As we deal with the question of how Chinese revisionism broke away with the Maoist principle of indivisibility of matter, let's take a deeper look at Deng Xiaoping's conception of science.
It was this conception that was the main tool to promote and make triumph revisionism. This reactionary ideological weapon must be understood, so to not come to the same revisionism which consists as seeing Marxism as a “method”.
Deng Xiaoping should not be considered as an “individual” who has betrayed, but as the carrier of a whole vision of the world. After Mao Zedong's death, he had a bourgeois way to “understand” Maoism, so to reorganize the state following the needs of the bourgeoisie.
This bourgeois way consists mainly in a particular understanding of science; let's see in which positions it consisted... or consists, as there are still “Maoists” who are in fact hidden dengists.
The thesis of the neutrality of research and decisions from above
According to dialectical materialism, thought is the reflect of the movement of matter; communists struggle so that this thought is conform to reality.
Once the eternal movement of matter rejected, there is no space for such a conception. There would be no thought, but only a battle and a construction. Marxism would be a “method” and because of this, what is needed is not a revolutionary cadre at each level, but an “expert”.
That is why Deng Xiaoping could promote socialism “by above”, like when he says:
“We should select several thousand of our most qualified personnel from within the scientific and technological establishment and create conditions that will allow them to devote their undivided attention to research.” (Respect Knowledge, Respect Trained Personnel, May 24, 1977)
This approach is seeing “science” as neutral in its content and development.
In another document, Deng Xiaoping explains:
“Everyone who works, whether with his hands or with his brain, is part of the working people in a socialist society (…).
The Gang of Four distorted the division of labour between mental and manual work in our society today, misrepresenting it as a class antagonism. Their aim was to attack and persecute intellectuals, undermine the alliance between the workers and peasants and the intellectuals, damage the productive forces, and sabotage our socialist revolution and construction.
Science and technology are part of the productive forces.” (Speech At the Opening Ceremony of the National Conference On Science, March 18, 1978)
Deng Xiaoping against the GRCP
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution hold precisely the contrary. It was not only an attempt to block a reactionary restoration; the GRCP was a way to advance in the fields of dialectical materialism.
In the GRCP, science and technology were considered as manner to approach reality, and in this way they are not “productive forces”, but ideological choices, reflecting a class nature. The people's communes have nothing to do with the capitalist China of the 2000's.
Deng Xiaoping was well aware of that, as he was the main enemy of the GRCP. But if he managed to take the lead of China after Mao's death, it was because he managed to take an aspect of Maoism – the development of the country – but to transform it in the sense of a pragmatic development.
That is why revisionism could succeed: it appeared as an amelioration of the situation, reorganizing apparently the economy, but in fact changing it. Here is how Deng Xiaoping explains his own view:
“The “Cultural Revolution” was really a gross error. However, our Party was able to smash the counter-revolutionary cliques of Lin Biao and the Gang of Four and put an end to the “Cultural Revolution” and it has continued to advance ever since. (…)
Now, when we speak of setting things right, we mean that we should undo the damage done by Lin Biao and the Gang of Four, criticize the mistakes Comrade Mao Zedong made in his later years, and put things back on the right track of Mao Zedong Thought.” (Talk with some leading comrades of the Central Committee, October 25, 1980)
Deng Xiaoping about science and production
The tactical trick of Deng Xiaoping was so to assimilate science and production. It is very near from soviet revisionism: as the productive forces growing are the proof of the development of socialism, then everything helping this is “socialist”.
What counts is not the choice of how and what is to be produced, but production in itself. It is a mechanical bourgeois conception, only satisfying the necessity of capital to develop itself.
Here is how Deng Xiaoping explains this:
“The first point is the necessity of understanding that science and technology are part of the productive forces. The Gang of Four raised a hue and cry over this, confounding right and wrong and sowing much confusion in people’s minds.
Marxism has consistently treated science and technology as part of the productive forces. More than a century ago, Marx said that expansion of the use of machinery in production requires the conscious application of natural science.
Science too, he said, is among the productive forces.
The development of modern science and technology has bound science and production ever more tightly together. It is becoming increasingly clear that science and technology are of tremendous significance as productive forces. (Speech At the Opening Ceremony of the National Conference On Science, March 18, 1978)
Deng Xiaoping's conception only served the capital.