my relationship with the so-called underground journals. When they couldn't come up with any evidence, they then turned to examining my articles.
The previous year, before the Twelfth Congress of the Party, the list of candidates to be members of the Central Discipline Commission did not include my name. The same was the case with respect to my membership as a delegate to the National People's Congress. I had heard that it was due to Hu Qiaomu's opposition. (In China, the candidates are all chosen by the Party.) This was a sign. I had been a member of both since 1978. Of course, my name was not the only name no longer included on the lists, but it was especially noticed in my case. Soon thereafter rumors began circulating that Wang Ruoshui had committed mistakes. Word got around the Central Party School and the CASS that the Party Center was preparing to dismiss me from the People's Daily.
Ruan Ming had been expelled as a Party member. Sun Changjiang and Wu Jiang were dismissed from the Party School. Guo Luoji was expelled from Peking University. Li Honglin was no longer director of the theoretical section of the Central Propaganda Department. So this was a planned, step-by-step action. Who were the next targets? Who else was there besides Hu Jiwei and myself?
2. A Sudden Turning Point: A Storm in Memory of Marx
The year l983 was the centennial of Marx's death. To commemorate this, the Central Committee decided to hold a large meeting, at which General Secretary Hu Yaobang was to give a speech; in addition, an academic meeting was held jointly by the Propaganda Department, the Central Party School, the CASS, and the Ministry of Education. The Propaganda Department proposed that Zhou Yang present a major report on Marxism and cultural issues. The Propaganda Department also chose several cultural theorists and Marxists ideologists to help Zhou Yang draft his speech. Zhou agreed to make the report, but he did not accept this topic, considering it was too narrow. Also, he was not satisfied with the people whom the Propaganda Department had chosen to assist him, thinking that they were too conservative. He decided to explore Marxist theory from a broader perspective, and he found for himself three assistants to help him prepare his speech: Wang Yuanhua, a literary critic working in Shanghai, Wang Ruoshui, and Gu Xiang, a cadre in the literature section of the Propaganda Department.
Zhou Yang reserved several rooms for us in a guest house in Tianjin. In the past this guest house had been reserved for Mao Zedong by the Tianjin municipal Party Committee. It was very large, with many buildings, an ideal place for writing -- very quiet with no distractions.
We discussed the topic together for three days. Zhou Yang said that all of our discussions were confidential and were to be kept secret from people on the outside, so we could all speak out without hesitation, saying whatever we wanted. In the end, Zhou Yang decided the basic direction of the ideas in his report. I suggested he speak on humanism, but he seemed more interested in the problem of alienation. One night he did not sleep well because he was preoccupied with choosing his topic and the next morning he announced that he had made up his mind that he would speak on the problem of alienation. I told him that I was very pleased with his decision. I had originally thought that it would be too sensitive and controversial for someone of his position to speak on this subject, so I felt that his decision was very brave.
Based on our discussions, Zhou Yang chose four issues upon which he would focus: 1.) Marxism as a doctrine of development; 2.) We should put an emphasis on epistemology; 3.) Marxism and cultural criticism; and 4.) the relationship between Marxism and humanism.
The draft of the last section was written by Gu Xiang, and I revised and rewrote most part of it. Because we were very pressed for time, I could only copy many sentences from my previously published works. It is likely that Wang Yuanhua and Gu Xiang did the same. We apologized to Zhou Yang for this, but he did not seem to mind.
As a result, most of the items in Zhou Yang's speech were things we had already written before about humanism and alienation. The main points were consistent with my own personal views on the subject. But there were also some things which were Zhou Yang's own ideas and with which I did not agree. For example, he said that the roots of alienation lie not in the socialist system, nor in our institutional structure. In contrast, I always had attributed alienation to problems in our organizational system.
Zhou Yang privately told Wang Yuanhua and Gu Xiang that he felt that Wang Ruoshui's viewpoint was too radical.
The meeting took place on March 7 in the auditorium of the Central Party School. The President of the Party School, Wang Zhen, and the secretary of the Secretariat and the head of the Propaganda Department, Deng Liqun, both attended the opening ceremony.
I did not attend the meeting on the first day because I was too tired from revising the draft of Zhou Yang's speech. The transcript of the speech was still being printed at the People's Daily. On the second morning it was sent to Zhou just before the meeting. After the opening ceremony, the first and main speech was delivered by Zhou Yang. Because of his advanced age, Zhou Yang simply introduced the process of how the draft had been written. And then a broadcaster read the speech on his behalf. Later the journalists at the meeting told me that this broadcaster was very skilled. Although he had not previously seen or read the report, he was able to read it immediately, very smoothly and fluently. The audience remained silent throughout, concentrating on every word. Since it was very long, there was one intermission in the middle of the reading of the report. After the entire speech was read, the audience became very enthusiastic. Wang Zhen came up to Zhou Yang's seat on the podium and congratulated him, saying that he could say it again. But he Wang Zhen still had one question which he wanted to ask. "You mentioned the word 'alienation.' How do you spell it?"
Wenhui bao in Shanghai immediately asked Zhou Yang for a copy of the speech so they could publish it. But I said that the People's Daily had priority to publish this speech. Of course Zhou Yang hoped to see his speech published in a central Party newspaper. That evening the news about Zhou Yang's speech was published in the People's Daily and I added a note saying that the complete transcript was to be published by our paper in the future. The reason why I added this sentence was to prevent other papers from publishing it.
After giving the speech, Zhou Yang gave copies of the manuscript to Hu Yaobang and to Hu Qiaomu so they could look it over. At that time, Hu Yaobang was the general secretary of the Party and Hu Qiaomu was the member of the Politburo assigned to responsibility for ideological problems. The copy of the manuscript which Zhou Yang had sent to Hu Yaobang was later returned to him. Hu Yaobang had made some marks on the text, but he had not written any comments. (Later, Hu Yaobang explained that he had not completed reading it, but his secretary, thinking that he had already read the entire speech, returned it to Zhou Yang. So he had not had time to write down his opinions about the manuscript.) At the time, most people approved of Zhou Yang's speech. Only Hu Qiaomu had a different opinion and expressed his disapproval. But we did not learn of this immediately -- we only gradually came to realize this later on.
The first ominous sign was the sudden announcement of the extension of the meeting which had been set to conclude on March 9. It was said that this was because some comrades had different opinions which they wanted to express. But in fact no sessions were held on March l0 and March ll. It seemed that the so-called different opinions had not yet been prepared.
On March l0 I received a notice to go to Zhou Yang's house. Hu Qiaomu was requesting to speak with us about Zhou Yang's speech. Some other people had also been invited to join the discussion, including the deputy director of the Propaganda Department, Yu Wen, the head of the literature and art section of the Propaganda Department, He Jingzhi, and the highly respected senior writer Xia Yan. Even though Hu Qiaomu was living in the hospital at that time, he did not call Zhou Yang to his bedside; instead he paid a personal visit to Zhou Yang's home. This was because although his position in the Party was higher than that of Zhou Yang, Hu Qiaomu's record of service was not as long as that of Zhou Yang; and in the Shanghai underground work during the l930s, Zhou Yang had been Hu Qiaomu's superior. It has also been said it had been Zhou Yang who first recommended Hu Qiaomu for Party membership.
Hu Qiaomu began by telling Zhou Yang: "With respect to the problem of humanism, you spoke comparatively comprehensively. But there were some issues which you did not make clear and which may cause some misunderstandings- in the future." Hu Qiaomu also said that he had read my two essays, "Man is the Point of Departure of Marxism" and "In Defense of Humanism." He commented that in order to understand this subject one needed to consult many books. But now he could not read many books because his mind was distracted.
He said: "I am in favor of humanism and I consider myself an ardent humanist. But when I read these two essays I found that there were many abstract discussions which depart from the practice of socialism. The book published by the People's Publishing House entitled Man is the Point of Departure of Marxism presents many strange viewpoints. I consider that the starting point of Marxism is society." Hu Qiaomu said that the modifier "socialist" should be added before the word "humanism," in order to avoid misunderstandings. He noted that although Zhou Yang had touched upon Marxist humanism, he had not provided enough detail. He said that in fact there were many different viewpoints about humanism.
Hu Qiaomu continued: "It is inevitable that many nonhumanistic or even antihumanistic phenomena exist in socialist society. It is not necessary to mention the Cultural Revolution, because the Cultural Revolution was a counterreaction. And it is unnecessary to propose the problem of humanism in order to criticize the Cultural Revolution because our society today has already cleared up the problem of the Cultural Revolution. But still, within certain limits, there still are nonhumanistic phenomena in our society...."
Although Hu Qiaomu talked about quite a few things, he did not mention the term "alienation." Zhou Yang could not resist to interject a few words. He said: "But I did not mention nonhumanism; I used the concept of alienation. What do you think about that?"
Hu Qiaomu did not reply, but he continued to speak. "For example, it is completely illegal in our society to abandon female babies or to abduct women. But it cannot be expected that we immediately solve these problems. Therefore, on the one hand, I think that society needs humanism, but, on the other hand, this is not a simple issue. It will require a long period of struggle to resolve this."
Hu Qiaomu thought that the upholding of the spiritual and material civilizations as proposed by the Twelfth Party Congress represented the development of humanism. And the widespread nationwide movement at that time to study Lei Feng was, according to Hu, an unprecedented historical high tide of humanism which should be propagated.
Zhou Yang said the main points of his humanism and alienation were related to reform. Here Zhou Yang touched upon a key issue. In his essay Zhou had emphasized that alienation could be overcome by reform measures, while Hu Qiaomu had not mentiond reform at all.
Hu Qiaomu said that we must analyze the nonhumanistic phenomena in our contemporary society in order to determine which of these phenomena are the result of bureaucratism, which represent the remnants of the old society, and which cannot be overcome during the primary stage of socialism. "We need to discuss this in order that the youth are clear about this. Otherwise, if one says that socialism is not humanistic, then the youth will rise up to oppose our present society."
At this point Hu Qiaomu began to criticize me. "Comrade Ruoshui published an article in Wenhui bao which began by copying from the Communist Manifesto, 'humanism is a spectre.' And it concludes: 'Who are you? I am man.'" This implies that we live in a capitalist society, or at least a society opposed to humanism, as if Chinese theorists were opposed to humanist thinkers. Hu Qiaomu continued: "I do not want to come to this conclusion, but it is very difficult to avoid it. If you use the words of the Communist Manifesto in this way from beginning to end it gives the readers too strong of an impression." Hu Qiaomu added that we still cannot neglect the class struggle. In some places it appears today in very ruthless forms. So we cannot forego the dictatorship. "Someday we will engage in war. How can we explain war by humanism? If one speaks too ambiguously about humanism and without analysis, it will arouse confused thinking."
Then Hu Qiaomu turned to Zhou Yang and said: "'With power and to spare we must pursue the tottering foe.' Comrade Zhou Yang, you are already old and your health is not good. Can you take the trouble to revise your report by commenting on the issues that you neglected or by clarifying those about which you were unclear? And then make it public as a separate book."
Zhou Yang answered: "Well, but I have already given it to the People's Daily to be published."
Hu Qiaomu had not expected Zhou Yang to be so determined, so he answered: "Oh that's the same thing.... If it is published in the paper, is it not better to add an explanation at the beginning? I have been at home and I didn't participate in the meeting. Maybe at the time I didn't think it over too carefully. This is a long-term problem that needs to be discussed over a long period of time. There has already been much discussion all over the world about it. If you write your essay a little more comprehensively, it will be better."
Hu Qiaomu continued: "Comrade Ruoshui, if you agree with my opinion, then you can write another article. It is easier for you to write essays than us. Your articles are colorful, moving, and logical."
Then Hu Qiaomu proceeded to criticize some literary works, including Zhang Xiaotian's Grass on the Open Country and Li Tuo's Freely Falling Body. He also mentioned When the Sunset Glow Disappears. He criticized the literary theories of human nature,
current viewpoints about self-expression, and contemporary literary developments. All of these, Hu Qiaomu thought, were the result of opposing the Left and the spreading of ideas about humanism.
Hu Qiaomu ended by saying: "Comrade Zhou Yang is very eminent in literary and art circles. When his essay is published, it will have a widespread influence. Therefore, I hope that Comrade Zhou Yang will perfect his argument. After revising it, then he can formally publish it."
At the door when saying goodbye to Zhou Yang, Hu Qiaomu bowed to a ninety degree angle....
Even though Hu Qiaomu spoke with Zhou Yang for quite a long time, he did not directly criticize Zhou's speech. He only said that parts of the speech were not complete and were unclear. His criticism focused on "bourgeois humanism" and abstract interpretive humanism. It did not occur to me that this was meant to be a criticism of us, since these were not our viewpoints. Although he criticized my essays, Hu appeared to be quite moderate, and, to my surprise, this was the first time that he praised my writing style to my face.
I could not really understand Hu Qiaomu's logic. He said that "abstract" discussions of humanism will cause people to be opposed to socialism. Then wouldn't more specific discussions of nonhumanist phenomena in socialist society even be more likely to make people to be opposed to socialism? He mentioned that the abandonment of female babies and the abduction of women were illegal in our society, hence our socialist society was humanistic; but aren't such things also illegal in capitalist societies? Hu Qiaomu did not express a receptive attitude toward humanism and he did not believe that popularizing humanism would be beneficial for the construction of a socialist spiritual civilization. In fact, he seemed to be an apologist for the orthodoxy by saying that the results of humanism would lead our youth to oppose socialism. His obsession made me think that he really lacked confidence in socialism. According to him, it would be difficult for youth to accept that humanism was compatible with socialism. On the contrary, it would lead them to oppose socialism and to believe that socialism is not humane. It was apparent that the socialism that he envisaged was very fragile and could not withstand even the slightest criticism. Furthermore, he did not proceed from this to question that if reality really was this way, then why was this so? What did this kind of thinking reflect? Hu Qiaomu emphasized that we could not give up the class struggle and the dictatorship of the proletariat just because of humanism. But he did not reconsider what was wrong with the class struggle and the dictatorship of the proletariat which had led people to feel that socialism was inhumane. He relied merely on the old methods of propaganda to convince people that socialism was not inhumane and if there were inhumane aspects, they could not be avoided. But he never thought of using the methods of reform to make our socialist society into a more humane society.
I came to realize that with respect to what happened later on, Hu Qiaomu had not thought out what he said very carefully nor did he have any definite ideas; he only wanted to attack people like Zhou Yang and myself. If he had no reasons to attack us, he needed to invent some. Only one thing was certain: Hu wanted to protect the interests of the ruling class.
The Propaganda Department had not considered it carefully when it chose Zhou Yang to make the academic report at Marx's centennial. But Zhou Yang was not prudent in accepting this task. The person giving such a report should have been, in addition to a Party leader, the highest authority on Marxism. If Zhou Yang had modestly declined and had suggested that the task be turned over to Hu Qiaomu, then everything would have been okay. The fact that Zhou Yang not only did not decline the responsibility, but intended to talk on major theoretical questions of Marxism, was an even greater violation of taboos. Later Xia Yan said to Zhou Yang: "There were no errors in your report -- except one: it was you who had written it." This one comment certainly hit the mark.
After Zhou Yang was criticized, his wife Su Lingyang cursed Hu Qiaomu as "Wang Lun, the elegant man in white clothing."
But at that time, after hearing Hu Qiaomu's words, I felt relaxed, because his words were more moderate than I had expected. When I returned to our editorial offices I made a report to Qin Chuan, the editor-in-chief, about the contents of Hu's talk. "There is no great difference between the viewpoint of Hu Qiaomu and that of Zhou Yang," I said. We can all accept his criticism of abstract humanism and bourgeois humanism. What I had been most worried about was Hu's criticism of alienation, but he didn't say a word about it.
Later on I learned that after Hu Qiaomu returned to the hospital, he telephoned Yu Wen that very afternoon and said something about alienation to complement his talk. According to Yu Wen's record, Hu Qiaomu said:
So when Zhou Yang earlier asked Hu Qiaomu why he didn't answer, I think Hu Qiaomu's saying, "I forgot to mention" was really an excuse. Since he had not really researched the topic, no matter how he spoke he could not be sure of himself. After he returned to the hospital, he probably looked over some books so he could express the aforementioned comments. Although this was only a last minute effort, because he was a leader, the others had no choice but to receive his instructions.
Here Hu Qiaomu had not said categorically that alienation did not exist in socialist society, only that a distinction should be made between socialist nonhumanist phenomena and capitalist nonhumanist phenomena. This is different from his later viewpoint. This can also explain his confusion in his later criticism of the theory of alienation.
On March 11 Zhou Yang instructed his secretary to call me to inquire when his speech would appear. I said: "Comrade Qiaomu has already expressed his opinion about revisions. I don't know what Comrade Zhou Yang thinks about this." The secretary said he would ask Zhou Yang. Later on the secretary called me back to say: "Comrade Zhou Yang's opinion is that it should be published as is."
I felt very awkward and replied: "Comrade Yaobang's speech on the 13th at the centennial meeting of Marx's death will be published on the 14th; I think it is better to publish Zhou Yang's speech afterward. Please wait a few days."
There was really no reason for Zhou Yang to revise his speech; actually the main points that Hu Qiaomu had brought up had already been covered in the speech, but not in so much detail, since it was only a section. If one wanted it more elaborate, then the piece would be much longer and the structure of the whole article would be destroyed.
On March 12 the meeting at the Party School reconvened and the differences of opinion with Zhou Yang were made public. Hu Qiaomu had originally invited Xing Bensi to participate in the meeting, but Xing did not attend. (Later I heard that he had adamantly refused; because in the past Zhou Yang had been quite kind to him, he did not want to disgrace Zhou in public.) There were four other people on the podium to present speeches. The most important was Peking University professor and chairman of the Philosophy Department Huang Nansen. None of these speakers mentioned Zhou Yang by name and they did not clearly state their differences of opinion. The audience would not realize that this was meant to be a criticism of Zhou Yang if they were not attentive enough.
At that time, the director of the People's Daily, Hu Jiwei, was out of town so responsibility of solving the problem of the publication of Zhou Yang's speech fell to me and also to editor-in-chief Qin Chuan and also to me. Qin Chuan made a telephone call to Deng Liqun to solicit his opinions. Deng Liqun said that since he could not vouch for the speech, he hoped that we would seek Hu Qiaomu's advice.
Qin Chuan and I discussed what we should do. We both felt that since the author did not want to make any revisions, then the editorial board could not insist upon it. In fact, one single essay could not touch upon every detail. Also Hu Qiaomu had not directly said what the mistakes were in the speech. He only said "there is not enough of this and not enough of that." These issues could be discussed in other essays in the future. The title of Zhou Yang's speech was "An Inquiry into Some Theoretical Problems of Marxism." This was not meant to present a final verdict; it merely represented ongoing research. And Zhou Yang was not expressing the conclusive opinions of the Party Center. We felt that the publication of the speech would not be harmful to anyone and it wouldn't prevent others from disagreeing with his opinions. In the end, based on these arguments we decided to go ahead and publish his speech. At the same time we also published a summary of the four opposing opinions. Qin Chuan and I both thought that this was a reasonable way to deal with this issue. We did not need to ask for any additional advice from Hu Qiaomu. Of course, we knew we were taking a risk.
What Qin Chuan and I did not know was that just at this time Deng Liqun was trying to persuade Zhou Yang not to publish his article in the People's Daily, but rather to publish it in an academic journal, Philosophy Research. But Zhou Yang refused and the two had argued about this over the phone very forcefully.
So in the end Zhou Yang's speech was published in the March l6 edition of the People's Daily.
3. Two Faces
That very morning of the day it was published Deng Liqun phoned Qin Chuan and me and criticized us very strongly. Deng Liqun said that Comrade Qiaomu had already clearly indicated that Zhou Yang's speech was not to be published in the People's Daily. "Why did you not pay attention?" To me, he added: "Comrade Qin Chuan has consequential responsibility for this, but you have major responsibility. You heard with your own ears Hu Qiaomu's conversation on March l0. So you should have been very clear about it."
Qin Chuan and I both admitted that we were wrong not to ask Hu Qiaomu's advice before publishing the speech. But neither of us had ever heard that Comrade Qiaomu had said that it was not to be published at all.
Deng Liqun told us that on March 8 Hu Qiaomu had made a telephone call to the Propaganda Department clearly expressing this opinion that the article should not be published in the People's Daily. Later on, Deng Liqun had the Propaganda Department send us a record of Hu Qiaomu's telephone conversation.
The following is a transcript of the conversation:
We should discuss humanism in terms of specifics. What phenomena should be protected and what phenomena should be opposed? If cadres are assigned to work in the border areas, is this alienation, or does it violate humanism? If we speak abstractly and do not present specifics, it will imply that if people want to move about freely but cannot, then the rights of man are not a priority, so the society is not humanistic.
In any era, there is a purpose to any discussion of humanism, to protect one thing and to oppose something else. What is the purpose of this speech? Is it to criticize the Cultural Revolution? Or to criticize what? If it is to criticize the Cultural Revolution -- the object no longer exists. Now we are launching a campaign to "Learn from Lei Feng". This represents a high tide of humanism. But why is it not seen? In the past there were such campaigns similar to "Learn from Lei Feng," but they were not on a large scale. What are the purposes of the present discussions on humanism?
If we do not discuss such phenomena in our society today, or discuss them only onesidedly or just a bit, rather than analyzing them, what kind of impression will this give our people? The discussion of the Twelfth Party Congress raised claim to build a spiritual civilization that implied humanism. Why was this ignored?
Do not raise abstract questions. The method of Marxism- Leninism requires to set forth the specific conditions under which an issue can be discussed. There are already people in literary and art circles who propagate the viewpoint that literature and art should transcend the class struggle, and there are already quite a few works which oppose the class struggle.
I hope that someone shall offer a presentation at this meeting and express these ideas. Comrade Xing Bensi has worked on the issues of alienation and humanism. We should have him prepare to make a speech tomorrow. (But be careful that his tone is not too arrogant), otherwise it could create big problems after Zhou Yang's speech is published.
The tone of this telephone conversation was certainly very different, much more stern, from Hu Qiaomu's tone in his talk on March l0. It then became clear that Hu Qiaomu was completely opposed to humanism, and completely opposed to the publication of Zhou Yang's speech. If I had previously known of this telephone conversation, I definitely would have understood the real meaning behind Hu Qiaomu's talk on March l0. On March l0 Hu Qiaomu had spoken in a roundabout vague way, masking his true intentions. Although he said that Zhou Yang should revise the speech, in fact he intentionally spoke in such a way which made it quite difficult for Zhou Yang to revise the speech. So it would have been best had Zhou Yang given up and actively withdrawn the manuscript. But on March l0 Zhou Yang did not appear to want to do so. And Hu Qiaomu did not directly confront the issue. On the other hand, the Propaganda Department very clearly knew that the People's Daily was planning to publish the article because on March 8 we had already announced that it was forthcoming. There were eight days from our announcement to the actual day of publication. But during these eight days the Propaganda Department made no effort whatsoever to relay the contents of Hu Qiaomu's telephone conversation to the People's Daily. Deng Liqun passed the record of the telephone conversation on to us after the event only to prove we had made a mistake. But his acting in this way also presented a certain embarrassment and a nonintentional betrayal of Hu Qiaomu, because Hu Qiaomu surely did not intend to have the contents of his telephone conversation revealed to us. Now Zhou Yang could know what Hu Qiaomu was saying behind his back.
Qin Chuan and I both apologized, admitting that it was wrong not to solicit Hu Qiaomu's advice. But we refused to admit that there were problems with the contents of Zhou Yang's essay.
It was only many days later that I learned that the New China News Agency had held a section meeting in March at which Deng Liqun had given a speech. He reported that the day after the publication of Zhou Yang's article, the Secretariat had held a meeting. Deng Liqun revealed some of the contents of this meeting. The main point was: After the Twelfth Party Congress, our Party had propagated that 1.) we should uphold Marxism and 2.) we should develop it. But some people took early capitalist ideas which had been abandoned by Marx, regarding them as a new development of Marxism. The People's Daily published Zhou Yang's speech for which Wang Ruoshui had joined in the writing of the draft. Wang Ruoshui had intended to spread and legitimize his own ideas by using Zhou Yang's authority. We detected this very early on. The People's Daily publication of Zhou Yang's speech is not only an academic issue, but it is also a political and disciplinary issue.
I knew nothing of this background at the time. I had only wanted to do as much as I could to legitimacy for our point of view.
On March 24 I wrote a letter to Hu Qiaomu, the main point of which was as follows:
The next day, March 25, the Propaganda Department called together several separate units to a meeting where Deng Liqun gave a speech. He said:
Deng Liqun then proceeded to say that we needed to collect several types of materials: 1.) expositions and argumentation by classical bourgeois philosophers; 2.) works by Marx and Engels on humanism; 3.) works by Marxists and Communist Party members from foreign countries; 4.) writings by members of the right Socialist Democratic Parties and other works which oppose Marxism; 5.) opinions by dissidents in Communist countries; 6) Viewpoints in our country; and 7.) relevant works of literary theory and criticism. We should compile these seven types of materials together. Each unit will be responsible for one part of the work. After it is completed, the next step will be to carry out the research.
Deng Liqun ended by emphasizing once again:
I attended this meeting. Deng Liqun's words sounded mild and moderate and his attitude appeared to be quite earnest. One could tell that Deng seemed sincere about "letting one hundred flowers bloom and letting one hundred schools contend." He had also brought up Zhou Yang's speech, saying that Zhou Yang himself had said that it was an academic exploration and that he hoped that his comrades would bring up critical opinions. He also mentioned me, saying "evidently there are differences of opinion about this in our country. Can we say that Comrade Wang Ruoshui represents one point of view? There are some comrades who generally agree with him, but their specific opinions are not completely the same as his. There are also some comrades who do not agree with his viewpoint."
Deng Liqun spoke very cautiously and not once during the speech did he reveal his own inclinations. But this way of doing things made one think of the preparations to criticize Soviet revisionist theory in the early 1960s. At that time too, the first task was to collect and compile differences of opinion, both old and new, domestic and foreign, for comparison and study. I had shared in this work myself and I also participated in the small group which was given the task to criticize humanism. So I was very familiar with this behavior because exactly the same methods had already been used twenty years previously.
I had a premonition that major criticisms would be forthcoming.
4. The Propaganda Department's Report to the Central Commitee
The very next day after Deng Liqun's talk I received a notice to go to the Propaganda Department to attend a meeting.
The auditorium in the Propaganda Department was filled with people. Zhou Yang was also there. Arriving very late, when Hu Qiaomu entered the hall, everyone stood up to welcome him.
I was sitting in the interior of the room, far away from the entrance. So I was surprised that Hu ignored the greetings from the others and walked directly up to me, shook hands with me, and patted me on the back, saying: "I have seen your letter. It was very well written!... very well written!"
His words immediately made the atmosphere relaxed. Afterward Hu Qiaomu circled the room, he sat down in the seat prepared for him. Next to him was seated Deng Liqun, and opposite him were Zhou Yang, Qin Chuan, and myself.
After the meeting began, Hu Qiaomu made some introductory remarks:
"The Propaganda Department recently wrote a report for the Secretariat about how to handle the problem of the People's Daily having published Zhou Yang's speech. The Secretariat has already accepted this report. However, it has decided that we still have to solicit the opinions of these three comrades -- Zhou Yang, Qin Chuan, and Wang Ruoshui. Comrade Deng Liqun, please now read to us this report."
Deng Liqun began to read the "report" which concluded that "the major responsibility for the publication of Zhou Yang's speech lies with Wang Ruoshui. Wang Ruoshui had heard Comrade Qiaomu's talk and before publishing Zhou Yang's speech, he did not ask for instructions. Not only this, Wang Ruoshui also has responsibility for the erroneous contents in this speech because he participated in the writing of the draft."
The "report" also said:
These past few years Comrade Wang Ruoshui has published a series of articles which have spread humanism, alienation in socialist society, etc. Moreover, the People's Publishing House put together a special collection of such essays. Comrade Wang Ruoshui's essay on "Man is the Departure point of Marxism" was included as the first essay of this collection, which had the same title as that of Wang Ruoshui's essay."
It should be noted that certain people used this viewpoint and extended it to publish strange anti-Marxist opinions. In fact, these are the seeds of a type of contemporary bourgeois liberal thinking. The literary and art circles have also produced a number of works which transcend the class viewpoint and oppose class struggle. They use an abstract humanist point of view to attack our socialist society as not being humanist.
The "report" also criticized Zhou Yang and Qin Chuan, but the tone toward them was much more moderate.
It concluded by stating that in order to resolve this problem the editorial board of the People's Daily should be changed and Wang Ruoshui should be transferred to another post from the People's Daily.
I was very surprised. I had known that a strike against me was inevitable, but I did not think that it would occur so quickly. During the Mao Zedong era, an individual would first be criticized, which usually lasted a long time, then it would be decided how to deal with the case. But this time they set out to punish me right from the very beginning. It seemed that they were very impatient. Of the three of us, I was the lowest in terms of rank or position. Therefore, it was easier for them to attack me. But at the meeting on the day before Deng Liqun had urged again and again that we not create a tense atmosphere. In fact, he was doing precisely what he had warned others not to do. And it was hard to understand why Hu Qiaomu had been so unusually warm to me when he entered the room? Was it that he wanted to show his kindness to me before beating me down?
There were also some other strange things in the decision of the Secretariat. Why did they not proceed according to normal procedures, first listening to our justifications before making their decision? Why did they rush to reach an agreement, and then say it was necessary to seek our opinions? What was the use of our opinions after the decision was already made?
I guessed that all of this was the result of a compromise between different opinions.
Hu Qiaomu began to speak. He mentioned my letter. He firmly refused to accept my suggestion that we conduct a discussion about humanism. He said that we should not discuss something just because people in foreign countries were discussing it. "For example, if there are discussions about sexual liberation abroad, should we have discussions about this issue as well?"
It was clear that Hu actually did not agree with my letter. But then why had he explicitly said to me that my letter was very well written?
And later when he was offering his presentation, why did he say that it was meaningful to have debates about humanism? Why did he say problems as complicated as humanism needed to be resolved through discussions. Why did he earnestly seem to welcome such discussions?
Zhou Yang became very excited. He said that in his talk with us on March 10 Comrade Qiaomu had not said that the speech could not be published in the People's Daily. On the contrary, he had agreed to its publication. So why did it become such a grave error after it was already published? A member of the Politburo should not be irresponsible in his words.
Hu Qiaomu felt offended. He responded to Zhou Yang saying that he had never agreed to publication. The two men openly quarreled during the meeting.
Everyone else at the meeting felt quite awkward. Such an occurrence was very unusual, and no one knew what to do. He Jingzhi tried to act as a mediator. Finally Hu Qiaomu showed a magnanimous attitude, saying that he would not take revenge against Zhou because of this argument by increasing Zhou Yang's punishment. Qin Chuan also expressed his disagreement with the "report."
Next, it was my turn to speak. I refuted the "report" point by point in every place where it referred to my faults and where it contradicted what had really occurred. I noted that the "report" criticized me for having propagated humanism, but it did not mention what kind of humanism, as if any kind of humanism was wrong. This was not in accordance with the idea of what Comrade Qiaomu had expressed. I was speaking about socialist humanism. Is this also not correct? There are differences of opinion about humanism and this is to be expected. The Propaganda Department had seemed to want to promote "the blooming and contending of one hundred schools of thought." But just as the discussion has gotten underway, they want to take administrative measures against me because of my point of view. Under such circumstances, who would dare to publish articles representing different opinions? When Comrade Qiaomu spoke to us, he definitely did not say that Zhou Yang's article could not be published. He only said this over the telephone to the Propaganda Department. And we learned of the contents of this telephone conversation only after the essay had already been published. On the telephone Comrade Qiaomu went so far as to doubt Zhou Yang's motives in advocating humanism. This is hard to understand. Comrade Qiaomu said that he approved of socialist humanism. But we also approve of this slogan. So why doesn't he use his energies to criticize those who oppose socialist humanism instead of criticizing us?
I said to Hu Qiaomu: "Comrade Qiaomu, you recommended that Xing Bensi criticize Comrade Zhou Yang. Don't you know that Xing Bensi disagrees with your opinion?"
Hu Qiaomu did not reply, but stared at me blankly in the eyes.
"Xing Bensi has written a book entitled Humanism in the History of European Philosophy. In the introduction he writes that humanism is simply deception. And to add a modifier such as 'socialist' that becomes double deception."
There was nothing that Hu Qiaomu could say to respond. But this did not mean that he was going to change his mind. Later on, he forced Ru Xin to make a self-criticism because he had written an essay approving of Marxist humanism. But he never asked Xing Bensi to make a self-criticism for opposing socialist humanism. Not only that, he even invited Xing Bensi to join his group in writing articles criticizing Zhou Yang and me.
Deng Liqun concluded the meeting by saying that they would think over our opinions. In some places perhaps the "report" could be revised.
After the meeting adjourned, Hu Qiaomu also made one gratuitous comment to me: "Don't be discouraged."
Thereafter, I wrote a formal self-defense.
5. The Gathering Clouds
At the beginning of April, Zhou Yang wrote a letter to Hu Yaobang, Hu Qiaomu, and Deng Liqun, saying that both the content and the writing of the speech were his. If someone were to be punished, it should be him, and not Wang Ruoshui. Hu Jiwei also wrote to Hu Yaobang to defend us. Hu Yaobang had his secretary tell Hu Jiwei: 1.) It is not necessary to place such a high value on Zhou Yang's report. It also has its shortcomings; and 2.) It has already been said that the report should be checked with the facts, and by seeking opinions, afterwards it should be revised. Now the revised version has not yet been submitted to the authorities yet. Because of this, it would not be convenient for him [Hu Yaobang] to make comments or to give instructions. The secretary said that Hu Yaobang wanted Hu Jiwei to revise his letter and he should not send the revisions only to Hu Yaobang.
At about this time, the Bureau of Cadres of the Central Propaganda Department secretly spoke with some of my colleagues at the People's Daily. They wanted to learn the staff's opinions toward the leading members of the editorial board. Evidently this was a first step in preparation for the reorganization of the editorial board.
From April 5 to April 9 Peking University held a discussion meeting on "Marxism and Man" in commemoration of the centennial of Marx's death. There was some discussion during the meeting about humanism.
Huang Nansen's thesis "On Some Problems Concerning the Theory of Man" was being read out. This thesis was identical to the author's speech at the March meeting. The Propaganda Department had paid much attention to this speech and an abstract of it had been published on March l6 in the People's Daily -- on the same day that Zhou Yang's speech appeared. Also the complete transcript of Huang's speech was published in the journal Philosophy Research. But the Propaganda Department still was not satisfied, and wanted the People's Daily also to publish the main points of Huang Nansen's speech.
Before Huang Nansen's piece was published in the People's Daily, a staff editor in the theory section of the newspaper came to me saying that some paragraphs of Huang Nansen's speech were not adequate. So they were thinking of deleting them. I said: "You are not to change one single character. The Propaganda Department told you to publish it, so just publish it. It is not your responsibility whether or not the viewpoint is correct." Thus it was published on April 6, taking up a full page.
In the speech Huang Nansen criticized the abuse of the concept of alienation, as if he meant to criticize Zhou Yang and me. But his definition of alienation was quite strange.
... In the broad sense alienation is synonymous with contradiction. And since contradictions exist at all times and places, so does alienation. In the narrow sense, alienation denotes a force which turns against itself, like the parents who bring up a disobedient son. (Then Huang Nansen used my example of cutting down the forest to grow grain.) Obviously not only in the broad sense, but also in the narrow sense, alienation exists in every kind of society and it is unavoidable. So it is hard to imagine that there could be no alienation whatsoever in communist society, let alone socialist society....
This point of view was not very different from that of Zhou Yang and myself, except for the "broad sense" of alienation. (I had also used the analogy of the parents and the disobedient child.) Although Huang Nansen was criticizing the abuse of alienation, he abused the concept himself more than anybody else by stating that alienation is omnipresent. The strange thing was that it was as if the authorities approved of his speech. Maybe this was all they could come up with to counter Zhou Yang's speech.
Then Deng Liqun's speech at the March 25 Central Propaganda meeting was circulated.
I did not attend this meeting. But some of my colleagues who came from another province told me that before the meeting began the atmosphere was very tense. They had been sent by their provincial leaders to try to assess the situation. It had been assumed that this was going to be a meeting to criticize humanism. And because everyone already knew what had happened with respect to Zhou Yang's report, many participants felt nervous. But now after seeing Deng Liqun's speech, they could relax.
On April 11, the Guangming Daily and Beijing Daily published the news about this meeting and the main points of Deng Liqun's speech. That evening, I suggested to Hu Jiwei that we reprint this news in the People's Daily, without alterations.
At 11:00 that night I happened to run into the editor-in-chief of Shanghai's Wenhui bao, Ma Da, in the corridor of the editorial offices of the People's Daily. He was visiting Beijing and had just come out from the office of another deputy editor-in-chief, Li Zhuang, smiling. Half in jest I said to him: "Comrade Qiaomu wants me to write more articles for your paper." He said: "Go on, go on, when will you finish?" During this period Wenhui bao had appeared to be somewhat nervous. I thought that Ma Da had come to Beijing to try to find out what the real situation was. I knew that Comrade Li Zhuang was very optimistic. He had said: "It's impossible. The subject is wrong. Humanism is only an academic issue. How can anybody be punished because of it?" So Li Zhuang's opinion had probably influenced Ma Da.
But I was not so optimistic.
On the next day, the People's Daily reprinted the news from the Guangming Daily.
On the same day, April 12, Deng Liqun invited Qin Chuan, Zhou Yang, and me to the Central Propaganda Department. Deng Liqun said that some alterations had already been made to the "report" based on our opinions. And he read over these changes out loud to us, but they were all very minor. The three of us once again expressed our differences of opinion.
I spoke for about one hour. With respect to Zhou Yang's speech in the "report," I said there were only five issues which were mentioned as not being explained so clearly, for example, that of the "Learn from Lei Feng" campaign. I said "every article has its own tasks and could not attend to each and every aspect of a matter. If a work is criticized because of this, does it mean that every article on the subject of humanism must be written in such a way? And if it is not written in this way, then does it mean that it is wrong? Then other articles, for example that of Huang Nansen, can also be criticized for the same thing -- because there were some things which he did not talk about either." I also said that the discussion on humanism had already being going on for more than three years and that several hundred articles had already been published. Until the publication of Zhou Yang's speech, the Central Committee had never raised any critical opinions. Also in March of this year Comrade Deng Liqun had emphasized that "one hundred schools of thought should bloom and contend." How could it happen that everything had changed so all of a sudden?
Deng Liqun forced a smile, saying, "Oh, I was saying that it could be discussed as an academic issue." The implication was that it would be different if it were a political issue. Then from what time had the discussion on humanism become a political issue? And why could political issues not be discussed?
After I spoke, Zhou Yang also spoke up. This time he became a bit sentimental. "The article was a rough draft written in a hurry. I did not do enough research work on this issue. Now that a problem has emerged, what should be done? I think we still need criticism and discussions. Academic issues need to be distinguished from political and propaganda issues. My presentation has its shortcomings. Actually, I cannot say I am a true scholar. I do neither academics or politics very well. But both academics and politics need to be practical and objective. To solve this matter from an administrative point of view, that is to remove one from his position, is actually a form of punishment. Although you say that humanism can be discussed, in fact people will judge your statements by your deeds, not just by your words. If you act in such a way, people will become afraid. This doesn't really matter to me. If you dismiss me as a consultant, it really makes no difference. But it is unfair to Wang Ruoshui. It is not because I sympathize with Wang Ruoshui. I also warned Comrade Wang Yuanhua that we should pay attention to the influence of the words of Wang Ruoshui. Of course I had not noticed that Comrade Wang Yuanhua had also brought up some erroneous viewpoints, such as "the three realms of perception" pertaining to the theory of knowledge. I hope that the Central Committee will reconsider carefully the problem of Wang Ruoshui. No matter how much I adopted of his opinion, this still was my own presentation."
At the end, Deng Liqun said: "Our main goal is to check the facts. With respect to the different opinions, I do not expect that we can reach a common agreement today. In the discussions of the Secretariat it was decided that if you three comrades still have differences of opinion, then the Secretariat will hold another discussion meeting. At that time, you can attend as nonvoting delegates and explain your views in full."
After this, none of the three of us ever received a notice from the Secretariat's Office to attend any meeting as nonvoting delegates.
I was awaiting my judgment.
Zhou Yang's speech was excerpted in a Hong Kong newspaper. This stimulated interest in the high-level leaders of the Chinese Communist Party among Hong Kong readers. In its April 1983 issue, the journal Zhengming (Contending) wrote that Zhou Yang's presentation was a "buoyant, open, and earnest article. After reading it carefully you can see the reason why Zhou Yang is so popular and why he has earned so much praise." It also noted that Zhou Yang's article criticized Mao Zedong and "people can feel that this is a subtle basic challenge to the 'four cardinal principles.' It is very interesting to note that not once in Zhou Yang's 20,000- character article was the upholding of the four cardinal principles mentioned. This is extraordinary in essays written by high officials of the Chinese Communist Party." With respect to the issue of humanism, the Zhengming article said that "certain overseas China observers feel that humanism is becoming a strong opposition force to the 'orthodox ideology.' It is just for this reason that it has become a question of common concern whether humanism will be criticized or whether it will occupy a legitimate position on the Chinese political stage." It went on to say that Zhou Yang's speech had "sanctioned" a legitimate position for humanism.
On Youth Day, May 4, Hu Qiaomu gave a speech to the Communist Youth League in which he subtly criticized humanism. He said that today we still need a spirit of self-sacrifice. "If we abandon such a spirit, the happiness of every individual and of all of mankind will not automatically drop from the heavens." Hu Qiaomu went on to say: "We should resolutely raise the banners of collectivism, socialism, and communism, and oppose the appearance of individualist thought in any form." I felt that Hu Qiaomu's real reason for bringing this up was that he wanted the people to continue to suffer from poor living conditions, just as they had during the wartime period. I thought that Hu Qiaomu feared that people might pursue their desires for happiness, so he postponed happiness to a far distant future, urging the people to sacrifice themselves to an abstract "collective." In this speech he encouraged the youth to go to the remote borders of the country to work. But where were his own children? (Later his son was sued for swindling money.) I thought that here Hu Qiaomu's intentions were very clear; he merely wanted to protect the interests of the governing group. So it came as no surprise that he was so afraid of humanism.
I also learned from Qin Chuan that during this month Hu Qiaomu had telephoned Zhou Yang asking him if he could come to visit him. After their quarrel, Hu Qiaomu tried to be conciliatory. Zhou Yang responded that he would come instead to the hospital to see Hu Qiaomu. It is said that they both spoke very politely. Hu Qiaomu's only comment about the publication of the speech was that the People's Daily had not listened to him and he could not tolerate this. Hu Qiaomu asked Zhou Yang to write another article on the subject of alienation, but Zhou refused. Qin Chuan told me that originally Hu Qiaomu had been trying to lure Qin Chuan over to his side to criticize Zhou Yang, and even more importantly to oppose Wang Ruoshui. But now everything had changed -- Hu Qiaomu was trying to draw Zhou Yang over to his side and to concentrate all his efforts on opposing the People's Daily. I guessed that the main reason why Hu asked Zhou Yang to write another article on alienation was so that he could draw a line of distinction between Zhou Yang and Wang Ruoshui on this issue.
I also learned from Zhou Yang that during this chat with Hu Qiaomu, Zhou Yang had interceded on my behalf, saying that Wang should not be punished. But Hu raised his hand and said: "Don't say anything else about this matter. The members of the Standing Committee have already made their decision."
On July 13, at a national propaganda meeting, Hu Qiaomu spoke about studying the recently published Selected Works by Deng Xiaoping. His entire speech sang the praises of Deng Xiaoping. He criticized the opinion abroad that the study of the Selected Works was a restoration of the cult of the individual. Hu Qiaomu said: "We should not negate the importance of the leaders' authority because of the emphasis on collective leadership and all the propaganda about democracy. It is onesided only to talk about 'democracy.' To this we need also to add 'science.' Democracy implies decisions by the majority, but the problems of science cannot be resolved by majority decisions. Some people who emphasize democracy do not agree with the leadership of the Party." Hu Qiaomu maintained that the authority of the Party leaders was based on the authority of science. His meaning was that the leadership of the Party is Marxist leadership and Marxism is science. Therefore, the leadership of the Party includes scientific leadership. But he did not explain why this scientific leadership had committed so many blunders in its history.
From the discussion of the leadership of the Party, he moved on to speak about the issue of alienation. He opposed my viewpoints in the essay "On the Issue of Alienation" by saying:
When using this concept we should be somewhat prudent and we must not take liberties. Unless we have definite evidence, we should not say that the servants of the people have become the masters of the people. Because if we speak in such a way, we will give the impression that our socialist society is full of so-called 'alienation' everywhere, ranting that this is 'alienation,' and that is 'alienation.' Then there would be no differences between socialism and capitalism. Even the problem of the cult of the individual needs analysis. We cannot simply say the cult of the individual is 'alienation.' Marx had brought up the issue of individual cult in a letter to Wilhelm Bloss. He abhorred the cult of the individual in any form. Given the circumstances of the time, can we say that there was 'alienation' in the relationship between Marx and the person with whom he wrote the letter? In the final analysis who is 'alienated'? Is Marx 'alienated' or the person who wrote the letter? Marx never used this concept, so we cannot say this. For example, during the Yan'an period, was the Shaanbei peasant Li Youyuan who advocated 'The East is Red' 'alienated' or was Mao Zedong 'alienated'? If so, it doesn't matter who was 'alienated.' It is as if this 'alienation' gave rise to the victory in the Anti-Japanese War and to the victory in the War of Liberation. Then these victories were achieved under conditions of 'alienation.' There is no explanation for this. As for saying that those who made mistakes were 'alienated,' this is even harder to explain. I just mentioned this incidentally with respect to the cult of the individual. We must approach this issue from an analytical perspective. We need to refute the trend that says that alienation is everywhere in our society. We cannot accept this idea. I am not saying that there is no such phenomenon as alienation at all in our society. I am only saying that it is not as serious as some people describe in their essays.
I participated in this meeting and heard his words with my own ears. Many of his ideas were not even worth refuting. But Hu Qiaomu still enjoyed very high prestige among many Party cadres. I remember after the end of the meeting, when leaving the hall, I overheard one of the participants saying to the person next to him (both of these people were probably provincial propaganda ministers): "What a fine brain Comrade Qiaomu has got...."
Hu Qiaomu instructed the People's Daily to discuss his speech.
Up to now, Hu Qiaomu had not denied that the phenomenon of alienation existed in our socialist society; he was only opposed to the abuse of the term, like Huang Nansen had been.
In August, Domestic Trends, an internal publication of the New China News Agency, published a report saying that the Propaganda Bureau of the Party Committee at Qinghua University had analyzed the effects of the humanist current on the students. A comrade from the Party Committee had reported that the humanist ideological tide was very influential upon the students' view of life and view of the world, and it had "corrupted" some of their thinking. He said that around the time of the competitive elections in the fall of l980, many students had adopted all sorts of slogans of liberation and were discussing such issues as "man," "human nature," "humanity," and "personal liberation," as well as making demands for democracy, freedom, and human rights, etc. These slogans were very persuasive among some of the students. And since the spring of the last year, some students had begun to be interested in western existentialism and humanist philosophy in history.
Hu Qiaomu had the New China News Agency send a copy of this issue of Domestic Trends to Zhou Yang, Ruoshui, and Ru Xin so we could look it over. He wanted to show that his worries had been right.
At the end of July, I went to Beidaihe to take a rest. Before that I had read some recently published novels which had provoked some debates. I considered that in the contemporary trend of humanism there really were some different schools of thought and there were some viewpoints with which I could not agree. I used the opportunity of taking a rest in Beidaihe to write a criticism of the novel entitled When the Sunset Glow Disappears. This novel describes the confessions of an ex Red Guard male. During the Cultural Revolution he had participated in the persecution of a family. After the Cultural Revolution he met up again with a young woman from this family and he became deeply influenced by her and as a result completely changed his view of life. After this novel was published, the response from many young people was very warm, but it also caused some controversy. In my essay I criticized the nonrationalist and religious character of the work. I also criticized the attitude of meekly submitting to oppression, giving up the struggle to change own's own destiny in the face of violence and "the very calm mind" that had no anger whatsoever and tolerated everyone. I wrote: "Today we want to abandon the ultraleftist philosophy of struggle, but this does not mean we should retreat to the pre-Marxist humanism. We should move forward toward a socialist humanism which opposes all noncivil barbarian behavior and advocates a new relationship between men in society. But this kind of humanism does not reject every struggle. It is not weak; in fact it is a philosophy for the strong. Why should we pursue a god in heaven after the god on earth has returned to its original form of man? Why should our minds be fettered by traditional dogmatism after we have already been liberated from the new dogmatism?"
On August 8, Qin Chuan and I went to No. 303 Hospital to pay a visit to Hu Qiaomu. We asked his advice about how to celebrate the ninetieth birthday of Mao Zedong.
After talking about this, Hu Qiaomu began to talk again about the issue of studying Deng Xiaoping's recently published Selected Works. He said: With respect to studying the Selected Works, the People's Daily should do its best to solve the critical issue of remaining consistent with and upholding identical views with those of the Party Central Committee. If this issue is not resolved, then the rectification of the Party will be meaningless. It is a key problem of organizational principles.
Hu Qiaomu mentioned that Hu Jiwei had once told him that working for the People's Daily was very difficult because the Central Committee did not trust it. Hu Qiaomu said: "We should make this clear -- is it that the Central Committee does not trust the People's Daily, or that the People's Daily does not trust the Central Committee?" Hu Qiaomu said that during the preparations for the name-list for new Central Committee members to the Twelfth Party Congress, he had proposed Hu Jiwei's name, saying: "We all know Hu Jiwei's shortcomings and defects, but we still should consider his merits. He is a representative of journalist
circles." But the next day Hu Qiaomu received an anonymous accusatory letter from the People's Daily. This letter exposed Hu Jiwei's speech to reporters on the anniversary of the founding of the Party on July 1. Hu Qiaomu said that as a result he then had no choice but to withdraw the nomination of Hu Jiwei's name to the Central Committee.
In this speech Hu Jiwei had said that we should study why the Party had become so corrupt after assuming power. He also said that the Resolution on Certain Questions in the History of our Party of the Sixth Plenary Session was "basically correct, but still needed to undergo the test of practice." In fact, there was nothing wrong with these words, but Hu Qiaomu's response was very strong.
At this time Hu Jiwei was in Jiangxi province. So Hu Qiaomu told Qin Chuan that he was quite surprised, that even when Comrade Yaobang had heard about Hu Jiwei's speech, he could not believe his ears. Hu Qiaomu remarked: "Hu Jiwei spoke very inappropriately, not like a Party member. Although maybe he said this without thinking, it still reflects his opinion. It shows no trust in the Party. This really is hard to fathom."
Hu Qiaomu spoke about the issue of Party character and mass character," referring to the point where Hu Jiwei had said, "Party newspapers should not only have a Party character, but they should also have a mass character."
In fact, Hu Qiaomu had already written a letter of opinion to the Party Center about this issue. The letter was read by Hu Yaobang, Xi Zhongxun, and Wang Renzhong, all of whom had expressed their agreement. Hu Yaobang even sent a long note to Hu Qiaomu, praising his letter and saying that it was a very important issue and that he had been very persuasive. But Hu Jiwei still thought that nevertheless the issue needed to be discussed further. Hu Qiaomu was very angry about this.
"In brief," said Hu Qiaomu, "there is still such kind of thinking among the leaders of the newspapers. We will have no excuse if we cannot eradicate it during the Party rectification. How can this be an organ of the Party Center?" At this point, he became very excited.
Then he began to discuss the publication of Zhou Yang's speech. He said: "We still have not come to a conclusion about this. But I think although Zhou Yang's attitude was not very resolute, it still was better than that of the People's Daily. The paper did not take such an important article that touched on theoretical and political problems seriously enough and did not consider its harm and its influence. "Ruoshui still maintains that the reaction to the essay is good...." At that point he took a piece of paper out of the drawer on which was written a record of Bo Yibo's three opinions about Zhou Yang's article:
Second, the part on alienation is actually a duplication of Wang Ruoshui's 1980 essay.
Third, I suggest that someone write a short article to clarify the problem, because Zhou Yang was very influential.
These points led me to feel that Hu Qiaomu had not yet gained unanimous support from all the members of the Politburo and he was still trying to garner more support.
Hu Qiaomu once again began a long criticism of humanism:
I have already said that I am an ardent humanist. I will not change. But how can humanism be realized? If we today speak abstractly about the value of man, then will there be no class struggle in the society? How can we talk about the value of man when there are so many murderers and criminals in society?... The discussion of this question is based on idealism, removed from the specific circumstances in society, as well as from those circumstances within our country and abroad; so how can we say it is Marxist? The lumping together of alienation and humanism provides the anti- Party factions with an especially potent weapon.
By now neglecting socialist construction and class struggle, and talking about man as the departure point of Marxism, it is the same as joining the anti-Party trend in society or becoming an important part of it. If not, how can we explain that South Korea wanted to translate Zhou Yang's speech?
Look, this is what happened. Seoul National University in South Korea published a book entitled Special Edition on China, in which they included the transcript of Zhou Yang's speech. (Hu Qiaomu was using this as major evidence for his argument that humanism had already become a serious political problem.)
The situation within our country and abroad cannot be transformed according to man's will. There are always people who will find an ideological weapon to frustrate the socialist construction and the realization of the tasks of the Twelfth Congress, even to the point of organizing counterrevolutionary underground organizations. These are theoretical problems as well as practical political problems and now they have already become actual political problems.
Comrade Ruoshui, I believe that you are a Marxist, but in some respects your viewpoint 'deviates' and Zhou Yang has already told me about this. By 'deviate' I mean that you deviate from Marxism. That problem cannot be solved by one or two talks. And I am not insisting that you resolve it. You are a good Party member, but it is not that you don't have any shortcomings. You can still do somewhat better. Now the errors in the ideological sphere are very complicated and they have an influence on the society, on the college students, and on the literary and art circles. The literary and art circles are the most sensitive. And I do not mean only such works as When the Sunset Glow Disappears or Grass on the Meadows. There are also other essays and literary criticisms. (Hu Qiaomu named several literary works as examples.)
I will not be swayed by my feelings or emotions and I have no biases or prejudices. But principles are principles. If one is not suitable to work in a central Party newspaper, I must bring this up. Of course, if you change your previous opinions through discussions, this is altogether another matter.
His last words suggested that they were going to take administrative or organizational measures against the People's Daily, that is against myself and against Hu Jiwei.
I said to Hu Qiaomu that I was grateful for his concern and I admitted that I had not studied enough. But I maintained that I was a firm believer in Marxism and a supporter of the Party line since the Third Plenary Session. I agreed with Comrade Qiaomu that we should criticize bourgeois humanism. I told him that in fact I had already written an article criticizing When the Sunset Glow Disappears. Of course, I still felt that certain concrete problems not related to the Party line or the Party constitution should be open for discussion. And I also said a few words in defense of Hu Jiwei.
The message from this episode was very clear: Hu Jiwei and Wang Ruoshui must make self-criticism and confess their mistakes, otherwise they will be dismissed from their positions.
About this time, Hu Jiwei had a premonition that it was going to be very difficult for him to continue his work. So he offered his resignation to the Center.
6. Second Plenary Session: Rectification
and Anti-Spiritual Pollution
During this period there was a struggle taking place behind the scenes. Hu Qiaomu and Deng Liqun were trying to reorganize the People's Daily and to invalidate Wang Ruoshui's work, but this turned out not to be so easy. The opinion of the members of the Secretariat was not unanimous and Hu Yaobang tried to shelve the plan. When he was about to go abroad to visit Romania, he said that he would talk with Wang Ruoshui upon his return, but in fact he never did.
So Deng Liqun and Hu Qiaomu decided to circumvent the Secretariat and go to Deng Xiaoping directly to report to him about the "serious problems in theoretical circles." This move was ultimately successful. Deng Xiaoping was impressed with their report. He concurred that the literary and cultural spheres were all "a mess." And he asked: "What is the meaning of 'alienation'?" He thought that this was a "strange term."
Deng Xiaoping is not a scholarly person so under such circumstances he could come to believe whatever Hu Qiaomu told him. In his eyes Hu Qiaomu was the authority on Marxism in the Party. Deng Xiaoping accepted Hu Qiaomu and Deng Liqun's suggestions and prepared to include the problem of ideological pollution in his speech at the Second Plenary Session of the Central Committee.
On September 12, Deng Xiaoping had a preparatory talk concerning what he would say in his speech at the Second Plenary Session. The main points were as follows:
Some comrades regard the theory of alienation as an important theory. But they do not speak about the alienation of capitalist society. They are only interested in socialist alienation. To speak about socialist alienation actually implies that one has no faith or confidence in socialism, that socialism has no hope. Such kind of talk negates socialism and is anti-Marxist, or at least it is non-Marxist.
If socialism constantly produces its own opposition, then how can it be called socialism? In addition, if alienation were produced and developed, then how would it be possible for socialism to transform into communism?
In Taiwan, the Guomindang advocates the unification of China under the Three Principles of the People. How can we accept such an idea? Actually some people in Taiwan are not opposed to the fact that the Mainland follows the socialist path. They approve of socialism with Chinese characteristics and they feel that socialism on the Mainland is hopeful, and not so bad.
But some people in our own Party speak about the alienation of socialism. Don't you know that President Carter wanted to discuss with me the problems of human rights and humanism? I told him I would not discuss these problems. But if I were to discuss these things, actually I would have a lot to say.
Another thing, the imperialists invaded China and helped Chiang Kaishek in the Civil War and killed many, many Chinese people. Is this humanism? Every country has its own interpretation and its own definition of human rights and humanism. We are building socialism and communism which protects the interests of the majority of the people, so it can be said that ours is the most humanist system. What would President Carter have to say about this?
Deng Xiaoping also remarked that the situation was such that every school of thought was contending, except the Marxist school.
Why? Perhaps our knowledge about Marxism is not enough. We cannot write qualified articles or essays. Perhaps our articles have no force of persuasion.
But an even more important reason is that many people ignore the facts and make unscrupulous or unbridled attacks upon our Party and upon the system of socialism and they criticize every aspect of our work. And if one makes counter criticisms to dispute them, well they only become more popular and many more people sympathize with them. Those who make counter criticisms are accused of waving a big stick or of violating the policy of "letting one hundred schools of thought contend." This is not possible. We must be reasonable; things that must be criticized, should be criticized. Whether or not we take disciplinary action is not important. With respect to this, we must emphasize the responsibility of the veteran Communist Party members. We don't have to name names, but those who engage in spiritual pollution must be criticized. Their pollution influences many young people.
Some Party members may think that based on their qualifications and records of service that they are wiser than the Party. But no one is more correct than the Party. They think they can say and do whatever they want and the Party should not interfere with them.
Now the general situation on the ideological front is all in turmoil. The leadership of the Party is weak. We, the comrades in the Central Committee, all have a responsibility. First of all, I am responsible for this weakness. Now we should be allowed to correct our mistakes.
When Deng Xiaoping said these things, it was easy to guess that Deng Liqun and Hu Qiaomu had mentioned to him some negative things about Hu Yaobang, such as he was weak and he made no effort to rid the country and the Party of polluted thinking. Deng Xiaoping did not mention Hu Yaobang by name, but his saying "we all have responsibility" was an apparent indirect criticism of Hu Yaobang because Hu Yaobang was the Party general secretary.
The Second Plenary Session of the Twelfth Central Committee was set to be held in October l983. The central program of the session was to be rectification. And Deng Xiaoping was to give the main speech at the plenum. For this speech, he accepted the idea of Deng Liqun and Hu Qiaomu that he use this opportunity to bring up the issues of alienation and humanism.
The Second Plenary Session was held on October 11 and October 12. The resolution on rectification was passed on the first day.
Deng Xiaoping spoke on the second day, the l2th, and the title of his speech was "The Party's Urgent Tasks on the Organizational and Ideological Front." Deng spoke about two problems: 1.) rectification of the Party; and 2.) anti-spiritual pollution. The following is what Deng said regarding spiritual pollution.
... There are quite a few problems and much confusion among our theorists, writers, and artists; in particular some of them have spread spiritual pollution.... In essence, spiritual pollution means the spread of all kinds of corrupt and decadent ideas of the bourgeoisie and other exploiting classes and the spread of distrust of the socialism, communism, and leadership by the Communist Party.
...This confusion about humanism and the theory of alienation is a very serious problem among people working in the ideological sphere.... They have engaged in discussions of the value of the human being, humanism, and alienation and have only been interested in criticizing socialism, not capitalism. Of course, humanism may and should be studied as a theoretical and ethical question. But there are a thousand and one definitions of humanism. What we should do is make a Marxist analysis of it, disseminate and practice socialist humanism (which we used to call 'revolutionary humanitarianism' during the years of revolution) and criticize bourgeois humanism. The bourgeoisie often boast how humane they are and attack socialism as inhumane. I am amazed to find some of our Party comrades are preaching humanism, the value of the human being, and so forth in abstract terms....
[Some comrades] allege that alienation exists under socialism and can be found in the economic, political, and ideological realms, that in the course of its development socialism gives rise to a force of alienation, as a result of the activities of the main body of the society. Moreover, they try to explain our reform from the point of view of overcoming this alienation ... their position will only lead people to criticize, doubt and negate socialism, to consider it as hopeless as capitalism and to renounce their confidence in the future of socialism and communism.
This was a very long speech. Not only did Deng Xiaoping talk about humanism and alienation, but he also touched upon some other theoretical problems as well, such as philosophy, journalism and literature. But Deng was not familiar with any of these topics. His speech, both in terms of content and in terms of language, was identical to Hu Qiaomu's. It was apparent that Hu Qiaomu had helped Deng to prepare this speech. Hu Qiaomu was merely using the mouth of Deng Xiaoping to expound upon his own views. And in this way Hu Qiaomu's viewpoint had the highest authority.
Originally the purpose of the Second Plenary Session was to approve of rectification in order to solve the problems of corruption in the Party, such as the problems of the wasting of money, bribery, and bureaucratism. From very early on, these problems had aroused the anger of the masses, so they needed to be addressed. Another goal of the rectification was to get rid of those people who had followed the Lin Biao clique and Jiang Qing clique during the period of the Cultural Revolution. This issue had already been discussed in the preparatory meetings for the Second Plenary Session. So on the first day of the formal meeting (October ll), the decision on rectification was passed. The session adjourned on October 12. On October 13, the newspapers already published the resolutions that had been approved and the announcement of the closing of the session. But because Deng Xiaoping brought up the issue of "spiritual pollution" in his speech on October 12, under the instigation of Hu Qiaomu and Deng Liqun, the session was extended so this issue could be discussed. This so-called spiritual pollution was nothing else than humanism and the theory of alienation.
Hu Qiaomu played his little game at this session. He targeted two essays which he circulated to the participants. One essay was cowritten by Wang Yalin, Bi Zhiguo, and Zhang Guiliang entitled "On the Value of Man in Socialist Society." The other essay, "An Exploration into the Problem of Alienation in Socialist Society," was written by Lin Weijian. The former essay stated: "Alienation embodies a concentration of all the evils reflected in socialist society. It is the most scientific explanation one can offer for so many evils which exist in socialist society." The second essay wrote: "The roots of the alienation of power in socialist society lies in the socialist system itself and not otherwise." Hu Qiaomu judged that these two essays were using alienation to attack the socialist system universally.
In his speech at this meeting Hu Qiaomu said that spiritual pollution is not only an ideological problem, it is also a practical political problem as well. "Take the example of the problem of alienation, if I speak a little more seriously, it can become a platform for dissidents or for the opposition. From the time that the Gang of Four fell from power, there have always been people propagating alienation. For example, Wang Ruoshui, who participated in the writing group for the draft of Zhou Yang's speech, is someone who has exerted all of his strength to popularize alienation. "
I also heard that Hu Qiaomu criticized the Propaganda Department for not recognizing such a serious problem.
Most of the participants at this meeting were aged senior revolutionaries who had never heard of the term "alienation." In order to help them to understand the term, the entry for "alienation" in the Encyclopedia Britannica was translated and distributed to them. Actually, I think this was little help. Nevertheless, since Deng Xiaoping had already expressed his thoughts on the subject, there was no doubt that the use of the concept of alienation of course was wrong. So many of the attendees therefore began to condemn the concept, filled with righteous indignation.
Zhou Yang tried to defend himself at the meeting. He said he had been contemplating the issue of alienation for thirty years and his thinking had undergone some change. But he always thought that it made sense for Marx and Engels to consider this problem and it still had some significance for us today. Zhou Yang traced back to his l963 presentation entitled "The Military Tasks of Philosophy and Social Science Workers" wherein he confirmed the concept of alienation. The draft of this speech had been proofed and revised by Chairman Mao. Of course, he noted, at that time his thinking was quite leftist and the main point of the speech had been to criticize Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union. Zhou Yang also mentioned that in his June 23, l982 People's Daily article, "First to Uphold, Second to Develop," he had noted that alienation still existed in socialist society. Deng Liqun, director of the Propaganda Department, had reviewed this article and approved of it before publication.
Zhou Yang continued:
The alienation to which I am now referring and the circumstances of that which I mentioned twenty years ago are not the same; I have already written a self-criticism for my previous leftist ideas. In my speech I endeavored to conform to the systematic direction of reform of the Party Center since the Third Plenary Session of the Central Committee. Our Party underwent half a century of struggle to achieve victory, but seventeen years after this victory it endured ten catastrophic years. There are many objective reasons for this, but it cannot be said that it was not due to a phenomenon of serious alienation occurring in our socialist society. Now our Party must undertake the great historical task of the Four Modernizations. But there are still phenomena in many fields which obstruct the realization of the Four Modernizations, some of which deviate from socialism, such as alienation. But there are essential distinctions between the alienation in the capitalist system and the alienation in the socialist system. The socialist system can rely on its own forces to overcome this kind of alienation and there is a reliable guarantee that the systematic reform platform of our Party today can eliminate this phenomenon of alienation and other such negative phenomena. I think that only by trying this effort to the reform, the discussion of alienation will not be mere empty talk. Maybe such a connection will not be successful, but I am sincere in hoping that my speech will be beneficial to the present-day policy of reform. I am bringing up this problem in strict accordance with the line and policies of the Central Committee.
This defense by Zhou Yang only provoked even more criticism.
Deng Liqun gave a long speech at the meeting in which he focused his attack on the opinion of Wang Ruoshui in recent years. He said that Comrade Wang Ruoshui definitely has his own ideological system. Wang will agree with the Central Committee only if its line and policies are consistent with his own system of thought. Otherwise, he will not accept the policy of the Central Committee.
"...In his speeches and articles Wang does not try to hide his point of view and he adamantly refuses to change his opinions. The central Party leaders repeatedly tried to persuade him and warned him, but he still resisted."
Deng Liqun also pointed out the differences between Zhou Yang and Wang Ruoshui. He said that Zhou Yang admitted that socialist alienation and capitalist alienation were completely different and that the roots of socialist alienation were not in the system itself. In contrast, Wang Ruoshui has never accepted this.
Deng Liqun pointed out eight distinct problems in Wang Ruoshui's thinking and adding that of humanism and alienation the total number of problems came to ten.
This speech exploded like a bomb, vibrating throughout the entire auditorium.
And under such conditions, my fate was sealed.
The Central Discipline Inspection Commission and the Central Advisory Commission both held meetings to continue the criticism of "spiritual pollution." A leader at the Ministry of Public Security remarked that many criminals were watching pornographic videos and reading obscene materials. According to the speaker, all of this reactionary pornography was connected to the theory of alienation. Another person commented that the so-called spiritual pollution was poisonous, and that those who promote spiritual pollution are instigators. Someone else vehemently presented the view: "We must struggle, and we must enforce discipline."
The People's Daily, and its director Hu Jiwei, were also criticized at this meeting. Hu Jiwei's comment that "the newspapers should not only have a Party character, they should also have a mass character" was considered as an example of spiritual pollution.
Only one person held to his own views and that was Yu Guangyuan, who was a member of the Central Advisory Commission. At the meeting, Yu Guangyuan said that there were many problems which Marxists needed to study and that we should not focus only on the problem of alienation. But it was a fact that many Communists in other countries were discussing the problem of alienation and it was necessary that some of our people also study this problem.
7. The War Against Humanism
Originally rectification and anti-spiritual pollution were meant to be two separate issues. The purpose of rectification was to eradicate corruption from within the Party, while the so-called spiritual pollution, that is humanism and the theory of alienation, were ideological problems within the intellectual sphere. The Party initially wanted to put all its efforts in rectification; this was a great task. But some people within the Party were not interested in rectification; All they wanted to do was to punish those intellectuals who had their own independent thoughts and with whom they disagreed, so they could control the cultural sphere. The Second Plenary Session did not come to any conclusive decision regarding spiritual pollution, but Hu Qiaomu and Deng Liqun used Deng Xiaoping's speech and turned out much propaganda about it. As a result the anti-spiritual pollution drive not only weakened the rectification efforts, and even overwhelmed them. This could only make those corrupt elements within the Party feel pleased. Spiritual pollution was not their problem because they did not write any theoretical tracts or literary or artistic works.
The situation in l983 was very similar to that of l957. In l957 when the Chinese Communist Party was about to launch a rectification movement, Mao Zedong asked the intellectuals to help in the campaign by criticizing bureaucracy and other defects within the Party, but this gave rise to the anti-rightist struggle. Hence no one dared to raise critical opinions. By 1983, whether it was humanism or the theory of alienation, they were both considered criticism of the CCP, especially the Cultural Revolution and the corruption, therefore in accordance with the reform policy and rectification movement of the Communist Party. But after the slogan of "anti-spiritual pollution" emerged, the accused and the prosecutors exchanged positions. Even those corrupt and bureaucratic elements in the Party could justly accuse the intellectuals of "distrusting the leadership of the Party" and of "not being faithful to socialism."
Only for a very short period of time after the Second Plenary Session, was rectification the main topic in articles in the newspapers. But this all changed very quickly.
On October 19 the newspapers reported that Li Xiannian had given a speech at the Tenth Congress of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions encouraging workers to maintain their true qualities and overcome all kinds of spiritual pollution. The feature article on the first page of the October 22 issue of the People's Daily had the headline "Maintain the Class Nature of the Proletariat, Resist Any Spiritual Pollution." And on the next day, the editorial in the People's Daily also referred to spiritual pollution.
On October 24, two important pieces of news were reported on page one of the People's Daily. One was that the Central Committee had called a meeting of non-Party personages where Peng Zhen gave an important speech on behalf of the Central Committee about rectification and anti-spiritual pollution. The second piece of news was that Wang Zhen, in a speech at a meeting of the China Socialism Institute (a college for training members of the democratic parties) had pointed out that the current situation on the ideological and theoretical fronts should be soberly recognized, and any kind of spiritual pollution should be firmly resisted and eradicated.
On October 25, in its lead story the People's Daily reported that at two separate meetings Wang Zhen had conveyed the instructions of Deng Xiaoping that the banners of Marxism and socialism should be raised resolutely and that pollution on the ideological front should be opposed and eliminated. This item disclosed that anti-spiritual pollution had been put forward by Deng Xiaoping himself. This surprised many Party cadres, because originally the contents of Deng Xiaoping's speech had not been meant to be revealed. I learned later that Deng Liqun had helped draft the speech for Wang Zhen, so Deng Liqun intentionally had made Deng Xiaoping's ideas public in Wang Zhen's speech.
Another piece of news on the first page concerned the support of the nonparty personages for rectification and anti-spiritual pollution. On the same day, the People's Daily also reported that the China Federation of Literary and Art Circles had held a meeting calling for bold opposition to spiritual pollution.
On October 26, the lead story on the first page of the People's Daily continued to report on the speeches at the meeting of nonparty members. Obscene, superstitious, and reactionary books, magazines, videos, and cassettes were all regarded as examples of spiritual pollution. One nonparty member said that "it was very dangerous to engage in spiritual pollution. If we let it spread unchecked, perhaps it will lead to the peaceful evolution so desired by the imperialists."
Thereafter, there were more and more reports and comments about spiritual pollution in the newspapers. And news items about the rectification of the Party suddenly became secondary.
During this period, Deng Liqun pointed out that all cultural and education organs needed to inspect their publications. Special people were to be assigned responsibility for these tasks. Not only were the published and edited materials of each unit to be inspected, but also every speech and article written by each member of every unit were to be examined. The Party Center also sent down an instruction demanding that Party cadres, especially in the theoretical, literature and art, education, journalism, publishing, broadcast, television, mass cultural, trade union, youth league, and women's federation organs, were to be scrutinized to determine whether they engaged in or spread spiritual pollution. In units where the situation was serious the Party was to send in work teams from higher levels to help them reorganize. Leaders could be purged or rotated. This manner of doing things was reminiscent of the way things were done during the Cultural Revolution.
The universities and various academic units began to feel nervous. In one province there was a Party Committee of the local Academy of Social Sciences that felt that there were simply too many articles to be inspected, so they came up with an easy method: Any article that contained the word "man" in the title was to be checked first. Someone made a joke about "turning pale at the mention of man." This was a play on the Chinese proverb "to turn pale at the mention of a tiger."
These were very difficult days for Zhou Yang. Xia Yan asked Deng Yingchao, the widow of the late premier Zhou Enlai, to pay a visit to Deng Xiaoping to intercede on behalf of Zhou Yang. The reasoning was that Chairman Mao had previously approved of the concept of alienation, but this was of no use. It is said that Deng Xiaoping was displeased and said that it was just because Chairman Mao had believed there was alienation in the Party that he said there were bourgeoisie within the Party, leading him to launch the Cultural Revolution.
I believe that this opinion of Deng Xiaoping in fact came directly from the mouth of Hu Qiaomu. If Deng Xiaoping had read our articles himself, he would have known the political implication of our alienation was not that it had produced a bourgeois class within the Party, but rather a cult of the individual. If Mao had not been alienated and became a dictator, placing himself above the Party, then he would not have been able to launch the Cultural Revolution.
Zhou Yang was under great pressure to admit his mistakes. Hu Yaobang made a speech at a meeting of the Central Advisory Commission in which he criticized Zhou, but rather mildly. Other members also gave speeches one by one asking Zhou to make a self-criticism. Bo Yibo, as vice chairman of the Advisory Commission, had a talk with Zhou Yang, requesting that he make an apology. Playing on the Chinese idiom "to satisfy both sides," Bo Yibo wanted Zhou to make an apology which would "satisfy three sides." First, make a confession to the Party Center to satisfy the Central Committee; second, do not do any harm to those who agree with you; and third, save yourself.
A reporter from the New China News Agency came to interview Zhou Yang and asked him to express his opinion about the so-called anti-spiritual pollution drive and about what he thought of Deng Xiaoping's speech.
Finally Zhou Yang yielded. On November 6, every newspaper published the November 5 report of the New China News Agency interview with Zhou Yang. In this interview Zhou Yang said that he agreed with Deng Xiaoping's speech and he confessed that he had not been prudent in his speech in commemoration of the centennial of Marx's death which had mistakes and shortcomings. That was a profound lesson.
First, I arbitrarily broadened the concept of alienation to include and explain those dark sides of socialist society. This was no help whatsoever to solve these problems. Especially I did not make a careful distinction with the bourgeois concept of alienation, therefore there was the possibility that some people with ulterior motives and with anti-socialist feelings would distort my opinion and take advantage of it. And it was also possible that weak-willed and vacillating elements would lose confidence in the future of socialism and communism.
I confess that when I read those sentences I felt a bit surprised. "Those who have ulterior motives" -- who were they? Deng Liqun had already accused me of using Zhou Yang's prestige to spread the influence of my own ideas. Perhaps he considered that since Hu Qiaomu had been using Deng Xiaoping, then why could not Wang use Zhou in the same way? Now Deng Liqun could use this sentence by Zhou Yang as an admission of my motives.
Zhou Yang's self-criticism disappointed many people. I know of a woman author who wept when she read this report in the paper. Perhaps she felt that if Zhou Yang had refused to make a self-criticism, there was still hope for victory for the proponents of humanism. Now there was no hope at all and she did not know what to do.
Zhou Yang told me that he had received a letter from a young man who expressed his regrets over Zhou Yang's apology. The young man thought that Zhou Yang should have refused to apologize. Zhou Yang did not agree to this, but he had tried to put a thorn into the side of Hu Qiaomu in his self-criticism. This was the sentence: "Thus the bourgeois politician's so-called humanism is only crocodile tears."
In his later years, Hu Qiaomu was a man who easily wept; I had seen this myself several times.
After Zhou Yang made his apology, there was not much else that Hu Qiaomu could do to him. So Hu Qiaomu felt that he could adopt a more conciliatory attitude. One evening, when he went to see the play, "A History of the Kingdom of Heavenly Peace," he ran into Zhou Yang who was also watching the performance. In the theater, Hu Qiaomu put on a public show and embraced Zhou Yang warmly.
Now Zhou Yang was exonerated and he could continue to publish articles in the newspapers and journals. On December 22, l983, the People's Daily published the foreword he had written for the book the Collections of Deng Tuo. In analyzing the inner contradictions in Deng Tuo's heart, Zhou Yang wrote:
It is a painful thing when an author finds that his point of view is different from that of the Party.... Under such circumstances, a communist author should first believe in the Party and the masses and seriously and actively state his own opinions to the Party. He should never hide or conceal his views. He should never put himself above the Party, thinking that he is wiser than the Party. On the other hand, the author should correct his incorrect views under the guidance of the Party's correct policy ... and henceforth formulate his own views in accordance with those of the Central Committee.
These words were very thoughtful and careful. I believe that Zhou Yang weighed every word cautiously before he wrote them. From the point of view of the Party's orthodoxy, no one could find anything wrong with this. Zhou Yang was writing about Deng Tuo, but at the same time, he was also revealing his own heart. Some of his words are very sincere, but it appears that some are aimed at trying to protect himself. "Trust the Party." -- This is very abstract. Who represents the Party on such theoretical issues? Deng Xiaoping? Was not Deng Xiaoping just the mouthpiece for Hu Qiaomu? Then did trust in the Party only mean to believe in Hu Qiaomu? Did Zhou Yang really believe that he could not be wiser than Hu Qiaomu?
8. The Reorganization of the People's Daily
(to be continued)