Deng Xiaoping

The Party and the Anti-Japanese Democratic Government


Published: April 15, 1941
Translated by: Unknown
Source: Deng Xiaoping Works
Transcription for MIA: Joonas Laine



Setting up an anti-Japanese democratic government based on the three-thirds system is a genuine policy set forth by the Central Committee of the Party; it has won the support of the masses and should be pursued especially by all Party comrades. Being a dictatorship exercised jointly by several revolutionary classes over Chinese collaborators, pro-Japanese elements and reactionaries, such a government not only conforms to the principle of a united front in that it can unite the majority of people in their struggle against the Japanese aggressors, Chinese collaborators, pro-Japanese elements and reactionaries, but also ensures the leading role played by members of the Communist Party and progressives in the government. Therefore, it is not only the best form of government in areas behind enemy lines during the present anti-Japanese war, but also a form of government that should be adopted for the new democratic republic in the future.

Specifically, what does the three-thirds system mean?

First, organizationally, in both the administrative organs and the people’s representative bodies, the allocation of places should be one-third or less for Party members, one-third for the progressives and one-third for the middle sections of society. A small number of right-wingers may be drawn into the people’s representative bodies. At the same time, since the village is the basic unit of political power, the allocation of places in village organs of political power may be more than one-third for Party members, but we must therefore see to it that Party members are less than one-third in the village representative assembly and among the working personnel.

Second, when adopting policies, we should take the interests of each and every anti-Japanese class and stratum into consideration and apply the principle of winning over the majority and opposing the minority. We should also safeguard the freedoms, rights and legal status of all anti-Japanese political parties.

Third, since the political power we have established is a joint dictatorship of several revolutionary classes, with the participation of the representatives of all anti-Japanese classes and parties, the struggle for democracy is bound to manifest itself among the different parties and classes cherishing different interests and maintaining different political positions. Far from being afraid of this kind of struggle, we should promote it, for it is beneficial, not harmful, to us.

Fourth, since it is a joint dictatorship of several revolutionary classes, the question of who is to play the leading role in the organs of political power is bound to arise. Our Party must hold on to this position, that is, it should exercise the leadership role in the organs of political power. How are we to attain this role? It is guaranteed by the composition of personnel in the organs of political power, as is already embodied in the three-thirds system. However, we should do this mainly through the struggle for democracy. That is to say, we should chiefly rely on the political prestige our Party enjoys as a result of its correct views that are endorsed, supported and trusted by the masses. To be more specific, the Party’s leading position stems from the appropriate number of its members in the government, and chiefly from the support of the masses. Through the struggle for democracy the masses will have a better understanding of our Party’s views and will have greater faith in the Party through their own experience in the struggle. Therefore, only by waging a struggle for democracy can our Party truly play a leading role in the government.

From the above we can see that democracy constitutes the essence of the government established on the basis of the three-thirds system. Therefore, the Party should maintain a spirit of democracy in exercising leadership in the government. Otherwise, even if we have tried to make sure that Party members occupy no more than one-third of the places in the government, we shall not be regarded as having given wholehearted support to the three-thirds system.


If we say China is a semi-feudal country and a country that lacks democracy, it is reflected in our Party by the fact that, in general, Party members are not used to the practice of democracy and lack knowledge of and tempering in the struggle for democracy.

If we say that the Communist Parties in West European countries are tainted with some undesirable traditions of the social-democratic parties, the Chinese Communist Party is more or less tainted with the undesirable traditions of the Kuomintang. The concept of “ruling the country by the party”, held by some comrades, is a manifestation in our Party of an abominable tradition of the Kuomintang.

When the Party proposed the three-thirds system, some Party members in the Shanxi-Hebei-Henan Area resisted it, showing their neglect of democracy and the bad effect of the idea of “ruling the country by the party”. Although there has been considerable change in this regard, education and struggle are still needed to discard this erroneous idea entirely.

In the past few years the idea of “ruling the country by the party” has become prevalent in some areas, and some leading comrades have held to this mistaken idea for a long time, bringing about the following disastrous consequences:

First, these comrades misunderstand the leading role played by the Party, believing that to play such a role, Party members should monopolize everything; they fail to see that to truly play such a role, the Party must have the support of the masses. A leading role built on power is unreliable. During the December 9th Student Movement in Beiping, Song Zheyuan suppressed the revolutionary students with his power — the army, prison, police, broadsword and water cannon. Can we say that superiority lay with Song Zheyuan? Of course not. In the past some comrades who often talked glibly about superiority believed that since Party members constituted the majority in the organs of political power and won the whole country, they could do whatever they liked. Consequently, they made so many ultra-Left mistakes that the middle sections of society became displeased with us, the progressives were worried about us, and the masses complained about the Party. Except for people like Ah Q, who would say that the Party has gained superiority?

Second, these comrades misunderstand Party leadership, believing that “Party leadership is above everything else”. They interfere in government work, change at will decrees promulgated by the government at a higher level, and transfer cadres who work in organs of political power without going through administrative procedures. The authorities in some places have refused to carry out government decrees without Party notification, which led to confusion in the organs of political power. Some Party members have gone a step further, taking “Party leadership is above everything else” to mean “Party members are above everything else” and believing that Party members can do evil and that the ones who have violated the law can be forgiven. As a result, non-Party cadres regard the Party as “the supreme authority”. (This is indeed a bitter irony. Yet, unfortunately, some of our Party members pride themselves on it.) Some of them have become passive and dare not speak out and others are breaking away from us and even rising in opposition to us, while the progressives are deeply worried about us. This has given the masses the impression that the government is incompetent and that it is the Communist Party that has the final say in everything, that the Party levies grain and other taxes, formulates all the decrees for the government and is responsible for all the mistakes made by the government. Hence, the government is not respected by the masses and the Party has alienated itself from them. What stupidity! Under such circumstances the Party’s guidance organs at various levels have become increasingly insensitive, failing to study policies carefully, and busying themselves only with interfering in the day-to-day work of the government, thus relaxing political leadership. Party members become conceited simply because they are Party members. Those working in the government are arrogant and overbearing, always considering themselves to be in the right, looking down on non-Party people, and believing that they can break the law, violate government standards of discipline and undermine work order at will. A small number of Party members have even ganged up, becoming lax in their duties and degenerate and trying to protect each other. As a consequence, careerists have wormed their way into the Party in an attempt to destroy it in various fields of endeavour. Over the past few years we have suffered a great deal in this regard.

Third, these comrades always resort to simple methods to solve complicated problems. This is primarily because they lack faith in the correctness of their own positions and are afraid that people outside the Party would not agree with them. It seems to them that so long as Party members constitute the majority and agree with them by a show of hands, all problems can readily be solved. As a matter of fact, this is the easiest way to paralyse and corrupt the Party and alienate the masses. First of all, policies formulated on complicated problems behind closed doors will certainly lead to mistakes. Secondly, regarding non-Party cadres and the masses as puppets that can be manipulated by anybody will separate the Party from the masses and arouse their opposition. Thirdly, in this way the Party and its members will become unaware of new things and gradually become corrupt. The advantage of democracy lies in the following: It can help us promptly learn the opinions of people of various classes in every field of work, so that we can study them carefully and handle them correctly. It makes it possible for us to verify with the masses whether the Party’s policies are correct and whether these policies have been understood and supported. It can sharpen our sensitivity so that we can always maintain a high degree of vigilance. It can keep the Party under the supervision of the masses, so that Party members can avoid the danger of becoming degenerate and so that careerists and saboteurs can be uncovered and expelled from the Party before it is too late. Finally, through the struggle for democracy, the Party members’ fighting capacity can be increased, and the Party can draw closer to the masses and will become tempered as a Party of the masses.

In short, the concept of “ruling the country by the party”, a result of the pernicious influence of the Kuomintang, could most effectively lull the Party into complacency, debase and destroy it, and separate it from the masses. We oppose the one-party dictatorship of the Kuomintang, which is characterized by one party running the country. We should especially prevent the pernicious influence of the Kuomintang from spreading to our Party.


What is the correct principle for the Party to adhere to in leading the anti-Japanese democratic government? It is the policy of giving guidance to and exercising supervision over the government. In other words, the Party should assume the responsibility of guiding the government so that the Party’s views can be acted on through the government; the Party should take the responsibility of supervising the government in order to ensure that the government truly accords with the principles of the anti-Japanese democratic united front. The Party exercises leadership by providing political principles, not by monopolizing everything, interfering in everything or placing Party power above everything else. This is diametrically opposite to the policy of “ruling the country by the party”.

Specifically, the Party should guide and supervise the government in the following ways:

First, it should carefully study policies, formulate correct ones and, through the leading Party members’ groups in the administrative organs and people’s representative bodies, turn its policies into the decrees and administrative policies of the government. The Party’s guidance organs only have the right to issue orders to the leading Party members’ groups and the Party members in the government and the right to offer suggestions to the government in the name of the Party when necessary; they have absolutely no right to give orders to the government.

Second, the Party’s leadership and superiority in the anti-Japanese democratic government in north China is now basically guaranteed and the Party’s policies can generally be embodied in government decrees. We should be aware of this. Therefore, Party headquarters at all levels should study the decrees and directives issued by higher-level government bodies, especially those in strategic areas (for example, the Joint Agency in our area), and in light of these decrees and directives, guide the work of the leading Party members’ group in the government at that level. The responsibility of a Party organization is to work out specific measures and methods for enforcing the higher-level government decrees in its own district or county and constantly check on the execution of the decrees to ensure their actual enforcement. Therefore, every Party committee should make government work a regular subject for discussion. If it finds a higher-level government decree contains points which are inappropriate or inapplicable to its district or county, it should report the matter through the leading Party members’ group to the government for discussion, after which the government should report it to the higher-level government for revision. For the same purpose, the Party committee should also report it promptly to Party headquarters at a higher level. However, it has no right whatsoever to instruct comrades working in government organs to refuse carrying out higher-level government decrees or to go their own way. In the past, some local government decrees were regarded as mere scraps of paper and couldn’t be carried out unless the Party organization issued a relevant notification. Some leading Party comrades did not bother to study higher-level government decrees or directives and even ignored them entirely, guiding the work of the government at their level according to their own whim. This is irresponsible! They may as well be encouraging comrades working in organs of political power to break the law! They must stop doing this. Since higher-level government decrees embody Party policies, to study government decrees is to study specific Party policies; there is no need to wait for instructions from higher Party headquarters. Without studying the decrees and directives issued by the anti-Japanese democratic government at a given level, one has no right to give guidance to the government at that level.

Third, the Party should do everything possible to institute the three-thirds system. It should guide the election of assemblies of representatives and administrative committees at all levels and the selection of administrative staff of governments at all levels so as to ensure the application of the three-thirds system. No desired results can be achieved in election or selection without leadership and planning. We should pay special attention to this point in selecting village and district cadres and see to it that the heads of villages and districts are Party members or progressives (or middle-of-the-roaders who are upright and abide by higher-level government decrees).

Fourth, since democracy constitutes the essence of the three-thirds system, the Party should urge and instruct leading Party members’ groups and Party members working in government to have a full democratic spirit, high revolutionary enthusiasm, a friendly attitude, a positive and dedicated work style, and statesmanship. In their work they should stick to the Party’s political stand, join with non-Party cadres and play an exemplary role, so as to spur non-Party cadres to work hard; they should guard against becoming arrogant just because they are Party members. In its work of guiding and supervising the government, the Party organization should start with leading Party members’ groups and Party members.

Fifth, since the political power based on the three-thirds system is a joint dictatorship of several revolutionary classes, comprising representatives from various anti-Japanese classes and parties, there are bound to be different political views and stands, evoking political debates. So long as we truly develop democracy, the struggle for democracy will certainly be conducted on a large scale. This is really a good thing, because during the struggle the opinions and demands of all classes will come out, and the true nature of some parties will be laid bare for the masses to see. We Communists do not fear the struggle for democracy, because our positions are correct. Only Right opportunists who do not believe in the correctness of the Party’s positions, in addition to careerists, corrupt bureaucrats and embezzlers, fear this struggle and are afraid that the masses should know the Party’s true features. Party organizations should, therefore, make a conscious effort to promote the struggle for democracy. First, they should help comrades abandon their arbitrary and undemocratic practices, so that non-Party cadres dare to speak out and do their work and entertain no misgivings about the Party. If they can achieve this, they will know how to undertake this struggle, and the prestige of the government and its work efficiency will be raised enormously.

Sixth, Party organizations should urge Party members and the masses to take a correct attitude towards the government, making it clear to them that the anti-Japanese democratic government of today is different from the government of the past under the dictatorship of the landlord class and the bourgeoisie, and that all the people should therefore support it heart and soul. The people should be persuaded to become accustomed to observing the decrees of the anti-Japanese democratic government. Comrades working in the government should observe discipline and the procedures of the government and combat confusion and oppose disrespect of authority at higher levels. Local Party organizations, mass organizations and army units have the responsibility to support and help raise the prestige of the government. They have absolutely no right to arrest or execute people or to interfere in the work of the government, and army units are not allowed to regard the government as an organ subordinate to them. It is true that some local governments do not accept Party leadership, enacting some erroneous decrees and doing things not in the people’s interest and in violation of the principle of a united front. For instance, some district and village governments are like that. Such cases are likely to occur even after democratic election. However, we should support, not oppose, such anti-Japanese democratic governments, while opposing their erroneous decrees or bad administrative individuals. In handling such matters we should adopt proper methods. For instance, we can wage a struggle within the government or in the presence of the masses; we can partially reorganize the government in question or replace the bad individuals through election; we can also handle matters from above or from below — our general goal is to educate the masses, correct mistakes and ensure Party leadership. No undemocratic, improper methods are allowed in handling such matters. Even if a counter-revolutionary is involved here, he shouldn’t be arrested and dealt with before waging a democratic struggle against him or going through legal formalities. To do otherwise will only harm, not benefit, us.

Seventh, the Party’s guidance organs should regularly discuss policies and decrees, and check on the work of leading Party members’ groups. Some comrades should be designated to take care of the work of leading Party members’ groups and of Party branches in government organs. In providing guidance to leading Party members’ groups, the Party organs should stress political principles rather than minor points, so as to allow the groups a certain flexibility in their work and to nurture their capabilities. Party organizations should pay attention to theoretical studies and the development of moral integrity and Party spirit among comrades working in the government. Whenever they find the comrades have made mistakes, they should help them correct the mistakes without delay. However, on public occasions they should try to enhance the comrades’ prestige.


To ensure Party leadership in the government and unify the actions of Party members working in the government, leading Party members’ groups should be formed in the people’s representative bodies and administrative organs at and above the county level. The group should be composed of no more than seven leading comrades, appointed by Party headquarters at the corresponding level. Guided and administered by the Party organization at the same level, the leading Party members’ group (A group at the higher level has no connection with one at the lower level.) should carry out the following tasks:

First, to accept Party instructions, orders and directives, try to win approval for Party policies and decisions by administrative organs or people’s representative bodies, turn Party positions into those of the government and then help the government carry them out.

Second, on political grounds, to unite with non-Party cadres who work with them, helping them fully understand Party policies so that they will willingly accept, support and implement them, giving full play to their enthusiasm for the work; through them to unite with every class, every anti-Japanese party and the majority of the people.

Third, to take every opportunity to expand the Party’s influence and expound the Party’s positions; to help the anti-Japanese democratic government give full scope to its role and enhance its prestige, so that the government and the people will be united and the struggle against the regime of the Japanese aggressors and their Chinese collaborators will be strengthened. At the same time, to seize every opportunity to combat all actions undermining the Communist Party and anti-Japanese democratic political power.

Fourth, to guide Party members working in the government, unifying their actions. To regularly report to Party headquarters at the same level on its work and inform the Party’s guidance organs as quickly as possible about its experience and problems in work, as well as the reaction of the masses and various sections of society to Party policies, so as to enable the Party to provide better guidance to the government.

To accomplish the tasks mentioned above, comrades of leading Party members’ groups should pay attention to the following in their work habits:

1. They should practise democracy. All important questions should be discussed at formal government meetings. Before solving general questions, they should seek the opinions of non-Party cadres to win their approval. For instance, county magistrates should not make decisions arbitrarily simply because they hold power in their hands. Instead, they should consult other people, let people of the various sections handle the things they should handle, and give a free hand to non-Party cadres to do various kinds of work, while providing them with the necessary guidance and checking on their work.

2. They should unite with people. All Party members should contact non-Party members, influence and help them politically, and work, study and discuss matters with them, overcoming the old tendency for Party members and non-Party people not to get along well. This is especially important where the middle sections of society, the gentry and social celebrities are concerned. In the past our comrades have failed to unite with progressives, let alone with these people. Our comrades should be modest, friendly and sincere, respecting them and listening attentively to their opinions. They should refrain from making a showy display of their abilities and considering themselves statesmen, but should learn to make political explanations appropriate to different people. Of course, friendly contacts are necessary, for this will make it easier for them to draw closer to others politically.

3. They should keep to the correct political stand. When faced with views and actions in violation of the principle of the united front or against the Party, they should not remain silent or agree with them. They should reason with the people concerned or even repudiate them, depending on the circumstances. Of course, in doing so, they should adopt the correct methods. In general, they should explain matters to people in a sincere manner, waging an effective struggle only against diehards and conspirators, and, moreover, this should be done along with non-Party cadres. If this is done only by Party members and non-Party people remain mere onlookers, it will show that they have done their job poorly. They should encourage non-Party people, including progressives and middle-of-the-roaders, to make proposals or motions along with them. In this way they can maintain close ties with non-Party people and bring their enthusiasm into full play. They should draw non-Party cadres into the study of policies and decrees. They may also ask them to help draft documents, but first it will be necessary to adequately discuss and determine the principles for drafting them. If they don’t and their draft is totally rejected, it may chill the enthusiasm of non-Party cadres. By keeping to a political stand we don’t mean that they should be opinionated. They must adhere to political principles, not technical details. If such details do not do too much harm to the general direction (even if there are some defects in them), concessions are permitted. Moreover, they should be aware that they are not always thoughtful enough and that non-Party cadres often have many correct ideas. Therefore, they should listen attentively and remain open-minded when non-Party cadres present their views.

4. They should refrain from offering opinions in the name of the Party. Not every Party member is in a position to represent the Party. Only views on major events and questions can be raised in the name of the Party. Only representatives appointed formally by the Party have the right to speak on behalf of the Party, raise motions or get in touch with other parties. Party representatives should be extremely prudent in word and action. Each and every article to be published, speech to be delivered and motion to be raised must be examined and approved by the Party committee beforehand. Even if there is no time to do so, it should be discussed formally by the leading Party members’ group and afterwards reported to the Party committee for endorsement. As for an ordinary comrade, if he is openly a Party member, he can work in the capacity of a Party member; if he is an underground Party member, he can work as a progressive.

5. To ensure the Party’s united action, there must be strict discipline within the leading Party members’ group. First, it should hold itself totally responsible to the Party committee at the same level and place itself under the latter’s strict supervision. Second, there should be democratic discussion within the group, but once a decision has been made, all the members should act in unison and no one shall be allowed to go his own way. The leading Party members’ group bears the responsibility of giving guidance to other Party members in leading positions (for instance, the leading Party members’ group in an assembly of representatives should give guidance to all the Party members in the assembly) and should inform them of any resolutions formulated, which the latter must obey. To unify will and action, the leading Party members’ group can hold special meetings to communicate its decisions or those of the Party committee and organize discussions. It does not have to establish links with ordinary Party members. When problems emerge, it can ask the Party branches in government organs to solve them.

6. The leading Party members’ group has no right to go beyond the government or to issue orders and give instructions. None of its resolutions can take effect until approved by the government. The erroneous tendency to turn the leading Party members’ group into a second government must be combated.

7. All Party members working in the government, especially leading cadres, must set a good example in their work; this is one of the important prerequisites for ensuring Party leadership.


The tasks of Party branches in government organs are basically the same as those of ordinary Party branches; they do not have the same powers and responsibilities as leading Party members’ groups. In the past, some Party branches in government organs turned into second leading Party members’ groups or even second governments; this is wrong and must be corrected.

Unlike those in rural areas, Party branches in the government have their own special tasks, which require sound leadership from the Party branch committee.

What, then, are their special tasks?

First, they should systematically carry out united front work within their own organs and constantly disseminate Marxism-Leninism and the Party’s positions among non-Party people. To accomplish this, they should organize reading classes, study associations, national salvation associations (also called national revolution associations or save-the-nation associations), forums or academic lectures for the personnel of their organs.

Second, Party members should set a good example in uniting with non-Party people, so that the latter will be more active and responsible in their work. As for those Party members who avoid contact with the masses, try to seek the limelight and outshine others, or are arrogant because of being Party members, Party branches should constantly educate and criticize them.

Third, Party members working in the government should be law-abiding and observe discipline. If any of them should violate the law or commit irregularities, he should not only be punished in accordance with the law, but also be dealt with by disciplinary measures within the Party.

Fourth, the Party branch has no right to interfere in administrative work. However, it should go to the masses to find out their problems, ideas and opinions, determine how well both Party members and non-Party people are doing in their work, and then report to the leading Party members’ group and the Party committee. The Party branch has the right to check on the work done by individual Party members of the branch, but it has no right to check on the work done by any department.

Fifth, the Party branch is placed under a department designated by the Party committee, not by a leading Party members’ group. But when a leading Party members’ group has made a decision to be executed by all Party members of the branch, it should inform the branch of the decision and the branch should execute it. Meanwhile, both the Party branch and the leading Party members’ group have the right to offer suggestions to each other. In order to make things go smoothly, the leading Party members’ group should designate a comrade to serve as a liaison with the Party branch.

Sixth, the Party branch is an absolutely secret organization and no one is allowed to conduct any activities in its name.

Seventh, the Party branch should report regularly to Party headquarters at a higher level and accept its instructions.


With the development of the democratic movement, education in democracy has become more urgent than ever before. This education has been far from adequate both inside and outside the Party.

Actual political struggle gives Party members and the masses the best opportunity to temper themselves. We should stress education in democracy in schools, national revolution associations and training classes. Moreover, we should make a careful and detailed plan for each democratic movement, seeing to it that the movement fully meets the requirements of democracy, and truly mobilize the masses to take part in it and the entire Party to lead it. Only in this way can the movement achieve the desired results and the Party membership and the masses be educated.

Recently the Northern Bureau of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party made a proposal to the Joint Agency to establish the Provisional Assembly of Representatives of the Shanxi-Hebei-Henan Border Area, which has been adopted. This represents a major democratic move. This year’s village election and next year’s county election and general election in the border areas are drawing near. Every aspect of our work involves democracy. In doing its work and launching movements, the Party should know how to mobilize the masses in a democratic manner and oppose all undemocratic practices. There can be no broad mass movement without a democratic work style, and there can be no genuine Bolshevik Party without a broad mass movement.

In the struggle for democracy we should ensure Party leadership in the government and, more important, we should make the Party a party of the masses!

(First published in Party Life, No. 35, April 15, 1941, by the Northern Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC).)