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Part XXXV: The Fangangsters (V): He Zuoxiu, a Shameless Party Man (III) (3735 查看)

February 19, 2014 01:54PM
【Due to the webpage capacity,the note section could not be posted. The full-length article is attached as a PDF file.】

Shamelessness Shouldn’t Be Anyone’s Nature──An Open Letter to Nature (Part XXXV)

Xin Ge, Ph. D.

Columbia, SC, USA

The Fangangsters (V): He Zuoxiu, a Shameless Party Man (III)


Deng Xiaoping’s Bootlicker

1. Science and Technology: Superstructure or Economic Base?

(1) The Game of Wait-and-See
(2) A Predecessor of the Gang of Four
(3) A Natural Politician

2. The Criterion of Truth

(1) A Sole and Relative Criterion
(2) A Miraculous Discovery
(3) A Supreme Law


It was mentioned in the last part that not long after the overthrow of the Gang of Four, their henchman He Zuoxiu was promoted to head the newly established Institute of Theoretical Physics at CAS. It is like that after WWII, the Allies let Paul Goebbels manage the propaganda affairs in the entire Europe. How could that happen?

Deng Xiaoping’s Bootlicker

The Gang of Four was arrested on Oct. 6, 1976. Six days later, Hu Yaobang (1915-1989), who would become CCP’s General Secretary in four years, sent three suggestions to Marshall Ye Jianying (1897-1986), the mastermind and actual leader of the coup: stop criticizing Deng Xiaoping; redress the grievances; and promote production[1]. From that time on, the restoration of Deng Xiaoping, whose posts in CCP and Chinese government had been completely removed since April 1976, became a key issue among the Chinese leaders. In early 1977, the neo-leftists, represented by CCP Chairman Hua Guofeng (1921-2008) and Vice Chairman Wang Dongxing (1916- ), formulated a principle, later called “Two Whatevers,” - “We will resolutely uphold whatever policy decisions Chairman Mao made, and unswervingly follow whatever instructions Chairman Mao gave,” - to prevent Deng’s comeback. As mentioned before, the persons who initially wrote these two sentences were Zheng Bijian (郑必坚, 1932- ) and Gong Yuzhi (1929-2007), Yu Guangyuan’s subordinates and He Zuoxiu’s brothers in the Science Division of the Propaganda Department[2]. However, in the Third Plenary Session of CCP’s 10th Central Committee, held in July 1977, Deng regained all his powers he lost a little more than a year ago, and in about a year, he would became the most powerful person in China for the next 20 years.

The specter of communism
From left: Hua Guofeng, Ye Jianying, Deng Xiaoping, Li Xiannian, Wang Dongxing et al. paid their tribute to
Chairman Mao’s mortal remains on September 9, 1977, the first anniversary of Mao’s death. Deng would soon become China’s paramount leader, the so called “the core of the second generation of leadership.”

It was under such a political background that the Physics magazine, under He Zuoxiu’s leadership, continued its “discussion” on the theory of relativity after the arrest of the Gang of Four, and abruptly stopped the “discussion” after June 1977. He’s tenure as the editor-in-chief of the Physics officially ended in November 1977[3]. The very next article published in the magazine after He’s removal was entitled An Incriminating Evidence of Anti-Marxism and Anti-science by the Gang of Four: Criticism against their so called “Criticism” of Einstein[4].

To regain and maintain his power and push his economic reform policies, Deng Xiaoping did two important things on the theoretical fronts: first, he proposed the theory that science and technology constitute a productive force (it later became “the first” productive force) to release Chinese scientists and professionals from the constant political and ideological suppression and persecution; second, he, through his aid Hu Yaobang, initiated the discussion on the criterion of truth to counter the leftist principle of “Two Whatevers.” And it was in these two fronts He Zuoxiu made himself the favorite son of the new emperor.

1. Science and Technology: Superstructure or Economic Base?

In January 1975, Zhou Enlai, the then Prime Minister of China’s State Council, proposed a two-stage goal for China: “the second stage is to accomplish the comprehensive modernization of agriculture, industry. national defence and science and technology before the end of the century.”[5] The goal was termed “four modernizations” later. Because of his deteriorating health, the burden of reaching the goal fell on the shoulders of Deng Xiaoping, the then Vice Prime Minister. To Deng, the direct path to the goal was science and technology. In July 1975, Deng sent Hu Yaobang to CAS to restore its order, and one of Hu’s major accomplishments was a document later called “Report Outline” to CCP central committee and the State Council. In the document, a sentence supposedly said by Chairman Mao was cited: “science and technology is a productive force.” However, when the report was presented to Mao, he denied that he had said so, and careful examination of the records showed that was indeed the case[6]. Soon, Hu Yaobang’s job at CAS was revoked, and the so called “Criticize Deng, Beat Back the Right Deviationist Attempt to Reverse Correct Verdicts” was started. Although Deng was not officially removed from his offices until April 1976, he was essentially powerless several months before that.

The cover of Peking Review published on April 2, 1976, 3 days before the Tiananmen Incident.

(1) The Game of Wait-and-See

In March 1977, under the enormous pressure from the senior leaders of CCP, Chairman Hua Guofeng promised that he would let Deng come out to work “at an appropriate time.” Two months later, Guangming Daily published an article by an economist Zhou Shulian, entitled Science, Technology, and Productive Forces, trying, by citing Karl Marx, to “reverse the correct verdict” that science and technology are not a productive force[7]. Mr. Zhou Shulian revealed later that his article was heavily revised by Hu Yaobang before its publication, and it was the first article to state such viewpoint after the arrest of the Gang of Four[8].

A half month later, Guangming Daily published another article by two research fellows in the Institute of Philosophy at Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, which was just separated from CAS, and the article was entitled The Principle of Transformation of Natural Science into Direct Productive Force Shouldn’t be Denied[9]. According to the senior author’s autobiography, he was inspired by Deng’s idea, passed on by Yu Guangyuan in 1975, to start the study[10]. Besides the two articles, at least 8 more such articles were published in China’s newspapers or magazines in 1977, including one by Zhao Hongzhou, entitled The Gang of Four’s Theory that Science and Technology Belong to Superstructure Must Be Criticized, published in Guangming Daily on December 14, 1977[11]. However, none of these articles were authored by He Zuoxiu, who had studied Marx's theory of reproduction in as early as 1957[12]. Of course He was watching closely the political struggle among the top leaders and waiting patiently for a convincing signal before taking his stance.

The first shot
Mr. Zhou Shulian and his article, Science, Technology, and Productive Forces, published in Guangming Daily on May 30, 1997.

In March 1978, a National Conference on Science was held in Beijing. The scale and grandiosity of the conference overshadowed the National People's Congress and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, China’s rubber stamp legislative bodies, which were just closed a few days earlier. In his opening speech, Deng Xiaoping addressed several issues concerning science, and the first one was the “understanding that science is part of the productive forces”:

“The first question - the question of understanding that science is part of the productive forces. On this point, the ‘gang of four’ raised a hue and cry confounding right and wrong and causing much confusion. Marxism has consistently held that science and technology are part of the productive forces. More than a century ago, Marx said: Wider use of machines in production calls for a conscious application of natural science. He also pointed out: ‘Science too [is] among these productive forces.’ The development of modern science and technology has bound science and production ever more tightly together. Science and technology as productive forces are manifesting their tremendous role ever more obviously.”[13]

And in the closing ceremony, Mr. Guo Moruo (Kuo Mo-jo, 1892-1978), the President of the CAS, gave his famous “Springtime for Science” speech, in which he characterized the overthrow of the Gang of Four as the second liberation of Chinese scientists:

“Then there was the vicious ‘gang of four’ who rode roughshod over the work in science in many ways and wantonly persecuted our scientists, in an attempt to draw our motherland back into the old society where ignorance, backwardness and darkness reigned. But, they were like ‘mayflies lightly plotting to topple the giant tree.’ At one stroke the Party Central Committee headed by Chairman Hua swept away these pests which played havoc with the nation and the people, bringing us liberation for the second time. Today, suffering humiliation no more, we can say this with our chins up: The time when the reactionaries can trample on science has indeed gone forever! The springtime of science is here!”[14]

Then, as expected, the prestigious Philosophical Research published an article by He Zuoxiu, coauthored with Zhao Hongzhou and Guo Moruo’s son Guo Hanying. He’s article was entitled Criticize the Gang of Four’s Theory that Science and Technology Belong to Superstructure, which resembles the title of Mr. Zhao Hongzhou’s article published 4 months earlier, The Gang of Four’s Theory that Science and Technology Belong to Superstructure Must Be Criticized. The fact is, He’s article was essentially an expansion of Zhao’s article, with some hidden goods from He (more on this later). Here is the first paragraph of He’s article:

“Are science and technology superstructure? Do they have class character? Marxist theory has definite answers to these questions, which are: science and technology are not superstructure per se, they don’t have class character, they are social phenomena belonging to the category of productive forces. Meanwhile, the research and development of science and technology are heavily influenced by social institutions, class struggles, and class consciousness. However, to usurp the Party’s power, the Gang of Four had ulteriorly disseminated the reactionary theory that science and technology belong to superstructure.”[15]

A tardy response
Almost one year after the publication of Zhou Shulian’s article in Guangming Daily, He Zuoxiu, along with Zhao Hongzhou and Guo Hanying, published an article in Philosophical Research to join in. The above is a page image of the article as it appeared in Collected Articles on Natural Dialectics[15].

(2) A Predecessor of the Gang of Four

According to Marx’s social economic theory, or “historical materialism,” human society is separated into two parts: the economic base, which consists of productive forces and productive relation, and superstructure, which is the legal, political and ideological institutions and systems built on the top of the base. The very important doctrine is that the superstructure is determined by its base; and with the change of the base, its superstructure changes also. The theory seems very easy to understand and self-consistent, the only problem is that it didn’t say, at least not explicitly by “the great teachers,” to which part science belongs. Here is what Engels said at the grave of Karl Marx:

“Just as Darwin discovered the law of development of organic nature, so Marx discovered the law of development of human history: the simple fact, hitherto concealed by an overgrowth of ideology, that mankind must first of all eat, drink, have shelter and clothing, before it can pursue politics, science, art, religion, etc.; that therefore the production of the immediate material means of subsistence and consequently the degree of economic development attained by a given people or during a given epoch form the foundation upon which the state institutions, the legal conceptions, art, and even the ideas on religion, of the people concerned have been evolved, and in the light of which they must, therefore, be explained, instead of vice versa, as had hitherto been the case.” “Science was for Marx a historically dynamic, revolutionary force.”[16]

In other words, science to human beings is secondary, and it ranks together with politics, art, and religion, the subjects which have been generally recognized as the components of superstructure. Mainly because of this ambiguity, there were intense debates on the issue in the former Soviet Union, and it was not until early1960s, in the 22nd Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, that science was recognized as a direct force of production[17].

The situation in China was much more complicated. Obviously, in the 1950s, CCP followed the steps of the Soviet Union in every aspect. In 1951, Chinese Science Bulletin published an article translated from French La Nouvelle Critique, entitled Bourgeois Science and Proletarian Science[18]. Apparently guided by such ideology, CCP decided to take control over scientific research almost immediately after the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, and they launched so many “great criticism” campaigns against the so called “bourgeois” and “idealist” sciences: Morgan genetics, quantum mechanics, the theory of relativity, and the theory of resonance[2, 12, 19]. More importantly, because of the fact that most scientists at that time were from rich or relatively rich families, the social classes which constituted the target of the communist revolution, therefore, even though CCP admitted later that science in theory doesn’t have class character, however, in practice, they never treated scientists, especially those with a suspicious family background, as their own. Rather, they wanted to “transform” or “reform” these intellectuals, scientists included, continuously and constantly. As Chairman Mao said it explicitly:

“As for the natural sciences, there are two aspects. The natural sciences as such have no class nature, but the question of who studies and makes use of them does.”[20]

And during the Cultural Revolution, a new theory called “continuing the revolution under the proletarian dictatorship” was invented[21], and under its direction, the so called “bourgeois intellectuals” became genuine pariahs, despised as the “Stinking Old Ninth,” meaning they ranked last in the reactionary “black categories.”

Continue the internal fight to the end
A page image of Peking Review, published on Sept. 26, 1969[21].

Of course, He Zuoxiu and his old boss Yu Guangyuan were among the cold-blooded executors of these policies[2, 12, 19]. Yu did lose his power during the Cultural Revolution, which was the major reason for his affiliation with Deng Xiaoping since 1975[22]. He Zuoxiu, on the other hand, seemed never negatively impacted by the Cultural Revolution. On the contrary, he benefited from the chaos, evidenced by his promotion to the editor-in-chief of the Physics magazine. As a matter of fact, the very first article published in the Physics under He’s editorship was entitled Deepen the Criticism against Lin and Confucius, Carry out the Revolution in Superstructure to the End, which literally classified science into superstructure. Here are the first few sentences in the article:

“Presently, Criticize Lin Criticize Confucius is a great revolution in the area of superstructure, is the continuation of the struggles between the two classes, two roads, and two routes since the Great Cultural Revolution. To deepen the criticism against Lin and Confucius, and to carry out the revolution in the superstructure through to the end, the editorial board of the Physics convened a Criticize Lin Criticize Confucius symposium on Jan 31. The participants were workers, technicians, scientific researchers, and teachers from Beijing Optical Instrument Factory, the Physics Department at Peking University, the Institutes of Physics and Atomic Energy at CAS, and the Physics Department at Beijing Normal University……. The participants pointed out that attention needs to be paid to the current tendencies of resurgence and regression in scientific work. Some people don’t see the excellent situation after the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, they stand on the bourgeois reactionary stance, saying something like ‘the Great Cultural Revolution has messed up the work,’ ‘it is getting worse than before,’ attempting to take the old revisionist and capitalist road.”[23]

The fact is, besides He Zuoxiu’s Physics, other “great criticism” articles published in science journals during the Gang of Four era seldom stated explicitly that science belongs to superstructure. For example, in the articles with the titles like “Occupy the Natural Science Field with Marxism”[24], “Proletariat Must Occupy and Transform the Entire Science and Technology Field”[25], “Taking Class Struggle as the Key Link, Resolutely Carry Out the Socialist Revolution in the Field of Science and Technology to the End”[26], and “Adhere to the Revolution in the field of Science and Technology,”[27] the term “superstructure” was either not mentioned at all, or mentioned but not linked to science directly.

As a matter of fact, even in the articles published in the political journals tightly controlled by the Gang of Four, natural sciences were not necessarily grouped into superstructure. For example, in April 1976, Red Flag published an article entitled Marxism and Natural Sciences, in which the word “superstructure” was not used for a single time[28]. In May 1976, the first article published in Natural Dialectics Magazine, a leftist ideological journal founded and run by the Gang of Four’s confidants in Shanghai[29], was entitled Science and Technology Sector Must Adhere to the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. The main theme of the article was to refute Deng Xiaoping’s theory that science and technology sector is different from culture and education sectors, and the argument that “don’t apply the slogans in the superstructure such as culture and education to science and technology.”[30] However, in the entire article, the author didn’t say the words that science and technology belong to superstructure.

In He’s 1978 article[15], two examples were offered to demonstrate that the Gang of Four indeed “had ulteriorly disseminated the reactionary theory that science and technology belong to superstructure,” one was an article published in 1971 in Wen Wei Po. He didn’t give the citation of the article, but offered a one-sentence quotation:

“For a long time, the subjects in natural sciences, especially mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, physiology, genetics, anthropology, medicine, automation science and other engineering departments, have been an independent kingdom of the bourgeoisie.”[31]

Not only can’t the sentence be interpreted in anyway as He did, the article, entitled On the Theory that Natural Sciences Are Materialist by Nature, never mentioned the word “superstructure.”[32]

Admittedly, He’s second example did put science and technology in the category of superstructure. The article was published in the third issue of the Red Flag magazine in 1976, and entitled From Bourgeois Democrats to Capitalist-Roaders. The first sentence of the article is:

“The great struggle initiated and led by our great leader Chairman Mao to beat back the Right deviationist wind to reverse previous correct verdicts is developing soundly in various spheres of the superstructure, including education, science and technology, and art and literature.”[33]

As the title shows, the article was not about science and technology, and in the entire article, the term science and technology was mentioned only once. More importantly, it was written more than 2 years after He had classified science and technology into superstructure in his Physics magazine. In other words, it was He Zuoxiu who first re-imported the Zhdanovshchina from the Soviet Union into China, and it was He Zuoxiu also who tried four years later to put the blame on the Gang of Four.

The fact is, He Zuoxiu led the Gang of Four in many ways. The second article published in the Physics under He Zuoxiu’s editorship was entitled Study “Materialism and Empirio-Criticism” written by a Marxist philosopher Liu Shuzi. Here is its first paragraph:

“Lenin's Materialism and Empirico-Criticism, a brilliant philosophical works, was written after the defeat of the Russian Revolution of 1905, mainly to refute the revisionist philosophical thought in the Party at the time, and also to answer all sorts of philosophical questions raised during the birth period of modern physics. It defended and developed Marxist philosophy with complete revolutionary spirit and rigorous scientific attitude. Therefore, this book became a sharp weapon for the proletariats and revolutionary people around the world in their struggle against the revisionism, became a brilliant beacon for the guidance of the development in modern physics and various natural sciences. At present, in the campaign of deepening the Criticize Lin and Criticize Confucius, in the midst of booming socialist construction, it is very necessary and extremely beneficial for our physics workers to read the book carefully, and revisit Lenin’s discussion on relevant subjects. It will greatly raise our class consciousness……”[34]

Of course Lenin’s Materialism and Empirico-Criticism was one of the few required readings of Marxist classics during the Criticize Lin Criticize Confucius movement[35].

The third article published in He’s Physics was entitled How to Run a Socialist Natural Science Journal? Here is its first paragraph:

“How to run a socialist natural science journal? It’s a big issue. Chairman Mao has taught us: ‘before classes are abolished, the newspapers, the periodicals, the radio and the news agencies all have their class character and all serve particular classes.’ Natural science journals should adhere to the direction of serving the proletarian politics and the socialist construction, becoming the tools for proletariat’s fight against bourgeois in the domain of natural sciences……”[36]

It took the radical Red Flag more than a year, and Chinese Science Bulletin another year, to realize the importance of the issue and follow suit[37].

(3) A Natural Politician

The question is: Why did He Zuoxiu want to “criticize the Gang of Four’s theory that science and technology belong to superstructure” in 1978? The answer to the question is a little complicated.

The reason Deng Xiaoping wanted to identify science and technology as a part of productive force was to liberate Chinese scientists, as well as engineers and other professionals, from the “class struggle,” so that they won’t be treated like second-class citizens. And indeed, the major theory used by the Gang of Four to “occupy” the field of science and technology was to “exercise all-round dictatorship over the bourgeoisie” by the proletariat. By “all-round,” it did mean everything, including industry, agriculture and commerce[38]. Therefore, it really didn’t matter very much whether science and technology belong to superstructure or not.

He Zuoxiu, who had already realized by March 1978 that Deng Xiaoping was gaining the upper hand over the neo-leftists and his policy would prevail, was reluctant to discard the leftist ideology. However, his political instinct told him that it was high time for him to take a “politically correct” position. So he chose to align with Deng Xiaoping in his unique way: on one hand, he transferred his own “crime” to the Gang of Four; on the other, he kept reiterating Chairman Mao’s teaching: science doesn’t have class nature, but scientists do. By doing so, He knew he would win either way: if Deng prevails, He will be a hero against the Gang of Four; if Deng falls for the fourth time, He could say that he had fought against Deng in a “circuitous” way. Here is what He wrote around 1990 to defend his writings during the Gang of Four era:

“The above articles were mainly written during the Gang of Four era, and the motivation to write these articles was to oppose the nihilistic attitude to modern science by some people who often used philosophy to negate natural science.……However, the Gang of Four era was a period dominated by the extreme ‘left’ ideology, it was extremely difficult to fight against the idealism decorated with ‘revolutionary’ terminologies! Therefore, I adopted a circuitous strategy in my serial articles. During that time, many comrades adopted the same method. In the future, it would be an educational and beneficial thing to do to collect these clever articles together and add appropriate annotations.”[39] (The underlines were original.)

“The above articles” include that “Criticize Tang (Xiaowei), Criticize (Fred) Hoyle” articles written in 1974[40], and that “Appraise Legalism, Criticize Confucianism” article written in 1975[41]. It just makes people wonder why hasn’t He Zuoxiu himself collected these “clever articles” and pointed out where and what their cleverness is.

As mentioned above, He’s 1978 article, Criticize the Gang of Four’s Theory that Science and Technology Belong to Superstructure[15], was an expanded version of Mr. Zhao Hongzhou’s article published several months earlier in Guangming Daily[11]. What He did was to break up the original article into three sections, and add two more sections. The fourth section was entitled The Theory that Science and Technology Belong to Superstructure Is a Reactionary Theory Used by the Gang of Four to Destroy the Revolution in Science and Technology, and its conclusion was: the political key of the Gang of Four’s theory was to restore “all-round capitalism” in China[42]. In other words, He believed that the Gang of Four was rightists, rather than leftists. And you have to know the fact that to push the “Two Whatevers” principle, Hua Guofeng and Wang Dongxing, the neo-leftists, also accused the Gang of Four of “extreme rightists.”[43]

However, the key contribution made by He to the article is in its last section, entitled Adhere to the Party’s Basic Line, Carry out the Socialist Revolution to the End[44]. Among the CCP terminologies, “The Party’s Basic Line” probably is one of the most ambiguous. At time He wrote his article, it meant “to grasp the key link of class struggle and bring about great order across the land.”[45] And indeed He called for “grasping the key link of class struggle.” Here is the first paragraph of the 5th section:

“Natural science is not superstructure per se, however, it doesn’t mean that natural science and superstructure are unrelated at all, doesn’t mean that the research and development of science and technology are not influenced by social institution, class struggle, and class consciousness. As a matter of fact, such an influence is very intense.”[46]

You have to admire He Zuoxiu’s political smartness.

In 1988, Deng Xiaoping took a great leap forward, stating explicitly: “Science and technology are the first productive force.”[47] By that time, Hua Guofeng and Wang Dongxing had long gone, and “Deng Xiaoping Theory” was on its way to become CCP and China’s “guiding thought,” so He Zuoxiu had no reason to adopt his “circuitous strategy” any more. Therefore, He did two things to re-align himself with Deng Xiaoping’s science policy.

Sometime before 1990, He Zuoxiu started telling the following story: in 1950, when Yu Guangyuan went to Tsinghua University to convene a theoretical symposium, He Zuoxiu asked Yu a theoretical question: “In his Marxism and Problems of Linguistics, Stalin said that language has no class character, then, following Stalin’s opinion, whether we can say that natural science doesn’t have class character either?” and Yu’s answer was affirmative[48]. He’s story had never been substantiated by Yu Guangyuan, even though he had nearly a quarter of century to do so. On the other hand, Gong Yuzhi, He’s classmate at Tsinghua University and colleague in the Propaganda Department, who was also present in the symposium, euphemistically doubted the accuracy of the story[49]. It is almost certain the story was fabricated.

In 1993, He’s first book was published as one of the “Serial Books on Studying CCP’s Basic Line,” and the book was entitled, appropriately, Science and Technology Are the First Productive Force. Take a look at these chapter titles[50]:

Chapter 2: The theory that science and technology are the first productive force is a Marxist scientific theory.

Chapter 3: The theory that science and technology are the first productive force is Comrade Deng Xiaoping’s new generalization of the development rule of the contemporary social productive force under the new historical conditions.

Chapter 4: The theory that science and technology are the first productive force is a significant development in the basic principles of historical materialism.

Chapter 5: The theory that science and technology are the first productive force is the clarification and summarization of theories related to the status and role of modern science and technology in the socio-economic development.

By doing so, He Zuoxiu completed the process of his transformation from a henchman of the Gang of Four to a henchman of Deng Xiaoping.

He Zuoxiu is the number one bootlicker of Chinese leaders among Chinese scientists
The cover of He Zuoxiu’s first monograph, “Science and Technology Are the First Productive Force.”

2. The Criterion of Truth

Besides elevating the status of Chinese scientists in China’s society by lowering the status of science and technology from superstructure or social ideology to economic base, Deng Xiaoping did another important thing to push his policy: through his aid Hu Yaobang, Deng initiated the discussion on the criterion of truth to counter the principle of “Two Whatevers,” and he won big. In some sense, the significance of the theoretical debate was not less than the military coupe which toppled the Gang of Four. And He Zuoxiu, again, followed the trend cleverly.

(1) A Sole and Relative Criterion

It is generally believed that the start of the discussion on the criterion of truth was May 11, 1978, when Guangming Daily published a front page article, Practice Is the Sole Criterion for Testing Truth, initially written by Mr. Hu Fuming, a philosophy lecturer at Nanjing University, in the summer of 1977, but revised many times by many people and finally published under the name of “our specially invited commentator.” The fact is, the discussion started almost immediately after the appearance of the “Two Whatevers.” On April 10, 1977, Deng, still waiting for his restoration, wrote a letter to CCP Central Committee saying that Chairman Mao’s Thought should be understood integrally, instead of fragmentally, to guide CCP’s work. Deng then expressed the ideas on many occasions after he regained his power. In September 1977, several old leaders of CCP and the People’s Liberation Army published articles calling for linking theory to practice, seeking truth from facts. In January and March, 1978, People’s Daily published two articles discussing practice and criterion of truth[51]. However, it was indeed the article published in Guangming Daily on May 11, 1978, that ignited the fire which burnt the “Two Whatevers” principle to the ground. Hua Guofeng, Chairman Mao’s designated heir and the chief proponent of the principle, never recovered from the defeat.

The article which changed China and its author
The page image of the front page article, Practice Is the Sole Criterion for Testing Truth, published on May 11, 1978, in Guangming Daily. The inset is a photo showing Mr. Hu Fuming (left) and Mr. Wang Qianghua, the author and the editor of the article, respectively, in 1978. At the time, Mr. Hu was a lecturer in the Department of Philosophy at Nanjing University. The article was published as a contribution by “our specially invited commentator,” without revealing Hu’s name. Mr. Hu said 30 years later that he was prepared to go to jail when he submitted the article to the newspaper. He would become the director of the Propaganda Department of the CCP Jiangsu Province Committee. Wang Qianghua would become the deputy editor-in-chief of Guangming Daily, and the deputy director of the State Press and Publication Administration[52].

As mentioned in the Part XXXII[12] of this letter, He Zuoxiu was a red hot philosopher of science in the first half of 1960s, evidenced by his multiple publications in the authoritative Red Flag magazine. One of these articles was entitled On Some Issues Concerning the Practice Criterion in Natural Scientific Research[53]. The article became one of He’s most precious capitals in his “philosopher” career, and based on it He has claimed that he is the person who made the first attempt to “systematically explored the issue of practice criterion[54].

The fact is, in his “attempt to systematically explored the issue of practice criterion,” He tried really hard to demonstrate that the practice criterion has the duality of relativity and absoluteness: He’s article was divided into four sections, in the third section, He stressed the unreliability of the practice criterion, and its need for the guidance of theory; and the last section was entitled The Relativity and Absoluteness of the Practice Criterion[55]. In other words, in 1962, He believed that “practice IS NOT the Sole criterion for testing truth.” Exactly because of that, one of the articles criticizing He’s such opinion stated explicitly:

“According to Comrade He Zuoxiu’s elaboration on the relativity of the practice criterion, it seems that practice is not the sole objective criterion for judging truth.”[56]

Of course that’s what He Zuoxiu really meant: he wrote at least 3 more articles[57] to defend his opinion, and he only stopped arguing when the Red Flag published an article entitled Practice Is the Sole Criterion for Testing Truth[58] in May 1964 to criticize him (see image below).

Against the soleness of practice criterion for truth
Because He Zuoxiu had argued repeatedly for the relativity of practice criterion for judging truth in the previous two years, an article entitled Practice is the Sole Objective Criterion for Testing Truth was published in the Red Flag in 1964 to directly refute He’s view. For the full citation of the article, see[58].

The reason behind He Zuoxiu’s refusal to accept the absolute authority of “practice” was actually very practical: He wanted to leave a room for (Marxist) theory to be the chief justice. Here is what he wrote in 1962:

“In Marxist practice criterion, experimental facts are required to be combined with theoretical analyses. It certainly doesn’t mean to get rid of practice criterion and adopt ‘theory criterion.’ Marxism has always been advocating the unity of theory and practice, namely, theory must be linked to practice, and practice must be guided by theory. Practice must be guided by theory, which is exactly the difference between Marxism and empiricism.”[59]

And in 1965, He once again called for “breaking positivism.” Why? Because “one of the basic ideas of the positivism is that theory must be based completely on ‘verified’ and ‘confirmed’ facts,” but, according to He, research on elementary particles must be guided by materialist dialectics[60]. So you know that what He believed was, and still is, that practice not only isn’t the sole criterion for truth, it is secondary and subordinate to Marxist doctrines.

Of course there are absolutely no criteria to judge whether positivism is right or Marxism is wrong, and we do admit that He Zuoxiu has his rights to believe in what he believes in, as long as his belief is consistent, because consistency is one of the key indicators for a person’s integrity and trustworthiness[61]. And He’s problem is exactly his inconsistency: his belief is variable with the dynamics of the political leadership in China.

On May 13, 1978, two days after the publication of the historic article by Mr. Hu Fuming, He published his article in the same newspaper, entitled The Criterion for Truth Should Only Be Social Practice: Speaking from the Discovery of Parity Violation. According to He, the discovery of parity violation by Tsung Dao Lee and Chen Ning Yang in the 1950s “once again confirmed Marxist epistemology: practice is the source of knowledge, and is the criterion for testing truth.”[62]

The first to respond
The page image of He’s article, The Criterion for Truth Should Only Be Social Practice: Speaking from the Discovery of Parity Violation, published on May 13, 1978, two days after the publication of Mr. Hu Fuming’s article. He’s article was the second such article published on the topic in China.

The questions are: how does this Marxist epistemological belief differ from empiricism and positivism, and why was the discovery of parity violation made by the non-Marxists Yang and Lee rather than those Marxists such as He Zuoxiu himself and his comrades? Of course Comrade He Zuoxiu won’t answer questions like these.

(2) A Miraculous Discovery

The funny thing is, in 1957, 21 years earlier, He believed that the discovery by Yang and Lee had the following significance:

“In last May and June, some young comrades thought that the success of Tsung Dao Lee and Chen Ning Yang was the result of their ‘independent thinking’ and pure theoretical exploration, which overthrew Marxist epistemology. I believe such a view is a huge mistake. Based upon the analyses above, the success of Lee and Yang was achieved as a result of the creative combination of theory and experiment, a result of critical analysis of the relationship between theory and experiment. Therefore, Lee and Yang’s work didn’t ‘overthrow’ Marxist epistemology at all; [on the contrary,] it confirmed the brilliance of Marxist theory of the relationship between cognition and practice.”[63]

And in December 1977, 5 months before the outbreak of the discussion on the criterion of truth, He, in a national conference on natural dialectics, said that the general epistemological law summarized by Chairman Mao has different forms in different areas; then he cited Karl Marx to demonstrate Chairman Mao’s brilliance:

“In the analysis of economic forms, moreover, neither microscopes nor chemical reagents are of use. The force of abstraction must replace both.”[64]

Then, He proudly told his audience the significance of Yang and Lee’s discovery:

“It is not difficult to see that the key to the breakthrough was the thought that everything should be examined by experiment. Now, this epistemological approach has become a paradigm for the study of elementary particles.”[65]

Apparently, the theoretical physicist He Zuoxiu in December 1977 believed that “the thought that everything should be examined by experiment” was only applicable in the area of elementary particle research, and the thought was so foreign to him that he had to know it though Yang and Lee’s discovery.

In 1980, in a national conference on scientific methodology, He changed his story again, saying that “the key to solving the problem [of parity violation] was changing the way the question was asked.”[66]

Obviously, the same discovery could be interpreted by He Zuoxiu anyway he wants to demonstrate the brilliance of Marxism, Leninism, Mao Tsetung Thought, whatever they are.

(3) A Supreme Law

He Zuoxiu was the first person who supported Hu Fuming’s article in China’s news media[67]. Based on the quickness of publication and abruptness of attitude reversal, it is almost certain that the purpose of the article was the same as the one about the relationship between science and superstructure: to curry favor with Deng Xiaoping. Similarly, He Zuoxiu also smuggled his personal belief in the article about the criterion of truth.

In The Criterion for Truth Should Only Be Social Practice, He summed up four significances from the discovery of parity violation, and the second and the third ones are as following:

“2. The reason for the parity conservation law being ‘violated’ is that historically there were absolutely no experiments to demonstrate that parity is conserved under weak interaction, [people] only asserted a priori that parity ‘must’ also be conserved under weak interaction. Therefore, the so called ‘violation’ is not true violation of the laws and rules which have already been demonstrated correct by experiments. What having been violated was a preconceived idea, an idea which had not been confirmed by experiment. 3. No law or rule which has been tested by experiment to be correct, or to be correct in a certain degree of precision, can be violated. For example, the parity conservation law under strong interaction, under electromagnetic interaction has not been violated; rather, it has been confirmed with new evidences. This indicates the absoluteness of the practice criterion.”[68]

How could a revolutionary be so fond of the inviolability of rules and laws? Also, if he truly believes the soleness and absoluteness of the practice criterion, why would he want to make a priori assertion that the rules or laws which have been proven by experiments are inviolable? The thing gets more inconceivable when you realize that the person is a self-claimed the father of falsifiability theory[12], which essentially states that no matter how many times a theory has been proven correct, it is always possible for it to be falsified by a single evidence.

As unthinkable as it is, however, if you know the history of He Zuoxiu, then everything seems to be making sense.

First of all, as mentioned before, He Zuoxiu didn’t believe the soleness and absoluteness of the practice criterion of truth, either in the early 1960s, or in the late 1970s, or even today. What he truly believes is what had been said by Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, and Chairman Mao. However, He Zuoxiu knows, as a veteran politician, that he has to be in line with those in power, whoever they are. He also knows, as a veteran politician, the instability of China’s leadership, exemplified by Deng’s repeated ups and downs, so whenever He changes his positions, he will always leave room for his Parthian shot.

Secondly, as mentioned before also, He believes that the law of energy conservation, as well as the law of mass conservation, is the ultimate truth, simply because it was certified by Engels, repeatedly, in his Dialectics of Nature. And in his anti-pseudoscience career, which started in the mid-1990s, He, as well as his disciple Fang Zhouzi, would use the law as his most powerful weapon.

Of course, to curry favor with Deng Xiaoping in 1978, He had to criticize the Gang of Four for something. However, as mentioned previously, He’s ideology was, and still is, very similar to the one preached by the Gang of Four, both originated from the Zhdanovshchina of the Soviet Union. It was because of these, He picked one particular article from the Gang of Four’s journal as his target for attack.

In 1975, the Natural Dialectics Magazine published an article entitled On the Conservation and Non-conservation of Motion: Also Comment on the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics. Based on the teachings by Engels, Lenin, and Chairman Mao, and the facts that many so called “laws of conservation” had been violated, the article asserted:

[The law of] parity conservation has been violated, [the law of] charge conjugation conservation has been violated, [the law of] charge conjugation parity symmetry has been violated, and [the law of] time-reversal symmetry has also been violated. Will the law of energy conservation be the same? Will it be violated someday? Certainly it will. Like other laws of conservation, the law of energy conservation will be violated eventually.”[69]

Philosophically, the above assertion is not different from the one made by Lenin that “the electron is as inexhaustible as the atom,” and the one made by Chairman Mao that elementary particles are infinitely divisible. Of course He Zuoxiu didn’t have the guts to refute these two assertions made by the “great revolutionary teachers.” As a matter of fact, He not only didn’t have the guts to refute the Gang of Four when they were in power, he even didn’t have the guts to quote the above paragraph in its entirety when the Gang of Four were already put in jail[70].

The funny thing is, unable to refute the Gang of Four with science or evidence, He resorted to Marxist theory for help, in the article which was intended to demonstrate that The Criterion for Truth Should Only Be Social Practice! Here is what He wrote:

“It is astonishing that their disregard for the practice basis of the law of conservation of energy, their disregard for the Marxist fundamental principle that practice is the criterion for testing truth had reached such extent!”[71]

The fact is, in the first paragraph of the On the Conservation and Non-conservation of Motion[69], the author cited a sentence by Engels as his theoretical basis:

“It has to change its form with each epoch-making discovery in the sphere of natural science.”[72]

To counter the Engels-based argument, He Zuoxiu cited Lenin’s Materialism and Empirio-Criticism:

“Hence, a revision of the ‘form’ of Engels' materialism, a revision of his natural-philosophical propositions is not only not ‘revisionism,’ in the accepted meaning of the term, but, on the contrary, is demanded by Marxism. We criticise the Machians not for making such a revision, but for their purely revisionist trick of betraying the essence of materialism……”[73]

And based on what Lenin’s said, He blasted:

“It was no longer limited to revision of Marxism; rather, it was blatant distortion of materialism with idealism.” “On the issue of practice being the criterion for testing truth, it is revealed once again that the philosophical foundation of the Gang of Four is subjective idealism.”[74]

The story doesn’t stop here. In 1962, to demonstrate that the practice criterion is Not the sole criterion for testing truth, He cited the following from the same Materialism and Empirio-Criticism:

“Of course, we must not forget that the criterion of practice can never, in the nature of things, either confirm or refute any human idea completely. This criterion also is sufficiently ‘indefinite’ not to allow human knowledge to become ‘absolute,’ but at the same time it is sufficiently definite to wage a ruthless fight on all varieties of idealism and agnosticism.”[75]

So, exactly what was the criterion for determining which sentence in Lenin’s works is more correct or authoritative than the others?

Fortunately, He didn’t need to answer these questions, because the title of the article was good enough for his political alignment with Deng Xiaoping. As He said proudly and repeatedly:

“I think the most important thing [to be a man] is to recognize the times, recognize the trend of social development, and be the active promoter of the times.”[76]

By that, He means that he will never be wrong by following those who are in power, whoever they are. Till today, He Zuoxiu doesn’t believe “The Criterion for Truth Should Only Be Social Practice,” because he has been fighting against so called “pseudoscience” purely based on Marxist doctrines rather than scientific evidence, just like his old boss Yu Guangyuan did in the 1980s[2] (more on this later).

He’s strategy of survival has paid off handsomely: In June 1978, the Institute of Theoretical Physics at CAS was founded, personally approved by Deng Xiaoping. He Zuoxiu became the actual head of the institute. In early 1980, He led a group of 5 people, including Hao Xin’s father Mr. Hao Bolin, to travel around the world for two and a half months, a treat rarely received by a scientist at the time. One of He’s biggest achievements as the head of ITP was founding the English journal Communications in Theoretical Physics, and He was the inaugural deputy editor-in-chief from 1981 to 1988, and the editor-in-chief from 1988 till as late as 2007[77]. Since its inauguration in 1982, the journal has never had an impact factor over 1.00, yet 40% of He’s English papers on physics (13 of 32) were published in this journal, which have generated a total of 49 citations, including self-citations, after more than at least two decades (see the table below). Fortunately, He also made another policy for the journal: it pays the authors for their papers published in the journal[77]. The policy certainly didn’t make He a rich man by publishing in his own journal, but it does make He’s resume look a little more respectable: when Fang Zhouzi awarded He Zuoxiu the inaugural New Threads Scientific Spirit Prize, Fang didn’t list He’s 500-plus Chinese articles which cover almost every subject in the world; rather, Fang listed He’s English publication on physics only. To those who don’t know English or physics, the list looks pretty impressive.

Acknowledgement: I’d like to thank Mr. Shen Yang (沈阳) of Guangming Net for his providing me with some of the references I used in writing this part of the Open Letter to Nature.

【Please download the PDF file for the notes.】

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Open Letter to Nature: Part XXXII: The Fangangsters (II): He Zuoxiu, a Shameless Party Man (I) (5116 查看) 附件

亦明 November 15, 2013 07:33PM

Part XXXIII: The Fangangsters (III): Shu-Kun Lin and His Predatory MDPI Journals (19186 查看) 附件

亦明 January 19, 2014 07:24PM

Part XXXIV: The Fangangsters (IV): He Zuoxiu, a Shameless Party Man (II) (4067 查看) 附件

亦明 February 02, 2014 06:01PM

Part XXXV: The Fangangsters (V): He Zuoxiu, a Shameless Party Man (III) (3735 查看) 附件

亦明 February 19, 2014 01:54PM

Part XXXVI: The Fangangsters (VI): Shu-Kun Lin and His Predatory MDPI Journals (II) (4161 查看) 附件

亦明 February 26, 2014 06:32PM

Part XXXVII: The Fangangsters (VII): Shu-Kun Lin and His Predatory MDPI Journals (III) (6950 查看)

亦明 March 04, 2014 07:05PM

Part XXXVIII: The Fangangsters (VIII): Shu-Kun Lin and His Predatory MDPI Journals (IV) (5075 查看) 附件

亦明 March 16, 2014 02:35PM



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