Democracy and Class Struggle continues its investigation into the anti Confucius Campaign in China in 1970's and its relevance to China Today.
The ad hominem attacks against Lu Xun (Lu Hsun) as well as Mao continue but both their understanding and deep critique of Confucianism is part of their immortal contributions to the liberation of mankind.
"I take it no other people in the world know Confucius as well as the so-called ignorant mob in
China do," said Lu Hsun.'
Indeed, while the reactionary ruling classes exalted Confucius to incredible heights by honouring him with the awe-inspiring title of "the sage" and calling Confucianism "the Way of the sage," the labouring people did quite the opposite - they called Confucius (whose given name was Chiu and family name Kung) "Chiu the Robber" and branded the Confucian canons as "demon books." These two different attitudes vividly reflect the fundamental "Confucius in Modern China." antagonism in ideology between the toiling masses and the reactionary ruling classes.
As a thinker who stubbornly upheld the slave system, Confucius in his words and deeds ran directly counter to the great historical current of the liberation of the slaves. No sooner had he appeared on the political stage and started his counter-revolutionary career than the slaves of his time waged a tit-for-tat struggle against him.
This situation shows through in the Analects, a collection of Confucius' words and deeds. Further more,"Chih the Robber," a chapter in the work Chuang Tzu, vividly describes a face-to-face struggle against Confucius by Chih, leader of the insurgent slaves.
Himself an exploiter who neither farmed nor wove, Yet wanted to eat and dress finely, Confucius concocted a whole series of reactionary arguments to justify exploitation and heap contempt upon manual labour. His ideal, was for the exploiters to do nothing and get everything while the labourers did everything and got nothing
He said: ,,If the ruler loves propriety, the common people will not dare to be irreverent. If he loves righteousness, they will not dare to disobey.
If he loves sincerity, they will not dare to hide what is in their minds. if he does all this, the common peopie will flock to him from all quarters, carrying their children on their backs.
What need has he to know farming ?
In the opinion of Confucius, no slave-owner need perform "menial" tasks such as farming because the people would submissively allow themselves to be exploited and oppressed provided that the slave owners used "propriety,,, ,,righteousness,, and ,,sincerity" to preserve their own rule and social order.
The slaves, however, readily saw through this kind .of statecraft designed by Confucius for the exploiters. They countered it by projecting their own ideal society in which people farm to feed themselves, weave to clothe themselves and do not harm each other." Essentially, the slaves, opposition to Confucius was a reflection of their class demand: struggle against exploitation and oppression to win freedom and liberation.
Confucius' reactionary political stand - for restoration of the old order and retrogression to the past - also came under bitter attack by the slaves'
In his day, the collapse of the slave system was already the overpowering trend. Yet he ran everywhere, trying to save the slave system from ruin under the slogan: "Revive states that are extinct, restore families that have lost their positions, and call to office those who have fallen into obscurity'"
This attempt at retrogression by Confucius aroused strong dissatisfaction and indignation among the working people. A doorkeeper of the time castigated him as a diehard ignorant of the times,"who knows that the trend cannot be turned back and still wants to do so." He was also mocked by two farmers, Chang Chu and Chieh Ni. When his disciple Tzu Lu asked them, as they tilled the land, about where a river could be forded, they replied:" The flood is everywhere under the sun. Who can go against it?"
In other words, the collapse of the slave system was like a great flood, no one could change this tide of history and Confucius, in his vain effort to do so, was really overreaching himself.
Chih, the slave leader, was even more explicit when he angrily denounced Confucius for bragging about King Wen and King Wu, and pointed out that Confucius praised the past only for the reactionary purpose of condemning the present. In attempting to turn history backward and obstinately defend the evil slave system, Chih declared, Confucius was committing a heinous crime.
The slaves rejected the Confucian school of thought which had his concept of "benevolence" as
its core. Chih announced without hesitation:
"What Chiu says is what I mean to reject." Confucius saw filial piety and brotherly duty as the fundamentals of "benevolence," because if everybody held to them there could be no insubordination or rebellion.
And it was precisely for this that Chih criticized Confucius' idea of "benevolence"Relaying facts to demonstrate the many crimes of the ruling slave-owner aristocracy, he exposed Confucius' talk about filial piety and brotherly duty as sheer deception of the people.
Basing himself on the interests of the slave class, Chih presented his own view of morality, diametrically opposed to Confucius'. He maintained that the slave-owners' appropriation of things without work was utterly immoral, whereas the rebellion of the slaves against the slave-owners to seize back these ill-gotten gains was the height of morality.
While engaging in this just fight, he said: "It is brave to go in first, righteousness to withdraw last, wisdom to know the appropriate time, benevolence to be fair in distribution."
Thus Chih gave his own, new interpretations of the moral qualities of courage, righteousness, wisdom and benevolence. From the words and deeds of Confucius, the slaves clearly saw that his political character was completely despicable and they fully exposed and criticized it. Confucius kept mouthing "benevolence," "righteousness" and "morality" all the time, bragged that "Heaven has endowed me with virtue (to govern the world)" and had the impudence to consider himself "the sage." But in the view of the slaves, he was merely an "artful deceiver," mean and shameless.
Chih denounced Confucius as a reactionary politician "wagging his tongue to create trouble," "using lies and pretence to bewitch the rulers in order to seize wealth and position," a "crafty hypocrite" who "habitually praises people to their faces" and "also habitually abuses them behind their backs." These succinct words graphically portray his hideous true face' Confucius, indeed, left no fine words unsaid while stopping at no evil deed.
He talked abundantly about "love for man" and preached: a Lu Shih Chun Chiu (3rd century B.C.).
"What good is it to resort to killing in running a government?" But only three months after coming into office, he executed Shaocheng Mao, a minister of the State of Lu who advocated reform.
As for Chih, Confucius labelled him behind his back as a "scourge in the world." But to his face, Confucius said that Chih possessed the "three sterling qualities" of mankind (a taII handsome
figure, ability to understand the world and bravery
Doesn't this show up Confucius as a double-dealer who flattered people to their faces and maligned them behind their backs? The way Chih unmasked Confucius can serve us as valuable experience for detecting careerists, conspirators and double-dealers in our own day.
Actuated by the class instinct of the reactionary slave-owning aristocracy, Confucius was extremely hostile to the slaves and went so far as to expressly malign the labouring people as "birds and beasts" "not fit to mix with." The slaves, naturally, rejected him with disdain and jeered at him wherever he went.
For instance, he was detained by the local inhabitants when he travelled to Kuang (in present-day northeastern Honan Province), refused food when he went to the State of Chen (now eastern Honan and a part of northwestern Anhwei Province) and taunted as "a homeless dog with its tail between its legs"s when he was in the State of Cheng (now central Honan Province south of the Yellow River, with its capital in present-day Hsincheng County).
The insurgent slaves vowed that "when they died, they would be buried with iron cudgels in their hands," so that when they met the chieftains of the slave-owners like King Tang of Shang Dynasty and King Wen of Chou, they could smash in their heads with these implements.
Even in death, they wanted to fight to the end against the slave-owning class represented by Confucius.
The revolutionary spirit of the slaves in their struggle against Confucius showed their determination to overthrow the evil system of slavery. It was their indomitable and heroic fight that shook the rule of slavery to its foundations and propelled the changeover of society to the feudal system.
In feudal society, however, the theories of social hierarchy and patriarchal ethics which Confucius employed to maintain the slave system were transformed by the intellectuals of the landlord class
into the theoretical basis of feudalism and the spiritual weapon of the landlord class in its rule over the peasants.
This is why in Chinese feudal society which lasted more than 2,000 years, all the peasants' revolutionary struggles from the time of 5 Historical Records.
Chen Sheng and Wu Kuang (?-208 B.C.) to the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom (1851-64) invariably assailed Confucius and his reactionary ideology.
Chen Sheng and Wu Kuang, leaders of the first peasant uprising in Chinese history, posed the question:
"Are the princes and earls, generals and ministers a special breed?" They denied point blank
that "the king's authority is bestowed by Divine Rule" and thus in essence repudiated Confucius 'idealist theory of the "mandate of Heaven" and his reactionary dictum: "The king is a king and the subject a subject."
Towards the end of the Eastern Han Dynasty, the insurgents known as the "Yellow Turbans"
proclaimed: "The God of Blue Heaven is no more.
The God of Yellow Heaven will hold sway." Their desire to change the "heaven" of the landlord class into the "heaven" of the peasant class was a forceful repudiation of the Confucian School's idealist metaphysics with its assertion: "Heaven changes 'not, likewise the Way changes not."
During the peasant uprising at the end of the Tang Dynasty, the banner of "equality" was hoisted for the first time and its leader Wang Hsien-chih called himself the "Heaven-Sent Great General of Equality"; peasant uprisings in the Sung Dynasty raised the slogan "Eliminate the differences between the high and the low and between the rich and the poor"; the Red Turban insurgents at the end of the Yuan Dynasty proclaimed their intention to "wipe out injustice"; and Li Tzu-cheng who led the uprising in the late Ming Dynasty (1368- 1644) issued slogans which included "Equal distribution of land," and "No payment of grain tax."
All these represented the Chinese peasants' elemental stand for equality and equalitarianism
as they fought against the feudal system. Such ideas were clearly the very antithesis of Confucian ones, which upheld patriarchal hierarchy. So it was inevitable that all peasant uprisings through China's history directly or indirectly aimed their attacks at Confucius, the guardian-god of the feudal system.
The peasant rebels also defied Confucius, called the "sage" by the feudal ruling class, by direct revolutionary action. The uprising of the Red Jackets broke out in the late Kin Dynasty So named because of their red headdress. Led by Liu Fu-tung, this peasant revolt broke out in 1351.
The Red Jackets' Uprising: A peasant revolt in l2l4 in the late Kin Dynasty. Led by Yang An-erh and Yang Miao-chen, the insurgents were named after the upper garment they wore.
(1115-1234). When one of its contingents led by Fao Ting took Chufu, birthplace of Confucius, they burnt the temple built to him there so that "half of the halls and sanctuaries, porticoes and corridors were reduced to ashes"; they also set fire to the three cypress trees said to have been planted by Confucius himself, thus venting their fierce hatred for him.
In the middle of the Ming Dynasty, peasant insurgents led by Lir Lu and Liu Chi'o again captured Chufu.
Billeting themselves in the temple of Confucius for a night, they showed their fury at him and his ideas by grazing their horses in the "sacred place" and throwing into a cesspool the "Four Books" and "Five Classics" kept in the Kueiwen Tower (temple library).
Peasant rebels also often dealt sternly with, and sometimes even kiIled, Confucian scholars who "quoted classics and history books" to oppose the revolution. Their blows at these counter-revolutionary intellectuals of the landlord class were in reality aimed at Confucianism which the latter tried to defend.
Taiping Heavenly Kingdom (1851-64)
The revolution of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom led by Hung Hsiu-chuan in the middle of the 19th century, the biggest peasant uprising in China, was a peasant revolt in the early 16th century, the biggest of its kind in the middle of the Ming Dynasty.
The insurgents three times fought their way to the vicinity of Peking, the imperial capital of the Ming Court.at the same time a gigantic campaign against Confucius without precedent in China's history.
One marked feature of this revolution was that from the outset, it expresslv linked the overthrow of the system of feudal autocracy with the destruction of Confucianism, the spiritual pillar of feudal rule, through pointed criticism of both "the sage" and his reactionary thinking.
In the year following the conclusion of the Opium War,' Hung Hsiu-chuan, showing dauntless revolutionary spirit, smashed the "sacred" tablet displayed at the village school where he taught - bearing the title "The Most Perfect, Most Sage Ancient Teacher" conferred on Confucius by the Ching Court.
This was an open challenge to Confucius and to the whole feudal system. Some time later,to help the peasants free themselves from the bondage of traditional feudal ideas, Hung Hsiuchuan composed a story with the following content:
One day, the "God-Emperor" sternly condemned the books of Kung Chiu (Confucius) as full of "misleading and wrong ideas" and leading people astray.
In 1840, when the Chinese people opposed the opium traffic, Britain sent troops to invade China on the pretext of protecting trade. The Chinese armed forces commanded by Lin Tse-hsu fought a war of resistance.
The people of Kwangchow spontaneously organized themselves into the "Quell-the-British Corps" (Ping Ying Tuan) which dealt heavy blows to the aggressor.
Kung Chiu tried to defend himself by specious arguments. Infuriated, the "God-Emperor" ordered
a divine messenger to flog Kung Chiu who felI on his knees and kept begging for mercy' In this allegory, the "God-Emperor" was a personification of the revolutionary peasants fighting for liberation, and his denunciation and flogging of Confucius represented the ruthless criticism of the
latter by the revolutionary peasants who thus sought to square accounts with "the sage'"
This story vividly exemplifies the resolute opposition to Confucius by the Taiping revolution. Hung Hsiu-chuan wrote: "When an examination was made of the cause of all evil, it all traced back to the fact that Kung Chiu's books, which he used to teach people, were full of wrong ideas." He regarded the reactionary thinking of Confucius as the ideological root of all the evils of feudal rule'
So the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom declared the canons of the Confucian School to be "demon 'books" and banned their reading of demon books by Confucius, Mencius and other writers and
heresies by them are to be burnt. To buy and sell or keep and peruse them is forbidden, and any
violation is punishable by law." After Nanking was made the Taiping capital, a special "office for
the expurgation of the books" was set up under Hung Hsiu-chuan's personal auspices. The "Four Books" and "Five Classics" of the Confucian School were examined and revised, in an effort to judiciously absorb from them anything that might be valid.
The result was that only the sentence "All within the Four Seas are brothers" in the numerous volumes of the Confucian canon was found to agree with the revolutionary purpose of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom. It can be seen from this that the Taipings were rather resolute in their criticism
The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom published a series of works to expound the theories of the revolution and formulated a set of revolutionary policies and measures based on these theories. Among the revolutionary works were three written by
Hung Hsiu-chuan at the outset of the revolution - Yuan Tao Hstng ShLh Hsun (lnstructtons to
Awaken the World to Follow the Fundamental Way), Yuan Tao Chueh Shilx Hsun (lnstructions to
Arouse the World to Follow the Fundamental Way) and Yuan Tao Chzu Shih Ko (Song of Sauing the Worl"d According to the Fundamental Way).
They were followed by Tien Ch,ao Ti.en Mu Chih Tu (Land System of the Heavanly Dynasty) promulgated after Nanking was made the capital and Tzu Cheng Hsin Pen (New Proposals as a Guide to Government) promulgated in the later period of the revolution.
Thus the Taipings repudiated the reactionary thinking of Confucius in both theory and practice
and dealt the feudal system a heavy blow.
By summing up the experience of the peasant uprisings in China's history, these works developed to a new height the revolutionary ideas held by her peasants from ancient times. They were spearheaded directly at the feudal-patriarchal ideology and system, and at Confucian thinking which was its theoretical basis.
Taiping Heavenly Kingdom (1851-64)
Notable was the Taiping state's revolutionary advocacy of the emancipation of women; it uncompromisingly criticized the reactionary Confucian preachment that "men are superior and women are inferior" and fiercely attacked those shackles that kept women in bondage: the feudal masculine authority of the husband and the so-called "cardinal guides and constant virtues" of the Confucians.
Hung Hsiu-chuan said: "In the world, all men are brothers and all women are sisters." He stood
for universal equality for all, including that between men and women. The Land System of the
Heavenly Dynasty stipulated: "Land is to be distributed to everyone, regardless of sex."
This was aimed at giving women economic equality with men. Women in the Taiping revolutionary ranks could take part in politics and hold official posts; they could join the army to fight side by side with men, and sit for civil service examinations. Thus women were made men's equals politically, culturally and in military affairs. To raise women's social status, it was laid down in writing that
"money should not .be taken into consideration when marriages are being arranged," and marriage by purchase was banned. Prostitution and the keeping of household slave girls were prohibited.
Evil customs that humiliated women, such as foot binding, were abolished. The movement for the emancipation of women in the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom signified a new stage in the struggle of China's peasantry to break away from feudal patriarchal rule.
The rejection and criticism of the Confucian thought by the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, together
with its resolute anti-Confucian revolutionary practice (burning down temples of Confucius, destroying the wooden tablets to his memory, expurgating the canons of Confucianism and banning its teachings), aroused panic and inveterate hatred in the feudal ruling class.
Tseng Kuo-fan, the butcher who strangled the Taiping revolution, set up a howl: "Al the proprieties, virtues, human relationships, classics and moral codes China has possessed for several thousand years are being discarded and swept away at one stroke.
This is not just a disaster to our great Ching Dynasty but an unprecedented catastrophe to the renowned [Confucian] faith, a disaster bemoaned by our Confucius and Mencius in the other world." Hence he called on all counter-revolutionary "gentlemen who cherish the Way" to "rise up in anger and act to defend the Way." The curses and dirges of the reactionaries should by negative example that the Taiping campaign against Confucius had hit the feudal ruling class in a vital spot.
For more than 2,000 years, the working people of our country have advanced wave upon wave, new
fighters taking the place of those falling in the battle, in their heroic and indomitable campaign against Confucius.
It was an important component of their struggle against the decadent system of slavery and feudalism, a concentrated manifestation of that struggle in the ideological sphere.
Where there is oppression, there is resistance; the greater the oppression, the stronger the resistance.
This is a law of the class struggle. So the more the reactionaries exalted Confucianism, which defended class exploitation and oppression, the more resolute were the working people in their struggles against it.
Historically, the anti-Confucian struggles of the working people had different characteristics from
those waged by the rising landlord and capitalist classes. Before they seized political power, and for
a time afterwards, these exploiting classes represented the forward movement of society and
wanted to change the old social system in order to establish and consolidate their own rule; hence they opposed Confucian thinking which stood for old order and retrogression' Their repudiation-and exposure of these aspects of Confucianism was often sharp, penetrating and of revolutionary significance. But they could not carry their criticism beyond these limits'
The working people, in contrast, besides exposing Confucius as a diehard restorer of the old' also unmasked him as an exploiting-class parasite' When the landlords and capitalists became the ruling classes and assumed a new position'in history," they changed from real to paper tigers and'
demanding social progress endeavouring to"consolidate their own rule, gradually shifted opposing Confucius to making a cult of him.
But the working people, whose fundamental interests coincide with the direction of social progress
and who are the decisive forces in social changes' have always stood in the forefront of the fight
The rising landlord and capitalist classes fought Confucius for the purpose of replacing the old systems of exploitation with new ones' The working people, who in their class position were exploited oppressed, fought Confucius because they were against all class exploitation and oppression. In their own class interests, they advanced the revolutionary idea of "equal distribution" as diametrically opposed to the Confucian theory of "benevolence and righteousness"; this was further than any progressive thinker of an exploiting class could go.
In their struggle they raised such revolutionary slogans as "Equality for all without classifying people
into high and low," "eliminate the difference between the high and the low and between the rich
and the poor."
All these stood for their plain wish to eradicate the social hierarchy and ultimately aIl class differentiation.
Lenin pointed out: "The idea of equality is the most revolutionary idea in the struggle against the
old system of absolutism in general, and against the old system of feudal big landownership in particular."
When the working people raised the call for elimination of differences between high and low, rich and poor, and for equality and democracy, their revolutionary nature determined that they would be more courageous and thorough going than any thinkers of the exploiting classes in their criticism of Confucius' reactionary ideas of preserving the system of inequality.
They closely linked ideological struggle with the political struggle, criticizing Confucianism not only ideologically but by their revolutionary practice as well' The criticism of Confucius by Chinas working people in the past had its own distinguishing charateristics as compared with that launched by progressive thinkers of the exploiting classes' But it' too, had limitations, both class and historical' Neither the slaves nor the peasantry were classes representing a new mode of production'
Neither could project a new social system to replace the old, so- it was impossible for them to use a world outlook based on science against that of the exploiting classes. It was impossible for them to unmask class interests which Confucius represented, or to understand correctly the class content embodied in the struggle between the Confucian and the Legalist schools.
This is why in their struggle against Confucius, despite the heavy blows they dealt at Confucius and his reactionary thinking' they were not able to inflict a final defeat on this thinking, or to replace it with something else'
This task only the proletariat can accomplish' The proletariat is the greatest revolutionary class in history and is carrying out "the Communist revolution [which] is the most radical rupture with traditional property relations; no wonder that its development involves the most radical rupture with traditional ideas."
At the time of the great May 4th Movement, the Chinese proletariat entered the stage of history and became the leading class in our revolution. Guided by Marxism-Leninism, it began the new democratic revolution - thoroughly anti-imperialist and anti feudal.
A new chapter then opened in the Chinese working people's struggle against Confucius. The resounding militant slogan "Down with the Confucian Shop" was raised. Chairman Mao pointed out: "The cultural revolution ushered in by the May 4th Movement was uncompromising in its opposition to feudal culture; there had never been such a great and thorough going cultural revolution since the dawn of Chinese history. After the May 4th Movement, a new cultural force armed with Marxism, presenting a new appearance, and armed with new weapons, made heroic attacks on the feudal culture of thousands of years represented by Confucian thinking; it displayed the thoroughgoing revolutionary spirit of the proletariat, making a rupture with all traditional ideas.
Our great leader Chairman Mao used the Marxist world outlook to penetratingly criticize Confucius' reactionary thinking, linking his criticism closely with the practice of the new democratic revolution, in a number of his works, including "Report on an Investigation of the Peasant Movement in Hunan," "The Orientation of the Youth Movement," "On New Democracy" and "Oppose Stereotyped Party
In "On the People's Democratic Dictatorship," written on the eve of the founding of the People's Republic of China, Chairman Mao made a sharp and clear-cut criticism of the reactionary nature of
Confucius' so-called "policy of benevolence"; this work has become the programme of the Chinese
China, used iron-clad facts to tear away the hypocritical mask of the "Way of Confucius and Mencius," exposing the reactionary true colours of Wu Hsun: the big rascal, usurer and landlord who
had served the whole landlord class and the reactionary government.
This criticism was not only an attack on the bourgeoisie, it was also the first frontal battle against Confucianism in the period of the socialist revolution. From that time on, the question of whether one makes a cult of Confucius or criticizes him has become a major element of the struggle on the ideological front in the period of the socialist revolution, the struggle between Marxism and revisionism, between those striving to consolidate the proletarian dictatorship and those scheming to subvert it.
Today's struggle is the continuation of that of the past. Picking up the mantle of history's reactionaries and raising the tattered banner of the Confucian cult and ideology, Lin Biao and his gang futilely tried to conjure back capitalism, using the corpse of Confucius as a talisman in their plot of
Therefore, the broad masses of workers, peasants, soldiers and revolutionary intellectuals in our country, guided by Mao Tsetung Thought and carrying forward the revolutionary spirit of the working people's past struggles against Confucius, are making a thoroughgoing criticism of Confucius' reactionary thinking at the same time as they deepen the movement for criticizing Lin Biao and rectifying style of work.
This has important immediate as well as far reaching historical significance in consolidating the dictatorship of the proletariat and winning new victories for the socialist revolution in the superstructure.
Don’t Believe in “Heavenly Mandate,” But in the Revolution
With political power in the hands of the “Kung Family” before liberation, the down-trodden tenants could neither increase production nor improve their living standards. The “Kung Family” used Confucius’ rubbish that “life and death are preordained, riches and honours come from heaven” to deceive and benumb the labouring people so as to make them slaves for ever and prevent them from rising in resistance.
But the people believed in neither heaven and fate nor in gods and ghosts, and kept rising in revolt and making revolution.
Under the leadership of the Party and Chairman Mao, we distributed the land and grain of the “Kung Family” and established the dictatorship of the proletariat in 1949. Following this, we embarked on the road of collectivization which brought about tremendous development in production. Per-hectare grain yield jumped from about one ton in the early post-liberation years to more than ten tons in 1973.
Unable to pay the rent, Kung Chao-fu and his family were forced to run away and wander from place to place before liberation. His father and younger brother died of starvation, his mother went insane and his elder brother was seriously bitten by a landlord’s dog. It was not until the year of liberation that he returned to his native village. Now he has a family of six living in a five-room brick house with grain reserves enough for six months’ consumption.
Looking back, on the past, he could not help denouncing Confucius’ concept of the “heavenly mandate” with great indignation.
He said: “According to Confucius’ nonsense, we were supposed to be preordained to go hungry from generation to generation. But the fact is we poor and lower-middle peasants led by the Communist Party and Chairman Mao are capable of making revolution, defeating our enemies and increasing production. This has fully proved that Confucius’ concept of ‘heavenly mandate’ was pure humbug.”