Tsinghua University: Mass Debate Brings Changes-1976


THE mass debate concerning the revolution in education in Peking’s Tsinghua University has brought many changes since it started last November. Last summer, a small number of persons who clung to the revisionist line that prevailed in the university before the Great Cultural Revolution echoed the absurd views then circulating in educational circles and whipped up a Right deviationist wind to reverse previous verdicts and oppose the educational revolution. Their aim was to restore the old educational system.

What is the proletarian line in education? And what is the bourgeois line? Should or shouldn’t a socialist university become an instrument of the proletarian dictatorship? It is on these major questions that a sharp struggle is focused, reflecting diametrically opposed viewpoints between the majority of leading cadres, teachers, students and workers on the one hand and a handful of people on the other.

Party-Led Debate

The debate is going on in an organized and planned way under the unified leadership of the Party. From the outset and at every important stage of development in the debate, Party organizations at all levels in Tsinghua have adhered to the correct ideological and political line. They have displayed the leading and organizational role of the Party and at the same time shown faith in and relied o the faculty and students by fully mobilizing them. Many young cadres who have come to the fore in the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution are daring and good at thrashing out the issues and have in the course of this struggle shown their mettle. Some old cadres who were once criticized by the masses during the Cultural Revolution are taking part in the debate with renewed vigour. “The present debate,” they said, “has deepened our understanding that to correctly assess the Great Cultural Revolution and to take the correct attitude towards the masses and oneself is the now starting point of continuing the revolution.”

To deepen the mass debate step by step, the university Party committee has seen to it that mass revolutionary enthusiasm is channelled into the right course and it has promptly supported and spread the new things created by the masses. The mass debate has fired the faculty members, students and workers with still greater enthusiasm to study revolutionary theory. They have assiduously studied works on the theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat by Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin and by Chairman Mao.

They have also studied Chairman Mao’s teachings on the revolution in education, reviewed his instructions concerning the Cultural Revolution and arrived at a more profound understanding through study and applying what they have learnt to the struggle. Intensive study of revolutionary theory gives the current debate a clear line of orientation in accordance with Chairman Mao’s teachings and adds to the far-reaching significance of this debate. A leading member of the university Party committee said: “Today’s struggle may arise again and again in the future. We must not only win this struggle but, more important, we should help educate the masses and arm them with Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought. Once Chairman Mao’s revolutionary line takes root in the minds of the people, we will have no fear of revisionism because the masses who have a high level of political consciousness will rise to oppose and defeat it.”

Changes in Ideology

The mass debate is a profound ideological revolution. How do worker-peasant-soldier students train themselves to be good fighters in combating and preventing revisionism? The university’s recent graduates have given a definite reply: “Break with the ideology of bourgeois right, break with the old traditional ideas and go to the border areas, the countryside and places where the Party and the people need us most.” In a letter to the Chinese people’s great leader Chairman Mao, they expressed their determination to persist in continued revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat through to the end. This fully reflects the new outlook of the new generation. From the example set by these graduates, students still studying in the university know clearly what road they should follow.

A student from the Chingkang Mountains region in Kiangsi had the honour of seeing Chairman Mao who revisited the place in 1965. Greatly inspired by Chairman Mao’s newly published poem Chingkangskan Revisited, this student pledged to do his best to remould his ideology and study still harder while at school. He submitted an application to the Party organization of his department asking to return to his native place after graduation so as to contribute his share in building up the old revolutionary base area where China’s revolutionary forerunners fought courageously in the past. Faculty members in Tsinghua have joined the students in the current struggle to defend the fruits of the proletarian revolution in education. They are of the view: “We should do well in our major subject— class struggle — and put the task of combating and preventing revisionism above everything else.”

Teachers engaged in designing have put forward the proposal: “Let’s do away with the barrier separating physical and mental labour! We designers should go to factories and work-sites to take part in manual labour while the workers should be invited to take part in designing.” Teachers of the civil engineering design section in the Engineering Physics Department took the initiative to leave their offices and join the building workers’ teams. The Party organization approved the integration of the two units. More than 20 members of this faculty are now in a boiler factory designing a D.C. boiler. In the wake of the mass debate, great changes have also taken place in the outlook of the university’s more than 180 full and associate professors. They have come to a clearer understanding of the urgent need to remould their world outlook and combat and prevent revisionism.

An elderly professor said; “From my 60 years’ experience I have come to realize what is real concern and love for intellectuals. Anyone who wants to sow discord between the Party and the intellectuals is merely wasting his energy.” An old professor in the Architectural Engineering Department said: “The so-called proficient students I trained in the past were full of bourgeois ideas after six years’ study. They only wanted to seek personal fame and gain. To them, theory was divorced from practice; as a result, they knew how to design but nothing about putting up buildings. The worker-peasant-soldier students today have a high level of political consciousness and they know how to design and to build. The revolution in education is necessary not only for training successors to the revolutionary cause of the proletariat but also for remoulding the world outlook of old intellectuals like us.”

Work Promoted

With class struggle as the key link, the mass debate has promoted unity and the revolution in education as well as other work in the university. Chairman Mao has pointed out: “Stability and unity do not mean writing off class struggle; class struggle is the key link and everything else hinges on it.” The truth of these words of Chairman Mao’s has been borne out by events in Tsinghua. In the earlier period, the hodgepodge spread by the Right deviationists trying to reverse previous verdicts created ideological confusion. However, the mass debate has later helped clearly mark out the two lines and enabled everyone to see which is right and which is wrong, thereby achieving a new ideological unity throughout the university.

This has further stimulated the socialist enthusiasm of teachers and students alike. Taking class struggle as the key link, they are now trying their best to do all work well. While writing big-character posters and taking an active part in the debate, they have not slackened their efforts in teaching and studying, doing scientific research and running classes in an open-door way. Open-door schooling and the other new things that have made their appearance in the educational revolution are being consolidated and improved through the mass debate. Last year, over 4,000 teachers and students went to more than 100 factories, villages, P.L.A. units and construction sites. They conducted classes there, while taking part in physical labour. Since the mass debate started, they have carried out debates alongside the teaching and study in these places. Summing up their experience, they are now more convinced than ever that “education should be revolutionized.”

The mass debate also has invigorated lecturing and studying and scientific research. Of the more than 200 scientific research items started last year, 145 have been completed. Among these, 69 filled in gaps in China’s science and technology and some reached advanced world standards. The graduates’ high-standard theses and reports were praised by the relevant scientific research institutes. Unlike the purely theoretical papers written by students before the Cultural Revolution, their papers integrated theory with practice and brought tangible results. Before these papers were read, the machines they had designed already were operating in workshops. The university-run factories fulfilled their production plan ahead of schedule. By December 25 last year, they had met their 1975 production quotas which doubled the 1974 figure.

Peking Review, No. 7, February 13, 1976

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