The latest media fad in our country is a kind of ‘worship’ of the Gang of Four. It appears to people as if the Gang of Four were almost gods, with vast magical powers. They were capable of moving heaven and earth—they could make China change colour if they wanted to. Naturally, then, all the disasters that hit China during the last decade or so must have been their doing. If only they hadn’t been here, we wouldn’t have suffered so. . . . Things have even reached the point where Comrades Wan Bin and Liu Yu-cheng were obliged to stoop to this sort of worship, contrary to their own beliefs. In their essay ‘Some Tentative Remarks on the Source of Problems in Democratic Life’—an essay we consider to be quite well written—they wrote that Lin Biao and the Gang of Four created feudal fascism in China.footnote1

Marx once commented: ‘The Young Hegelians are in agreement with the Old Hegelians in their belief in the rule of religion, of concepts, of an abstract general principle in the existing world. Only the one party attacks this domination as usurpation, while the other extols it as legitimate.’footnote2

Today, a lot of our commentators would agree on one point of faith concerning the Gang of Four: namely, that a handful of people in leading roles managed to transform the character of our country overnight. (Whether they were heroes or criminals, though, depends on whom you ask.) As these commentators see it, it was not a certain set of social relations that created the Gang of Four, but rather the Gang of Four who created a certain type of social relations. This is a new brand of superstition, a new religion! People may worship benevolent gods out of love for them, or they may worship evil gods out of fear and loathing. But in either case this shows that people feel baffled and powerless in the face of seemingly supernatural alien forces.

In a society where people are no longer dominated by the products of their own creation which seem like alien forces—in other words, in a society where people are able to fully control their own destiny—it would be totally impossible for superstition to take root. And conversely, if such a ridiculous superstition as this ‘Gang of Four worship’ is still in vogue among our commentators today, doesn’t that very fact prove that the Chinese people don’t yet really, fully, control their own destiny?

The purpose of this article, then is to briefly examine the social relations that have given rise to such superstition, and also the necessary social conditions for eliminating it.

One of the most basic facts of life today is that people are still bound by a division of labour in the system of social production. Members of the Mahengchang Model Production Brigade may engage in a certain amount of volunteer activities, but if they start spending too much time at it society will insist (through the press) that they return to their places of production. In the same way, leading cadres may participate directly in production, but if they work too much they can actually be disciplined and forced to return to their supervisory posts. Socialism, after all, represents the elimination of classes. But the precondition for doing away with classes is abolishing the division of labour. (We understand this can only be abolition of the old type of division of labour.)

As Engels put it: ‘So long as the total social labour only yields a produce which but slightly exceeds that barely necessary for the existence of all; so long, therefore, as labour engages all or almost all the time of the great majority of the members of society—so long, of necessity, this society is divided into classes. Side by side with the great majority, exclusively bond slaves to labour, arises a class freed from directly productive labour, which looks after the general affairs of society: the direction of labour, State business, law, science, art, etc. It is, therefore, the law of division of labour that lies at the basis of the division into classes’.footnote3 But to make it possible to abolish the old division of labour requires the full development of the social forces of production under conditions of public ownership, along with the rise of a whole generation of human productive talent.