Salient. Official Newspaper of Victoria University of Wellington Students Association. Volume 40, No. 5. 27 March 1977
"Gang of Four" Exposed
"Gang of Four" Exposed
Paul Tolich is a Trade Unionist from Auckland. He recent visitor to China with the National Youth Council delegation. [unclear: The][unclear: it] lasted three weeks and covered a large area of the People's Republic Salient[unclear: inter-] viewed him on his return and he offered the following [unclear: cments] on China and the current political struggles.
After 3 weeks in China what your immediate impressions of that country?
What struck me most is the incredible say that the working people have in the runnings of their day to day life. Where they work, there is the development of the people's initiative in the way they work the workings of the machines, the boosting of production through the modernisation of machinery by small changes which people who operate the machines decide on. This way is a superior method as decisions are discussed thoroughly and agreed upon before they are implemented.
At the No 3 Shanghai Tool Making factory, the workers were discussing intensely the six month work plan which they do every month.
In urban areas, the people have an incredible say in the running of the community. In Shanghai we went to a residential area where they discuss issues affecting them in homes. They have a small factory where the married women work. This particular one had a contract with the Shanghai woolen mills, where they buy the wool and make embroidered rugs. They then divide the money three ways-first part to wages, second part to the development of the enterprise and the third to the provision of community facilities.
It is incredible how the facilities are developed on a day to day basis. The primary thing is the concept of involvement and mass participation in decisions which affect the people.
Q. Could you give examples of the discussion of people on the factory floor which aided a development of production?
Most of the discussion centred around the "gang of four", and criticism of them came up all the time. We were given specific examples of the way that the "gang of four" disrupted production. For example, the abolishing of factory rules because according to the gang of four "any rules shackle workers"—that they were there "to suppress workers".
The factory conditions are certainly better than they are in New Zealand with good light, ventilation.
Health care is also provided at the large factories. At one factory of 2000 people, they had 2 doctors and 6 barefoot doctors. It was basically at the nursing level—not like the health services here.
Q. What other examples did they give you of the "gang of four' actions.
One of the major ones was that the "gang of four" used to stress the saying "be red, not expert". They said that if you were politic, then that was all. They discouraged being good at one's job, developing techniques and making one's job better in terms of expertise.
The "gang of four" used to run people down if they didn't think that they were putting enough emphasis on politics.
We also went to the Foreign Languages Press where they told us a story of when Chiang Ching came to visit their factory. She demanded special treatment. She made the workers turn off all the machines because they upset her. Additionally, she refused to use the workers lavatories and wanted a bed to rest on.
Certainly the "gang of four" were ultra-leftist, very elitist, and completely out of step with the masses. When we talked to the Chinese, they said that the "gang of four" were ultra-rightist and their style of work would have led to chaos and sent China down the capitalist road.,
They constantly referred to the letters that Mao Tse Tung had written to Chiang Ching and the others warning them of their mistakes.
Q. Who led the "gang of four"?
They say that the leader was Chiang Ching although the main strategist and candidate for Premier was Chang Chun-chiao. Wang Hung-wen was the understudy of Chang, and Yao Wen-yuan had the control of the media.
Q. Were the mistakes that they made, genuine theoretical mistakes, or did they deliberately plot to take state power.
They were basically ultra-rightist. Ultra rightist because what they were doing would eventually lead to China going down the capitalist road.
From what we could see, their rise was because of the power vacuum created at the death of Premier Chou En-lai up to the time of Mao's death. The "gang of four" were definitely on top during this period. The "gang of four" put up Chiang as Chairman of the Party, but it was Hua who eventually filled the position.
I think that there was definitely a coup attempt. They just moved in to take over power.
We were told that levels in production had been reduced because of the havoc wreaked by the "gang of four".
We asked the Chinese whether they were worried about high ranking Party members being thrown out. They told us that they weren't particularly worried and that the struggle between the two lines (proletariat and bourgeoisie) would go on within the country, especially in the party
Just a side note here. While we were in China, the fifth volume of the Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung had just come out and there were amazing festivities. Chairman Hua Kuo feng and the Central Committee have now started editing the Collected Works. Included are numerous letters that were written between the Cultural Revolution and his death.
Q. What impression did you get of the present party leadership?
In issue No 2., we published this photograph but [unclear: ue] to a last minute rush, we inadvertently left the caption off. The photo was taken before En-lai's death and features Chou En-lai (right), Yeh Chien-ying (second left) and two of the '[unclear: ang] of four—Wang Hung-wen (far left) and Chiang Ching (second right).
Everywhere you go you see pictures of Chairman Hua with Mao and sometimes page break with Premier Chou En-lai. In one printing factory where the three were up on the wall, Chiang Ching came to Visit. When she saw the three on the wall, she nearly went through the roof.
Another charge against the "gang of four" was that they used the Trade Union structure to spread information about Party and State officials which undermined their authority.
What the leadership seems to be doing now is getting back to mass work in their advance of socialism. This line was abandoned with the predominance of the "gang of four".
The Chinese see the three main contradictions at present as between mental and manual labour, urban and rural workers, and between the different standards of living.
One thing which does strike you is the immense importance of the Cultural Revolution and the effect it had in shaping Chinese society as it is today. They refer to occasions where physical fighting went on between the different factions—or example at the Yangste Bridge.
Q. The Chinese appear to be laying great stress on the mechanisation of agriculture. Can you tell us something about that?
The Chinese aim for mechanisation by 1980. I don't know whether they will reach that because it is only three years away and it is a huge task. Mechanisation is taking effect on the communes though with small plants being very common. In some cases, production brigades are able to assemble their own tractors. In another one they were making lathes. They may get near mechanisation, but they may not achieve everything.
We asked what would happen when they had reached mechanisation and they told us that there were millions of acres of land to be opened up. Although the main thrust are in industry, they also emphasise agricultural production.
Q. Could you comment on the change in emphasis in China's foreign policy in the 60 s and 70's?
We didn't talk much about foreign policy. In discussion we were told that a new World War would be fought along conventional lines because the superpowers had too much to lose, in a nuclear war.
But, they say that the Soviet Union must be preparing for war because they spend so much on armaments. They also said that the USSR could not feed their people because they were spending so much on armaments, and their production is so low.
They didn't push the anti-Soviet lines excessively although they made it clear that they saw Russia as a capitalist country since Khruschev had taken over. They said that this had happened because of the CPSU's failure to recognise class struggle in socialist society.
China will never use nuclear weapons—they have no interest in it. They have no need to adopt an expansionist policy. They are also trying to weaken the hegemony of the superpowers by developing nuclear weapons to break the monopoly of the superpowers.
Q. What were your impressions of Hong Kong?
We were glad to leave Hong Kong. Most of it is slum areas. The housing is sub standard and the rents are astronomical. One social worker told us that the main policy of the Government was to keep the people reasonably content with their lot. Some poverty assistance was available for those who fell beneath the poverty line. Very few workers fell beneath the poverty line because it was so low. All welfare programmes were done to keep the country politically and socially stable to keep foreign investment there.
The companies make incredible profits in Hong Kong because the wages are so low. All health services etc. are too highly priced for most workers. Unions are non compulsory and there are no labour laws which means that workers are directly ripped off with no rights to do anything about it.
When they talk about freedom in Hong Kong, they are talking about freedom to starve.
Q. How do you view New Zealand after coming back from China?
I've seen how alienated the workers are in this country. They don't have a say in how the means of production operate. There is no discussion or democracy in industry at all.
You might have the right to vote every 3 years, but when the Governments gets into power, it is a dictatorship for the next three years. In China, there are mass campaigns where issues affecting the people are raised and discussed at a grassroots level.
The Press here misquotes the wall posters which go up, and takes them out of context. Anyone can put a wall-poster up even the most reactionary. The Western Press read the posters and interpret it as the official line.
The No.3 dock in Shanghai had 1000 meetings in 5 months where they discussed the incorrect line adopted by the "gang of four" and 5000 cartoons and 3000 posters were produced. The State puts up few posters.
In all their activities, the Chinese see the main emphasis is on practice. We were told that you could have all the theory in the world—but if you don't have the support of the masses, and if you don't do mass work, what is the use. They explained that there were numerous parties at the time of the revolution which claimed to have the correct line, but only the Chinese Communist Party under the leadership of Chair-main Mao Tse-tung lead the masses because they analysed the objective conditions of the masses.
They specifically told us that their revolution was not for export. The whole thing is that you must look at your objective situation, and then build revolution.
Q. What did you learn of the Chinese method of conducting ideological struggle to develop their political line and how do you think that this applies to New Zealand?
I think we've got to build a mass movement of people in concrete campaigns to oppose the National Party and their economic and political restrictions.
We've got to make people aware that socialism is a way of building a new society. It not only provides economic bliss but also builds new relationships between men and their means of production.
The Chinese see that, given the world economic situation, that people have got to rise up to gain their liberation. We were told that countries like New Zealand should be desperately trying to retain their sovereignty against the influence of foreign countries and foreign capital.
We've got to look at the biggest threat to New Zealand, which is the United States. Our foreign policy should develop non allignment from economic and military treaties.
They see the USSR as a threat and they would wait 8000 years on guard. If you look at the history of the diplomatic breakdown, you can see why.