China's Establishment Intellectuals

By Carol Lee Hamrin; Timothy Cheek | Go to book overview

II. Party Intellectuals

YANG XIANZHEN
Upholding Orthodox Leninist Theory

Carol Lee Hamrin

Why is it that we have always made mistakes in carrying out our work over the past twenty years and more? Why is it that we have suffered so many twists and turns? Our violation of the Marxist principle regarding the basic question of philosophy [that theory should reflect reality] and our defiance of the elementary knowledge of materialism are the epistemic roots of the mistakes and twists and turns. . . . Many previous years' facts show that in order to adhere to materialism, we must oppose "preconceived ideas and prejudices" and oppose all brands of subjective idealism and voluntarism.

Yang Xianzhen, Guangming Daily, March 2, 1981

With these harsh words, Yang Xianzhen summed up the recent history of Chinese Marxist theory and policy, based on his experiences during the decade of controversy from 1955 to 1965 and the decade of persecution that followed.1 Yang had suffered severely after 1958, as his theoretical views and his policies in running the Party school system were called into question. His close personal and professional ties with Peng Dehuai, Liu Shaoqi, and Peng Zhen brought him scathing denunciation as a counterrevolutionary, as well as torture and imprisonment. Dozens of his closest associates were killed or committed suicide. In early 1979, at the age of eighty-three, Yang reappeared in public along with Liu's widow and Peng Zhen, nearly twenty years after he had

____________________
1
The views expressed below are those of the author, not of any U.S. government organization. I am grateful for the help of Timothy Cheek and H. Lyman Miller in finding recent Chinese-language material by and about Yang Xianzhen, and for the support of Professor Maurice Meisner and the Fulbright program for my earlier research, which can be found in "Alternatives Within Chinese Marxism 1955-1965: Yang Hsien-chen's Theory of Dialectics," Ph.D. dissertation, University of Wisconsin, 1975. Steve S. K. Chin helped me find key material on Yang in 1972-73 in Hong Kong.

-51-

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