[This article is reprinted from Peking Review, #13, March 31, 1972, pp. 5-7.]
GIVING importance to the role of teachers by negative example is an important hallmark of a thorough-going dialectical materialist. This is also a Marxist-Leninist art of struggle.
Teachers by negative example are an objective reality. In the course of the proletarian revolution, there are bound to be various kinds of such teachers giving us “lessons.” The imperialists, revisionists and reactionaries of various countries often give us “lessons,” as do the landlords; rich peasants, counter-revolutioriaries, bad elements and Rightists at home as well as representatives of the bourgeoisie who have sneaked into our Party. As far as the revolutionary people are concerned, it is not a question of whether they want these teachers or not, but a question of whether they can consciously make use of them to learn from their negative example so as to carry out more effective against them and continually promote the cause of the revolution.
Using the dialectical materialist and historical materialist viewpoint, Chairman Mao has summed up the historical experience of the international communist movement and penetratingly pointed out: “It is only through repeated education by positive and negative examples and through comparisons and contrasts that revolutionary parties and the revolutionary people can temper themselves, become mature and make sure of victory.” “Whoever underestimates the role of teachers by negative example is not a thoroughgoing dialectical materialist.” This scientific thesis of Chairman Mao’s correctly reflects the objective law by which men know and transform the world. It is an ideological weapon of the Chinese proletariat in their fight to defeat the enemy.
Marxism holds that the law of the unity of opposites is the basic law of the universe and everything divides into two. To know anything, we must view it from every aspect, both positive and negative aspects, otherwise we cannot have a relatively complete and correct knowledge. This is true both in knowing nature and in knowing human society. In class society, there are always class contradictions and class struggle. To carry out revolutionary struggles successfully, the proletariat must make a concrete analysis of the class relations and the class forces. Only in this way can it grasp the objective laws and seize the initiative in class struggle.
Some of our comrades often lack the viewpoint that one divides into two. While they know one aspect of a thing, they are ignorant of the other, and so lack comprehensive knowledge. When the revolution wins success after success, as often as not they see only the excellent situation but are blind to the fact that class enemies are making trouble and carrying out sabotage, so they are ideologically unprepared for the intense class struggle. On the other hand, when class struggle becomes acute, they often see only the class enemies’ desperate struggles and counter-attacks but are blind to the latter’s feebleness and disintegration. The role of teachers by negative example lies precisely in the fact that they confront us with questions from the negtive side, thereby fully exposing the class contradictions, enabling the people to recognize the protracted and complex nature of class struggle, and calling on them to maintain high revolutionary vigilance under all circumstances and to adopt correct methods of struggle. In this sense, teachers by negative example are indispensable “teachers” who help us to have a correct knowledge of the classes, class contradictions and class struggle.
Whoever wants to know a thing has no way of doing so except by coming into contact with it. To know the reactionary nature of class enemies, there is also the process of proceeding from perceptual to rational knowledge. “How do the counter-revolutionaries carry on their double-dealing tactics? How do they succeed in deceiving us by presenting a false appearance, while secretly doing things we did not foresee? All this is unknown to thousands upon thousands of men of goodwill.” To raise the people’s class consciousness and political sensitivity and know clearly the reactionary nature of class enemies, an important aspect is to let the cadres and masses come into contact with material which teaches by negative example. The counter-revolutionary sayings and actions of teachers by negative example, especially those who have thrown aside their masks, are extremely trenchant and clear-cut in stand, and completely reveal their true features. From them the people can clearly see what the enemies think and do, and what are their methods and aims. This helps us to have a deep knowledge of the essence of these enemies. At the same time, we can decide, in the light of the enemies’ counter-revolutionary tactics, how we should struggle against them. When the enemies have taken up the sword, we must follow their example and take up the sword too. Since the enemies have resorted to counter-revolutionary dual tactics, we must deal with them accordingly by using revolutionary dual tactics. Therefore, by attaching importance to the role of teachers by negative example and letting the cadres and masses come into contact with the material which teaches by negative example, everyone can be helped to learn how to get a correct knowledge of the enemies and overcome them more effectively.
Chairman Mao has taught us: “There can be no differentiation without contrast. There can be no development without differentiation and struggle.” We attach importance to the role of teachers by negative example because it helps the people to contrast and differentiate between the true and the false, the beautiful and the ugly, and the good and the evil. Truth exists when contrasted with falsehood, and develops in the struggle against it. It is not possible to deepen our knowledge of positive things without contrasting them with negative ones. So without a knowledge of opportunism of every hue, it is not possible to have a deep knowledge of Marxism-Leninism which has emerged and developed in the struggle against opportunism. In 1918, while criticizing that renegade to the proletarian revolution Kautsky, Lenin received a letter from a comrade in Berlin which said that “practically no one here knows” Kautsky’s revisionist pamphlet The Dictatorship of the Proletariat. Lenin immediately wrote: “I would advise our ambassadors in Germany and Switzerland not to stint thousands in buying up this book and distributing it gratis among the class-conscious workers so as to trample in the mud this ‘European’—read: imperialist and reformist—Social-Democracy, which has long been a ‘stinking corpse.’” Lenin regarded criticism of material which teaches by negative example as a very important way of raising the consciousness of the working class. Since the start of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, we have step by step deepened the exposure and criticism of the counter-revolutionary crimes of Liu Shao-chi and other swindlers like him, thereby enabling everyone to see clearly that they have an all-embracing counter-revolutionary revisionist line for both domestic and foreign affairs. By comparing and contrasting, the cadres and masses have been able to draw clear distinctions concerning cardinal questions of right and wrong and come to a deep understanding that Chairman Mao’s revolutionary line is the life-blood of the proletariat and other working people in our country. In this way, they have further raised their consciousness of implementing Chairman Mao’s revolutionary line and strengthened their determination and confidence in carrying the Chinese revolution and the world revolution through to the end.
A thoroughgoing materialist is fearless, and Marxist truth fears no attack or slander. We dare to make public the counter-revolutionary statements of teachers by negative example because truth is on our side, and it shows that we are fully confident of certain victory in our cause. Only a Marxist-lieninist Party which represents the basic interests of the proletariat and the masses of people can do this, while those reactionary forces representing the corrupt and decadent classes, like the Soviet revisionist renegade clique, will never dare do so because they are extremely afraid of the truth and the people.
The historical experience of revolutionary struggles in China has proved that using material which teaches by negative example to educate the people not only does no harm to our revolutionary cause but achieves an effect unattainable by positive examples. In 1955 when the Hu Feng clique’s crimes against the Communist Party, the people and the revolution were exposed, our newspapers throughout the country published the Material on the Hu Feng Counter-Revolutionary Clique, and Chairman Mao personally wrote a preface and the main notes to it. This helped the cadres and masses to see clearly the counter-revolutionary double-dealing features of the Hu Feng clique, and opened our eyes to the seriousness of the fact that after we had seized political power the enemies used the method of worming their way into our very heart to carry out sabotage activities. With our revolutionary vigilance greatly heightened, we successfully carried out the great mass movement to eliminate the hidden counter-revolutionaries. In 1957, the bourgeois Rightist launched a wild attack against us. For a period, we published their reactionary statements in all Party newspapers throughout the country, the aim being to let all the ghosts and monsters “air their views fully” and the poisonous weeds grow at will, so that the people, astonished to see that there were still such things in the world, would set about clearing away these degenerate things. Through the intense class struggle, the cadres and masses distinguished the fragrant flowers from the poisonous weeds, and came to a better understanding that, after the socialist transformation of the ownership of the means of production had basically been completed, the question of who would win in the struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie in the ideological sphere was still not settled. So they actively participated in the intense anti-Rightist struggle and won a great victory in the socialist revolution on the political and ideological fronts. When the modern revisionists represented by Khrushchov acted in co-ordination with the class enemies in China and stirred up an anti-China and anti-Communist adverse current, we openly criticized them; at the same time we published the Soviet revisionist renegade clique’s anti-China materials and compiled and published Statements by Khrushchov. As an ancient Chinese poet said: “A remarkable work should be enjoyed together and doubts analysed in company.” What we published helped everyone to distinguish Marxism-Leninism from revisionism and enabled the masses to realize the extreme importance of continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat and launch a widespread struggle against modern revisionism more effectively. Not long ago, at the time when the 26th Session of the U.N. General Assembly was being held, we published not only the speeches by Chinese representatives sternly refuting the representative of Soviet revisionism but also the absurd statements by the latter in support of aggression and expansion. The contrast provided by the speeches helped the people to see the true features of Soviet revisionist social-imperialism more clearly. All this was a great education to the people of the whole country and helped mobilize them to struggle against class enemies at home and abroad, thereby consolidating the dictatorship of the proletariat in our country more than ever before.
Some comrades admit the role played by teachers by negative example, but they are doubtful about publishing the latter’s counter-revolutionary sayings and actions. They think that poisonous weeds will have a passive influence on the masses. Such worries, are unwarranted.
Such vicious stuff surely cannot be passed by the masses of people. This is because these teachers are pitting themselves against the masses. Diametrically opposed to the interests of the masses, their arguments are against the objective law of social development. What they oppose is supported by the masses and what they hate is loved by the people. This determines that they will surely be resolutely opposed by the masses. What is more important, under the Party’s leadership and guided by Chairman Mao’s revolutionary line and tempered by long-term revolutionary struggle, the Chinese people have accumulated rich experience in struggling against these teachers of various descriptions. Since the start of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought has taken deeper root in people’s minds. The masses have greatly enhanced their consciousness of class struggle and of the struggle between the two lines and increased their ability to detect genuine and sham Marxists. Before the revolutionary masses, any double dealing by cunning teachers by negative example is nothing more than an ugly act by those with no other way out. Rumours fabricated by them and their sophistry can only become their counter-revolutionary confession. Whenever we expose this material which teaches by negative example to the light of day, it invariably arouses great proletarian indignation among the masses. Then the masses will expose and criticize these teachers and, together with their poisonous weeds, sweep them on to the garbage heap of history!
The masses’ political consciousness and ability to discern are gradually raised through struggle. Letting the masses come into contact with material which teaches by negative example means letting them face the world and brave the storms and increases their ability to detect poisonous weeds by struggling against them. Just as Chairman Mao has said: “Fighting against wrong ideas is like being vaccinated—a man develops greater immunity from disease as a result of vaccination.” It is impossible to develop greater immunity from disease without being vaccinated, and it is also impossible to talk about increasing ability in detecting poisonous weeds without participating in the struggle of criticizing them. It is likely that those who are not sharp politically may fail to make out in time what such material really is. This makes it still, more necessary for them to raise their political consciousness and increase their ability in distinguishing cardinal questions of right and wrong by criticizing poisonous weeds, thereby understanding the real feature of these teachers and tempering themselves to become politically keen. Exposure of this material to the public will surely catch the attention of a handful of counter-revolutionaries, and some may even take advantage of this to make trouble. This is predictable. These teachers by negative example are agents of all counter-revolutionary classes, cliques or individuals. Their sayings and deeds naturally will be echoed by a small number of counter-revolutionaries. This is nothing. The echo serves to expose this small number of counter-revolutionaries and helps the masses see their reactionary faces, thus speeding their doom. If they dare to stir up trouble, we can mobilize the masses to criticize them thoroughly.
Attaching importance to the role of teachers by negative example does not mean that as soon as their reactionary stuff is exposed, it will by itself serve to educate the people by negative example. When we say that such teachers can educate the people by negative example, we mean that there is such a possibility. To realize this, one of the fundamental things is to carry out revolutionary mass criticism well. Chairman Mao has taught us: “All erroneous ideas, all poisonous weeds, all ghosts and monsters, must be subjected to criticism; in no circumstance should they be allowed to spread unchecked.” This is a basic Marxist-Leninist principle. No poisonous weed will become fertilizer without being uprooted and no reactionary stuff can be used to educate the people by negative example without being criticized. Teachers by negative example can be really used only by exposing and criticizing them. All reactionary fallacies and shameless slanders by these teachers are at once openly reactionary and fairly deceptive. If no earnest study and incisive criticism are carried out, people often cannot discern and understand very well where the poison is and how deceptive these fallacies and slanders are. Only through revolutionary mass criticism in which such wares have been thoroughly criticized and reactionary fallacies refuted and their deceptive and counter-revolutionary essence exposed, can the masses’ militant determination to struggle against the enemy be stimulated.
To let teachers by negative example really play their role, we must thoroughly criticize their reactionary sayings with Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought. Chairman Mao has pointed out: “The naked eye is not enough, we must have the aid of the telescope and the microscope. The Marxist method is our telescope and microscope in political and military matters.” Not only the reactionary plots of Chen Tu-hsiu, Wang Ming, Liu Shao-chi and other chieftains of opportunist lines in our Party’s history could not be realized, but they became our best teachers by negative example. This is because Chairman Mao has led us in persisting in using the Marxist standpoint, views and methods to expose and criticize thoroughly their opportunist lines and reactionary programmes and fallacies. Therefore, every struggle between the two lines has helped the whole Party enormously raise its theoretical level and enhance its consciousness of the struggle between the two lines, making revolution advance along the course charted by Chairman Mao. We must act like Marx who criticized the “Gotha Programme,” Engels who criticized Duhring’s series of absurd theories, Lenin who criticized “empirio-criticism” and Chairman Mao who criticized the material on the Hu Feng counter-revolutionary clique. We should never let reactionary stuff go by easily until it has been criticized politically, ideologically and theoretically.
In the great struggle of knowing and transforming the world, the proletariat and revolutionary people encounter disturbances and sabotage by various reactionary forces. This is a bad thing. However, so long as we have grasped revolutionary dialectics and are guided by circumstances in fully utilizing these teachers by negative example to educate and mobilize the masses, we can turn bad things to good account. Revolutionary parties and revolutionary people are sure to temper themselves and mature through education from the positive and negative sides to win still greater victories for the revolutionary cause of the proletariat.
(Abridged translation of an article published in “Hongqi,”
No. 3, 1972. Subheads are ours. [Peking Review’s])
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