In 1976, after the death of Zhou Enlai, the Gang of Four initiated the Criticize Deng and Oppose the Rehabilitation of Right-leaning Elements campaign. As part of this campaign they passed around pamphlets titled Criticism of the Three Poisonous Weeds, which laid down guidelines for mass criticism. The “weeds” themselves were included as appendices. According to the People’s Daily of July 7, 1977, these comprised:
- a full draft of “On the General Programme”
- the third section of the first draft of “The Outline Report”
- one of the several drafts of “Some Problems in Accelerating Industrial Development” (a copy full of errors and omissions)
The campaign implied Deng Xiaoping authored the documents, but they were understood to be likely formulated in collaboration with other members of the State Council such as Hua Guofeng and Li Xiannian. According to the the author of The Case of the Gang of Four (1977), who included the documents as appendices to that work, “this set of documents was found to be far from being ‘poisonous weeds’ by many of the people who read them. Some people even refer to them as ‘three fragrant flowers’ privately.”
This is a sub-selection from On the General Program of Work for the Whole Party and the Whole Nation. The document is quite long, but several sections seemed notable to me. In hopes that more people read it, I chose to excerpt my favourite parts into a shorter read. I found the selection of references from Mao — as well as some Lenin and Engels — very interesting, as they constitute a compelling theoretical justification for the direction taken by the Party.
This document should be read critically, understanding the context in which it was written and presented. Liu Shaoqi, a figure deemed villainous throughout the Cultural Revolution, is in this document damned in no uncertain terms. However, he was rehabilitated by Deng Xiaoping and the Communist Party of China not shortly thereafter, in 1980. Similarly, the Gang of Four is an obvious target of the attacks against Lin Biao here, and the document in many ways foreshadows their downfall, but this is never made explicit. Readers have to decide for themselves whether these constitute shrewd political trade-offs under duress or crass examples of latent opportunism.
The document was presented without footnotes, so I’ve attempted to track down the source of every cited statement.
Chairman Mao taught us:
The correctness or incorrectness of the ideological and political line determines everything. If one’s line is incorrect, one’s downfall is inevitable. With the correct line, the Party will gain everything; even if one has not a single soldier at first, there will be soldiers; if one has no guns, there will be guns; and even if there is no political power, political power will be gained. 
The program used by Lin Biao to carry out his counter-revolutionary coup d’etat was completely opposed to this Marxist program. It was based on the idea that with political power one has everything, but without political power one loses everything. The danger was that under the cloak of Marxism this bourgeois careerist and conspirator raised his reactionary program to the level of theory. This provided ideological weapons to those followers who “pursue fame in the government and wealth in the market.” At the same time, many of our good comrades were deceived and let down their vigilance against these despicable schemes to usurp Party and state power. We must deeply criticize, expose, and repudiate this reactionary program, and thoroughly wipe out its market.
The working class is the leading class in our country. All Party members and cadres must adhere to Chairman Mao’s directive, “wholeheartedly rely on the working class,” and strengthen the unity of the entire working class. During the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, Chairman Mao pointed out:
Within the working class, there is no basic clash of interests. Under the proletarian dictatorship, the working class has absolutely no reason to split into two hostile factional organizations. 
He also said,
The two factions should talk less of each other’s weaknesses and mistakes. Let the others talk about their own weaknesses and mistakes. Each side ought to do more self-criticism, seeking general agreement and leaving minor differences intact. 
Following these directives of Chairman Mao, the overwhelming majority of industrial and mining enterprises and operational units have long brought about a revolutionary alliance and the great unity of the working class. It is now nine years since the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, yet in some places and units there are still people who try to split the working class and stir up bourgeois factionalism. They do not rely on the entire working class but rather on this or that “mountain stronghold” built up by them. Within the working class, they still engage in drawing “demarcation lines from one’s own position,” glorifying those who agree with them as “being in the right camp” and “revolutionary,” while branding those who disagree with them as “being in the wrong camp” and “not revolutionary.” They even label veteran workers and exemplary people as “conservatives” and “restoration forces.” They openly oppose “each doing more self-criticism.” They engage in metaphysics in a big way; affirm everything that they do without ever being self-critical, but negate everything other people do, and are always eager to suppress them. Those who do not agree with them are labelled “mediators” who practice “the Doctrine of the Mean.” Their aim is to sabotage the unity of the working class, usurp power, and seek hegemony for their group. All of this is completely wrong.
Chairman Mao taught us,
The masses in any given place are generally composed of three parts: the relatively active, the intermediate and the relatively backward. 
A similar situation exists within the working class. In our work, we must rely on the advanced elements as the backbone, bring forward the middle forces, help and educate the backward, unite with them, and march forward together. The differences among the three groups of people within the working class are not rigid and unchangeable. Under certain conditions, they may change. Among the active groups, some elements will fall behind and even be corrupted. We must “continuously strengthen the backbone by replacing them with new elements brought up through the struggle.” The aim of doing things this way is to meet the needs of the revolutionary struggle and the struggle for production, and to continuously raise the level of consciousness and organizing abilities of the entire working class. This is diametrically opposed to the style of work of those anti-Marxist class enemies who sabotage the unity of the working class.
To bring about the unity of the Party, the working class, and the nationalities of the whole country, it is essential to further implement the Party’s various policies, including the policies on cadres, intellectuals, scientific and technical personnel, nationalities, economics, and those concerning the resolving of contradictions within the working class. Only in this way can we promote stability and unity in the whole country and “create a political situation in which we have both centralism and democracy, both discipline and freedom, both unity of will and personal ease of mind and liveliness, and thus promote our socialist revolution and socialist construction.” 
As Chairman Mao pointed out, the goal of the dictatorship of the proletariat is to “protect all our people so that they can devote themselves to peaceful labour and make China a socialist country with modern industry, modern agriculture, and modern science and culture.”  Studying the theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat and concretely implementing its tasks at the grassroots level; correctly distinguishing and handling the two different types of contradictions; and promoting unity and stability in the whole country belong to the tasks of adjusting the socialist superstructure. Developing the national economy belongs to the tasks of strengthening the socialist economic base. The relationship between these tasks is the relationship between revolution and production, between politics and economics, and between the superstructure and the economic base.
Marxism holds that, within the contradictions between the productive forces and the relations of production, between practice and theory, and between the economic base and the superstructure, the productive forces, practice, and the economic base generally play the principal and decisive role. Whoever denies this is not a materialist. But under certain conditions, such aspects as the relations of production, theory, and the superstructure in turn manifest themselves in the principal and decisive role. This does not go against materialism. On the contrary, it avoids mechanical materialism and firmly upholds dialectical materialism.
Our country at present is still a developing socialist country. It is still at the historical stage where classes, class contradictions, and class struggle still exist. Under these conditions, Chairman Mao taught us to place prime importance on the study of the theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat to combat and prevent revisionism. He repeatedly reminded the whole party that politics is the commander and soul,
Political work is the life-blood of all economic work. This is particularly true at a time when the social and economic system is undergoing fundamental change. 
If we neglect the study of theory and the leadership role played by politics, then, all our work will definitely go astray. As Lenin said,
Politics must take precedence over economics. To argue otherwise is to forget the ABC of Marxism. 
He also said,
The only formulation of the issue (which the Marxist standpoint allows) is: without a correct political approach to the matter the given class will be unable to stay on top, and, consequently, will be incapable of solving its production problem either. 
Adhering to Marxist theory, we criticize the theory of productive forces peddled by political swindlers such as Liu Shaoqi. The core of their fallacy lies in their saying that after the completion of the socialist revolution in the ownership of the means of production, the principal contradiction in the country is no longer that between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, or between socialism and capitalism, but that between the progressive relations of production and the backward social productive forces. From this, they draw the conclusion that developing social productive forces has replaced carrying out the revolution as the main task. Their vicious motive is to use the theory of dying out of class struggle to blindfold everyone so that they can restore capitalism. Criticizing this theory of productive forces is completely correct and imperative. We have to criticize it today, and continue to do so in the future.
On the surface, political swindlers like Lin Biao appear to be the opposite of Liu Shaoqi and at the other extreme. But in reality they only follow different paths to achieve the same goal. Lin Biao completely dichotomized politics and economics and distorted the leadership role of politics to mean politics can combat everything. Under the cover of phrases like “never forget class struggle; never forget proletarian dictatorship; never forget putting politics in a prominent position,” Lin Biao used bourgeois politics to combat proletarian politics, proletarian dictatorship, socialist economy, national plans, enterprise management, and discipline in production. This caused serious losses in socialist production and construction in several places and units. While we are criticizing Liu Shaoqi’s theory of productive forces, we should also sharply criticize Lin Biao’s theory of politics being able to combat everything. We should thoroughly clean out the poison in this type of reactionary fallacies.
We must follow Chairman Mao’s teachings and understand dialectically the unity-of-opposites between politics and economics. While we must recognize the leading role of politics, we must also recognize that political work is the guarantee for accomplishing economic work and serves the economic base. But some of our comrades are still using metaphysics in dealing with the relationship between politics and economics and between revolution and production. They always separate politics from economics and revolution from production. They talk only about politics and revolution but not about economics and production. As soon as they hear someone talking about properly grasping production and developing economic construction, they put a “theory of productive forces” hat on him and say that he is practising revisionism. This point of view can never stand on its feet.
This point of view is, in fact, nothing new. It was flaunted during that period in the Second Revolutionary Civil War when Wang Ming’s “left” opportunism was a dominant political line. Chairman Mao, in his article Pay Attention to Economic Work, sternly criticized this incorrect point of view:
Some comrades have thought it impossible to spare time for economic construction because the revolutionary war keeps people busy enough, and they have condemned anyone arguing for it as a “Right deviationist.” […] It is utterly wrong to think that no economic construction should be undertaken in the midst of the revolutionary war. Those who think this way often say that everything should be subordinated to the war effort, but they fail to understand that to dispense with economic construction would weaken rather than subordinate everything to the war effort. Only by extending the work on the economic front and building the economy of the Red areas can we provide an adequate material basis for the revolutionary war, proceed smoothly with our military offensives and strike effective blows at the enemy’s “encirclement and suppression” campaigns. 
Even in the difficult years of the revolutionary war, Chairman Mao still placed importance on economic construction and on strengthening the material basis for the revolutionary war. Now that our country has become a socialist country under the dictatorship of the proletariat, conditions within the country permit us to carry out peaceful construction. We are, however, facing the threat of subversion and invasion by imperialism and social-imperialism. Should we not seize the time, redouble our efforts, develop the national economy as quickly as possible, and strengthen the material basis for socialism?
At the end of the period of the War of Resistance Against Japan, Chairman Mao, in summarizing the experiences of the rectification campaign and the great production campaign, pointed out that these widespread campaigns “which began in 1942 and 1943 respectively have played and are still playing a decisive role, the one in our ideological and the other in our material life. Unless we grasp these two links at the right time, we shall be unable to grasp the whole chain of the revolution, and our struggle will not advance.” 
While these campaigns were developing, Chairman Mao criticized the incorrect tendency of separating the two links — rectification and production — and ignoring production and economic work. In his report Economic and Financial Problems, Chairman Mao accurately pointed out the ideological roots of this wrong tendency. He said,
The reason they still do not understand it is because they have been poisoned by the deceitful corrupting words off metaphysicisis like Dong Zhongshu, “Conform to the required meets and do not seek gain, be concerned with the way and do not plan for merit,” and have not yet cast them fully aside. It is also because they consider politics, Party and army affairs come first and are most important, while economic work, although also important, is not important to the same degree. They feel that they themselves do not have to divide their attention or to give much attention by being concerned. 
He pointed out that in the two tasks of rectification and production,
Education (or study) cannot be carried out alone. We are not in a time when “official rank lies in study.” We cannot go and “conform to the requirements and illuminate the way” with hungry stomachs. We must get food to eat. We must pay attention to economic work. Talking of education or study separately from economic work is merely using superfluous and empty words. Talking of “revolution” separately from economic work is like making revolution against the Finance Department and against yourselves. The enemy will not be in the least hurt by you. 
How wonderful are these words of Chairman Mao! How accurate, vivid, and lively they are! Shouldn’t our comrades who have been neglecting production follow Chairman Mao’s directives and seriously examine their own words and actions? If they are still unmoved after hearing these words, doesn’t it prove that they are poisoned by the “idealist, deceptive, and decadent words” of Confucius and Mencius? Shouldn’t we then thoroughly cleanse out this poison?
Revolution is liberating the productive forces. Revolution is promoting the development of productive forces. We Chinese Communists must be responsible for revolution as well as for production. We must clear from our heads such muddled concepts as “grasping revolution is good insurance, while grasping production is dangerous;” “revolution is extremely important, but production is not;” “he who grasps revolution has it made, he who grasps production has had it.” We must rely on the working class, the poor and lower middle peasants, revolutionary cadres, revolutionary intellectuals, and other revolutionary elements; unite all the forces that can be united; resolutely carry out the policy of “grasping revolution, promoting production and other work, and promoting war preparations;” and reaily grasp revolution and production in our own areas and units. We must not be superstitious nor fearful, but must carry out our tasks boldly.
The people in Daqing put it rather well. They said,
Struggle with heaven, struggle with earth, struggle with class enemies, and struggle with incorrect ideas.
The people in Dazhai also made a good point saying,
We must not only talk a lot about revolution, but we must also make revolution in a big way. Only talking revolution is not really revolutionary. We must not only talk a lot about socialism, but we must also build socialism in a big way. All talk and no action is not really developing socialism. This is a truth we learned from twenty-odd years of struggle and practice.
We must master the revolutionary thinking and fervor of Daqing and Dazhai in grasping revolution and promoting production. “We should maintain the strength, the revolutionary fervor and the daring spirit of the Revolutionary War Period and carry out revolutionary work through to the end.” We must reach the point where we are doing well in both revolution and production, so that the revolutionary situation in our own areas and units becomes better and better, and production and construction flourish daily.
Lenin once said,
The only criterion of the results of political education is the improvement achieved in industry and agriculture. 
Chairman Mao also said,
In the last analysis, the impact, good or bad, great or small, of the policy and the practice of any Chinese political party upon the people depends on whether and how much it helps to develop their productive forces, and on whether it fetters or liberates these forces. 
How does one distinguish between genuine and sham Marxism, between the correct and incorrect line, between making revolution and faking revolution, between making socialism and faking socialism, between good and bad, or big and small, results of our cadres’ work? In the final analysis, one can only measure with that standard put forward by Lenin and Chairman Mao.
It is purely nonsense to say that a certain place or work unit is carrying out revolution very well when production is fouled up. The view that once revolution is grasped, production will increase naturally and without spending any effort is believed only by those who indulge in fairy tales.
Chairman Mao said,
Class struggle, productive struggle, and scientific experiment are three great revolutionary movements for the construction of a great socialist country the safeguard for a communist against bureaucratism, revisionism, and dogmatism so that he can be ever victorious, and the dependable guarantee for the proletariat to unite with other broad working masses to carry out democratic dictatorship. 
These three revolutionary movements are linked together. We take class struggle as the key link in order to develop the struggle for production and scientific experimentation. However, these three major movements also have their own characteristics and laws governing them. They have their particular contradictions which we have to solve. Even though we have mastered the characteristics and laws of class struggle, and solved its particular contradictions, it still doesn’t mean that we have mastered the characteristics and laws of the struggle for production and scientific experimentation. It doesn’t mean that we have solved the particular contradictions in these two major revolutionary movements. We have to put in sustained effort and carry out a series of tasks in order to study and solve these contradictions.
Therefore, if we want to develop our national economy, our cadres must learn to carry out the struggle for production and scientific experimentation as well as class struggle. We must know our work as well as politics. Chairman Mao said,
In the relationship between politics and work, politics plays the main and prime role. We must oppose the tendency of neglecting politics. But it also doesn’t work if we do not know any business or operational skills. Our comrades, whether they are in industry, agriculture, commerce or culture and education, should learn a bit of business and operational skills so that they familiarize themselves with the field and become both red and expert. 
All cadres should conscientiously carry out Chairman Mao’s directive, set an example for others and lead the broad masses and scientific and technical personnel onto the road of being red and expert.
To develop our national economy, we must follow the guidance of Chairman Mao’s revolutionary line and study seriously the objective laws of our country’s socialist construction and the respective order of agriculture, light industry, and heavy industry. We must place agriculture in the lead and properly manage the distribution and relations among the different economic departments. We must achieve an overall comprehensive balance, work out a unified national plan. and carry it out. In the process of implementing our national plan, new contradictions and imbalances will appear every month and every year. These require our continued analysis to resolve the new contradictions and achieve new balances. The continuous emergence and resolution of contradictions is a dialectical law that must be followed in our economic work.
To develop the national economy, every enterprise, department and work unit must set up and strengthen a strict system of regulations. This system of regulations, so necessary in the struggle for production and scientific experimentation, is the crystallization of the many years of experiences of the working people and scientific and technical personnel, a lot of them are obtained with the price of blood. We certainly cannot regard such things as superfluous. Moreover we cannot condemn without any analysis all systems of regulations as instruments to “control, squeeze, and suppress” the workers. Only by following this system of regulations necessitated by the developing struggle for production can we obtain more freedom in this struggle. Going against this system of regulations will certainly bring disaster.
The designation of responsibilities is the nucleus of the system of regulations for enterprises. We must make the establishment of responsibilities an important link in the rectification of enterprise management. There must be someone responsible for every piece of work and every position. There must be clear responsibilities for every cadre, worker, and technician. We must strengthen political and ideological work. We must increase the sense of responsibility among the cadres and masses and make adherence to this system of regulations a conscious act of the masses.
In the article On Authority, Engels pointed out:
If mankind, by dint of science and its inventive genius, has bent the forces of nature to its will, the latter avenge themselves by subjecting humanity, insofar as it employs them, to a true despotism independent of all social organisation. Abolishing authority in large-scale industry means wanting to abolish industry itself, destroying the power loom in order to return to the spinning wheel. 
What he meant is the following: As production, science, and technology become more developed, the required system of regulations which reflects such developments become more tightly knit. Also the demand to strictly follow this system of regulations become greater. Those regulations that do not meet the demands of such developments will have to be reformed in good time. Otherwise, they will hinder the development of production, science and technology. Not only is this so in capitalist society, it is also the same in socialist society and will be the same in the future communist society. Whether we are setting up a new regulations system, or reforming an old one, we have to rely on the masses, gather together collective opinions, and make a decision according to the objective laws of the development of the struggle for production. If we just go ahead following our subjective whims, we will create, in production management, an anarchistic situation where no one is in charge and with no organization nor discipline. This will certainly be punished by objective laws. Just as Chairman Mao pointed out, “Anarchy does not accord with the interests or wishes of the people.” 
To develop the national economy, the leadership at all levels has to simultaneously grasp production and people’s livelihood. We have to pay attention to the political life of the masses as well as their material life, and gradually improve the livelihood of the masses on the basis of developing production. We have to give a place of importance on our agenda to the problems arising in the daily lives of the masses. Anything that can be solved should be done by mobilizing the masses and relying on our own efforts. Chairman Mao taught us a long time ago,
Do we want to win the support of the masses? Do we want them to devote their strength to the front? If so, we must be with them, arouse their enthusiasm and initiative, be concerned with their well-being, work earnestly and sincerely in their interests and solve all their problems of production and everyday life — the problems of salt, rice, housing, clothing, childbirth, etc. If we do so, the masses will surely support us and regard the revolution as their most glorious banner, as their very life. 
Chairman Mao has repeated many times that as industry prospers, the relative weight of industry in the whole economy will increase, and more attention will have to be paid to the development of agriculture. But even now a few cities and industrial and mining areas are still lacking in non-staple food supply. The leaders in these places do not learn from advanced units like Daqing, nor do they work on their own, gather experience, mobilize the masses, and grasp agriculture well. They have consistently ignored and delayed the solution of these problems so important to the lives of the masses. What a difference this is from Chairman Mao’s directives on “being concerned about the well-being of the masses” and “working earnestly and sincerely in the interest of the masses.” We should all seriously think about this.
We must criticize the idealist theory of apriorism and persist in the materialist theory of reflection. Party committees at all levels should often carry out investigations, understand situations, and make concrete analyses. We must seek truth from facts and stand against reporting the good but not the bad. We advocate telling the truth and not lies. We must gain some experience and go deeper in order to push forward the whole situation. This way we will truly have the overall situation in mind while keeping typical examples at our fingertips. We should know that there are no born geniuses in the world. Any leading cadre who is floating on the surface and divorced from practice cannot acquire the knowledge and ability to build socialism. Experience is essential for cadres and can only be accumulated after going through many years of practice. As long as one does not take one’s partial experiences as the universal truth, and pays attention to summing up experiences and raising them to a higher level, then these kinds of experiences are very precious. We must remember well Chairman Mao’s teaching:
However great a man may be, his thoughts, views, plans and methods are a mere reflection of the objective world and the raw materials and half-digested facts [for this conceptualization] come from the practice of the masses or his own scientific experiments. His mind is only a processing plant in which finished products are manufactured. Otherwise it is utterly useless. The usefulness and correctness of such finished products are tested by the popular masses. Unless our comrades understand this, they will bang their heads on a nail. 
We must criticize the bad style of work of being divorced from the masses and manual labor, becoming an overlord official, and making special exceptions for oneself. We must advocate plain living, hard struggle, and sharing joys and sorrows with the masses. We must persist in the system of cadres participating in collective productive labor. Chairman Mao said:
By taking part in collective productive labour, the cadres maintain extensive, constant and close ties with the working people. This is a major measure of fundamental importance for a socialist system; it helps to overcome bureaucracy and to prevent revisionism and dogmatism. 
Our comrades should always be vigilant against this kind of danger and should, as stipulated by the Party and state, consciously participate in collective labor and maintain the broadest, closest, and most constant contact with the masses.
We should criticize the bad habits of being self-important, self-righteous, conceited, domineering, and hasty in reprimanding people. We should hold on to the fine style of work of being modest and prudent, and shun complacency and impetuosity. It is precious to understand oneself. We should be strict in analyzing ourselves and should always apply the principle of “one dividing into two” to our own work. We should dare to persist in the truth and be brave in correcting errors. We should avoid being fond of hearing only praises but not criticisms. We should not get angry at criticisms and, moreover, should not attack or seek vengeance on persons making criticisms. Our comrades should understand that errors cannot be avoided as long as we are doing work. It is not a bad thing to make a serious selfcriticism and sincerely accept other people’s criticisms after making an error. This definitely will not harm. but can only strengthen the confidence comrades and people have in us. This is beneficial both to oneself and to the revolutionary cause. “Don’t be upset after making errors. Our Party allows one to make a self-examination and to correct the error.” All comrades with the Party spirit should handle matters according to this rule.
The Communist Party of China, armed with the theory and ideology of Marxism-Leninism, has developed through the Chinese people these fine styles of work: Integrating theory with practice, closely integrating with the masses, and making self-criticisms. Our Party has become a “spirited vanguard organization leading the proletariat and the revolutionary masses to battle against class enemies” precisely because we practice these styles of work. The renegade and traitor Lin Biao at one time wantonly tried to sabotage our Party’s fine styles of work. Some of the comrades were certainly affected by this harmful influence. Our task is to clean up Lin Biao’s influence and continue to maintain and foster the Party’s three fine styles of work in accordance with Chairman Mao’s directives, especially the relevant ones made after the Cultural Revolution.
Our great socialist motherland has already gone through 26 glorious years of struggles with enemies at home and abroad. Although imperialism blockaded us for a long time, social-imperialism tried repeatedly to subvert us, and opportunist and revisionist lines interfered and disrupted us several times, the entire people, under the leadership of the Communist Party of China headed by our great leader Chairman Mao, did not retreat but continued to advance along the proletarian revolutionary line. The socialist revolution and socialist construction won great victories after victories.
At present, our socialist motherland is at a very crucial period of historical development. If we take Chairman Mao’s three important directives as the key link, carry out well the rectification work on all fronts, and continue to be independent and self-reliant, then we certainly can accomplish the lofty goal of building our country’ into a powerful socialist country, and certainly can liberate Taiwan and complete the great task of unifying the motherland.
Our cause is just. No enemy can subvert a just cause.