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To Dialectical Materialism · 29 At the theoretical level, central propaganda officials raised three key objections to the article. First, it made no distinction between “revisionism” and “dogmatism,” because it impugned the two whatevers for dogmatism but failed to acknowledge its own revisionism. That is, the article only criticized the inflexible approach of the two whatevers and failed to recognize its own doctrinal deviation (a more severe blunder). Second, the article showed a one-sided understanding of Mao’s theory of practice, for it only stressed that theory originated from practice but ignored that theory also guided practice.

Chen Yonggui, former head of the Dazhai brigade and now a vice prime minister in charge of agriculture, To Dialectical Materialism · 27 was particularly dismayed by rural reform experiments being undertaken in Anhui and Sichuan. 26 These were serious charges in the political climate of early 1978, when the cult of Mao was still intact. As the whatever group’s high ground rested on its role as the guardian of Mao’s word, it became clear from the exchanges of rhetoric that the fundamental question that must be resolved was indeed the one raised by Deng: how should Mao Zedong Thought be upheld?

55 In contrast to the epistemological focus of the first debate, the second debate focused on the concrete issue of whether recent economic reforms had deviated from Mao’s thought. The debate lasted until February 1980, when the “little Gang of Four” was ousted at the second session of the Fifth National People’s Congress (NPC). 56 In sum, an elite controversy over the policy of two whatevers led to a debate over the appropriate attitude toward Mao’s legacy, resulting in a repudiation of an allegedly mistaken approach to established theory and practice and of the substance of a radical ideology.

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