The question of the identity between thinking and being was at one time turned into a serious struggle on China's philosophical front by Yang Xianzhen, Liu Shaoqi's agent in this field. Influenced by changes in international and domestic class struggle, it had its ups and downs three times and lasted eight or nine years, from the end of 1955 to 1964. Endeavoring to cover up the essence of this struggle, Yang Xianzhen and his kind spread lies, such as that the question was an "academic contention which has nothing to do with politics," and that they belonged to a "school of thought" engaging in "academic explorations," etc.

Was this true? Not at all.

Yang Xianzhen's shabby merchandise - "there is no identity between thinking and being" - was designed to oppose putting Mao Zedong Thought in command and launching revolutionary mass movements. It sought to provide the "theoretical basis" for Liu Shaoqi's counter-revolutionary revisionist line aimed at overthrowing the dictatorship of the proletariat and restoring capitalism.

The so-called "academic contention which has nothing to do with politics" was actually an expression of the sharp struggle between the two classes, the two roads and the two lines.

As for the so-called "school of thought" for "academic explorations" it in fact consisted of a handful of counter-revolutionaries who committed numerous crimes under the wing of Liu Shaoqi's bourgeois headquarters.

I

The Marxist theory of knowledge has consistently affirmed the identity between thinking and being and that, though thinking and being are opposites, they are interconnected and can transform themselves into each other under certain conditions. Marx clearly pointed out: "Thinking and being are thus no doubt distinct, but at the same time they are in unity with each other" (Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844). Lenin also said: "Not only is the transition from matter to consciousness dialectical, but also that from sensation to thought, etc." (Conspectus of Hegel's Book Lectures on the History of Philosophy). "The thought of the ideal passing into the real is profound: very important for history" (Conspectus of Hegel's Book The Science of Logic). Chairman Mao has inherited, defended and developed the dialectical-materialist theory of reflection and raised the Marxist theory of knowledge to a higher, completely new stage.

He penetratingly revealed the law of development of human knowledge, pointing out: "Practice, knowledge, again practice, and again knowledge. This form repeats itself in endless cycles, and with each cycle the content of practice and knowledge rises to a higher level. Such is the whole of the dialectical-materialist theory of knowledge, and such is the dialectical-materialist theory of the unity of knowing and doing" (On Practice). The dialectical-materialist theory of knowledge is an active and revolutionary theory of reflection. It not only recognizes that being is primary and thinking secondary and thinking is a reflection of being, but scientifically explains the primary importance of social practice to knowledge and stresses the great role of revolutionary theory in actively changing the world. It is a sharp weapon for the proletariat to know and change the world, and is the theoretical basis for putting Mao Zedong Thought in command and giving full play to the revolutionary mass movement in all our work.

At crucial junctures in China's socialist revolution and construction, Yang Xianzhen would come out with the reactionary statement that "there is no identity between thinking and being" to resist the active and revolutionary theory of reflection, and oppose putting Mao Zedong Thought in command and launching revolutionary mass movements.

Chairman Mao made public in 1955 his “On the Question of Agricultural Co-operation,” thoroughly criticizing the Right opportunist line of Liu Shaoqi and his gang, which had slashed theco-operatives. This immediately gave rise to a high tide of socialist revolution in China. It was at that time that Yang Xianzhen, in a futile effort to resist the mighty current of socialist revolution, put forward his fallacious idea that "there is no identity between thinking and being" and attacked as "idealist" the thesis that there is identity between thinking and being.

In 1958, Chairman Mao formulated the general line of going all out, aiming high and achieving greater, faster, better and more economical results in building socialism. He issued the call to do away with all fetishes and superstitions, emancipate the mind and carry forward the communist style of daring to think, speak and act. Again and again he stressed that we must persevere in putting politics in command and give full play to the mass movement in all our work. The people's revolutionary enthusiasm and creativeness were enormously mobilized by Chairman Mao's revolutionary theory and revolutionary line. And the great leap forward emerged all over the nation and people's communes were set up throughout the rural areas. The great victory of Mao Zedong Thought aroused mad opposition by the class enemies at home and abroad. Answering their needs, Yang Xianzhen racked his brains to systematize his "there is no identity between thinking and being" rubbish and came up with his reactionary article "A Brief Discussion of Two Categories of 'Identity.'" In it he opposed the Marxist theory of knowledge and attempted to deny fundamentally the general line, the great leap forward and the people's commune.

The law of the unity of opposites is the fundamental law of the universe, a law applicable to everything including, of course, the relationship between thinking and being. But Yang Xianzhen fabricated the fallacy that "identity between thinking and being" and "dialectical identity" belonged to "two different categories," that "although the same in wording, they are different in meaning." He openly opposed applying revolutionary dialectics to the theory of knowledge.

The active and revolutionary theory of reflection not only recognizes thinking as the reflection of being but also the reaction of thinking on being. Hence it firmly holds that there is identity between thinking and being. Yang Xianzhen, however, tried to set the identity between thinking and being against the theory of reflection, alleging that, with regard to the question of the relationship between thinking and being, "materialism uses the theory of reflection to solve it, while idealism solves it by means of identity." In denying the identity between thinking and being he totally denied the great role of revolutionary theory, negated the conscious dynamic role of the masses, and twisted the active and revolutionary theory of reflection into the mechanical theory of reflection.

The dialectical-materialist conception of the identity between thinking and being holds that thinking and being are interconnected and can transform themselves into each other on the basis of practice. But Yang Xianzhen deliberately distorted the theory of the identity between thinking and being into the idealist nonsense of the sameness of thinking and being, raving that recognition of the identity between thinking and being meant upholding that "being is thinking, and thinking is being." He wantonly attacked the idea that there is identity between thinking and being as an "idealist proposition."

To defend his reactionary trash, Yang Xianzhen distorted Engels' meaning by vilely making use of an error in punctuation in the 1957 Chinese edition of Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy. Engels said: "The question of the relation of thinking and being has yet another side: in what relation do our thoughts about the world surrounding us stand to this world itself? Is our thinking capable of the cognition of the real world? Are we able in our ideas and notions of the real world to produce a correct reflection of reality? In philosophical language this question is called the question of the identity of thinking and being, and the overwhelming majority of philosophers give an affirmative answer to this question." The 1957 Chinese editions broke up the last sentence of this passage into two sentences by erroneously putting a period after "this question is called the question of the identity of thinking and being." Yang Xianzhen and his bunch quibbled and argued obstinately, alleging that what had been solved by "the overwhelming majority of philosophers," according to Engels, was not "the question of the identity of thinking and being." In fact, even with that inadvertent period in the Chinese edition, what Engels wanted to say is clear enough in the context. He definitely pointed out that the overwhelming majority of philosophers have affirmed the identity of thinking and being.

In his Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, Lenin thoroughly criticized the Machist theory of the sameness of social being, that is, the reactionary subjective idealist fallacies Ernst Mach & Co. advocated, such as "things are complexes of sensations," and the sameness of social being and social consciousness. Deliberately confusing the theory of the identity between thinking and being with the Machist fallacy that thinking and being are the same, Yang Xianzhen alleged that Lenin's Materialism and Empirio-Criticism "criticized the identity between thinking and being from beginning to end." Moreover, in order to attack the active and revolutionary theory of reflection, he was so mad as to fly in the face of logic to distort facts and change the relevant translation by whatever means he could.

Yang Xianzhen tried to publish his reactionary article "A Brief Discussion of Two Categories of 'Identity'" in October 1958 in order to openly oppose Mao Zedong Thought. The proletarian headquarters headed by Chairman Mao discovered this and immediately exposed that the reactionary essence of "there is no identity between thinking and being" lay in the denial of the universality of the law of the unity of opposites, was dualism characterized by the separation of thinking and being. The proletarian headquarters solemnly pointed out that all such reactionary absurdities were opposed to Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought. Thus Yang Xianzhen's scheme was crushed.

Unwilling to give up, however, Yang Xianzhen made a frantic counter-attack. Supported by modern revisionism, a group of anti-Party elements in Liu Shaoqi's bourgeois headquarters came up in 1959 with a thoroughly sinister counter-revolutionary program the purpose of which was to overthrow the correct leadership of the Party Central Committee headed by Mao Zedong. In the first half of that year, Yang Xianzhen busied himself with shady activities in all places, hawking his poisonous ideas to pave the way for their plot to usurp Party leadership. Aping Khrushchev, he attacked our Party and our socialist system and opposed Mao Zedong Thought.

The Eighth Plenary Session of the Party's Eighth Central Committee held in August 1959 smashed the plot of these anti-Party elements and also dealt Yang Xianzhen a heavy blow. Unreconciled, he went further afield in opposing the theory of the identity between thinking and being. He collected a gang and did mant things with ulterior motives under the cloak of "academic explorations." In October of the same year, his henchmen finally came out with the rehashed version of his reactionary article "A Brief Discussion of Two Categories of 'Identity.'" This stirred up an open struggle on the question of the identity between thinking and being in order to oppose the Party Central Committee's Eighth Plenary Session mentioned above and reverse the correct verdict on that bunch of anti-Party elements.

The proletarian headquarters headed by Chairman Mao exposed Yang Xianzhen's counter-revolutionary crimes and guided the criticism of him. The press responded with counter-attacks against Yang Xianzhen and his ilk, publishing articles criticizing their fallacy that "there is no identity between thinking and being."

II

In 1961-62, taking advantage of the temporary economic difficulties from which China suffered, Liu Shaoqi's bourgeois headquarters, in co-ordination with the anti-China chorus abroad, did its utmost to restore capitalism at home. Under these circumstances, Yang Xianzhen once again provoked an open struggle centered around the question of the identity between thinking and being.

As a matter of fact, Yang Xianzhen had long prepared the ground and his scheme for this open battle. In the first half of 1961, he turned up here, there and everywhere to collect material with which to flagrantly attack the general line, the great leap forward and the people's commune; he advocated individual farming for all he was worth and abetted the Right opportunists to demand reversal of the decisions justly passed on them. Using the pretext of "summing up historical experience and educating cadres," he gave a string of reports in a feverish attempt to prepare public opinion for counter-revolutionary purposes.

Now let us see how he went about his "summing up historical experience and educating cadres."

Yang Xianzhen totally denied the necessity of a process for man's cognition of objective phenomena. In his eyes, it was "idealism" when the subjective could not readily conform with the objective. Proceeding from this fallacy, he used the tactics of attacking one point to the total disregard of the rest and grossly exaggerated the temporary, isolated shortcomings which were difficult to avoid in our actual work, labelling them all "idealism." He wildly went for so-called "mistakes" in the great leap forward and ascribed the cause to "the identity between thinking and being," to "man's conscious dynamic role which makes a mess of things," etc. He made a big show of upholding materialism while actually using metaphysics and idealism to oppose the active and revolutionary theory of reflection.

Chairman Mao has taught us: "Often, correct knowledge can be arrived at only after many repetitions of the process leading from matter to consciousness and then back to matter, that is, leading from practice to knowledge and then back to practice" (Where Do Correct Ideas Come From?). A process is necessary for the leap from the realm of necessity to the realm of freedom in man's cognition of the objective world. Only after repeated practice can people advance from inexperience to experience, from ignorance to knowledge and from incomplete knowledge to relatively complete knowledge. Owing to various limitations, certain shortcomings and mistakes are hardly avoidable in the process of cognition and practice, and so is the failure for the subjective to fully accord with the objective. How can these be called "idealist"? Especially in such great revolutionary mass movements involving hundreds of millions of people as the great leap forward and the people's commune, we can only acquire experience step by step in the course of practice, gradually deepen our knowledge of the essence of things and expose and resolve the contradictions that arise as we go forward. In summing up our experience, we must use the Marxist theory of knowledge as our guide to affirm our achievements and overcome our shortcomings so that we can all the better advance along Chairman Mao's proletarian revolutionary line unswervingly and bravely. It is crystal clear that Yang Xianzhen's so-called "summing up historical experience and educating cadres" was nothing but an attempt to totally negate the general line, the great leap forward and the people's commune and create confusion among the people so as to help Liu Shaoqi and his gang, representatives of the bourgeoisie, to usurp Party and state leadership.

The open struggle incited by Yang Xianzhen was a completely premeditated scheme to reverse correct decisions and restore capitalism. At a sinister meeting in November 1961, he complained bitterly on behalf of a gang of anti-Party elements and shouted that the criticism of him was "unjust." When he instructed his henchmen to "speak up with articles," they responded with the cry that Yang Xianzhen "should be rehabilitated and we should co-ordinate in this connection by writing articles in his favor." This handful also worked out an "operational plan": some would "write long articles to fight a major battle"; others would "write relatively short but timely articles to fight skirmishes"; still others would "write with regard to actual problems so as to fight a co-ordinated battle?" etc.

Yang Xianzhen and company watched for the opportunity they deemed most favorable to provoke the open struggle. Making use of the temporary difficulties facing China's national economy, Liu Shaoqi insidiously plotted, in 1961-62, to overthrow the dictatorship of the proletariat and restore capitalism. Working madly to spread counter-revolutionary ideas, he again brought out his sinister book Self-Cultivation advertising idealism, stuff which opposed proletarian revolutionary practice and betrayed the dictatorship of the proletariat. Yang Xianzhen and company pitched in at once, raising an uproar and launching one vicious attack after another as though they really had a leg to stand on. They thus stirred up another open struggle concerning the question of the identity between thinking and being. Now Yang Xianzhen cast aside all disguises and came out into the open to vent his bitter hatred for the Party and the people, thus further exposing his savage renegade features.

Because they are decadent and moribund reactionaries and a handful of fools blinded by inordinate ambition, the enemies invariably miscalculate the situation. While they were in the midst of their wild counter-attacks, the proletarian headquarters headed by Chairman Mao sharply pointed out: Yang Xianzhen and company had for a long time deliberately distorted Engels' words to buttress up their reactionary fallacy and they had to be criticized. With the proletarian headquarters' guidance, Ai Siqi[1] and other comrades published articles exposing and criticizing theoretically and politically the fallacy that "there is no identity between thinking and being."

Chairman Mao issued the great call "Never forget class struggle" at the Tenth Plenary Session of the Party's Eighth Central Committee held in September 1962. He led the whole Party and nation in an all-out counter-attack against revisionism and the bourgeoisie. At this session, the proletarian headquarters headed by Chairman Mao also exposed and criticized the counter-revolutionary crimes of Yang Xianzhen and his cronies.

III

Instead of ceasing their counter-revolutionary activities after the Tenth Plenary Session of the Party's Eighth Central Committee, Yang Xianzhen and company used methods more clandestine than before in a last-ditch struggle, resorting to a series of plots to provoke the third open struggle.

In May 1963, Chairman Mao wrote “Where Do Correct Ideas Come From?” This was aimed at Khrushchevian revisionism abroad and the plot by Liu Shaoqi, Yang Xianzhen and their gang to oppose proletarian revolutionary practice and restore capitalism at home. This famous essay by Chairman Mao and his other brilliant writings thoroughly criticized their bourgeois idealism and metaphysics, and formulated the line and policies for unfolding the socialist education movement in both city and countryside. An advance on the Marxist theory of knowledge, Chairman Mao's “Where Do Correct Ideas Come From?” is a new generalization and a new development of this theory. It is also the scientific summary of the struggle on the philosophical front centering around the question of the identity between thinking and being.

Chairman Mao's great theory that "matter can be transformed into consciousness and consciousness into matter" was a body blow to Liu Shaoqi and Yang Xianzhen. They resisted it frantically. Liu Shaoqi trotted out a bourgeois reactionary line which was "Left" in form but Right in essence; he suppressed the masses, shielded the capitalist roaders and undermined the socialist education movement. At the same time, he wildly opposed the Marxist theory of knowledge and openly attacked the scientific method of investigation and study advocated by Chairman Mao.

Denying the transformation of matter into consciousness as well as that of consciousness into matter, he shouted: "It is idealism if one holds that all man-made things are preceded by ideas." Taking his cue from Liu Shaoqi, Yang Xianzhen maintained that, regarding the transformation of matter into consciousness and consciousness into matter, "such transformation cannot be achieved haphazardly" and "it cannot be applied at random." Here, Yang Xianzhen was making malicious insinuations to vilify as "idealism" the Marxist theory of knowledge developed by Chairman Mao.

In claiming that it was "idealism" to hold that there is identity between thinking and being, Yang Xianzhen was hurling vicious slanders and dressing himself up as a confirmed adherent of materialism. His shamelessness knew no bounds! In denying the identity between thinking and being, Yang Xianzhen denied the interconnection of matter and consciousness and their mutual transformation into each other based on practice. Thus he carved out an unbridgeable gap between matter and consciousness, and cut asunder the relationship between matter and consciousness and between practice and knowledge, making them unrelated to each other. In this way, he denied that consciousness stems from matter and that knowledge originates in practice. According to his absurd theory, consciousness and knowledge were like rivers without sources and trees without roots; they could only be something innate in the mind or something that had dropped from the sky. This was Kant's dualism and idealist transcendentalism pure and simple.

Yang Xianzhen never tired of talking about "being is primary, thinking is secondary," as though he was adhering to materialism. But this was unmitigated hypocrisy. Marxists not only acknowledge the objective world but, more important, they actively change it in accordance with its laws. To Yang Xianzhen, however, merely acknowledging that "being is primary, thinking is secondary" meant everything, and as long as one "acknowledges objective reality" everything would be all right and he "is a conscious materialist." Accordingly, "acknowledging objective reality" meant that if there was a nail before you, you had just to "acknowledge" its existence but never do anything about it. But could this be called "conscious materialism"? Not at all: It was "conscious" capitulationism, renegade philosophy through and through. If Yang Xianzhen's preaching were to be followed, people could only remain helpless before the objective world, they could only leave everything to fate and be docile tools. In the past decades, Liu Shaoqi, Yang Xianzhen and company had acted precisely in line with this kind of "materialism" and knuckled under time and again to the enemy.

Yang Xianzhen said he "acknowledges objective reality," but actually he and his like, because of their counter-revolutionary nature, turned a blind eye to the objective realities, stubbornly refusing to acknowledge the infinite superiority of socialism, the inexhaustible strength of the masses armed with Mao Zedong Thought, and the tremendous successes in China's socialist revolution and construction. To put it bluntly, what Yang Xianzhen meant when he said he "acknowledges objective reality," etc. was sheer deception. Whether he "acknowledged" something or not was determined entirely by the bourgeoisie's counter-revolutionary needs, and by whether this was favorable or not to the restoration of capitalism. Materialism in words and idealism in deeds - such was the essence of Yang Xianzhen's theory that "there is no identity between thinking and being."

Yang Xianzhen slandered those advocating the identity between thinking and being as "propagating the theory of Bernstein" and "brandishing Bernstein's weapon to oppose Marxism." Here he was merely acting the thief crying "Stop thief!" In exposing Bernstein's revisionism, Lenin said: "In the sphere of philosophy revisionism followed in the wake of bourgeois professorial 'science.' The professors went 'back to Kant' - and revisionism dragged along after the neo-Kantians" (Marxism and Revisionism). Bernstein made "amendments" to the Marxist theory of knowledge by deliberately distorting the identity between thinking and being into an idealist theory that "thinking and being are the same." He raved that materialism and idealism were alike and, though they proceeded from different viewpoints, both simply presumed that thinking and being were the same. It was by such rotten methods that Bernstein completely denied the identity between thinking and being. What Yang Xianzhen tried to smuggle in was simply Bernstein's trash. The only difference was that while Bernstein openly declared that he firmly supported Kant's viewpoint in principle, Yang Xianzhen sought to cover this up and did not dare say so in so many words. Thus we see it is no one but Yang Xianzhen himself who was "propagating the theory of Bernstein" and "brandishing Bernstein's weapon to oppose Marxism."

The publication of Chairman Mao's work “Where Do Correct Ideas Come From?” thwarted the plot of Yang Xianzhen and his gang who stirred up the third open struggle. But they still refused to give up. In March 1964, they published several reactionary articles which in a roundabout way propagated the reactionary theory that "there is no identity between thinking and being" and opposed the great theory that "matter can be transformed into consciousness and consciousness into matter." At the same time, in a desperate struggle, they turned up with the counter-revolutionary theory "combine two into one" to oppose the revolutionary dialectics of "one divides into two" and oppose the socialist education movement and the struggle against revisionism.

As soon as Yang Xianzhen's counter-revolutionary theory "combine two into one" appeared, the proletarian headquarters headed by Chairman Mao hit the nail on the head and exposed its real nature and led the people in openly criticizing him. Following this, the mass movement of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution swept Yang Xianzhen, along with his sinister master Liu Shaoqi and their bourgeois headquarters, onto the garbage heap of history. Finally, no matter what trickery Liu Shaoqi, Yang Xianzhen and their gang used or how desperately they resisted, their counter-revolutionary revisionist line and their metaphysics and idealism went bankrupt for good.

IV

Reviewing the struggle centering around the question of the identity between thinking and being, we can clearly see that the activities of Yang Xianzhen and his gang in this connection were an important component part of Liu Shaoqi's counter-revolutionary plot to restore capitalism. Philosophy always serves politics. One's world outlook determines the kind of philosophical thought he advances to serve his political line. We must respond to the call issued by the Second Plenary Session of the Party's Ninth Central Committee held in the second half of 1970, conscientiously study Marxism-Leninism and Chairman Mao's philosophical works and heighten our consciousness of the struggle between the two lines and strive to further consolidate the dictatorship of the proletariat.