Struggle Between Opposing and Worshipping Confucius Over the Last 100 Years
Struggle Between Opposing and Worshipping Confucius Over the Last 100 Years
Struggle Between Opposing and Worshipping Confucius Over the Last 100 Years
Struggle Between Opposing and Worshipping Confucius Over the Last 100 Years
by the Mass Criticism Group of Peking and Tsinghua Universities
THERE has been a period of great social change and great progress in China over the last 100 years or so. In every important change in society there have been sharp struggles between the two classes, the two lines and the two ideologies in the form of struggles between revolution end counter-revolution, progress and retrogression, reform and conservatism. And in the Ideological sphere, there have been repeated and acute struggles between opposing and worshipping Confucius.
Historical experience merits attention. A review of the history of the struggle between opposing and worshipping Confucius in the last 100 years or so helps us understand the great significance of the movement to criticize Lin Piao and Confucius which is now developing in depth.
The great peasant revolution of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom (1851-64) was the first high tide of the anti-imperialist and anti-feudal democratic revolution in modern China. With its spearhead pointed at the feudal system as a whole, this revolution launched a fierce offensive against the thought of the Confucian school — the spiritual prop of the feudal system.
Hung Hsiu-chuan, leader of the peasant revolution of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, resolutely demolished the memorial tablet beating Confucius' name and declared war on the whole feudal system as early as 1843, the year after the end of the Opium War (1840-42). It was in that same year that he began organizing a secret revolutionary body in preparation for an armed uprising.
To enlighten the working people to break the shackles imposed on them by feudal ideas, he later made up the story of the "Emperor God" who displayed Confucius' books and pointed out that there were "too many fallacies" which led people astray. This "Emperor God" ordered a heavenly attendant to flog Confucius. During the protracted period of feudal society Confucius had been the "absolute authority" whom nobody dared offend. Now Hung Hsiu-chuan had this "sage" of the feudal landlord class kneel before the "Emperor God." the personification of the peasant class, and tried and beaten. This daring action of breaking the 2,000-year-old feudal traditional chains and going against the tide fully reflected the revolutionary spirit of the Chinese peasant masses in firmly opposing the feudal system.
Wherever the peasant revolutionary army of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom went, it overthrew the reactionary political power of the landlord class by revolutionary violence, pulled down the temples of the "sage Confucius" and smashed the tablets bearing his name, and proclaimed the books of the Confucian school "heretic books." It carried out a revolutionary mopping-up operation against the political, clan, religious and masculine authorities representing the whole feudal system and its ideology and against the "sages and wise men" lauded by previous feudal dynasties.
The peasant revolution of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom opposed Confucius, while the reactionary feudal landlord class revered Confucius so as to preserve its rotten rule. A member of this class, Tseng Kuo-fan was a Ching government official, a traitor and an executioner. In his "proclamation" denouncing this revolution, he made a special point of protecting the "doctrines of Confucius and Mencius." By rallying the landlord class and all other reactionary forces under the banner of worshipping Confucius and collaborating with the imperialist forces, he put down the revolution of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom.
China's old bourgeois democratic revolution covered the period from the mid-19th century to just before the May 4th Movement in 1919. At that time, the struggle between the new and the old learning on the cultural front WES one between the bourgeois new culture and the feudal-Class old culture. With Yen Fu (1653-1921) who had studied in Britain as their representative, the bourgeois thinkers who were engaged in enlightening the people introduced the new learning of the Western bourgeoisie and opposed the old learning of the feudal landlord class, But, owing to the weaknesses of the Chinese bourgeoisie, the new learning they advocated contained much feudal content, A representative of the bourgeois reformers and an advocate of constitutional monarchy, Kang Yu-wei (185&-1927) put forward the idea of "changing the system by citing ancient examples" and thus argued that their reforms did not go against the "doctrines of the sages" Confucius and Mencius.
From the failure of the Reform Movement of 1898 started by Kang Yu-wei and others, the bourgeois revolutionaries led by Dr. Sun Yat-sen (1866-1925) began to realize that a bourgeois republic could not be founded without overthrowing the feudal monarchy by revolutionary means. Some of them also came to know that the thought of the Confucian school or Confucianism was the spiritual support for upholding feudal autocratic rule and that the overthrow of the feudal monarchy made it necessary to topple Confucius and repudiate his reactionary ideas.
The Revolution of 1911 led by the bourgeoisie overthrew the feudal monarchy, but the fruit of its victory-was seized by Yuan Shih-kai (1839-1916), a representative of the reactionary feudal force and chieftain of the northern warlords. Yuan was anxious to become emperor and with the support of imperialism plunged into counter-revolutionary activities to restore feudalism. Using Confucius as an instrument to prepare public opinion for his counter-revolutionary restoration, he offered "sacrifices to Heaven and Confucius" and prattled that the "doctrines of Confucius" were everlasting and all-pervading and were "like food and clothing which people could not do without." A cultural special agent of tsarist Russia, Hermann Keysarling sneaked into China at that time and made speeches in many places about revering Confucius. He chanted that only by revering Confucius could China's "ancient way" be "revived" and people's minds not be "reversed by revolution.” He energetically prepared count or-revolutionary public opinion for Yuan Shih-kai to restore the feudal monarchy.
The bourgeois reformers, in the meantime, had already degenerated into feudal royalists. Their ringleader Kang Yu-wei and others took an active pail in the counter-revolutionary activities of Yuan Shih-kai and later Chang Hsun (1854-1923) to restore feudalism. Ono of the northern warlords, the latter, tried to put the overthrown last emperor of the Ching Dynasty back on the throne but failed ignominiously. After Yuan Shih-kai's restoration efforts had failed, Kang Yu-wei wrote to the then northern warlord government proposing to make Confucianism the "national religion" in the constitution. He also said that "with Confucianism China exists; without Confucianism China would no longer exist." The "China" he referred to was the old feudal China. By sparing no effort to advocate reverence for Confucius, he wanted to bring about an all-round restoration of feudal rule In China.
Bourgeois ideology played a certain progressive role in the battle against feudal ideology in the period of the old democratic revolution. However, because the Chinese bourgeoisie lacked strength and the world bad already entered the era of imperialism, this bourgeois ideology was only able to last out a few rounds and was beaten back by the reactionary alliance of the enslaving ideology of foreign imperialism and the 'back to the ancients' ideology of Chinese feudalism: as soon as this reactionary ideological alliance started a minor counter-offensive, the so-called new learning lowered its banners, muffled its drums and beat a retreat, retaining its outer form but losing its soul." (Mao Tsetung; On New Democracy.) The historical task of leading the new cultural revolution which thoroughly opposed imperialism and feudalism could only fall on the shoulders of the Chinese proletariat.
During the period of the great May 4th Movement, the Chinese proletariat mounted the stage of history and became the leading class of revolution. Under the guidance of Marxism-Leninism, the period of the new bourgeois democratic revolution thoroughly opposing Imperialism and feudalism started. "Down with the Confucian Shop" was an entirely new revolutionary slogan put forward by the May 4lh Movement on the cultural front. Before and after May 4, 1919, many articles criticizing Confucius' ideas, the feudal culture represented by Confucius and the reactionary adverse current of worshipping Confucius and studying the Confucian classics appeared in such journals as the Hsiang-chiang Review, the New Youth and the Weekly Guide.
Lu Hsun (1881-1936) was the greatest and most courageous standard-bearer of the new cultural revolution. Inspired by the October Socialist Revolution, he saw the "dawn of a new era" and plunged heart and soul into revolutionary activities. He fought fiercely against the feudal force represented by the "ethical code" of Confucius. He published the first work of China's new literature, "A Madman's Diary," in New Youth in 1918. This was a brave and militant article opposing the Confucian ethical code and denouncing Confucius. Lu Hsun made a cutting exposure of the feudal rulers, saying that while the latter chanted Confucius' "benevolence, righteousness and virtue," not only was there human fat at the corner of their lips, but all their hearts were set on eating man. In this article, he wrote: "I tried to look this up, but my history has no chronology and scrawled all over each page are the words: 'Confucian Virtue and Morality.' ... I read intently half the night until I began to see words between the lines. The whole book was filled with the two words — 'Eat people.'" He penetratingly pointed out: "There will be no place for man-eaters in the world in future." He called on the people to rise and overthrow that fiendish old society which was "pitch dark" and where "I don't know whether it is day or night" In his uniquely pungent essays, Lu Hsun mercilessly tore away the mask of all facets of the old society, challenged those following the adverse current of going back to the past feudal order and denounced them as "present-day murderers."
"The cultural revolution ushered in by the Way 4th Movement was uncompromising in its opposition to feudal culture; there had never been such a great and thoroughgoing cultural revolution since the dawn of Chinese history." (On New Democracy.) The old morality and culture represented by the Confucian school was an important target of this cultural revolution led by the proletariat and guided by Marxism-Leninism. As the advanced elements, the communists at that time reflected the revolutionary aspirations of the working people, who had been enslaved for thousands of years, to overthrow imperialist and feudal rule. Uniting with all possible allies and deployed in battle array, they launched a heroic attack on the 'Confucian Shop" in all spheres of social science and literature and art. "Its influence has been so great and its impact so powerful that it is invincible wherever it goes. The numbers it has rallied behind it have no parallel in Chinese history." (On New Democracy.) Under such violent revolutionary impact, the prestige of Confucius, who had enjoyed "absolute authority" for over 2,000 years in Chinese feudal society, was swept into the dust.
Some bourgeois intellectuals at the time made up the Right-wing of the May 4th Movement. When it developed in depth, the Right-wing bourgeois intellectuals represented by the reactionary comprador hack Hu Shih promptly turned reactionary and threw themselves into the arms of imperialism and feudalism. In July 1919, Hu Shih rushed out the counter-revolutionary article "Study Problems More and Talk Less About 'Isms’” in which he openly opposed using Marxism to examine and guide the Chinese revolution and feverishly championed imperialist and feudal culture.
During the Second Revolutionary Civil War (1927-37), Hu Shih openly advocated revering Confucius in co-ordination with the Kuomintang reactionaries' counter-revolutionary encirclement and suppression of the revolutionary forces. He lauded Confucius as a "great sage for saving all mankind." At the same lime, he made a big effort to spread the idea that after the Yin Dynasty had been subjugated by the Chou Dynasty, though Confucius came from a family of Yin's descendants, he could "docilely accommodate himself to his position as a person from a ruined state" and possessed the "magnanimous 'I follow the Chou' spirit." In openly advocating the servile attitude of a person in a subjugated country, Hu Shih was preparing public opinion for Japanese imperialism which was trying to subjugate China at that time. This adverse current of "worshipping Confucius" started by these bourgeois Intellectuals was a counter-attack on the May 4th Movement and served the counter-revolutionary politics of imperialism, the landlord class and the comprador bourgeoisie.
After its founding in 1921, the Communist Party of China led the formation of an anti-Imperialist, anti-feudal revolutionary united front and launched a vigorous great revolutionary movement
The revolutionary peasant movement personally led by Chairman Mao in Hunan and other provinces surged ahead rapidly in a few months. Its spearhead of struggle was directly aimed at the feudal authorities — political, clan, religious and masculine — upheld by the Confucian school. These four authorities "are the embodiment of the whole feudal-patriarchal system and ideology, and are the four thick ropes binding the Chinese people, particularly the peasants." (Mao Tsetung: Report on an Investigation of the Peasant Movement in Hunan.) This was the continuation and deepening of "Down with the Confucian Shop" campaign of the May 4th Movement. In his Report on an Investigation of the Peasant Movement in Hunan, Chairman Mao warmly acclaimed: "To overthrow these feudal forces Is the real objective of the national revolution. In a few months the peasants have accomplished what Dr. Sun Yat-sen wanted, but failed, (o accomplish in the forty years he devoted to the national revolution. This is a marvellous feat never before achieved, not just in forty, but in thousands of years. It's fine."
Shocked to the marrow by the revolutionary movement, the big bourgeoisie betrayed the revolution and joined the counter-revolutionary camp of Imperialism and feudal force. Frantic, they went in for a counterrevolutionary military and cultural encirclement and suppression of the revolutionary people. Worshipping Confucius and studying the Confucian classics formed an important part of the counter-revolutionary cultural encirclement and suppression. They raved that "Confucius Is the pillar of Chinese culture" and "the completion of the great task of building the country rests on the revival of the thought of the Confucian school.” In issuing the decree to protect the Confucian temples in 1928. they openly said that its aim was "the complete elimination of communism."
The reactionary warlord governments in various places, especially In Hunan Province which was the revolutionary cradle, successively issued orders for worshipping Confucius and studying the Confucian classics. Reactionary feudal and bourgeois men of letters and scholars like Hu Shih did their utmost to create for the big bourgeoisie reactionary public opinion in support of worshipping Confucius. All this fully revealed that the purpose of their "revival" of Confucius' thought was to counter-attack the revolutionary people and protect the reactionary rule of imperialism and feudalism over the Chinese people.
During the counter-revolutionary cultural encirclement and suppression, the chief commander of China's new cultural revolution Lu Hsun put up the most courageous and firmest resistance. Published in 1935, his article "Confucius In Modern China" penetratingly exposed the counter-revolutionary aim of worshipping Confucius and studying the Confucian classics and the reactionary nature of Confucius' thought in serving the exploiting-class rulers.
Lu Hsun said in this article: "Confucius devised outstanding methods of governing the state, but there were thought up to rule the people for the sake of those in authority; there was nothing of any value to the people." Therefore, only the reactionary ruling class would exalt Confucius, and "it was those In authority who boosted Confucius in China, making him the sage of those in power or those anxious to take power, a sage having nothing to do with the common people.” Lu Hsun said: Worshipping Confucius and studying the Confucian classics was merely the reactionaries' "brick to knock on doors" — an instrument for counterrevolutionary restoration.
Around the start of the War of Resistance Against Japan (1937-45). Japanese imperialism, with a view to subjugating China and acting on Hu Shih's idea of "conquering the minds of the Chinese people," also made a big effort to advocate worshipping Confucius and spread reactionary propaganda about establishing the "greater East Asia new order" and a "happy land ruled in the kingly way" based on the "teachings of Confucius."
Class struggle in society inevitably is reflected in the Party. To push their opportunist lines, opportunist ringleaders such as Chen Tu-hsiu, Wang Ming and Liu Shao-chi at that time also shamelessly trumpeted the reactionary thinking of the "Confucian Shop." Chen Tu-hsiu declared that "Confucianism is a powerful doctrine in Chinese history.” To oppose the vigorously rising revolutionary movement of the peasants in 1927, he spared no effort to advocate the "doctrine of the mean" of Confucius and Mencius, and chattered that "we must keep to on eclectic line of the mean for a considerable period of time." Wang Ming extolled the thinking of Confucius as the "national virtue and national spirit for 5,000 years" in China and urged "sharing weal and woe" with the Kuomintang reactionaries and "closely depending on each other" in the spirit of "great national benevolence and love."
Liu Shao-chi was also enthusiastic in publishing his sinister book Self-Cultivation which preached the "doctrines of Confucius and Mencius." He also prettied that Confucian thinking "is useful in our national revolutionary war against Japanese aggression." and he wanted the Communists to "compromise with Confucius." The Kuomintang anti-Communist element Chen Po-ta even exalted Confucius' "principle of loyally and forbearance" as "the highest virtue for all men," and said that "Confucius had his epoch-making merits in the history of Chinese culture and his contribution to our national spirit cannot be obliterated." In preaching the fallacy of worshipping Confucius, they all wanted to surrender to the Kuomintang reactionaries and Japanese imperialism.
In The Orientation of the Youth Movement and other articles, Chairman Mao sternly criticized this adverse current of worshipping Confucius then existing at home and abroad and in and outside the Party. Especially in On New Democracy, Chairman Mao made a historical summing up of this situation: "All those who advocate the worship of Confucius, the study of the Confucian ration, the old ethical code and the old ideas in opposition to the new culture and new ideas" are exponents of the reactionary culture. "This kind of reactionary culture serves the imperialists and the feudal class and must be swept away. Unless it is swept away, no new culture of any kind can be built up. There is no construction without destruction, no flowing without damming and no motion without rest; the two are locked in a life-and-death struggle."
Socialist revolution is a great social revolution unprecedented in depth. After summing up the historical experience of the dictatorship of the proletariat in China and abroad, Chairman Mao set forth the theory of continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat, and formulated for our Party the basic line for the historical period of socialism.
Chairman Mao has attached great importance to the class struggle in the superstructure and In the ideological sphere. During the last 20 years or so, Chairman Mao has personally led the whole Party and the people of the whole country to criticize the reactionary film The Life of Wu Hsun, the bourgeois idealist thinking of the group represented by Hu Shih in the study of The Dream of the Red Chamber, the Hu Feng counterrevolutionary clique and Yang Hsien-chen's reactionary philosophical thinking. During those years Chairman Mao also initiated the revolution In literature and art, education and other fields. These revolutions have effectively consolidated and strengthened the dictatorship of the proletariat, and dealt heavy blows at the influence of the feudal, capitalist and all other exploiting class ideas entrenched in the ideological sphere.
But the overthrown exploiting classes are not reconciled to their defeat. Liu Shao-chi and Lin Pico, agents of the landlord class and bourgeoisie within the Party, vainly tried to overthrow the dictatorship of the proletariat and restore capitalism in China. They did whatever they could to oppose the revolution in the superstructure and the ideological sphere and feverishly spread the thinking of the bourgeoisie and the Confucian school to serve their counter-revolutionary restoration activities. The struggle between opposing and revering Confucius, therefore, is still an important part of the struggle between the two classes and the two lines on the ideological front in the period of socialist revolution.
After country-wide liberation in 1949, Liu Shao-chi twice revised and published his sinister book Self-Cultivation In which he continued to preach the "doctrines of Confucius and Mencius." With the support of Liu Shao-chi's bourgeois headquarters, a sinister meeting to revere Confucius took place in 1982. It glorified Confucius as the "greatest figure In China's history of thought" who advocated bourgeois "liberty, equality and fraternity" and lauded him as a person who "played an important progressive role in history."
. In criticizing the reactionary ideas of advocating the worship of Confucius and studying the Confucian classics spread by Liu Shao-chi and his gang. Chairman Mao has penetratingly pointed out: "The socialism of today is indeed unprecedented. Compared with the Confucian 'classics,' socialism is infinitely superior." The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution personally initiated and led by Chairman Mao shattered Liu Shao-chi's bourgeois headquarters, struck devastating blows at all old culture and ideas and hit hard at the reactionary adverse current of worshipping Confucius.
The counter-revolutionary conspirator and double-dealer Lin Piao was a big Party tyrant and warlord who neither read books, newspapers and documents nor had any learning at all. But he had the audacity to talk about Confucius, Mencius, philosophy and history, and took the doctrines of Confucius and Mencius as his counter-revolutionary "maxim." Taking over Confucius' reactionary programme "restrain oneself and return to the rites" which was aimed at restoring Ihe slave system, he shouted again and again after the Ninth Party Congress that "of all things, this is the most important: to restrain oneself and return to the rites." He impatiently tried to subvert the dictatorship of the proletariat and regarded capitalist restoration as the most important thing of all.
Lin Piao also made a big to-do in preaching the theory of "genius" trumpeted by Confucius and Mencius and used it as his anti-Party theoretical programme in his plot to usurp Party leadership and seize state power. He lauded to the skies the "doctrine of the mean" of Confucius and Mencius, opposed the Marxist theory of class struggle and attacked our struggle against revisionism. He also preached such reactionary Ideas of Confucius and Mencius as "virtue," "benevolence and righteousness" and "loyalty and forbearance." Shouting that "he who relies on virtue will thrive and he who relies on force will perish," he used Confucian phrases to viciously attack the dictatorship of the proletariat in an attempt to fundamentally change the Party's basic line for the whole historical period of socialism and overthrow the dictatorship of the proletariat and the socialist system. Using the reactionary code of conduct of Confucius and Mencius, he formed a self-seeking clique, engaged in conspiracies and intrigues and played double-dealing tactics. He included the precept "succeed, or die to preserve virtue" of Confucius and Mencius in the discipline of his counter-revolutionary fascist contingents and demanded that they persist in counter-revolutionary activities to the end.
This shows that Lin Piao was a devout disciple of Confucius. He made use of Confucian thought as his instrument to oppose the dictatorship of the proletariat. Therefore, while deepening our criticism of Lin Piao, we should thoroughly criticize the reactionary ideas of Confucius and of worshipping him. This is an important content in deepening the criticism of Lin Piao and a component part of criticizing him.
What is worth noting is the fact that, in order to encourage the Lin Piao anti-Party clique, social -imperialism also jumped out at that time to wildly exalt Confucius. They babbled that "the name of Confucius has been indivisibly linked with the development of the Chinese people's spiritual culture for thousands of years.” that "both Confucius and Mencius declared that the interests of the people were the ultimate and highest goal of governing," that they were the "founders of the political theory Of the most ideal social and state systems," and so on and so forth, The "Chinese people" social-imperialism referred to were none other than the old reactionary ruling classes in China and such renegades and traitors as Wang Ming, Liu Shao-chi and Lin Piao. The Soviet revisionist renegade clique has not given up its dream of subjugating China. No wonder it considers that its interests are "indivisibly linked with" those of the overthrown slave-owning, feudal landlord and capitalist classes in China.
Concomitant with the repeated sharp class struggles in the past century and more were endless sharp struggles between opposing and worshipping Confucius. This has enabled us to understand that all the revolutionary and progressive classes oppose Confucius, and the proletariat and the peasant masses are the revolutionary classes that most firmly oppose Confucius. All decadent and declining classes always safeguard their reactionary rule by advocating the worship of Confucius, and after they have been overthrown they will use this as their ideological weapon in trying for a counter-revolutionary restoration.
In their vain efforts to turn China into their colony, imperialism and social-imperialism have also advocated the reactionary thinking of Confucius so as to realize their aggression against China and support the restoration activities of the reactionary forces. In the struggle between the two classes and the two lines as manifested in the struggle between revolution and counter-revolution, progress and retrogression, and reform and conservatism, we must consciously and resolutely stand on the side of revolution, progress and reform and firmly oppose retrogression and restoration.
The Tenth Party Congress called on us to attach importance to the class struggle in the superstructure, including all spheres of culture, and transform those parts of the superstructure which do not conform to the economic base. Criticism of Lin Piao and Confucius is a political and ideological struggle in the superstructure through which Marxism prevails over revisionism and the proletariat over the bourgeoisie. The history of struggle on the Ideological front over the last century tells us that an important spiritual prop of the old superstructure is the Confucian school of thought. The influence of the reactionary ideas of Confucius is fairly deep-rooted because the reactionary ruling classes ceaselessly inculcated them fur some 2.000 years and the ringleaders of the opportunist lines energetically trumpeted them. Therefore, in order to deepen the revolution in the superstructure and the ideological realm and consolidate the dictatorship of the proletariat, it is necessary to repeatedly criticize the reactionary ideas of Confucius.
Posted: 2009-03-09 05:26 |
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