Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist)

China tackles big issues at new People’s Congress

First Published: The Call, Vol. 8, No. 25, June 25, 1979.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.

By a correspondent

China’s National People’s Congress opened a new session in Beijing June 18 with a wide range of political and economic questions on the agenda.

The Congress, China’s highest legislative body, is expected to hear proposals on the first comprehensive civil and criminal law code since China’s 1949 revolution. Development of the legal system has been seen as a key task recently in order to safeguard the democratic rights of the masses and prevent the type of tyrannical abuses which took place when the “gang of four” were in leadership positions.

The economic plan for the coming year will be discussed by the more than 3,000 delegates. In an opening report, Chairman Hua Guofeng said that, although the Chinese economy was better than it had been in a decade, there was a need to “readjust, reconstruct and consolidate” the plan. He criticized some of the rashness with which modernization has been taken up, saying, “Far too many projects were being undertaken all at the same time.”

It is also expected that the Congress will address itself to certain key economic questions which have been the subject of much debate recently. These include the relationship between political incentives and cash bonuses in raising workers’ productivity and the role of foreign technology and imports.

In dealing with such controversial questions, the Congress is likely to be an important turning point in the debate now sweeping China over how to carry out the tasks of modernization. As this discussion has unfolded, it has become clear that, while virtually everyone agrees that the course pursued by the “gang of four” was wrong, several different currents of thought exist on how to remedy the problems they created.

The issue of bonuses, for example, has been a popular point of debate in the Chinese press. During the years of the Cultural Revolution, virtually all material incentives were discarded because, under the influence of the “gang of four,” they were seen as synonymous with capitalism. Now small cash rewards are being reintroduced. But how much of a role should they play?

Workers Daily, a national trade union publication recently published letters from its readers on the question. One reader went so far as to say that ideological and political stimulus is “abstract and empty” and that only when workers get tangible results will they work harder. According to reports, this view has actually been implemented in a few factories where purely piece-work based wages have been reintroduced, and a handful of communes where land was actually divided up again.

Other readers of Workers Daily challenged this view. One wrote that use of economic rewards alone encourages workers to think only of themselves. This weakens their unity and undermines the country’s political task of improving the well-being of all the people.

Another reader argued that moral encouragement is concrete, not “empty and abstract,” and that without it workers can’t see how they fit into the whole pattern of collective and state interests. He stated that material and moral encouragement should be combined, but that moral encouragement should be stressed.

The same type of debate has existed around the role of foreign technology and culture. Several months ago, American correspondents reporting from Beijing gave the impression that China had gone head over heels chasing madly everything American, from computers to disco music.

But a struggle is now underway against one-sided reaction to the “gang of four’s” line that everything foreign was evil. Guangming Daily, a cultural newspaper, published a lengthy critique of those who have become so enchanted with foreign things that they are ignoring the concrete conditions of China and the differences between the capitalist system in the Western countries and China’s socialist system.

It is not only these particular policies which are under debate, but broad fundamental questions about the past and future of the Chinese revolution as well.

This debate is going on among the masses and inside the state and Party leadership bodies. Some articles have appeared suggesting that every political campaign taken up in China for the last two decades has been off base and a distraction from economic work and production.

In a similar vein, other articles have asserted that an ultra-left political line guided the Chinese Communist Party, not just under the “gang of four” but for 20 years or more. These views amount to a basic disagreement with Mao Zedong and with the socialist path he charted for China. Chairman Hua reportedly took issue with this line in his Congress report, attributing China’s economic troubles only to the sabotage of Lin Biao and the “gang” in the last 10 years, and not to Mao’s basic policies.

On the other end of the spectrum, there is still a tendency to cling dogmatically to this or that idea that Mao put forward in different times and under different conditions and to refuse to acknowledge that only practice, not Marxist dogma, can be the yardstick to evaluate questions of right and wrong.

Both these incorrect views are now under criticism.

Thus ideological struggle and struggle over practical economic and political policies are going hand in hand, as the Party leaders and the people as a whole try to sum up their recent history.

Certainly many experiences of the Chinese people during the Cultural Revolution were very negative, as fascist-like oppression was meted out by the “gang of four” in the name of revolutionary purity and Mao’s thought. It is also quite clear that the problems China faces today are quite immense. Struggle over economic priorities has also been evident in the press since last December when articles began appearing questioning the achievability of some goals set by the People’s Congress in March 1978.

It is only natural that as China comes to grips with these problems and promotes democratic discussion to solve them, some wrong ideas will be put forward. Some people are even putting forward rightist ideas and glorifying capitalism in a way that undermines the socialist system.

But the majority sentiment in China remains one of continuing to use Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought as the guide to solving the problems and to enrich the socialist system with new innovations rather than doing away with it. This was stressed at the People’s Congress and at many other recent meetings.

As Chairman Hua Guofeng said in a speech on the anniversary of the May 4th Movement this year: “Only socialism can save China.” He noted that at the time of the May 4th Movement in 1919, many patriotic people believed that the answer to China’s miseries could be found in the bourgeois democracy of the West or in simply concentrating on the development of science and industry.

But through the experiences of the May 4th Movement, Hua said, such people came to see that without socialism there could be no real democracy, there could be no real development of science and the national interests of the Chinese people couldn’t be safeguarded. The Chinese leader asserted that the same holds true today.