Liu Shaoqi

How to Be a Good Communist


IX. Attitudes Towards Wrong Ideology in the Party and Towards Inner-Party Struggle

The influences exerted by the exploiting classes and the petty bourgeoisie, the existence of different strata within the working class and the differences in the class background of our Party members give rise to different ideas among them, to certain differences in viewpoints, habits and sentiments, in world outlook and moral values, and differences in the way they look at and think about things in general and the problems of the revolution in particular.

Some people in our Party are able to view issues as developing and interrelated, but others habitually view them statistically and in isolation. The former are able to grasp matters comprehensively and objectively and hence to draw correct conclusions that can serve us as correct guide lines to action. As for the latter, some of them only see or over emphasize this side of a thing, while others only see and over emphasize the other side; both fail to view problems comprehensively and objectively in accordance with the laws of the development and interrelationship of objective phenomena, and both take a one-sided, subjective view of problems. Hence, they are unable to arrive at correct conclusions or chart the right course for our actions.

The differences among Party members in their approach to problems lead to different ways of handling problems, to divergences and controversies are bound to become especially acute at turning points in the revolution, or when the struggle grows in intensity and hardship mount.

Therefore, the crux of the matter is not whether there are differences of thought and opinion within the Party, since such differences always exist. The crux of the matter is how to resolve contradictions, settle differences and overcome all kinds of incorrect, non-proletarian thinking. Obviously, it is only through inner-Party struggle that such contradictions can be resolved, differences settled and incorrect thinking overcome. As Engels put it, “In the long run the contradictions are never slurred over, but always fought out.”1

Different people hold different views and take different attitudes with regard to shortcomings, mistakes and other undesirable phenomena in our Party.

People of one kind do not or will not see shortcomings, mistakes and other undesirable phenomena in our Party, but blindly believe that there is scarcely anything wrong in it; hence they relax their vigilance and slacken their struggle their struggle against these phenomena. People of another kind see nothing, or hardly anything, except these undesirable phenomena and fail to see how correct and glorious our Party is; hence they become pessimistic and loose confidence, or they become alarmed and bewildered in the face of such phenomena. The views of both are wrong and one-sided. Our view is different.. On the one hand, we know we know that our Party is the political party of the proletariat, the most progressive and revolutionary party in China. On the other, we know clearly that there are still shortcomings, mistakes and other undesirable phenomena, major and minor in our Party. Moreover, we clearly understand their source and how to correct and gradually eliminate them, and we are making constant efforts to temper ourselves, improve our work and wage the necessary struggles in order to promote the progress of the Party and the revolution.

Since people differ in their class stand and their views, they take different attitudes towards what is undesirable in our Party. One attitude is that of alien class and hostile elements who have wormed their way into our Party. A second attitude is that of Party members who lack a firm proletarian stand and have a wrong way of thinking. A third is that of Party members who firmly uphold the principles of Marxism-Leninism.

The alien class and hostile elements who have worked their way into the Party are glad of its shortcomings, mistakes and other undesirable phenomena. Gleefully seeking their opportunity, they use every possible means to exploit and magnify some of these undesirable phenomena for the purpose of wrecking our Party. Sometimes they even make a pretence of opposing certain mistakes and supporting the Party line in order to cause an opposite kind of mistake to be committed. People with the second type of attitude fall into the following distinct categories:

1. Some Party members sympathize with and accept certain erroneous ideas, or follow the bad example of certain people in the Party, so as to further their personal ends and desires. They considerthe existence of certain short comings and mistakes in the Party to be to their advantage and therefore, whether intentionally or unintentionally, aggravate these failings and exploit them. This is the attitude of careerists of bad characters in the Party.

2. Some Party members do nothing about the shortcomings, mistakes and other undesirable phenomena in the Party and allow them to grow. They just muddle along and are unwilling to fight these evils. They fear inner-Party struggle and self-criticism, considering them harmful to the Party, or they are insensitive or shut their eyes to the undesirable things, or they are perfunctory and compromising in the struggle against them. This is the attitude taken by Communists who have a weak sense of duty towards the Party, are extremely liberalistic, or are guilty of bureaucracy.

3. The attitude of some Party members towards these shortcomings and mistakes and towards those comrades who have incorrect ideas is one of “bitter hatred and gall”. They lightly sever all relations with comrades who have committed some mistake and whom they attempt to expel from the Party outright. If they fail in this and need rebuffs, they give up and become pessimistic and down-hearted, or they keep aloof, “preserve their purity” and even put a great distance between themselves and the Party. This extreme attitude is also shown in some comrades’ mechanical conception of inner-Party struggle and self-criticism. People with this attitude believe that inner-Party struggle must be launched under any and all circumstances - the more frequently and bitterly, the better. They magnify every trifle into a matter of “principle” and brand every tiny fault with such labels as political opportunism. They do not carry on inner-Party struggle properly and specifically in accordance with the objective needs and objective laws of development, but instead “struggle” mechanically, subjectively and violently, regardless of the consequences. This is the attitude taken by Party members who do not understand the source of inner-Party contradictions, who lack skill in dealing with inner-Party differences and who have a mechanical conception of inner-Party struggle. For a time, this extreme attitude towards inner-Party struggle was exploited by the “Left” opportunists in the Party. They intensified mechanical and excessive struggles to the point of deliberately hunting for “targets of struggle” within the Party, deliberately creating inner-Party struggles, punishing comrades by abusing Party disciplinary measures and even employing against them measures applicable to struggles outside the Party; and it was by such “struggles” and “disciplinary measures” that they tried to push the work ahead.

The attitude we should adopt is the proletarian Marxist-Leninist one. Contrary to the erroneous attitudes described above, we advocate the following.

1. First of all, get to know the various phenomena, ideas, views and opinions in the Party and distinguish those which are correct and beneficial to the interests of the Party and the revolution from those which are not, or, in the case of a dispute in which both sides are wrong, perceive this and be able to point out the correct view or opinion. After sober analysis and consideration, decide on a clear-cut attitude and take a correct stand. Do not follow blindly or drift with the tide.

2. Profit by every good example, promote and spread a spirit of integrity in the Party and vigorously support all correct views and opinions. Do not follow any bad examples or be influenced by any wrong ideas.

3. Do not take a liberalistic attitude or flinch from any necessary inner-Party struggle. Carry on an irreconcilable struggle in the Party against ideas and views which are wrong in principle and against all other undesirable phenomena, so that we can constantly move to overcome them; they should never be allowed to develop unchecked to the detriment of the Party and the revolution.

4. Do not take a mechanical and extreme attitude. Properly combine irreconcilability and clarity in matters of principle with flexibility and patient persuasion in methods of struggle; in thecourse of prolonged struggles, educate, criticize, temper and remould comrades who have committed errors but who are not incorrigible. Such inner-Party ideological struggles on matters of principle as are necessary at different periods should be waged in a concrete and proper way; inner-Party struggles should not be waged indiscriminatingly, subjectively,, mechanically or on shadowy pretexts. Do not become “struggle addicts”.

5. Strengthen the unity and discipline of the Party and enhance its prestige through inner-Party struggle. Organizational penalties, ranging all the way to expulsion, should be applied to the incorrigible elements of the Party. We should regard it as our supreme duty to safeguard the Party’s unity, preserve the purity of its ideology and consolidate its organization.

Such is the attitude of all good Communists in the Party and indeed the only correct Marxist-Leninist attitude.

It is not strange that our enemies should seek to make use of our every shortcoming and mistake to undermine our Party. Besides constantly sharpening our vigilance, we should do everything possible to give the enemy as little opportunity as possible to exploit shortcomings and mistakes in the Party whenever they occur; this is the duty of every comrade who cherishes the Party. If a Party member ignores this consideration in inner-Party struggle, if he only seeks to vent his feelings, or goes to the length of joining up with bad elements instead of rejecting their assistance, or even makes use of outside forces to help him attain some private ends within the Party, he will be making an unpardonable breach of discipline.

Members of our Party should be the embodiment of correct ideology and should follow good examples in the Party; they should not follow but oppose wrong ideas and bad examples. But what actually happens is that some comrades that are generally correct in their ideology and follow good examples, sometimes reflect certain wrong ideas and follow certain bad examples. Other comrades seem to find it easy to learn from bad but hard to learn from good, and this merits our serious attention. When mistakes occur in the Party, they are apt to encourage or aggravate them, intentionally of unintentionally. In inner-Party struggles they are apt to take the wrong side or to go along with whichever side is currently in vogue., irrespective of right and wrong. These comrades will hardly make progress unless they receive strict criticism and rigorous tempering.

Of course comrades who adopt a liberalistic or bureaucratic attitude towards shortcomings, mistakes and other undesirable phenomenon inside the Party are also wrong. This, I think should be quite clear to you as students of the Institute of Marxism-Leninism. For in the Party building course which you have studied, the necessity of self-criticism and ideological struggle within the Party is clearly and thoroughly discussed; you can go into it again, and I need not well on the matter further. However, I do want to point out that quite a few comrades have this liberalistic attitude. We often do not have enough really responsible and sincere criticism and self-criticism conducted in keeping with the Party’s organizational principles, for the purpose of exposing, correcting and eliminating the undesirable phenomena in the Party, and more particularly we do not have enough criticism from below and self-criticism, both of which would be greatly encouraged. On the other hand, there is quite a lot of criticism that is irresponsible and not in keeping with the Party’s organizational principles, of talking behind people’s backs and gossip about this or that person or thing. Both are manifestations of liberalism in the Party. They show that some of the comrades are insufficiently mature politically and are not courageous enough in revolutionary struggle; they also indicate that inner-Party democracy has not been properly developed. Some comrades dare not dispense with face-saving, and fear to offend others lest they themselves incur complaints and counter-criticism. They would rather leave the shortcomings and mistakes alone, taking the attitude of “getting by” and “the less trouble the better”, but at the same time they talk about comrades behind their backs. All this harms the Party and does it no good. Irresponsible criticism and talk are not likely to overcome the shortcomings and mistakes in the party but will lead to unprincipled disputes and disunity. We stand for inner-Party criticism and self-criticism which is responsible and beneficial to the Party and is in keeping with its organizational principles.

Shortcomings and mistakes exist in the Party and so do incorrect non-proletarian ideas. Any of these may at certain times develop into a trend, giving rise to differences of principle and imparing the Party’s unity of action. Hence it is impossible to educate the Party, the proletariat and the masses correctly if we do not unfold criticism and self-criticism, constantly expose and correct short comings and mistakes, overcome wrong ideas and conduct inner-Party struggle to resolve inner-Party differences, but instead take a compromising attitude and follow a “middle” line, or try to muddle through in inner-Party struggle.

Liberalism in inner-Party struggle is manifested in yet another way. Thus when a dispute breaks out in the Party, many comrades put aside their work and indulge in aimless debate for days and months on end or let themselves go without restraint; as a result, the unity of the Party becomes the looser, Party discipline is weakened, the Party’s prestige is impaired and our militant Party organizations turn into debating societies. Such things have occurred more than once in certain Party organizations. They have absolutely nothing in common with the kind of criticism and self-criticism we advocate. We need criticism and self-criticism, not in order to impair the Party’s prestige, undermine its discipline and weaken its leadership, but in order to promote the Party’s prestige, consolidate its discipline and strengthen its leadership.

Hence, it is wrong to adopt a liberalistic or bureaucratic attitude towards the various shortcomings and mistakes in the Party. In order to fight against all undesirable phenomena and resolve differences, we must promote criticism and self-criticism and conduct inner-Party struggle correctly. Only then can the party be strengthened, grow and advance.

Comrades who take an extreme attitude in inner-Party struggle are also wrong.

The extreme attitude is the exact antithesis of the liberalistic attitude. It arises because these comrades fail to understand that wrong ideas in the Party have deep social roots and cannot possibly be eliminated at one stroke. At various times and in varying degrees, many of our Party comrades may reflect certain incorrect ideas existing in society and may commit some mistakes in their work under the influence of non-proletarian ideologies; no comrade can entirely avoid this. If the Party were to refuse to retain or tolerate all comrades who reflect non-proletarian ideologies in some degree, or who have committed some mistakes and yet are not incorrigible, and were to reject them categorically and even expel them, then the tasks of educating the comrades and consolidating the Party’s organization would be nonexistent. Were our Party to follow such an extreme policy, the comrades promoting such actions would eventually have to be expelled themselves. In particular, these comrades fail to understand that the achievement of communism involves the tremendous and difficult task of transforming all mankind into the selfless citizenry of a communist society, the task of converting men with their many weaknesses into communists with a high level of culture through a long process of tempering and education in the course of struggle. If they did understand this, then they would understand that our Party has the important and constant duty of educating and remoulding people who are already members but whose ideology is not wholly proletarian.

Naturally, the education and remoulding of such Party members is a most arduous task requiring prolonged and patient effort. Yet if we are unwilling to tackle this difficult task and shrink from it, how can we talk about changing the world and all mankind? Since we are determined to undertake, and not to shrink from, the unprecedentedly arduous task of changing the world and all mankind, what other task in the world today can daunt us? Party members who have the communist world outlook are dauntless, fear no difficulty or hardship, and understand that the process of development is torturous. Comrades who take an extreme attitude do not understand that the achievement of communism is an arduous and torturous task, they fear difficulties and crave a straight road, they want to eliminate everything unpleasant at one stroke and leap immediately into the world of their ideals. Thinking and acting in this way, they inevitably run their heads against a brick wall. And after banging and bruising their heads, they quite often become disheartened and loose their confidence in the future of communism. Thus they swing between extremes, from “Left” to “Right”, thereby revealing the essence of their non-proletarian ideology. It is regrettable that this erroneous, extreme attitude towards inner-Party shortcomings and mistakes should still be found to a greater or lesser extent among quite a few comrades, although it is harmful to the Party, to other comrades and to themselves.

Inner-Party struggle is necessary not because we are subjectively addicted to struggle or partial to dispute, but because inner-Party differences of principle do arise in the growth of the Party and in the proletarian struggle. When they occur, “contradictions can be overcome only by means of a struggle for definite principles, for definite aims of the struggle, for definite methods of waging the struggle leading to the desired aim.”2 Compromise is of no avail here. This means that when a dispute has developed into one of principle which can only be resolved through struggle, we should unflinchingly wage inner-Party struggle in order to resolve it. It does not mean that we should make a big fuss over small matters, conduct inner-Party struggle with stony faces and never compromise even on routine and on questions of a purely practical nature. “One can, and one should agree to any compromise with dissenters in the party on questions of current policy,, on questions of a purely practical nature.”3

When opportunist ideas and differences of principle arise in the Party, we must, of course, wage struggles to overcome those ideas and errors of principle. This defiantly does not mean that when there are no differences of principles and no opportunist ideas in the Party, we should deliberately magnify into “differences of principle” divergences of opinion among comrades on questions of a purely practical nature.

Comrade Mao Zedong has said: “The Party must on the one hand wage a serious struggle against erroneous thinking, and on the other give the comrades who have committed errors ample opportunity to wake up. This being the case, excessive struggle is obviously inappropriate.”4

It is necessary to make severe criticism of, or even to apply organizational penalties to, those comrades who, after committing opportunist mistakes or other mistakes of principle, turn a deaf ear to persuasion and Party criticism, wilfully and obstinately cling to their errors and resist Party policy, or double-faced in their attitude. But if these comrades do not cling to their mistakes but are willing to correct them and give up their previous point of view after sober discussion, persuasion and criticism, or if they coolly ponder over their mistakes or soberly discuss them with other comrades, we should welcome every small sign of progress on their part and not subject them to penalties undiscriminatingly. In criticism and inner-Party struggle, it is not true that the more stony-faced we are the better, or that the more comrades we punish the better; our highest aim is to educate the erring comrades to the best effect, help them to correct their mistakes, educate the entire membership and consolidate the Party.

The “Left” opportunists are clearly wrong in their attitude towards inner-Party struggle. According to these almost hysterical people, any peace in the Party was intolerable - even peace based on complete unanimity on matters of principle an on the Party line. Even in the absence of any differences of principle in the Party, they deliberately hunted out targets, dubbed some comrades “opportunist” and set them up as “straw men” to shoot at in inner-Party struggle. They thought that such erroneous struggle and such shooting at “straw men” were the magic formula for developing the Party and achieving victory in the revolutionary fight of the proletariat. They considered that to stir up trouble out of nothing or to deliberately concoct inner-Party struggle was the only “Bolshevik” way. Of course, this is not serious and earnest inner-Party struggle; rather it is a mockery of the Party and the perverting of inner-Party struggle, which is a most serious matter, into a frivolous game. The advocates of such action are not Bolsheviks at all but are either people who are well-nigh incorrigible or careerists exploiting the name “Bolshevik”.

We have been discussing the attitude to be adopted towards shortcomings, mistakes and other undesirable phenomena in the Party. It is by combating all that is bad inside and outside the Party that we change the world and mankind and at the same time perfect the Party and remould ourselves. Inner-Party struggle is a reflection within the Party of existing contradictions in society between classes and between old and new. The Party tempers, develops and consolidates itself in the class struggle outside the Party (i.e., in the revolutionary struggles of the masses of the people) and simultaneously becomes consolidated and united through struggle inside the Party, and is therefore able to give more systematic, correct and effective leadership to the revolutionary struggle of the masses. Hence it would be utterly wrong, advantageous to the enemy, contrary to the laws of development of the class struggle and incompatible with our basic thesis of transformation of the world and mankind through struggle, if we were to adopt a liberal attitude towards shortcomings, mistakes and other undesirable phenomena in the Party by flossing over internal differences of principle, covering up inner-Party contradictions, evading inner-Party struggle and just muddling along. Similarly, it would be wrong to isolate the struggle inside the Party from the class struggle outside the Party or the revolutionary movement of the masses and thus turn inner-Party struggle into empty talk. In fact, it is impossible to temper, develop and consolidate the party in isolation from the revolutionary struggle of the masses. However, it would be equally wrong and contrary to the laws of development of the Party, if we were to carry matters to the other extreme and adopt an extreme attitude towards all comrades who have shortcomings or have committed errors but who are not irredeemable, or if we were to fail to distinguish between them and the enemy, conducting mechanical and excessive inner-Party struggles against them and wilfully fabricating such struggles. We should not break with comrades who have committed errors but who are nevertheless loyal. Rather, we should show concern and sympathy for them, persuade and educate them and help them temper and reform themselves in struggle. We should not castigate or expel them unless they persist in their mistakes and prove incorrigible.

Although there are still some shortcomings and mistakes, some isolated minor evils in our Party, we are fully confident that with the advance of the working-class movement we can and will get rid of them through the great revolutionary struggles of the masses. The history of nearly two decades of struggle and glorious progress by the Chinese Communist Party and the worldwide development of the working-class movement, thoroughly convince us of this.

Inner-Party struggle is an indispensable component of the revolutionary struggle as a whole. Our comrades should therefore temper and cultivate themselves both in struggles outside the Party and in the struggle on two fronts inside the Party. Among many Party comrades, however, there is still no genuinely profound appreciation of such inner-Party struggle, and there is insufficient tempering and self-cultivation. This is manifested not only in the frequent unprincipled struggles carried on by some comrades but also in the fact that certain comrades, including even some with a fairly long history of militant struggle, cannot stand being criticized of misjudged. When fighting the counter-revolution, they never waver, complain or feel dejected, however ruthless the struggle, however bitter the conditions and however vicious the enemy’s blows. Yet in inner-Party struggle they cannot stand being criticized, attacked, misjudged or wronged, or tolerate even a single unpleasant word. Or they suspect people of making pointed allusions to them, and so they complain and feel very dejected. We must really five this kind of thing our attention.

It must be stated that on the whole these comrades are very good because they wage resolute struggle against the counter-revolutionaries and look upon the Party as a most affectionate mother. After going out to fight hard battles against the counter-revolutionaries they should receive encouragement, consolation and caresses, and not blows and wrongs, when they return to their great mother’s embrace. It is only natural for them to expect such treatment. However, they fail to take one point into account, or fully into account - that our Party still has shortcomings and faults and that there are inner-Party struggles which every comrade must take part in. Our Party criticises and combats shortcomings and faults not because it is unfeeling but because such action is unavoidable in the course of revolutionary struggle. It is necessary for comrades in the course of inner-Party struggle to receive well founded criticism, for it is helpful to them, to the other comrades and to the whole Party. On the other hand, it is also unavoidable that at times some comrades will receive unfounded criticisms or be attacked on certain matters, or will even be wrongly judged and disciplined. Failing to allow for this, they become shocked and feel most miserable and dejected when it occurs.

In this connection, it is my opinion that every Party member should pay attention to uniting with his comrades, be sincere and open,, refrain from hurting others by thoughtless or sarcastic remarks and, in particular, refrain from irresponsibly criticizing comrades behind their backs. The proper attitude to any comrade’s mistakes is sincerely to remonstrate with him and criticize him to his face., out of concern for the comrade and a desire to be of help. All of us, and especially those in more responsible positions, must bear this in mind.

On the other hand, it is my opinion that comrades should be mentally prepared for inner-Party struggle, should open-mindedly accept all well-grounded criticism and be able to endure misunderstandings or attacks, or even unfairness and injustice; in particular, they should not get upset or excited over irresponsible and unjustified criticism or rumours. As far as irresponsible misjudgement and criticism are concerned - that is, excluding properly conducted criticism among comrades or through the Party organization - one can try and clear the matter up or offer some explanation when necessary, but if that does not help, one might just as well let others say what they please, provided there is nothing wrong in one’s thinking and behaviour. Let us remember the Chinese sayings: “Who never gossips about others behind their backs or is never the subject of gossip?” and “Never mind the storm, just sit tight in the fishing boat.” No one in this world can entirely avoid being misunderstood, but misunderstandings can always be cleared up sooner or later. We should be able to endure misunderstandings and should never allow ourselves to be dragged into unprincipled struggle; at the same time, we should be always vigilant and keep watch over our own thoughts and actions.

That is to say, we should take care not to use words that wound other comrades and should be able to stand injurious language from others.

We are radically opposed to unprincipled disputes in the Party. Since they are unprincipled, they are useless and harmful to the Party, and there is generally little of right or wrong, or good or bad, about them. In such unprincipled struggles, therefore, there is no point in passing judgement as to who is right and who is wrong, or estimating who is better and who is worse, because that is impossible. All we can do is radically to oppose struggles of that kind and ask the comrades involved unconditionally to stop them and get back to principles. This is the policy we should adopt towards unprincipled disputes and struggles. But what is to be done if unprincipled disputes do arise and if many of them get tangled up with struggles over principle? What should be done if such disputes knock at our door and we get dragged into them? All we can do in that case is, again, to put the stress on the questions of principle and avoid stressing those not involving any principle. Basing ourselves on the policy outlined here, we should handle such unprincipled disputes strictly and ourselves stand firm on the principle from beginning to end, refusing to be dragged into the unprincipled disputes. When something does go wrong to you, do not throw back something wrong at him. Always stand by the right to oppose the wrong. Some of our comrades find it very difficult to act in this way, which shows why special attention to self-tempering and self-cultivation is necessary.

Let me briefly sum up the points discussed.

The aim of ideological self-cultivation by members of the Communist party is to temper themselves to become staunch and utterly devoted members and cadres of the Party who make constant progress and serve as examples for others. What is required of us is the following:

1. To build up our communist world outlook and a firm Party and proletarian class standpoint through the study of Marxism-Leninism and participation in the revolutionary struggle.

2. To examine our own thinking and behaviour, to correct all erroneous ideas and at the same time to judge questions and judge other comrades on the basis of our communist world outlook and our firm Party and proletarian class standpoint.

3. Always to adopt a correct attitude and appropriate methods in the struggle against erroneous ideology in the Party, and especially against the erroneous ideology which affects the current revolutionary struggle.

4. To keep a firm control over ourselves in thought, speech and action, especially to take a firm standpoint and adhere to correct principles with regard to political ideas, statements and activities which are related to the current revolutionary struggle. In addition, it is as well to be careful even over “trifles” (in one's personal life, attitude, etc.). But as for making demands on other comrades, apart from matters of principle and major political questions, we should not be too severe or fault finding over “trifles”.

In my opinion, the above is what we mean, fundamentally, when we talk about ideological self-cultivation by members of the Communist Party.


1. See Marx-Engels Archives, Book I, p. 371, quoted in J. V. Stalin, Works, Eng. ed., FLPH, Moscow, 1954, Vol. IX, pp. 9-11.

2. J. V. Stalin, ≴Once More on the Social-Democratic Deviation in Our Party≵, Works, Eng. ed., FLPH, Moscow, 1954, Vol. IX, p. 4.

3.Ibid.

4. “On Contradiction”, Selected Works of Mao Zedong, Eng. ed., FLP, Beijing, 1975, Vol. I, p. 345.