Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Workers Congress (Marxist-Leninist)

Modernization Necessary for Socialist Construction


First Published: The Communist, Vol. V, No. 5, January 22, 1979.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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At its Third Plenary Session, December 22, 1978, the 11th Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) adopted as the focus of the entire Party’s work the socialist modernization of China. Broad goals have been set to increase agricultural production by 4.3% annually and industrial production by 10% annually. More and more agreements are being made with the developed capitalist countries to use their technological equipment and expertise in this great effort. For example, there are agreements with Japanese firms to aid in the building of steel mills in China, with West German firms to build industrial chemical plants, and with the US Flour Corporation to develop an $800 million copper mine. Also, China will send thousands of its students abroad, including the United States, to learn from others so that they can better serve China. These are all manifestations of their determined effort to become a powerful, modernized socialist country by the year 2000.

This is not a new task for China. Back in the 1950’s Mao called on the Chinese to take up the task of modernization. He said then that only when “the productive forces of our society have been fairly adequately developed over a certain period of time will it be possible to regard our socialist economic and political system as having obtained a fairly adequate material base (now far from adequate) and will it be possible to regard our state (the superstructure) as fully consolidated and our socialist system as fundamentally built. (Selected Works of Mao Tsetung, Vol.5, p.479)

And in 1963, in a speech summing up the history of imperialist aggression against China, Mao stated,

...If in the decades to come we don’t completely change the situation in which our economy and technology lag far behind those of the imperialist countries it will be impossible for us to avoid being pushed around again....

At the 3rd and 4th National People’s Congresses, Chou En-lai also put forth the necessity of the four modernizations in agriculture, industry, national defense and science and technology by the end of the century so that economically China could take its place in the front ranks of the world.

Why, then, did China veer away in the 1960’s and early 1970’s from this course to modernize so clearly laid out by Mao in the 50’s and supported also by Premier Chou?

As pointed out in PEKING REVIEW number 1 (1979), China met obstacles to this task that were both external and internal. Internationally, the Soviet Union turning revisionist diverted the efforts of the CCP to the struggle against revisionism. Internally, China suffered from lack of experience in socialist construction which resulted in Right and “Left” deviations in the work. Then the sabotage by Lin Piao and the Gang of Four not only slowed down economic construction, but almost brought the economy to a standstill.


Now that China has so clearly and resolutely returned to the task of modernization a number of questions need to be addressed about the importance of modernization, and the ways in which it is consistent with socialist development.

Modernization must be understood in light of both the economic tasks of socialist construction and concrete conditions facing China today. In terms of population, territory and resources China is large and potentially powerful, but in terms of material production, science and technology and living standards, China is still very backward, as the Chinese themselves are the first to admit. Hundreds of millions of peasants are still engaged in hard, backbreaking manual or semi-manual labor, many working 80 hours per week. In terms of income and labor productivity China ranks among the poor countries. Average annual grain output by a peasant is about one ton in China. In comparison, in the US it is dozens of times higher. Although industry is becoming more automated, production techniques still remain at the level of the 1940’s and the 1950’s. An auto plant in China in 1978 was producing 2000 trucks per year, General Motors in the US produces at the rate of approximately 50 every hour.


Aside from these economic facts, the ideological obstacles posed by Lin Piao and the Gang of Four led to great confusion and justified their sabotage of the economic tasks required for socialist construction.

It is a basic economic law of socialist construction that socialism cannot continue nor be consolidated without building a strong economic base. Modernization is the technical and ideological development which makes it possible to build this strong economic base: an economic base which serves and strengthens the dictatorship of the proletariat, which through a rapid growth in production improves people’s living standards, and which ensures the defeat and elimination of the bourgeoisie. Without the development of this economic base, the struggle against bourgeois ideas remains restricted and incomplete.

Carrying out the four modernizations requires great growth in the productive forces, which in turn requires diverse changes in those aspects of the relations of production and the superstructure not in harmony with the growth of the productive forces and requires changes in all methods of managements, actions, and thinking which stand in the way of such growth. Socialist modernization is therefore a profound and extensive revolution.” (PEKING REVIEW 52,1978, p.11)

A high level of development in production is the prerequisite for the realization of communism. In 1958, the CCP adopted a resolution stating, “Since we are dedicated to the cause of communism, we must, first and foremost, be enthusiastic about developing our productive forces.”


The line of the Gang of Four, on the other hand, denied the dependence of the relations of production on the productive forces. In opposing the four modernizations they were calling for a “revolution” in the relations of production without development of the productive forces. The Gang said that productive forces – techniques, production tools, raw materials, etc.– were not related to class struggle. For them the revolution consisted mainly of the spreading of revolutionary ideas. One of the Gang, Chang Chun-chiao, put forth that developing the productive forces under the dictatorship of the proletariat was tantamount to “...paving the way for capitalist restoration”.(PEKING REVIEW 4, 1978, p.7)

Contrary to this view, class struggle and modernization are closely linked. As Mao continuously emphasized, in carrying out the four modernizations, class struggle must always be grasped as the key link. Throughout the historical period of socialist society, classes, class struggle and the struggle between the socialist and capitalist roads all exist and it must be understood that this struggle is protracted and complicated. As stated in PEKING REVIEW, October,1978,

We must adhere to the principle, ’grasp revolution promote production and other work and preparedness against war’, and simultaneously press on with the three revolutionary movements of class struggle, the struggle for production and scientific experiment. To tackle production and scientific experiment without at the same time waging class struggle will not lead to success of the two former, since in that case it would be impossible to keep to the socialist orientation, foster stability and unity, sweep away the obstacles to the four modernizations and activate the revolutionary spirit of the people. But to wage class struggle without at the same time carrying on the struggle for production and scientific experiment would not do either, since in that case the four modernizations would be just so much idle talk and support for the Party line would consist of nothing but spurious avowals. We must be good at integrating the three revolutionary movements and persevere in them.


An important aspect of modernization is being able to learn from the advanced industrialized countries. It was precisely this which allowed for the rapid development of Japan and West Germany following World War II. The Gang, on the other hand, charged that to learn from and trade with capitalist countries represented worshipping foreign things and would lead to revisionism. But, this is not consistent with the teachings of Lenin, Mac or Chou En-lai.

In 1920 (referring to Russia) Lenin said,

without equipment, without machinery obtained from capitalist countries, we cannot do this (to restore the economy and place the Soviet power firmly on its feet) rapidly. And we should not grudge the capitalist a little extra profit if only we can effect this restoration.(The Eighth All-Russia Congress of Soviets–Report on the Work of the Council of People’s Commissars, 1920)

Both Mao and Chou put forward that importing technology strengthens one’s ability to stand on one’s own two feet. Chou said,

Learn to use it and then critically analyse its strong points and weak points and improve upon it.

History clearly shows that any country committed to modernization must learn from the strong points of other countries. Science and technology are a wealth created in common by all mankind. But the Gang of Four twisted the concept of “self-reliance” to keep China from taking full advantage of foreign science and technology to develop its own.


Furthermore, in order to use modern science and technology China will have to train its own core of technically skilled workers. Again, as Mao pointed out in the 1950’s,

To build socialism, the working class must have its own army of technical cadres and of professors, teachers, scientists, journalists, writers, artists and Marxist theorists. (SELECTED WORKS OF MAO TSETUNG, Vol.5, p.479)

But again this was attacked by the Gang of Four as the creation of a “technological elite”. In China, however, encouraging the development of individual skills is taking place within a social context that utilizes the individual for the good of society. Chinese society is moving towards greater collectivization. The level of individuals is being raised as the result of their collective labor. Since production within an enterprise is integrated into a comprehensive national plan where it serves the national interest, the orientation is one of serving society rather than oneself.

Mao regarded modernization – the transformation of China’s economic and technological backwardness – as a matter of life and death for the nation. In light of its relationship to class struggle we see that this is not merely an economic task, but above all a political task. In the face of the current international situation we see the urgency of this task more strongly than ever. With the two superpowers, the US and the USSR, fiercely contending for world domination, the chances of a new war are increasing.

The Soviet social-imperialists have directly and indirectly, by way of the Vietnamese, stepped up their attempts to subjugate China. Racing against time, China must strengthen itself economically while heightening its defense capabilities to successfully cope with social-imperialist and imperialist aggression.

Domestically, too, modernization is the only means for raising the cultural and material lives of the people. In 1919, Lenin said,

If tomorrow we could supply one hundred thousand first-class tractors, provide them with fuel, provide them with drivers... the middle peasant would say, ’I am for the communia’ (i.e., for communism). (8th Congress of RCP(B))

And Stalin was saying the same thing when he said,

The 50,000 tractors which you are to produce for our country every year will be 50,000 projectiles shattering the old bourgeois world and clearing the way for the new, socialist order in the countryside. (Tractor Works, Stalingrad)

It is only through modernization that China will consolidate its worker-peasant alliance, the struggle of the proletariat over the bourgeoisie, and the struggle of socialism over capitalism.