The End of Deng Xiaoping:
Enemy of the People

Revolutionary Worker #896, March 2, 1997


On February 19 Deng Xiaoping died. Now the U.S. government and other top imperialists of the world are hailing him as the "greatest Chinese leader of the 20th Century." But how should the people of the world remember him?

From the standpoint of advancing society and bringing about the liberation of humanity, Deng Xiaoping was one of the biggest traitors and criminals in history.

He took part in the Maoist revolution which liberated China in 1949. But he became the enemy of Mao and revolution.

Now, the U.S. ruling class is fondly remembering Deng as the man who "saved" China from communism. But the truth is, Deng helped deliver China back into the clutches of imperialism. And for this he is hated the world over by revolutionaries and others who dream of and are fighting for a better world.

Deng was part of a new bourgeois class that arose right inside the Chinese Communist Party. He was a phony communist. And in 1989, when people demonstrated against his government in Tiananmen Square, he was behind the bloody massacre that killed hundreds, perhaps thousands of students and workers.


Before liberation, China was a war-torn and ravaged country. Hundreds of millions of peasants lived in utter poverty. Colonial powers carved up and exploited China. People sold their children to survive. Every day, starvation delivered death in the countryside. And tens of millions were addicted and enslaved by a massive drug trade.

The revolution led by Mao Tsetung changed all this. Foreign imperialist powers were kicked out. The reactionary Kuomintang government was overthrown. And power was put in the hands of the working class. For over 25 years, Mao led the Chinese people to build a whole new society-- a socialist society where the masses of people consciously worked to get rid of class society and all forms of oppression and inequality.

From 1966 until his death in 1976, Mao led the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. This "revolution within the revolution" mobilized millions of peasants and workers to transform and liberate every sphere of society-- from factories and farms to schools and culture.

This unprecedented revolution was aimed at leaders right inside the Chinese Communist Party who wanted to build a capitalist, not socialist China. This was a revolution which for 10 years prevented people like Deng from seizing power as Mao led the masses to expose and defeat the "capitalist roaders." And through this decade of fierce class struggle, millions of workers and peasants were drawn into running and transforming society and changing themselves in the process.

But Mao's death in 1976 forced things to a decisive showdown. Deng Xiaoping and other capitalist roaders led a reactionary coup d'etat against the top leaders in the party who were Mao's supporters--the so-called "Gang of Four" which included Chiang Ching and Chang Chun-chiao. Socialism was overthrown and one-quarter of the earth's population was thrown back on the road to capitalist exploitation and misery.

At the time, many people didn't recognize the real significance of these events. When Deng's class came to power, they didn't say, "now we are reversing the revolution, now we are bringing back capitalism." They continued to wave the red flag. At first, they didn't dare denounce Mao. And they called themselves "communists." But these sell-outs were phony communists, who opposed everything Mao had lived and died for.

Deng vs. Mao

In fact, Deng Xiaoping was a long-time enemy of Mao and proletarian revolution.

In 1966, at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, Liu Shaoxi was the top government leader targeted as one of the "handful of people in the Party taking the capitalist road." And Deng Xiaoping was closely associated with Liu and his ideas at this time.

In 1967 Red Guard youth, unleashed by Mao, demonstrated in the streets and held struggle meetings against party leaders who advocated capitalism. Liu was named "China's number one capitalist roader" and Deng was called the "number two capitalist roader."

Deng was taken from his official residence and put under house arrest. In 1968 the Central Committee of the Party declared Liu Shaoxi a "renegade, hidden traitor and scab" and expelled him from the party. And in this same Central Committee meeting, Deng Xiaoping was also exposed as a capitalist roader, stripped of his party and government posts, but allowed to keep his party membership. In 1969 Deng was sent to the countryside in Jiangxi where he lived for three years doing manual labor.

Meanwhile the Cultural Revolution continued and spread, drawing millions of people throughout China into mass debate and struggle. Inside the party, things sharpened between Mao and his revolutionary supporters, on the one hand, and the revisionist capitalist roaders on the other. In 1972, military leader and Vice Chairman of the Party, Lin Piao was exposed and put down as the leader of a revisionist headquarters. At the same time another center of opposition to Mao was developing in the Party, which was increasingly supported by Premier Zhou En-lai.

Zhou became a behind-the-scenes opponent of Mao and in 1973 he was instrumental in bringing Deng Xiaoping back to Beijing to resume work in the party as a vice-premier. This gave Deng new freedom to organize and strengthen a center of opposition to Mao in the Party and push for capitalist economic policies.

By 1975 Deng and other revisionists were openly advocating an overall program which was clearly opposed to Mao and the Cultural Revolution. They called for economic modernization, on the basis of putting profits and experts in command. They wanted to expand foreign trade and even forms of foreign investment. They wanted a full-scale alliance with the western imperialist powers. And they called for an end to the Cultural Revolution--saying that political struggles were "disrupting" and weakening the national economy and defense.

Mao was not opposed to modernization. But he did oppose Deng's view that "white cat, black cat-- it doesn't matter as long as it catches mice"-- which was a blatant call for capitalist policies.

The Cultural Revolution unleashed mass movements to increase production, raise the technical level of workers and peasants, and revolutionize the relationships in production. This process led to a radically different kind of economy--breaking down wage differences and the gap between mental and manual labor, having workers participate in management, putting managers to work, and spreading industry to the countryside. And it inevitably led to some dislocations and problems. But Mao argued that the success of the revolution could not be gauged according to immediate economic results. What was important was that the masses were increasingly mastering the economy and building a new society. And this provided the basis for achieving self-sustaining and balanced socialist--not capitalist--economic growth.

In 1975 Mao launched a campaign to "Study the Theory of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat and Combat and Prevent Revisionism." He warned against the danger of capitalist restoration saying, "If people like Lin Piao come to power, it will be quite easy for them to rig up the capitalist system." He was clearly speaking of people like Deng Xiaoping.

Soon after this, Deng went on a major offensive against Mao. He organized a whole series of conferences in major industries and economic sectors around the country where revolutionaries were demoted and capitalist policies were promoted. He also supervised the writing of three party documents which aimed to put China's economy on a whole different course. These papers, which later became known as the "Three Poisonous Weeds," clearly advocated capitalist development: increased technology from abroad, material incentives in industry and agriculture, the reimposition of highly centralized management and strict rules and regulations to push workers harder. One of these reports, on science, advocated reliance on professionalism and expertise. This was a direct counter to revolutionary innovations implemented during the Cultural Revolution like sending students to the countryside to live and work with the peasants and "open-door research" that linked scientific experiment to the struggle and lives of the masses.

In January 1976, Zhou En-lai died and Mao launched an all-out campaign to criticize revisionism. Deng's views on the economy, education, scientific experiment, technology, culture, and foreign relations, were subjected to thorough analysis. Millions of people debated and discussed the ideas in Deng's "Three Poisonous Weeds." And workers and peasants wrote articles criticizing the capitalist road.

In April the revisionists organized a rally

of over 100,000 in Tiananmen Square to honor Zhou En-lai. In fact, it was directed against Mao and his revolutionary supporters, the "Gang of Four." In response, Deng was stripped of his party and government posts and Mao launched a nationwide campaign to "Criticize Deng Xiaoping and Beat Back the Right Deviationist Wind."

While the capitalist roaders plotted how to seize power, Mao fought his way-- unfolding a mass movement so that the masses could grasp the difference between the capitalist road and the socialist road. He fought to continue to mobilize the masses to prevent an actual capitalist takeover. But time was running out.

On September 9, Mao died and the capitalist roaders took this as their signal to make an all-out bid for power. Deng played a powerful behind-the-scenes role, while a less-exposed figure, Hua Guofeng, was brought forward to be "Mao's successor."

On October 6, 1976, the revisionists staged a military coup and arrested the "Gang of Four." On this day, the era of Mao and the rule of the proletariat came to an end in China.

From Bourgeois Democrat
to Capitalist Roader

When Mao led the Chinese people to seize power in 1949, China faced two possible roads to the future. By overthrowing imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat-capitalism, the Chinese revolution had laid the basis for building socialism. But liberating China from imperialist domination had also opened the door for capitalism.

In this historical situation Deng Xiaoping represented a social phenomenon of revolutions in the Third Word, which Mao described as "bourgeois democrats turning into capitalist roaders."

Mao said, "After the democratic revolution the workers and the poor and middle and lower-middle peasants did not stand still, they want revolution. On the other hand, a number of Party members do not want to go forward; some have moved backward and opposed the revolution. Why? Because they have become high officials and want to protect the interests of the high officials."

Here Mao was talking about people who joined the revolution at one stage but whose thinking and ideology didn't advance with its further development. It wasn't that these people were bad from the beginning or that some of them had not made important contributions to the revolution. But many of them got "stuck" in the bourgeois democratic stage of the revolution--when the issue was driving out the imperialists and overthrowing the domestic reactionaries, especially the feudal landlord class.

Once socialist rule was established, many of these veteran cadre resisted developing the revolution further. They didn't see the revolution as part of a historic process to do away with all oppression. They didn't see socialism as a transition toward a communist world--where classes and class society are eliminated. For them the goal didn't go beyond building an independent, modern nation-state. And so, as the dividing line became taking China down the socialist or capitalist road, these bourgeois democrats became capitalist roaders.

Contradictions Under Socialism

The rise of people like Deng Xiaoping--and the emergence of a new bourgeoisie right inside the communist party--reflects the contradictory nature of socialism.

The Chairman of the RCP, Bob Avakian put it this way: "The old regime has been overthrown, but how, while destroying the old world, do you construct the new--in other words, how to actually carry out economic construction and do it in such a way as to keep to the socialist road, developing the new economic and social relations and the ideology, culture (and so on) to serve them. This was a particularly acute problem in China, given the backwardness of the economy, the whole legacy of imperialist domination combined with feudal stagnation and the necessity of passing through the democratic stage of the revolution and then going over, immediately upon victory in this stage, to the socialist revolution."

In socialist China the contradictions between mental and manual labor, between town and country, and between workers and peasants was very sharp. And in a socialist economy there is still the use of money, differences in wages and other economic relations that need to be gotten rid of. All these inequalities and differences provided the material basis for a new bourgeois class to emerge.

Mao understood these differences could not be eliminated overnight and had to be constantly restricted and overcome step-by-step. But capitalist roaders like Deng Xiaoping wanted to preserve and widen these differences.

Through the Cultural Revolution Mao developed a basic method for dealing with a world historic question that faces the masse of people and the world revolution: Once the proletariat seizes power, how to develop the revolution and deal with the inequalities left over from the old society.

For example, Mao understood that as long as there are some people who are mainly engaged in in administrative and intellectual labor as opposed to working with their hands, there will be a tendency among these people to demand privileges, to pursue a life of fame and glory.

Mao developed an approach to this problem by implementing new innovations which combined mental and manual labor. For example, during the Cultural Revolution, people who mainly did intellectual work were sent to take part in manual labor alongside peasants and workers. And masses were encouraged to increasingly take on intellectual and administrative tasks.

Bob Avakian explained, "There was a certain need to rely on intellectuals, technically train `experts,' even people with experience in management--all of whom had been trained in the old society and according to its ideology and methods and who enjoyed a great deal of privilege over the mass of working people....Mao recognized the necessity of uniting with and utilizing many intellectuals, but he also insisted that they must be remolded in their thinking and must take part in productive labor and political struggle together with the masses."

The Bourgeoisie Inside the Party

The rise of people like Deng Xiaoping also revealed something that had not been understood before the time of Mao--that under socialism, a new bourgeois class arises and is headquartered right inside the Communist Party.

Not until Mao was it understood that antagonistic classes exist under socialism and that the era of socialism would be punctuated by sharp struggle and showdowns to determine which class holds state power. And one of Mao's theoretical discoveries was the understanding that the continuing inequalities in socialist society give rise to new privileged forces and a new bourgeois class-- whose core is right inside the party.

Why is this? Because the masses need a revolutionary vanguard party to lead the class struggle to change society. And under socialism, the party is the leading political institution in society and the main directing force of the economy. But exactly because of this, those in high positions of leadership who push a capitalist line are strategically placed to restructure economic and social institutions in a capitalist direction.

Mao developed the Cultural Revolution to deal with exactly this problem, by mobilizing the broad masses to expose, denounce, and overthrow capitalist roaders in the party.

Some people say, why didn't Mao just get rid of people like Deng Xiaoping? But Mao knew this wouldn't have solved the problem. He knew that if the masses don't learn to distinguish between the capitalist and socialist road, then you can knock off all the revisionists you want, but new ones will simply take their place, and nothing will have changed.

Mao said that the task of the GPCR was to overthrow the capitalist roaders. But the goal was to solve the problem of world outlook and eradicate revisionism.

The mass movements and mass debates of the GPCR were important exactly because they enabled the masses to grasp the critical issues at stake, especially the need to transform and master all aspects of society. The masses had to understand that they were the motive force in the whole revolutionary process, including supervising the party and preventing a return to capitalism. And through such political struggles and transformations, that the masses in their millions can become ever more conscious and ever more in control of society.


The imperialists try to say that the rise of Deng in China shows the superiority of the capitalist system and the "death of communism." But just ask the masses of Chinese people today, who are experiencing increasing misery, inequality and oppression, about the nightmare of capitalist society.

After the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre, the Committee of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement released a statement which spoke about Deng's treacherous role in history:

"The revisionists and capitalist roaders within the communist party, headed by renegade Deng Xiaoping, twice toppled by Mao himself, and the likes of Hua Guo-feng, Hu Yao-bang and Zhao Ziyang, usurped state power in China. They set about destroying the socialist economy and socialist relations of production and establishing a system of private ownership with profit in command. Their motto was `To get rich is glorious'; their highest goal was the pursuit of self-interest. They carried out a rapid, all-round restoration of capitalism and subjugation of the economy to imperialist finance capital and its market system, especially to the Western imperialists led by the U.S....All of the social injustices the masses are protesting against--the dramatic rise in unemployment, sharp price increases, lack of housing, and the massive corruption of Deng's government--are the inevitable outcome of the restoration of capitalism in China. And the criminal butchery by the ruling class there is just an extension of the horrors, violence, and suffering that the imperialist system brings down upon the majority of people all over the globe."

The imperialists are loudly praising Deng because he brought China back into the world of free market capitalism. But the people of the world must deliver another verdict on the life of Deng Xiaoping and his traitorous role in history. And the best way we can do this is by upholding the bright red banner of Mao and working tirelessly to bring about the day when the masses of people worldwide can be rid of the capitalist system and go on to build a whole new world.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
Write: Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654
Phone: 773-227-4066 Fax: 773-227-4497
(The RW Online does not currently communicate via email.)